Paco's Wasting Your Time: Musings of the Mediocre

Ever wonder what happens when you have virtually nothing to say but oodles of time in which to say it? Yup, I'm wasting your time.


Failure: A Classic Tale of Romance

At a very young age, I determined that I wanted to become a seducer of women. Eight year old Paco, chubby and sporting awkwardly thick glasses, was convinced that some day, he’d be the dapper, suave sophisticate who dated fancy women in opera gloves who used words like “delightful.” I planned it all out while the other, less charming, kids were out playing kickball, socializing and engaging in other such non-debonair things.

Those plans—which were often scribbled in colored pencil (you know, for emphasis… charming adults emphasized things, after all)—had me looking like Cary Grant wearing only the highest fashion in my swanky big-city apartment overlooking whatever was most fashionable to overlook. I’d send for my car to collect one of my many elegant lady companions; when she arrived, I’d make them wait at the door until I saw it fit to smoothly answer. The door would open just quickly enough to indicate that I wasn’t all so eager and I’d deliver an insincere “Sorry, I kept you waiting” with a smirk that said “whatever it is I was just doing was desperately fascinating; you’re lucky I answered when I did.” She’d undoubtedly forgive me using the word “darling” as I took her coat.

After a few minutes of terribly witty small talk, I’d escort her to my dining room and say with feigned humility “I must warn you; I’m not much of a cook.”

And she’d say, deliberately and without employing contractions, “Come now, darling. I am sure it will be wonderful.” Then I’d wow her with seven (or so) courses more tempting than an apple in Eden.

I know what you’re thinking. And, yes, I did have my act together as an eight year old. Only, I ran into a minor problem at this point in the plan because there wasn’t a colored pencil for what, exactly, adults did after the charming man makes the elegant woman dinner. The movies I’d seen did, however, suggest that it ended in a bed with cigarettes.

Whatever it was, I wanted it!

I’ve matured some since. I am no longer chubby, but held on to the glasses. I have the swanky downtown loft, although it doesn’t overlook anything. I religiously read male fashion magazines so that, if I can’t afford to keep up, at least I know what keeping up looks like. I even started smoking… because even the most beautiful line of prose looks clumsy without a period.

The key, I thought, was in that dinner. So over the years, I’d taught myself to cook through whatever means were available. It started, of course, with eggs, macaroni and the other things children should be capable of doing and eventually progressed to trickier meat dishes, all the while focused predominantly on presentation. Surely a basic understanding of preparation and flavor would develop over time, but a sexy looking meal was important to master immediately.

I came to discover that living on my own presented a number of challenges. I’d only ever cooked in the kitchens of families who had collected utensils over decades and knew which spices did what. Buying pots, pans, spatulas and the like became prohibitively intimidating because I didn’t want to get the kid set. I was an adult now and I didn’t want opera-glove-clad ladies scoffing at my Batman themed kitchen ensemble. Plus, I felt obligated to obtain all of the necessary accoutrements at once; I didn’t want to be stuck mid-recipe only to discover that not only did I not own a paring knife, but I had no clue what a paring knife did. What if something needed to be whisked? I’d look like an amateur using a salad fork.

Six-hundred dollars later, I was a bona fide chef. Nothing was safe from a mean braising or julienning. No detail was overlooked; I even acquired an apron. Girls would know I meant business if I looked as though my cooking was so serious that I hadn’t the time to worry over errant specks of pan sauce.

Or something. The point was I looked cool.

Everything was falling into place. I only needed a little more practice with some of the sexier dishes before I unleashed my charm and mysteriousness onto unsuspecting women. Sure, it would be expensive cooking sexy dishes just for myself; sure, I could make a lobster bisque and could do the flippy thing with the pan to show off my chefly prowess… but casseroles? What the hell goes in a casserole? Practical things that average Americans eat virtually every day eluded me. Moreover, I’d focused so much on the presentation and what can only be called flare-skills that almost everything I made was over or undercooked and fell far from conventional standards of tasty.

No worries; when all else fails, I thought, I’ll learn how to cook the same way I learned virtually everything else… television and the internet will make me suave. Hours upon hours were invested in the Food Network and associated online recipes. It didn’t take long before I realized a number of things. While Emeril Lagasse is very likely good at what he does, he has dozens of people in his employ who work exclusively to ensure that everything looks easy. Yes, Rachel Ray, it does take YOU 30 minutes, but what about those of us with bottom-of-the-line electric ranges and haven’t the slightest idea how to “infuse” something?

Huh, Rachel Ray, huh?

Another thing TV chefs don’t tell you is the ingredients they use are only available to TV chefs and wizards. I’ve actually convinced myself—Ralph’s and Albertson’s have confirmed—some of the herbs and particularly obscure cheeses were invented to ensure that your final product is never as awesome as Food Network’s. Gruyere? Zatar? Fiddlehead Fern? It never occurred to me that grilled cheese sandwiches could become more mature and complex than me.

I just want to impress girls, Bobby Flay, not place a curse on my neighbor's house.

Somehow, ingredients I think are imaginary aren’t nearly as troublesome as ingredients that actually exist in my local supermarket. Now I was forced to make decisions that were sure to make or abysmally break my chances at being that devilishly charming host. Once in the super market, it wasn’t just a salad anymore; the roughage riddle would determine the course of the evening. If I were to make the rookie move of choosing arugula instead of watercress (the colorful signs above certainly aren’t any help), then I’d be dead in the water before she even got to the main course.

Why, oh why, did cows have to be so damned large and plentiful? I’m just looking for a package that says “steak,” but there seems to be 3,500 parts to a cow. Chickens, they’re easy! Chickens are the only animal alive to have only three body parts: breasts, wings and thighs. If only she hadn’t specifically said she loved steak, I’d happily go with chicken. You can’t mess up chicken. When God created Adam, he said (boomingly, I’m sure), “Now, before I get around to the girl… I give you chicken. I’ve designed the chicken so that even you, young Adam, can’t mess it up.” Then came Eve, then came buckets.

My panic must have been noticeable; the butcher asked if he could help me.

“Is there like a beef… breast?” I asked after a couple of breaths.

He laid down whatever carcass he had in his hands and came up to the massive, refrigerated trough of beef. “Well,” he didn’t make eye contact so much, it was more like he looked into my soul, “I guess you could go with a flank or skirt.” The little he had managed to calm me with his ruse of genuine help fled my body. I cursed my parents for not teaching me the words in English that translated to flank or skirt. In fact, the only thing they’d taught me that would have even slightly helped only translated to “meat.”

And it would have seemed damn silly if I’d asked the butcher if he had any meat.

Sigh. “Fuck it. I’ll take the chicken.”

The young lady that was to come over fell slightly short of the Audrey Hepburn archetype I’d established with colored pencil. She was pretty by any standard and carried herself well publicly; despite not owning opera gloves, the girl was charming. I’d invited her to dinner at my place, adding a smooth, albeit thoughtless, “I hope you like steak.”

I started preparing the second I got home from work, hours before she was expected. All the vegetables were organized into neat, artful little stacks, dinnerware was inspected for lint or other impurities and I studied the online recipes as if they were scripture and Jesus was coming. Candles were carefully Fung Shui’d with the table settings. Music was even coordinated to both adequately accompany the courses and to grow increasingly suggestive; I even bought the most obscure jazz CD I could find and researched the musician so, had she asked, I could say, “Really? You never heard of him? I’ve loved his music for years!”

Although it had been years since I’d seen my childhood blueprint, I was confident I was representing it well.

Cigarettes were placed in my bedside drawer.

My lady-friend was to arrive at eight o’clock, so I determined that starting only slightly early would serve the dual purpose of disguising the hours of preparation and allowing her to see me in all of my cooking awesomeness. The first knob turned at 7:50. Water started boiling for the jasmine rice and a medley of vegetables hit the sauté pan. I left the fresh rosemary ready so she could see me in a skillful, yet effortless chopping fury.

At 8:20, the jasmine rice was sticking to the pot and the vegetables were limp. I needed those vegetables crisp and virile; surely a girl wouldn’t be inspired by a guy with limp vegetables. Calling her would only give away my desperation, I thought, I’ll just start over. She arrived just in time to miss me disposing of the dress rehearsal. After a devilishly cool kiss-hello, I took her jacket and said, “I was so very concerned I wouldn’t make it in time; I got stuck at happy hour with some friends and lost track of time. Your timing is exceptional.”

We made small talk over rosemary chopping. I invented a happy hour story while jasmine rice boiled. The reserves hit the sauté pan as she explained being held up at work. “I apologize we’re settling for simple,” I said as vegetables flew through the air in an immaculately executed chef-flip, “I’m not much of a cook.” I seasoned the chicken breasts with rosemary and lemon juice and they sizzled loudly on the pan. Steak would have made me look too eager; pan-seared chicken, on the other hand, may as well have been a bed sprinkled with rose petals.

“No one’s ever made me dinner before,” she said. “Everything smells just… delightful.” I was in. Years and years of planning would finally pay off. Sean Connery in his prime couldn’t have been smoother than I was at that very moment. The chicken browned beautifully and I served it with an aesthetic mastery that Rembrandt would have envied. We ate and she raved. Apparently, it didn’t matter that the rice tasted like salt and the large pieces of eggplant were cold in the middle.

Or maybe it did, because she claimed to be full after finishing the chicken.

In any event, the coup de grace would be the dessert. No one alive can mess up Bananas Foster; bananas, brown sugar, butter and rum over the priciest vanilla ice cream Trader Joe’s offered. Nina Simone came on as the first ingredients hit the pan. Bravo, Paco. Bravo.

The beauty of making Bananas Foster is that it takes maybe five minutes and you get a flash from the combusting rum. However, one of the many downsides to having an electric range is that the flash seems overly contrived when you have to pull out a lighter. Notwithstanding, I made it a point to ensure she was looking at me and I was looking away from the pan when pyrotechnics went off. I saw the reflection of the huge flame in her eyes.

After desert, we sat in what I would have called my parlor (if it hadn’t been attached to my dining room and my kitchen and virtually everything else in my tiny loft) and talked of clever things. We drank wine procured from behind the fancy bar I’d purchased with the intent of seeming sophisticated and chatted and chatted.

Two hours had passed since she arrived and we hadn’t been smoking my bedside cigarettes yet. Something was wrong. “Well,” the wine had influenced my confidence, “it’s been a fine evening.” I was Cary Grant. I was Peter Lankford. I WAS Frank Sinatra.

Only I wasn’t and she interpreted that as “Well,” sadly, “and a good evening to you.”

“Yeah, I guess I better get going. I have to be at work early.”

I could see the eight year old Paco burning his colored pencil plans with the Bananas Foster flame while saying, “Nevermind, I’ll just grow up to be a huge loser.”

How could I beg her to stay? Sinatra never begged anyone to do anything. So, “Thanks. Goodnight,” it was.

She probably hadn’t gotten to her car before I’d taken off my shirt and smoked that cigarette in my bed… by myself.

She was charming enough to skirt around the subject a few days later when she called.

Dear Rachel Ray,

You should have made clearer the importance of placing pan-seared chicken in the oven for ten minutes before serving. Your lack of emphasis prevented me from achieving childhood dreams of being suave and effectively gave my date and me food poisoning.

Thanks for nothing,

That’s all.


They’re Not So Bad After All

It isn’t enough for me to say that I like gays. I like sleeping on couches; I like writing inappropriate comments on the memo line of personal checks; I like drinking the remains of my cereal milk directly and noisily from the bowl rather than tortuously spooning it out. I’m not quite sure if my fondness for gays is liquor on the same shelf as watching pets and children run into sliding glass doors (unless, of course, if it is simultaneously).

No, I love gays.

Typical Disclaimer from a Heterosexual Man:
I don’t love gays, you know, like that.

Specifically, homosexual men. No offense is meant towards lesbians; lesbians are okay, I suppose, but I don’t love them in the same way because their capacity for outrageousness is somewhat limited. As broad a generalization as it may be, lesbians seem to be either the lusty sorority sisters (who visit my dreams on occasion) or the beefy UPS driver or arm-wrestling champion (who, oddly, also visit my dreams on occasion). I don’t think I’m alone on this one; aside from the random porn enthusiast and other lesbians, no one really cheers for the lesbian floats in the parade. They just don’t have the pizzazz.

The gays, however, everybody cheers for the gays. Simply put, their floats are funnier.

Random Interjection from a Fictional (perhaps gay) Reader:
Gay and Lesbian pride parades are not for you to point and laugh. Moreover, your reduction of a celebration of gay culture to simply “funny” is both insulting and close-minded.

Editorial Response:
Scantily clad, grown men dancing (sometimes with headdresses) to Donna Summer (sometimes on stilts) and large, hairy men wearing assorted leather garments and spiked dog collars are funny.

The fact that gays are the only minorities that actively represents every stereotype in their own parades is not only funny, but damn commendable. Imagine if the floats in the Asian pride parade were efficient, but driven poorly and all looked exactly alike. There were no floats in the Black pride parade, only lots of singing and demonstrations of athletic prowess (all of which, in any event, were heavily bejeweled). All the floats, marching bands and cars in the Latino pride parade had to jump a fence in the middle of the parade route. I ask you, how am I not supposed to giggle a little when “Miss Gay Pride 2006” was a bare-chested man with chiseled abs? I didn’t crown him.

I guess I should specify even further to the outrageous gays. I love the Carson Kressleys of the world that snappishly tell us we look—or in many cases do not look—fabulous and often refer to themselves by the gender-specific nouns usually reserved for, uh, “real” girls. They seem only to feel in terms of love or hate, as in “I love that handbag” or “I hate those shoes,” having lost the capacity for moderate or lukewarm terms. Yes, the lispy gays. I love the gays that other gays seem to hate (or mostly dislike, if they’re not hypocrites).

Regular, less outrageous gay men fall in line with lesbians as far as I’m concerned. I’m more or less indifferent toward them in the same way I’m indifferent to other motorists on the highway; I acknowledge they’re there, but really don’t care where they’re going. The few gay friends I have are mostly in this category, despite my regular encouragement for them to jazz it up a bit.

While I wouldn’t say that I grew up entirely homophobic—nor would I say I’m comprehensively comfortable now—I didn’t develop an appreciation for those some call “queens” until some friends invited me to karaoke at a gay bar near my hometown. Despite having grown up in Southern California and being generally open-minded, I’d never had much interaction with gays or lesbians. Never one to turn down karaoke, I thought this would give me an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone: I could determine if I was as open-minded as I thought I was around gay people and I could finally test if my version of Aha’s “Take on Me” was as good in public as it had always been in my head.

Once inside the mostly empty bar, I went through the (now ridiculous) process of looking at the people I passed saying, to myself, That guy likes other guys and I’m perfectly okay with that. With each of these reassurances and the comfort of vodka, I eventually focused more on enjoying myself and less on convincing myself that I was progressive and mature enough to mingle with homosexuals without saying “Ew, gross.”

The master of ceremonies for the evening was a gentleman whose description will require your patience. He was a middle-aged, white guy wearing an egregiously tacky Aloha shirt (ala Don Johnson), white shorts exposing much of his leg and loafers sans socks. It struck me as odd that, with such an ensemble, a snappy gay guy would opt to sport an ascot. As we passed him on our way to the patio, his ascot revealed itself to be a luxuriously full tuft of chest hair (I was wrong to question his accessorizing ability; needless to say, I was full of chagrin).

“We want to welcome you tonight,” announced South Park’s Big Gay Al incarnate, “to the hottest karaoke this side of the Rio Grande. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, look at all these beautiful boys parading in front of me! It’s like I died and went to West Hollywood.”

It was then that I regretted a series of decisions. Firstly, I’d worn a vintage camelhair blazer, predominantly to avoid criticism from judgey gays. Secondly, I’d ordered an Apple-tini, which—although intensely delicious—I would never order in public for fear of girls thinking I was gay (but, when in Rome…). Finally, I was the last beautiful boy in the parade. Any cheetah will tell you: always attack the last zebra in the group.

“Well, well, what have we here? You there. In the jacket. You. Are. Fabulous!”

I froze as if I’d been accused of stealing something. I felt trapped; my “friends” continued walking and left me there to fend for myself, awkward and afraid.

“Uhhh, thanks.” Please let me keep walking, Mr. Gay Man, I promise I’ll keep quietly to myself, my face must have screamed. He reached over and killed the music. Some part of me expected a lot of growling and a small, gay head to come out of his mouth and kill me… you know, fabulously.

“You’re straight, aren’t you?”

For the very first time in my life—and the only time since—I apologized for being heterosexual.

“Well,” he sighed disappointedly,”you’re no fun! Fabulous, but no fun at all.”

Somehow, I’d regained control of my legs and they led me to my group at the back patio. The patio was for smokers and had only a few tables and benches. There was a bouncer in the corner checking the ID’s of the gays coming in from the parking lot behind the bar. I squeezed in between a couple girls in our group on a bench and hid behind a curtain of cigarette smoke. A few minutes would pass before I was finally comfortable and talking to gays and straights alike.

I somehow got into a conversation with a guy in his mid-twenties about literature. I was an English major and he was in an American literature master’s program. He wasn’t effeminate, wasn’t dressed particularly well and didn’t have highlights in his hair or any of the other stereotypically gay features. Still, I assumed he was gay and was perfectly okay with it because we were talking about straight things, like books.

I understand that sounds horrible and ignorant, but I mean as opposed to discussing window treatments, red carpet fashion and Gucci handbags.

He didn’t compliment me on anything, ask about my personal life or make any physical contact. We were just two guys talking shop. He did most of the talking and often made excited gesticulations while describing plots, characters and authors. The beer ran out for both of us, so he offered to make the first bar run. You know, I thought, these gays seem like nice people. Of course, to be fair, that thought runs through my head most times strangers buy me drinks.

“So… pretty good conversation, huh?” asked the gay guy in my group that I’d met that night (and, it turned out, the reason we were at gay karaoke).

“Yeah. Interesting enough guy, I suppose. Knows a lot about books.”

“Good, good. Glad your meeting people. I just wanted to make sure you knew he was totally hitting on you.”

“No, he wasn’t. We were just talking about…”

“Where is he now?”

“Well, we just ran out of beer and he… he… uh…”

More disappointing than realizing he was right was realizing that he was hitting on me the same way I usually hit on girls. Even more disappointing was how generally pathetic I must have seemed to the girls I’d spoken to in bars about my favorite writers or European cathedrals or Impressionist painters. This explained much.

When my suitor returned with beers, I took a heavy gulp while I thinking of how best to break away. I opted to do what I’d seen so many girls do before: “Well, man, it was good talking to you. Take it easy,” (the only difference being that I felt obligated to pay for my drink). I tossed a five spot on the table before I fell back into the spot between the two girls.

A few drinks later, I finally found the courage for a rematch with the M.C. As I took up my song request, he was introducing the bar staff. “Tonight we have Jonathan checking your ID’s out front. God only knows, if Michael Jackson’s taught us anything, it’s not to mix our liquor with our little boys. Thank you, Jonathan. Michelle, our bartender… where are you, sweetie? Oh, there she is. She’s making all of your fabulous drinks. Remember to treat her nicely. And last, but certainly not least, we have Danny… guarding our backdoor,” he laughed a laugh that sounded more like humming (something like a hmm, hmm, hmmm) and, in his best deep voice, added, “as it were.”

I chuckled awkwardly as I placed my request on the speaker next to him. “Well, well, my little straight friend has a sense of humor. There’s hope for him yet. Let’s see what he wants to sing,” he picked up my card, “I’ll fly you to the moon all right, sweetie. Hmm, hmm, hmmm. Well, loosen up those vocal chords; we’ll have you up in just two shakes.”

Some of my friends were up before me, so we all crowded in front of the stage and I continued to get drunk. Within a few minutes, not only was I drunk, but completely at peace with my surroundings. I wasn’t scared of Big Gay M.C. anymore; in fact, he’d grown to remind me of some of my aunts.

“Up next we have Paco… Oooooooh, that sounds exotic. Come on up, Paco. I like saying that. Paco. Just rolls right off my tongue. Pah-Coh. Well, Paco here has promised to fly us to the moon. Sing for the gay people, baby.”

I sang Sinatra’s “Fly me to the Moon” (horribly, as per usual) directly to the M.C. and both he, and the crowd, seemed to enjoy it. Ever the showman, I did a little dance during the refrain which received applause from the crowd and squeals from the M.C. As I handed the microphone back, the M.C. put his arm around my shoulder.

‘My, my, haven’t we blossomed, Pah-Coh? Now you can run and tell all your little straight friends that the homosexuals aren’t so bad after all. Let’s give another round of applause for Paco. Paco, Paco, Paco. Hmm, hmm, hmmm. I love it!”

We left the bar soon after and I felt satisfied knowing that (on a small scale) the gay community and I had come to accept each other. Sure, perhaps we didn’t and still don’t agree on a number of things. Principal of which, of course, is that—no matter what they say—I will never agree that it is acceptable for men to get manicures and pedicures. It’s just not right.

I have since developed a greater appreciation of the contributions of the gay community. Moreover, I have come to love the hilarity of the outrageously gay man. Without him, heterosexual men across the country would have no one to help tell their girlfriends they were getting a little chubby. For this, and many other reasons, I’ve taken the advice of my big, gay M.C.

Seriously, fellas, they aren’t so bad.

That’s all.


A Round of Clap


There's nothing funny about sexually transmitted diseases.


Maybe it's just me—rather, I hope for your sake that it's just me—but, I think STD's should have more intimidating names. For example, if a herpe carried the same grievous import as, say, a rabie, perhaps I wouldn't giggle so at the idea that wrestlers get herpes on their faces from infected mats.

(I'll refer you to the disclaimer.)

It's unfortunate that Hepatitis sounds like a tool used to complete one's math homework. Until I was old enough to realize I'd been stupid my whole life, I thought someone with Human Papillomavirus was just scared of butterflies. And, wrong as I know that I am, Syphilis sounds (and I don't know why) like a cocktail. I know, I know… but don't you think that a "Syphilis Drop" would be kinda tart with a sugary aftertaste? In any event, too many of those in a night and you'll be feeling pretty sore(s) in the morning.

Chlamydia and Gonorrhea are the only diseases that have the right idea. I imagine Chlamydia and Gonorrhea ravaging villages along the countryside until, at long last, George Puffbottom rides in and valiantly slays them. He's later rewarded with canonization and the great personal satisfaction of knowing that history would forget his last name. I've also had a recurring dream in which Chlamydia and Gonorrhea battle Godzilla over Tokyo.

Usually, Godzilla wins.

The CDC should give some serious thought to renaming some of the more common venereal diseases and launch an ad campaign as if they were brand new diseases. I would certainly reconsider the "amiable," young, "lady" I met at Takes All Kinds night if I had a danger of picking up a case of the broken-glassitis. And who, I ask, wouldn't be embarrassed to tell their parents they'd contracted robbed-at-knife-pointhea? Absolutely nobody (no matter how tough a guy you think you are) wants to find out after a wild night in Tijuana that you have to be treated for sit-next-to-the-arab-guy-on-the-airplaneginosis.

Like I said… nothing funny about STD's.

In fact, I find them so very not funny that I'm actually mortified by the idea of them. I've often weighed the option of whether I'd prefer to look through a catalogue of pictures of people with various STD's or attempt to pet an angry dog.

Irrational. I know.

When I was in college, I had an all too brief experience with a friendly girl whose reputation preceded her.

And what a reputation it was!

A couple days later, neuroses took the better of me and I started having what could only be described as a "funny feeling."

"No, no!" I thought, "This is impossible. I'd invested in the best condoms money could buy. I did research. Surely, the only preventative measure I could have taken—short of becoming an OB-GYN and only engaging in acts my mother would scorn while in my OB-GYN office amidst my OB-GYN tools—was wrap the wee-wee in saran wrap AND aluminum foil prior to slipping on aforementioned best-condom-money-could-buy."

The week went on… and I felt sleazier. Finally, I took the long, shameful walk down to my school's clinic. The problem, I feel, that most clinics have is that they ask you a lot of embarrassing questions in front of other patients. Questions like: name, contact number and symptoms.

Were it up to me, they'd call your number, usher you through dark hallways into a room, give you one of those surgical masks and proceed with the examination. They didn't, of course, so I did my best to explain to the girl checking me in, as quietly and ambiguously as I could, what I assessed to be the problem. By the third time she said, "Sir, I can't hear you," I was convinced the whole waiting room had diagnosed me. These were no longer college students with their colds, iPods and backpacks. Oh no, they became doctors with their degrees, stethoscopes and beepers. Worse still, these were judgmental doctors with their degrees, stethoscopes and beepers.

The young clerk, noting my discomfort, called over a senior, portly, matronly nurse. Now, rather than having to tell the cute girl at the coffee shop or that sat next to me in physics, I'd have to tell my Aunt Martha that I had an itchies in the hmmmmm…. Hmmmmmmmm.

You know… a mild discomfort in the old hhhheeeehhhh… cough… heheheeeeeehhh.

"Okay, nurse, I'm concerned about the feeling I now have, that I've never had before down in the…

…you know, the…


…Hoo-bah…" (Not that I was a pre-med or anything)

I discovered Jesus the moment she understood without asking me anymore questions. She told the clerk that she'd go ahead and handle my case, then asked me to take a seat. No eye contact (or thoughts of eye contact) was made with the kids with runny noses and achy joints. They didn't know problems like I did. Their stupid ailments could be solved with orange juice and ice packs. Mine were treated with healthy doses of shame.

The doctor came out and registered through the files. There may have been five or six kids in the waiting room with me and, at this point, I was the last in line.

"Who's Ramirez?"


To this day, I haven't figured out what makes an adult think that hiding behind a magazine makes you invisible. The nurse sold me out and the doctor was immediately breathing angrily above me.

"Are you Mr. Ramirez?" Questions. Always with the questions. I coughed out an affirmative response and slid my eyes just above the Teen People I was "reading." What came next was the stuff that frivolous blogs are made of. He grilled me on why I'd shown up without an appointment on a Friday night shortly before closing. While I weighed my options, I noticed that the doctor resembled a bear in a white coat. I later found out he'd played football in college and, in the meantime, his hands made the clipboard look like an index card.

"Well… I… ummm…" This is the standard response when what you really mean is "Listen _______ (Doctor, Officer, Dad, Your Honor, etc), we both know the answer is because I'm an idiot." More often then not, authority figures will accept the response and go directly into their pedantic diatribe about how irresponsible I am. And I kinda appreciate that. Dr. Bearhands didn't.

"Well… I… ummm… Mr. Ramirez, that simply won't do. Please explain to me what made you think," he looked at my file, "a mild irritation like yours would simply go away? Don't you think that's a little irresponsible?" He was really an amazing doctor; at that very moment when I knew everyone in the room (medical professional or otherwise) was looking at me, my mild irritation was totally gone. I'd been cured without having to take off my pants!

I stumbled around words that sounded nothing like, "because I didn't think anyone would be here on a Friday night to hear me say that I thought I had the clap." He did that doctor sigh—the one when they know you're not going to listen to them—and instructed me to come back first thing the next morning. I set the magazine down on the chair closest to the front door.

Having gotten very little sleep (I won't get into details, but let's just say, Godzilla didn't win that particular night), I rolled in the next morning to a very cheerful staff. Everybody seemed to know me and seemed very happy to see me… except the new girl that checked me in. She seemed not to have heard of the proverbial prostate exam Bearhands had administered the night before.

"Your name, sir?"


"Do you have an appointment, Mr. Ramirez?"

"Uhhh… Yeah. I think I do. The doctor from last night told me to come in as soon as you opened."

"Good, good. You are marked down for 7 o'clock. Good. What seems to be the problem?"

You're kidding. Why would it be that the only time in my entire life I had to visit a doctor for an embarrassing medical condition, the only people asking what my problem was were cute girls? Why can't I get those same odds on airplanes with row buddies?

Happily, the pudgy nurse from the night before jumped in to instruct the girl to write "groin pain." Of course! Why I didn't think of that myself, I'm not sure. I could have gotten a groin pain from playing football or a construction accident. As long as it wasn't someone that knew me, it'd be totally believable that I was playing a sport or whatever. That happens, right? People believe that wrestlers get herpes from infected mats, after all.

I sat in the room and the doctor came in somehow larger than he was the night before. He was unnervingly pleasant and asked me how my week went, if I had caught the ball game the previous night, why I thought I had a venereal disease… I considered lying, but then gave brief thought to why it is people lie to doctors as if they cared (except dentist, they really get poopy when you actually admit that you don't floss. They can probably tell, but I think they'd rather be lied to).

"See, doctor, I'm not sure I actually have anything. I think I just feel guilty and the guilt knows exactly where to manifest."

Kinda like the Catholic Church…. Hey-oh!

He listened kindly as I explained to him, in my medical opinion, why I couldn't possibly have anything. He only took a couple notes before he said, "All right, I'm going to need you to take off your pants."

Doctor, if I hadn't heard that before, I wouldn't need to be in your office… my smirk seemed to say. The procedure was a simple one; he'd have to take a urethral sample with a small cotton swab. All this sounds fine until you figure out what "urethral sample" means. I pulled my pants down, he kneeled in front on me, I laced my fingers behind my head (because it seemed natural and I'm not clear on precisely what you're supposed to do with your hands when a doctor is kneeling in front of you with your pants off… pockets are certainly out of the question). He administered the sample with his huge, cold hands while I yelped, trembled violently and, yes, cried a little. When he finished, I collapsed onto the examination table and made a deal with God never to have sex again in my life as long as I never had to feel that particular pain.

"I've seen a lot of boys take this test before and I go pheasant hunting every year, Mr. Ramirez, but if I may say so, I've never heard that sound before." I actually thought, at that very moment, that I would forever be incapable of finding anything funny. Yeah, it was that kind of pain. Or I thought it was until he handed me a plastic cup and asked for a urine sample. Now it was that kind of pain.

Taking the test in and of itself convinced me that I had something awful. Something they'd have to name. Something people would have to have drives, walks and ribbons for. People would have my name on their t-shirts and rather than "Go" (like I've always dreamed of) it would say "Defeat." I'd die and my parents would be in parades.

Seven days later, I arrived at the clinic broken and pitiful. This time the check-in clerk was a guy covered in tattoos, which under any other circumstances would have been nowhere near as comforting as he was right then. "What can I help you with, bro?"

"I'm here for some test results."

"Oh, yeah? What kind of test results?"

"…from tests I took last week." They'd never learn. I'd taken the pains to write my full name, date of birth and Social Security Number on a scrap of paper in the event that I was asked in front of people again… or… you know, hit by a bus.

"So what was it, like a clap test or something?" By this point, I was convinced that everyone in the waiting room could smell syphilis-laced crabs on me already. Go ahead, bro; say it louder.

"Looks like you're clean, man."

I KNEW IT!! God, I hope you won't hold me to empty promises I made in a moment of weakness.

Click, click, tap, tap, tap. "Oh… wait…" My world crashed down around me; you remember when Bambi made it out of the forest and looked back expecting his mom, but she'd been shot? Anyway, that was me.

"Wait? What wait? Don't wait me, man. I already waited a week to hear you say I'm clean. Don't take that back, man. My parents don't even want to be in these parades!"

"What? Nah, bro, you're still clean, but like I wasn't supposed to tell you… so like act real happy and shit when the doctor tells you." I did and acted amused at Bearhands' jokes about being more careful and my penis is not a toy (I wish I was kidding).

It would be another couple years before I took another clap test. This time I did it out of a sense of responsibility, rather than obligation. I'm an adult, I said to myself, I should go annually as a responsible, sexually active American. And this weird thing under my tongue is starting to freak me out.

Learning from previous mistakes, I made an appointment over the phone and gladly gave all my particulars to the faceless receptionist. I showed up, gave them my name and got promptly ushered off to my own, more secluded part of the medical center. No more mass waiting rooms for me. No, sir; you asthmatics and ear-aching commoners could keep it! I was being walked, no, escorted to the one room in the building that had only two kinds of patients: pregnant women and guys who thought they had herpes.

Yup! Just me, a bunch of pregnant ladies and a gloriously large pile of magazines. A woman called my name, walked me into an office and asked me a series of questions (none of which involved my thoughts on being walked everywhere). It's okay, it's okay. I'm a mature, professional adult. Surely, I could describe to another professional (particularly one who has probably seen 40 guys like me this week) why I wanted another test.

"No problem." Which I understood as "I'll go get a doctor who has more personal experience with wee-wees."

When she returned with the Cotton Swab of Doom, she asked if I'd feel comfortable with a female proctoring my test (so to speak). Sure, that sounds professional, but what she really meant was "Are you going to be a Sally about this or are you going to take your poke like a big, brave boy?"

I'm a mature adult now.
I'm a mature adult now.
I'm a mature adult now.

"No, I suppose that won't be a problem."

Things I didn't know BEFORE my second test:
1) Having experienced serious pain doesn't toughen you for the next round.

2) To this day, I'll never be able to aptly represent with our alphabet nor replicate the noise I made the second time.

3)I think the same applies to rectal exams, but you always assume other people in the hospital know. I mean, getting your reflexes tested at the knee doesn't make you want to take a shower.

4)The most awkward possible cigarette break you could ever take is with the woman who, minutes earlier, watched you "need a minute" before you could put your pants back on.

5)You don't actually need an STD test for an allergic reaction to curry.


The term "sexually active" (with respect to the author) is to be interpreted loosely. More conventional interpretations are equally as inaccurate as statements like "the author only masturbates sparingly" and "reality show stars are actually celebrities."



I wouldn’t say I have a gambling “problem” so much as a gambling “solution”.

SIDEBAR: Semantics Make Character Flaws Perfectly Acceptable
Let’s look at this objectively: interventions and 12-step programs are time consuming and embarrassing. Reclassification, on the other hand, makes it such that (I’ll go ahead and use myself as an example… you know, so as not to have to call others out) (by “others”, of course, I mean the rest of you) I can continue upsetting my parents, priest, employers, girlfriends, extended family, close friends and mere acquaintances all while making aforementioned individuals feel guilty for judging (or, more appropriately, misjudging) me. All that being said, I’ve compiled a list of harsh accusations and their corresponding, totally defensible, entirely more accurate reclassifications.
Alcoholism – Expanding horizons
Laziness – Exploring options
Being inconsiderate – Promoting self-reliance
Rudeness – Sharing objective thoughts
Financial irresponsibility – Macroeconomic investments
Debauchery – Research for stories like this one
Consistent lateness – Experimenting with “metric time”
Mediocrity – Team player
Smoking – Keepin’ it real

So I’ve squandered a… couple… few thousand dollars gambling; realistically, it’s more of a short term investment with inconsistent (read “unlikely”) dividends. No. Better yet: let’s approach it like a really, really expensive hobby. I mean, those who enjoy treasure hunting or midget collecting dish out oodles of money too, right? Right?

Aside from the occasional bets on football games (having no real idea if the Dolphins were actually better than the Vikings, Steelers or Golden State Warriors), I’d never really been terribly interested in any kind of betting. In fact, I wasn’t a particularly big fan of that flavor of gambling. I simply couldn’t justify the thought of surrendering perfectly good martini money in a show of support for people who didn’t know that my ability to expand horizons, keep it real and research stories depended on their “hustle” and “heart”. Moreover, it’s fair to assume that these same athletes (with their millions of dollars and stripper girlfriends) would feel absolutely no obligation to pay me reparations for not having their head in the game. Stupid, greedy athletes!

Similarly, poker and other such card games never really took hold either. The pots were never large enough to warrant my focus on learning the game. After a series of what I can only guess were bad hands, I started to assume that everyone else got equally bad hands and I’d have to win by concentrating on appearing to know precisely what I was doing. I’d start looking for ticks in the other players: “Jimmy just touched his nose again; he has nothing. Oooh, Mike blinked twice; I KNOW he has nothing. Dude! Sneezing is a sign of weakness; John definitely has nothing… All in!” No movement went unnoticed, no noise unregistered. For a little while, I thought I could hear pulses increasing and brow-sweat forming (yeah… I was that good… I thought). Needless to say, if ever my indicators were correct, it was by freak coincidence exclusively. My poker face, on the other hand, was exceptional. I was so thoroughly confused by each combination of cards that my face maintained an expression of concerned constipation. At the end of night, when I’d been wiped clean of my five or ten dollars, I only really regretted not having such astute powers of reading people ALL the time. Watch out, ladies.

The adventure really began on my first visit to Vegas. More accurately, my first visit in which I could actually gamble and drink instead of following my parents around Circus, Circus with pockets full of quarters and designs on winning the wicked cool Batman sunglasses on the second shelf of the prize corner. Notwithstanding the fact that my horizons were so far expanded that I could scarcely walk, I was timid about losing money. Each five dollar bill that went into the nickel slots was cursed and threatened with hopes of intimidating it into recovering for the faults of its slacker brethren. I played intently and watched the old ladies around me play two machines at a time. I’d see them win what I considered jackpots of ten dollars and get excited for them when they landed bonus rounds. They’d stoically smoke their cigarettes and explain to me their finely developed theories on slot selection. These were the casino warriors… some of these women were at the same machine for so long that I started using them as landmarks while navigating the slot labyrinth.

I moved on to the tables only after I came to the conclusion that I’d never be a Frank Sinatra/Dean Martin type Vegas swinger hanging out with the Frank Sinatra/Dean Martin aged women of the nickel slot pits. The first Blackjack table I went to was in Imperial Palace. I sat down knowing only that I had to get closer to 21 than the surly, older gentleman in the cheesy red vest holding lots of other peoples’ money. I also knew that getting an ace and a king was supposed to be a sign from the gambling gods that I was, indeed, blessed.

I traded him a beautiful $20 bill for four meager red chips. One of my lonely chips went into the circle and he began to deal his cards. The first card flew at me face down; the second—face up—was a king. Okay, so far things seemed to be going well. I leaned back in my chair, smoothly lit a cigarette and took a sip from my martini. I couldn’t have been cooler.

“Well, what?” I answered from behind my glass.
“Are you gonna check your card?”
“Oh. Umm… I didn’t know I was allowed to touch them now.” I checked my card (it was a very disappointing three) and pulled another drag of smoke. Couldn’t have been cooler.
“Yes?” It’s a proven fact that all swingers answer questions with questions.
“Do you want to hit or don’t you?”
“Oh,” I checked my card again to make sure it was still a three… smoothly, “Yes; hit me.”
“Sir,” I’ve noticed when older people call me “sir” it’s normally out of restraint, rather than respect, “you’re going to have to make the hand signal.”
“Which one might that be?” Deep down, I was hoping he meant the hand signal Hispanic Catholics do in church, when passing churches or when their soccer team is up for a penalty kick. That’s the hand signal I wanted to do.
“You have to scratch the table if you want another card or wave your hand over your cards if you want to stay.” He sighed, I scratched and he tossed me a nine.
“Yes!” Hand wave, martini sip, cigarette drag. The steps to success.

I’d been so focused on looking like a (five dollar) winner that I hadn’t noticed that he’d given himself a jack. He exposed a two, hit a four, then a five and said “21”. I showed him my cards and was disappointedly satisfied with our tie. The dealer rolled his eyes, took my chip and cards, and upon noticing the horror and confusion in my face (he must have played a lot of poker) explained, “You had 22; you busted.”

Those five little words clued me in to a couple of things: 1) somewhere in the world, there was a third-grader laughing at me and 2) if I were alive in the 60’s, Frank and Dean would never have invited me to hang out with them.

Within the next couple of minutes, I essentially handed him my remaining $15 before retreating to the white haired, smoky haze of the nickel slot machines.

The rest of the weekend went okay; I won a bunch of money on the slots, back at Blackjack and playing Casino War. Needless to say, I lost every last penny of it on my last night in town in a drunken, greedy 45 minutes. I left Las Vegas having spent only the $200 I allotted myself and with the knowledge that I’d have to find some other way to be cool.

It would be another six or seven months before I braved another casino visit. Southern California has proliferated what is known as “Indian Gaming”.

SIDEBAR: Common Misunderstandings Concerning the Term “Indian Gaming”
--Bows and arrows are involved
--You’ll actually get to see Indians
--You can bring your own rifle
--You can rent one when you get to the reservation
--It’s okay to call them Indians
--Taxidermists willing to stuff and mount your Indian game are affordable and easy to find
--Jokes about hunting Native Americans on their own land are funny
--Jokes about hunting Native Americans anywhere are funny
--I’m proud of this SIDEBAR

Indian casinos feel a lot less intimidating than Vegas casinos. The lights are fewer and not as bright, a good majority of the patrons are retirees waiting for bingo to start and the dealers do all that complicated arithmetic for you because all the cards are dealt face up. Even better, the dealers are perfectly willing to teach you the statistically prudent moves to make. If the dealer shows a nine and you have 16, it’s probably better to hit. If the dealer shows a six and you have a pair of fours, you should split. Always double-down on 11 and always split eights. While they have no real vested interest in the house winning or losing, the one piece of advice they’ll never give you is: “You’re already down the equivalent of your rent, utilities, car payment and insurance bill… maybe you should rack this one up in the ‘God hates you’ column and call it a night.” Nope; those thieving bastards will just go ahead and let you lose every last dime you have.

At first, I tried to shame myself into not losing too much by going with my roommate or friends, keeping them around me and leaving when the thought of them thinking I had a problem prevented me from visiting the ATM. When I finally got over that, it became easier to withdraw only a couple hundred more with the hopes of merely recovering the money I’d lost. A couple weeks went by and I managed my losses and winnings such that I was essentially breaking even. What was abundantly wasted, however, was hours and hours as I found myself leaving the casino at daybreak… noon… Thursday.

After hours of sitting at one table, I’d grow to like the other gamblers (a camaraderie built on shared adversity) and watch as they lost everything. The dealers—both faultless and incapable of doing anything—would act sorry as the cards dwindled their stacks of chips and their faces grew less enthusiastic. Along with the dealer, I’d say “better luck” as they walked away dejectedly, beaten and pathetic.

But, those people had gambling problems. They had self-control issues. I was quickly becoming a pro; not only did I pick up what the statistically better bet was, I would keep track of how many losses and wins I’d had. I knew when to increase my bet to improve the chances of recovering my money. I knew when to leave a sour table and I knew when inexperienced gamblers were screwing my chances of winning.

However, I loved getting screwed by some inexperienced gamblers. Nothing made me happier than when a cute girl who had no idea what she was doing would sit at my table, exclaim that she didn’t know what to do and look to me for answers. Never in my life has a phallic symbol (such as a stack of chips) meant so very much. I’d win them some money with my statistical knowledge and they’d hang around after they’d won their huge, $30 pot; marveling and gasping as I started to make $100, $200 and $500 bets… until my large stack eventually went flaccid (by the way, any hardcore gambler would read this and scoff at my meager losses).

Soon enough, a couple hundred each withdraw became a few hundred. A few hundred became… well, that 25 minute drive home is the loneliest imaginable when you have nothing to think about but all the points at which you could have left up 3,000, up 500, even, down 100, down 500; anything down but 1,800. I’d console myself by driving recklessly and cursing the reservation on my way out. Anything and everything became responsible for my losses: if that stupid Acura in front of me would have gone a little faster, this never would have happened; if all those old people would have played bingo some other day, I wouldn’t have had to wait to win my millions; Jesus, if my roommate had just taken out the trash, that wouldn’t have given me such a bad Blackjack vibe. It was all fair game.

I began to have suspicions about my gambling hobby when the dealers would greet me by name and remember how much I’d won or lost the last time they saw me. Other minor indicators included becoming familiar with the dealers’ shifts such that I would know who I’d find on what day at what time (I even knew when certain bingo players would be there). I started to feel like a crack addict; if only I could get one more hit, I could go home. If I could just win my money back, I’d never ever gamble again. Sometimes, I’d actually manage to win my money back, but I’d say to myself “Jesus, I’m on a roll. I may as well walk out of here with all of these casino’s money. That can happen, right? Right? Anybody?”

For a few brief moments at my lowest point, I even considered cheating; happily, I gave up when I realized that my most reliable plan involved finding a master thief, an explosives expert, a hacker and seven other lovable criminals.

And then all my savings were gone. I still managed to pay my bills (mostly) on time and eat occasionally. My best meals were actually at the casino; after 13 hours of straight Blackjack, having only consumed cigarettes and Diet Cokes (this particular casino didn’t serve alcohol), the pit managers would comp my meals at the casino restaurant. This sounds really generous of them, but it was really just their evil ploy to keep me there. And it worked… really well, sometimes.

I finally decided never to go back to that casino when, in a fit of desperation, I broke down and visited my old friend: the nickel slot. The first one I sat down at was called “The American Dream” and within fifteen minutes $20 turned into $1800. Suddenly, I had old ladies marveling at me. The tables had turned; now, all the Martha’s, Betty’s and Doris’s would congratulate me from behind their Winstons. I politely thanked them and gently accepted their high-fives… and two hours later walked out of the casino with nothing.

I wouldn’t say I have a gambling problem… but, I’m willing to bet I’ll never get those Batman sunglasses now.

That’s all.


Lame Excuses and Tastiest Burger in Town

Okay… so I’ve been a little irresponsible with my writing habits lately. For those of you that care (assuming, of course, that there are any) I’m sorry. Between finishing up school and moving to San Diego, I found myself absolutely swimming in time. I also found it extraordinarily difficult to do anything when I could just as easily do nothing. For the record, I did become rather expert at doing nothing. After a few weeks of not writing, the flow of ideas started slowing and every time I attempted to write anything, the product was reminiscent of Britney Spears’ acting career. You know, when it looks like a movie, it sounds like a movie, but sweet Jesus in heaven is it awful to sit through.

So, here’s my wild stab at writing again… I try my best not to just share stories about the silly jazz I get myself into. Instead, I do what I can to fit some of my experiences and observations into the grander perspective of—what I call—“Average Guy-osophy”. Sadly, I can find very little moral in this story besides: Everybody does stupid shit when they get drunk. Sorry.

A couple months ago, I was conned into being a groomsman in my cousin’s wedding. Repeated and emphatic philosophical (and thereby moral) objections fell on deaf Nicaraguan ears as I was told that, even though I find marriage, uh, stupid, I would be going to the wedding. “Fine!” I rebutted, arms folded, head wagging, all in the most mature of fashions.

Before the smirk could even develop on my face, my mom added, “And if you even THINK about contorting your face for pictures or passing gas during the ceremony, I will kill you with my own hands.”

It was a reasonable enough point she brought up. If nothing else, it proved my parents hadn’t totally gotten over what the modern news media would probably call “Uncle Tito’s Funeralgate”. To be fair, there’s no way I could have known that adamantly blaming flatulence on a corpse would be considered “inappropriate”.

After further disappointment about having to pay for my own tuxedo, I was a groomsman, and quite the dapper one at that. The wedding went fine; I behaved myself. The couple observations I made about the huge, beautiful church I kept to myself. But, I’ll share them with you, my trusted friends.

1) At the back of the church there was a small glass door on the wall that looked like it should have housed a fire extinguisher. Upon further inspection, I found a rusting faucet with a wooden sign above it that read “Holy Water”. I wondered whether or not the Department of Water and Power had Holy Water mains running throughout the city and if perhaps the faucet itself had sinned (what with it rusting and all). It also occurred to me that Vatican scientists should invent a Holy Fire Extinguisher to serve the dual purposes of putting out church fires (although, theoretically there should never be any) and for more effective abortion clinic protests.
2) The men’s room in the church was in need of renovation; however, it would more than serve its purpose. As I was making use of the facilities, it occurred to me that I’ve always been a little uncomfortable and awkward about making poopy at friends’ and relatives’ houses… shouldn’t I then feel doubly, or even triply awkward at making poopy in the house of almighty God? While I’m on it (the subject, not the potty), rectories are like the more enlightened cousin of the restroom. It’s a small box in which you’re supposed to sit uncomfortably close to the guy in the next stall. When you leave, you feel relieved of a burden. I don’t know about you, but I’ve commonly heard the expression “Oh God!” when passing by toilets and rectories alike, although the intonations are different. Near the rectories, people say “Oh God!” as if cuddling up in the soft skinned hands of Mother Comfort. Near the men’s room “Oh God!” sounds more like a guy whose bum is exploding. Anyway, as I was using God’s toilet, I wished desperately that I had a marker and even more desperately that I could write in Aramaic so that, henceforth, generations of Catholic men could read “Remember to wash your hands –Jesus” in between prayers.

After the wedding, I met up with a friend of mine that was making a stop in LA on his drive cross-country. I decided to make an appearance at the reception for an hour or so, just long enough to get just minor frowns from my family. Yup, I was only gonna stay a little while, be sociable and leave with my friend to have real fun in Hollywood or something. It wasn’t until I was helping load the left over beer into my cousin’s truck that I realized we were the last people to leave.

It was 12:30 and—despite being unreasonably intoxicated—the night was far, far from over.

On our drive to the highway (as a public service announcement: my friend was the designated driver. That was really the only responsible thing I did all night) we saw a charming establishment called “Girls! Girls! Girls!” Without actually speaking to each other, we found ourselves parking right in front and walking directly to two seats at the stage. I conveniently had a sizeable stack of one dollar bills in my pockets and casually set them on the table in front of me. There were hardly any “patrons” in this “bar” so it was fairly easy to converse with the “dancers”.

SIDERBAR: I used to be such a nice boy…
While I don’t frequent strip clubs, I’ve been to one or two in my day. I’ve always been fairly cordial to the girls and keep both my cash and my hands thrust firmly in my pockets. My friend later reported to me some of the things I said:
—With stack of ones in hand, “Hey doll, what’s the etiquette on this?”
“You have to put it on the stage.”
“Oh yeah?” I let a dollar bill float off my hand onto the stage… it was really more like fling.
“Just one dollar?”
“Uhhh… yeah. For now.”
—“Hey, baby, what’s your name?”
“Yeah? How do you spell that?”
—“Hey, do something special for me and my friend”
(she does)
“That’s right! Earn your money!”

The only other person sitting at the stage was right next to my friend. She looked like a really dark, 35 year old Macy Gray with straight, black hair.

Yeah, I’m making the same facial expression.

This woman was getting raw with the “dancers”. My comments were kindergarten compared to some of the things she was saying and doing. For example, I didn’t know that you could slap a stripper hard on her bum and say “Yeeeeaaaaaah, bitch! Shake that shit” without suffering the indignant stares of other patrons whose genteel sensibilities had been offended. I continually elbowed my friend to encourage him to talk to her, but gave up after a few minutes and had him switch seats with me.

It’s important to point out that I was drunk silly at this particular juncture. While I take responsibility for my actions, my body was on some kind of debaucherous auto-pilot. More accurately, my body was like heat-seeking missile, except instead of heat, it was seeking naughties. I leaned over to her and softly say in her ear, “So… come here often?” (This guy = professional).
Without looking at me, “Ooooh yeah. C’mon, girl. Hit dat! Hit dat!”
“What’s your name?”
Still not looking at me, “Tanya,” (pronounced “Taaawn-yuh”).

A fight broke out behind us, but we only glanced over for a second before our attention was focused back on the girl dancing… deservedly. Tanya and I made small talk about the skill and attributes of Heavenly, the girl on stage, before the bar started to close down and we made our way outside. Tanya mentioned needing to get a taxi home and I said my friend had a car. The back seat being filled with my buddy’s personal effects, the three of us had to sit in the front seat. She was partly sitting on me and had her head resting on Chris. We had a delightful conversation in which she told us about being bisexual and having the “da bes pussy in alla LA! You cain’t find no better nowhere!” I wondered if that had become a new event at the county fair. What color ribbon do you get for having the best in… ummm… THAT category. Pink would be my guess, heh heh heh, bang bang.

It wasn’t long before Tanya told us about her nipple’s being pierced. More so than telling us, she exposed her right booby to prove that, in fact, she had at least one of them pierced. I instinctually (an instinct that I got from the ferret side of my family) grabbed the shiny ring and gave it a jiggle, exclaiming, “Hey, bro, get a load of this!”

“That there… that there sure is a nipple ring, miss.” I don’t blame him… what the hell was he supposed to say?

“Ooooohhh, you lookin’ like you want some pussy tonight.” It wasn’t until then that I noticed my hand had been “gently” “caressing” her bum the entire car ride.

“Yeah, I’ll take what I can get.”

“Well, I’ll fuck ya. But, I gotsta get a new transmission. You wanna give me $190 to fix my transmission.” I’ll remind you that not twelve hours before I was in a church.

I expressed some reluctance for giving her money for sex and she kindly reminded me of her coveted blue, uh, pink ribbon (only in somewhat vulgar terms). As we were driving, we passed a Jack in the Box and she asked (or demanded) that we swing into the drive-through. “Yeah, I’ll have a Ciabatta (it’s pronounced “Che-bot-ah”, but she said “Chia-bat-ah”) burger… oooh wit bacon. And large fries. And a lemonade.” At some point, it was also made abundantly clear that she wasn’t paying for it… oh, I remember, it was when she turned to me and said “he said it’s gon be 5.75.”

When we got to the window, she yelped, put her finger in her mouth and said “Oooooohhh, I got da sweet touf. I got da sweet touf. Can I get a cheesecake? Hey! Hey! Put a cheesecake on dat order. Is dat okay? If I get a cheesecake?”

“Ummmmm…” What am I doing with my life?

We got to her apartment complex in a neighborhood that would never be seen in an issue of Home and Garden Magazine. She hopped out and walked towards her gate. I told my friend to stick around for a couple minutes because there was potential for something hilarious to happen. Yup… gonorrhea is a riot!

I followed her to her apartment only to find two “urban” black guys standing right inside the door. “Clyde! What in heavens are you doing here still, compatriot?” (only those weren’t necessarily the words she used). They excused themselves into a back room and left me with someone who I came to find out is her 32 year old nephew/roommate wearing an oversized Detroit Pistons jersey. “This is going to be trouble,” I thought to myself, “After all, it’s two in the morning, I have no way of contacting my friend, he wouldn’t know how to find me and I’m a Lakers fan.”

I have a very bad habit of picking up accents when there isn’t a neutral accent around. Cousin Tim (Tee-im) and I had a conversation in which I found myself saying “Dog”, “Crunk”, “Up in this bitch” and “Dat’s the hotness” more often than ever before in my life. He explains to me that Clyde is his uncle, Tanya his “untee” and that there had been some dispute over whether Clyde should have to pay for the couple nights he spent at their apartment. I’m glad he cleared that up, because all I gathered from the yelling behind the closed door was: “When you gonna give me my money?!”

Cousin Tim and I have a pleasant conversation in his living room furnished only with a large TV and the classifieds open in the middle of the floor. He explained to me that it’s perfectly okay for his “un-tee” to bring back dudes, because “she a grown-ass woman” and he’s not going to tell her what to do. He also told me that he wants to go back to school to study engineering. I reply, “Yeah, dog, engi-nehr-in’. I mean, whateva, bruh-vah… you gotta make dat pay-pa!” Uh-huh, I’m still in the tuxedo.

Tanya came out at that point and, in front of her relatives, grabbed me by the lapel, kissed me on the “mouf” and asked gingerly, “So you gonna give me dat money?”

“Haha… no.”

“Well, you want my numbah or somethin’?”

“Nope.” I walked quickly towards the door with Tanya a few steps behind me. I noticed the Jack in the Box bags and immediately grabbed them.

“Boy, whatchu doin’?” she reached for the bags, but I managed to snatch them away, “Dat’s my food!”

“Nah, baby, this here’s MY food. I paid for it.” I bolted out of the door and damn near fell down the stairs. I never looked back, but I’d give both of my pinky toes to hear the conversation in that apartment after I left. I found my friend driving by as I was sprinting towards the street. He had already resigned himself to my brutal murder and was just about to drive himself back to my house to explain to my parents how I died in Los Angeles.

I could hardly tell him what happened because I was too busy loudly devouring my victory Chia-bat-ah burger with won my pink ribbon that night.

I used to be such a nice boy.

That’s all.