GonzoToday

Gonzo Today

Other Voices & Outside Sources

Drug Run – Chapter Five: The Break-in

 

by Dr. Rocket with Ms. Gonzo

 

Last time, as you recall, Texas rock singer Suze Benson and two drug-running brothers completed the first leg of their drive to Los Angeles, never imagining that their product-filled van was about to be broken into by the obsessed son of an extremely unscrupulous and powerful FBI man.

 

The phone in his room was ringing, and he hurriedly unlocked the door and rushed in to answer it. He was sure who it was.

Axel Hasselburger had been staying in the Watergate Hotel on his FBI business trips to the capital since the elegant establishment had opened in the late 60’s. He saw no reason to change lodgings because of the infamous scandal that had toppled his hero, Richard M. Nixon. The events that triggered Nixon’s resignation had all occurred in the adjoining office complex on the sixth floor, not in the hotel itself. Still, he sometimes felt deeply annoyed when hearing the name “Watergate.”

It was indeed who he thought, and the voice asked at once “How did it go?”

“Very well. The Senator won’t be around to retire. It may take a year or so, but that will go by quick.”

“Hmm. It will have to do. Did Mister Trouble ask any questions?”

“Several, and was dubious.”

“OK. He’s second guessing too often. Recommendations?”

Hasselburger didn’t pause. “Termination.”

“Noted.” There was a click.

He hung up and sat down on the bed, loosened his tie and kicked off his shoes. An image of Imants came to mind again. This time he acted on it and called the house in Dallas. His longtime maid Magnolia picked up, sounding sleepy.

“Magnolia.” Imants’ father seldom said hello.

“Yass, Mista Hasselburger.” Her voice changed pitch to the cautious deference she used with him.

“Check on Imants. If he’s asleep, don’t wake him.”

“Yessah.” She put the phone down, and in her absence he took off his socks, marveling briefly as usual how good it felt. But his mind snapped back to his train-wreck of a son. His mother had ruined him. Damn her.

On the phone he could Magnolia in the distance calling Imants’ name loudly. Clearly not asleep in his bed. He nodded slowly. His instinct was right again: something was wrong. He’d have to fly back tomorrow, early.

Imants had boldly pulled his father’s Monte Carlo into the motel lot and parked at the far end. Confused by what he had observed so far, and suspicious and jealous of Suze and the Carter brothers, he ground his teeth together.

This is abnormal behavior, he reflected yet again. Why is she doing this? It doesn’t make any sense. Imants felt the familiar burning, churning sensation of angry frustration. Why was Suze doing this to him?

He watched with a confused frown as Suze went into one room and the two men she was with went into the adjoining one. That van she’s driving. Gotta search that van. Better park further away. He fired up the overpowered engine.

Suze hadn’t realized how tired she was until she had shucked off her clothes and gotten between the sheets. But she couldn’t fall asleep at first. She turned over several times.

God, I’m horny. It’s been months. Those sweetly musky Billy smells from the farmhouse towel must have gotten to her. Or perhaps his proximity riding in the van. She thought about touching herself, but the squirming sensation faded, and she drifted off.

She was startled awake by a dream of her father, talking with her as they walked along one of their favorite paths at the old house. “It’s all so much clearer now,” he stated in his firm voice. “I was wrong about a good many things, but I love you, baby, and tried to raise you right. The Golden Rule, that’s the most important one.”

“Yes,” she said, nodding vigorously in agreement. Then it hit her, jolting her into a state of lucidity. “But Daddy, you’re dead.” She started to wake, but fought it, holding on, staring at his dear features. He held a finger aloft, semi-mockingly, a gesture she loved that he only did with her.

“Be careful, Suze. Be very careful.” He faded, still smiling. She awoke with moistened eyes.

Oh Daddy. Was that really you, or me missing you? She became aware of the sound of rain outside, and a metallic noise she couldn’t account for. The van was parked just outside the motel window. The van. She sat up abruptly.

Imants had been semi-tutored in various arts by his father’s visiting FBI co-workers, who found Imants amusing. Lock-picking was one of the skills he had learned, but he wasn’t an adept. Fumbling awkwardly with the picking tool in the steady rain, he had finally got the back of the van open. It’s just music cases. They are a band, going to play some town ahead.

But then Imants caught a faint whiff of an unusual odor. Drugs. He risked a glimmer from his flashlight. Just cases, but still… Drugs, definitely. I need to open one of these cases.

He stood on the bumper and reached into the few feet of free space beneath the van roof to pull on a smaller case, and managed to partially dislodge from it the rest. He hopped down, reached in and pulled harder. Thunder rumbled in the medium distance.

Suze leapt up, trying to find her clothes in the dark. Frustrated, she attempted to pull the bedspread off, but it was tucked extremely tightly. She peeled it back, yanking at it. Another clunking sound from outside. Some damn thief tryin’ to wreck my deal. Enraged, she grabbed a pillow, holding it in front of her nude body, and threw open the motel door.

Imants, confounded by the multiple straps holding the smaller case in place, failed to notice the door opening, the faint sound masked by the rain.

Suze bounded out and shouted “Hey you!” She whapped him in the head with the pillow as hard as possible and Imants froze, his back to her. Suze, infuriated by her lack of impact, yelled again and kicked him as hard as she could with her bare foot, right between his legs.

Emitting a loud, dismal groan, and keeping his face averted, Imants ran off, bent over and limping noticeably, as the light in the brothers’ motel room snapped on. Billy and Rob, the latter with a handgun, ran out cursing; they were stunned at the sight of Suze who stood naked in the rain, pillow in hand, next to their violated craft, as a dark figure shambled away hastily into the dim first light of dawn.

Rob recovered first, pocketing the pistol, looking around at the nearly empty parking lot. “Let’s go. Get dressed, we’ll lock up.”

Suze nodded, suddenly realizing she was both naked and wet from the rain, as well as in shock from the events, and she turned for her open door.

Billy watched, waited until her door closed, and then pointed to the van. “Look which case he was goin’ after.”

A half hour later they were seated at a breakfast cafe a few miles away. The three sat dazed over their waffles and sausages until Billy looked up and spoke quietly in a mock-dramatic movie announcer voice.

“One woman, alone, armed only with her wits and a fully loaded pillow… versus the most dangerous thief in the state of Texas…a vicious menace working under the cover of darkness.” Rob put his fingers to his lips, but struggled to hide his grin. Suze chuckled quietly, and looked around, but the few cafe patrons ignored them.

“Ya missed it, but I got in a kick to his tallywhacker that he’s still feeling.” The brothers nodded in near unison, impressed.

“Well, damn. You just earned your whole salary the first night,” Rob said slowly.

Billy nodded again. “No wonder he was runnin’ so funny. But Suze, how come you ain’t in Playboy Magazine yet?” He tilted his head with a mild leer.

“Oh ya’ll hush,” she said quietly, turning a bit pink in the cheeks. She finished her coffee, pushed back her plate and stood abruptly. “Gonna visit the ladies room.” This time they both watched her go.

Imants sat miserably in his father’s car a block away, watching the doors to the cafe and trying to sit comfortably despite his aching groin. He was numb both that Suze had kicked him in his most sensitive spot, and his growing belief that she had likely fallen in with drug dealers.

His mind grappled with the problem of what to do. He had managed to maintain the tail from the motel to the cafe, but now what? The rain had stopped, some part of his mind registered.

That his worst fears about her were coming true, he had no doubt. But, she needs to be rescued. If only I could speak to Suze, reason with her, show her she is off the true path. His thoughts, as they sometimes did when thinking about her, became chaotic and cloudy.

Imants pulled out the worn picture of his mother he kept in his wallet, the last one of them together, earmarked and worn. He preferred to remember her smiling with her arm around him, a small eight-year-old boy, not the mental picture of his mom leaving, tears streaking her face, her face lined with worry and care, somehow hideously bruised. No, I can’t lose Suze. I can’t.

He became electrifyingly aware of how confused and mixed up his feelings were about Suze.

They had met at the neighborhood church, where Imants had been praying for deliverance with tears streaming down his cheeks. He’d opened his eyes to see Suze standing in front of him, radiant at 13, blonde hair glowing in the light. “You okay?” she asked in concern. I am now. God has answered my prayer. I am to be saved.

Suze hadn’t really wanted to know Imants. She felt some obligation to him because he attended her church, but she instinctively knew he was creepy, and likely creepier than she could imagine. Later, Imants attended the local high school, a year behind her, and she had stood up against the near universal hazing directed at Imants, but it was a losing battle, and only seemed to make his obsession with her get worse.

Imants shook his mind free from his repetitive train of misery. He adjusted his pants again. He knew he had to do something, but had no idea what.

When Suze emerged from the shabby restroom, her hair was pinned up and she had put on a bit of makeup, her walk full of confidence. Damn right, I earned my pay. Something horrible happened, that guy she’d kicked… but still.  If that’s the worst, this trip will be a blast, especially with Billy boy by my side. But that was a gun Rob had. She pushed the thought away. Onward.

Rob had paid the tab and the brothers stood outside in the sudden bright sunlight. She pushed open the heavy smudged glass door and joined them, smiling with good cheer. Billy grinned back brightly, adjusting items in his shoulder bag: newspapers, a Carlos Castaneda paperback book, bananas.

“All ready?” Rob asked. Her nod was firm and quick. He glanced at her, and then a line of dark clouds on the horizon to the north. He grunted. “I wanna get the hell out of Texas today.”

She nodded again. “Me too. Let’s hit the road, jack.”

 

To be continued in Chapter Six: Trouble Highway

Album Review: Goth Brooks’ Moonshine and Mascara

 

by: Doc Jeffurious Higgason

 

Band: Goth Brooks

Album: Moonshine and Mascara

Label: Unsigned

Rating: 2 or 3 or 4 outta 5 (I hate this rating crap.)

 

The complicated aspect of how things change over time are sometimes only realized when expressed in the simplest of truths.

About ten years ago on the 4th of July I was visiting the town where I grew up in the rural parts of Southern Illinois. We were there to catch some fireworks at the park and to eat one of those funnel cakes.

Obviously because I had been gone for a couple years I came back to a town a bit different but in wide reaching corners. As my wife and I pushed our way through the crowd we ran into Tim Stine, an old pal of mine from high school. As he and I were pouring over the details of what we were currently doing for work, we started talking about the shifting culture of the town. He said something along the lines of “Yeah, it’s weird to come out here and see all the Goth girls hitting on the Rednecks.” The juxtaposition of both those elements made me laugh out loud and the point was rigidly driven home. Little did I know there were weirder times ahead for our muddled refinements. Alan Jackson replacing Robert Smith in The Cure fell to the bottom of my expectations list and time went on. But…I had most arrogantly forgotten about the notion of ‘Rap-Metal/Rock’, a major mistake on my part. The reward for my oversight came recently in the form of ‘Moonshine and Mascara’, the debut album by the industrial-country band ‘Goth Brooks’.

This offering right out the gate (YEE HAW!) is as upsetting, beguiling and lovely as a herd of drunk and horny cattle making their way into the mosh pit at a Marilyn Manson concert. Springing from the darkest home on the range…eh hmm! Phoenix Arizona. This mash up band consists of Mike Lee on country vocals, “Werm” Jonah Foree screaming out the gloom and “3pac” Xian Austin holding them all together with some tasty danceable drums. They have dared to answer my deepest, darkest question of “What if?” When I was first handed this assignment by Mr. Kidman at ‘Gonzo Today’ I really wanted to hate it and in ways I suppose I do. The nature of a true Gen X old fart is to apply skepticism first as your main filter to reality. (We’re not impressed.) But we are also known to recognize originality and tongue-in-cheek wit. Who remembers that first smile you got when listening to ‘GWAR’ or ‘Green Jello’ or ‘Ace of Base’? Exactly, maintain an open mind.

The whole trouble kicks off with the majestic cadences of ‘Motherf**kers From Hell’. It reminded slightly of an anthem for a bad guy wrestler walking into the ring during a three dollar match. You can almost smell the odor of vinyl mats and a blend of armpit odor. A real victory jaunt across the landscape of pain and torture, all to sampled bits of Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s ‘Fishing In The Dark’. It embraces thematic elements of what it’s like to have the darkened heart of a cowhand who really doesn’t give a “toss”.

“Ghost riding, gun fighting, cattle driving, motherf**kers from hell.”

The poignant stories told during ‘Achy Breaky Twerkin’ relate to the listener the struggles of stripping for cash in provincial America. “Mullets just don’t age like wine.” If you have never sat in attendance in a dive “bikini bar” called ‘The School House’ located in a town of less than fifty people or travelled over to the local Elk’s Club to catch the “Man Muffins Revue”, you’ll never get it.

The strongest point of the whole album is the third track ‘She Thinks My Hearse Is Sexy’. Within this song there are artfully assembled pieces of Ennio Morricone, floating ghosts of the Revolting Cocks and greasy slabs of neo-country beefcake Tim McGraw. The simple repetitiveness can make you understand why this track would be a favorite for the gloriously unwashed and their grease painted counterparts in the haze of a small town bar. Hopefully it lands on the radio in full saturated rotation because this is what we truly deserve in this moment of human existence. Something to truly reflect the confusion of living within this current multiverse reality but, you know, a toe tapper? Have we truly taken music to it most outer limits? Will it begin to go backwards now? Upon further reflection could ‘Goth Brooks’ be the very pinnacle of musical achievement?

In fact all of these songs qualify for the playlist for all strip clubs. Not only do they qualify I think they should be mandatory. It also qualifies to go good with bong time with your friends. It truly is dark fun. When asked I would say this epic first release is truly original. In that, I have listened to it several times rocked my ass off and enjoyed some sinister giggles. But I still really don’t know if I should be laughing. Which is the true beauty of it. Perhaps, these guys will prove that at the absolute limits of the progression of music instead of rolling backwards we can always shift sideways. No one ever said it was supposed to be a straight line anyway.

Album Review: Mountain King Self-Titled

 

by: Doc Jeffurious Higgason

 

Band: Mountain King

Album: ‘Mountain King’

Label: Self-released

Rating: 4.8 outta 5

In life I am a firm believer in the notion that sometimes things don’t come to you until you absolutely need them. Like when your electric bill is due NOW and you are broke. But as fate would have it, your tax refund arrives. Whew! Heat stays on tonight, baby! I truly respect the idea that no plum shall be eaten before it’s time lends itself to many situations in life, especially in those times when music saves you.

The sweetness you crave is worth waiting for, yet somehow you don’t realize it until that moment.  Then you wonder how the hell you ever survived before without it.

Lemme tell ya, I hate the radio. I reside in a mainly rural area. The choices as you can guess are very limited. New crap country radio stations, mixed-genre-middle-of-the-road-hits-from-back-then radio, classic rock (If I hear ‘Free Ride’ one more damned time!), sports, Christian worship stations and sometimes late at night right-wing talk show programs. So being caught without an auxiliary listening option can ruin a long car trip.

This happened recently to me.

Bound to the seat of the car for about an hour in both directions and I had left my MP3 player back at the house on my desk with the sudden realized exclamation of “FAWWWWK!”. A quick glance into the center console of the car and I find two CDs. The first was a horribly damaged copy of ZZ Top’s ‘Recycler’ album (it came with the car) and the second CD was a copy of the June 2015 debut album of the Illinois indie-rock ensemble ‘Mountain King and the Plateau Queen’ simply titled ‘Mountain King’. I had forgotten it was in there, with relief and excitement I immediately shoved it into the pursed mouth of the car’s CD player.

The amped up drum kick of the first track ‘Moon’ seemed to accerate and lift my car as I made my way through the winding turns and hills of southern Illinois, the soft fragrant breeze of a rare warm night in February breathed itself through the cracked driver’s window complimenting the experience. The song slips, slides and builds into intermittent percussive orgasms. Excitement at every turn!

Eventually, the song turns you loose in the lilting, comforting beginning of ‘John Coffee’. Both songs set the very undeviating mode of shifting dynamics throughout the whole of the album. Another consistency is the magnificent and moody guitar work coupled with James Beeson’s vigorous vocals.

The band draws power from a score of influences such as The Beatles, Dr. Dog, The Black Keys and The Band just to give you a general idea. There are elements of each of those groups plus much more within each track. Yet it’s entirely a unique sound. A sound they themselves describe as “Interstellar Indie”.  If there is one thing to be said about this group is that they ooze talent and exude their own kind of vibe.

The diversified ambience of the album is reflected in the songs ‘I Mean No Offenses’ and the very radio friendly ‘I Fall Flat’ and it’s extremely catchy hook, “My head ain’t feeling right, I can’t stay up all night with you.” One more definite recommended stop on the tour is ‘Crystal Ball’. From the very beginning of the song you are zapped into a swirling drum and guitar flavored cloud, tossed about and finally smacked into the powerful, operatic vocal opening of the door to the rest of the magic. The words, hauntingly beautiful come to mind, a dream. ‘Mountain King’ is truly a mighty first outing for this band. You can contact them through their ‘Facebook’ page and have a listen to a few of the tracks over on ‘Youtube’ as well. But show em support and buy the album! This is a band that the world needs to hear more of. Incidently, they have a new release scheduled soon. Until that moment arrives I will keep myself company with this enthralling introduction…to be continued.

Drug Run – Chapter Four: Night Drive

 

by: Doctor Rocket with Ms. Gonzo

Last time, as you recall, Texas rock singer Suze Benson took the wheel of a van loaded with illicit drugs, and headed off with two desperate brothers on a major drug run to Los Angeles. She little dreamed she was being tailed by an FBI man’s obsessive son, who was determined to save her soul, win her heart and punish the young men corrupting her… punish them severely.

 
“Ten-four, good buddy,” Billy drawled into the CB microphone, exaggerating his Texas accent in his deepest tone. He let go of the hand-held mike switch with a click, and turned towards her, dimly lit in the dashboard light. “With him comin’ along behind us, no cops on our ass, this will be a snap.”

Suze grinned, nodding her head. The brothers had wanted to try out the radios right away, and they had already chosen handles for their identities that suited their tastes. Rob was Rootin’ Tootin’ and Billy’s handle was Wheatbread, which cracked Suze up.

“Why Wheatbread?” she laughed. He looked over at her, and felt a rush of emotion combined with cautionary inhibition.

“Because I made some Swiss Cheese sandwiches before you got to the farm. Got us a cooler behind the seat. Want one?”

“Sure!” Suze suddenly realized she was not only famished, but thirsty. “Got anything to drink?”

“Some soda cans. Rob said no beer.”

“Damn…” He’s right. We got a ton of pot back there.

Billy quietly chuckled. “Truth is, I put some in anyway. Carlsberg Elephant.”

Suze laughed. “You rascal. And imported too!”

They listened to the Dallas radio as they drove through the darkness, munching and swigging their bottles. Billy punched the radio buttons, eliciting “…more scattered thunderstorms, locally heavy in some areas.” Billy grunted, peering up ahead, but the earlier lightning in the north and west had stopped. He took another bite of sandwich.

“Billy why’s this taste so good?”

“Veggies I guess, we had some good tomatoes and bell peppers in the garden.” They chatted on about how delicious home-grown veggies were, compared to store bought, moved on discussing the beer, the beer name, elephants in general, and how sad zoos were. They wound up laughing when the conversation shifted to music. The found they had a lot in common, especially regarding the Blues.

After they got through the Dallas metro area the van and Rob’s Delta 88 exited the interstate and headed west on 380 towards Decatur. The wind was picking up but the van was riding solidly because of the load in back. The chat wound down and Suze had a moment to think about her life, and feel thankful for her freedom.

Imants, sweating as he drove, reevaluated his situation as the miles wore on. His father had not given him permission to drive the souped up Monte Carlo. It was Father’s pride and joy, and he was mortally afraid of the consequences of something going wrong. It wasn’t too late to turn around. But it would mean defeat, bitter and final. Suze appeared to be under the spell of bad people. In that van up there. Evil men. Godless Evil.

He clenched his jaw, brain whirling, and reached into his father’s Gladstone Bag. For all his life, the bag had been his father’s sacred item, always in the FBI man’s possession. Perhaps he had left it for him to find! But even as the thought hit him, he knew it to be untrue. His hand hit something. He pulled it out.

A gun! Imants tossed it back into the bag hastily. This was the opposite of… of… Suze standing delightfully nude as he watched through that farmhouse window. He felt a powerful blast of desire. Suze, so beautiful, a Goddess… bedeviling dream come true. God had made her for him, had shown her to him.

He reached into the bag, pulled out the pistol again. Hefted it, eyes on the distant taillights in the blackness ahead. His member stiff, guts roiling. Jesus, help me. And what about Father? God forbid he should come home and find his car missing. FBI Sector Chief Hasselburger would whip him silly.

In distant Washington D.C., Axel Hasselburger looked at the six other men at the long table. “Make no mistake, this incorruptible bastard is one of the biggest threats we face. So we are unanimous?”

Nods, some enthusiastic, some faint. The man at the far end, in the shadows, spoke slowly. “Taking out a sitting U.S. Senator… does it get any more serious?”

Imants’ father looked up, and repressed several sharp retorts. “Yes,” was his only reply. His listeners found it chilling.

Somehow his questioner found the nerve to speak. “Of course, the Church Committee…” The man stopped, started again. “Will it be done…”

Hasselburger frowned and interrupted. “In a way so that no one will ever know. He won’t last next year. He’ll get a statue or memorial, and the message will be sent.”

Hasselburger began putting documents in his briefcase, signaling meeting’s end. He missed that Gladstone Bag tremendously, he realized again, as the men stood and left. It was in the Monte Carlo, safe in the garage. He thought about troubled, unpredictable Imants, and suddenly frowned. His instinct, so trusty over the years, was kicking in. Something. Something was wrong.

In Texas, aware of the importance and seriousness of their journey, Suze’s musing gave way to the current situation. She felt a surge of optimism, pleased and bemused to be at the wheel of a van loaded to the top with God’s special and wrongfully illegal plants. Her earlier fears had dissipated and Suze became exuberant. “Wooo, we are regular desperados like Cheech and Chong!”

Billy, riding shotgun casually with his feet on the dashboard, looked over at her. Suze had her window down to catch the breeze, and he admired her in the dim light. “If yer finished, gimme that empty.” He flipped both the glass bottles out his passenger window, and grinned. “Less of a bust. Let’s see if Rob starts hollerin’.”

He turned down the car radio, turned to face her, and chatted about music some more and then spoke of her band, which Rob had joined three months previously, at the start of Suze’s blazing run of summer gigs at the Last Chance Saloon. Billy had seen many of those crazy nights, and expressed his fondness in strong language.

“I liked Suze and the Bruisers, too,” he said, speaking of her first band.

She laughed, astonished. “You saw the Bruisers? We were too wild to last. But damn I loved those boys.”

She found herself telling Billy about her earlier experiences. Suze was living with her then-husband and performing at clubs for the first time, but when her dad died, she’d moved back into her family home to help her mom. And had never moved back in with her spouse. The marriage was a miserable experience she was relieved to be free of.

Suze’s sister worked as a nurse in Los Angeles, so a lot of the morbid details of her father’s funeral arrangements fell on Suze’s shoulders. It was eventually decided that her mom move in with her more stable and now-pregnant sister, so Suze had also had to help her mom dispose of a lifetime of stuff and sell the house. The mortgage had taken most of the profit. Suze’s voice tailed off, and she sighed.

Billy knew only a few bits of this, and was horrified by the larger tribulations of her life, of which he had known little. Troubles were a downer, he wanted to talk music to change the mood. “I’m just glad you kept your music going.”

“Only thing that kept me sane.”

“I hear that! Well. Rob and I used to sneak into The Ruby to see you. I was there the night the guitar player fell off the stage.”

Suze giggled loudly, sliding back into a state of amusement. “His last night.” She fell silent a moment as a spatter of rain hit the windshield. “Frank was so unpredictable, but when he was hot, he was the best player I ever had; he could make everyone in the room freekin’ wig out. He had those Mike Bloomfield blues chops down cold.”

“Yeah, I was there the night he stood on top of his Twin Reverb. That was like a fifteen minute solo, right? And he was doing those fills when you were singing…Turn on Your Love Light. So cool. Rockin’!”

Suze giggled again, closer to a guffaw. “Goddamn, I am amazed you saw that! It was a special night.” She looked over him with a look of mock rebuke. “How were you even there? A bit young for The Ruby then, weren’tcha?”

Billy was animated. “Yeah, but Rob knew the bouncer. He knows a lotta people. Anyway, I convinced him to take me, the hardass, and…”

The CB crackled into life. “Watch your speed there, Wheatbread. You’re a bit high.”

They looked at each other and burst into laughter. “His ears were burning! I love it,” Suze said. A sudden spatter of rain hit the windshield as she let up a bit on the pedal.

Billy pushed the handset switch. “Copy,” he said in a quiet tone, let up the switch, and chuckled loudly, “At least he didn’t see those bottles. Better not let him know we’re having fun.”

Hmm. Yes. And that was strong beer. She felt tingly, damn pheromones, huh. She looked over at him again. “Billy. What are ya’ll gonna do after this, in California?”

Billy shrugged in the darkness. “I’d like to try surfing for a day or two. Get shitfaced after this. Buy a cool car, maybe a Stingray! Drive it back to the farm, I dunno. We might have another run like this one in a couple weeks, then I could get my own place in town. Girls don’t like coming out to that ol’ farm; my last girlfriend thought the place was too funky.”

“Last girlfriend huh?” she teased. “What a ladies man!”

“Well, and she was a bit kinky. I didn’t understand lingerie until… and the fur handcuffs, man, and, well, that was just the start.”

Yikes. And I thought he was still a kid. She debated a neutral sounding question or something to tease him with, but he spoke first. “What about you? What are you gonna do when you get there?”

Right, what about me? “Now that I’m sorta rich… get a car, get a place with a view, visit with my mom and sister and my baby niece. I wanna start a new band, write some tunes.” Suddenly a great hunger to do this, and more, grabbed her. Those demo cassette tapes, gotta get ’em out to the right A&R guys!

“Well shee-it. We’re gonna miss ya in Garland. Why ya leaving’ us?”

“Oh God, too much to say. I just need a change.” No way am I going to talk about Imants, any more about the ex and all the rest now. The radio voices sang, if you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one you’re with – love the one you’re with. Yes, perhaps so. She looked over at Billy to find him looking at her. She felt a surge of, of what? Lust? She had been so shut down since the divorce…

A massive bolt of lightning lit the sky ahead, but there were still only a few drops on the windshield. They rode in silence for a few minutes, until another bright bolt from the sky illuminated the front interior of the drug-filled van, this time with a goodly boom of thunder. “Wow!” they both exclaimed in reaction to the blast.

Rob’s voice crackled again from the CB. “That was close. We better stop at the next motel. Looks pretty hairy up ahead.”

 
To be continued in Chapter Five: The Break-in

The Clown In Chief and the Juggalo Army March Washington DC

 

by: Brad OH

What is a Juggalo?

The question has been asked and answered in many ways. To music critics, Juggalos are the tasteless followers of the ‘World’s Most Hated Band’, the Insane Clown Posse (ICP). To ICP themselves, it has been asked and answered in the form of a song which provides a litany of silly explanations, but little in the way of deeper insight.

By Juggalos themselves, the most common answer is ‘Family’.

Finally, to the FBI, the rap fans who call themselves Juggalos are classified as gang members. This became the reality in 2011, when the FBI listed Juggalos as a hybrid gang alongside the likes of the Crips in their National Gang Threat Assessment.

It is for this reason—after a frustrating series of lawsuits—that the ICP are calling upon the Juggalos to stage an official march on Washington in hopes of finally having the Juggalos removed from the Gang list.

“We have tried to use the American judicial system to achieve justice and we failed. So on Saturday, September 16, 2017, we are taking our fight to the streets. Literally,” says the official page for the march.

And so, the current Clown-in-Chief will face one of the stranger events in an already whacky first year in office: an army of face-painted Juggalos taking over the Washington monument in defense of Civil Liberties.

Juggalos in Washington DC

As garish and unbelievable as this all sounds, there can be little question this march is being held for good reason. Since the 2011 classification, Juggalos around the country and beyond have been directly impacted by the label. Incidents including loss of child custody, denied entry into the army, and prolonged border delays (this writer himself being a victim), have been reported. In more extreme cases, Juggalo related tattoos have seen minor

infractions bumped up and booked as gang crimes on account of this dangerous ruling. Veteran Juggalo chronicler Nathan Rabin says, ‘This dubious designation is yet another instance of law enforcement singling out people at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder for surveillance and harassment while simultaneously ignoring or excusing the crimes of the wealthy.’

But where did this start, what is the FBI’s defence, and where does it all go from here?

Admittedly, there have been several cases of people who identify as Juggalos committing some pretty heinous acts. Further, U.S. Justice Department attorney Amy Powell has stated that ‘a new 2013 FBI report on emerging trends does not mention Juggalos, and that the 2011 report, while still online and not superseded by any other report, is dated. “It’s increasingly unlikely to be used by any state or local agency as a source for any particular action,” she said.’

Still, the idea of labelling large subsects of people as potentially dangerous in order to better identify the true dangers is an increasingly frequent and altogether disturbing trend—especially when it results in such direct impacts on innocents. We’ve seen it with the government’s attempts at preventing terrorist activities by blocking or deporting immigrants from select groups (or simply bombing them in advance), and we’ve seen it with the two-sided attacks on voters of all ilk during recent elections. It would seem, in fact, that this ‘enemy-minded’ thinking is fast becoming the go-to approach for a government which has continually failed to justify or show any positive merit from the ever-growing list of freedoms it derails. ACLU Attorney Saura Sahu has claimed that “the FBI document created interpretive rules for law enforcement agencies and branded Juggalo tattoos, symbols and merchandise as gang-related. “They’re supposed to have an

impact on state and local law enforcement and they do, and usually it’s a really good one. It’s just that this time, they went too far here…

“To call someone a gang member or gang-related is to call that person a criminal… These guys are standing up against what happened to them, but they are also standing up for millions of music fans,” Sahu concludes.

As it stands, Juggalos are still subject to potential detention, harassment, and disproportionate punishment for no reason beyond their musical predilections.

It is the shocking and rather unpredictable result then, that the idea of thousands of clowns marching on the highest office in the country is indeed no laughing matter; not for the government now pressed to justify such a ham-fisted attempt at law-enforcement, and not for the Juggalos desperate to clear their name.

So too should it be a more serious concern for the millions of others watching this unfold, resting on the fence about exactly what all of it means. Juggalos are—admittedly—an easy target, and Juggalo watching may soon become the extreme-sport version of people watching, but to sit idly by with no strong reaction as one’s own government brands a large subsection of people as criminals for their taste in music is pretty high up the list of things which could prove that in the end, you are the real clown. It is a direct affront against the notion of free-speech by a nation increasingly hell-bent on snuffing out that quintessential right.

The very fact that this march needs to happen at all naturally raises one rather disconcerting question: ‘if they get away with doing this to the Juggalos, who’s next?’

If the reader of this article can immediately think of a couple of other music fan bases or other social groups they might not mind seeing criminalized, it is not surprising. But to allow such a thing to actually happen is a precipitous slope grounded either in absolute ignorance, or real hatred.

“If you can go out and brand any musical fan base as a gang, it could have terrible effects,” says ACLU of Michigan Legal Director Michael Steinberg.

Of course, it’s not just any musical fan base being labelled here, and not just any band. It’s the Juggalos, and the Insane Clown Posse.

When Bruce Springsteen claimed to have killed 10 innocent people on his 1982 song ‘Nebraska’, there were few people clamouring for his immediate capture. That’s because by and large, people can understand some level of artistic licence. They can follow along with the idea that not everything an artist claims in character is necessarily the full truth.

When ICP claimed in their 2002 song ‘Gang Related’- “Do you rep the Hatchetman, you’re in a gang,” there was a good deal more difficulty sifting the fiction from the fact.

What is it that separates ICP from so many other artists? Part of it, no doubt, is their scary persona and the rather gloomy corner of pop-culture to which Juggalos have been relegated. Another factor, perhaps, is that ICP was—in its nascent form—a legitimate street gang.

Starting out as the ‘Inner City Posse’, ICP’s original members—along with several inner-city Detroit friends who saw no other future on their dilapidated streets—endeavoured to be a real street gang, who rapped and wrestled on the side.

This idea fell apart after many arrests and confrontations with rival gangs, and the remaining two focussed on their rap career, changing the ICP from the ‘Inner City Posse’ to the ‘Insane Clown Posse’ we know today. This transformation involved not only greasepaint and the establishment of an extensive background mythology, but also a significant transition from young gangbangers to successful marketers and businessmen.

It took only six years for the band to go from wannabe gangsters to platinum selling artists, and the label they established, Psychopathic Records, has served to employ countless other potential gangsters in the metro Detroit

area ever since. This is to say nothing of the countless Juggalos for whom their music has often been a source of comfort and inspiration.

So, while gang-banging certainly has it’s place in the history of ICP and the Juggalos, it can also be argued that ICP and Psychopathic Records as a whole have done significantly more to improve the lives of many Detroit residents than has the government—who largely sat on their hands as the city fell in upon itself as auto-plants and steel-mills disappeared overseas, and citizens were left to a near-hopeless stretch of poverty and unemployment.

Sadly but unsurprisingly, the US Government and the FBI do not see things this way.

And so here we are. On Saturday, September 16th, 2017, there will be a strange sight indeed at the Lincoln Memorial. At around 12:00pm—or significantly earlier, if I know Juggalos—painted faces will abound and the Faygo will fly (seriously—watch out for the flying Faygo). In addition to the march, there’s a free concert, and myriad other events. If my experience with Juggalos has taught me anything, it will be an exceedingly unusual scene for Washington regulars.

Rest assured, there will be loads of soda, grease paint, strange costumes, loud chants, and possibly a few impromptu backyard wrestling matches.

Violent J of Insane Clown Posse

So too will there be signing, laughter, familial love and general merriment. Juggalos—despite their reputation—are not so unlike the majority of people after all, save for their unself-conscious willingness to open themselves up, have fun, and be whatever they feel is most suited to them.

It’s not such a bad lesson for the rest of us…even if you prefer more ‘mainstream’ music and ‘designer sodas’.

The hope here, of course, is that this demonstration of unity will change the minds of the powers that be and elicit an official recognition that being a Juggalo does not qualify one as a gang-member, nor expose one to any of the legal penalties associated with it. With the current intellectual capacity of the

administration, this may be a high hope, but even if the Juggalos fail to sway the legal process directly, it can be hoped that a peaceful demonstration and rational explanation of this outrage may change the minds of casual observers, and even the more justice-minded members of the law-enforcement community. It is, after all, not laws which are the true arbiters of justice in a society, but rather attitudes, beliefs, and the deep-held commitments to respect and decency which each member of that society harbour.

So what is a Juggalo? Well, they’re a lot of things. If the Juggalos are boorish and silly, they are also compassionate and sincere. They are odd, unique, and quintessentially their own breed of person. And yet they’re people all the same, and equally deserving of respect, dignity, and personal autonomy as any other group. If this march is able to demonstrate that to the world at large, then it should be a good day on the carnival grounds after all.

So keep it real Juggalos, and much clown love!

The ‘Juggalo March’ on Washington takes place Sept. 16th, 2017. All details for the event can be found here.

Brad OH writes for www.BradOHInc.com, and has been Down with the Clown since 1999.

 

Drug Run – Chapter Three: The Drug Van

Chapter Three: The Drug Van

by Dr. Rocket with Ms. Gonzo

 

Last time, as you recall, beautiful young singer Suze Benson, recruited by the bass player in her band to drive a massive load of pot from Texas to L.A., encountered her obsessed former schoolmate Imants Hasselburger, son of a powerful FBI man. She little realized he was determined to stalk her as she went to pick up the drug van, an act that would place her in terrible danger.

Rob drove fast on the flat straight road that led to his family farm. The road was usually deserted at night, and he gunned the ’67 Olds up to 80.

“Time for a recent oldie, from early this year, number one across the USA.” Suze grinned as the radio blasted out “Pick Up the Pieces” by the Average White Band. She finished her coffee with a gulp, dropped the cup on the floor mat, and nodded her head to the music vigorously.

“Love it!” she shouted, over the catchy horn riff. Rob, still distracted by his own thoughts, nevertheless smiled. But the smile faded as he looked into his rear view mirror, and he suddenly let up on the gas and turned the radio down. “Headlights back there, comin’ up fast,” he said flatly in response to her look. “Cops don’t ride out here much, but…” Rob stopped talking, and watched his mirror.

Imants’ mania eased as he saw how fast he was catching up to the Delta 88. The speedometer read 105, he realized with a jolt. He was going to blow this surveillance! He took his foot off the gas and hit the brakes. When he had slowed, he pulled over at a wide dirt turnaround and cut the Monte Carlo’s lights.

“Ha, kids going to drink beer and make out,” Rob grunted, refocusing on the pavement ahead and turning the song back up in time for Suze to sing along with the refrain. Another minute brought them to the dirt road turnoff that led to a dimly-lit farmhouse and various structures.

Rob’s parents had left town under unpleasant circumstances concerning a problem with the IRS. He and his younger brother Billy were staying on what was once their grandparents’ family farm ten miles out of Garland. Both of the Carter boys hated farming and they had sold the animals and equipment and let the property go wild, except for the barn and farmhouse which they indifferently maintained.

Lightning again flickered on the horizon as the Olds pulled into the barn. Suze, still singing softly to herself, immediately noticed the white, late model Dodge van which had been backed inside. Her paying ride to the coast. “Good lookin’ van, Rob.”

“’74 Tradesman. Only 20k on it. Heavy duty shocks, new radial tires. Drive ‘er slow.”

“My ex had a van like this, ‘cept older.” That creep. Suze shook her head, then gave him the thumbs up sign. “I’ll be jus’ fine.”

Rob’s brother Billy came out from behind it, blonde hair mussed, clad only in jeans and tennis shoes. Damn. He’s all grown up. “Hiya Suze!” he exclaimed, his handsome face beaming.

She and Rob got out of his Olds as she replied “Hiya Billy.” He came up to hug her. Damn kid smells good. Uh oh. She grinned when he kept hugging.

He had always been in awe of her, and she had often gently teased him. But that was when he was a teenager. Though he was a couple years younger than her, he was 21 now.

He finally let go and she looked around. The old barn smelled of faintly of hay, and something else. Must be the pot, she suddenly realized, with a tingle of excitement. Billy watched her approvingly. “Hope your last gig kicked ass. Would have been there if I coulda.”

“Aw, I know. Yeah, pretty good swan song. I’m proud of my boys, they went out with a bang.” She glanced at Rob, who was looking out the barn door at the distant lightning.

If possible, Billy’s grin was even bigger. “So you’re gonna be our new safety driver. Great call! Our other gal up and vanished on us.”

“I can understand why. She probably had too much time to think about it.”

Rob, expressionless, ignored the talk and went around in back of the van. He examined the interior through the opened doors. He called out, “So this is it, all finished here?”

“Yep, cases are loaded ‘n’ strapped in tight. We could slam on the brakes if we have to, that old load ain’t shiftin’.” Rob carefully closed the rear doors tight, locked them and walked back with a satisfied look.

Suze pointed to the Olds. “Rob could you pop the trunk, I gotta get my suitcase so’s I can change and shower before we go. Also phone the airport, cancel my flight.” She had intended to use the 7-11 pay phone, but a rapid escape from Imants had come first in her priorities.

Rob nodded. “Sure, go in the side door to the kitchen and there’s a hall bathroom. Fresh towel hanging on the rack.”

Billy chuckled. “Kinda fresh, anyway.”

The brothers watched the voluptuous Suze saunter towards the farmhouse, suitcase in hand. They were silent a few moments. “She keeps getting hotter,” Billy finally said quietly, and shook his hand as if it was on fire.

Rob grimaced, “Do not get distracted on this run. We fuck this up… oh man. Our lives are on the line, and mom’s depending on us now.”

“Don’t lecture me, bro.”

Suddenly Rob grinned. “Oh yeah?” Suze looked over her shoulder at the sound of laughter and scuffling to see the brothers wrestling. She watched a moment. The sillies. Well, boys will be boys.

Billy occupied her thoughts, as she walked into the house. His voice got deeper in the last year. Always this cute, little puppy-dog following me around. Hmmmm. When did the puppy turn into this hunky dude?

The kitchen was clean but smelled just a bit moldy. If there was air conditioning, it wasn’t on. Suze picked up the yellow wall phone and called the airport, but they weren’t answering at this late hour. Oh well, money gone. No biggie.

Next, she called her sister, glad it was earlier out in L.A. Sally picked up, and they exchanged greetings and small talk. After a few minutes of chatting about her band’s last gig and her sister’s baby, Suze told her not to pick her up at LAX, and not to expect her for at least a week because she was driving to Los Angeles with friends. Sally went silent, and Suze continued “Mom okay?”

Sally sounded peevish. “Yes, just worried about you as usual. Why the sudden change in plans?” She could hear her mother’s voice in the background, questioning.

“Oh, well, these are some old friends of mine. Rob is the bass player in my band. Just seemed like a good opportunity to see that part of the country. You know…”

A sigh of resignation. “You be careful and call once in awhile, so we don’t worry. Love you.” Suze could hear her mom saying “love you” in the background. A fleeting moment of regret for changing her plans, but then she thought about the money. All that money. Dad didn’t leave mom a lot. I can help her, too.

“Love you both, too. See you soon.”

Imants had motored past the Carter farm and turned around, parked a quarter mile down the road. He had been watching the house with a pair of powerful binoculars that he had found in his father’s Gladstone Bag. Suze was dimly visible as she strode to the farmhouse, stopped, looked back towards the barn, then walked on.

Impatient, and with a sick feeling in his guts, he hastily exited the car and scaled an old barbed wire fence, managing to bloody his hand, and set off across the weed-grown fields towards the dim lights. Wait. Farm dogs? He almost turned around at the thought, but forced himself on. Protect me, Lord. I must do your work here.

In the barn Rob and Billy were dusting themselves off. Rob’s face became thoughtful, and he frowned.

“Now listen here, twerp. I’m serious, be cool. And don’t say a damn thing about extra stuff.”

Billy gave him a phony grin. “Suze? She’s your friend. Why the fucking paranoia?”

“It’s being cautious. Best she only know what she needs to know, right? Better for her, safer for us. This ain’t a damn game, we can get killed in this business and our boss is one hard core scary bastard. Got it?” Billy was silent. “I said, you got it!?”

“If you’re so worried, then why even bring Suze in on this?”

“I’m only worried if you lose focus. Someone’s gotta be the adult around here, twerp.” Rob playfully smacked the back of Billy’s head, and Billy grabbed his arm. They wrestled around a moment again as Imants snuck past in the darkness. He looked back from the deep shadows for a moment at the shiny white van and the figures next to it. Then he moved on.

Suze had peeked into the living room. Most of the furniture was gone, with just a couch and a TV console. The nearly empty house echoed with her footsteps. A bit spooky. She walked back, puzzled.

The bathroom wasn’t nearly as bad, clean and with a nice fluffy bath mat to stand on, and she showered in good spirits. The cool water was invigorating, refreshing, a trigger for Suze who wailed into the echo, “well, since my baby left me, ba-dump, I found a new place to dwell, ba-dump, it’s down at the end of lonely street, at Heartbreak Hotel. I’ll be, I’ll be, I’ll be leavin’, Texas, baby, I’ll be leavin’ Texas, so I don’t die.”

Revived with water and song, she pulled back the shower curtain and stepped carefully out of the claw foot tub, looking at her five-foot-nine body in the full length mirror on the door. As always, just a bit over-critical.

Her lips pursed impishly. Still need to lose ten pounds. But men don’t seem to mind. Their eyes were always on the blonde hair and the boobs. So silly. Handy onstage. I’m not gonna worry about the weight, she decided. Here’s who I am, world. Here I come, L.A. She turned and shook her butt playfully at the mirror.

Imants, still worried about possible farm dogs, slowly crept to the brilliantly lit window, shade down but not all the way, window frame raised open a couple inches. He cautiously peered in, and what he saw seared his brain. For an insane eternity he drank in the forbidden visual, then reeled backward, and stumbled clumsily over a garden hose. Lust. Oh God. Naked. Sinner, I am. Never dreamed… Sweet Lord. Did she hear me? Back to the car. Back. Hurry.

Suze, oblivious to the world outside the bathroom, critically examined the bathroom’s sole towel, which hung on a towel rack and was just a bit damp. Right, Billy must have used it. Rubbing his pheromones all over her. At least they are cute pheromones. Well.

She dried off briskly and put her hair in a bun, then pulled some clothing from the suitcase and dressed. The shorts were a bit provocative, the silk top a bit flimsy for not wearing a bra. Nipples still standing up from the cool water. Damn, the boys will think I’m a tease. But, so warm, must be 85 still. Screw it. Maybe a bit of lipstick…

Indeed, the boys liked what they saw, but choked back their natural reactions in the gravity of the occasion. She got her purse from the Olds as Rob took her suitcase and put it back in the car’s trunk. Suze held the purse wonderingly. My purse has… all that money in it. All that money.

Rob walked back to her, waved in the drug van’s direction. He spoke quietly and urgently.

“You have a full tank, fluids are topped off. I’ll be behind ya. Billy and I will be on the CB. Should be no problems. Billy will navigate. Stay just a couple miles above the limit. Cops think it’s suspicious when you’re doing double nickel exactly. But at least you don’t look like a mule, not at all.” Rob grinned. “Those are music cases, and you are headed for a gig.”

Suze nodded. “I can dig it.”

“Good. If you get sleepy, Billy takes the wheel. Prolly get a motel in a couple hours before dawn.” He paused, walked to the van, opened the front door. “Ever use a CB radio?”

She nodded again. “Yeah.”

“All right. Billy will use it mostly when you’re drivin’.”

She climbed in behind the wheel, then looked around curiously. The back of the windowless van was piled high to the roof with tightly strapped instrument and equipment cases. They looked a bit scuffed up and had various stenciled letters and numbers, giving a strongly plausible music band look. But they were packed with dope, she realized. She felt a sudden shock at the thought of what she was driving.

Billy, carrying a small backpack, had hopped in the passenger door, slammed it firmly, and gave her a huge grin. She observed that he had put on a sleeveless tee shirt that didn’t do much to hide his physique. Hmm.

She sniffed. “That talcum powder?”

He smiled in admiration at her question. “Hey, pretty good detecting. Yup. Powder eats up that ol’ pot smell.”

“Well, that’s mighty smart of ya’ll.” She eyed the load. “Jesus, Billy… How much is there?”

Billy shrugged. “Uhmmm… lots.” Rob’s right. Better not tell her. About a lot of stuff.

Rob was examining the van tires one last time. He approached her window, which was rolled down. He looked at her critically. “You ok?”

She nodded. He leaned in to kiss her cheek. Suze acknowledged his kiss with raised eyebrows, but smiled. He walked away towards the farmhouse mumbling, “All right, all right, off we go.”

Suze started the drug-filled van, put the automatic transmission into Drive and very slowly motored out and across the rutted farmyard to the gravel driveway. They van swayed, and the cases in back creaked and strained. She adjusted her seat a bit closer to the wheel.

Behind them the lights in the house, then the barn winked off.

“Here’s to an easy run to LA,” Billy said resonantly in the darkness. He chuckled. That deep voice. When did it get so deep? Kinda startling here in the dark. Sexy, actually.

Rob’s headlights appeared in her side mirror as the Olds caught up on the long gravel driveway. She took a deep breath. Then she felt a big smile come over her. “Onwards and upwards, Billy!”

“Yes’m!”

The two vehicles reached the paved road, turned right. The tail lights dwindled into the distance, lightning yet again flashing at several points to the north.

Down the road, Imants, still recovering from the heady stolen sight of his beloved Suze nude, was further stunned to see her walk from the farm house with her suitcase, and then when the van and car moved out. Suspicious, so suspicious. He started his father’s modified Chevy up, his thin lips pressed together tightly, and began pursuit.

(To be continued in Chapter Four: Night Drive)

Deporting my Valentine

by Karene Horst

 

Single yet again for another Valentine’s Day, my thoughts turn as usual to chocolate. No one sends me flowers. Cards kill trees unnecessarily. Instead, I’m baking myself and my co-workers a sugary concoction of chocolate, melted caramel, cream cheese frosting and more chocolate.

Valentine’s Day used to mean more to me than overdosing on fattening carbs and cacao. Romance. Love. Happily ever after. One Valentine’s Day eight years ago my lover and I even planned to get married.

It would have been a hastily tossed together affair. A friend of Michael’s claimed an affinity for baking cakes. Michael waited tables at a restaurant, so of course we’d have the reception there. Another one of his co-workers, a lay minister for the local Seventh-Day Adventists, said he could marry us if we read his version of “the Book.”

My teenage daughter and her best friend, hopelessly hooked on “Say Yes to the Dress” and a stream of sappy romantic comedies, squealed in excitement as they volunteered to serve as my bridesmaids.

Michael and I went to the courthouse and applied for the license.

I searched through my closet for something appropriate to wear. Nothing white of course. But I could certainly find a frock that would suffice.

My best friend whom I asked to stand up for me watched warily as I breathlessly rushed through the preparations.

“Really. I thought you swore you would never marry again.”

“I love him.”

“Really.” Wisely she didn’t press me further. She knew I already had plenty on my plate.

She was the only person who knew why I was really marrying Michael, throwing together a celebration in a matter of weeks, declaring my intentions to my bewildered parents.

She was my only friend who really knew about Michael.

You see, Michael was an illegal immigrant. He had snuck into the United States from Mexico in the belly of an empty oil tanker with a slew of other illegals years before. His “sponsor” owned a Mexican restaurant where the waiters worked six days a week ten to twelve hours a day for tips and leftovers: no salary, no health insurance, no sick days or paid vacation, no worker’s compensation, no legal protection. When I met Michael he lived in an overcrowded apartment procured by the restaurant owner for his undocumented kitchen staff and servers. Michael slept on a mattress shoved into the corner of the kitchen floor.

I invited him to move in with me after his living situation deteriorated even further.

He was a gifted artist and musician who dreamed of fame and fortune in America. He taught me to play guitar and he laughed hysterically along with my son to reruns of “The Office.”

Then one night in November 2008 state liquor control officers arrested him for unwittingly serving alcohol to a minor with a fake ID. He called me from the police station.

“They are going to deport me,” he whispered.

The next morning I found an incompetent lawyer advertising himself as an “immigration attorney” to represent Michael. That frigid Friday night I met the lawyer in his BMW parked outside the county jail. I had brought warm clothes for Michael, knowing how easily he caught cold. I imagined the cement floors and concrete walls chilling my sweetheart, sending him into uncontrollable shivering fits. The lawyer had encouraged me to bring along thick wool socks, flannel pants and a cotton hoodie; apparently he had no idea I would not be allowed a visit with Michael that night, nor could I provide him anything other than a non-returnable paperback book.

The lawyer did confer with his client behind bars, after I paid him half of his $1,000 retainer fee, cash only. My breath hung in the air while my toes grew numb as I squirmed on the passenger seat, studying the concertina wire topping the concrete barriers surrounding the county jail. After his visit, the lawyer returned smiling, assuring me Michael was “in good spirits,” warm and snug in his jail-issued black and white striped jumpsuit. Then he spelled out our options.

No bond. Michael was an undocumented alien. He would sit in jail until the various legal entities sorted things out. Could be weeks, months.

Shock, panic and fear washed over me as I huddled in the front seat of the lawyer’s car.

The lawyer looked me over and asked if Michael and I were intimate. I found his interest insulting but possibly understandable as Michael was a gorgeous young man and at that moment, I’m sure I could have doubled as a crazed zombie: hair disheveled, eyes red and puffy, skin pasty and drawn, clothes grubby. Would I marry Michael to keep him from being deported from the country? Of course. We could pull it off. Interviews with federal immigration officials, photos of the happy couple. No problem. I loved him. I didn’t want to get married, but what was a piece of paper to keep the US government from ripping him away from me.

And that’s exactly how I felt. My chest ached every time I thought of the possibility I would never see Michael again, never hold him again. They had locked that sweet, loving man up inside a cage. Once deported, Michael would remain only a distant memory. I couldn’t leave the US to be with him other than a brief trip now and again; I had young children.

I couldn’t sleep. I stumbled through my days in a stupor, calling on Michael’s community of illegals who offered spare cash to help pay for the lawyer and nervously mumbled words of support. It could have been one of them.

The lawyer did predict correctly that the state would drop the misdemeanor charge of serving alcohol to a minor and instead turn Michael over to US Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement. ICE, or as Michael breathlessly fretted over for years, “La Migra.”

Long before his arrest, I’d return home on many occasions to find him cringing on the couch in a fetal position with the curtains drawn.

“Why aren’t you at work?”

“La Migra,” he’d mutter. A rumor traveling from cell phone to cell phone routinely sent the Hispanic community of kitchen help and day laborers into a frenzy. La Migra had just hit a local restaurant during the lunch rush. I grew accustomed to these episodes and Michael’s tortured reaction, swearing he would kill himself before they’d send him back.

I never took his concerns seriously and grew irritated by his seemingly irrational fears and anxieties. Millions of undocumented workers across America proved me right. I imagined the comical scene at area Mexican eateries with the help fleeing through the emergency exits while dumbfounded white people waited for their enchiladas con carne as they slurped their margaritas.

Then it happened. Like a giant fist socking me right in the gut.

After being treated like a criminal myself by the sheriff’s deputy, I finally got to see Michael during the weekly visitation hour at the county jail. I couldn’t stop crying. We talked via telephone separated by a plexiglass partition. We couldn’t even touch. He joked that his black and white striped outfit made him look like Michael Keaton’s character in Beetlejuice. After a steady diet of Hollywood’s frightening depictions of prison life, Michael had expected violence from his fellow inmates. Instead, he bunked with other illegals and non-violent inmates, sharing their histories and boredom while lunching on bologna sandwiches. I left behind a paperback of Eric Clapton’s autobiography for him to read and “donate” to the jail library.

Then the US government snatched him up in its legal maw and shipped him to a federal “holding facility” two hours away. Michael was officially on his way out of the country.

Several weeks later, he ended up in yet another federal jail near Kansas City for his court appearances. We managed a few very expensive conversations via telephone.

The lawyer started demanding more money. Then something amazing happened. The lawyer “discovered” a federal program for non-violent deportees where Michael could bond out for $500. I just had to drive to the ICE offices in Kansas City and deliver the bond payment, sign some papers, and I could bundle Michael out of jail and take him home while the legal proceedings sputtered along. I had to bring a money order. The lawyer provided me all the instructions. But he got them wrong.

I arrived at the federal building, passed through the metal detector, signed in and proffered the money order to the unsmiling, uniformed federal agent. He shook his head.

“We only take US Postal Service money orders. This one is from your bank. We can’t accept it.”

I became hysterical, crying and weeping, something you should never do in a government office with armed, uniformed government agents milling about.

But I did just what the lawyer told me to do! My boyfriend had spent almost a month in jail and he would continue to rot away there because of some insane bureaucratic distinction between a private bank’s money order and one from the local post office? I blubbered and wailed as the federal agent advised me to leave the premises immediately. A female security guard took pity on me and told me to take care as I limped away.

The bank closest to the federal office would not cash my money order so I could purchase the prerequisite money order at the local post office. The local post office would not accept my check or credit card to purchase another money order, only $500 in cash. The lawyer would not answer my frantic phone calls.

I drove home without my Michael.

Furious beyond rational words with the irrational legal system that had glommed onto my Michael, I spent the next day calling every number available on the internet to track down someone who could help. Then I received an amazing telephone call out of the blue.

A female attorney employed by a legal aid organization had visited Michael in federal detention and signed him up for a program that released non-violent deportees on their own recognizance as long as they met regularly with an official in Kansas City and stayed out of further legal trouble, a sort of pre-conviction parole arrangement, while their case slithered through the legal system. Appears the numbers of illegal aliens and deportation cases had swamped the judicial system, and the feds couldn’t afford to lock everyone up while they waited for due process and the inevitable trek home. The pro-bono lawyer thought Michael’s case might take a year or more to resolve.

I drove back to Kansas City the next day to another office and met Michael and his new “parole” officer. Chained and shackled hand and foot to four other dark-haired, brown-skinned men, Michael shuffled into the room. Once they unlocked the restraints and allowed Michael to approach me, we wrapped our arms around each other and cried.

Later on the drive home together, Michael hesitantly broached the subject. “So, are you ready to get married?”

Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2009, would fall on a Saturday. What perfect timing! No one, not even my distraught mother tried to talk me out of it. Of course none of my family or friends except for my bestie knew the real reason for my rush down the aisle. Michael’s friends and co-workers all thought he’d won the lottery; who knew when La Migra would hammer down over their heads.

Then a small glitch. The lay-minister who offered to perform our ceremony woke up one morning unable to get out of bed, paralyzed from the waist down from what turned out to be a cancerous tumor. We could have just gone with a justice of the peace, but for some strange reason, my latent religious sentiments called for a preacher. I made phone call after phone call until my mind exploded and forced me to hang up on the whole idea.

When God strikes down your minister weeks before the wedding, maybe that’s a sign. And besides, I really didn’t want to get married.

I wanted to help Michael stay in the country and not face deportation, but a sinking suspicion curdled my blood. Then I started making some more phone calls. To more lawyers.

Once upon a time, American citizens could marry undocumented aliens to keep them in the country. Some people did it for love, others for money. Even for me, a vociferous critic of the peculiar institution of marriage, wedding Michael to keep him safe was a no-brainer. If someone I treasured needed a kidney, certainly I would consider going under the knife. Donate blood or bone marrow. In that context, marriage with a man I cared so much about seemed relatively painless. Just a piece of paper.

We’d fired the idiot lawyer and tracked down one who gave us an honest and accurate legal opinion but bad news: my marrying Michael would not prevent his deportation.

Thanks to September 11 and other anti-immigration bias across the country, the laws had changed. I could go ahead and marry Michael. Then after the US legally kicked him back to Mexico, we could request permission for him to return, apply for visas, etc. It could take years. Possibly ten years even. Mounds of forms to fill out, documents to provide. More lawyers fees. Hours driving to court appearances, hearings, appeals. Meeting with more federal agents who would invariably ask personal, probing questions. Michael’s prior illegal entry into the US and his deportation would not help matters. The new lawyer suggested I might have to prove that I could not leave the US to be with Michael in Mexico. He suggested arguing that my mental health would deteriorate unless Michael could return to me.

“Have you ever taken anti-depressants? Considered suicide?”

The nightmarish experience that started with Michael’s phone call from jail came crashing down around me.

We left the lawyer’s office with me shaking my head.

“I’m sorry Michael. I can’t. I can’t do it.”

How far will we go to sacrifice our needs, our hopes and dreams for someone else. Take that leap into the chasm of human relations. To trust another for better or worse. Risk it all on love, or at least the illusion of it.

Isn’t that one version of Valentine’s Day? Unconditional, everlasting? Unbare ourselves, our emotions, our hearts to the arrows of another? It’s not just about a bouquet of pretty roses or a gushingly sentimental note on a crimson piece of cardstock.

One Valentine’s Day the hopeless romantic in me almost prevailed. But the rational, sane me regained control. From here on I’ll celebrate this special day with frosted fudge brownies still warm from the oven.

by Karene Horst

A Mother’s Tripe

By Sylvia Hamilton

I was twelve the summer Mother decided to buy a cow. I overheard her and my stepfather, Earl, discussing the purchase one evening. He grumbled about the expense, but since I knew he thought all pets were worthless, I interpreted these statements as more of the same from him.

We always had a menagerie at our mountaintop home, most of them I knew Earl considered a waste of space, time and money. His opinion was seldom taken into account. Mother’s was the final word.

I loved animals. I kept a small collection of Continue reading

Drug Run – Chapter 2 The Spy

By Dr. Rocket with Ms. Gonzo

*Last time, as you recall, a beautiful young singer was unexpectedly offered a great deal of money to drive a van filled with pot from Texas to L.A.*

Suze slowly realized just how tightly she clutched the cash-stuffed envelope as she stared out the front window of Rob’s big Delta 88. She fought the urge to count the bills.

Come on, even if it’s not exactly seven thousand five, it’s more money than you ever had in your life. Plus another payment like it in L.A.!

“Whooo,” she sighed, the sound masked by the engine. Put the stuff away, now, let’s show some dignity.

She tucked the precious mass into her big purse and refocused on her now-former bassist and new boss, who hunched silently behind the wheel, his grim expression dimly visible by the glow of the dashboard. This is a switch, gonna be takin’ orders from ol’ Robbie. Gotta get used to that, I guess.

“Well, what’s next, chief?” She put just enough of a funny inflection in her voice to make Rob’s lips twist upwards a bit.

“Out to the farmhouse to get us the van, and Billy. We are pretty much ready, or should be, if my bro’s on it. He wanted to make the gig, but I told him he hadda finish packing the load.” Rob fell silent a moment, thinking about the music.

“By the way…”

“Yes?”

“You really sang great tonight.”

“Thanks.” I’m gonna miss the compliments, ain’t I.

“What a night. I didn’t think we could do better than that first set. Was I wrong. After the break we tore the roof off.”

“It’s called warming up.” She stopped. Remember, he’s the boss now. Gotta not forget.

“Maybe if you put a band together out in California…” he mumbled, and ground to a halt. How cute, he cares. She was hit by a sudden thought.

“Coffee!” Suze exclaimed. “If we’re drivin’ tonight, I gotta have coffee.”

Rob nodded and pulled into a brightly-lit 7-11. She realized where they were, and opened her mouth to stop him, but it was too late. She looked around the parking lot anxiously. Well maybe he’s not here, that last time was enough, Lord.

One of the main reasons Suze was determined to give up her band and leave Garland was an exceptionally strange and obnoxious former schoolmate named Imants Haselberger. He was obsessed with her, as well as what he called “fighting crime.”

In recent months he often hung out at this very convenience store at night, writing down the license plates of late evening patrons he thought were suspicious. What he did with the plate numbers, no one knew. Suze had run into him here a few weeks back, and it had been an awkward mess.

She’d known him from seventh grade on, and he had been emotionally fixated on her for most of that period. She dreaded seeing him at any time, but under the current circumstances it would be unbearable.

Because on top of everything else, Imants’ father was a high-ranking FBI man.

Imants was earnest but strange-looking, with very thin lips, a narrow face, ears that stuck out and bulging eyes, an appearance not unlike that of the pulp horror writer H. P. Lovecraft. Due to his father’s rigid upbringing, he was aggressively ultra-conservative politically, and a religious zealot.

Suze had done everything possible to discourage Imants’ constant efforts to be around her, but somehow he often found and cornered her. His persistent ability to pop up in her life at random was uncanny.

As she poured her coffee at the self-service bar, a familiar sinking feeling came over Suze as Imants strode in and hurried down an aisle towards the rear of the store. How the hell does he always find me? She paid, hoping to get out before he noticed her, but Imants unerringly approached. She took a deep breath and tossed her blonde hair. One last time, she would try to be polite.

“Imants, what a surprise.”

He blinked at her, still in her low-cut stage dress from the gig. She knew he thought her music was the Devil’s work, and her provocative clothing an outrage. “Suze, I’m so glad to see you,” he finally blurted. “Your phone was shut off and when I went by your apartment they said you had moved.”

Suze, her smile perilously close to a grimace at the thought of Imants questioning her former landlord, spread her hands out palms up. This was going to require outright prevarication, she realized. “Yes, stayin’ with friends until my new place is ready.”

The young Asian clerk handed her the change with a wide grin for his buxom blonde customer. The clerk’s eyes flicked over to Imants, dismissed him, and snapped back to Suze. “Thank you, please come again,” he said, nodding vigorously.

Imants, averting his eyes in ongoing embarrassment from her stimulating décolletage, struggled to speak. “Friends. Ah, I see. May, uh, I have your friend’s number? I want to discuss the church picnic next Saturday. You haven’t been to church since your father died and I am worried…”

Suze hastily interrupted. “Imants, please understand. My personal spiritual beliefs are really none of your business. I believe God loves me whether I go to that church or not.”

“I’m sorry you feel that way, but your father…”

“My father is none of your business, either, bless his soul. I won’t… I don’t want to talk about him.”

Imants was numbed by this assertion. Suze had changed. Why? Maybe the shock of her father dying last year had triggered some madness. If Suze doesn’t go to church, she’ll be condemned to hell for all of eternity. I won’t let that happen. I owe it to her father. I do.

“Can we talk about this later? How do I reach you?”

“I, I don’t have the number with me. Maybe I’ll give you a call, been real busy. Hey, gotta go, see ya!” She walked rapidly out into the warm Texas night, trying to remember the last time she had called Imants. Five years, back when she felt sorry for him?

A couple of teenaged boys standing outside gawked at her as she walked quickly towards Rob’s Olds, grateful Imants hadn’t thrust some damn book at her. He was always trying to get Suze to read various tracts and texts including, memorably, a book by J. Edgar Hoover. Suze, who loved books, glanced at a few pages, cursed, and threw away the dog-eared paperback in disgust. “Masters of Deception,” bah. What she knew of the FBI, just from the recent news reports, horrified her.

Undeterred, Imants quickly followed her out the door and right up to Rob’s Olds. He stammered questions about where her friend lived and where she was going at the moment. Suze waved him off, miffed at his annoying creepiness, and hastily but firmly said “Goodnight, goodnight, see you soon,” opened the door to a blast of music, hopped in the front seat, and firmly closed it.

Imants’ bulging eyes stared at Suze, then over to Rob through the window for a moment. A wave of sadness mixed with anger overcame him, and he frowned at Rob, who was listening to a James Brown tune on the radio.

Rob noticed him, as he turned to face Suze. Frowning in turn, Rob stared back at the figure standing outside. Imants turned away, and his groan of despair was lost in the funky bass, blaring horns and thumping drums on Rob’s’ stereo.

Suze settled into her seat and exhaled sharply, shaking her head. Rob grunted, turning the music down. “Who the fuck was that? He looks familiar.”

She glanced over at him. No way I can explain Imants, and if I mention the FBI dad, Rob will bust a gut. Anyway, I’ll never see Imants again! That was an amazing thought, and she beamed, feeling liberated. “A final ghost of my old life.”

“Ghost, eh?”

‘Yessir.” Her voice shifted down a half octave. “Let’s blow this town, baby. Crank that music back up!”

Rob did so, his attempts to figure out the bass pattern forgotten, just in time for James Brown to yell “Hit me!” Rob nodded at her exuberant dance movement to the music, while seated. Somehow, he noticed, she managed to not spill the coffee in her hand as they motored out of the lot. “Poppa don’t take no mess,” sang The Godfather of Soul, and Suze sang along cheerily.

He slowly smiled. This might be the best run ever.

Imants watched from the brightly lit and buggy store entrance as the Olds drove off, his pale face now expressionless, brain racing. Carter, that guy was, Rob Carter. Played evil music in the group Suze sang in. Imants searched his memory. From the high school, right, Carter’s class was two years older. Dad in jail for tax evasion.

That long hair was a clue, some kind of hippie. Devil spawn driving away with Suze, his love.

A passenger jet roared overhead, and Imants shivered. Hate planes, hate flying. One of the teenagers at the edge of the 7-11 lot laughed loudly at something being said, then yelled “Hey Eee-monz, ain’tcha gonna write down that plate number?”

He stared blankly at the kid, and felt something shift in his soul.

Heart beating faster, he walked quickly back to his father’s new ’75 Chevy Monte Carlo sedan. Driving the car, specially modified by the Bureau, always made him feel larger than life.

As he got in he reached over and put his hand on his father’s classic dark leather Gladstone Bag on the passenger seat, and felt a strange surge of confidence. The bag, which had belonged originally to his father’s German father, somehow always gave him a mild jolt when he came in contact with it. He clenched his fist. I gotta do this, gotta save her.

He cranked the starter, shoved the automatic transmission into drive, and raced out of the lot, burning rubber down the road after the Oldsmobile. The teens stared in astonished silence.

Imants steered with one hand as he wiped the sweat from his forehead, still accelerating, his eyes searching the darkness ahead. There, those tail lights way up there. He jammed the gas pedal to the floor.

Enough was enough. Time to figure out exactly what that freak Rob Carter was up to with his, well yes, his future wife Suze Benson.
(To be continued in Chapter Three: The Drug Van)

Dating Hell

By Karene Horst

He introduced himself because he saw my whitewater kayak and mountain bike strapped to my car roof racks.

I hadn’t brushed my teeth or my hair. I tugged at the grungy T-shirt I’d worn to bed the night before. It was early and my roommate had dragged me out of our apartment to meet this guy who stopped her in the parking lot to inquire about the car’s owner.

He was sort of cute, even with his glasses. We exchanged e-mails and phone numbers because I was new to the area and needed to network with the kayaking community.

He helped me connect with some boaters the next Sunday; he apologized that he couldn’t join me as he had other commitments. On Monday, he e-mailed to find out about my day on the river, then he asked about meeting the following weekend.

Would you like to go to the air show Saturday?

Would this be our first date? Should I go along just to see where this could lead? First date or not, I was definitely not interested in attending an air show. But I couldn’t just say no, so I asked if he wanted to join me for a hike instead. He chose the air show.

We arranged to carpool for a day of kayaking, although we went on separate runs because his whitewater skills exceeded mine. Afterward he asked if we could make a Costco run, as it was on the way home. Then it was dinner time. I offered to pick up the tab since he had burned through gallons of gasoline that day. He accepted my suggestion with a sweet smile.

During a subsequent phone call I proposed a camping trip. An overnighter. Silence. Then he blurted out:

I just got through a bad breakup.

I was not sure if I was even interested in him other than as a hiking-biking-kayaking buddy. I certainly had planned on sleeping in separate tents. We hadn’t even kissed. Just what the hell was he thinking?

I didn’t want to have this discussion. We shared common interests and loved the outdoors. He was attractive and nice, but I’m planning to travel outside the country for extended periods for the rest of my life and have no interest in a relationship. Someone to tie me down and limit my options. And I really didn’t want to have to start shaving my legs on a regular basis again.

Maybe he was just being leery himself. We had both ridden this roller coaster many times before. He’s 60. I’m 53.

After ending a 20-year marriage, I returned to the dating “scene” more than a decade ago with a vengeance. I immediately fell with a sickening, resounding thud for a man who told me I was beautiful. After he dumped me, I dated a younger man who made me feel way too old. Then I tried the online thing. Yikes! Exhilarating and creepy all at the same time. After years of heartache and headache, I decided to give up on relationships and focus on my lifelong desire to travel the world instead of finding my illusory soulmate. I was only 49.

Then I spotted this gorgeous creature sitting alone at the end of the bar. I wouldn’t even dream of approaching him. Instead, I toyed with my drink and babbled with my girlfriend.

He’s looking at you.

No he’s not, he’s watching the game. The TV is right over my head.

But he was looking at me and after we all started chatting, he eventually scooted his bar stool closer and by the end of the evening, he was resting his hand on my knee. We bantered over our shared interests and experiences. He said he wanted to travel the world too, and in short order he would be financially set and ready to join me.

On our first date we went to see Skyfall, and as the camera panned Hollywood’s dazzling version of Macau’s coastline, he whispered in my ear:

Let’s go there!

You would think I had learned. I had heard it all before:

Oh I love dancing … Vegetarian for dinner, that sounds great! … I can quit anytime if that’s what you want … We’ll move to Colorado as soon as …

What the hell was I thinking. After I moved into his apartment, I discovered that his favorite sport was watching football from his favorite lounge chair. And his ship never docked, so he couldn’t afford to travel the world with me. I made solo trips while he stewed in front of the TV: I kayaked the Youghiogheny in Pennsylvania, snowboarded in the Rockies, rafted the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, checked out a writer’s conference in Chicago and bummed around Spain with a backpack for six weeks. When I returned after four months of wandering through South America, I walked in the door and knew it was over. Actually, I had figured that out on my own while somewhere in Buenos Aires.

Since my teen years, I had relentlessly searched for my dance partner, my travel buddy, my best friend. My prince.

I was ready to quit again. Not long ago I wrote a friend that all I want from a relationship is a man who has the guts to put a bullet in my head to prevent me from suffering an excruciating, slow death from cancer or dementia.

Then this guy with muscular arms and a nice ass shows up outside my apartment, wondering who belongs to the Jackson Little Hero and the full-suspension Trek Lush.

So we camped out and hiked in Yosemite, separate tents of course. We held hands while watching the latest Bond movie on the big screen. Chopped brussel sprouts for stir-fry dinners together. Walked in the moonlight. Traded massages. We’ve met each other’s parents. We’re planning a kayaking trip to Ecuador.

For Christmas, instead of a silly diamond necklace or an ugly sweater, he gave me a drysuit for boating. This guy gets me! I think I’m in like.

What the hell am I thinking.

by Karene Horst

Audioslave Back After 12 Years with a Common Enemy

By: Kidman J. Williams

Audioslave hit the stage again after almost 12 years on Friday night in Los Angeles at the Anit-Inaugural Ball. Audioslave was the supergroup made up of Chris Cornell (Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog) and the memebers of Rage Against the Machine, Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk.

The last time that these men were on a stage together was back in 2005 and broke up in 2007 shortly after the release of their third disc, Revelations.

So, how did the performance go? Well… Continue reading