break fast, break hard

I ran through all the things I might say to Shelly that could either account for or contribute to the reason I left Los Angeles. I speak of LA the way a man might speak of a beautiful woman he loved once in his past. It is that tenderness and longing that cut through any attempts I make to mask the fact that I am a fish out of water.

I looked down and noticed I was unconsciously playing with my glass, spinning it slowly with my fingers. My gaze brought Shelly’s down to the glass as well and then she looked up at me again with her explosively mischievous smile.

“Oh my god! You’re really uncomfortable discussing how you got here! Now I am really intrigued.”

Fantastic. I have managed to pique her curiosity on a topic I wasn’t even yet comfortable discussing with myself. How do I talk to an extremely sexy stranger about the misgivings, the wildness, the desperation and the Caligula style overindulgences that drove me away from my home? I obviously didn’t fully have my own head around it.

I took a deep breath and laughed to myself. “Look, leaving LA was really hard to do but I was drowning under a sea of shit of my own making. I had surrounded myself with drama and gotten involved with a bunch of people and a bunch of things that really mired me in a gray world of blah. I sometimes choose my friends poorly and…”

I was about to expound upon the idea of choosing poorly when a different server, not Heidi, came over to refill our water glasses. Out of a habit bred from my tendency to have salacious and surreptitious conversations, I often pause when wait staff approaches the table. I looked up this time to see the girl I had been talking to last night when I decided to bail and leave her and her friend with Ike. She smiled at Shelly as she refilled her glass and then looked at me. I had my eyes on lockdown, hoping she wouldn’t recognize me. Hope is a shitty thing.

“Holy fuckers, it’s you – Mr. Houdini! Where did you go last night?”

I had to look up now. “I went home. I just hit that wall.”

“Well, good for you. I hope your friend Ike hits a wall too, hard. Tell him to go fuck himself for me, ok? Do you guys need anything else.”

It was actually slightly bone chilling to hear the vitriol brewing inside her when she talked about Ike and then have it tabled completely when she asked if we needed anything else.

“I will, uh, I’ll let him know.”

I locked my eyes back on my glass but could feel both Shelly’s gaze and her smile burning into my forehead. We were locked into a mortal game of chicken, each waiting for the other to flinch or give. I decided to own up.

“Yeah, so that was weird and awkward. I left her at the bar last night with my buddy Ike. I tried to leave Ike in LA but he’s sort of like herpes and tends to pop up all the time.”

“Are you telling me you have herpes, Jackson?”

I looked up and she was on the verge of convulsing with laughter.

“No, but I do have a disease called Ike that I cannot seem to cure.”

Right as I said that my phone, which was in my front shirt pocket, began to vibrate. I had received a flurry of text messages. I pulled out my phone and looked at the screen. It was Alex. He had been laid off from his job and had four months of severance. He had already packed his car and was heading my way to crash for a while.

Two of the reasons for which I left LA in search of respite were now going to be living with me. I put my phone down, face down, on the table and breathed a giant sigh, slouching back in my seat and closing my eyes. I could hear the worry in Shelly’s voice the moment she opened her lips.

“Is everything okay?”

“Yeah, everything has come complete fucking full circle. That was another friend. He is on his way to my place from LA right now. I have baggage – big baggage.”

Shelly’s eyes twinkled at me slightly. “I have a thing for guys with baggage. You could be trouble, Mister.”

“Shelly, how do you feel about getting completely shit-faced during the day with a strange man you just met?”

“As long as you promise not to be too strange, I think it is a great fucking idea.”

I raised a hand in the air to get Heidi’s attention and made the circle motion that often translates into another round. I then picked up my whiskey, gave Shelly a quick clink on her glass and tipped the bottom of my glass to the sky, letting it all slide down my gullet.

“Whatever twisted thing is wrong with you, Jackson Panic, I think I like it. However, if we’re getting drunk then I’m not doing it on wine. I’ll be right back.”

With that, she walked over to Heidi who was already at the bar register, ringing us in another round. They had a quick exchange and Shelly began to walk back to me. I studied the elegant grace with which she carried herself and then marveled at the fact that I always tend to drown my troubles in women. Ironic then that most of my troubles start with women. It’s my own vicious cycle.

Shelly sat down and took another sip of her wine. “What will we be drinking to today?”

I thought about it for a nanosecond and then replied, “Today we drink to forgetting yesterday.”

Heidi then arrived with our drinks and we toasted to forgetting and then began day drinking, like a couple of professionals.

the end of dallas the beginning of…

Our drinks arrived and Stephanie continued to flash me the same sweet and slightly shy smile. She was beautiful but in a “I have been put away in an unhappy marriage and preserved” kind of way. She was definitely a stunner in her day and was easily one of the most beautiful women in the bar but she was full of self-doubt and dressed a bit like a hot mom of three who had been out of the game for a while.

Her eyes didn’t break from mine when she sipped her drink. I was holding mine, not even nursing it a this point. It merely gave my right hand something to do as I smiled and looked into Stephanie’s eyes.

Her gaze burned into mine for a bit in a fashion that tipped her hand as to what she thought she needed or at least what the barrage of drinks and her drunken friend had been telling her. There are lots of suggested quick fixes to the end of an unhappy life and she already seemed determined down a path of saluting it’s departures with an apparent unending succession of drinks leading to some kind of naked attention on her previously neglected body.

It amazes me the kind of women some men will choose to ignore. It amazes me the kind of willing body that blossoms in what another idiot of a man deemed infertile soil, where a beautiful woman springs forward with renewed vitality into a world in which she might have previously dismissed herself as a walking corpse with a perfunctory agenda, waiting to merely complete the steps and get off the ride.

Then at some point this woman has an epiphany in which she sees that she has more to offer the remaining years of her life and a vigor she had forgotten she possessed. These women are phases, or rather – you’re a phase to them. You’re a moment in passing in which they are freeing themselves from a cocoon of their former self and trying to reconcile their identity to a new reality. You are the moment, the merry-go-round. Just keep spinning until the music stops.

Alex walked over and chatted with me and the newly reintroduced into society Stephanie. Alex was a decent enough wingman to give the late-night situation its proper gravitas and allowed she and I enough distance to get to know one another. When the time came, Alex went back to the hotel without either Ike or myself, which I knew troubled him but Ike was engaged with an 8-ball and I was tending to Stephanie.

I walked Alex outside and shook his hand, promising I would check in the next day at some point. I had to since my things were in the hotel but nevertheless, he looked as if he wanted assurances. I told him to punch Ike when he saw him and we both turned away laughing.

My turn was a somewhat clumsy pirouette into a tall red-head with the most beautiful smile I had ever seen.

“Watch where you’re going clumsy boy!”

I apologized profusely, one might even say inordinately. She seemed amused with my embarrassment and sincerity and gave me another couple of heart stopping smiles. She then interrupted my antics.

“Why are you headed back inside if your friend is leaving? What’s waiting for you in there?”

There was something in her voice, all too knowing and too full of mischief. I was speechless for a moment but then gathered up my thoughts quickly.

“The only thing in there is an open tab and my phone, both of which I am not necessarily opposed to walking away from.”

She smiled again and I swear I fucking melted. Completely.

“So close your tab and get your phone and then take me to get coffee.”

I am not even entirely certain I acknowledged her, what with the speed I launched into the bar. I flagged down the bartender and gave him the sign for my check and then walked over to Stephanie. I grabbed her by the shoulders and kissed her deeply on the lips. I told her she was absolutely beautiful and I was sure to regret this decision, but I wasn’t in the mood for a mad fling this particular night. I told her I was tired and had an early flight back to LA the next day and I had to be going. I mentioned my living in LA and her being here and in essence added another tiny little break-up to the pile of heartache she was carrying around but I couldn’t worry about that at this time.

I tried to smile at her as I walked off but she was already angry and ignoring me. I bolted out the door and couldn’t see the redhead anywhere. Once again, I felt my pulse stop – but this time for all the wrong reasons.

kate bosworth and zoe saldana are idiots?

Can it really be this bad? Come spend a weekend with me and I’ll show you.

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rockets and mohawks

Male bonding at times borders on the idiotic. If a bonding session occurs over pitchers of beer and sporting events then things have at least a 50% chance of getting ridiculous. If you add one or two other key ingredients then there’s also a possibility that someone will go home with a mohawk.

image from Adam McMahon

I hadn’t seen Ike in a few weeks. He would often go on what he termed sabbatical, which was hysterical coming from a guy who hadn’t worked in years. His absences were generally spawned by some article he read, some festival he heard of or some fantastic story of depraved adventure someone shared with him. I have been sucked into multiple forays into the absurd, most recently for  Goat Fest in Tennessee to see a fainting goat and listen to ‘real’ country music. While away he might meet some people and set up residence for a few weeks. The kid was a nomad.

So, upon the return of the prodigal son, the group made plans to get together and watch game 7 of the Houston Rockets versus the LA Lakers playoff series. I didn’t have a dog in this fight as I never adopted the basketball team of my adopted home. As for the Rockets, unless you were from Houston or China, you were probably indifferent to them, with the exception being our friend Cliff.

Cliff was a tightly wound guy from Wyoming who was funny in the way he complained about everything. Cliff had a very dry sense of humor and a well refined sense of irony. He might wear the facade of the grouse but underneath he was extremely sincere and a good soul. He had a mop of unruly black hair on top of his head hanging over wild blue eyes. Best of all, if you were ever in a jam, Cliff was the guy you called. He was a rock.

Eddie, Ike, Cliff and a few of our other friends had met up earlier in the day at a local sports bar and were well lubed by the time I joined them. They justified going to a bar at 3pm by the need to secure a table close to the television. Sports bars do fill up early for Laker games but the only reason those boys went to a bar in the middle of the day was so they could drink.

Our group was a hodgepodge of misfits except for Clifford. He was the exemplary nine to five kind of guy. Cliff’s legal name was Cliff but I enjoyed calling him Clifford. He wasn’t too keen on it at first and once threatened to punch me in the face if I called him that again, but apparently me and my pet name grew on him. None of us really understood why he rooted for the Rockets. He had no discernible connection to the team or the city and when we inquired about it he told us to ‘mind your own fucking business.’ But for a guy who was not from Houston, he lived and died with that team.

One other thing that was puzzling about Clifford was his choice in women. Clifford was a decent looking guy but a little rough around the edges. The women he chose were often rougher and his girlfriend, Sarah, was simply unpleasant. She wasn’t fun to be around and her angry exterior lacked the amusing charm of Clifford’s. The fact that she was continually left out of our plans probably exacerbated the situation but none of us outside of Clifford enjoyed being around her. In fact, I’m not completely convinced he enjoyed her company.

The rest of our crew were Laker fans. Eddie was a native Angeleno and showed up in a Kobe Bryant jersey. Ike was the kind of guy who rooted for whichever team everyone else was rooting for and since we were in an LA bar, he was cheering on the purple and gold. He had even worn a purple Lakers t-shirt for the game. Ike received a few scathing remarks about his hopping on the bandwagon from Clifford, who was already edgy about the game. He continued to heckle Ike until halftime when the tension and shit-talking hit a crescendo and Ike threw down the gauntlet.

“Ok Cliff, if I am just a bandwagon guy then how about this – whoever loses tonight has to shave their head.”

Clifford didn’t hesitate for a moment before snarling back ‘You’re on.”

Many pitchers of beer were ordered over four quarters and we ate anything that could be fried. The Lakers also pulled away from the Rockets and Ike started telling Clifford how easy life was going to be without hair. The Lakers ended up shellacking the Rockets and over the final five minutes of the game, Clifford sank further and further into his beer mug, drowning his disappointment.

At the final buzzer, the bar erupted into cheers except for Clifford who stood up and said he was going home. I grabbed him by the arm just as he was about to walk off.

“Clifford, stick around and have a few drinks with us. You shouldn’t leave just because the Rockets lost.”

Ike stood up and gave Clifford an unwelcome hug and asked him to sit back down. Clifford did sit but was not appearing to enjoy our company in the least. After a few minutes he stood back up.

“I’m going to walk home and shave my head.”

This elicited a few howls of laughter from our table. Ike mercifully let him know he didn’t have to go through with it but Clifford was serious about the head shaving.

“Gentlemen, a bet is a bet. I’m as good as my word so I am going to go home and shave my head.”

Ike began to plead with Clifford, “Brother, be cool. You don’t have to do it. I wasn’t going to shave my head if we lost.”

This made Clifford indignant.

“If we lost? If WE lost? You’re not even a Laker fan! Besides, just because you’re not good enough to see a bet through doesn’t mean I am the same way.”

What was intended as an insult only made Ike break into laughter, which only pissed Clifford off more. There was a second in which I thought Clifford might be contemplating taking a swing at Ike, all of us had considered it at one point, but he collected himself and seemed to calm somewhat. I decided to jump in and add some levity to the situation.

“Clifford, if you’re going to the trouble of shaving your head, I think you should first give yourself a mohawk. You could sport that look for a few days and then shave the rest later. I mean, lots of guys have shaved heads but not too many can rock the hawk.”

Ike’s eyes began to sparkle like the Vegas strip. This idea clearly excited him and he jumped behind it full force.

“Oh yeah Cliff! If you’re really going to do it, then give it some style!”

I saw a grin stretch across Clifford’s face as the thought marinated below his black shaggy hair for a few moments.

“I’m gonna do it! I will go give myself a mohawk and then meet you boys back here.”

I added that to the list of things I didn’t hear very often and congratulated him on his wise decision. He left the bar like a royal knight being sent out on a quest. The group did a round of shots in his honor and then each of us gave him words of encouragement and a pat on the back. As he left I had no idea whether he would do it but I was happy he seemed to be less depressed.

A few minutes after he left, Clifford’s girlfriend Sarah came striding in looking for him. She gave the group a terse hello and scanned the bar for Clifford.

“Where did Cliff go?”

I didn’t want to tell her that he might be at home giving himself a mohawk. Some of her rage had spilled out onto me in the past in a guilt by association way and I was hoping to avoid it this time. I tried to play laconically cool with the entire exchange, hoping her interrogation would end quickly.

“He left right after the game.”

Clifford wasn’t the type to be the first to go home and everyone of us knew this, including Sarah. She eyed me very suspiciously.

“If he left, why isn’t he answering his phone?”

I was envisioning Clifford standing in front of the mirror with clippers, shaving stripes of baldness into his black hair while letting her call go to voicemail, but thought it best that Sarah discover something like that for herself.

“Maybe he went to bed.”

Ike set his beer down and gave Sarah his doe-eyed look, “Maybe he is in the bathroom.”

A small chuckle began to ripple through our group. Eddie then chimed in.

“Maybe he’s washing his hair.”

Ike had to stifle a laugh.

Sarah clearly wasn’t amused and stood there slightly bug-eyed, looking at us incredulously. She did not like us. I could see her anger building. She continued to scrutinize me, perhaps wanting to see if I would squirm under her glare but I played it cool.

She clearly wasn’t satisfied but she turned and left. She didn’t say goodbye but quite frankly I was surprised we got a hello.

Ike dropped his head onto the table and let out a big exhale, “How is he still with that woman?”

A moment later my phone buzzed and there was a text message from Clifford saying he was on his way back. Clifford lived just a couple of blocks from the sports bar. How he managed to get back to the bar without crossing paths with Sarah was a mystery but right after I received his text message, in walked the man with a new mohawk! His scalp was a sickly shade of white, with a few nicks from the razor, but overall he had done a good job. The mohawk looked pretty cool but you couldn’t really say it worked for Clifford. Nevertheless, the guy was in good spirits, especially when Ike bought a round of drinks for the table. I think it’s probably good luck to buy a beer for a man with a mohawk.

We were in the middle of much merriment when Sarah came storming back in. I literally thought I saw steam coming from her nostrils right before she started yelling. She was doing the kind of yelling you might do if you were somewhere your neighbors couldn’t hear you but definitely not the kind you would do in a bar.

“Cliff! Where the hell have you been and what in god’s name did you do to yourself?”

Clifford’s smile disappeared.

“Hi baby.”

“Really?!? Hi baby? That’s all you have to say for yourself?”

“I have a mohawk.”

I think we had all intended to remain as quiet as the dead once we saw Sarah, but Clifford’s pointing out the obvious was enough to crack each and every one of us up. I had tears welling in my eyes when I noticed Sarah’s beady stare honing in on me.

“I suppose you put him up to this didn’t you?”

I knew when this whole thing started I wasn’t getting out of it unscathed. I professed my innocence.

“Do you actually think I told Clifford to give himself a mohawk?”

Sarah winced a little at my pet name for Cliff and my retort might have worked had not Ike decided to throw me under the bus.

“Actually, that’s exactly what you did.”

Everyone at the table except for me was in stitches. I turned to Ike in disbelief. Did he really just rat me out like that? In my head I was already planning revenge on that blond moron but I had to deal with Sarah first. I was contemplating how I would handle this when Clifford stepped back in.

“Sarah, this was my call. I am a grown man and if I want a mohawk I can give myself one.”

All of this was true but still unconvincing. Sarah sensed his weakness and went in for the kill.

“So let me get this straight. You didn’t answer my call, you’re drunk and you have a mohawk?”

I looked at Clifford and had to admit that Sarah was right. Clifford was drunk. There was also no denying he had a mohawk. As for whether he didn’t answer her call, I assumed she was right on that one as well. If there was going to be a winner in this conflict, it didn’t look like it was going to be Clifford unless he had a surprise move no one could anticipate.

Clifford registered her complaints before he replied, “That sounds about right.”

Sarah was fuming. “Cliff, go home right now. We can talk about this there.”

Clifford raised his head and looked at Sarah. Now the entire bar was waiting for him to say something.

“Sarah, I’m going to stay out with my friends.” And with that he took his seat, with his back to her.

I thought Sarah was going to split in half right there in the middle of the bar. Then her rage swung back to me.

“Jackson, I hope you’re proud of yourself. You have officially broken up the happy couple.”

Without looking back at her, Clifford piped up, “We weren’t ever that happy.”

This may very well have been the first time Sarah wasn’t able to bulldoze Clifford into doing whatever it was she wanted him to do and it didn’t sit well with her. She grabbed a beer mug off the bar and threw it at our table. Luckily no one was hit but the glass shattered when it hit the floor and beer spilled out across the bar. There were a few gasps and one guy in the back of the bar even booed. The bouncer quickly ran over to Sarah and told her she needed to leave. She turned to him and slapped his face and then stomped out of the bar. As she was leaving, the other bar patrons began clapping and cheering. It reminded me of when the Munchkins started celebrating after the house dropped on the witch in The Wizard of Oz, except instead of Munchkins we had drunk people and no one was killed.

Clifford turned serious for a moment there in the midst of the frivolity.

“Did I just make a big mistake?”

“With the haircut or the girl?”

Clifford laughed, “Both, I guess.”

“That would be a no on both counts brother.”

Then the bar toasted to Clifford’s freedom and his new do.

And that’s the story of how Clifford got his mohawk.

the last days of free love

The day after the video tape incident was Friday and Heather left me a voice mail saying she had plans for the evening but that I should give her a call tomorrow. That left me with a Friday night free and I so I decided to meet up with a friend from Hollywood I hadn’t seen in a while.

Harley was a pint-sized gal from Alabama with shiny blond hair, who cursed like a sailor and drank like one too. She had a scathingly sardonic sense of humor and a sartorial sense full of interesting vintage combinations. We made plans to meet at Jones Hollywood in West Hollywood, a favorite watering hole of hers.

Jones is a cool spot, sort of grand old world with a touch of seedy. There is a lot of red in the bar and it’s the kind of place where you wish the walls could talk. Harley was at the bar when I arrived, sipping a vodka soda. She gave me a hug before she began chewing my ass about never calling her. Harley was convinced I was a west side snob who was afraid to venture too far east into LA. Harley was right but this night we met closer to her hood so my scolding wasn’t as severe as it would have been had we met up in Venice.

Harley was in the middle of telling me one of the funniest stories I had ever heard about her uncle and a Mexican tapeworm, when I looked across the bar and see Heather. She was all dolled up and was with a tall, dark-haired guy who dressed like a Banana Republic mannequin. I was listening to Harley’s story about how her uncle didn’t realize he had a tapeworm until he got back to the States and had the misfortune of making the discovery while dressed in a very nice suit, during a business meeting – and it’s a much funnier story than I am giving it credit for here, but at the time I was locked on Heather. Judging by her body language, she didn’t’t know the guy very well but she was being playful and flirty like the day I first met her in Whole Foods.

I felt a flush of jealousy fill my face.

Harley stopped telling her story. “Did someone fucking fart? You look like you just smelled a fart.”

I was staring intently at Heather but came around when Harley said the word ‘fart.’

“No, I mean maybe. Who knows. There are a lot of people in here. I just thought I saw someone I knew.”

“So you make a fart face when you recognize someone? Okay dude, that’s not weird at all.”

“No – not exactly. Look, see that girl over there in the black and white dress.”

“Oh, the little hottie who is flirting like mad with the tall guy who looks like a model?”

“What? He doesn’t look like a model. Whatever, that’s not my point. I have been having sex with that girl for a few weeks now.”

“Well pal, it doesn’t look like you’ll be boning her tonight. She has her eyes set on Mr. Handsome.”

“He’s not handsome. He looks like a mannequin.”

“A very fuckable mannequin.”

I am now annoyed with Harley and she was enjoying the situation far more than I would have liked.

“Look dude – go over there and talk to her. Stake out your territory.”

I considered Harley’s proposal for a moment but then described to her in detail the nature of the agreement Heather and I had in place. Her eyes widened a few times during the telling and a Cheshire Cat grin was plastered to her little mug. Once it all soaked in, Harley let loose an evil little cackle.

“You can’t be jealous of your fuckbuddy dude. You just can’t. That’s against the rules.”

She was right. I knew she was right but I still couldn’t help feeling uncomfortable about seeing Heather with another guy. I made the completely psycho decision to walk across the bar and ‘casually’ bump into Heather and her mannequin. Harley protested a bit but I ignored her. I wanted to see what would happen.

Harley and I had been standing near the door when you first enter the room. Heather and her dummy were across the room to our left. Heather was on a barstool but the mannequin was standing.I walked toward them, making a very obvious cross through her field of vision. I passed her and leaned into an opening next to her and ordered a Stoli Greyhound from the barkeep. In doing so, I brushed against Heather’s bare leg. I was officially in stalking territory.

I nonchalantly looked her way. She was seated on a bar stool looking out toward the mannequin with her back to the bar. There was no way she couldn’t have seen me when I walked right behind the stiff! She must have felt me against her leg. She was not looking at me but was transfixed on the mannequin, smiling that lethal smile of hers at his every word. I decided to move from stalking to harassing.

I poked her in the arm with my finger, “Oh hey! I didn’t see you there.”

She turned quickly to me and her smile transformed into a look of confusion, “I’m sorry. Do I know you?”

Her words echoed off the walls in my cranium, drowning out the ambient noise in the bar. Her eyes bore into mine with nothing resembling malice but with the informal apathy you give to a complete stranger. There wasn’t even a hint in her expression that would lead someone to believe we knew one another. I had perhaps seen more of her body than anyone since the doctor who plucked her from the birth canal, but at that moment she projected a complete unfamiliarity with me.

That was how it was to be. I apologized for my mistake, saying I thought she was someone else, and paid for my drink. Her mannequin smiled politely at me as I made my exit and walked back to Harley, who had gleefully witnessed my personal Hindenburg flame out.

“Wow dude, crash and burn! How did that feel?”

“She acted like she didn’t know me.”

“Of course she did, dude. She is on a date and you are just her fuckbuddy. Christ! Guys are so stupid! You meet a woman who wants to use you for sex and now you’re over here sulking.”

“I’m not sulking. It was just a little weird – that’s all. I didn’t realize all the rules.”

When I was first learning to surf, I spent a lot of time at Venice Beach, paddling out at the point near the jetty. I would pick bad days when fewer people would be out so I could work on the mechanics and learn to catch the wave and surf it. One day I was out there drowning myself with a handful of other people in the water. I was mostly catching the deformed remnants of waves that never really became waves. There was a Latino guy near me, all tatted up with images and Venice gang symbols. After he witnessed one of my failed drop-in’s he paddled over to me.

“Hey man – you are not very good.”

Great, now not only was I half-drowned, I was also being heckled.

“You know what you need to do man? You need to keep your chest up more. Move back on your board and keep you’re chest up. If not, you’re going to kill somebody with that big-ass board.”

The guy actually had me get out of the water and we went to the sand and he gave me some pointers. It was ten minutes at the most but he did more for my surfing than anyone else. At the end of the lesson, we were both standing on the beach and he wished me good luck but he had to give me a warning first.

“Look man, on good days, paddle out further south. This place is for locals and if you mess up our ride someone will try to kick your ass. If that happens, and it probably will, look at the guy and tell him to follow you up to the beach. Don’t take shit from people out here in the water. If you escalate the situation – then people will most likely back down.”

I thanked him for all the advice and then introduced myself. He shook my hand but he made it clear we were not friends.

“Look man, I helped you because you needed it but we are not friends. If you see me around here or run into me in Venice, don’t say hi and don’t act like you know me because I will act like I have never seen you before. You understand me? If you see me, just keep walking because we have never fucking met.”

With that, he was gone.

I wished Heather had given me the same explicit set of instructions. I didn’t realize that outside the confines of her boudoir, I was dead to her.

Harley and I ordered another round of drinks and I continued to look at Heather to see if she would tip her hand at all. Even when the mannequin went to the bathroom, she didn’t look my way. Harley suggested leaving but I decided we’d make our stand there. I wasn’t going to run from the shame of trying to acknowledge my fuckbuddy.

Harley went into a story about injuring her eye in the second grade and having to wear a patch. All the other kids were making fun of her. I had just taken a sip of my drink when Harley said, “Those cruel little fuckers would come up to me when I was wearing my patch and talk like pirates saying ‘Harley want a cracker?”

I laughed so hard I spit my drink right into her face. This caused a little stir in the tightly packed area around us as well as elicited a ‘What the fuck?’ from Harley, followed by a ‘nice money shot dude.’

I laughed so hard I almost did it again. Harley and I were in hysterics when Heather and her mannequin walked by us on their way out. They had to walk by us to leave. The guy actually gave me a nod and a slight smile but I got nothing from Heather. This time I understood.

The next day Heather called me. She didn’t even open with a hello.

“Jackson, what were you doing last night?”

I was tempted to be difficult at this point and go into a lengthy description of my night but decided to make nice.

“I saw you and thought I would say hello. I didn’t realize all the rules until it happened.”

“I thought you understood what we had and what I wanted.”

“I get it now but you could have been explicit on things.”

“You didn’t seem like a guy who needed things made explicit.”

The conversation sort of ambled on into nowhere. She said she eventually would want to return to her former life in Utah. Her time in Los Angeles was just an extended holiday. She made the gesture of asking whether I would consider converting but she already knew the answer. It was merely a courtesy.

I decided to go ahead and end things, as if we needed such a formality. She was a little surprised but didn’t sound disappointed. It was fun but was also weird. That makes no sense, right? It seemed like a very simple arrangement but then again it felt very contrived and I knew it had run its course.

She hit me up once, a year or so after our fling. She let me know she married the mannequin and moved back to Utah. I was not only her last hoorah but was also present for their first date that night at Jones. By some form of reasoning, I might be considered a match maker.

A few days after the Heather ‘break up’ I bumped into the surfer Latino guy on the boardwalk. It was early morning and I had grabbed a cup of coffee and was thinking of paddling out later. He came walking by with a white pitbull mix on a leash. I was just going to keep walking but he nodded to me and spoke.

“Hey man, you still surfing?”

“Every chance I get.”

“Cool.” He smiled and then walked on.

sasquatches, sex and digital video

Regret is an odd thing to consider for a man whose moral compass has no true north. The consideration of what constitutes regrettable likely differs from that of the average Joe. Taking it a step further into weird-ass territory, when you consider something that might be regrettable you’re looking at a future state of remorse over past events. Anticipating an action, or worse a non-action, that could haunt me in some way is a natural thing to do but is odd when you think about it. However, even those with as fast and loose of a style of living such as myself have pensive moments in which possible ramifications must be considered. Stay with me here.

When Heather asked me whether I would be interested in a purely carnal relationship with her that had no strings attached, my knee-jerk reaction was to close the tab and call for a cab. You will remember though, that I said such relationships are essentially the Sasquatches of human interaction. There is anecdotal evidence of such things occurring but nothing that conclusively proves they exist. You hear stories of friends of friends who had this great thing going when they were overseas but no one you actually know and trust can confirm their existence. At best, the stories are akin to the famous Patterson photo of Bigfoot, a blurry portrait of something that seems a little fishy.

Despite my misgivings, the reality is that a beautiful woman has suggested we retire for the evening, throw on some adult contemporary music and find out what we look like naked. There is no plausible argument I can make against such a well thought out plan. Logic in its purest form is stupefying.

So begins the joie de vivre of free love with Heather. While I cannot honestly say I’m not one for kissing and telling, else what the hell would I write about, I can say that I prefer to keep the telling part to a minimum of allusion, metaphor and tongue-in-cheek references. Obviously, there is nothing all that puritanical about me as I am perfectly at ease using the word ‘cock’ in my stories but I have no real desire to describe one for you.

Thus, I will summarize the amorous affairs of Heather and myself in one simple word: insatiable. I assumed when she suggested a purely physical relationship there would be an occasional dinner or drinks and perhaps even a movie from time to time. It turns out, Heather was pretty literal. Our trysts were preplanned events of consummation in which the only variables were choices of music, I was really into Black Rebel Motorcycle Club at the time but she preferred the erection softening sounds of Iron and Wine, and lights on or off. Of course, there was a Kama Sutra’s worth of other options once the festivities commenced, but anything outside of the pure mechanics of it all was limited. She was even reticent about opening a bottle of wine or having a cocktail as she didn’t want to risk things ever resembling a date.

So, our contract, I can no longer refer to it in anything other than legal terms, consisted of a phone call to set the date and time, a knock at the door – and it was always her door, never mine, a little small talk and then getting down to the matter at hand. It was polite and perfunctory until the moments of pants on the ground and then it turned into a no-holds-barred cage match of skin on skin.

Remember the scene from the old Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with Gene Wilder, when the kids first enter the grand room with chocolate rivers and candy flowers and they all go ape-shit until the fat kid gets sucked into a giant tube? There were a few minutes where the kids were tearing through the room and trying out everything. That was Heather. She scored five golden tickets and wanted to cash them in for full face value. She was insatiable to the point that certain parts of my unmentionables were bruised and violet, like Violet Beauregarde from the film, but she did insist we keep Charlie out of the chocolate factory.

Outside of her den of lust, I was allowed to live my life however I pleased and see whoever I wanted. She only asked that I be safe, but that was to be expected. Likewise, she was free to act as she pleased. We were two independent adults with the only ties that bind being the fuzzy handcuffs she kept in her nightstand.

One evening after arriving at her house, I suggested we step out for something to eat as I was starving. There was this groovy little Ethiopian place around the corner and I thought scooping up lamb wat and lentils with our hands might sort of set a different mood. By the look on her face, you would have thought I suggested a quick run down to the border to catch a donkey show before settling in for the evening. She was shocked and so we had a sit down to discuss our unwritten, and really mostly unspoken, rules. We weren’t to do anything together outside of her place. She wanted to keep this part of her life separate from the rest.

After my Ethiopian suggestion was shot down, I explained that perhaps a little variety might spice things up. Despite the fact I was spending a lot of time in the buff with a hot woman, it was becoming routine. She told me she felt my timing was impeccable because she had recently began to feel the same way. She took me by the hand and led me into the bedroom.

She immediately jumped into the casual courtship of undressing me with a bit more zest than normal. So there we were, completely naked, when she paused and walked across her bedroom to the bookshelf. In the dim candlelight of the room I could see her fooling around with something and then I saw a tiny red light come on. She turned back to me wearing only the sensuous smile I first saw her with that day at Whole Foods and turned both of her hands, palms up, towards the device as if she were presenting prizes on The Price is Right.

“I think we should document the time we spend together.”

This moment, combined with the Iron and Wine, made me instantly flaccid. I waited for a laugh or a punchline but nothing came.

“Wait, you want to make a sex tape?”

“Yes, I think we should record ourselves. I think it would turn up the heat a notch.”

“If you want more heat we could just change this song.”

My attempt at humor was also flaccid. Then something occurred to me.

“Whoa! Hold on – how long has that camera been there?”

“It’s always been there.”

I get panic.

She noticed the concern on my face and jumped in to assure me that she had never recorded anything but had been waiting for the right time to pitch it to me. She thought, in light of my need for a little variety, this would be the perfect time.

I am unconvinced., “You realize that sex tapes are never a good idea. They always end up online somewhere and generally surface at the worst possible time.”

“Jackson, I can’t believe you’re so scared! I thought this would be exciting for you.”

“Look, it is exciting but I just don’t want to do something that one of us might one day regret.”

Did I just say that out loud?

“Why don’t we try it tonight and then we can watch it together and if we decide we don’t want to keep it, we will delete it immediately.”

It might have been the sudden shock or the fact that I really needed to eat something, but I didn’t have much in the form of a counterargument. I went along for the ride – and brother was it ever a ride. Heather was apparently a closet method actress and once the camera was going she was Jenna Jameson meets Sasha Grey with a little bit of that fucking mechanical bull thrown in for good measure. I should have stretched and downed some Gatorade before because I was on the point of dehydration and had torn a hamstring by the time we were done. I was lying there, covered in sweat and worrying whether my penis would ever again work correctly when she asked me if I was ready to watch our movie. She asked sweetly, as if we were going to watch a film from our first Christmas morning together instead of the pagan ritual we had just completed that likely stripped me of my ability to produce offspring.

She looked great. She looked like she had just stepped from costume and make-up and was as fresh as a sunrise on the beach. Me? I looked like the guy who wandered into his first yoga class and didn’t notice it was advanced. I was sweating and shaking and occasionally grimacing. Some of the positions caused me to tremble and I am certain it cannot be healthy for my face to look that red. While her beautiful face radiated ecstasy mine looked more like a poster for a prostate exam.

As soon as it ended I told her we should erase it but she ignored my request, rolled over on top of me and said her loins were burning. Mine were too but mostly from friction and overheating. She was not to be denied.

‘My loins are burning.’ – who the fuck says that?

The first thing I did when I woke up the next morning was delete the video. If a sex tape of me does ever leak out, I at least want to look like I was having a good time. She woke up right as I was putting the camera back down.

“What are you doing?”

“I deleted the video.”

“Good, then we’ll have to make another.”

Pause.

“Right. Maybe I should spend a few days on my own working on the choreography?”

“Or maybe you can just come back tonight and we can improv?”

I gave her a kiss, we had our own protocol that allowed for such things, and made a hasty exit. I was still starving so I stopped off for a bagel and coffee on the way back to my place. I sent her a text later that day saying something had come up and I couldn’t make it to her place that night. I called up my pal Eddie and asked him to meet for drinks later.

I met Eddie at The Daily Pint, a dive bar near his office. It had the same piss and beer dive bar smell so many little joints like that had. Ike joined us a little later and the three of us threw back whiskey and beer for most of the night while I brought them up to speed on my recent adventures.

Eddie thought the whole thing was fucking hilarious but didn’t believe me when I told him how hot Heather was.

“Look man, all I am saying is that one of the hottest girls we’ll ever see is a girl we will never see who also happens to be sex starved. I’m just not sure I buy it.”

Ike chimed in with his own take. “I for one believe Sport. He does a lot of seedy things but lying isn’t one of them. If he says he’s banging a sexy Mormon nymphomaniac then I believe him.”

I look over at Ike, slightly surprised. “What kind of seedy things do you think I do?”

Ike smiled, “You hang out with us, for one. That’s enough to damn a man right there.”

The three of us took a drink to that. Eddie shook his head and then smiled over at me.

“You’re her giggolo holmes. You’re like a tabernacle boy-toy.”

This really cracked Eddie up.

Ike couldn’t resist either, “She has you by your latter day taint.”

Now I had two hyenas in tears next to me – one on either side. A few minutes of hysteria were followed with a couple more one-liners. Then the humor of it all began to subside.

“Look sport, might as well see this thing through. I’m sure it will play itself out shortly.”

I considered Ike’s advice and then raised a toast to seeing it through.

It would play itself out faster than any of us had anticipated.

if you meet a hot mormon girl on the road…

I actively avoid traffic gridlock and large hordes of people meandering around with no real objective in sight. I do both of these for my own sanity. I hate the in between moments in which I’m just in limbo, whether it be on the 405 or caught behind a wall of tourists. I don’t do outlet centers. I believe IKEA is one of Dante’s lost rings and I begrudgingly make my way through the jolly flocks of consumers during the holiday shopping season. I am not a Grinch so much as I loathe waiting. I’m positive these are merely early signs of latent neuroses. I’ve made myself sound like someone who has a lot to do, which I don’t. I also sound extremely impatient, which I am not. Traffic jams, cars or people, are just one of my pet peeves.

courtesy LAistBeing around people doesn’t bother me, but being entrenched in a meandering mob that for all visible indication looks directionless grinds my stones. Outdoor malls, amusement parks and farmer’s markets are often the worst places for just such mobs but it’s hard to beat Whole Foods for people who manage to get in your way despite the fact that they aren’t really going anywhere. I still love Whole Foods though. If you want to get me really turned on then start whispering dirty things to me about fresh mussels, aromatic fennel, prosciutto, pancetta, pork belly and a world of vegetables to feel and smell, scattered neatly into bins. If you want to blow my load then tell me I can do private shopping before everyone else is allowed to enter the store. I love cooking, from the conception of it while standing in the store holding a yam to the presentation of it on the table. Some guys have mirrors above their beds but I have one above my dinner table.

It’s a recent Tuesday after work, and I’m mingling with the crowd through the strip tease of the produce section in Whole Foods. All the naked vegetables are lying around waiting for me to pluck them from the bin, fondle them for a bit and then take them home with me. I am willing to navigate the madhouse of people to find the right things. It’s an obstacle course of seemingly abandoned shopping carts and people spontaneously shifting from forward to reverse. The Whole Foods in Venice is a big store but you are still likely to run into people several times while you’re shopping. My interior monologue is generally filled with obscenities while I’m making my way through the aisles.

I’m walking past the section of vitamins and skin creams when I pass a striking young woman with dark brown hair and piercing brown eyes. Her eyes latch onto mine and I’m slightly transfixed as I walk by. She smiles at me and seems to be on the tip of saying something as I pass her. I look back over my left shoulder and see that she’s turned slightly and is still smiling at me. It’s not the smile you give the average stranger that let’s them know you’re a reasonable person and are fairly happy. Her smile was the kind you reserve for someone you know who you haven’t seen in a while. I’m immediately trolling through my memory for faces and people who might match her. I must know her but am slightly baffled as I’m pretty certain I would remember a woman that beautiful.

I need some chiles and some avocados. I’m feeling a guacamole coming on and I’m stoked to try out a new mezcal tequila I bought a few nights before. I pick up a fat anaheim pepper and a couple of poblanos for roasting, a bag of jalapenos and then spend a few minutes in vain trying to find some padron peppers. Now I am distinctly part of the lost hoard in Whole Foods meandering around. I can’t find my peppers. My head swivels right and left, scanning the greens, reds and oranges of everything in front of me and then I make eye contact with her again. She’s standing about 20 feet off to my right with her half-full hand basket lightly dangling in front of her, smiling at me again. Again, it’s the full on, ‘Great to see you‘ smile not intended for a complete stranger

Now my own smile is slightly more guarded. I decide to ferret this out quickly since I’m starting to feel a little embarrassed about not recognizing her.

“Hey! I didn’t recognize you at first. How have you been?”

When you aren’t sure if you know someone always start by saying something noncommittal and slightly generic. I’ve left the door open for her to finish these thoughts and hopefully my personal CSI skills will kick in and I will solve the mystery of the really hot smiling woman. However, my greeting only makes her laugh a bit and it’s clearly a laugh at my expense.

“Why would you recognize me? We’ve never met.”

She appears far too self-satisfied with her retort and I find myself at a very clear disadvantage. First, she seems to know me and I don’t recognize her but when I make a move to remedy my faux pas she decides to play mischievous and mysterious. Suddenly realizing I don’t know her at all has me wondering why the hell she keeps smiling at me the way she does. I am feeling somewhat unnerved.

“Oh, well I assumed with the way you were smiling at me we knew one another.”

“No, just simply smiling at you.”

Right. I am no further along than I was to begin with and now feel slightly provoked. I hesitate for a moment while the situation sinks in. People may smile at you this way in Kansas but you don’t receive an unsolicited smile as big as this from a complete stranger in LA. My brain starts to tell me something is wrong and I should walk away. I give her another half-hearted smile and return to shopping.

I move over to a big crate of avocados but feel the nagging desire to look over my shoulder and see if she’s still smiling at me. I make the call to ignore that and focus on finding some ripe avocados I can use later that night.

“Wow, those look big and yummy.”

It’s her again. I think about pretending I don’t hear her but before I can put that plan into action she is right next to me. I catch a faint whiff of her perfume and she smells good. I’m now being followed by a beautiful woman who smells very nice.

An aside: All of us men like to think of ourselves as far more attractive than we really are. As far as egos go, we have outties, extending out into the world like a sword. So, we also all like to believe that very attractive women will flirt with us in places like Whole Foods. Most men walk around with some kind of script in which we’re a dashing hero and beautiful women will throw themselves at us wherever we go. We are told this kind of thing happens and we all buy into it. One minute you’re buying groceries and then next you’re hot and naked with the checkout girl back at your place and she’s saying naughty things about paper or plastic. We believe this can happen.

It doesn’t happen. The world is not our unfulfilled porn script. I know this. So, when a very attractive woman is following me around and smiling at me – I get nervous. Call it another Jackson Panic law – if it seems like you’re on the brink of being in the middle of a fantasy porn, watch out because weird shit is about to happen.

She starts grabbing the avocados and squeezing them as well. She picks one very green one up and gives it s a solid squeeze and then nudges me with her elbow, “Am I doing this correctly?”

“I’m not sure there is really a technique. You just want to see if it’s tender enough for when you’re thinking of using it.”

“Is it tender enough for tonight?”

She is smiling at me again.

If you’re thinking things are starting to sound an awful lot like the opening for a bad porn – you’re right. If you’re then thinking I should quickly refer back to the Jackson Panic law I just mentioned – you’re two for two. If you’re beginning to think I often ignore my own advice – you are a goddamn genius. Remember the outtie egos men use as swords? Yeah, I just used that thing to bat away any semblance of common sense.

Talk of avocados leads to talk of guacamole which then naturally segues into talk of margaritas. I know a thing or two about margaritas. So where does a girl with a beautiful smile and piercing brown eyes find a good margarita? I know the place and tell her I will take her there.

Fast forward thirty minutes and you find us sipping the perfect margarita at a little spot in artist unknownSanta Monica. The walls are decked out in crazy paintings of half-naked women fighting bulls and their tequila selection is endless. My drink is not on the menu but rather is a special call I’ve worked out with one of the bartenders. I modestly named it ‘el guapo’ after myself. They are strong with the perfect balance of salty and sweet.

Heather likes margaritas. I like Heather. She has recently relocated to LA from Salt Lake City. She’s been doing real estate but is starting fresh in LA in a multiple of ways. With the second margarita things start to make sense and traces of weirdness begin creeping in.

It’s an ancient story really. A young person is raised to believe certain things but eventually that young person’s mind begins to question those beliefs. What does one do when one’s instinct is in conflict with one’s upbringing? It’s the old ‘kill your parents, kill your god, kill your teacher’ notion. Obviously not literally since we only advocate violence against snowmen here at igetpanic, but it is a more a suggestion to question everything, including all manner of authority. Is it ironic I am borrowing from Buddhist teachings in telling you to question those who have influenced you? Yes, yes it is.

Back to Heather. She was raised in the Mormon church and led a fairly sheltered life. Now she was breaking free and migrated over to Los Angeles to see what life outside the church was like. She smiles a lot because she is genuinely happy and she smiles a lot at me just because I’m the lucky guy who crossed her path at the moment she was opening up to the world. She was engaged to be married a couple of years back but began to worry she needed to experience more that life had to offer before settling down and starting a family. Now she’s sitting on a bar stool next to me, drinking her el guapo and her comely smile is turning more to a ‘come hither’ grin.

There is a slight lull in the conversation and Heather blankets me with her intensely beautiful brown eyes. Then, with all the proper and officious demeanor one might normally put into suggesting you start composting, she says to me, “I think we should start having a purely physical relationship tonight with no strings attached.”

I am in mid-sip with my drink and looking over my glass at her suddenly very serious face. I take a moment and another swallow as I wait to hear what else she might say. She apparently has finished making her case.

“You mean, just a purely sexual relationship.”

“That’s exactly what I mean.”

Santa Clause, the Tooth Fairy, straight guys who actually use the Shake Weight – these are all things that don’t exist. Likewise, purely physical relationships with no strings attached don’t exist. I know this and will go so far as to say that this is clearly another Jackson Panic law, but there is this little voice inside my head saying, ‘maybe this time it will work.

While I am taking the three nanoseconds to mull over her offer – the full blown smile appears back on her face. I return serve.

Things were about to get interesting and weird, real weird.