Saturday, August 12, 2017

Fish, cakes, and naked rabbit teeth

Teeth and Gums

It is already 4:21 PM and I still have to battle the stubborn taste of rotten blood in my mouth. Decades of poor attention to it will not only allow for faster tooth decay, but also the accelerated gum retreat that have already left them semi-naked. Regardless of what people in soap operas can make us think, no pain from social rejection comes close to the one inflicted by our own rotten teeth and receding gums. Mine gave up on me a while back.

Three of my teeth have committed suicide already, only hanging in my oral cavity because they have been unable to physically detach yet. Who could blame them for wanting to leave? I'm not about to give them a reason to stay. They can all go to hell for all I care. I won't be that far behind anyway. Heck, I've been working on it since I can remember. This anti-survival 'Tanatos' desire has been stuck with me longer than the smell of dead ocean creatures from under a fisherman's nails.

The Fishery

The few friends that still stick with me are nothing short of social heroes. That's a germane reason I will now jump through hoops to keep them, firmly stuck in my jawbone.

When Alejandra told me she was attending a wedding in the Cayman Islands last month, and asked me to come for the weekend, I had to say yes. The plane had already landed when I learned she had not been offered the option to bring a guest to it. Real friendship is indeed peppered with awkward situations and flawed good intentions. This is how a nonexistent plus one turned into a miserable flat zero. I'm suddenly in an island with nothing to do on a Saturday, and flattish expectations for Sunday before my return flight.

The wedding took place near the water, as if there was any other choice. What I didn't expect is that there would be a busy fishery next to it. I decided to grab a half-bottle of Cuban rum and wait for Alejandra in front of said establishment, the "Commodore Brothers Fishery". There are a few experiences as soothing as witnessing sunburnt  men cleaning fish throughout. As they took out the gills and pulled the intestines out, I reflected on the difficulty - and futility - of trying to remove the smell off their hands. I thought of these men's wives, eagerly awaiting their man without care for the foul stink. The strongest detergent wouldn't remove it, but the deepest love would learn to ignore it. In fact, the idea of a woman smiling with joy at the fishy smell of her man approaching the house draw a smile on my face for the first time in months.

Alejandra came out of the wedding salon for a smoke and sat behind me on the backless double bench. She hug me from behind in a consoling manner. I must have been wearing the morose smile.

That day, it had already been a very long life.

The Mobile Home

A pretty rundown mobile home, I did not expect to see its insides covered with children's drawings. Must admit it, it was refreshing to miss that ugly wallpaper these homes are usually covered on, plastered over layers and layers of the designs favored by the previous tenants.

She had her two little girls inside. The eldest I had met, but she didn't remember me. She had seen too many faces come and go in her few years on this filthy planet.

Jenny held my hand and walked me to the back of the trailer, shutting the door behind us and securing it with metal wire. I don't think they could hear us, but we could certainly hear them play with their old plastic soldiers, the same ones I had when I was a boy. No solid argument backs the physics-defying statement I made about sounds effectively propagating in only one direction, but the thought allowed me to keep going without remorse.

She wrapped her hair around my legs and never let go again, the eternity of the next few hours. We came out the next morning for breakfast. The girls had put out some sweets, unwrapped cinnamon buns of the kind one finds in remote gas stations. "Ever had breakfast here? No? Oh. Then, there is no cake for you." I couldn't even look at the coffee afterwards.

I walked slowly towards the door and pulled up the piece of cloth that kept it closed. The door opened, surprisingly silently. The rabbit toy I stepped on as I kept moving forward made no sound either. Good meth helps muffle down unpleasant sounds, and ignore uncomfortable realities.

I had no cake that day, nor ever afterwards.

The Organizers

There is an underground organization of surprise nudists. These individuals spend their time organizing events, retreats, cake sales, trips, etc. Then, at a point during the event - early or late into it - the organizers address all participants and proceed to get naked as quickly as possible. Most of them show up already 'commando' in order to minimize clothed-to-naked time.

Reactions range from vivid rage to ecstatic complicity. Singles events fare much better for the organizers than those involving full families, where parents tend to disagree with the timing they impose on their kids' exposure to the human body in its full glory. Even as the organizers make an effort to instill a celebratory mood into their act, some of these events have ended in violence and several people getting arrested. However, given the preemptive payment refunds they execute and the strong legal representation the organizers have had so far, they rarely spend even a night behind bars.

There don't seem to be any particular ideology behind these actions. The group is not socially cohesive, yet quite well-organized. They aren't part of any particular age group either. People join as participants and rarely ever leave. Regulars represent more than four fifths of those present at any given event. Unexpectedly, nudists represent the same percentage here as they would be in any random sample of the population. They could be your lawyer, your bakery shop owner, your neighbor, your boyfriend... A sense of liberation seems to be the only common factor that brings them together.

Come tomorrow, they could be you. Tomorrow, you could finally be you.

The Rabbit

Aida Conway should have had an easy childhood. The only girl in a family of six, she was her father's eyes. She was also the only technical heir of a family of patriarchal publishers.

Mr. Rutherford Conway, the father of four boys and Aida, lost his wife while she was in labor for her. Himself was one of four brothers. Used to a world ruled by men, Rutherford was biased against them. Losing his wife instilled such a sense of gender imbalance that he became thoroughly attached to Aida. Towards the end of his life, before Aida turned 20, he would be heard uttering his wife's name in tight association to Aida's as if he implied that he saw his wife in his daughter now.

Aida was known for a unique combination of high intelligence and limited mental stability. Upon Mr. Conway's death, her mental state worsened noticeably. Someone once said that she "outright jumped off the deep end, out of the ship of human sanity". When her beloved rabbit pet died, shortly after Mr. Conway, Aida decided she was one herself, living in the body of a person. Her brothers were much older and, knowing they hand't even been considered for the inheritance,  left the nest early to build their own lives. Save Mrs. Jennings, there was nobody to take care of Aida through her unusual transformation. It was particularly difficult to manage her socially; for even though she thought she was a rabbit, she kept attending every event she got invited to. As a wealthy woman, she got invited to many of these and was courted constantly by suitors that would feed her all the carrots in the world in exchange for the possibility of a piece of her wealth.

She fucked like a rabbit, indeed. In fact, she became a local legend for her kinky ways and indiscriminately frequent escapades. She was the queen of the personal classifieds, seeking men of different walks of life. If you were from town, you didn't truly lose your virginity unless you spent a night or an afternoon at Aida's. Rabbit Lady wouldn't turn anyone down, but they had to treat her like a rabbit and follow her commands in a true femdom fashion. There was no safe word or test drive. Coming into Aida's was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that varied widely from lover to lover. She had an uncanny ability to read people in that she never asked anyone to do anything they wouldn't agree to. No anxious boy was ever asked to accept being tied to her old bed. No insecure man was ever asked to endure her professional use of a strap-on. It felt as if she had carefully studied her partners to be, and stuck to what they'd be willing to accept even if they hadn't done it before.

An avid drug user, Aida died of a crocodile and bath salts mix overdose. Ms. Jennings organized the funeral services and contacted her brothers. They all showed up, eager to take on any residual family fortune after the publishing company went under years ago due to lack of attention by the owner. The older brother was tasked with putting it all together, - assisted by the family lawyer - selling whatever was of value, and dividing it all up amongst the four.

Most funeral attendants were strangers to the brothers and other family members. According to Aida's instructions to Ms. Jennings, the ceremony was officiated by a Buddhist monk that threw her ashes into the wind towards the end. Many of those colorful invitees tried to catch some of these and rub them on their body or chew on them. Fireworks were launched immediately after, an unusual choice for those that knew Aida and her disdain for loudness and explosions.

During the ceremony, a few dared approach her older brother and ask for money - $5,000, $12,000, $20,000 - they said Aida owed them. Some also asked for drugs she had promised them. In each instance, they had produced a note or a text message signed/originated by Aida providing details on the location - safety boxes at different banks in the towns nearby. The brother refused to address any of these requests, but chose to see for himself if they were right. After receiving a power of attorney, he visited these banks and, sure enough, there were boxes in Aida's name containing money, drugs, small weapons, crow feathers and rotten carrots. One of them even contained the skeleton of a guinea pig that disintegrated upon exposure to air and light.

The older brother collected the non-illegal valuables and threw everything else away; but he didn't even try to sell Rabbit lady's old car locally, a 1977 Alfa Romeo Spyder. He was allowed to keep these items, and already knew a man in New York who would buy it at a high premium over book value.

He took all sexual toys and paraphernalia to a local theater company that accepted them gladly. He then went through her clothes, putting her best dresses and shoes in the trunk to bring to New York city for donation right before delivering the car to its new owner to be in Connecticut. A few miles after crossing the state lines into Massachusetts, he was stopped by a cop that happened to be training a drug-sniffing dog. He is still in jail for a federal crime involving intrastate drug smuggling, as Aida's clothes and car were full of them. He did not think about checking them before leaving the house in Vermont.

Rabbits have a way of feeling a person's soul at a non-human level. They are also known to be capable of causing harm beyond the grave. However, they don't tend to be associated with death as much as crows do. Herein lies their power, that of those that seem harmless and are thus freer to act as they please.












Monday, May 2, 2016

The tattooed clown





There is a small graveyard behind a non-denomination church in Amsterdam I like to stop by sometimes. If you walk all the way south on Kalisvaart Street and turn left at the end of the road, you will find a small, broken tombstone that lies towards the east end. It should look just like the others. In a weird way, it does not.


The circus


The loud discussions at the tiny neighborhood bar I’m in drown the suffocating combination of fear and anguish that was making my stomach turn. I asked for a pint of the local beer, but was brought the equivalent of warm piss instead. It is fucking white beer… Won’t send it back, however. I just asked for the menu, hoping for the biggest chunk of grease available; found only apple pie. I escaped America only to be hit by a poor Dutch version of apple pie. Won’t send it back either. Over the years, I’ve learned that things never go my way. I’m used to making lemonade off the sour answers life always gave me.

I’ve been a circus clown since the mid-fifties. Before I was born, my father took a sabbatical as sergeant from the military to join the circus for a few years. He was a violent, bohemian man who barely fit within army ranks. With no work records or permanent residence, he was able to avoid the draft and impregnate a few of the company’s staff girls. The juggler, the knife-throwing model, the trapecist… Even the tiny Jewish girl that washed clothes, picked elephant manure and helped with collecting the tickets fell victim of the sergeant’s silver tongue.

What if he had been with half the circus girls already? She felt special; cared for when he was with her. Often humiliated by friends and strangers, the sergeant was the only man that saw her for who she truly was. Hell, he was the only one that saw her as a woman despite her hunchback, crooked teeth, midget figure. He made her feel like a person, rather than the piece of odd furniture nobody knows what to do with.

News of her pregnancy spread like warm butter on the company’s rye bread. Who had been able to look past little Masha’s ugly face and body? She kept the name a secret, though all suspicion befell the sergeant.


The first birth


My mother died shortly after she managed to push me out of her entrails from delivery complications and wound infections. It is a miracle I survived. Come to think of it, it was actually a curse to remain so long in this world. My birth left no doubts regarding the sergeant’s rendezvous. Still, he denied any responsibility or connection with my existence. I was raised by the ladies of the circus. The juggler, the knife throwing model, the trapecist; they were my family. More accurately, they were the closest I had to one, as they’d never let me forget I was an outsider; nothing more than a charity case to be cast away as early as I turn 16. I had to win them over at all times, never taking anything they gave me – food, attention, advice - for granted. This is how I discovered my innate talent for making people laugh. I thought so little of myself, self-deprecation came up naturally. Mix my own feelings of inferiority with a smile, add a comedic twist and… done! The formula worked every time. It never changed. It never had to.

Desperate for company at all times, I became obsessed with comedic routines. Armed with a witty mind and keen observational skills , I was the life of the company’s gatherings since I was twelve. To me, the stupidity of daily life rarely went unnoticed. Nothing and nobody escaped my sharp eyes and vigilant ears. Anything you said or did, I could turn into a funny joke. The secret is that you could not ever get offended. It is me that is making fun of you; I’m clowny Joe. Nobody takes me seriously. Nobody should. If anything, I inspire compassion. I’m a massively skinny kid, with arms too long for my body and crooked teeth. Only one functioning eye, the other one a useless, wandering pupil included. I’m the epitome of the circus orphan as there’s ever been one; the dark child who would pray for a road accident if there was a god out there listening.


The Porky foursome


The children of the animal tamers were the meanest. They’d sometimes beat me up for no reason other than being at the wrong place at the wrong time. My looks had much to do with their attitude towards me. We often get violent towards the things – and people - we find repulsive. The last time they did it, I was in a very weird mood. I made all kinds of silly noises and sardonic remarks while their fists met my body.

- “That all you got, Jack Dem-pussy?” (referencing legendary boxer Jack Dempsey)
- “Ouch! That one made me see stars! Do it again, but this time like you mean it”
- “Your sister hits softer. Yes, I said softer. She is sweet to me”
- “Get the teeth, boys. For is so scarce lately, I no longer need them anymore”
- “Hit me in the eye! You may even fix it”

That prompted them to stop in the middle of the beating, unable to contain their laughter. Over time, the beatings stopped. We became good friends. Later, I turned into “idea man”; them into my henchmen in a new era of circus havoc. Conning unsuspected patrons, robbing wallets, touching women inappropriately while in the crowd; all this came naturally to the Porky Foursome, as this group of kids used to being rejected by society became known in the company. We were the unwanted children of the circus, despised within our own circle.

Three of the Porky Foursome had their manifest destiny as animal people. Best case scenario would be to become the lion tamer. The others were doomed to backstage training, feeding and manure shoveling; just like my mother. That is not me, however. I had no mentor. I had no parents. My future was in my prematurely wrinkled hands, and no one else’s. And nothing felt as fitting as a career in comedy. The circus clown was born this way.

 















Born to shovel crap


I begged the Master of Ceremony to let me add 1-2 minute comedic fillers between circus acts. After I agreed to a few unspeakable favors, he decided to let me try my luck with a rather hostile public. I had to be strategic - gather attention, keep the audience interested, then deliver an effective punchline quickly. Over the years, jokes evolved from the original self-deprecatory to the observational, to the clever, to the ironic, to the morbid, to the ultimately morose. Physical comedy gave way to intelligent, eloquent delivery touching upon subjects relevant to the adult, educated population that started to come to the show after word of mouth did its thing. Social issues, political environment, anal warts, plastic surgery, gender roles, religion… With me nothing was sacred; nobody was safe. Word of mouth did its thing. Eventually, the MC asked if I wanted to have my own act. I recruited the two shit-shovelers for a few months, but they couldn’t take it much longer than that. A lifetime of squeezing laughter off your personal misery gives you very thick skin. Some people are just born to shovel shit.


Blurry


The best jokes had titles, so I could quickly sort through them in my mind. Then, I categorized them. Initially, this process took place inside my brain. There was no record available of my routines. Then, I started to worry. A penchant for heavy drinking started to make my memories blurry. I got scared. What if I started to lose my material? This is all I have. This is what I am. But I also can’t just put them in writing and leave them to be stolen. What to do?

I saw the knife-thrower heating his instrument on a candle and got an idea. I asked to borrow one of the thinnest, sharpest knifes she had and used it on my skin. A bit of heat, some ink from the ticket-printing machine, and I got myself a rudimentary tattoo artist’s tool. My body was always with me; nobody could steal it. It was the perfect oleo for my records. And so it began. Over the course of three years, I covered every inch of my skin with words and symbols; they were all idea kickers for a joke. Towards the end, my skin had become a carefully designed summary of everything I was; of all I was. Clown makeup was not enough to cover all my tattoos, so I became known as “the tattooed clown”. The company started to get known as “the circus of the tattooed clown”; my little, temporary piece of stardom in an otherwise hellish life.

It turns out heating a knife helps prevent infection, but not intoxication by lead-based ink. I fainted at the end of an act once, and a doctor in the audience came to see what was happening. Back then, nobody knew lead could be so dangerous. Memories kept getting blurrier. I lived off the writings on my skin; a practice that came with a high price tag. Routines became predictable, mostly scrapped from what I had written on my limbs. The MC noticed. Then the public noticed…

After a while, the MC threatened to cancel my act. We argued. Bad timing on his part, for I was drinking all afternoon. As he turned away screaming I was out, I took the tattooing knife and stabbed him in the back for what felt like a million times. He tried to face me, which resulted in the knife meeting his cheek, then his eye, then his throat, then his other eye… There was so much blood covering us both, it was hard to know who was stabbed and who wasn’t. I ran to my tent, washed the blood off, picked up my few possessions, and left to never come back.


Where?


There were several boats departing from the New Orleans port that evening. It is unusual for boats to leave the port after sunset, but the city had seen a few storms lately and departures were frequent. A scrawny man covered in tattoos with a bad eye is not uncommon in the area. Also, several sailors had gotten lost in the arms of the damsels of the local brothels during the storms. Supply and demand law did its part, and a few minutes later I found myself aboard a slow vessel carrying American products to the old world. I disembarked weeks later in Rotterdam, but found the city too clean. The country’s dirt concentrates in Amsterdam. Naturally, I made my way to the European city of sin.


Memory


How was I even able to remember all this? I don’t know. Maybe I remember it all wrong. Much of it could be a figment of my imagination, except the tattoos. They are here with me as I write this, held together by the sweet embrace of Dionysius. I look at the ink and it stares back at me; my slow, beloved assassin.

I had with me some cash and a few photos of my mother when I died. My clothes had no tags. I threw all forms of identification into a bonfire the night after I made it into Holland, but I forgot to check the internal compartment of the jacket I was wearing. In it, a ticket with the title “The Circus of clowny Joe” was found by the police.


Why?


There is a graveyard behind the non-denomination church that sometimes buries the body of unknown people as a form of charity in their land. If you walk all the way south on Kalisvaart St., then turn left at the end of the street, you will find a small, broken tombstone that lies a bit to the left. It reads:

“The circus of clowny Joe”
             ? – 1987














 It is easy to die for no reason; easier when you have no purpose in life.



Monday, August 24, 2015

Final Copa Mundial: Italia-Francia, Julio 9 del 2006

 
El dia tan esperado! La final de Fussball! Un polaco de nombre Paultz - nos hicimos amigos en la borrachera del partido Alemania Portugal - insistió en que fuéramos al Olympicstadion temprano, tipo 11AM, para sumarnos a la turba de fanaticos que se congregarían en el previo al magno evento. Accedí, y a las 11:10AM estaba ya más puesto que un calcetín.
 
Nos lanzamos raudos y veloces al estadio (poco más de una hora de viaje desde el campamento) y, ya estando ahí, nos bebimos unas Berliners con Lambwurst (salchicha de cordero) jinto con unos italianos escandalosos pintados hasta el cu... tis.
 
De ahí, el partido. Fuimos al Fan Fest (una fiesta afuera del estadio con pantallas gigantes), donde conocimos a Silvio y Kevin; un nicaragüense adoptado de niño por un noruego que ahora lo llevaba a Alemania y un canadiense atípico en su amor por el fútbol si lo comparamos con el coterráneo promedio y su pasión por el hockey.
 
Es increíble el poder de convocatoria que tiene el fútbol. Antes de darme cuenta, este evento al aire libre hervía de fanáticos de ambos equipos; pero además habían multitud de ingleses, australianos, españoles, ecuatorianos, mexicanos (no se imaginan cuantos)y hasta de países que no fueron al mundial como Bulgaria, Canadá, Finlandia...
 
Yo me instalé estratégicamente junto al kiosko de venta de Berliner (ya le tomé el gusto, y además es muy barata). Ahí, pedí mi cerveza correspondiente y fue lo último que pagué esa noche. Entre Silvio y Kevin iniciaron una especia de concurso de embriagamiento colectivo que tenía muy poco que ver con el fútbol. Empezaron a comprar cerveza por litro para todos los que estábamos en los alrededores.
 
Conclusión: me contaron que el segundo tiempo estuvo muy bueno. Los tiempoes extras, junto con la expulsión de Zidane, pasaron frente a nuestros ojos como un borroso suspiro. La tanda de penalties fue el éxtasis, con gente saltando y abrazándose eufórica cada vez que alguien (el que sea) anotaba (o fallaba) el disparo. El tiro final, sello de la victoria italiana, hizo estallar en gritos de locura a los cientos que se habían congregado en el lugar. Silvio, Kevin, Pawet y yo trepamos a una mesa a gritar "Italia!, Italia!, Italia!" con un empeño que envidiaría en tifosi más recalcitrante de Nápoles. Todo el mundo se pintó de verde, blanco, rojo... y azul. Fue el caos más organizado que he visto.
 
Creo haber visto los tenues rayos del sol anunciando el nacimiento del nuevo día cuando regrese al hostal (si! conseguí un lugar mucho más decente para quedarme esa noche!)...