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I was talking with another writer the other night. She is
working hard to remove the “I” from her work and divorce herself from the story,
whereas I am going the other direction, trying to talk more about me and the
effects of the events around me have on my psyche. The discussion inspired a
tale that tells of events more personal than I’ve ever divulged, some of them
pretty damn depressing. But depression is a creative lubricant for me, so at
least you get lubed with this one. Bend over for another round of…
LIVING IN A SHOTGUN SHACK
My roommate, D.C., bought his own place, a Cabbagtown house similar to the shotgun shack these takes are named after – dark, dingy, nicotine-stained paint, and not a square joint in the house. But it was one of those places that had potential. Pull out the old suspended ceilings, clean up the hardwood floors, a fresh coat of paint and you’d have a charming intown house.
I don’t remember who proposed the idea of throwing a housewarming party before he actually moved in, but it was brilliant. He was still cleaning the place up anyhow and there would be no furniture to get in the way.
Valentine’s Day was coming up. I was on the rebound from a strange romance (different story) and D.C. was single so a theme was born – an anti-Valentine’s party where everyone was required to bring someone single.
We’d have kegs and bands, make a real soiree out of it.
There were a couple of women I was dating
at the time. Well, “dating” may be too strong a word for
it, really. “Seeing” is probably better.
I had met A.G. at school, a fellow art education major with a cynical, skewed view of life, much like my own. At a party at my apartment she started hitting on me, brazenly.
I told her outright, “Look, I’m not looking for a relationship right now.”
“Who said I was?” she answered.
“Hey, I’m cool with that,” I said. She was cute and seemingly convenient.
About the same time, I met V.P. She, too, was in need of a friend with benefits. I was up front with her about my lack of interest in romance as well.
The V-Day party arrived. Three bands, a couple of kegs, and a room done up like a highschool dance complete with the floor covered in balloons.
We invited the neighbors so it would be less likely they’d call the cops. One of these neighbors showed up before the official start time of the party but, being neighborly, D.C. invited him in. He was a Cabbagetown resident in the old, pre-gentrification way – thick southern accent and mildly retarded from a bit of inbreeding and/or multiple trips to jail. He got drunk before the party even began. When the drummer for one of the bands, Dragline, showed up, the neighbor stumbled into the hall and unceremoniously puked on him right as he walked in the door.
“Welcome to Cabbagetown!” we later joked.
I was amazed the drummer stuck around, but he washed up, changed shirts and kept loading in the gear. A good omen.
The crowds began trickling in. It wasn’t that big a house, but without any furniture there was enough room for a good social gathering.
In those days I didn’t have a lick of sense when it comes to women. Really.
I barely have any now, and I’ve earned that through repeated mistakes like this one – I invited both V.P. and A.G. Apparently I hadn’t learned this lesson on New Year’s Eve a few years back. (Fuck, I’ve even made a similar mistake again since this story. Yes, I am a complete and total moron.) I told them both that I was single for the night, that it wasn’t a date, that we were all consenting adults. I figured one or both would back out or flake. But of course they both showed up and of course they both expected my undivided attention. I did my best to be footloose and fancy-free but whenever I passed by one or the other she would pull me aside for some flirty chat. It swelled my ego at the time, but now I roll my eyes at my own stupidity.
The party was going great. People spilled out onto the porch despite the February weather. Young faces, lots of people dressed to impress, beer flowing, a band crammed into a corner of one room with barely enough space to squeeze past them to get into the rest of the house – perfect.
By the time the second band started up a couple of kegs were already sucked dry.
I stumbled across another girl that had been a friendly flirt with me. I don ’t remember how it happened, but we ended up in a kiss. It wasn’t a pass on my part, though it might have been on hers. 10 years later I can’t even remember who it was. (Hey, if you’re reading this I apologize. Of course by now you’re thinking how lucky you are not to have gotten tangled up with me...) A.G. spotted us and got worked up into a huff. She turned to complain to the first female she could find, coincidentally V.P.
“Goddammit, Frederick’s got his tongue down some girl’s throat!”
“Really?” V.P. answered, feigning surprise. She knew I was a dog and found A.G.’s shock hilarious.
The party rolled on. The music was loud and it was getting late so it’s no surprise when someone yelled in my ear that the cops were there. I went out on the porch to greet them.
“Do you live here?”
“Uh, no, but I kind of organized this thing.”
He looked a little confused but fortunately D.C. stepped out the door at that moment.
“But he lives here!” I said.
“What’s the problem, officer?” D.C. asked, as if the house wasn’t shaking behind us, the windows weren’t rattling from the music, and drunks weren’t stumbling through the yard.
“You know you're violating a noise ordinance?”
D.C. asked, in a tone that sounded both ignorant and completely innocent, “Really?”
I had to suppress a giggle.
The cop’s tone turned frustrated, “Yeah!”
“You want us to turn it down then?”
“OK, no problem.”
“Well… OK ‘cause if I have to come back I have to shut you down.”
The officer seemed prepared to deal with someone less cooperative and was confused by our easy acquiescence.
D.C. went in and asked the band to turn it down. They did another two songs at a slightly lower volume and the cop moved on.
V.P. found me and told me about A.G.’s complaints and we both kind of giggled about it. I figured I had my choice between the two of them that night and that moment cinched it - A.G.’s flare-up of pointless jealousy combined with V.P.’s laughing about it meant I’d be spending the night in V.P.’s bed, or have her in mine.
Meanwhile, a walk through the house showed I wasn’t the only one who was taking advantage of the readily available single people. D.C. was against the wall with some skinny blonde’s tongue down his throat. D.N. was in the other room with some other girl doing the same. The party was a complete and total success.
A.G. made a play for my attention but the last band came on and the lead singer yelled “We're gonna do it 'till the cops kick us out!”
I hopped into the living room as they cranked up the volume and brought down the roof – literally. Chunks of ceiling began falling around us. G.N. and myself laughed at the scene, but I knew it spelled a return of the police.
Things were getting louder and louder. I went into the hall and shut the front door and stood staring out the window, ready to walk out and tell the officer we’d comply with his wishes.
But the cops didn’t show. The band rocked on, getting louder, and the cops didn’t show. I waited and waited, but still no police.
“Fuck this,” I said, and turned to some random guest, “Make sure this stays shut,” pointing toward the front door. I leapt into the living room to thrash about with other guests, stumbling into the mike stand and bumping into other dancing fools. I was determined to enjoy the show while it lasted.
Which was about 15 more minutes.
Suddenly I saw a cop walking through the living room – not waiting patiently on the porch for the host, but striding through the house. I started to chase after him but I spotted D.C. following him. Suddenly the lights and music died – they had killed the main breaker, leaving us standing in the living room with only the flashing blue lights coming through the windows to illuminate the scene.
“Everybody out in 10 minutes or I have to issue a ticket,” said the cop.
It took longer than 10 minutes, but we herded everyone out the door.
I grabbed V.P. and made a break for it. It wasn’t the cops I was dodging, it was a jealous A.G. We got away clean.
Then got dirty at her apartment. The sex was good.
At school, A.G. seemed fine with the whole event. She asked me out and we had a fine date. We shared a fair amount in common and at a different time in my life it might have worked out for a while. The sex was awkward but not necessarily in a bad way, just in slightly distracting way, one of those hurdles you could get past with a little practice. School was busy and I didn’t want it to feel like we were dating, so we didn’t practice often, but it was often enough to get good at it.
The end of the quarter was coming up. A.G. met me at Dottie’s for the usual Tuesday free pool and cheap beer night. One of the Dottie’s regulars that had become a friend, B.L., was there (no relation to the B.L. of previous
stories.) She and A.G. got to talking and decided we should all go somewhere for spring break.
“Well, it’ll have to be the second weekend because that first weekend I’m going to Boulder with V.P.” I said.
“That’ll work,” they said. Plans were made for a road trip to New Orleans.
Spring break arrived. V.P. and I boarded a flight to Denver where we rented a car and drove along the edge of the Rockies to Boulder. She had been to college there and knew the town well. The wedding was fine, met some of her friends, had a night out on the town followed by some strange but fun sex in the hotel. The next day we drove up into the mountains. Breathtaking scenery, some gambling at a random ghost-town-turned-casino and another night of extraordinary sex. I think there might have been another day of that in there somewhere, I can’t remember the details, but you get the idea.
We flew home and two days later I was on Bourbon Street with A.G. and B.L., cruising from bar to bar. The strip was full of tourists so we found our way off the main drag to strange, funky bars. The Abbey was a small place that stayed open 24/7 with a cute staff that attracted a diverse mix of hardcore drunks and hipsters. We drank late into the night, eventually staggering back to find the streetcar that took us to the hotel.
I don’t remember if it was that night or the next morning, but I remember the sex with A.G. – spectacular sex standing up in the shower while B.L. slept (or at least we hoped she was asleep (or we really didn’t care.)) We repeated the bar hopping routine the next evening, hopping from bar to bar but eventually returning to The Abbey. I don’t remember whose idea it was, but someone proposed a round of “I Never…”, a drinking game I cannot recommend avoiding strongly enough.
For the uninitiated, each person takes a turn, stating something they’ve never done. It usually begins fairly tame, “I’ve never been to Europe.”
Anyone that has experienced whatever the person said has to take a drink. In this way you find out who’s done what. The game inevitably turns sexual and everyone giggles or groans at what others confess.
B.L. started things right off with “I never kissed V.P.”
Well I had and I wasn’t afraid to admit it so I took a gulp of my drink.
A.G. leapt up and stomped over to the bar, pissed. B.L. giggled. I just shook my head. Crap, A.G. had watched me kiss someone else. I had told her flat out I wasn’t interested in romance, much less monogamy. But before I could mention this to B.L., A.G. reappeared.
“I’m ok, I’m ok. I got mad, but I’m over it,” she said, or something to that effect.
I used my turn for something less dangerous, as did A.G.
On her second turn, B.L. said, “I’ve never slept with V.P.”
I shot B.L. an “Oh, you bitch” look.
Oh well. I took another drink.
“GodDAMMIT! I can’t BELIEVE you!” A.G. yelled, or something to that effect.
She stormed out the door.
“I don’t understand,” B.L. said, “how could she not know?”
“I don’t know! Everyone knows! It’s not like I’ve been keeping it a secret, even from her!”
We assumed A.G. had fled back to the hotel so we sat and drank for a good while, discussing the situation with disbelief and even joking about it.
Eventually we made our way out the door, drunk as hell, only to find A.G. sitting on the curb out front.
“Oh – um, are you…?” I started to ask, but she wouldn’t talk to me.
We headed down the sidewalk with A.G. walking 10 yards ahead, fuming. It would’ve been incredibly uncomfortable, if we hadn’t been sloshed.
Eventually we got enough out of her to learn she expected us to escort her back to the hotel. I think we walked her to the trolley stop and got her on board, then turned back into the French Quarter to party on.
B.L. and I returned to Bourbon Street and hit a few more stops. Then a few more. Next thing we know its 5:30 AM. We boarded the streetcar back to the hotel.
“You know what would be funny?” B.L. asked.
“If we got back to the room and got in bed together,” B.L. joked.
It would be a cruel joke. A.G.’s jealousy had already exploded and even kidding around would be poking an angry bear.
“Sheesh. I can see it now. ‘Oh Fred!’” I said, mimicking orgasmic screams.
We both burst into hysterics, “She’d kill us both.”
We didn’t stop giggling all they way up the elevator. In the hall I tried to hush B.L., still giggling, “Shh-sh-sh, she’ll think we’re laughing at her.”
We opened the door. A.G. was in B.L.’s bed.
B.L. immediately went for my bed. I shook my head and waved my hands at her in a silent “No! You’re going to get us killed!”
She jumped on the bed, giggling, for just long enough to make me terrified.
I stayed the hell away from her. I might have even hidden in the bathroom.
Eventually we settled down for the night, B.L. in her bed with A.G. and me alone in mine. At some point B.L. got up to puke and didn’t quite make it to the bathroom, but I barely noticed.
I awoke to the sound of packing. My head felt like you’d expect it to feel after drinking syrupy hurricanes, cheap liquor and beer all night. I peered out from under the pillows. A.G. was throwing her stuff into her suitcase.
“Uh… what are you doing?” I said, trying to sound caring but barely sounding alive.
She didn’t answer. She headed into the bathroom to pack her toiletries. I looked at B.L., “ok, you ask her.”
“I’m not asking her.”
“Well she’s not talking to me.”
A.G. walked back into the room to fetch something else.
“What’s going on?” B.L. asked.
“I’m leaving,” A.G. answered, and walked out the door.
We weren’t due to leave for another day. The drama had woken me up and my hangover wouldn’t let me go back to sleep, so I dredged myself from the bed.
Eventually B.L. did the same and a while later we staggered, zombie-like, into the lobby.
A.G. was sitting on a couch next to her luggage, seething.
“Find out what’s going on,” I said to B.L.
“I’m not talking to her, you find out.”
I tried to talk to her but she wouldn’t acknowledge my existence, much less answer any questions. I walked back over to B.L., “Well she’s not talking to me! And we need to know what the hell is going on.”
B.L. talked to her. A.G. had called her mother and gotten a plane ticket home.
“Shit, we’re leaving in the morning, can’t she just wait?” I asked.
B.L. just shook her dead.
I shrugged. There wasn’t anything else to be done. B.L. and I went to the zoo.
We walked slowly, sipping water or Gatorade, with eyes nearly shut in a hungover haze. It was obvious the life had gone out of us. We decided to split and packed for home. It was a long drive.
When school started again I was surprised when A.G. talked to me. I was even more surprised when she asked me to model for project for photo class. I declined but she insisted, saying she didn’t have anyone else that would do it. I finally gave in.
She came to my apartment with her camera and a few props, including a 6” floppy pink dildo.
“Um…?” I said, holding the thing up.
“I thought it could be fun,” she said, trying to be flirty.
But she didn’t come off as flirty, she came off as utterly insane. Somewhere along the line she told me a story about how she’d gotten pissed at an ex-boyfriend and vandalized his car. I’d heard enough. The sex wasn’t that good.
A couple of weeks later I got a card from A.G. She was pregnant.
Yes, we’d had The Talk – “Yes, I’m clean, how about you? Yes, I’m on birth control. Let’s not use condoms.”
Yes, I have since learned my lesson, through repeated mistakes like this one.
Yes, I am a complete and total moron.
But there it was, hand-written inside a card with a baby elephant on the cover.
I wasn’t ready to be a father. To be blunt, I didn’t think she was ready to be a mother either. We were both broke, a year away from graduation, and, most importantly, not in the least bit emotionally stable. After lengthy debate, she opted not to have the kid. We didn’t speak after that.
The whole episode sent me deeper into the pits. Its no surprise that I ended up dating V.P. full-time – I was lonely and half out of my skull. She was in the same state, so we were perfect together – a codependent nightmare. But that’s an entire series of stories unto itself.
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