Monthly Archives: June 2012

HORSEMEN

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A more flattering portrayal of the Horsemen by Viktor Vasnetsov

“And I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them ovr a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth.”—Revelation 6:8

I used to know a gand of four that called themselves, a-hem, dramatic voice, THE 4 HORSEMEN OF THE APOCAYLPSE.

They were a travelling group of alcoholic, pill popping, train hopping hobos. Thieves, brawlers, and criminals who rode the rails and got arrested in cities coast to coast. I won’t say I ran with the crowd, but I lived with a couple of them for awhile and our paths crossed for years. The wild years, I call them.

The 4th Horseman was a rotating position that a few people filled. In that regard they were like a rock band that couldn’t retain a solid drummer in their line up. I don’t remember or know the different people that held the position of 4th Horseman.

The 3rd Horseman, Jess, found his way out. At some point he realized he could either change his ways or continue on a path of thievery, hard alcohol, morphine and other drugs, violence, and jail. One of the other Horsemen, Loose Bruce, almost cut his head off with a hunting knife one drunken night. He decided to go straightedge, become a Buddhist, and use his artistic talent (which was amazing) to become a talented tattoo artist. That is what I heard, at least. He decided to try to not talk to people from his past, for obvious reasons. Good on him.

This story is about the 2nd and 1st Horsemen, Rusty and Loose Bruce.

Rusty is dead. By suicide or by passing out in a very unfortunate location he was hit by a train and that was that. I had a different blog at that point and wrote an unflattering eulogy of him. “Well, it’s true,” I justified. It was wrong of me to do and I regret it. I don’t think it is a good practice to speak ill of the dead, even if it’s true, even if they are a total fuck up. We will all be there someday.

“Life is uncertain, but death is for sure.”—Traditional Saying

I’m not sure where Horseman number 1, Loose Bruce, is these days. Maybe he cleaned up his act. Maybe he’s in jail in any one of the 50 states. Maybe he’s walking shirtless, blood dripping down his face with a torch through a hobo jungle somewhere.

I have a LOT of crazy stories I could tell you about these guys.  Stories of chaos and bloodshed and jail and empty bottles of Old Thompson. Big trouble from Utica to Milwaukee, Portland, Tennessee to Alaska.

But of all of those stories, for some reason I feel like telling this one. I didn’t see it firsthand, but heard the story straight from the Horsemen’s mouths.

Rusty and Loose Bruce had been drinking for days, probably weeks. They had a problem– they were out of booze, out of smokes. They had no money, of course. No one was bumming them anything, no booze, no smokes, not dime one. They were hanging out in people’s yards, wherever they wandered. They wanted to keep the party rolling, so in a sloppy, drunken lightning flash of Horseman thinking, they decided to do a beer dash robbery. They had done them before, everywhere they went, sea to shining sea.

So they headed to the Open Pantry. The plan: Rusty would take a carton of cigarettes, Bruce would grab two suitcases of beer and then they would run out the door. A “suitcase” is what we called an 18-pack of cans.

Staggering and covered with a layer of alcohol sweat and dirt, they entered the Open Pantry, trying to look casual. Bruce grabbed two suitcases out of the cooler. Rusty approached the counter.

“Uh, yeah,” he said. “I’d like to purchase a carton of Marlboros.” The cashier rang him up, eyeing him suspiciously.

“Well, I need to see ‘em before I buy ‘em.” Rusty said. “I got to make sure dem are the right ones, see.”

The woman held up the carton cautiously.

“GIVE ME DEM FUCKIN SMOKES, BITCH!” Rusty shouted, snatching the carton from the woman’s hand and bolting out the door. Bruce was chugging after him with the brews.

This is the part of the story where I like to imagine it in ultra slow motion, like in a movie. Guns N Roses’ version of “Knockin on Heaven’s Door” is playing. Bruce was running and turned to look over his shoulder, but he should have been watching where he was going. His foot hit the concrete bar at the end of a parking space and he tripped, falling forward. The suitcases went flying from his hands and he fell onto the ground.

In the air, the flimsy glue holding the cases together burst and a shower of silver cans rained down on the parking lot. Bruce shouted, “RRROOOOAAR!” He flailed and grabbed at the cans of beer. Rusty skidded to a halt and stumbled back. But it was too late.

The woman in the Open Pantry had pushed the panic button and the cops were just down the street and Rusty and Bruce were surronded by flashing red and blue lights.

And then they went  to jail, again.

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An Endorsement of Sorts

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Mayor Tom Barrett, left, faces Governor Scott Walker in a recall election today.

For many years I worked as a cashier at a joint named the Brady Street Pharmacy. Finding a place like this is rare now– it was an independently owned greasy spoon, convenience store, and pharmacy. It had what we call in the writing biz a lot of “character.” I also called the place the “Joke Factory” and “Wingnut Central Station.” It closed down and the reason for that– to be blunt– was because my boss, Jim, was moonbat crazy. (Need hard evidence? Here you go: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5otQKJ9Lxuw)

After a long, stubborn battle, the Pharmacy’s doors shut permanently and it is now the Glorioso Bros. grocery and deli.

It is difficult to document all the mistakes my former boss made that led to his business shutting down, but taking the role of an archaeologist, I’d say it was his decision to transform his grocery and greeting card section into a small theater (that sat about 40 people).

Although this was nice for some local thespians and artists, it cost him a lot of money with no realistic plan to see a return on his investment. As money flew out of his business, Jim decided to blame not himself, but that perpetual villain we all loathe: the politician. He began to write a series of angry e-mails.

“Here, proof this for me,” he told me one day, handing me a draft of an e-mail addressed to Senator Herb Kohl. It was a long, rambling screed that made no sense. I corrected his spelling errors and handed it back, completely puzzled as to the point.

Soon after, he wrote another rant to Mayor Tom Barrett and gave it to me to read, a defiant look on his face. Again, it didn’t make any sense. The wording was very angry. A paragraph in I realized it was unreadable, so I made pretend that I was reading the rest of it, moving my eyes back and forth, and handed it back to him.

“Very interesting approach, Jim.” I told him, handing the letter back.

“Oh boy! This is really going to shake up city hall!” He told me, and began strutting around the dingy grey carpet of the Pharmacy like he was Paul Revere.

“Mmm-hmm.” I replied.

***

The next day I dragged myself into work. I was tired. Jim was waiting up front by the cash register, his arms folded in front of him.

“Do you remember that e-mail I sent off to city hall?!” He said, giddy with himself.

“Yes.” I replied.

“No response from them, the cowards!” He told me, then went on a spiel about him, the little man, throwing a stone at the Goliath of city hall, who was too scared to look him in the eye by answering his e-mail.

***

I came into work the next day. When Jim saw me come in, he almost ran up to the counter to talk to me.
“Guess what! No reply to my e-mail! I guess I was too much for them to handle…with a hey nonny nonny and a ha cha cha!” Jim randomly broke into song and dance sometimes, and he started doing an awkward version of the Charleston down the aisle. Like I said, moonbat.

***

The day after that, I walked into work and  Jim was talking to some little old ladies who were regulars. They could hardly see or hear but he was telling them about how he was like Jimmy Stewart’s character in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, it was a tough fight, but his unanswered e-mail proved that city hall was shaking in fear of him.

“Otherwise, they’d answer my e-mail,” he told them proudly.
“What?” Said one of the little old ladies.

I got to work with the pricing gun, labelling mouthwash and generic cookies and such.

Later in the afternoon I was still pricing stuff when Mayor Tom Barrett walked through the doors. I smiled.
“Hi!” He said.
“Mayor Barrett.” I said, and shook his hand.
“I’m looking for Jim,” he said. “I understand he has some things he’d like to talk to me about, I got an e-mail from him.”
“He’s at his desk back there,” I said, pointing to the pharmacy counter. “So…have fun with that, Mayor Barrett.”

Jim’s afternoon ritual was to lean back in his chair and sleep and if anyone needed him, they’d have to fake cough or clear their throat, which is what the Mayor did. Jim stood up, opened his eyes, and I’ll never forget the look on his face. It was a great moment, he looked absolutely shocked. I thought he might faint.

Jim was a lot less combative face to face. He talked in a polite tone and the Mayor listened, nodding his head, and listened and listened and tried to follow along with what he was saying. After he listened, and Jim was finally done with his monologue, he bought some popcorn and left.

Jim came up near the register. I was hoping I could kind of get him to admit defeat by casually asking:

“So how about that, the Mayor responded to your e-mail in person?”

“Yeah.” Jim said. For once he was out of things to say.

Now, this story isn’t really a political one. It’s not a good reason to vote for someone, and I’m not qualified enough to tell you who to vote for.  I was personally more impressed with the Mayor after that, which is part of the reason I’ll be voting him for governor in the recall election today.

The other reason, I guess, is that I think Scott Walker sucks.