Tuesday, March 31, 2020


After losing his teaching job, Lizard went back to working as a bouncer, and he got a job in a topless dive.  It wasn't a fancy place; rather, it was one of those little block buildings on the side of a busy highway surrounded by dirt and parking lot, the kind of place you hesitate to go if you have anything to lose.

New, stricter morality rules were being enforced in the county at the time, and lap dances were banned.  There could be no touching the girls.  Lizard was there to make sure that the girls were safe.  One night a fellow, drunk and obnoxious, kept reaching up on the stage, so Lizard told him he needed to leave.  Lizard said that he made a mistake, though.  Usually, he said, he'd take hold of the fellow and throw him out, but for some reason he just followed this guy until they got to the door.  That's when the fellow turned and hit Lizard in the face.  Lizard said he felt his eye pop and he could taste the blood in the back of his throat.  The guy was wearing a big class ring, and it had caught Lizard's eyeball.  Lizard said that he beat the fellow almost to death in rage.  Both he and his victim were taken to the hospital.

He could never really see out of that eye again.  He said he saw light and shadows, but there were no specific images.

Lizard was a mess of accidents, though.  As his deadlifting technique evolved, he widened his stance more and more so that he didn't have to raise the bar as high off the floor.  One day, though, during an attempted lift, he had to drop the bar.  This wasn't unusual, but because his feet were spread so wide, the weights caught his little toe inside his thin, leather lifting shoes.

He lost the toe.

On another day, while squatting something heavy, he went to put the bar back on the machine shop metal rack that had been in the gym from time in memoriam.  But his hands were too wide on the bar and his little finger got caught between the metal pin and the bar holding hundreds of pounds.  The tip of his finger was severed.  Remarkably, Lizard quickly reached down and popped the fingertip into his mouth.  The hospital was only a couple blocks from the gym, and one of the fellows drove him right there.

They were not, however, able to reattach the finger.

Lizard kept it preserved in a jar of formaldehyde.  He kept it in his gym bag to show everyone.

I have to confess, I was impressed by the way he handled things.  He was Germanic and a Neo-Nazi gun collector.  He craved order.  He did things by the clock and by the calendar.  Most of all, he believed in white supremacy.  He would have made a good Hitler Youth.

Those traits made Lizard a consummate researcher and archivist, and he turned his attention more and more toward genealogy.  He did what research he could in libraries and data bases in town, but he eventually began making trips to Alabama, his ancestral home.  There he went through birth records and hospital records and obituaries keeping detailed documentation in his notebooks.  What he was finding through his research, however, was beginning to piss his family off--at least some of them.  He began to see that there was a lot of fuzzy recording of certain birth reports.  What he came to realize was that names were often left off if the child might have been considered a mulatto by the reporting.  He found that there were a lot of fuzzy recording in his family archives.  He went back to Alabama often, and his research grew.  He began visiting black families whose names were recorded in some of the state's documents, and he found that many of them were cousins.  And while his white relatives were not pleased by his findings, his new black family was delighted.  They welcomed him to their family and it was they he went to visit and stay with on subsequent trips.

"I'm a quarter black," he told me one day at the gym.

"No shit," I said.  "This comes as a surprise to you?  Why do you think you're so strong in deadlifts?  You've got a big old ass.  And your hair?  It's wiry."

He turned and looked in the mirror.

"You know," he said, "There is a barbecue truck I stop at on my way home sometimes.  It is run by a black man.  The other night I told him that I was a quarter black and he gave me a lot more barbecue than he used to.  My brother."

One day, Lizard was contacted by a priest who had learned of his research.  The priest had been doing similar genealogical studies throughout the south showing the amount of miscegenation that took place and how it was often scrubbed from the records.  He wanted to see Lizard's research and invited him to come to Philadelphia to visit and to stay at the rectory.

Lizard was full of tales and full of himself when her returned.  He couldn't believe the opulence in which the priests lived.

"We all sat down to dinner at a long table.  There was steak and chicken and wine all served by waiters.  After dinner, we sat in leather chairs and smoked cigars while the servants cleaned up.  There were after dinner drinks. . . . "

He went on.  Lizard knew he had missed his calling.  But his past record prevented him from ever becoming  a priest.  Still, Lizard was changed by the experience.  The scholar/priest had praised his research and encouraged him to continue.  He would.  But he needed to make some money.

He thought he had a way.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Kong in Chains

Look at this, motherfuckers!  I worked for hours on this trying to figure out how to make my images look the way they used to.  This is not a Polaroid, but a Fuji, so it does not have that same look.  But working with the Fuji in Photoshop today, I remembered a lot of forgotten things and learned a few new ones in the bargain.  I did tricks I haven't done for seven years.  But, and here's the cool part, I think I learned something that will let me make digital images look more like this.  I think.  I will try it tomorrow.

"But why?" you might exclaim, "Why would you want your images to look like this?"  Well. . . there's a question, isn't it?  Why, indeed.  I don't know.  A friend of the blog asked me the other day what my intentions were in my photography?  I told her that I could be glib or I could try to be profound, but the simple reason was probably I just do it for the attention.

Of which I'm getting less all the time.

The gym tales have garnered me some compliments, but in the last week, visits to my blog have been halved.  No photographs and poorly wrought tales have done me little good, and I'm posting twice a day.

These bawdy pictures are for the nighttime.  They will surely garner me trouble.

It looks like we will be in lockdown for some time to come.  I'm shocked.  Trump's predictions were wrong.  Still, the market blew up again today.  I can't figure anything in this world out.  But I felt my healthiest in weeks today.  Got up full of energy, or, as they used to say, piss and vinegar.  Did a pretty good workout.  Then had energy to work on pics.  Pic, that is.

But now the Trump Corona is beginning to hit its stride, and we will all be in lockdown for a very long time. My liver will be in a pickle jar if I don't get something else to tame me.  Now that I"m feeling well, I feel like Kong in chains.

Good name for a band.  "Kong in Chains."

Everyone is telling me to read "My Dark Vanessa" by Kate Elizabeth Russell.  Why do my friends associate me with such things?  But I will download it tomorrow and begin.  If you are not familiar, it is a bit of Lolita told from her standpoint.  Fifteen rather than twelve, of course.  An English teacher who seems cool.  Etc.

Why are such things so fascinating?

Alright, O.K.  I'm going to watch some "Tiger King" and nibble a brownie.  Ha!

And then I'll go to bed.


Not everyone at the gym was a champion of some kind.  In general, they was a coterie of lunatic misfits and badasses.  Training there was like being in prison or being part of a biker gang.  I used to kid that I was the only one there who didn't have a parole officer.  It was half true.  But there was a group of them a few years older than I who had gone to high school together, and these many years later, the residue of that still clung to them.

Lizard was a powerlifter, but he hadn't started out that way.  His real name was Richard, but he had a predilection for sticking his tongue out slightly and running it around the contours of his lips.  In high school he had bee a skinny cross country runner.  Apparently, he had been picked on, perhaps severely.  At least that is what I picked up from the stories that were told when he wasn't around. His attitude about "getting even" with a number of people fairly confirmed it.

Lizard was a couple years older than I and had begun working out at the gym before I became a member, so I only got this story secondhand.  But as the story goes, he had wanted to be a bodybuilder and as he got bigger, he decided to train for the local bodybuilding title.  Several of his "friends" in the gym were giving him advice on how to get ready for the big event.

"Milk," they said.  "That's the secret.  You just have to keep pounding the milk straight through until the contest."

Of course this was ludicrous, but that's what Lizard did, and of course he didn't get very cut by showtime.  When he went out on stage and ran through his poses, he looked like a big, chunky baby, they said.  I heard this in the locker room when Lizard wasn't around.  Ho, everybody laughed at that story over and over again.

Lizard's reaction?  He never stopped drinking milk.  Up until the day he left town (more on that later), he drank a gallon of milk a day.  He always had milk with him and would take big gulps from the plastic gallon container.

And he got stronger.  As a power lifter, his specialty was the deadlift.  There is probably no competition you could watch that is duller than watching someone pick up a big bar of weights until they stood upright, but in the state, there was nobody better at it than Lizard.  Nationally, he was one of the top fifty lifters in the country.

Of course, steroids helped.  Lizard was an A number 1 abuser.  He used everything he could get his hands on.  For a while, he was shooting gorilla hormones and bull hormones.  I have no idea what these actually were, probably something that vets used, but I never found out.  Lizard was big, around 6'2" and 260 pounds, but the other guys still liked to fuck with him.  He was an easy target in many ways.  He had a peculiar personality.  He was like the Rain Man in much of his behavior.  He was very particular about certain things.  Before he would lift, he took all the plates he would use and lined them up on the deadlift platform.  Of course, there were a lot.  He had a specific bar, too, a favorite bar, that he had to use.  He was a pain in the ass that way, but usually nobody said anything.

Lizard wasn't a good looking guy.  Actually, he was worse than that.  The teeth in his small mouth were twisted and broken.  His jaws were perpetually clinched, his teeth grinding.  He wore cheap glasses that made his tiny eyes look huge, and his skin bore the signs of acne-laden teen years.

And he dressed like a janitor.

He lived at home with his parents until well in to his thirties so that he could do nothing but train and eat.  After he moved out, he needed a job, and he began working as a bouncer.  He, like many others in the gym, would tell tales of beating people half to death the night before.  Lizard was especially pleased if someone actually shit his pants as a result.  Bouncers and cops had an agreement at the big bars.  They were all friends.  The story always went the same way in the report.  The bouncer asked the customer to leave and the customer became belligerent and eventually got physical.  This was always witnessed by another bouncer in the club.  And so in self defense, the bouncer. . . would beat the man until he shit his pants.

Something like that.

Lizard had a history degree, and remarkably one day he announced that he had gotten a teaching position at a jr. high school.  It seemed ridiculous.  It seemed a joke.  Abruptly, Lizard had entered the middle class.  He bought a small house in a marginal part of town.  He went to work every day and trained after school.  His entire routine had shifted.  But he was happy.  He liked to terrify the boys.  Nobody acted up in his classes, he said.  He must have looked like a monster to those boys.

But the little girls, well, that was another thing.

He only managed to keep the job for a couple years.  It was bound to happen.  This was a perfect formula for disaster.

There was a little girl who lived in a trailer park who started flirting with him.  She did what little girls do, showed him her panties or whatever, and he just lost his mind.  She was fifteen, and her mother, he said, would drive her over to his house and drop her off.  Lizard was in love.

But, as little girls are wont to do, she told one of her girlfriends that she was fucking her teacher, and that little girl told one of the school counselors.  She reported this to the principal who got in touch with the feds which he was, by law, required to do.  And this started the investigation.

But Lizard always had a plan.  He was meticulous in his planning, as meticulous as he was with keeping notes in his tiny, perfect script.  You almost needed a magnifying glass to read his notebooks.  He had the handwriting of a serial killer.

So. . . one weekend, Lizard, the girl, and her mother drove to North Carolina where he got married.  The mother signed the papers.  Everything was legal.  It was unbelievable.  They couldn't prosecute him.

He lost his job, of course.  He never lived with his "wife," and I assume that after things were over the marriage was annulled or they got a divorce.  He never talked about that part.

But Lizard had bought a small house in a marginal part of town when he started teaching.  Now he needed an income.


(to be continued)

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Slow and Selfish

I'm leaving the gym saga aside for the moment.  I will probably write more on it today.  I'm still trying to find my feet, so to speak, living in perpetual isolation.  But I will visit my mother again today and a friend wants to come over and drink a scotch outside in the open air with me, socially distanced, of course.  Life becomes a balance.

In communicating with friends, I find that with all the time at home, they, like me, get nothing done.  It has lightened my mood to find that in this, I am not alone.  Houses are cluttered and messy.  Life seems to be a constant picking up and wiping down, but nothing ever looks as if it has been done.  Most people tell me they are in the same boat.  All grand plans are waylaid.  There is a constant piddling and staring.  We've become slow.  Completing one task seems like a major victory.

I don't know if I could trust someone who has responded to "stay in place" orders otherwise.

Even on my walks through the neighborhoods, people's smiles and waves and hellos seem slow.  It is as if everyone is moving through a gelatinized air.  I think of the stereotype about country people.  In everything, they were slow.

"Well, ma. . . whatcha thinking?"

After a pause: "Nothing really, pa. . . whatchu thinking?"

A minute later: "Nothing."

Of course, in the country people have always been socially isolated.  We're all becoming citizens of Briarpatch now.

That, of course, is for those of us who have the luxury to isolate ourselves.  Luxury, yes.  Reality is completely different for those who must go to work in hospitals, in clinics, for cops and city workers, for people who keep things running.  There are many realities we don't experience.  Your neighbor's suffering may be different from your own.

As always, however, that is theirs.  I have my own.  Their lives are abstractions.  Mine is deeply felt.  I wish it weren't so. . . I guess.  I read about doctors wrapped up in other people's misery, but every story ends as a record of their own reaction to the thing, their own acute feelings about helplessness.

Selflessness, even for the selfless, is very difficult to achieve.  I want to say impossible, but I know we all have moments when we would throw ourselves in front of a bullet to save someone else.  I know that is true.  Somewhere, deep down, there is that.  I'm sure many are more enlightened than I.

That's the sort of slow thinking I do around the house for hours and hours a day.  I have found little to distract me from it.  I have found little entertainment.  The television, more than ever, bores me.  Sometimes songs will succor, but they rarely distract.  I sit and shrivel like someone else's dick.

Ha!  I've been dying to use that line.  I didn't think it would come into play someplace like this, but I was getting far too morose.  And it's true.  With sickness and little to no exercise, I see myself shrivel when I look at my reflection in the mirror.  Like. . . ho, ho, ho.  Someone else's.  I kill me.

O.K.  I'm going to step outside and watch the morning grow, drink one last cup of coffee, then take another walk.

So. . . watcha thinking?

Saturday, March 28, 2020

The Tattoo Lady

I have just poured my first whiskey of the day.  It is glorious.  I know it is a bad, bad friend, but it comforts me nonetheless.  It will be here long after I'm gone being master to other fools.  What can I do, though?  Apparently I'm a fool for women and whiskey, both of which are glorious before they betray me.  I'm a goddamned country song.

All I need is a pickup truck.

My fourteen day quarantine ended yesterday.  I've been feeling fine for a few days now, so I went to my mother's house to sit in the front yard in chairs twelve feet apart and drink a little wine.  She liked that.  It was a beautiful evening under the big oaks, the variable breeze not steady but still wonderful. It was my first time out of the house other than walks in two weeks.  It was weird to sit and see a different horizon, almost disorienting.  But we sat out and chatted the way we do about relatives and neighbors and food, and after an hour and a half, I packed up to go home.

"Why?" she asked.

"Because that is where I live," I said, "and my dinner is waiting on me."

She never understands departures.  She would sit and talk about nothing until eternity.  I always have a hard time leaving.  It is always bad.

When I got home, the house smelled like the roast I had put into the pressure cooker before I left.  It is really the InstaPot or whatever it is called.  It is wonderful. I set the pressure cooker for half an hour, and after that it just keeps it warm.  I had covered the roast in big chunks of Kosher salt, course ground pepper, and covered it in red wine.  I put in two potatoes and two whole onions.

I ate it with a bottle of Sterling Cabernet.

Fuck, my friends. . . it was good.  It is the closest thing to sex I've had in a while.

The whiskey after cleaning up is clarifying.  It is mystical.  It is perfect.

Now the sun is setting and I am in for the night, just like the Surgeon General has ordered.  I am nothing if not a good citizen of the United States.

Unlike my tenant.  I think she is screwing the orthodontist across the street.  I've seen her coming from his house a couple times.  Today they were standing together in the yard.

"Hey you kids, get out of my yard or I'm going to turn on the sprinkler!" I yelled.

"Look," she said.  "Andy just washed my car."

Andy looked a little sheepish.

"What are you paying him?" I asked sarcastically.  He grinned.

When I got home and plated my dinner, I took it to the deck to eat outside.  Before I sat down, I turned on the sprinklers.  I had to run back in for a minute and when I went to the bedroom, I noticed that the two of them and a friend of the tenant's who I can't stand were sitting at a table in the yard.  Ho-ho, I thought, they are going to scramble when the sprinkler hits that zone.

I sat down to eat watching the sprinklers go through their zones.  I thought about it and couldn't do it. Before it got to them, I shut it off.  I would have liked to sit inside and watch them scramble, but I am just not that kind of guy.  Why they aren't sitting by Andy's pool, though, I don't know.

The photo I have posted is a sheet of Polaroids from one of the many boxes of Polaroids.  I have forty four of them, each holding from forty to fifty sheets.  That's right.  I have thousands of these.  This was from an early shoot with The Tattooed Woman.  I had seen pictures of her before all the tats.  She had been really very pretty.  She started dating a tattoo artist, though, and she was getting her tats for free.  She was doing a lot of drugs, she said, and got into some big trouble.  She wasn't allowed to drive any more.  She was brought to the studio by two friends of hers, a couple as tattooed as she.  As we shot, I asked her questions.  I really think I have some ability to hypnotize people.  I am a good listener and they tell me things that I don't think they usually say out loud.  At one point, she closed her eyes and confessed, "Sometimes I just wish they'd all go away."  But often the only way ahead is forward.  She was working on filling in all the empty spots with ink.

Now I need to write a narrative story about the gym.  I don't know, though, if I am up to it tonight.  I've had some drinks and the sun is almost down.  I could put on the television and rock it/rocket 'til bed.


Back in the Shit

I don't want to mislead you.  The gym was werid before Grymkowski showed up.  I wasn't a bodybuilder and never intended to be.  Weight lifting for me was a supplement to being athletic.  I guess maybe I wanted to be tough like my father.  Born in 1920, he grew up on a farm and got thick from working there.  He payed sports in high school, and he hung a burlap bag filled with dirt from the rafters of the barn to work out on.  He was a fleet boxing champion in the navy during WWII, and when he got out, he was a bartender and a bouncer and a boxing trainer for his brother-in-law who was a boxing promoter.  I. . . well, I was a hippie who was good at sports.  My father taught me to box early on.  I was on every all-star team growing up.  Until high school.  That is when coaches really started to hate me, and I couldn't get on sports teams because I wouldn't cut my hair.  In college, I hooked up with a bunch of fun hippie sports guys and we formed teams to play in just about every intramural event offered.  My roommate and I had gone to high school together, and his father had been our coach in the little leagues.  His father had played football in the army and was a pro football scout for the Baltimore Colts.  For a short while, he owned a semi-professional football team.  By the time we were in college, he had been recruited to be an assistant coach in the newly formed World Football League.  My roommate, like me, was a good athlete, but neither of us was anything like our fathers.

After college, I had moved out of my college town and was back in Redneckville where anyone like me was "probable cause," according to a cop I knew.  Life was a constant barrage of hostile encounters, and I figured I'd better do everything I could to keep from getting my ass kicked all the time.  There was only one gym in town.  It had a scary reputation, but I was an ideologue of sorts.  Hell, they couldn't keep me out of their gym.

So one Friday, I walked in and asked about joining.  They took my money and that was that.

On Saturday, I got dressed and headed to the gym for my first workout.  It was early-ish, maybe nine, and when I got there, the lights were off but the door was unlocked.  I walked in.  Nobody was there.  I stood still for a minute, then decided what the hell.  I walked over to a big contraption for sit-ups.  It was a machine shop piece, welded steel platform with a couple steps up, some pegs to slip your feet under, and an adjustable bench that lowered 90 degrees to the floor.  I was on my tenth sit up when a cop walked in.  He stood at the door a minute, looked around, then said to me, "Is anybody here?" Fuck me, I thought.  He'll arrest me for breaking and entering, trespassing, or maybe burglary.

"Just me," I said.  He walked to the back of the gym and into the locker room.  Christ, what if somebody has been murdered back there?  What if somebody is dead?

In a minute, he came out of the back in gym clothes, and in a minute more, another cop came in and joined him.  That was it.  A hippie with hair halfway down his back and two macho cops.  What could go wrong?  Neither of them spoke to me though they looked my way.

A bit later, two more fellows walked in, bikers, it appeared.  One guy was extremely handsome and built.  I believed I had seen him at a biker bar before.  They called him "Dresser," and he had a little two toned hat like the one Brando wore in "The Wild Ones."  He wore a brace on one leg over his jeans from hip to ankle.  The other fellow, Spike, was taller leaner, not as muscular as his buddy.  They didn't bother to change into gym clothes.  They simply walked to the squat rack and began loading up the bar.

The cops knew the bikers and right away they started to chat.

"I heard you guys got your asses kicked last night."

The two bikers, I would later learn, were members of the Warlocks, a biker gang associated with the Hell's Angels.  Apparently, from what I could gather, there had been some conflict between them and members of the Outlaws, a rival gang.

"Fuck we did."

"I heard you guys ran away like a bunch of sissies."

"Fuck you.  We ain't ever run away from nothing."

It sounded like things were getting heated, and I was getting nervous but enjoying it at the same time.  The cops were bigger than the bikers but who knows what would happen in a fight?  What would I do if the shit hit the fan?  Watch?  Piss myself?  Run?

It went on like that for awhile, heated, colorful, then just funny.  I began to realize that this was just the usual bullshit that went on here between them all the time.  Nobody said anything to me.  I wasn't part of it.  I had no status.  I was simply invisible.  But here I was back, I thought glumly, back in my old hometown, an ignorant, conservative, redneck place with no enlightenment, no food co-ops, no yoga on the lawn, no protests against the machine, no lunching with Krishnas on the Plaza of the Americas. . . .  Once again, as in former days, I was mingling with the criminals, maniacs, and miscreants of my youth.  This is what I had to look forward to now.  Those halcyon days in the biggest hippie college town in the entire south were gone.  I was back in the shit.

Still, it was more interesting than nothing.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Friday Night

Look!  I kinda did it like the old days.  It took me a long time, but. . . getting closer.  Still the only one who can do it.

I am writing between gym things so that I can talk and show some images.  That's the way it is right now.  So here's the report.

The maids have not been here for three weeks, so I decided it was time for me to change the sheets.  Wash them and change them.  I haven't made a bed for years.  Holy shit--it took me about ten times to  get the fitted sheet on the right way.  I am going to take an indelible marker to the top left corner so I'll know what is what from now on.  The bedding is clean, and I made the bed, but it doesn't look like it.  I can't make a bed for shit.  Can't fold towels correctly, either.  I've cleaned the house, but it looks like crack addicts have been living here.

My city/town/county is in lockdown because we have been inundated with Trump-19.  I don't know if I had coronavirus or not, and I probably will never know, but I kind of hope I did.  I'd like to have some immunities.  I have been hesitant to go to the store, so I ordered all my groceries online.  They could bring everything but meat, milk, and eggs.  WTF?  What's the fucking deal with eggs?  And what are people doing with milk?  Are they suddenly consuming this shit like Martians?  I'm living in the richest third world nation in existence.  Why can't I get eggs?

I ended up with potato chips, ice cream, a frozen pizza, and M&Ms.

Ooo. . . .

Jesus.  I just realized it is Friday night.  The streets are quiet and everything is closed.  I guess I'll pour another drink and party alone with Netflix.  I am not sure this is ever going to change.

The Phil Donahue Show

Pete Grymkowski was on the run, they said, from a subpoena in another state that would require him to testify against some old business partners who were "connected."  So he drove to Florida in his red corvette  shacked up there for awhile.

The guy was massive.  He was far and away the most muscular guy in the gym.  He was well known in the bodybuilding world having won most recently the IFBB Mr. World title.

 When he entered the gym, he brought an entirely new ethos.

Pete used anabolic steroids the way other lifters ate protein.  The gym was known for its 'roid use, but people were usually shooting testosterone or deca-durabolin once a week and taking orals like dianabol or anavar in between.  Pete's steroid regimen, however, was shocking.  He used multiple injections a day.  He surpassed everyone else's weekly dosage in an afternoon.  When he took oral steroids, he never bothered to count them.  He just opened the bottle and shook out a mouthful.  He used every anabolic drug the gym had ever heard of and introduced a few others.  The gym had entered a new era--BP and AP.  And it didn't take long.

Pete didn't hang around much.  He'd come in and train and maybe go up to the roof where there were some lawn chairs to get some sun.  Pete had slept up there his first few nights in town, but he wasn't the first or last.  In back of the gym was a little courtyard surrounded by a high fence.  At the foot of a concrete slab was a fireman's ladder bolted to the wall that led to the rooftop.  The roof was a typical flat tar roof with pipes, tubing. . . nothing else.  People would go up to smoke dope and lie in the sun after a workout, or they would go up at night when they had no place to stay.  Many of the guys at the gym had lived in other fellows carports and garages for periods of time, sleeping in lawn chairs for weeks, so a night or two on the roof was just a bit like camping.

One day in February, the Phil Donahue show came to Sea World to tape a show on bodybuilding.  Phil's guests for the show were Arnold Schwarzenegger and Franco Columbu.  Arnold had won his fifth  Mr. Olympia title the year before and had since announced his retirement  from competition.  Now, it was generally supposed, it was his training partner's turn to win.

Pete had an idea.  He thought it would be smart if a bunch of fellows from the gym went to the taping.  He put together a big cohort of steroid boys to sit together in the audience so they couldn't be ignored.  I had to work, but I managed to get away in time to make it to the taping.  When I arrived just before the show began, the fellows from the gym were all seated in front of the stage.  I was able to find an empty seat a few rows back.

The show began with Arnold doing his usual promotional schtick.  He was promoting the movie "Pumping Iron" which had just been released.  After a commercial break, Phil brought out Franco who stripped down and went through some of his posing routine after which Arnold told some stories about Franco and the relationship between them.  Then they went to break.  Before the next segment began, there was some talking and pointing by people running around on stage, and when the next segment began, Phil Donahue announced that there were some bodybuilders in the crowd from a local gym.   He invited several of them to join him onstage.  A handful of them went up and Phil went through the drill, asked them their names and let them talk about what they did, etc.  One of them, though, made a mistake.  Malone was a cop who was training for an upcoming state competition.  Malone was enjoying his moment in the spotlight--for a moment.  But Arnold, grinning, asked him to take off his shirt for the audience run through some poses.  Malone, looking stunned, started to explain how the training cycle worked.  There was a bulking up phase, he said, and a cutting up phase.  Right now, he said, he was bulking up and hadn't started to cut.

"You mean you're fat," Arnold laughed as Malone unbuttoned his shirt with uncertainty.  But there was no turning back, and when he had stripped down, he stood before America, big and stupid and smooth as a baby's butt.  Everyone in the audience was giggling.  It was horrifying.

After that bit of comedy, Donahue announced that Pete Grymkowski who was the reigning Mr. World was in the audience, and Pete came out on stage.  Pete was as big as Arnold who was not training for competition and surely wasn't going to undress, so Pete took off his shirt and pumped a few times.  There was an obvious animosity between Arnold and Pete when Pete declared that he had been blocked from competing in the Olympia contest.  He said he couldn't get an invitation.  It got awkward for a moment and Phil turned to Arnold who said that he would make sure Pete was invited to compete this year.  He guaranteed it.  "You come and compete against the best bodybuilders in the world.  We'll see you there."

Pete didn't stay in Florida long.  He had all the equipment shipped down from his old gym up north so he could train, and when he moved to California, he left it all behind.  But that isn't all he left.  Things were getting weirder.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

A Proposition

I think I am over the coronavirus or whatever I had.  I did another light workout today, less light than yesterday, and longer, then I took a walk, and I feel fine.  There are consequences to having been sick and isolated and alone for two weeks, though.  I am much slower than I was.  When walk, people pass me.  I am just bumbling along, apparently.  Well, whatever, right?  Everyone will tell you, "At least you're still alive."

My city/county just went into lockdown starting tonight.  I've already been there for two weeks.  This will not end soon, I think, but I've been wrong about most things.  I got out of the market at the bottom and then it boomed again.  It is Trump.  Maybe I shouldn't watch Wolf Blitzer.  Maybe Trump is right.  But I can't put my money on Trump.  Still, I keep losing.  But in one week we've gone from 8,000 to over 80,000 coronavirus cases.  Sure, you say.  That's because we are testing more people.  So riddle me this?  We've gone from 100 deaths to 1,100 deaths in the last week.  Ain't no testing problem there, pal.  We will surpass China in both probably by tomorrow.  Our hospital workers don't have what they need.  We are a third world nation.  Trump didn't listen to anybody, and now we are where we are. . . and Republicans love him more than ever.  His popularity has actually gone up since the coronavirus hit.  That is the country I live in.  You are the people I live with.

I keep betting against Trump, and I keep losing.

I wrote more gym tales today.  I will take a look at what I wrote tomorrow before I let it go.  I'm not enamored of  it.  It's o.k.  We'll see.  It is less intimate than the rest of them will be, I think.  They are going to get better the closer I get to the action.

So I sit alone again tonight.  I will finish watching "The Long Goodbye" which I started last night.  It is a good movie and holds up so well I watch it about once a year.  I will finish that and then something else.

I was wondering something today.  If people were given an offer that they could go to sleep tonight and not wake in the morning, would they take it?  Given the odds that life will end in misery, horror, and pain, would they take the opportunity to sidestep all of that?  It depends on how much fun you are having at the time the offer is made, I know, but still I wonder.  It would be an awfully hard but tempting proposition.

Strong Man

Even though visits to the site have dropped since I began writing gym stories, some of you have encouraged me to continue, so perhaps we should break out the milk and cookies and have another go.

The gym had been opened by the German Strong Man Milo Steinborn in 1952 and little had changed since.  By the time I joined in the 1970s, though, Milo had retired and only came in occasionally to check things out.  The gym still had posters of Milo and the walls sported his lifting records.  Most of the training equipment was what he had made.  There were giant rings that hung from the ceiling, some metal wall climb ladder, and other bits of paraphernalia that nobody used any longer.  

The structure itself was a simple two story stand alone cement block building.  It had been divided in two, one half hosting a florist shop, the other half the gym.  Each had a big plate glass window in front.  Inside, the gym was open to the rafters like a giant warehouse.  High up near the ceiling were a few small windows for ventilation.  The walls were lined with big mirrors.  The floors were cement.  When I first joined, there was no air conditioning, so in the summer the mirrors fogged up and the walls would sweat.  The equipment was old, much of it made in machine shops around town.  The old dumbbells were welded.  Attached to one wall was a homemade pull down machine that could hazardous if you weren’t careful.  Next to it was a wobbly, homemade leg press machine that required you to lie with your back flat on the floor.   The gym was basic and functional with bars and weights and benches.  But some transformation was in the offing.

When Milo came in to visit, everyone fairly held their breath.  He was as close to royalty as you came in that world.  He was thick with thick knuckles and swollen knees.  His entire body was filled with arthritis, you could tell, but he was still strong and sure and not somebody to mess with.  His accomplishments were near mythical.  He was the first person to ever squat over 500 pounds.  They had no squat racks in those days, so he had to do what became known as an unassisted squat.  He had to stand the weight on its side, squat down and tip it onto his back, then perform the movement from the bottom position.  The idea now seems unimaginable, but this was back in the 1920’s after he had been released from the prison camp where he was interred in WWI.  He also owned some other strength records including the one handed clean and jerk.  He began wrestling to make money and eventually moved to America in the 1930s.  He was widely known as the strongest man in the world.  Even at his advanced age, he could outperform anyone in the gym.  

He’d come in, take a regal look around, and talk to the new owners in his heavy German accent, then he’d walk around and say hello to the fellows.  He judged them the way a farmer judges hog or cows, giving them encouragement or advice the way Mohamed Ali might talk to amateur fighters.  He was famous for denouncing training techniques he did not like and was reported to once have yelled, "Put some weight on that bar.  I'll not have any pump boys in my gym."

Nobody really relaxed when he came in.  It was always a relief when he was gone.  At least that is how I felt.  I never got along with coaches.  I was never their "type."  I was good at sports, but they hated me, really, and they would do anything to fuck with me.  I was the only hippie training at the gym, so I just wanted to go out the back door whenever he came.  I would never have been allowed to join the gym if Milo still owned it.

But he didn't.  It had been bought by a group of guys, the main owner being a fellow named Rocky.  Rocky was a tall, slim bodybuilder with a frame like Frank Zane, sloe-eyed with large lids that never quite opened entirely.  He had a large, French nose with the small chin that often accompanies it in the manner of Charles de Gaulle.  Rocky was, for all purposes, a Pump Boy.  When he came in to train, he always brought a cassette player, as the gym had no radio, no speakers at all.   When Rocky showed up, however, the place became a disco.  Rocky loved discos and wore the open shirts and gold chains that were the accoutrements of the day.  His hair was perfectly coiffed in that John Travolta style and he sported a neat mustache.  He always trained in cut sweatshirts or t-shirts,  meticulously styled to compliment his figure.  He was a friendly guy, but he always maintained an air of mystery.  He was the guy who got the steroids.  He was the guy who knew the Patrons.  He was someone who could hook you up with just about anything you needed.

The year I came, he won the Mr. Florida bodybuilding title.  Bodybuilding competitions, as is the case with all judged events, were highly suspicious, and we all knew that Rocky was connected before the event.  He was expected to win.  There was some dissatisfaction in certain circles that he had won the title, however.  He never competed again after that.  Rather, he became a promoter of numerous body building events, and often someone we knew would win.

Rocky began making some changes to the gym after the arrival of Pete Grymkowski who had recently won the Mr. World title.  Pete was a nefarious fellow.  It was reported that he had fled the Northeast to avoid being forced to testify against some mafia fellows he was reputably involved with.  Grymkowski was one of the biggest bodybuilders in the country, but he was on the outs with the likes of Joe Weider and Arthur Jones who controlled the most prestigious bodybuilding championships in the world.  When he showed up at the gym, he was broke and looking for a place to stay.  Rocky let him sleep on the roof of the gym.  That was the point at which everything began to change.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

How to Face the Void

I wrote more today about the gym.  I wrote for a long time.  Some of it was o.k. and some of it was stilted.  I will go back in the morning and see what works.

Tonight, though, I feel better than I have for a long time.  I did light exercise this morning before I took an almost five mile walk.  Afterwards I showered and ate and felt better, not worse.  So maybe, fingers crossed, I am at the end of illness.  I will never know if I had Trump-19 or something else.  So be it.  Whatever it was, I have survived for another day--or so it seems.

What I would like now is a really good taco.  Or some Thai food.  Something.  I have made every meal for myself these past two weeks.  I'm a good basic cook, and my meals are plenty healthy, but I need somebody else's cooking now.  How long?  Maybe in a couple days I can make a grocery run.  I will buy potato chips and ice cream, I fear.  I will buy frozen pizzas and Jimmy Dean Breakfast Sandwiches.

I guess I want a cheeseburger in paradise.

Trust me, this is a good thing.

I will go and watch some television in a bit.  Maybe the sailing videos I've been watching on YouTube, maybe "Emma," as recommended by Lisa.  I have almost finished another Houellebecq novel, and maybe I will before bed.

Mostly tonight I am grateful.  I want to thank those of you who come here, and especially those of you who drop a note now and then, for keeping me from despair.  Making pictures and making stories is one way of facing the void.

But people. . . that's the other.

Sick Andy

That worked just as I thought it would.  Blog stats dropped dramatically with the posting of "Party Line."  Even half of those who encouraged me to write it were out.  But on my walk this morning, those gym days were on my mind.  I might as well jot down a few more of them.


One of the biggest guys in the gym earned the monicker "Sick Andy."  Andy wasn't the most muscular guy, he was just big.  He was around 6'5" and weighed about 350 pounds.  He was a power lifter, and all he cared about was how much he could squat, deadlift, and bench press.  There was no beauty to him; indeed, he was one of the two ugliest men in the gym.  I can't describe him all that well, really, because I couldn't stand to look at him.  But he was there with his power lifter buddies, yelling and slapping one another in the face over and over again before a lift.  They weren't easy slaps, either.  They were the slaps of a dungeon master.  They were meant to psyche the lifter up so that he would have adrenaline for his lift.  I didn't see how that worked.  I knew if they hit me that hard I'd probably shit my pants, but they never did.  After getting slapped around long enough, they'd stomp over to the weight, scream a couple times, and give the weight a go.  Sometimes it went up, and sometimes it didn't but that was the nature of the thing.  Size and strength and power--that is what they worshiped.

Andy came up with another way to get psyched, though.  There was an ice cream sandwich sold by 7-11 convenience stores then called a Big Wheel.  They would bet one another Big Wheels on big lifts.  Andy looked like he was winning all the bets.

Andy stocked vending machines for a living.  I think he might have owned them, but I'm not sure.  I tried to picture this fat fucker rolling Tom's candy and peanut carts around schools and businesses, but I couldn't. I don't know if he wore a uniform or if he just went in street clothes.  I imagined him, though, in one of those grey, pinstriped shirts with a white badge that had"Andy" stitched onto it.  I liked to think of him that way.

My favorite story about Andy came from a fellow who went to his house.  He said Andy's wife was as big as he was.  What got him, though, was that Andy had Leif Garrett posters hung on his walls (link).  Everyone nodded in stunned belief at this, recalling the afternoon two young high school boys came in to work out.  After they had changed clothes in the locker room, Andy asked one if he had blonde hairs all over his body.  The boys left without getting their clothes.  The father came in later to complain, but he changed his mind once there.  He simply went to the back, picked up the boys clothes, and left.

Andy never really cared for me, I think, because I had very long hair and wore a gold hoop which wan't very common at the time.  It often caused me trouble. One Saturday I came in after a rough Friday night.  I had seen an old "friend" from my high school days at the biker bar, and he gave me a joint to try.  "This shit is really strong.  It's from Hawaii."  My friends and I smoked it that night, but something was really fucked up with the high.  I got very aggressive as the night went on, not at all the way I react to pot.  I stayed up most of the night and later realized that the joint must have been laced with PCP.  When I got up in the morning, I was still fucked up.  I figured that I needed to sweat the shit out of me, so I braided my hair, got dressed, and headed for the gym.

When I got there, Sick Andy and his buddies were training, and he started in on me right away.

"Look at that, got your hair all braided.  You look cute."

I shot something back, and after a little banter, he said, "I just might come back there and cut that braid off you."

Like I said, the pot must have been laced with PCP and I was still feeling fucked to the gills.  I was changing from my street clothes into gym clothes when I did the rash thing.  Naked, I ran out into the gym and yelled, "Hey Andy, you want my braid?  Come try it.  I'll fuck you right up the ass!

Andy turned purple, his eye bulging, but Tom, his training partner held him back.

"Leave him alone," he said.  "He's fucked up or something.  Something's wrong with him."

I got out of that one pretty lucky because I didn't stand any chance against Andy.  I'd have taken a sever beating for sure.  I went back and got dressed and came out into the gym and trained.  I looked at Andy and made a joke and he joked something back and everything was fine and weird again.  Everything relaxed.

I don't know whatever happened to Andy.  He just quit coming one day.  I think I remember that he changed gyms.  Other muscle gyms were beginning to open up around town, and there was one I believe that was closer to his house  Whatever it was, he was gone.  I never missed him.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Everything Was

I wrote tomorrow's post this afternoon.  But tonight. . . oh, everything slips away.  All that was. Tonight it sounds like this.

Did I hurt you very much?
Do you miss my gentle touch?

That's the way that it goes, 
That's the way.  

Fuck.  Try all of it (link).

And more (link).  

Party Line

O.K.  It isn't a story.  It is an anecdote.  A note.  It lacks additives.  I've not gone back, for instance, and written in descriptive words.  There are no reds or purples.  I've not used words like "vein."  I've been delicate.  This note is additive free, but I figure it is the only way I can get the tale out without straining it. So. . . for your consumption. . . .


Pete showed up at the gym one day.  He was tall and lean and sinewy.  He was built like a tiger.  He came from Boston where, he said, he was a bar fighter.  The idea was that two guys gave their money to the bartender then went to the parking lot.  Whoever came back got the money.  Pete said that he had never lost.  That was a bold statement to make in gym company, but Pete was a likable guy and was everybody's buddy straight away.  He had light colored eyes that mostly seemed amused but which could change subtlety and quickly given the circumstances.  He was losing his hair, so he always wore a bandanna. He never changed into gym clothes to train.  He wore sleeveless t-shirts, tight jeans, and black leather biker boots with one silver spur.  His bike was a traditional Harley with a biker chop, extended forks, raised handlebars, etc.  I used to frequent a bar that catered to bikers, and if Pete was there, he'd yell out, come over, put me in a big bearhug and kiss me on the lips.  Then he'd point to me.  "He's alright," he'd say.  "He's alright."

After being at the gym for awhile, Pete, like everyone else, started using steroids.  And he grew.  He got big fast until he no longer looked like a tiger.  He looked more like a lion.  His faced got bigger, too, and his hair loss increased.  When he showered in the back and got his injections, he would sit naked for a long time.  He liked to show his attributes.  And his was the biggest I've ever seen, sort of like a baby's arm holding an apple.

After being in town a few months, he bought a van and tricked it out with carpet and a bed.  He called it his love shack.  When he went out to the bars at night, he'd pick up a girl and take her back to the van.  He was married, so he couldn't take them home.  All in all, I guess it was more convenient, too.  As he sat stripped in the locker room, he'd talk about the girl he'd been with the night before.  Every other tale was about the difficulty his attributes had caused.  Often enough, the story would end with him getting a blow job.  Girls would take one look at him and go, "Uh-uh."

Pete's wife eventually left him.  He was crestfallen.  I never met her, but I heard she was a pretty girl. When she kicked him out of the house, he asked me if he could park his van in my driveway and live there.  "Ah, Pete. . . my neighbors won't put up with that.  There's no way, bud."  I hoped I wasn't the first person he'd asked.

Eventually, Pete got an apartment.  I don't know how he got his money.  He wasn't a hustler, and I'd never known him to have a job.  But it wasn't something I would ask.

One of the interesting things about gym rats is what great story tellers they are.  They loved to tell a tale on another fellow.  One day, I walked into a story about Pete.  The fellow telling it said he had gone to Pete's apartment one afternoon.  He knocked on the door and heard Pete yell, "Come in."  When he got inside, he didn't see Pete.  Then he heard Pete calling him from the bedroom.  When he walked in, he said, Pete was lying naked in the bed with a big jar of Vaseline, a box of Kleenex, and the phonebook.  He had the phone cradled to his ear and was talking to someone while he stroked his giant dick.  "Jesus, fuck, what the. . ." our teller of tales reported, saying he turned and left the room.  When Pete was done, he came out all grins.

"What the fuck are you doing, Pete?"

Pete said he picked numbers out of the phone book and dialed them.  If a woman answered, he would start talking to her, then start flirting.  Sometimes, he said, they would flirt back, and then he would begin talking dirty.  It was hit or miss, he said, but he usually found somebody who was into it.

Everyone was laughing at this point.  Nobody was shocked.  It was just another amusing tale among outsiders and misfits, a club joke among friends.

The longer I worked out at the gym, the more normal it all seemed.


I woke up this morning feeling lousy again.  I felt great last night and thought I was done with this, but it just hangs on.  Trump says you will all be back to normal soon, working, going out, doing X and sweating on a crowded dance floor.  That's what will get the economy going again.  People will die, sure, but mostly poor people, and mostly in the big cities where people already hate him.  Real Americans, those who live in places where social distancing is normal, will approve.  Keep the Cracker Barrel open.  

Monday, March 23, 2020

Pumping Iron

I am not well yet, but I just read that Tom Hanks and his wife are feeling a little better after two weeks in isolation, so I think I have to wait a while longer.  I've had symptoms for eight days now.  I am starting my 11th day of isolation.  Being sick alone engenders paranoia.  It creeps in at the edges and then takes hold.  Not so much now, I hope.  I know two people who believe they might have it.  One is still sick.  The other felt better after two weeks.  Knowing this, I will not worry as much when I still feel the blahs.  See--good news!

A bunch of people wrote to tell me to write "Party Line."  Yesterday I gave it a shot.  I sat and wrote for about an hour, maybe more.  Everything about me was strained.  My posture was different.  It all showed in the writing.  There was no flow.  I was just putting down facts without art.  When I tried to make an image, it seemed forced.  It was like making a speech in front of a big audience for the first time, you know?  You have to learn to relax.

I will keep doing it until I relax.  I am relaxed here on the blog, of course, so maybe I should just spill the story here and not try to craft it elsewhere.  That's it!  It's the "crafting" that makes it so awkward. I write here like a drug addict.  When I write alone, I am with Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Hemingway, etc.

Well, maybe it will work itself out.

Here is a synopsis.  I will probably cut my readership in half with this.

I began working out in a steroid gym in the '70s.  It was started by a wrestling promoter in the '60s, a former German strong man whose character informed the gym owner in Harry Crews' "The Gypsy's Curse," a weird and sometimes wonderful novel.  The gym had a wrestling ring in the back so the wrestlers could work out their routines, I guess.  The fellow who managed it lived in my neighborhood when I was young.  I knew his sons.  They were bad asses who got praised as "animals" by their father when they beat the shit out of someone.  He was the first Mr. Florida, and it was rumored in low tones that he was in the CIA, or rather, that he worked for United Fruit.  He was the only person any of us had ever seen run through the streets in sweats.  Our father's were all working class and didn't have time or energy for running or for gyms.  But nobody derided him.  They just gave one another "that look."

If someone came in off the street and wanted to join the gym, he would have to take a physical fitness test.  This was mainly comprised of getting into the ring with the manager to see what kind of shape he might be in.  The manager would manhandle the fellow for a while, usually, then tell him to start running, lose a few pounds, and come back and try again.

By the time I joined, the German strong man had sold the gym and the wrestling ring was gone.  It was owned by a fellow who had a connection at a pharmaceutical warehouse.  He sold steroids "over the counter."  Anabolic steroids had not been made a Class III Controlled Substance yet, so there wasn't much paranoia about it.  Still, you had to be an insider to get them, but it looked like everyone there was an insider.  They were massive.  You have to go back and look at 70s movies and t.v. shows to see how skinny and puny people were then.  Gyms were just losing the gay stigma as physical culture clubs.  Arnold would bring America to the gym when the documentary film "Pumping Iron" came out in 1977, but Arnold himself benefitted early on from "sponsors."  In the small locker room, which was just a tiny area with two showers, guys would shoot 'roids into the big muscles of their ass or thighs.  The needles were huge.  They were an inch and a half  long to get deep into the muscle, and they had large gauge openings which made the needles thick as testosterone, deca-durabolin, and anadrol were all oil based drugs that needed a big hole to flow through.

Obviously, when you were in the locker room, you saw a lot of dicks.  You also heard a lot of stories. Most of the guys who worked out here had marginal jobs.  Many were bouncers at bars.  Some were bartenders.  They had the most money.  The rest were hustling.  One way to make money was to "model' for gay men.  The fellow who owned the building that housed the gym was rich and gay, and I guess maybe that is how it all began.  There was a code that the "models" followed to justify their actions.  They never kissed anyone.  And they never gave head.  As long as they followed those guidelines, they did not consider themselves gay.

Not everyone engaged in "modeling," of course.  But no one seemed shy talking about it.  It afforded them the lifestyle, and even then, the drugs weren't all that cheap.  And neither was meat.  And a fellow had to eat.


Well, I am just getting to the part about Pete.  But that will have to wait until later.  The morning is passing and I need to take a walk and get on with my daily routine.  So. . . if I still have a readership, I'll write more about this next.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Paint It Black

Enrique Metinides

I spent the morning reading the news.  I read CNN's and the N.Y. Times' answers to "your questions about Coronavirus."  They really make little sense to me.  Here are some of my takeaways.

1.  You shouldn't wear a mask unless you are sick.  They only protect medical professionals.
2.  You may have the virus and show no symptoms.  You should only get tested if you show severe symptoms.
3.  It's o.k. to eat takeout food.  There is no evidence that the virus lives on food.  You should was ALL foods you bring home from the market.
4.  If you get sick, you should isolate for 14 days.  People who get the virus may be sick from up to six weeks to two months.

That's all I can remember right now.  No wonder people aren't following "the guidelines."

I began to feel worse last night.  Whatever I have (Covid-19) goes through me in waves.  I'll feel better for awhile, then I feel worse.  I start to get the fear when I feel worse.  They say the symptoms of Corona virus lasts longer than the regular flu, two weeks rather than one.

One of my old pals from the factory who retired years before I has been sending me death reports of people we used to work with.  Several have died in the last few weeks.  I get to sit here sick and alone and think about that.  She says she doesn't think about dying much.  When it happens, it happens.  I don't feel the same way.  The calculation isn't right.  It isn't here/not here that scares me.  It is the in between.  None of the people she told me about just dropped dead in the night.  There was a period when everything was shit.  Being gone isn't the hard part.  I don't want to spend days or weeks in the slaughter house.

Two cats just showed up at my door wanting food.  Funny cats.  They come to the door and wrestle for a minute.  I have to go feed them.

Done.  Every time I feed them, they run away like this time it is a trick and I will snatch them up and eat them.  They give me the old bug-eyes and take a fleeing pose.  Every time, I ask them why?  But nothing ever changes.

I was texting with C.C. yesterday and told him a story about a guy I used to know at the steroid gym in the early '80s who would have phone sex by opening the phone book and calling random numbers.  If a woman answered, he would start talking dirty to her.  Sometimes they would play along.  My story to him was much more graphic.  He suggested I write up a short story about it.  I have some interesting tales, but I started thinking about them.  They are all rather lurid.  I would be afraid to post one here in full detail.  I don't really tell stories about the psychological or emotional struggles of men and women caught in the throes of strained relationships, or of people struggling to find their personal identities.  The people I've known that are interesting to me have vivid identities, the sort of people one is not allowed to be any longer.  They put you in jail for that shit now unless you are a Jenner or Ru Paul. Otherwise, you go to Jeremy Pivins jail.

In the end, I'm not sure how my stories would go over.  But C.C. likes to encourage me.  He told me to start the blog.  He told me to get the studio.  He told me to take the pictures.  He always says, "Jump! The water's deep!"

Plus, writing for real is a lot of work.  It's hard.  Really, really hard.  You kind of have to be a bit nuts.

I thought to call the story, if I wrote it, "Party Line."

It is Sunday.  It is difficult to keep track of the days now.  There is little difference between one and another.  Today will be much the same as the days before.  I will take a walk, shower, make lunch, do some sort of housework or paperwork, sit outside on the deck, have a drink around four, walk to the lake, come home and start prepping dinner, eat in front of the t.v., clean up, watch t.v. or read, then go to bed.  Huh.

I watched a crazy documentary on a Mexican photographer last night on Amazon called, "The Man Who Saw Too Much."  There are two documentaries by that name, one a BBC production about the oldest survivor of the Nazi death camps.  That is not the one.  The other is about Enrique Metinides who took photos of horrorible accidents and murders in Mexico.  That's the one.

As this has been, for the most part, a desultory post, I will leave you with a video that the stoned friend of the blog sent to me last night.  This should pick you up.  The Best Band in the World.  I love surf music, especially when it is played by women in miniskirts and knee boots.  They had me from the first note.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

"Make America, um, like, uh. . . what?"

The feds need to legalize cannabis now.  They need to tax it to pay for unemployment services.  Then, when people get their unemployment checks, they'll run right out and buy some marijuana, and there will be more tax money.  My friends said I need to run for office on that platform.  I said, yea, my slogan would be, "Make America, um, like, uh. . . what?"

I just went online to see about getting a medical marijuana card.  Here are the conditions that will qualify you.

My ex-secretary circled "Alcoholism."  Jerk.  I am a drunk, not an alcoholic.  I haven't been certified.

"Hey, Doc, I think I've got the Vodka Palsy."

It is funny, though, that to qualify for one drug you have to already abuse another.  That's the world in which we live.

Here is what an online conversation with a stoner is like.  This is from a friend of the blog.

Her: I’m so stoned and I’m the grocery store. Again. Getting a big hub of vinegar. Can be used for many things.

Me: Is that like I am the Walrus?

Her: And I have the munch. And want liverwurst radish cornichon with butter on a French baguette

Me: I think “the munch” is something different.

Her: It is happening.

It went on from there.  

I feel better, I know.  I'm starting to get antsy.  I need to be stoned like the rest of you so I can sit in the house and chill and eat and get big in twenty days.  A gummy might make the day taste better. 

Isolation Nation

I was better today.  No shit.  I am not well, but I was better. . . until I tried to clean up.  I cancelled the maids since I am sick, and this was the day that they come break things.  I decided to take a shot at it.  I haven't cleaned my house in many, many years.  It is just not what I am good at. . . as I remember.  It is a job, and others do it well for money.  But I had to, so I decided I must clean the bathrooms and the kitchen.  Priorities.  I got the Clorox spray and went to work.  Sucked, but when that was done, I decided I had to vacuum the floors.  I had forgotten what a fuck job a vacuum cleaner is.  But I did it (poorly), and when that was done. . . I was, too.  I was spent, was sweaty and weak and fatigued.  I am not well yet.  But I do believe that I am on the road to recovery.

For the last few days, I have had a lot of texts, people concerned about me.  Now I haven't told many people of my condition.  I can count the number on less than one hand (not counting you).  But if I were to guess by the amount of traffic I got today, their concern now lies elsewhere.  Of course.  Other people's illnesses are like. . . . etc.  I forget where I was going with this.  Oh. . . I know.  The fellow who probably gave the virus to me called me today.  He is recognizing that this is probably his fault  He is showing no symptoms, he said through his coughing and nose sniffling on the phone, but he might be a carrier.  No shit?  Huh?

He could have killed me.

On this morning's walk, I went to see the baby owls that my writer friend and his wife told me about. By-the-by, he is a real writer who has never made a living doing anything else.  That is amazing, I think.  There are a very limited number of such people.  Anyway, I went to see the owls, and it was cute.  I say it because I could only find one.  There are two, I am told.  The one I saw was pure white and fluffy.  Momma owl kept an eye on me from an adjacent tree while I watched.  I talked to her and gave her the old thumbs up.  I love owls.

For those of you who have been coming here for a long time, you might remember when I had desires to do a circus series.  I wish I had done it, but I never did.  It is the big mistake I made while I had the studio.  This model was obviously a gymnast.  I had bought a couple vintage trapeze outfits on eBay for a lot of money.  They were teeny, size 0.  I asked her to try them on and she almost fit.  I shot her with the Impossible Project's new Polaroid film.  It was shit, as you can see.  It practically disintegrated before your eyes.  I wish I had shot this stuff with regular Polaroid film, but I didn't know.  That is my defense.  I just didn't know.

I made a wholesome dinner tonight, and I watched the news.  It was more subdued, it seemed.  Lockdowns across the country.  Trump leaving it to Governors to decide what to do.  The Governor in my state now taking heat for not closing the beaches.  Op-ed pieces appear about what shitheads millennials are.  I don't know.  I finally got all my stock sold off and I am out of the market.  The DOW was predicted to rise 1,000 pts. today.  I was sick this morning when I read that before the markets opened.  Rather, it dropped another 5.5%.  At least I only lost a Camry in the deal and not a Lexus.  Fuck it.  I'm out and can relax.  I can look at my accounts and go, "That is how much money I have."  I might as well have it in my mattress, but I don't have to think about it any more.

I have gotten used to staying home alone and not seeing others.  I have worked up a routine.  It has been eight days without people now, and I will wait another seven before I venture out to see my mother.  My mornings are lazier and slower than ever.  Then there is a walk, a shower and then I make lunch.  Maybe there is a nap, but most days, not.  I do work in the afternoon--pay bills, gather paperwork, make business calls, clean and/or do yard work.  At four, I have a drink.  I walk to the lake and soak up nature.  Then I come home and cook the evening meal.  A little t.v. or a book, then bed.

I will probably miss the isolation when I have to go back into the world.  Who knows, though, when that might be.  A friend drove up today while I sat on the deck.  I told him not to come up, that I was pretty sure I had the corona virus.  He had no trouble getting back into his car and leaving.  He didn't ask me if I needed anything.  He just vamoosed.

Other people are mostly a bore unless you don't know then.  Then they are entertaining for a short while.  But it is difficult if not impossible for people to live up to the expectations born of literature and art.  Comparatively, they are duller.  And all I have right now is literature and art.  Life on the outside will be difficult.

.* .* .*.

I've taken CBD oil for the past two nights and slept well.  I wonder if that is the reason?  I am running out.  I wonder if they deliver?

I don't feel worse this morning.  I still don't feel like doing pushups, etc., but I don't feel worse.  Even a regular flu lasts a week.  Now that everyone in the nation is in lockdown. . . oh, wait. . . there are cars everywhere.  My state, a recreational state, is not on lockdown.  Come party here, at the beach, in bars, with republican recruiters.  We are a state that knows fake news when we see it.  We are helping the economy.  WE are the REAL HEROES in the Time of Corona.  We don't make anything.  We are a consumer society.  Gotta keep the old engine running.

We DO still make liquor.  The country is turning to the liquor markets and, in the wiser states, the cannabis markets, to make our nation GREAT AGAIN.

Well, that went weird.

I got scheduled for a Zoom happy hour on Sunday night.  I look like shit right now, so I think I'll wear a mask, keep the lights low, etc.  It has only just occurred to me that I don't know when I'll be able to get beautified again.  No facials.  No massages.  Holy smokes, this country is going to look like Fido's ass pretty soon.

I'm going to get back to looking through the old Circus Selavy pics and wonder once again why I never did the series.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Following the Guidelines

I'm sick of people not taking me seriously about having the corona virus.  What is wrong with people?  They can't read?  They don't hear?  Jesus Christ, they should go to bars and beaches  I am simply asked if I have a fever.  People are idiots.  "Most people who contract the virus will have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all."  What about that do people not understand?  I get questions like, "Does it feel like a bowling ball is sitting on your chest?"  "What is your temperature?"  No wonder Gavin Newsom is saying that over 50% of the population of California will have the virus in the next eight weeks.  And I have to tell you, the people asking me these questions have advanced degrees.  No wonder I always feel 15% smarter than anyone in the room.  People's critical thinking skills are basically nil.

But I think I will be in the "vast majority" and will not develop the most severe symptoms.  I am hoping against hope.  No ventilator, please.

My symptoms are moderate.  I am sick.  I am following the guidelines and the recommendations for what to do.

Clear liquids, I've been told.  Gin and tonic.

A really weird thing today.  I was on my walk, and on the main traffic street by my house, a car like Ili's drove by.  I looked in, and I saw something that looked like her, only different.  The thing didn't look back at me.  It spooked me all day.

But it was definitely a beautiful first day of spring here.  The temperature was warm but the humidity was low, and there was a wonderfully gentle breeze.  In the late afternoon, restless from being contained for a week, I took a walk to the lake.  There was no one around.  The steady breeze coming off the water was almost cool.  I stood mesmerized on the dock for a long while noticing minnows and snake birds and turtles.  Ospreys floated above.  This dock is only a few blocks from my house.  I used to go all the time when I first moved in.  I haven't been in I don't know how long now.  A few times in the past few years.  But today was like a rebirth or renewal.  The quiet soothed me.  I have nothing else to do.  I will go now often.  Fuck, look out, I may be writing poetry soon.

Perhaps something like this (link).

I've lost even more money than I reported.  You see how money flows in the hands of a fool?  It just disappears if you don't spend it.  It disappears if you spend it, too, but often you have something to show whether internally or on your wall.  To wit: I am going to get my Russel Chatham prints framed no matter the cost.  They will bring me greater pleasure hanging on my walls than the money I am losing at the "casino."  True gamblers, they say, enjoy losing as much as they enjoy winning.

I am NOT a gambler.

Oh. . . and fuck Trump and anyone who still supports him.  Well. . . that doesn't include my mother.  No matter, though.  We're all in trouble now.

.* .* .*.

Morning.  I woke and lay in bed, eyes closed, trying to remember what it was like to snuggle, despairing of knowing that intimacy again.  In a moment, I begin to check my symptoms.  Hard to tell.  I get up, walk to the bathroom.  I don't feel so well.  It is still with me, I think.  Maybe, though, it is a little better.  I can't tell.  I get better, I get worse.  But how's my head?  What's going on in there?

Wait and see.

My cousin left my mother's house in the middle of the night to drive back to Ohio.  Her family wanted her back there in the Time of Corona.  They feared she would get sick here and would not be able to get back.  My mother will be alone until I am better.  She was whining about it when my cousin was packing up her things.  It will be hard on my mom now that she has had a couple months of companionship.

As I lay in bed this morning, I went through an inventory of people I know who live alone.  I could come up with only a handful.  My mother can come up with more.

If you didn't see this yesterday, I'll put it here to cheer you up (link).  I enjoyed such things when I was young.  Now, I wonder if it wouldn't be better to be a Catholic.  I know it didn't help medically in Italy, but maybe people felt somewhat better about things.

There is an article today about the Happiest Countries.  The top five are all Nordic.  My traveler/art friend says it is because they don't have Trump.  C.C. says it is because they don't have to spend money on a big military machine and can put it into things that bring more satisfaction (I won't quote him on which things).  But most obviously, it is social structure.  People who feel safety are happier than people who are merely entertained, it seems.

I just spent twenty minutes rewriting many of my controversial opinions out of that last paragraph.  It is difficult not to say stupid things.  Most of the time, however, they are merely entertaining.  But one must be careful which pile of shit to step into.  I try to stick to horse shit.

The sun is up and the sky is that clear blue that will only last another month or so here in the sunny south before humidity cloaks us in a tinny gray.  I should get out and enjoy it.  I'll take a walk.  I heard there were some baby owls down by the pond in the preserve down the street.  A must see, I am told.

I'll be back before the day is out, I am sure.  Most likely.