Los Angeles, CA
|Photo courtesy of If Charlie Parker Were a Gunslinger...|
"Public transportation is not made for fucked-up people."
Q told me that one morning after he peeled his eyes open with a second cup of bodega sludge. He looked perpetually hungover, but that day he looked run ragged seven miles past Shitsville.
Q's group stumbled through a set of jazz standards around the corner from Tompkins at a dinky club filled with well-to-do NYU kids from the Midwest sloshed on PBR and Ritalin, who thought they were cool by seeing a sloppy jazz-fusion bands.
Later that night, Q sat in with a couple of guys he knew from Boston, who were in town gigging near Union Square. They were scheduled for two full sets starting at Midnight and Q was invited to play bass for the last song of the first set.
Q was only supposed to play for one song, but the band's bass player, Van Gelder, shot up in the bathroom during setbreak and nodded out for forty or so minutes. When the bass player finally woke up after the busboy doused him with a pitcher of cold water.
The second set started without the bass player and Q had taken over. Van Gelder didn't care. He was focused on one task: buy cigarettes for his depraved soul, and perhaps get a chocolate bar for his thirsty blood sugar.
Van Gelder got lost (walking around the block) and ended up sitting at the counter of a tiny Cuban restaurant on 1st Ave. The bass player nodded out in a bowl of beans and rice and spicy shredded pork.
Q finished the entire second set around 2:30am and was in a good mood because his friends from Boston were superior musicians to the trio of lazy drunks he was trying to gig with at really shitty bars in the East Village and Hoboken, and Q hoped that he played well enough to impress his friends so they'd ask him to join them on their rest of their tour.
I left with Maya and Hoffman around 3am because we all had to work the next day. Q was having a rare good night so he wanted to keep it going, which he deserved to do. He didn't have any sick days left, but we've both show up to work in worse condition.
Q supposedly closed out the place at 4am and went to his brother's apartment to party (which meant sitting in the kitchen and smoking whatever drugs anyone had and drinking vodka from a never-ending jug of throat-scorching, generic vodka that was kept in the freezer).
At 5am, Q's brother's girlfriend Simone flipped out and ended the post-party and kicked everyone out, even Q's brother. He persuaded her to let him back in.
Q stumbled home and passed out on his couch with his clothes still on. He woke up at 8:33 still drunk.
Q took a piss and thought about his bass. It was missing. He assumed he left it at his brother's apartment t it in the hallway. He called Simone and his brother but neither picked up. Q didn't leave a message. Q showered hoping to sober up but that didn't work. He called his brother's apartment and got the answering machine. He left a message about a missing dog.
At that point, we all assumed Q said "Fuck it" and waked-n-baked before he got on the subway. I mean, that's what we all did before going to work. Breakfast of champions.
Any sane person couldn't deal with all those crazy commuters squeezing you out of your assigned space unless you were wasted. Millions of half-alseep drones shuffling around on autopilot? Either assholes walked too fast and knocked you over, or fucktards moved too slow and you got stuck in a Bataan death match trying to transfer trains at 14th Street.
Q nodded his head and regretted his decision and how he wished he pulled the wake-n-bake, but instead he buried his face in a white line.
"Bolivian marching powder. Fuel for revolutionaries and field workers of the Bolivian nation of Bolivians. If it's good for the proletariat, then it's good for me."
Q's morning got somewhat illuminated. He walked double-time to to corner. He gargled half a cup of lukewarm brown-sludge and half-jogged to the subway but masterfully did not spill the rest of the cup on himself.
Q hopped on an newly arriving uptown express train and caught in the last dense wave of rush hour a few minutes past 9am, filled with other tardy fuckers who overslept.
Late to work. Late to school. Late to life.
The train screeched into Grand Central. Q spilled half his coffee all over his pants and boots.
"For fuck's sake."
Q got stuck standing in the farthest corner near a really smelly, obese Portuguese guy. Q insisted that he heard the smelly guy call him a "slimy faggot" in Portuguese.
I didn't think Q spoke any other languages other than some French, which he said he learned in school because he grew up in Maine so close to the Canadian border.
The train doors slammed shut at 59th Street and Q felt a small nuclear explosion detonate in his stomach.
Sometimes over-cut blow gives you the runs and you run to the toilet. Q fucked up and forgot about that huge detail. He remembered why he never did lines before he left his apartment and always waited until he got to work before he could get lit and shit (if need be).
Sheer terror is shitting your pants while underground and stuck on a packed rush hour train for 25 blocks.
Nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide.
Q stood his ground and he clenched butt cheeks. He prayed.
To God. To Jesus. To Buddha. To Jimmy Fallwell. To whatever higher being could help him out the most.
Didn't the Catholics have a patron saint for bodily functions? Saint Gertrude of the Heavenly Toilet?
Q tried not to think about the worst-case scenario -- an ass-explosion in which he'd squirt all over himself and the surly Portuguese guy next to him, who would instantly lose it and beat him senseless with a shoe, and then he'd wake up at the end of the line in the Bronx, covered in blood and shit and missing his wallet after getting rolled by a couple of truants.
The train whizzed by 77th street. Q only needed nine more blocks to go. Q had a shootout with his own troubled mind. He visualized all of the blocks he was traveling underground.
78th Street. His stomach tumbled. He clenched. Harder. Sweat built up on his brow.
79th Street. He held back the horrible thoughts. He held his breath.
80th Street. The "thought terrorists" blew up the first line of defense. He got images of shit running down his legs and wondering if he'd be crying upon expulsion?
81st Street. Or maybe he'd be all twisted and laughing when he couldn't hold it back any longer?
82nd Street. Maybe everyone else on the train would feel sorry for him and laugh along?
83rd Street. Because they'd think it was a part of a TV show or something like a stunt for America's Funniest Home Videos.
84th Street. The trained started to slow down. Q almost made it. He wondered where he could go to the toilet when he got outside. Work? Bar? Diner?
85th Street. It was five blocks to work and two blocks to the old man's bar, but he had no other choice but the diner. The front door was three feet away from the subway entrance/exit.
86th Street. The shrill brakes halted and the doors popped opened. Q boxed out an old lady in a beret and won the sprint to get off the car first.
Q bolted up a flight of stairs, nearly slipping when he tried to skip a step, but super careful extra not to allow too much separation occur between his cheeks for fear of tragic fecal seepage. Q forgot that he took the express so he had two flights of stairs to climb before he reached street level.
Q hip checked at least four people, including a small child, on his way out. He didn't feel remorse. When you were about to lose your mud, it's was a life and death matter. No one wants to soiled themselves on a Friday morning; it's an awful start to the weekend.
Q made a dash for a small diner next to the donut shop and shoemaker. He didn't even acknowledge the tiny Greek guy at the front who seated everyone. He hobbled through like Quasimodo and scored an empty toilet.
Q kicked the door to the stall open and popped a squat. Q let it rip. His eyes swelled up with tears of joy.
Q lived 28 years on the planet and he ha not shit himself since kindergarten. His 23-year streak continued. Saved. With one second left on the clock.
This story could have ended on a bad note, but that's what happened. It coulda been worse. Q coulda got to the diner and the toilet would have been occupied and then he woulda shit himself waiting in the diner. Or, he could busted ass on the subway and then faced the embarrassment of standing in his own soupy mud while angry New Yorkers spat on him and pointed and jeered and sneered and leered.
"Public transportation is not for fucked-up people," said Q.