On Sunday Carl and I drove 587 miles through the desert, to the world famous Sin City, for a convention. I had booked us in a $30/night room at Terrible’s Casino, but decided at the last minute to ditch that in favor of staying with my friends, Ernesto and Carmen. This is more of loaded of a gun than it’s benign description would imply. For one thing I have a dare from Dean to stir up some shenanigans with Ernesto just because he wants to see if I “have the necessary skills to pull it off” and by that he means can I find a way to fuck Ernesto, for old time’s sake and without getting caught, while staying at his house with both our spouses. Dean is my soul mate and is mischievous to the core. For another thing, Carl doesn’t know the half of it when it comes to my history with these two but don’t you worry now, Ernesto spontaneously decided to fill him in thus blowing my cover, setting off my warning signals and causing me to abort the dare. Sorry Dean.

We had been there less than two hours, all four of us sitting on the back porch having a smoke when Ernesto decides to stand up and address Carl, like he’s giving a toast. He says “Well Carl, I want you to know that I’m so glad she (me) has found someone to spend her life with. I don’t know if you knew this or not but it was almost me. I just felt that she was too young (like he’s apologizing to me or something) and that I was already a man, set in my ways.” You could’ve heard a pin drop just then as all eyes were calmly fixed on Ernesto although each masking a distinctly different reaction. As far as I can tell, neither Carmen or Carl are seeing the humor in Ernesto’s little soliloquy. My personal thoughts were somewhere between “shut the fuck up” and “what do you mean, it was almost you?” I was not aware that he was almost anything. He never asked me to move in, we were never engaged. To the contrary, he sanctimoniously dumped me for Carmen. I don’t know how that translates into almost spending his life with me but here’s the Reader’s Digest version of the back story.

When I was 13 I took guitar lessons from Ernesto, then age 26 and recent graduate from the Musicians Institute in Los Angeles. He was a great teacher and displayed a genuine interest in my musical education. I studied with Ernesto for just over a year and was very sad when he decided to move to Las Vegas to further pursue his career.

Fast forward 5 years; I was 18 and just graduated from high school. I decided to do some sleuthing and uncover the whereabouts of my long lost buddy. During this time my girlfriends and I would issue various challenges to one another like how many guys can you fuck that have the same name or the same birthday, stupid shit like that. Dean and Ernesto have the same birthday although about 8 years apart so I was like “watch and learn, ladies.” Through a friend of a friend of an acquaintance I found what I was looking for and made contact; suggesting that if he was gonna be in town anytime soon that we should do lunch. I’m not not sure why he assumed that “do lunch” implied spending 3 hours at the Econolodge on East Main Street but that actually is what I meant and is also what happened. We spent two or three nights in a row like that and shortly thereafter I started traveling to Vegas to see him. He convinced me that I should transfer to UNLV which did have a better music program than the one I had currently been enrolled in.

At first we hung out a lot. I spent many a late night on the road to his place in Levi Valley and many a groggy early morning commuting back to town in time for 7:30am orchestra rehearsal. I always hated playing with the orchestra, but that’s another story. Everything seemed copacetic until the day he met Carmen. She was a cocktail waitress at the casino where Ernesto’s band happened to be playing. He tells me how he’s started dating this woman and how awesomely awesome she is and how he wants to marry her, etc., etc., etc. I mean he really doesn’t know when to quit here and just goes on and on about his virtuous relationship with Carmen. I won’t lie, I was pissed off and hurt. I knew he saw other women but they never affected our relationship so I didn’t care. This, on the other hand, was a problem. He never told me he was actively searching for a wife and then he just lays the whole thing on me like it’s no big deal, like I should say “oh ok”. To further add insult to injury one night he tells me “you’re a little girl, and Carmen is a woman.” After having just wrote that, I don’t even know why there’s anything more to this story. The only correct response to that caliber of insult is “fuck you” but apparently he was right because that’s not what I said.

For several weeks I refused to meet or have anything to do with Carmen but he finally wore me down and I agreed to meet her. They stop by my condo one evening and, you have to understand that I’ve been told, point blank, that I’m out gunned so I’m expecting Ms. America to show up. When the door bell rang and Ernesto said “This is Carmen” I was silent for a moment, looking past the, obviously white trash, bar maid at his side for the real Carmen who I figured must have been standing on the side walk behind her. I didn’t know what to say besides “surely you don’t mean her?!?!” but I couldn’t say that so I just said “hi”.

Now here is where the tale really starts to get confusing. Ernesto still calls me every five minutes, wants me to hang out at his place all the time, even stay the night when Carmen has to work graveyard and still be his best friend, only now it’s his platonic best friend and he expects I should be cool with that; like being demoted from girlfriend to little sister is equitable. I mean, if I was into that kind of low return on investment vibe, I could keep exotic birds or be friends with a girl. Anyway, he and Carmen have apocalyptic arguments almost daily which, admittedly, provide some entertainment value for me but I am at a loss to understand what is happening. Perhaps, if regarded from a safe distance, the method to the madness would’ve revealed itself but when viewed from the immediate vicinity, the finer points lay in disarray, proving difficult to see in context. All she’s got on me is height and age and it seems like they hate each other so what the fuck? She is also the single mother of an intolerable brat named Jeremy who is 5 years old and the biggest pain in the ass I’ve ever met. One night when she actually packed her shit and left after a fight Ernesto says to me “You know what? Carmen just isn’t the same quality of person as we are.” and I was like “thank god, the voice of reason.” She was back the next fucking day though. So much for the voice of reason.

As time went on I began to form the opinion that it was better her than me. Granted, she was no where near his intellectual equal but he would antagonize her to the point that she had no choice but to fight back. That is one quality about Ernesto that I cannot stand; he is such an antagonist, never knowing when to stop making his point. I fucking hate that. He may see it as just kidding around but I see it as insulting. It is a sure fire way to get rid of me and he had ramped up his normal levels of antagonistic behavior about 500% with Carmen so it was no fucking wonder the poor girl, pardon me –woman would get so mad that she would cry and throw shit at him.

As his friend, I valiantly tried to dissuade Ernesto from continuing on in what was clearly a fuck-all of a mess. I exhausted every line of reasoning I could think of but my efforts were plainly futile because his response was to buy me a purple bride’s maid dress to wear in their wedding. Just when I thought this shit couldn’t get any weirder, now I’m the Maid Of Honor in their wedding! Fucking terrific. A couple months later we all fly back home to Magdalena for a double wedding ceremony in the gazebo right in the middle of the town square. Ernesto’s sister was also getting married and for some reason they thought it would be amazing to have not one, but two weddings at what I would, years later and under different circumstances, come to regard as the worst possible place in the entire city for a wedding.

The day of the wedding was not a good day for me but I did my best to suit up and pin on my game face. I don’t remember much about the ceremony, just that we all rode from the hotel to the gazebo in a horse drawn carriage. This is what I do remember; after the ceremony, right in front of everyone, Ernesto grabs me in an embrace that is restricting my air flow and he is sobbing. Not like happy tears of joy, like broken-hearted sobs and, while his tears are smearing my makeup, he blubbers “I love you” into my neck several times. This is the crown jewel fucking cake topper of weirdness. I don’t know how to react and just stand there like a pillar of salt. Carmen is watching.

About a month after the wedding I flew back home again to see Dean on his birthday. Coincidentally, he was recently married as well but that didn’t stop us from having a spirited reunion on the floor of his new in-law’s basement. Later that evening, while watching his band play at Hooters, his future ex-wife eyed me suspiciously while I calmly smoked a cigarette and chatted with my friends, feeling that once again things were more or less right with the world. About a week later I was taking a little ride in the car with Carmen. She asked me about my trip so I told her, you know just a little girl talk between women who don’t actually like each other. Granted, my main reason for telling her was just to make her uncomfortable and I guess it worked because I find out the next day, upon receiving an angry phone call, that she repeated the whole thing to Ernesto who actually had the balls to confront me saying “How could you?!?!” like I had betrayed him and to accuse me of being immoral or some nonsense. I was like “Aww, c’mon now. Is it your first day?” He suggested I start going to church with them.

Not too long after that I decided that enough is enough already, I just can’t hang with the Ernesto and Carmen freak show anymore so I disappear like a rabbit into a magician’s hat and don’t surface again for 15 years when, two years ago, I found Ernesto on facebook. Surprisingly, or not, he was still married to Carmen. I saw them then but just for the evening and I wasn’t looking to rekindle anything. I wasn’t there five minutes when out comes the wedding album and Ernesto says to me, in front of Carmen, “I was talking to my dad after the wedding and he said ‘I told you you should’ve married the pretty girl in the purple dress’.”

I honestly don’t know what Ernesto wants from me.

Even Kerouac Could Publish A Book

When I was 14 I was what some would consider a victim, though I beg to differ, in an incestuous yet consensual affair with my cousin who is 9 years older than me. If anyone was a victim, it was most certainly him because, while he was apparently drunk on the perfume of my blossoming young womanhood and found my shy smile and weird essays to be beguiling, I was a sweet cup of Pennyroyal Tea, even then.

My cousin lived on the east coast but would make frequent trips to La Luz to visit our aunt and uncle. Coincidentally I would go to La Luz to visit him. We got along famously in those days. He treated me like an adult, let me smoke his Camel Lights, took me on weird adventures and turned me on to cool authors like Jack Kerouac. When we were apart he would write long, spontaneous letters on paper bags and the backs of receipts, sometimes he would just send pages from his journal. I thought he was really cool. Let’s talk about Jack Kerouac.

Jack Kerouac was a literary iconoclast, the voice of the beat generation. His unedited, drug addled, rambling nonsense inspired generations of young free thinkers to travel the country by rail car composing handwritten novels on rolls of commercial grade paper toweling. Let’s face it; Kerouac is crooked and writes like a lunatic but when I was 14 now, let me tell ya, I thought he was really onto something. This explains a lot.

My cousin attended Oberlin College. Yes, the world renowned, ivy league, outrageously expensive, Oberlin College and his trip was funded entirely by the mommy and daddy scholarship. I, by comparison, learned most of what I needed to know in community college and I paid for that shit myself while working full time.

This little fling went on for a year or so and I became very adept at exploiting every type of family trust that there is. Of course everyone could see we were buddies but no one suspected anything unholy was occurring because we were related after all. Eventually though, like so many well intentioned, yet perverse, endeavors this too came to an end. My cousin decided to spend 6 months studying in London so off he goes. He still keeps in touch but not as much and obviously we’re not seeing each other. Upon returning from his 6 month fuck around hiatus, no sorry, studying – he was studying, he meets an Indian woman named Amrita. She was pure evil incarnate but as he seems to be turned on by that he went ahead and knocked her up and then they got married. Now granted, I had a boyfriend too but, making no attempt to hide my hypocrisy, I didn’t much see the humor in that.

So you might assume that the recently wed to the devil, new father, and recent graduate from Oberlin College would have some motivation to take care of his family and get something fancy, like a job. Just a job – any job…pumping gas is a job. You would assume wrong. Nope, he is not any kind of provider, or man of the house, by any stretch of the imagination. To the contrary I think he would sleep in his car most nights during the summer. It doesn’t take Amrita long to start loathing him but they carry on in mutual contempt for like 6 years until one day when I was 19 and living in Boulder City, my cousin, in an inconceivable act of fucktardation tells her about us, like everything about us, and seals his fate in my eyes forever. Amrita calls my aunt and fills her in. My aunt, who was living with my mother at the time, in turn calls me and says that if I don’t tell my mom then she will. I am shocked. This shit had been over nearly 5 years and now he throws me under the bus and leaves me there to manage the fall out between my mother and her sister whose son would be the cousin in question and all the while he is sleeping in his god damned 1982 Volkswagen Scirocco in motherfucking Bonanza, AR where he just can’t be bothered to answer his phone that his parents still pay for. I had to fly back home to straighten this shit out and that included sending my mom to a psychic medium to convince her that I was not molested in the traditional sense of the word. Not much of an option for my mom, really. She could either let her mommy hormones override reason and think of me as a victimized little girl OR she could sack up and admit that she may have hatched a demon spawn who was the mastermind behind the aforementioned “situation.” In any case, hell hath no fury like a betrayed Scorpio, and I spent the next ten years repaying him in spades for that indiscretion.

Jack Kerouac wasn’t much of a family man either. Child rearin’ wasn’t his thing and his resume had some unaccounted for time on it. He was a free spirit; traveling constantly, never putting down stakes, always doing exactly what he wanted to do, exactly when he wanted to do it. If there was something Kerouac had a handle on, it was discretionary time and he took full advantage of his days with no regard whatsoever for what the future may hold as a consequence of his cavalier lifestyle, or so it would seem. As it turned out Kerouac didn’t need to figure out how to deal with middle age because the booze got the best of him resulting in his demise at the age of 47. Somehow though, in the midst of all this free-wheelin’ jazz lifestyle he managed to publish a shit load of books that did, in fact, provide him with income and transform him into an American legend. Someway, somehow, ole’ Jack found the discipline to write books and get them published even while being incessantly intoxicated.

My cousin didn’t have a job when I was 14; he was divorced, still unemployed, and sleeping in his car when I was 19, and now I’m pretty sure he lives in a 5th wheel trailer that has been colonized by feral cats and is parked on some generous friend’s land in Bonanza. Employment comes in the way of handyman type jobs that pop up about once every three months. His parents still pay his phone bill just so he will have a phone and I bet they’d like a refund of their investment in his ivy league education. I think he does a little organic farming if you know what I mean, and you know what? It is the do-nothing drug.

I’m not gonna judge him. If he wants to piss his life away living like a middle class bum, then be it far from me to say otherwise. What I will say, however, is that he might coulda clued his parents in to his intentions before they invested a healthy six figures in his schooling and I think he should stop imposing his lifestyle on the heartstrings of people whom he knows won’t let him starve. I’ve got no explanation for the spectacular failure to launch that was my first lover but all I’m sayin’ is; even Kerouac could publish a book.

Motel 6

I’m a regular at Motel 6. My dad likes to go there, too.

I’ve spent years scrutinizing my dad, looking for any sign that we are the same species of creature. To date, there is little evidence except our shared affinity for seedy motels. When I go to Motel 6 I park in the back because I don’t want my husband – or anyone else for that matter – to catch me fucking the guy who, coincidentally, is my mentor in all things considered socially taboo and just plain wicked… While I’m there I coerce the girls at the front desk into admitting that they steal towels and get told stuff like “you know when check out is…” When my dad goes to Motel 6 he makes a thermos of instant coffee with hot water from the sink. No, we’re not hardly the same kind of creature.

My dad’s not a bad person but he’s got damaged goods. He fancies himself to be a highway man, traveling the country as a character in a Tom Waits song, eating in truck stops and making small talk with guys named Big Joe. The problem is that Big Joe has no idea what they’re talking about because my dad speaks in riddles. If my dad asks you a question/statement and you don’t know what the fuck he’s talking about, the answer is most likely one of the following things: Ford Motor Company, Michigan State University, or if the riddle contained the reference “smokey bear” then it’s about the police. Once, when my dad was visiting me in Boulder City, we somehow got shafted into going to some time share interview bullshit so’s that we could get free tickets to see Splash at The Riviera. During the interview I kept my sunglasses on in hopes that if I ever ran into the interviewer again she would not recognize me. The poor lady asked my dad if he had flown in to Vegas, he said “no” and so she asked “well then, how did you get here?” He tells her the turn for turn driving directions all the way from Bowling Green, OH. She gave him the praying mantis stare and I pushed my sunglasses further up my nose to better conceal my identity.

My dad’s wife’s name is Deborah. I call her “Pissed Off Deb” cause she’s always pissed off, plus she apparently has Tourette’s. She will say any ole’ rude shit that pops into her little midwestern head. Not that I entirely blame her. My dad, he’s an irritating guy. Every couple of months he decides to pack up the car and take the poor, reluctant, Pissed Off Deb on a road trip across the United States which will no doubt include stays at Motel 6, thermoses of bathroom sink water instant coffee and awkward riddle ridden dinners at truck stops. His other hobby is taking pictures of Pissed Off Deb in front of iconic national treasures and then sending them to me. I have pictures of Pissed Off Deb in front of Mount Rushmore, Niagara Falls and the Lincoln Memorial.

On another memorable occasion I was visiting my dad at my grandpa’s place in El Rito. I’m not sure where Pissed Off Deb was but I think she begged off and stayed at home for this hurrah. My grandpa’s accountant had alerted my dad to the fact that my grandpa was losing his grip on reality and that if he didn’t take immediate action, the state was gonna step in and seize the assets we were all counting on inheriting. My dad jumps on a plane and calls me up to inform me that my that my plans for the weekend have been replaced with mission Save The Family Fortune. I drop my plans for drinking jager and writing pointless shit and drive my ass to El Rito. When I get there my dad is talking a blue streak and I am left speechless and staring just trying to solve the riddles fast enough to keep up. One minute he’s talking about a lazy union janitor at Ford Motor Company and the next he’s saying “when mom died, everyone was consoling pops, but she was my mom too”. That made me sad but my empathy is trumped by the need to suppress my gag reflex because while he’s regaling me with this hours long monologue he is also slurping Psyllium fiber mixed with not enough water from a coffee cup and it has congealed into a wildly disgusting gelatinous slop that is dripping from his mouth back into the cup every time he takes a swig. The next day I was in my room, having just got out of the shower and sitting on the floor in front of my suitcase. I was naked and looking for clothes when my dad just walks right in, doesn’t knock or anything. We were both mortified, and in keeping with family tradition this instance was never to be spoken of again. Later that day I drove my dad to Wal-Mart to buy silk flowers to put on on my grandmother’s grave. At the cemetery transpires the weirdest shit, ever. Ever.

We’re at the cemetery observing all the family grave sites. I see the headstone of my dad’s brother, Harold, and note that there are fresh flowers in the flower cup. My dad, tipped off by the flowers, starts to sarcastically speculate that Harry is conducting an affair with the living from beyond the grave. He always loathed his brother. I am feeling brave so I say “didn’t Harry die of some kind overdose?” and my dad replies “somethin’ like that.” No remorse, no emotion, no nothing, just “somethin’ like that”. Maybe now would be a good time to bring up the fact that, when he was a young man, my dad was the primary suspect in a murder investigation involving the deaths of three of his family members. A couple years later Harry was found dead in his car having overdosed on a prescription epilepsy medicine that no one knew he was taking.

We locate my grandmother’s headstone and deposit the silk flowers from Wal-Mart. While we’re doing this my dad starts to tell me that he has a pre-paid plot in this cemetery but doesn’t want to use it because he intends to be buried in Ohio next to Pissed Off Deb. For some reason this issue has grown to be a point of contention between he and my grandpa. My dad tells me that he would concede to my grandpa’s wishes and be buried in this cemetery only if my grandpa agrees to pay the shipping charges associated with transporting a corpse across state lines. Then he tells me that I should write a song, because he thinks I’m a musician, about a funny scenario that could unfold upon his death and playing upon the fact that both my grandpa and Pissed Off Deb hate to spend money. The song, he tells me, should tell the story of how, after he dies, Deb will send his body C.O.D. to El Rito and my grandpa, being just as big of a cheap skate, will refuse the charges thus sending him back to Ohio where Pissed Off Deb will also refuse the shipment and this will go on indefinitely leaving his body traveling the highways of America in a big black hearse with shiny black windows for all eternity.

I imagine one day I’ll meet up with my dad at the great Motel 6 in the sky. Reckon he’ll leave the light on for me.