Sandbags through the hour glass

I collect suitcases. More specifically, I collect things that I put in suitcases. One full of found objects, another of original drafts, another of photos I've torn out of books & magazines, another of electrical cords, another of vintage pornography, another of found slides, another four of old fabric, and another of folders filled with scraps of paper, etc. Every scrap of paper contains notes about someone, something, or somewhere. Neck breaking observations.

The other night my husband told me I was being critical. "Isn't that the point," I asked myself.

While trying to find something I thought I had printed out before deleting from my hard drive, I found a folder filled like a fat blister. Some pages 8 1/2"X11". And, some only 1"X1". All packed with some of the worst handwriting ever. Mine. I've decided I have to go through them ALL. I was hoping to maybe use bits for my new pack of essays. But, Jesus! The things I've seen. The things I've done. It's kinda sick, sad, and exhausting. Kristy Korea has often asked me to forgo the Great Lakes exploration and simply write an autobiography. But, I'm not famous, I tell her. Just jaded and burnt. She seems to think there are some life lessons contained in my sticky nougat filled life. But, are they lessons or just critiques of things that won't ever change? Things that just might get worse. Maybe a snapshot of the time the shit all cooled on it's way to hitting the fan. Or maybe I could just teach this: people, including myself and yourself, are assholes. But, keep pushing through the meat locker of life. Although I am not a Calvinist, I do believe in a certain degree of predestination since having my daughters. I should have been dead ten times over. But, thirty-seven years into the game, I am only starting to figure out what the hell I might be doing here.

Anyway, I plan on finally committing some of these notes to an institutionalized setting. Please listen to Sweet's Committed while reading these nut job notes looking for a padded cell.

The first found pages written on rice paper are about an Australian I met in the early 1990's named Mickey. When waiting for the bus home from my pharmacy job, I used to hang out at a bar appropriately called Shooter's. Shooter's had elderly shaking drunks and young shaking drug addicts and drain flies in the can. The only reason I can figure I went to Shooter's regularly was this-- I was a self-loathing drunk. And, the only reason I made it through a couple of years at Shooter's was unfulfilled destiny.

Let's see. Before we get to Mickey, let's think of a few other patrons. The Captain, a veteran in his seventies with Parkinson and the desire to dance. I liked Captain. He would sit and drink his beer, piping up with a giggle now and then. He would show up at 9am and leave promptly at 3pm with a six-pack under his good arm. Lee Mayberry, a welfare case who loved the song Green-eyed Lady. I hated that song and hated Lee for constantly playing that song on the jukebox. And, for his permed, red hair. Rich and Chuck, two men who realized you can always count on a hot meal in jail. And, the easiest way to get high is to provoke someone into beating the shit out of you, getting a script for morphine patches to dull the pain, but wearing them on the soles of your feet for a better buzz. Vinnie, the owner, a former cop and hopeless gambler. High-stakes, high-speed outlawed card games eventually made him lose the bar and gain an ankle bracelet. Pat, the literate heroin addict who knew more about the Beat writers than about himself. Some nameless whore with bleach blond hair back in the States after stripping in Asia, looking for some coke to shoot up and her shoes. The crackhead who disappeared to the joint after falling asleep behind some folding chairs while hiding from the cops during a break-in gone bad. And, on. Think of the old saying, "Who lifted up a rock in this place?" There I sat, in the corner like a fucking lighthouse of innocence. And, every once in a while some scumbag who hadn't been beaten down enough yet would saddle up next to me. And, every once in a while, the scumbag would be handsome like Australian Mickey.

Back in 1988, tattoos still had bad connotations. Bikers, criminals, and a few punks. I was seventeen. I got a tattoo of a cherub with a skull face and bat wings by a woman named Brenda, in her living room which functioned as her husband's tattoo shop. Her husband, Perry was passed out on the couch. So, it was up to Brenda in her Care Bear sweatshirt and sweatpants to earn my ten dollars. I wasn't a biker yet. I had only experienced two run-ins with the law by the green age of nineteen. I had a really shitty attitude and didn't much like listening to authority, but I certainly didn't consider myself a punk.

Mickey had a star tattooed on his earlobe. He was a criminal. He got it in prison. And, the "Fuck you" tattooed on the inside of his lower lip? Prison, too. Mickey explained the Gothic letters coated in spit had historical roots. The Romans soldiers used to have the same thing, in Latin, tattooed in their mouths, he told me. After battle it wasn't unheard of to rape an enemy's person for souvenirs. Before a victorious opponent could stomp on your face and peel back your lips for a handful of teeth, he would read, fuck you. Unfortunately, the straight-edge hardcore punks have appropriated this little lip trick, using phrases like "4 Life" or "XXX". Yawn, I guess that's like having your testicles drop for a Mama's boy.

Clever and smart that ol' Mickey. I let Mickey by me beer. Amongst the American dollars, Mickey weeded through various other currencies from far away places like Singapore. "Oh", he'd told me, "yeah, my brother is in Singapore." Sure. One thing about Shooter's, ninety-nine percent of the clientele would lie through their teeth if they had 'em. Mickey wore cheap loafers. My mother always told me to stay away from men in cheap shoes. All the more reason to talk to Mickey. Mickey told me he was just in town for a little while. However, getting arrested for beating the shit out of an old lady during a purse snatching turned mugging turned ultrviolence may have changed up Mickey's travel plans a bit. I never saw Mickey again. About five years later, Shooter's would be torn down after the landlord refused to renew the lease. The building was beyond repair. So, it was just gone in day. Sadly, the building did have a bit of history. I had seen pictures of the bar from the early 1900's. Working men sitting on benches, kicking up the sawdust floor while waiting for beef sandwiches cooked up on a spit in the window. Somehow, that idea got skewed; because, during Shooter's last days, the owners decided to start serving food in order to get a Sunday liquor license. A hot dog that had been floating in a Crock Pot for a day and a half with a bag of chips for a dollar-twenty-five. Classy, I know. So, classy that I still get Hep tests to this day.


- Melissa Sullivan