Rube Goldberg

You can talk to me if
you've got "surrender @ nine on Friday"
as a legitimate line
on your to-do list
and you mean
to the police--
Assault in the Third, a misdemeanor
but still.

There were times when you
would laugh it off
with a huge vat of bourbon on hand
but now it's not so funny
that you haven't put pants on
or seen someone's face today
and won't.
You'll just suck 'til it numbs you.

With biceps too thin
for the width of your shoulders
and gonads too small
for the size of your mouth--
who will be the one who claims you?
Who will choose to leave them out?

You know what's wrong with me
but refuse to share the news.
For shame.
For shame, with your cool million.
For humming like a heroin hooker.
For needing some fuzz on the peach
to come.
For shame.

I've loved all of you
despite your forgetfulness.
Somehow, I still do.


road dog digest

road dog digest, vol. XXIX:
they had my check waiting as soon as i got there. my partner decided that he didn't want to suffer the night without me and came along as a true union brother does. besides, i drove both of us to work and he'd rather walk than hitch a ride with certain others. "dragging up", as they call it, has an air of defiance that makes the ride home sweeter. let the clueless foreman and the blue-hair with eight fingers handle the last shift alone. my accomplice and i have five I's in our names between the two of us. the hypothetical team can go to shambles for all we care at this point after how we've been treated.
packing didn't take long. i threw my life into the back of my truck and sucked down two yuenglings, which may or may not come from america's oldest brewery. the four-hour ride will be rough on two hours sleep, but this wanderer's thirst for the familiar will keep his eyelids raised.
i wish i could say it's been as great as an experience as last year's nuclear debacle, but it hasn't. i won't start lying to you this late in the game. regardless, it's been real. lessons learned, bonds hardened, radiation absorbed, money made, and home sounds that much better. i hope ya'll didn't spend too much on the fireworks for my welcoming gala. i'll try not to scuff the red carpet since i know it's a rental. the rabbit will be pissed that i chose to show my face again. in lieu of pity sex, please donate to your favorite charity in the name of joshua james vahsen. it's too late for this old salt, but my little brother could use a running start in the karma department. there's a tough world out there should you choose to see it. some of us take that risk to make a buck.
road dog, signing out.
see you on the next big one.
[exit mouthpiece, stage left. fade to black as the orchestra dies.]
road dog digest, vol. XXVIII:
jesus christ, i missed session drinking. the sad parts are that: (a)my tolerance has been lowered due to work-related alcoholic inactivity as demonstrated by the fact that i was talking to myself before the first bottle of wine was drained, and (b)there is no (b), unless you'd like to count the constant which consists mostly of your jester's solitude coupled with the humor he uses to cover up the associated grief. regardless, the bottle of brew is warming against my side as i type this between sips. it feels more like home than most of the people who've let me inside them. i suppose that isn't saying much so i'll move on under the guise of ossified ineptitude. sorry, ladies. you whack.
my ball-busting brother just called me at 4:45 in the morning to inform me that two more members of our crew got the axe tonight. that means there are only three of us left. we all want that blade to drop. the fact that the foreman knows that makes it all the more frustrating. get us our fucking checks already. no one wants your blood money anymore. the gig is up, the jig is up. fuck the pain away. at least tomorrow is my double-time night. they can eat my ass with a nuclear spork for all i care after that.
one thing i won't miss: having to wear scrubs on the job. the irony involved in my previous psychotic irish-german nursing endeavors becomes too extreme after the first week of said uniform. those broads would be laughing their hypothetical nuts off if they knew i had to dress like them on a nightly basis to make a buck. please hold as i shake off the douche chills.
we need to shower and get ourselves in bed before the boys come home in half an hour. as the resident mother hen says: "when you're schizophrenic you're never alone."
road dog digest, vol. XXVI:
the company had last night's shift catered. it's a general rule of thumb that when a contractor feeds you the layoff check is close to follow. this phenomenon is referred to as the last supper. ask jesus christ how that worked out for him. he may have only been a carpenter who dabbled in fishing, but his opinion still offers insight in this case. we're about to get crucified. the thing that the powers that be don't realize is that they're only threatening me with a good time. i can't wait to get out of this dump and blow through the money i amassed while serving my sentence here immersed in madness.
part of that's due to the fact that it seems this outfit promotes based on incompetence. i'm an easy-going guy, but the constant violations of safety, procedure, and common sense have made it hard to keep silent with this moron at the helm. "your foreman's at it again," has become a common phrase around here; one that sarcastically implies that said man is not in charge of the speaker. good stuff. even when we try to help him he plays the part that we've come to expect of him: upper management's clueless pawn who's in above his head, taking his frustration out on those trying to get the job done. last night it came to a head and i had it out with him on the turbine deck. told him to go fuck himself, which he said he'd remember. i hope he also remembers that he doesn't belong running work. i find it hard to believe that he could successfully run a greased glove up his ass, let alone a job. the man couldn't lay out two flat washers or a fucking picnic blanket, yet we're at his ignorant mercy. it's fine. i have my show-stopper line ready for him if it comes down to it, but that one requires a multitude of witnesses and the element of surprise. yes, it's that good. hopefully the situation doesn't escalate any further and i get to ride the remaining few days out peacefully. i have no problem putting foolishness in its place if need be, however. all work and no play makes mike a dull boy. don't bark up this tree, brother. its roots run deeper than yours.
but it ain't all a soap opera called 'as the pipe wrench turns'. there are some good eggs to make up for the insanity. when i sat down with my plate of food last night there was a napkin full of chocolate chip cookies waiting at my spot. "i know you like these so i took a bunch for your lunchbox," my buddy said from across the table. "i know you've got a sweet tooth." the old timers usually take care of me, partially because they see a glimmer of themselves in a younger man trying to make the best of a crap hand. sometimes they see the same mistakes and tell me so. whatever it is, it's appreciated. i've already eaten four of those cookies.
the other guy under thirty on my crew left last night. he got a call to work in his own territory and informed supervision that he'd be leaving in two days so they laid him off instantly with promise of a mailed check. that's odd-- he didn't mail them the labor! lesson learned: don't be honest with your employer because they will screw you regardless. the sheep fucker is down the road, probably never to be seen again. that's the nature of our business. truth be told, he grew on me like a fungus. he may not know when to keep his mouth shut and makes an ass of himself by being such a goofy bastard, but he's harmless and has a good heart. i'll take that combination any day of the week, even the one where he dropped an inch-and-an-eighth socket into a turbine casing and six people had to spend time recovering it so it doesn't interfere with the production of nuclear power. here's to you, wayne of plattsburgh. long days and pleasant nights.
i'm off to burn mine. night off of laundry, reading, and a possible expedition to syracuse in the name of staying awake. love the one you're with.
road dog digest, vol. XXV:
last night in the smoke shack, where genius congregates, i learned that the bizarre shrieks of exotic birds that make you think you're in jurassic park if you close your eyes are actually a recording played by loudspeakers to keep real-life 'swego birds from nesting in the electrical transformers. how sadistically brilliant!
"dry?" one of the old guys on my crew asked me.
"it's about a fish in a martini glass," another chimed in, judging the book by its cover quite literally.
"you reading motherfucker," said the first.
"it's my escape from reality," i explained. "speaking of which, i'm going for a cigarette."
i kept my fingers crossed that they wouldn't thumb through that one while i was gone to see what the hell it was actually about. not everyone can read a book about a homosexual manhattan man's fight with addiction and forays into love with an open mind. the boys would've ripped me a new one, so to speak. people are people, love is love. i understand that scene where the two turn around after parting ways at the end of their date to see if the other is looking, even if they are both guys. i'll stick to the ladies, though, regardless of whether or not they choose to stick to me. speaking of which, can i please have my layoff check and go home? the book i'm on now is about a prison escape. how fitting!
road dog digest, vol. XXIV:
the transplant went well. they also found a source of internal bleeding and corrected it. there's a long road of recovery ahead, but it's not one that he can't handle. he's one of the strongest men i know. thanks for the outpouring of positive energy. now back to our regularly scheduled programming.
went on a field trip to syracuse the other night. the supervisors and safety coordinator on the job asked for a volunteer to do them a favor so i raised my hand since my book was in a lull. apparently one of the millwrights became queasy and disoriented, pale like a fish belly. they decided to send him home for the night and needed someone to drive him down to his hotel room an hour away. it made for a brief escape from the plant and i was treated to mcdonald's on the company dime midway through. thus completes my volunteer work for the outage. waiting on my ambulance driver merit badge.
my favorite source of entertainment was telling stories from his college days for our amusement. (it's an associates in plumbing, welding, and heating-- don't get too excited.) he reminisced about a spider that he and his roommates befriended in college. argyle was his name and he lived in a web behind a glowing pabst sign hanging in their living room. they'd disorient flies by whacking them and throw them his way, then watch him descend upon his victims. he'd drop himself down by a silken thread and sit on the arm of their couch while they watched tv. argyle got to be big in the process. one night, some female company of my cohort saw him dangling from the ceiling and squashed him. my buddy was so upset over the murder of his pet that he kicked the confused girl out of his place. loyalty to an arachnid was more important than an easy lay. this down time on the job isn't so terrible. it brings me a new level of respect for my colleagues-- the kind that shows their humanity as opposed to their piping prowess. i'll drink to that, though it'll have to wait for another evening since i've got to report to work in an hour.
road dog digest, vol. XXIII:
his kidneys are failing due to the liver problem and he now needs one of those as well. i don't know if they transplanted the liver or not. i'm having a hard time staying positive. smoked like a fiend and noted the oddly pink moon. spent most of the night in a remote corner of the room with my nose in two books to distract myself and keep my poker face on while i wasn't hiding behind the laughs. the truth is that i'm terrified. i want this job to end right now so i can be where i belong and find out if i am a donor candidate.
heartfelt thanks to a special brother member from local 420 out of philly whom i met during last year's nuke job. your encouraging text about keeping my friend (whom you've never met) in your thoughts and prayers epitomized the concept of brotherhood in a business often tainted by backstabbers. what they say about your city must be true.
going to sleep prematurely, then calling his wife when i wake up this afternoon to see if any progress has been made.
last year, before going on the road for the first time, he told me what his father told him about working out of town: "when in rome, do as the romans." if i could aspire to be half the man he is someday then i'd be a lucky motherfucker.
road dog digest, vol. XXII:
i had some amusing scenes to relay to you today, but none of them are relevant right now. one of my best friends-- the kind who'd silently take a .38 slug for me without thinking twice-- has been under the knife for hours. a liver donor became available last night (read: someone else died) and he was rushed in for the transplant. he called to let me know, but i was sleeping due to my reversed sleep cycle. i wish i'd gotten to speak to him, and that i wasn't way up here while one of the few who have truly been there for me is at the mercy of millionaires practicing alchemy with blades.
my mind will be with you tonight, brother. much love from the north country.
road dog digest, vol. XXI:
last night in the break room i was approached by a tradesman who could pass for that hook-nosed hispanic guy from "sesame street" back in the proverbial day. this stranger carried himself with such confidence as if i met him at a pig roast or a spicnic in a past life. i warned him that i did not have any bananas in my lunchbox for him to fry, though upon later inspection i learned that he'd brought his own-- which i then schooled him on by suggesting that he store said fruit in a paper bag to help ripen them faster for platano status. he laughed and started making humorous observations about me to my partner. i then proceeded to ask him if he sprinkles adobo on his lady's downparts before proceeding with the act to make it more like everything else he eats. this was comedic gold which sent him reeling back to his table across the room. he returned with a single-serving snack package of some type of white pudding. naturally, i noted his flan addiction and scored one for team steamfitter. this guy is fun and can take a joke well. we'll have fun there among the Whites.
last night was a sham. too many chiefs, not enough indians. i try to stay working with the second youngest guy from my crew since we see eye to eye and bust shit out without any drama, but sometimes that can't be the case since it makes more sense to split up the two young bulls who are young, dumb, and full of-- anyway, i'm hoping i don't have to snap on an out-of-town wretch of a stranger who needs to retire in the near future, but can't make any promises. i can turn a wrench, pal. you worry about your own deal, like making funeral arrangements.
cracked a beer at 6 am to wash down my last smoke of the day on the porch of this rented fishing shack, the pink sky yielding to an indifferent sun ready to own its subjects again. there are some things about this gig which i could eventually get used to. be easy.
road dog digest, vol. XX:
when i pay my weekly rent on tuesday the landlady will wonder where all these singles came from.
road dog digest, vol. XIX:
tonight's my first night off in six days and it feels great to be sucking some sauvignon blanc.
my lodging situation has yielded a surprising statistic: only one-in-four pipefitters bathe between returning from work and going to bed. the other three slide into the sheets with the shift's grime upon them and use the hot water to rouse themselves upon waking instead. i find it mildly repulsive. then again, we're not in kansas anymore so this may be an extenuating circumstance. my rule of thumb has always been this: white collar-- shower before work; blue collar-- shower after work. i'm not saying i'm superior to anyone or have commendable hygiene practices worthy of penning an educational children's song cartoon a la "i'm just a bill" or "conjunction junction", but it definitely is interesting to see how many assumptions are discredited when you get the chance to live with others. at least i don't have to worry about hogging all the hot water since i'm the only one who uses it at that hour.
my last shift was another twelve-hour reading extravaganza due to the lack of work ready for our crew to perform. there's an immense amount of down time in the nuclear industry. i'll soak up the dough for as long as they let me. shakespeare shall be in the break room, boys. let me know when it's coffee time so i can put my novel down and go grab a cup.
for the first time in my life i just cooked an entire meal at four in the morning. didn't eat any of it, mind you. it's packed away in the refrigerator in individual containers for my colleagues to take to work tomorrow night. the pork chops come out better broiled, but this cabin is lacking a cookie sheet so i had to adapt and overcome.
funnily enough, one of the speakers at our orientation meeting said, "there is no 'adapt and overcome' in this business anymore." i rubbed the tattoo on my forearm with two banners that say both of those words and smiled at the guy sitting across from me. i'll keep making my own conditions, pal. you have fun holding yourself while someone publishes a thesis on how to accomplish your task. if it wasn't for creative problem-solving then i wouldn't be here today to roll my eyes in your general direction. these guys don't get it. their utopian dream of ideal scenarios does not exist. give me chicken shit and i'll make you chicken salad. if skinning cats was cool then i'd be the fucking fonz.
fact: i missed white wine more than i miss most of you.
road dog digest, vol. XVIII:
last night our crew did not receive a work package. with no assignment there was literally nothing to do but sit there and wait for a task. i read for most of the night. at one point there was ground water coming up through the basement floor so we went and found mops, buckets, and a fan to dry it up. you know men are bored when they begin to clean even though it's not in their job description. not sure if i can take a second consecutive night of so much "ass time", but there's only one way to find out.
road dog digest, vol. XVII:
out-of-towners usually get pegged with the night shift, not that i mind the pay differential or laid back atmosphere of those hours. i did, however, forget how hard it is to sleep during the day when the body wants to be awake. with lodging mates stomping around the place, doing dishes compulsively out of boredom, and slamming toilet seats it is almost impossible to get more than four solid hours. i nod off a bit after being ripped from slumberland, but it's never the same. dreams are also much more vivid during the day because you never really enter the realm of deep rest. i can't count how many times i've snapped out of one since sunday, grateful as all get-out to not be living its implications.
but now it's time to live the dream for another twelve hours of pipefitting bliss. until tomorrow, friends.
road dog digest, vol. XVI:
the eagle took a shit last night. that's construction code for "we got paid." i don't do this for the love of the game, the sketchy camaraderie, or even the decent (yet sporadic) money; i sling pipe for the chance to be exposed to such hilarious jargon and ridiculous stories as the ones we hear on the job. like the one my coworker told me last night about how his kindergarten teacher thought he hadn't gone to class for the first three months of school. his parents showed up for conferences and asked how their son was doing, to which the teacher replied that he'd never showed up. "that's impossible, we put him on the bus every morning," they replied. the kid, my current partner, went by his middle name from an early age and therefore didn't answer to or associate himself with his first name in elementary school. when he was called during attendance he stared around blankly as the teacher marked that student absent. how no one caught on to this mistake is baffling, but stranger things have happened within the public school system. also, my buddy's still a space cadet. we never really change.
had a random piss test as soon as i reported to work tomorrow. it was a fun way to start the day and i got to go lone wolf for forty minutes, snuck away for a smoke before returning to the pack. there was some strange terminology on the forms i signed to give consent. one section referred to me as the "operator" which seemed a bit grandiose, though flattering. another part mistakenly called me a "donor". no one's accepting that vial of urine, or so i hope. i'm not giving a kidney, dammit. whoever developed that paperwork needs to reevaluate their position on some of these matters. regardless, it turns out i'm not pregnant.
i spotted an interesting character from last year's outage: one half of the brothers grimm. that's the nickname given to the twins that came to my last crew halfway through the job. they were in their early fifties, small and troll-like, bizarrely introverted, haggard, and insisted upon changing into their work scrubs in the foreman's office instead of out in the general population like the rest of us. last night while i sat and waited for someone incompetent to finish fouling up the rest of his task i noticed one of the brothers grimm walking down the hall as nervously as ever. he looked like the weight of the world was upon his shoulders. it made me thankful for the mindset i've developed. i'd tell you how i cope, but then i'd have to make a sales pitch for my self-help videos. you don't want that.
the inside joke of our cabin was taken from the speech given by our head honcho at the orientation meeting last week. it sounds like a line from the "edited for tv" version of "goodfellas" and gets a laugh out of us every time we say it. my theory is that it could defuse a tense situation if tactfully applied by making the intended recipient laugh. the next time someone gives you guff unnecessarily, proudly say, "go do yourself."
speaking of which-- it's time. stay thirsty, my friends.
in the event that i'm rudely awakened both prematurely and on multiple occasions for the second truncated sleep cycle in a row i am repeating the following mantra as i drift off to slumberland:
"do not go out there and strangle a union brother...do not go out there and strangle a union brother...do not go out there and strangle a union brother..."
if that toilet seat slams in the next three hours or anyone throws a dish in the sink from four feet away i may get medieval on their respective asses. goodnight, sunshine. go piss in someone else's cereal for a change.
road dog digest, vol. XV:
be careful what you wish for. deliriously tired. birds outside my window may catch some lead for welcoming dawn. goodnight.
new day-sleeper.
elevator music.
body confused.
need darker curtains.
payday. mayday.
road dog digest, vol. XIV:
after being here in canada lite for almost two weeks of training and cabin fever doldrums i will finally begin what i came here to do:  work. the outage began today and my first twelve-hour shift starts at 6 pm this evening. i'm excited to start making the real money with 72-hour work weeks. time will fly by now that we're shifting gears. the sooner i can get this fucker up and running again with my nuclear pipefitting prowess, the sooner i can get the fuck out of dodge while laughing all the way to the bank. and if you didn't read that with a boulder of salt then clearly you haven't been paying attention.
someone who's weaved in and out of my life for the last fifteen years is moving several states away come summer. this came as a surprise today via text message. if it makes her happy then so be it, but it seems she's only running to that greener grass. we're all seeking something. it takes awhile to realize that happiness comes from inside as opposed to a new set of headaches. if i'm honest i'll admit that i'm only bitter because i didn't jump at the chance to seal the deal when i should've during our last fling. thankfully, i'm not honest with myself.
heard the sound of spring peepers through the raindrops the other night. strangely, it was cold enough to snow earlier that same day. i finished my smoke and called my mom since the sound of the tree frogs always makes me think of my futile attempts to find them while growing up. "my nature boy," she used to call me. no argument there, even here in loosely-defined manhood. i'm still curious about the nature of things-- like how the hell a piece of paper can make men sell their souls, or how anyone could detonate bombs at an innocent sporting event and injure dozens of strangers. the world needs love.
packing lunch, donning pants, preparing to get my nuke on. be safe.
road dog digest, vol. XIII:
went to do my laundry today in what the locals refer to as "town". loaded the machine, pushed the button, went to read in my truck to avoid the populace. upon returning half an hour later to throw my wardrobe into the dryer i found that the cycle never started. had to reinsert quarters and wait all over again. felt almost as dumb as the obvious fellow tradesman who was wearing safety glasses in the laundromat. talk about being institutionalized...
tonight was my turn to make dinner here in the pipefitting commune. i was making mashed potatoes while the resident chef bird-dogged me from his perch at the corner of the table. i added one dollop of i-can-certainly-believe-it's-not-butter, then another; he told me to keep going until he said "stop". i was waiting for a whistle to blow or a yellow flag to be thrown. fortunately, i graduated from a large public high school so my meal came out just fine. note to self: don't volunteer if there's an audience.
but some things go down easier for me when people are watching-- like failure. the men are living vicariously through my foray into redneck online dating. they salute my shameless endeavors and their cheerleading fuels my willingness to crash the test jet. i made it home alive without becoming a statistic. what happens in 'swego stays in 'swego. next tattoo: my teeth marks on my arm where i gnawed myself free.
"is that why it says 'shakespeare' on your fitter's hat?" he asks. i affirm his deduction, explain how the nickname came about back as an apprentice when i'd read in my car on lunch break. give the abridged, two-sentence version of my college adventure. he goes on to tell me about a character in our hall called "the doc"-- a man who went to med school, then decided to join the ranks. "there are a lot of educated men in our local." i don't define the term, but agree based on its breadth. education, to me, means someone standing in front of a classroom. most of what i know i've learned from dead men. i'm learned, not educated. there's a difference.
i know-- you still want details. she had three cats. that's all i'll tell you.
road dog digest, vol. XII:
we sat through presentations for seven hours yesterday. it was a catered event at a local restaurant where all of us would've died if fire broke out. they had us crammed in like sardines with barely enough room to maneuver our way to the lousy sandwich table. the sheep fucker cornered me while i snuck a smoke between speakers. asked if i'm on nights, too. he'll be my assigned partner when the job starts. this much i know, judging from past karmic experience.
the highlight of the day was the crucifixion of a painfully drab supervisor who had no business standing behind a podium. oration requires certain skills, none of which this man possesses. he droned on for over an hour without moving his hands, altering his tone, sneaking one dirty joke in to shake us up. i wanted to stab my eyes out with the toothpicks they used to hold the sandwiches together. about twenty minutes into the abortion of a speech i noticed that he used the word 'right' like a nervous tic. it came out as punctuation to every point and began feeling like a smack in the back of the head or a skipping cd. i made a game of it by muttering 'right' under my breath when i thought one of his was coming. most times i was, well, right.
the other 250 tradesmen in the room picked up on his issue and started whispering 'right' as well. the catering hall turned into a low-key chorus of sarcastic union craftsmen who were sticking their tongues out at a pencil-pushing white-hat. that's when i lost it. i blurted out a laugh and covered my mouth. turned bright red, bit my hand, closed my eyes, felt sweat on my forehead. my buddy next to me said 'right' and nudged my arm. i choked on my own tonsils trying to contain myself. the image of my silent torture made my friend sitting across from me smile wide. i had to look away to hold back, but made the mistake of looking at another gent from my local. 'right,' he said at the same time as the nerdy speaker who was quickly losing possession of the room.
i faked a cough and let out a neutered laugh. the welder from kentucky sitting to my left couldn't bear to look at me for fear of busting out. our table was directly in front of the microphone and in view of all in the room. my friend to the right looked me in the eyes and smirked. he didn't have to say 'right' that time. i lost my shit. tears rolled down my cheeks. and when i went to the bathroom at the next coffee break it was all anyone could talk about. one man counted the guy's fucking rights: 356.
when we returned to our tables it was even harder not to laugh like in junior high math class when the teacher said '69' due to the anticipation. i didn't think i'd be able to make it. feared expulsion from the room, possibly from the job. that's when the poor guy did the best thing he could've: he acknowledged the fact that he says 'right' all the time, then invited anyone else to stand up there and address such a large audience without feeling nervous. laughter and applause erupted in the hall. we all commended his honesty and the air was settled again. i didn't feel the need to laugh anymore. thankfully, the lack of mystique and rebellion made his 'rights' alright with all of us. mercy on the mount.
speaking of mounting-- i'm meeting an oswegan from my online dating site tonight for drinks and horizontal pity. this was an early entry for a reason (pun intended). what happens in north country stays in north country...including any bad decisions. if i don't make it back then assume the worst. tombstone inscription: "he went down with one gun blazing."
road dog digest, vol. XI:
i forgot my father's birthday until he called. pretty sure i cursed myself out on the phone. it's a different world up here, not that location's an excuse. i have no sense of time relative to home; only money-- the main reason i'm pimping myself out like this.
it's been confirmed that a curious raccoon is what's responsible for the power outage at the plant that caused all of us to be sent home after two hours on tuesday. the good news: we still got paid for the day. thanks, suicide coon! tell osama i said hello in hell.
a stranger in my crew is missing the better portions of two fingers. i'm not sure i want to work with him. clearly his safety skills are lacking. and he's not even the one we've already dubbed "sheep fucker". that guy may get his mouth duct-taped shut before the outage is over. i don't pity people in coke bottle glasses for the mere fact that they look like apes from madagascar. for the record: he really did jokingly admit to sodomizing livestock. that's pretty baa-aa-aa-aad.
it rained, then hailed, then snowed, then sleeted. i was waiting for the frogs to drop next.
"you should've been a writer," he told me. "i enjoy your stories." i juggled it in my head, responded with, "always something." but i am one, goddammit; one who turns wrenches to pay the bills. there's no shame in that. i prefer it for the most part. keeps me humble, learning, pure. maybe that last one's a stretch. a writer's just a glorified liar.
best quote of the week: "they got two channels up here: news, and fuckin' alligator shows."
an instructor shared a tale from what seems like a past life in which he single-handedly took out the power and telephone connections of lancaster, pennsylvania with a crane while demolishing some unused railroad tracks years back. no one was killed, but the entire town showed up to chew him out. when the Man in Charge arrived and asked what moron was responsible for the offense the entire town proceeded to point at our poor instructor, who was then only a lowly tradesman. the image of him looking up to take that heat was the cover of the next day's newspaper. i appreciated that honesty. i'd trust him with my life. it's not the lack of fucking up that makes the man. it's the ability to step up and take the hit, but keep on walking. hear my boots?
road dog digest, vol. IX:
god bless direct deposit. woke up, checked my account via text message, and decided to head to work since they paid me electronically under the cover of night.
entered the actual bowels of the plant for the first time today. saw a lot more familiar faces and shook one-quarter of the attached hands (since i only pretend to like half the people i meet and merely tolerate a majority of them). characters dubbed chicken and tone loc: these are the men with whom my radiological safety is trusted. it's perfectly normal to those who know. tone's face lit up when we started jiving. chicken gave me that silent, knowing smirk. we're all here for the same reason. the variety's what makes it enjoyable.
shortly afterward i ran into a fitter from last year's chem decon crew, but he barely opened his mouth when he said hello and didn't look me in the eyes. not everything's as golden as its crystallized memory. duly noted, shakespeare.
it's been thirty degrees colder here than back home and the clouds all seem to congregate over this not-so-great lake. part of me is happy that this shutdown won't be as long as last year's. there's an angry rabbit awaiting my return, and landlords who refuse to learn my name. "buddy" must be an all-encompassing designation in albania.
the amish farm has had a "closed" sign up every time i've passed it. it probably isn't wise to buy baked goods from people who don't have running water anyway. how do they wash their hands? you can eat that pie alone, pal.
speaking of which-- the locals have responded...mostly with "my daddy works at the plant, too!" i'll leave that be for now. endorphins aren't worth losing ones life over, especially in this land that god forgot. i can't go down with only one gun blazing.
and i couldn't have euthanized that buck if i couldn't've beared to look at it. that's my reasoning for not going back. it's working. i'm a pro.
thrice in nine days i've caught myself repeating the last word of a sentence as if for emphasis. it doesn't take freud to reveal the true reason. i'm trying to convince myself.
whiskey tango foxtrot.
road dog digest, vol. VIII:
on the way to work this morning my partner and i witnessed death in its realest form. a deer was thrashing around in the shoulder, its rear legs demolished. hooves flailed around in desperation. one antler was broken off. it was a violent display of life's frail nature. i wished i'd had my gun on me to put the thing out of its misery. it would've been a noble first draw. the buck danced with death as we drove by slowly. my buddy said something appropriately somber, but it didn't settle my stomach. for whatever reason i noticed for the first time that one of his fingertips is missing. is it impolite to ask?
work was a joke. a power outage prevented us from proceeding as usual. after two hours of floundering around they decided to send us home with "shape-up time", an industry phrase for two hours' pay. the irony of a nuclear generating station not having electricity to operate was painful to the tune of six hours of billable time. you can't make this shit up.
the deer was gone when we drove back "home" to get drunk and make chili. hopefully a local scavenged it to put food on the table. fate's wheel spins on unaffected.
the party's already started. we're just waiting for the right time to dance.
road dog digest, vol. VII:
never trust a man who hasn't pissed in the shower. he'll tell you the world doesn't spin on a tilt.
took the dreaded rigging class today. four hours of dry lecture from a man who needs to justify his position, no lunch (grumpy), written exam, "practical" evaluation, blessed 3:30. did well, got certified. lord knows i've ___-rigged enough things in my time.
maybe it's the spring's herald of tree frogs or maybe it's the high pitched hum of the electric lines stemming like arteries from the power plant, but i'll take it.
the great white north or the hudson highlands-- without a soul to share it with nowhere feels like home. be grateful. thanks for listening, even when i have shit to say.
road dog digest, vol. VI:
this morning i learned that corned beef hash is kinda like dog food for (white) people. i ate it, but i'd rather pay the extra few bucks for some bacon in the morning. as a general rule i don't like meat in the can. regardless, i kicked our self-appointed chef out of the kitchen for long enough to make us some egg sangwiches on english muffins to accompany said puppy chow.
went on a mission to syracuse in search of some adventure. didn't find it, but on my way back i saw a caravan of amphibious armored trucks on the highway with soldiers hanging out of every port armed to the teeth. fort drum is in nearby watertown and home of the 10th mountain division. at least if the zombie apocalypse happens i won't be so vulnerable without my precious hardware.
and now, after an unfortunate unpaid day of doing nothing, i'm going to settle down to dinner with the men. later for this pipe nonsense. i'm going to refry beans for a living.
road dog digest, vol. V:
this morning's cabin coffee talk went as follows: "hat do you need a hundred round "clip" for? then again, what do you need an ak-47 for?" i smiled, nearly bite my tongue off, and decided not to try to educate any temporary roommates on the purpose of the constitution. you can imagine how hard this was for me.
felt like a tiger pacing his cage so i wandered out to the local watering hole where last year's crew would congregate. redeemed a free drink token i had since last year, downed my solo suds, and left. some coffee house reading proved beneficial due to god's grace in the form of college girls in yoga pants. kurt vonnegut's unofficial autobiography wasn't so bad either.
called a union brother from the oswego local who has since moved to west virginia. was great to swap funny stories about belated revenge and catch up with one another as far as work and life in general. one of the most profound benefits that i've reeped through being part of an international organization has been the bond i've been fortunate enough to form with men i wouldn't have met had it not been for the pipe trades. within a matter of five minutes this cat offered to get me a sweet overtime gig alongside him in west virginia, then said that if i ever need a place to sleep here in oswego he'd be happy to make arrangements for me to stay at his unused house. brotherhood indeed. that stuff they feed us at meetings isn't all bullshit, believe it or not. during our discussion i also learned that two prominent men in the industry here were not permitted to work on this year's project due to dwi charges. i'm lucky to have a clean enough record to be here, even though "here" ain't always the greatest.
pulled some frighteningly appropriate vonnegut gems from the pages i read while nursing two glasses of canadian club and coke-- not double-fisting, mind you. it was one of those serendipitous instances of a writer reaching you at the perfect time. kurt came back from the dead to offer some coaching on getting the word down and spat some lines about loneliness that rang true. there are few things more precious than the right book at the right time. it's better than advice from a "real-life" friend in some ways since it seems somehow supernatural. how could this stranger possibly know to speak those words at the hour that you need them most without even knowing whom you are? behold the power of literature. the whiskey was deep, alright.
while returning my drained tumbler to the bar i noticed a middle-aged technician from last year's nuke plant shutdown. clearly he'd been on the road ever since. i saw it in his eyes and the clarity of his double-vodka. thankfully i couldn't relate; therefore, there was no hello.
on the ride "home" i realized another reason for my sticking out like a new wrench here: the japanese truck i use to haul my ass around. the mileage is better and the body will rust before the engine takes a shit. i'll absorb the looks of jingoist scorn for as long as my wallet allows.
one of my favorite songs of all time hit my ears during the last leg of my trek back to the fort. the words tattooed into my arm built their crescendo until the climactic end-- "where you are and where you want to be." the trick is to make them the same.
road dog digest, vol. IV:
ghosted today in the name of rebellious exploration. passed by "10½ st" and "bankruptcy rd" en route to syracuse. if you didn't believe that this place is nowhere-- there's your undeniable proof.
monday i shall trade in my skippies for boots and start to dress the part. it's a slow process, this selling of the soul for a dollar. the weekend should prove troublesome. no overtime and idle hands; i'll be spending it instead of making it.
no one showered after work today. we're all too tired from doing so much nothing. sometimes they call their women and whisper like the beer's not talking. me, i have no one to lie to but myself. and i know better than to get drunk.
break even. all i wanna do is break even.
road dog digest, vol. III:
finished my site clearance exams halfway through the day. was disappointed that i didn't have to take the absurd psych test that asks fun questions like "does your soul ever leave your body?", "do you blame your mother for your misfortunes?", "do you ever daydream about dressing like a member of the opposite sex?", "how loud are the voices in your head?", and "would you rather be a florist or a librarian?" perhaps, on the other hand, it's for the best that they spared me this year. more importantly, for the next six days i literally have nothing to do once i report to the training facility at the plant. the project hasn't started yet so i'm in a holding pattern. found a cozy couch in the lobby, set up shop with some books i brought with me. paid to read-- doesn't get much better in my world.
apparently i've been nominated the local shrink. people who come kill time in the office furniture next to me find it necessary to unburden themselves with whatever's on their minds. one boilermaker informed me that his 72-year-old mother had a hysterectomy this morning since she recently started menstruating again and her doctor said she shouldn't get knocked up at her age. great, pal. thanks for sharing. i went back to vonnegut as politely as possible before any other nuggets of knowledge could be wafted my way. went to lunch and saw a local fitter i met last year who told us the tale of how he "goofed in his pants while getting a lapdance" one time. needless to say, that's all i could think about when i saw him in the cafeteria-- not his name, but his premature ejaculation story. again, too much information.
passed by pointless protocol posters with images of easy metaphors like ladders and puzzle pieces: things us dolts can relate to, aside from dollar $ignS. found out that i'll be working nights. glad in a way. it makes you feel like you're here for a reason if you tackle that miserable shift. it's a different beast, though for now i'll soak up the dough with some novels. when that got tedious and the sentences had to be read three times to sink in i texted some guys i wish were around for this one. miss those cats.
killed my third smoke of the endless afternoon and strolled down an empty corridor with a mirror at the end. couldn't help but spread that maniacal grin as i approached. it's not that i'm enamored with this gig, but i like that i can say i'm willing to go. roll on.
road dog digest, vol. II:
reported to the nuke plant this morning after checking in at the union hall up here in canada lite. it was the strangest sense of deja vu i've encountered sober and clothed: same training proctors, same lunch ladies, same armed security guards, and a lot of the same tradesmen. it felt like groundhog day, or that i'd never left this desolate generating station. regardless, the familiarity and structure were comforting. breezed through more than a day's worth of exams, got my security badge (complete with lazy eyelid photo), made amusing small-talk with the drug test lady to help distract us both from the presence of a cup of my urine sitting on the desk between us. even got to read some short stories while waiting for my next class. it was a bit uncomfortable when the middle-aged man administering one of my safety courses whispered "i've been meaning to tell you that i like your ink," but more odd was my internal reaction to the overheard "i love you" into the phone of a passing secretary. somewhere out there someone's lucky. for now i'm making hired gun money. asi es la vida.
road dog digest, vol. I:
to those complaining that it's cold for april-- i drove through a blizzard on my way up here this morning and had to take two detours due to weather-related accidents. oswego is like canada, except that you can vote in american elections (sheeple) and there are amish people tooling about in buggies. aside from the precipitation, the ride was mostly pleasant. i never thought i'd pass through coonrod, new york twice in my lifetime, but stranger things have indeed happened. at least this time my gps didn't shit the bed whilst traversing that abomination of a township. sounds like a lousy place to get lost, unless you're into that kinda thing. off to go grocery shopping for the overtime apocalypse. be safe.


Biblical Proportions

A lamb devoured by the Lion of Judah.
Soaked in the bowels of Jonah's last whale.
The milk in their mouths has soured so quickly
that honey and wine seem like cruel myths.

Here we place Job and his suffering story
in the middle to avoid mispronouncing his name.
Then at the end there's a series of horsemen.
Much is Revealed; though cryptic, at best.

It's hard to get passed the eyes of Delilah.
Samson's long hair had half of their strength.
My coat, while useful, has only two colors.
Father, I'm bluffing.
Will You still let me in?

Currently reading:
"Papillon" by Henri Charriere.


The Beach At Fire Island

It was one of his funnier failures.
My old man decided
to take me on a day trip
walking the shore
and exploring the dunes.
I couldn't have been
older than eleven.
He hadn't done his research
or checked the weather forecast.
We both paid the price
like so many times before--
two souls stumbling through
the aftermath of divorce.

The shells I found were useless;
huge, redundant clam husks
too large to make them worth carrying.
A horseshoe crab was rotting
in a tangle of seaweed spewed up
by the surf.
It smelled so putrid
that even the seagulls stayed away.
Clouds covered every inch of the sky.
Florida was better.
My mom used to take me to Florida.

"Turn your head,"
he told me
as the man with the leather cap
and bright pink sweater
sauntered passed us in the sand.
The man, you see, was naked
from the waist down
and beaming like a sailor in port.

At least the old Asian fellow
had the decency to set up a perimeter
of loosely planted barricades.
We still knew he was nude
and that made it awkward.

"Let's get out of here,"
my father told me, half asking, as
we reached the next pathway
through the mounds of moving earth.
He sounded confused by a world
that'd passed him by decades ago.

The parking lot was filling quickly
as cars of scantily clad men unloaded.
If the sun was any lower
an orgy might've ensued.

It was the only time
he didn't embarrass me
with snapshots.
That was a plus.

The ride back was silent
or so I'd like to remember
for the sake of a better story.
For all I know he went on and on
about his lentil soup
that won him the prize at work.
One never knows with Charlie.
That may be what I like about him
aside from the childlike innocence
and that whole conception thing.

We went to Jones Beach the next time
and left unchartered territory
for the socially lubricated.

I was too young to laugh
at my dad's folly then
but now, at almost thirty
it makes my guts rumble.

He tried.
I can give him that.
He always tried.

Currently reading:
"Dry" by Augusten Burroughs.


My Exes Hired an Actress

Who makes me
breathe deep
and stare into space
like I'm looking for a god
who feels he owed me something.


Leave Out the Fins

The kind that you want
wouldn't want you back
in this state
in this stupor
with that stump
for a fist.

Like that picture
you painted
with fresh watercolors
as a kid
for your uncle
to hang on his fridge
with the sharks in the river
and the sun over mountains
that made no more sense
than a Florida trip
in the middle of August

but you went somewhere special
and could write all about it--
Still boils to this.


Robed in Winter White

I had to piss so bad I could taste it.
A blue pick-up with flashing orange lights
blocked my shortcut home
so the bucket truck
could place the lineman
right where the squirrel had been fried.

My detour to Main seemed minor
until I hit another roadblock:
a squad car with its red lights rolling.
There was some sort of parade
coming my way as if they knew
how to thwart my bodily functions.

"Jesus Christ," I told my bladder
as I pulled down a one-way
to circumvent the hold-up.
And there to my left
between two city blocks
I saw Him, cross beared
and surrounded by Roman soldiers.
It was Good Friday
and the Knights of Columbus were bored.

By the time I drained myself
another six thousand
had been converted worldwide.
We're all behind the Eight
regardless of shared guilt.

I'll pay for my own sins
since the triumph will be mine.

Currently reading:
"No Easy Day" by Mark Owen.


To Skin an Omelet

"Time's up, Chippy," the Warden said hesitantly as he slid the key into the lock of the steel door. "The Governor hasn't called. We can't stall anymore. I'm sorry."

Without so much as a peep or a request for a last meal of choice Chippy rose from his cot to stride to his destiny in that small room seen by very few people. His hands gripped the bars as his eyes met his captor's.

"No problem, Merle. I reckon it ain't your fault. I'll tell St. Peter the same. Don't worry."

It was just like him to offer consolation though he was the one in peril. No one in the pen anticipated having a steady stomach shortly when those lights would dim and flicker. Chippy's hands fell from the bars gracefully as he exited his cell in meek compliance.

The two men walked that dank corridor, one of them for his last time, without the clank of shackles since the Warden shook his head when Sgt. Simmons moved to cuff the prisoner as protocol demanded. It was an unnecessary precaution in this case, one that had never been omitted since the prison's first escorted death march. All present would tell the tale in solemn awe until their own stories came to end through natural causes or otherwise. Some images don't leave the mind no matter how many times the eyes are closed.


"Sir, you've been hit!" Private Reilly yelled through the hail of gunfire ricocheting off the rockface. It seemed an obvious statement, but Sgt. Malstrom appeared not to notice. A combination of adrenaline and sheer bravado kept the daring non-com climbing that ledge as if he hadn't been wounded. Reilly only realized since his face had been splattered with blood from his squad leader's gushing injury.

"It'll have time to heal when Hitler's six feet under," replied Sgt. Malstrom through gritted teeth, his hands rhythmically pulling himself up the rope that their scout had secured the night before the raid.

A .45 caliber submachine gun dangled from a strap around Malstrom's torso. He reached down to grab it, pointed it nonchalantly behind him, and squeezed the trigger without turning his head to aim. The barrage of German lead ceased, its echo reverberating through the ravine like punctuation to a mortal sentence.

"You hit 'em, Sarge! We're saved," bellowed Corporal Clancy from his spot on the tagline above.

"Only until those Jerries down below get their machine gun assembled," Malstrom corrected the good Corporal. "There's a ways to go before we're up this cliff. I'm hemorrhaging too hard to make it. I'll take care of those Krauts underneath us. You boys complete the mission. Make me proud."

And with those last words Sgt. Malstrom cut himself free of the rigging, pulled the pins in the two grenades tethered to his chest, and plunged silently to his martyrdom as three terrified Nazis stared up at an American madman.


"Chippy" Charlie Malstrom got the name in grade school when his classmates pointed out how no cruelty their teachers doled out could faze him. When detention was over he had to be asked to leave. "Charles," his confused instructors would say, "It's time to gather your things and go home."

But now, decades later, Chippy would return to his hearth no more.

The fishing trip wasn't his idea. Not many things that came to fruition were, though he had plenty going through his head. A buddy had suggested this latest venture and Charlie went along for the ride. Who can't appreciate a drunken day in the sun catching dinner?

But the finned creatures below their fluttering feet were not to be quietly taken.

"Hang on, Chip!" his pal screamed above the thrash of the waves. "The Coast Guard's bound to find us if we can float here long enough."

The remnants of their chartered craft were buoyant and would weather the squall, but the true enemy was circling beneath them. The first fin broke the water's edge and cruised their way like a hungry torpedo.

"Shark!" the Captain shrieked through his strained vocal cords as he clung to the shattered mast.

Chippy was the first to go. He didn't have the time or forethought to call out to his Maker. "Strange," he thought as the predator chomped down on both thighs simultaneously. "This shark has a mustache..."


"Malstrom!" the Supe wailed from below the conveyor line. "Quit hanging from the railing like a hopped-up chimpanzee and pay attention to those cans. QC says that too many of them are going through the Cleaner on their sides whenever it's your shift. You have one task:  turn the flipped cans back up as they ride by your station. If you can't handle that then it's back to the broom for you."

Chippy's grip on the steel handguard slackened and his shoulders found their own gravity. He turned toward his Supervisor-- a wretch of a man with a nicotine stained patch of graying hair between his nose and upper lip and dentures that could decapitate-- smiled with a squint, and tugged at his suspenders as he jumped down from the platform into the realm of his reddening aggressor.

"Should I sweep or mop first?" he asked, quite unscathed.



We were running late
so I was speeding
but hit the pedal
on the left
as we approached
the troubled tail lights.

"I wish I had my gun."

In the shoulder
next to someone's lawn
a deer thrashed its last--
hind legs and pelvis crushed.
One antler was broken off.
Its hooves flailed
like piƱata bats.

"I'd stop and put it down."

My partner shrugged
said something fitting
as my eyes hugged the yellow lines
to keep my stomach from turning
at the site of unfair suffering.

"The one time I could use it."

We drove by the scene.
My friend drummed his fingers
on the void above the glovebox.
For the first time I noticed
the tip of his index missing
on his left hand.
Is it impolite to ask?

"I should go back and get it."
But I didn't, and feel guilty.

The party's already started.
Some of us are just waiting
for the right time to dance.


Debutante Impostor

That first-and-last date
cemented into an evening
never to be redeemed
regardless of Our Fathers.
The stroll down the thoroughfare
and nursed grapes of reason.
A tentative cigarette
unsure of whether
lighting hers
or handing over the fire
is apropos.
Guilt over tossing the butt to the curb.

We both know it's over
but go through the motions.
"I'll call you."
"Drive safe."
Escape can't come fast enough.

Driving away
to the most fitting song
I pat my chest twice
and realize the rub.
I'll never see that sad girl again.
If I do she'll owe me a lighter.


Hepburn Again

The underbite worsens
molars grind against
ones opposite
which don't normally correspond.
Eyes cross
at the ceiling
but no one's there
who'll notice.
He tries to hold back
by thinking of
the forest across
from his mother's house
that they recently leveled
to build a nursing home:
The old steamrolling youth again.
He used to build forts there
with pals growing up.
Maybe those wooden huts
were still there when the dozers marched.
Hopefully all of the wounded escaped.

She almost looks like
the friend he's wanted
for years, but never
had the stones to tell.
"You almost look like..."
"Shhhh," she smushes
his mouth closed
with fingers reeking
of Newports.
"Just finish."
So he does
for the sake
of another untold love
who'd never take the gamble
and risk becoming
a poem.

The miles don't come between us
as much as the words.

Currently reading:
"Palm Sunday" by Kurt Vonnegut.


Heaven Is a Crease Too Narrow To Fit Your Favorite Appendage

Until your nose has been smashed with a bottle;
Until you've passed your blade to a friend
since you know you can trust your fists in a brawl;
Until you've broken hearts and hymens
simply because they were there;
Until you've put someone else first
regardless of if they deserved it;
Until you've been burnt on your knees by the carpet;
Until you've faked climax so the poor girl could sleep;
Until you've signed papers regarding your brother;
Until your dad disappears for five years;
Until your mother admits a missed pill;
Until you've consoled a vacuum-raped lover;
Until you've found life in a 3 a.m. mirror;
Until you've met Death and offered a drink;
Until you've felt victory, even while vertical;
Until you've graced loss with an unexplained smirk;
Until your eyes have drained on an angel;
Until your tongue's danced in the strangest of places;
Until you've been swallowed like sacred communion;
Until you've been spat like a hooker's last meal;
Until you've seen heroin stirred in a spoon;
Until you've seen medicine lengthen ones life;
Until you've carved verse into cardboard at work;
Until you've been served 'til you couldn't form words;
Until you've dealt pain that was needed for pleasure;
Until you've tasted your own secret salt
on the lips of another you'd sew to your own--

We've nothing in common; here's five for the juke.


Hips for Miles

A former rendition of myself
thanked him for letting us use
his apartment-- complete
with absent roommate--
to reacquaint one another
with our precious animal magnetism.
"I'll be back tomorrow morning,"
he said as he departed
down West 50th
after nodding her hello
and goodbye in one motion
under the shower of streetlights.
It didn't seem like long enough.
Now it feels fossilized:
the way it used to be;
an alternate dimension.

She had hips for miles
and could make a hipster smile;
dark features of my people
with a muse-blessed hand
and a mind I could wander
for a lifetime.
Her brute, she called me
or maybe that was someone else--
Yes, I'm positive of that.
I had softer nicknames.
We had softer nights.

She's already subway bound
by the time my buddy enters.
I'm standing in my boxers
drinking water piped from mountains.
"But what the Hell happened to the wall?"
he asks, his eyes interrogating spots
above the pillow where white slits of plaster
cry out against the hunter green paint.
I blush through my beard, mumbling no apology.
It's not my fault her nails are the claws of a tigress
though that safari should've been
the beginning.