A football player didn’t stand up for a song.
This reminds me of when I was living in Tucson in the late 90s. Actually I was living in my car, a little Honda hatchback. My wife had kicked me out of the house after she caught me pouring scotch into our baby’s bottle. My argument was threefold: first, it was good scotch: Cutty Sark. Second, it was for me, not the baby. I may not be the world’s greatest dad, but I’m not a deviant. Third, I was planning on taking her carriage for a stroll through the downtown cultural district. Downtown Tucson is full of old missions and big murals and homeless people and lots of good cultural input for a baby. A fine gesture of good parenting. The scotch was only to help me stay hydrated. I’m a writer – scotch is our Gatorade.
But that was really the final straw. I used to keep wild hours in those days, with lots of drinking, smoking, pilling, et al. I was going through a big Grateful Dead phase around that time, and I developed a habit of steering any conversation to the Dead. One night my wife came into my study with her hand at her mouth and stunned teary eyes. “My father is dead,” she whispered. I told her immediately how that reminded me of Dick’s Picks 13 and Bob Weir’s intro to an epic version of “He’s Gone.” I then set about flipping through stacks of CDs to find it. “Plus you gotta hear this ‘High Time’ into ‘Lost Sailor,'” I remember saying. She just shook her head and turned around crying, which I assumed to mean that she would just listen later.
I was working as a copy editor for a UFO newsletter. UFOs are a big deal in Arizona, what with the starry night skies and good mushrooms. It was my job to turn barely legible letters we got from places like Topeka, Kansas into proper prose. I took it seriously – I’m a writer, a poet. So I could turn a crayoned page of “Billy Bob’s Alien Adventure” into “Proust Recalls Abduction in 100,000 Words.” I was so good that my editing needed another editor just to cut down my lengthy masterworks into pieces suitable for our fifteen page newsletter. And we all worked under the main editor, who was connected with the US government. We weren’t allowed to print anything other than the accepted narrative that aliens only exist in Hollywood films and redneck fantasies. We weren’t allowed to print the truth. Aliens have been in contact with ruling elites for thousands of years. Also: aliens are right wing. We once printed a satirical article, “ET Was A Transsexual.” Of course the ostracization depicted in Spielberg’s 1982 film actually reflects the way most alien cultures really feel about LGBT issues. But sometimes you print the most outrageous truths in satirical form in order to discredit them.
UFO newsletter co-editors receive lots of adoration from young women. I used to get love letters, racy photos, and even stalkers at our home. Only when my wife found me by the pool with a U of A astronomy student did this become a real problem. I was tutoring her naked back with lotion when my wife found us. Still this was forgiven, as we had what might be characterized as an open marriage. I say ‘might be’ because I characterized it that way and she didn’t. So what I’m saying is – when she came home that day from a 13 hour nursing shift to find me pouring scotch into our baby’s bottle, it really was the final straw.
I went straight to Pancho’s Bar on Speedway. The main bartender was a wiry old guy named Jack. Bartending was in his soul, like he was probably born with a rag of his shoulder and just got right to cleaning up the afterbirth as he whistled. He wasn’t a particularly friendly guy; in fact in all the years and money I spent in that place, I don’t think I shared with him anything other than my order. He kept strict rules – no dogs. He hated dogs, so even when a blind guy came shuffling in with his helper dog, Jack shouted and shooed him right out. He loved cats though. There were cats everywhere – on the bar, on the dingy tables, wandering around the floor. You’d laugh as you were conversing with another drunk who didn’t realize he was munching from a bowl of Friskies as he rambled.
I found my regular spot and just nodded to the regulars who didn’t look up. It was dark, cool, and seedy in there, not the place to be on this sunny late afternoon. But somehow ‘not the place to be’ is where I’ve always belonged. I just don’t fit in with the world of business accounts, MBAs and CPAs, upward mobility, tax liability, national holidays, war budgets, capitalism, socialism, fascism, democracy, plutocracy, fundamentalists, radicals, conservatives, soccer moms, family vacations, minivans, country clubs, Sunday church, Saturday mass, softball leagues, breakfast banquets, power lunches, powersaws, comptrollers, gun owners, preachers, sheiks, mullahs, country singers, carjackers, computer hackers, professional video gamers, Star Wars, Star Trek, Dancing With The Stars, “Dancing In The Dark,” organic foods, religious tomes, bake sales, bike races, yoga mats, psychiatrists, psychologists, astrologists, skeptics, cynics, philosphers, governors, beggars, thieves, and 80s pop music. That’s just not me.
“My wife kicked me out today,” I said to Jack.
He shrugged as he wiped down the bar. “Ah, whaddya want from me? We all got problems.”
That’s how I feel about the football player who didn’t stand up for the song.