How to Burn Down Your House 

FeaturedHow to Burn Down Your House 

Imagine you’re on your couch, just a little stoned and watching TV when the munchies set in, so you head to the kitchen in search of food. Green grapes are the world’s greatest munchie food. Each little orb is an explosion of sweet and sour juices, cold and bite-sized, and even qualifies as “good for you.” But you don’t have any grapes. You travel too much for perishable snacks, so the only things in your pantry are cans of beans and other shelf-stable insta-foods. You grab a cup-noodle and move to pop it into the microwave when an echo of the dignity you once had needles you for something more. You look at the cup-noodle and realize that if you’re going to debase yourself by savaging this sodium bomb, you should at least spare yourself the shame of microwaving it. You’re an adult, and adults boil their water on a stove.

As you turn to the stove and reach for a small pot, you notice your roommate’s tea kettle. Ahah! You think to yourself. Its sexy brushed steel body and classic kettle design should help you recapture almost enough dignity to call yourself a functioning adult. You grab it, admiring its form and modern details. Lifting it towards the sink, the word “mechanical” pops into your mind, free of context and fleeting.

You open the top and begin to fill it under the faucet, careful to fill it with only enough water to fill the styrofoam cup, too much and your precious munchies will have to wait whole seconds longer before they start to cook. At last it comes to the right amount and muscle memory takes over. The switch on the electric stove gets turned to the “HIGH” and you set the kettle down and leave it, turning to take a seat at the kitchen table and tend to your phone while you wait.

Boiling the water doesn’t take long. You forget about it, but the whole point of the kettle is to signal you when it’s ready. You notice steam filling the dining room. More steam than usual, but still you wait for the whistle. A moment later the haze is getting thick and you smell something burning. Oh great. I’ve burned the water. You think to yourself as you get up. You turn to the kitchen while marveling at the inordinate amount of steam. You think of the times you’ve left pasta unattended and it boiled down and burned at the bottom of the pot. This is so weird, you think, I don’t normally burn the water. Wait, how do you burn water?

Then you see the flames crawling out from underneath the kettle and licking the sides and spewing thick black smoke into the air of the kitchen. The kind of smoke you get from plastic garbage. The kettle isn’t a kettle. It’s an electric water boiler, with a (now flaming) plastic base. You scream inside your own head. Fire! One stupid mistake while you’re high and now this! What do you do? Think!

Water. The sink has water.

You’re in hero mode.

You reach through the flames and grab the plastic handle. It’s all so obvious now, you’ve gone and embarrassed yourself something fierce. Better get this fire snuffed out before your roommates notice.

As you spin around to toss it into the kettle into the sink, the centrifugal force of your turn sends flaming plastic napalm in a wide 180º streak, sticking to the walls and door of the kitchen and setting alight everything it touches. No sooner than the flaming kettle lands safely in the pile of dirty dishes does all hell break loose. The burner on the stove erupts, with 18” flames climbing up towards the hood above the range in a bloom. It looks like an upside down rocket engine. Your lizard brain recoils from the danger while the last vestiges of your sober mind crosses its arms and shakes its head at you, pointing to a distant memory of a 3rd grade science lesson:

Fire takes three ingredients: heat, fuel, and oxygen.

Sitting on the stove, only the edges of the plastic base could burn, but when you lifted it up, the oxygen rushed in to meet the melted plastic on the coil and ignited. The flames, now 24” high and licking the hood over the stove are threatening the cabinets. Fear is taking over. You scream: “Shit!” You scream again: “Help!” There’s no hiding this from the roommates, now.

How do you put out a kitchen fire? Well, that’s more of a fourth grade lesson, but the answer is pot lids. That’s what you’ve always been told. When a grease fire lights up in a pan, you can’t spray water on it, you have to smother it, normally with a lid. Are there any lids nearby? You look around. No lids, but there’s a dish towel. Towels work, right? If someone is on fire you smother them with a blanket or a jacket. Same principle! Time to hero up!

You bring the dish towel down hard on the flames like a soldier covering a grenade with his helmet. In a second the flames are gone and a wave of calm begins to wash over you. You’re a hero, even if you’ve rescued nothing but your facade of being a responsible adult. The horror show is over.

But like every horror movie, the monster is never easily slain. The hero must be humbled, his hubris snuffed.

You watch, helpless as a small hole opens up on the towel and its edges begin to glow and burn outward. The stove is still on high.

(Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.)

You pull the towel, now smeared in petro-fuel and alight, off the burner and throw it to the ground. You reach around the column of flame and switch the burner off when Murphy’s law once again kicks you hard in the stomach:

The stove is electric. Your entire apartment building will burn to the ground before it stops glowing red.

Oh my god, you think. All your neighbors. You see the flames, white hot at the base and orange and black as they tickle the hood. The cabinets are next. The adrenaline in your system mixes with the marijuana forming a toxic stew of the worst fears your imagination can conjure up. You quickly chart the course of the flames in your mind. First the hood, then the cabinets, then the walls. This hundred year old building, built with plaster and wooden lathe, is a tinder box. That’s what the owner had joked when you moved in. It’s one of those buildings where the elevator door is just an accordion grate that threatens to take your hand off if you’re not paying attention. Do you call 911 and ring the alarm or do you put the fire out? Is there even a fire escape in this building?
“Help! Help!” you cry out. The hero is dead. You spin around, again looking for a pot lid, knocking things to the ground as you reach for anything that could serve.

At last your roommate Zack arrives, finding the kitchen filled with smoke and heat and dancing light. His first words are simple: “Oh shit!” he exclaims, then he heroes up, yelling, “Salt! Where’s the salt! We need salt!”

Salt?

Seeds of thought fight against each other in your head for dwindling cognitive resources. Would salt really work? It makes sense. You did a report on solar technology in college. Salt is used as a heat sink for reflective arrays because it doesn’t burn and it doesn’t boil. It’s… “flame retardant.” Don’t you have something like that?

Something red? It’s like a long, red metal cylinder.

“The… the.. the THING!” You cry out, trying to remember its name. A spark of joy cuts through the fear when you realizing what you’re looking for, you can see it in your head. “Where’s the thing?” you shout, shaking your hands in the air to encourage the right word to fall out of your mouth.

Zack is tearing open cupboards, “Where’s the big one?!” He’s still looking for salt.

“No, we have a thing!” You yell, “We have the thing—you know, designed for this exact moment? It’s for fire–” (Ahah!) “FIRE EXTINGUISHER! Where’s the fire extinguisher!?”

You scan for the color red. There, next to the sink. You snatch it and point it at the flames. I hope this works, you think to yourself as you squeeze down on the handle.

Then… nothing.

You squeeze again and still, nothing.

In an emergency, all your incompetencies are instantly converted to fear.

“What the fuck!?” You scream, demoralized.

You see the red plastic pin you forgot to pull while you rushed into things. This has to happen every time a fire extinguisher gets used. Someone presses the handle, nothing happens, they yell out, “God damn it!” pull the pin and then save the day. You think back to your time in the war and wonder how many grenades were thrown at the enemy with the pin still intact.

You pull the pin and Zack stands back as you point and squeeze. Still, nothing. Now the smoke alarm is going off in the hallway. You squeeze again. Nothing. “What the fuck is the matter with this thing!” you yell.

It’s about this time that your roommate Cyrus walks in to find the kitchen a ring of fire, with you and Zack flailing around in the middle, banging a fire extinguisher on the counter, yelling at it and smacking it like the monkeys from that famous scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Cyrus is on the phone and begins describing the scene to whomever is on the line, grinning all the while.

Still struggling with the fire extinguisher, you reach inside yourself and gather your wits for a two-second burst concentration. You squeeze it a heavy pin beneath the handle that depresses ever so slightly but not enough. You realize that you just aren’t squeezing hard enough, so you give it all you got, and cloud of dust erupts from the nozzle up and into the air. You take control of the extinguisher with both hands and bring its aim on target, like a firefighter manning a hose.

Hero mode.

The massive flames disappear in an instant, but you give it half a second to make sure the monster is really dead. It is.

Then you turn to the floor. This whole time the dish rags have been burning on the floor next to the trash can. You give them a good blast. Someone says, “You got one more in the sink.” and you smother the kettle. That steel kettle. You can see the switch on the side of the handle. You remember thinking the word “mechanical” when you first picked it up, before forgetting it.

Cyrus, still on the phone, still smiling, turns back to his room and breaks from his phone call only long enough to say, “The door’s on fire.” before shutting himself inside.

You give one last blast to the napalm stuck to the door and then the kitchen is suddenly quiet. The air is thick with fine particles of god-knows-what-chemical dust. It looks like a small snow drift blew into the kitchen, piling up in the corners and edges. Like those pictures from Chernobyl, where the people just heard a siren and fled with their shirts on their backs, leaving everything in place, and decades of dust have accumulated in silence.

The eerie aftermath.

Zack laughs and asks what happened. That’s when you have to own it. Your stupidity. And as you explain it, the adrenaline fades and strips bare the horror and the shame of the truth: You got high and put an electric kettle on a hot stove. While you were fighting the fire, your whole life flashed before your eyes, but not the one you lived, the one you would have had to live after. You live on the second floor so you would have escaped, but your tinderbox of a building is seven stories of 100-year-old wood. Your flaming apartment is on the bottom, right against the singular wooden stairwell.

Even if nobody got hurt, you’d still be forever famous as the moron who burned down his house by putting a electric kettle on the stove. You’d see yourself getting lampooned by Bill Maher on Real Time, not only for being stupid, but for setting back the legal weed movement ten years. Oh, you want to be a journalist? Good luck. This is what comes up when people google you. Every job interview. Every blind date. You would never escape it.

But it’s not your fault, you’ll say. But why should anyone believe you? When the world thinks of an electric water boiler, they picture those cheap and bulky pieces of plastic crap that you see in every european kitchen, not a round, shiny steel kettle. When someone decided to design a high-end water boiler that was intended to look and feel like the real thing, all but for the little switch on the handle, did they foresee this? Too late to wonder that now.

Every blogger and journo and editor writing about you will include some stock photo of what is unmistakably a kitchen appliance, right next to a picture of Derek Zoolander saying, “The files are IN the computer!” before he smashes it to the ground. No amount of protest will convince them that it wasn’t you.

But it wasn’t you. It was that damned kettle.

The eerie aftermath.

 

So Long and Thanks for All the Fish: Terrorist Battlecry

So Long and Thanks for All the Fish: Terrorist Battlecry

I boarded the Singapore Airlines A380, delicately balancing my iPad, and backpack, and salad as I settled into my seat. I smiled to the older couple next to me, then started in on the salad. With airline seats getting smaller, bringing your own food is becoming one of the few remaining joys of air travel. I finish and put my fork and napkin into the slimy salad box and dig through my bag until I find my photo prop.

The plan was to send a good selfy or some other type of millenniish “look at me, I’m flying!” picture. So I pull out the sheet of paper I’d prepared for this moment. White printer paper with big black letters, reading, “SO LONG, AND THANKS FOR ALL THE FISH.”

This is, of course, the wonderful line from Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, wherein the Earth is about to be destroyed and humans spend their last living moments trying to decipher a message from Dolphins, only to learn it reads just that: “So long, and thanks for all the fish.”

Nerd jokes. Cute little nerd jokes. Smart girls like cute little nerd jokes, so make them often.

However, the entire point of posting goodby photos, Douglas Adams quote or not, is to post them on your way OUT the door, and suddenly I realize I’m already seated on the plane, about to take off, and I think about how awkward or stupid I’m going to feel asking some seatmate to take a picture of me holding this nonsensical sign. The old lady next to me does not seem the type to appreciate such things, and I have to spend the next 8 hours with these people. So I go about it a little more discretely, placing the sign between my feet on the floor and take a picture of it between my shoes. Good enough.

I fold the paper up and nibble on the last bits of my salad. The little old German lady next to me points at the folded paper and asks in strained English, “What is this?”

Now I’m embarrassed. I didn’t want anyone to really notice my “look at me I’m on a plane!” Photo indulgences, but I do like to make conversation with fellow passengers. ”Oh,” I say, “just a joke for my friends.” I blush a little, embarrassed.

“Why?” The little old German lady asks. She’s not smiling. In fact, her question is accusatory, and I realize I’ve stumbled into an interrogation.

Now, I’m a red blooded American. I may be a liberal, but I like my steaks juicy, my tits big, and my cops with a warrant. This old lady was talking to me like I’m up to no good, and for any red-blooded American who likes steaks, tits, and probable cause, that’s a gauntlet that will not stand.

An uncomfortable silence falls on us as I decide just how far I’m going to take this. It’s true what they say, Germans really don’t have a sense of humor.

If she had been less accusatory, I’d not have been bothered, but we’re still taxiing at JFK. You’re in my house. New York Muthafuckin City! I’m not going to sit here and kowtow to every paranoid foreigner with stupid questions.

She had asked me why. So I give her the only answer worth giving when someone is all incredulous and asking you, “Why?”

“Why not?” I say, watching for her reaction.

I do this too often, and my zeal for confrontations over privacy or 4th amendment rights have grown with all the videos of cops running mad with power.

The old German lady isn’t happy with my answer. Now she’s more direct.

“You will show me?” She insists.

I raise my eyebrows, impressed that she’s willing to confront me directly over this. More than just being stubborn about privacy, I’m specifically turned off by paranoia surrounding terrorism. We already have to take off our shoes and belt to get on the airplane, I’ll be damned if I’m going to let this Stazi grandma make demands on me because she’s unduly nervous about terrorism. This is the kind of bitch that would call a stewardess over if a Sikh was siting next to her in a Turban.

I take the folded paper, open my salad container, and place it inside, leaving it to marinade in vinaigrette dressing and the slimy leftovers of egg and ham and blue cheese. If she wants it, she can dig it out of the trash with her manicured nails.

I look straight at her as I seal the my small little compost heap with the paper inside. With cool civility, I ask her a very important question: “Do we have a problem?”

She doesn’t miss a beat. “Yes.” She says in her heavy German accent. “It is a problem for me if you…” She doesn’t finish. I give her a look that says, please finish your thought. She knows what she feels: that somehow I’m a danger to her and everyone else. But she can’t seem to vocalize it, because calling someone a potential terrorist is a big deal. So you don’t say it directly. You tell the stewardess something vague. This man is acting “strange” — he’s speaking Arabic. He’s brown (wink wink), or, he took a picture of a piece of paper and then ate his salad. (Well doesn’t that sound dumb?)

I look back at her with her “problem,” and I smile, speaking slowly and clearly just to be sure I’m understood. “Not my problem.”

Just then a stewardess comes over with a trash bag, and I enjoyed the feeling of the old lady’s eyes tracking folded note in the greasy container as I tossed it in the trash, thanking the stewardess with a smile. I’m always kind to flight crew. The old woman’s English was poor, and I didn’t speak German, but she knew what I was saying without me having to say it: Go dig.

Before the stewardess could make off with the trash, the old lady hailed her attention and made her play.

“Hallo!” She said to the stewardess, pointing at me and struggling with her English, “Him… He has…”

The stewardess looked down at me and I put on my best puss-in-boots innocent face and smiled back up at her.

“He has a…” The old woman said, clearly agitated and searching for the words.

The stewardess understood completely. And so she opened the overhead compartment for the seats in front of us and handed me a pillow and blanket, then she left to tend to the rest of the cabin.

Holding my fresh pillow and blanket, I offered a gracious smile to the old German lady who had tried to make me out as some kind of terrorist. My smirk carried with it the implied utterance of every four-letter word I could think of. Then donned my sleep mask, curled up under the blanket and went to sleep.

Norway is Truly the Land of the Free (Stuff)

Norway is Truly the Land of the Free (Stuff)

At Oslo’s main station, I set about getting a SIM card for my iPad. AT&T wants $30 for a laughably-small 120mb of data, and that shit just ain’t gonna fly. While the salesman installs my SIM card, I notice an e-waste recycle box with glass sides so you can see everything stuffed inside. Lots of already-have-too-many-of-them micro- and mini-USB wall plugs. Even a couple shattered iPhones. But down at the bottom was a euro-style USB wall adapter, something I might need, so I’m thinking of the mantra we learned in the 90s, “Reduce, reuse…” I stuff my hand inside, telling the salesman I’m doing it for Mother Earth.

Barely squeezing through the small opening on the top of the box, I guide my hand as I watch through the clear plastic walls like an arcade grabber machine. Like the game, it’s rigged against me, with the prize sliding further down into the pile every time I snap at it. I make one last thrust and finally get a grip on it, but when I try to draw my arm out, the lid of the box comes with me. I’m stuck in it like Pooh Bear in the often under-appreciated honey pot, but refuse to let go of my prize. The salesman sees my predicament and says, “Oh! You need an adapter?” Then walks over to a closet, unlocks it, pulls out a factory sealed USB adapter and hands it to me.

“Really?” I ask, still wearing the box top on my right hand.

FREE USB CHARGER!

Armed with my pocket-internet, I step out into Oslo. My first realization is that low and behold, winter just south of the Arctic Circle is cold(!) so I dart into the nearest shopping mall to stay warm.

As I window shop my way through the mall, a woman running a beauty kiosk asks me what kind of exfoliant I use (Kiehl’s, obviously). She takes my left hand and begins to scrub it down with some kind of crushed horse-lick being repackaged and sold for $50 an ounce. “This salt scrub is all natural and from the Dead Sea with essential oils of blah blah blah.” Whatever lady. Salt is salt is salt. All I know is…

FREE HAND MASSAGE! 

She then puts some cream on my face and some special under-eye goop and uses pretend-knowledge to tell me I’ve got fat under my eyes. She tells me that it wouldn’t be a problem anymore if I’d just buy $200 of kitchen salt mixed with olive oil. I decline and worry she feels used and emotionally vulnerable. (Don’t lead women on, fellas. It’s rude!)

I set out into the cold and climb a long, snow-covered hill to the front of the royal palace where I have my picture taken by Norwegian college students and am interviewed about my opinion of whether Norwegian cops should carry guns. (Come on. This is Norway.) Then it’s back down the snow-covered hill as I think about how my only pair of shoes are paper-thin velvet slippers. Cold feet are acceptable, though, considering you can’t wear winter boots with tuxedo pants. It’s just not something that is done.

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Dress for the weather you want, not the weather you have. – Fashions 4:20

At an outdoor market I look at the prices for handmade leather gloves and artisanal candy when suddenly a man walks up to me with a single cup of coffee on a platter. He says something in Norwegian, I accept the coffee, and he turns and walks away, like, “I’m out.” Not, “If you enjoy this, buy more.” Just… Nothing. I stand there, waiting for a catch, but he’s gone, and nobody else seems involved, so I shrug and think,

FREE COFFEE!

After I warm my hands on the cup and drink it down I step into a sports store, thinking I might be able to find some cheap long-johns to make up for the heat-drain from my toes. While wandering around, I approach a curious pair of shoes at the same time as a pretty woman about my age. We start talking about the interesting design: burgundy Chuck Taylors but with a furry lining. “Ugg Chucks!” I say. We make 60 seconds of small talk before I tell her she should buy them and continue my search for long undies. I find them and take a pair to the dressing room. They fit so I decide to wear them out. (Not free. I pay for them.)

I pass by the young woman again. Now she’s trying them on, and, after some consideration, I tell her they look good. I think about how I’ve got no plans, and she, browsing for shoes at 1pm on a Wednesday, probably doesn’t either. I suggest we get some coffee. She accepts.

She takes me to this hidden coffee shop down an alley and up a flight of stairs. Real cool place. After ordering, I step off to use the restroom, and when I return, she’s paid for my chai latte and says, “I invite you.”

MORE FREE COFFEE! (Well, tea, but still.)

Turns out she’s not Norwegian, she’s German. She came here to follow her boyfriend, but there aren’t many jobs available for her PhD in microbiology.

After an hour we step out and I thank her for the coffee. She tells me all the places I should go. The National Opera House, the waterfront, the fortress on the hill. I ask her what her plan is. She says she should keep working on job applications or head home. She says her boyfriend is a very jealous person. I put on wide eyes and look over my left shoulder, suspiciously, then my right, then I lean in and say, “I’m not gonna tell him.” She thinks for a moment and decides that, you know what? She can show me around. She’ll just tell him she went for coffee.

Alone.

Twice.

And then we’re off! She takes me to see all the sights and sounds of downtown Oslo.

FREE TOUR!

We hike up to the fortress on the hill. We walk through the snow. She teaches me that in German, the way we say “snowflake,” they say “snow-flower.” It’s pronounced “Shnuffenblumen” or something like that.

She takes me to the waterfront where I stand on a large piece of ice that had floated ashore. I declare it the Sovereign Dictatorship of Benistan. She takes me picture. I lose my balance an fall off, deposed and humiliated.

There’s room for two, Leo!

She takes me to the National Opera House where I play an unattended piano until the world’s nicest security guard comes over with a conciliatory smile and politely asks if I would cease. When I compliment his friendly demeanor, he shrugs and says with his perfect Norwegian accent, “No reason to be an asshole about it.”

As the sun is going down, the German woman and I march for a mile through the cold and she gives me a tour of the trendy post-gentrification part of Oslo with the Eplehuset (Apple Store) and corresponding astronomical rents. I tell her I’m hungry and she reaches into her bag gives me a banana!

FREE BANANA!

We walk back to the market where I was initially given coffee in the morning. Now the market glows in the dark with lamps and Christmas lights. It’s getting colder, still. I need more layers.

As we explore the different kiosks, two women schilling some special auto windshield glass offer us thin little caps from their collection of branded kitsch.

FREE HAT!

The next booth over is promoting Columbia Sportswear. When I tell them that Columbia Sportswear is from my hometown, they get excited and invite us in for a costumed photo shoot. I put on a Columbia jacket and a Viking helmet. She grabs a wig. We touch for the first time.

FREE SILLY PHOTO BOOTH SESSION!

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The next kiosk over is taking a survey on which flavor of sausage their company should promote.

FREE SAUSAGE!

I return to raid their platter of sausage 4 times over the next 15 minutes.

FREE SAUSAGE! 

FREE SAUSAGE! 

FREE SAUSAGE! 

FREE SAUSAGE! 

Now the German woman has to go. Time to go and tell her boyfriend about all the coffee she drank alone. We exchange information and a hug. Maybe we’ll get together tomorrow? Maybe in New York? I contact my friend Adam and arrange to finally meet after 13 years of not finishing a fight.

The last time I saw Adams was at a U.S. Embassy in West Africa and he was trying to smash my head in  with a yellow number 1 billiards ball. For the sake of the story, I’m disappointed he doesn’t punch me when he sees me. Instead, we go to his neighborhood bar and he proceeds to tell the bartender of our adventures. About Sock Man chasing him around the U.S. Embassy, naked, a sword in one hand and a 9″ dildo carved out of ivory in the other. About the standoff on the roof against a 3rd grade class of child soldiers (*cough* BeastsofNoNationisatruestory *cough*). He told the story about the drunk, naked Marine stealing a kid’s bike in front of the embassy and crashing it into a rebel checkpoint. The drunk, naked Marine was held hostage by the rebels until someone from the embassy paid his ransom. (WE MISS YOU JASON!) And wouldn’t you know it, at the end of the night, after dinner and drinks, Adams, (courtesy of all that Norway money he’s making), picks up the check.

FREE FOOD!

FREE BOOZE!

On the way home, Adams tells me that society and dating is way different over here. He says that if you accidentally get a girl pregnant, they don’t necessarily want you around. Or child support, for that matter. I take him at his word, because this is in keeping with everything I’ve learned about Norway over the last 12 hours.

FREE KID!

What a country!

Never Trust a Woman with a Penis

Never Trust a Woman with a Penis

It was a normal housewarming party when I got there. One of the men was engaging in the New York pastime of talking shit about your roommate, describing him as a “bag of dicks.” But as he kept using this phrase, it occurred me, that, wait a second! I have a bag of dicks! Here, with me now!

Why I was carrying a backpack full of sex toys isn’t important to the story, but let’s just say that it was my first party of the night, not my last.

Still, when you tell a room full of young people that you have an actual bag of dicks, they’re going to demand some proof. So, I oblige, and pull out a 6” dildo with a strap-on harness and a pink double-ended “jelly” dildo (that just means it’s the flexible kind of dildo—you know, so two women can gaze into each other’s eyes as they make love. At least I assume that’s how they use it. I wouldn’t know, since I’ve never watched lesbian porn. *cough*

I knew that the second I pulled a strap-on dildo out, one of the girls was going to want to put it on. So I show her how to “Strap-in”, and she is so overcome with excitement of her new toy, she instantly turns into a caricature of Fratty-Bro McSexual-Assault. Seriously, it was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide-a-rufee.

She starts chasing the boys around with her new erection homing in on their behinds like an air-to-air missile. This woman, clad in tight jeans, halter top, and flowing blonde hair would tease them and straddle them on the couch. Disarmed by her beauty, they’d let their guard down, and then she’d hit them with a surprise attack, holding their arms back and yelling, “Take it! Take the cock!” while the boys turn their heads left and right like a toddler refusing a spoonful of peas.

Even thirty minutes later, sitting on the couch with one of the boys I overheard her soft, pleading voice. “Just touch it.” She said. “Just touch it a little. You know you want to.” She even took dick-pic selfies and started sending them to people.

I think it’s a completely natural response for a woman to have. I mean, if you were test driving a Ferrari for the first time in your life, aren’t you going to open it up? Push it to the limit? Naturally, if a woman has only half an hour to test-drive a penis, she’s going to see just what this baby can do. It has to happen. I’d go as far as to call it a natural law.

As the alcohol consumption of a woman in possession of a strap-on dildo increases, the probability of her committing sexual assault approaches 1.

You can call that Feibleman’s Law. (There’s worse legacies to have.)

The Travel Deviant’s 4 Rules for Finding Adventure Abroad

FeaturedThe Travel Deviant’s 4 Rules for Finding Adventure Abroad

An adventure is very different than a vacation. Where a vacation recharges you, an adventure exhausts you. It can be uncomfortable, raw, and definitely dangerous. That said, it may also be the most rewarding experience of your life. So with that in mind, here are some quick and dirty tips to help you sniff out adventure while traveling abroad.

1) Travel alone.

Baby or boyfriend, it’s all the same. They need to be napped, fed, or have their boo-boos kissed. I spent the last year traveling around the world collecting stories of the crazy and wild adventures I’ve been on, and the only gaping hole in my collection coincides with when I met up with three friends in Thailand. It was a month spent herding cats and completely uneventful, unless you count that time that Stephanie wanted to get double-teamed by a ladyboy. (Bankers, am I right?) The takeaway from this is that if you want spontaneity and all the opportunities that come with it, you need to be on your own schedule, and that means traveling alone. (Another lesson is that ladyboys are total divas. Just remember that when someone wants to bring two of them back to the hotel.)

2) Always book one-way tickets.

You never know what’s going to happen. Let’s say you wake up in a sleepy town in the Yucatan and meet a mysterious man that you are convinced is the real-life Tyler Durden. He even sells soap. Maybe he tells you about a mock execution that took place there a few years ago and you, being naive as fuck, forget which country you’re in and start asking around. Maybe the Lina drug cartel hears about a single male gringo poking around with questions about drugs and violence and decides to send you a message. Maybe you should run for your life. The point is, you never know when you’re going to want to leave, and change fees are expensive.


3) Travel Cheap.

Hotels should be a last resort. If you couch surf (couchsurfing.org), you’ll have an excellent landing pad with locals who will surprise you with their generosity and the introductions they make. Say you go to Beijing and your host can only offer you a blanket on the floor? That’s kind of rough, but maybe she takes you to a karaoke club where you sing Ariana Grande at a cute German girl, and the next day you and German girl both take a bus to a small town and scale a mountain for three hours. You make love, in the rain, on top of the Great Wall of China. Three days later in Shanghai, she teaches you the words “Ich liebe de.”
Or maybe you pay $150 a night for maid service and a mint on your pillow. If it’s a choice between the two, I suggest the former.

 

4) Say yes. 

Traveling alone, traveling light, and have an open-ended itinerary, you’re going to start giving off a serious vibe for spontaneity and invitations will start rolling in. It could be as benign as spending Christmas with a British family out in the country, or as harebrained as a Marilyn-Monroe-impersonator-turned-music-executive who offers to fly you to Mexico for a rave on the beach, as long as you are willing to drive the Beamer and translate. Next thing you know,a year after fleeing the country, a photographer is publicly tagging photos of you in Quintana-Roo, smoking cigars and doing blow in Pablo Escobar’s underground swimming pool. The point is, nothing interesting is going to happen if you stick to what you think you “should” do.

Those are the four basic rules. If seems a little too risky for your taste, just remember that you signed up for adventure! So summon whatever testicular or ovarian fortitude you have squirreled away, and go for it.

Good luck.

Drug Dealers Need Love, Too

Drug Dealers Need Love, Too

I woke up to the sight of the Villainess brushing her hair. We’d met a week ago in London, and now we were waking up with matching hangovers in Budapest, Hungary. Realizing I was awake, she skipped the pleasantries and lit into me about the night before.

“When you file for bankruptcy, just remember it’s because you tip drug dealers even though you don’t buy any drugs.” She said. 

(This is why I hate alcohol. Not because it makes you do stupid or amazing, things, but that the memories of those stupid and amazing things are so often lost in the hangover, like a forgotten dream.) I rubbed my head, trying to remember the details.

She explained that, as we left the club, I asked a man for directions to an ATM, and him, being uncharacteristically friendly for 1AM, offered to walk me there, and me, being characteristically drunk for 1AM, thought that was just grand! He then asked if I wanted to buy some cocaine and I perked up.

Of my three companions, one was a 50 year old school teacher, the other didn’t even drink, and even though I knew the Villainess was down for it, we were supposed to fly to Italy in the morning (not something you want to do on a cocaine hangover). Having thought it through, I thanked the dealer and declined, saying that my friends and I were going to call it a night. When I turned to continue on, he touched my arm and said, “Testing is free.”

“Testing is free?” I asked. Yes, he said. I was so confused. How the hell are we going to test it? My dad told me about how in college in the sixties, you could mail a sample of your drugs to a lab on campus that would test their cleanliness, but how does he make any money if he’s constantly shuttling people back and forth from the clubs to a lab?

“No.” He said, “You TRY free!”

“Oh shit! Free bump!” I exclaimed, loud enough startle him. I was making him nervous with my lack of discretion, but the best camouflage is to hide in the open. I told him that as much as I would like to buy from him, my friends and I were going home and it would be rude of me to take the cocaine he had worked so hard for with no intention of purchasing it. I don’t remember much, but I remember loving his salesmanship. So much so that I was concerned he would think I was wasting his time and so needed to give him something to show my respect.

This is where the Villainess helped to fill me in. “You put your hand on his shoulder and give him a motivational speech about entrepreneurship and hustle!” She said. “You told him you appreciate him, as an individual AND a dealer, and to never give up on his dreams. You said the work he does is important, and to never doubt himself or think that the world doesn’t need drug dealers like him. Then you reached in your pocket and gave him all your money, and then you gave him a hug!

“He didn’t even speak English!” She said, hands in the air.

“Did he think I was coming on to him?” I asked her.

“It was a little gay,” she said, “but judging from the fear in his eyes, I think he was more confused than anything else.”

“Fuck.” I said, trying to calculate how much money I gave him. Couldn’t have been more than 5000 Hungarian Forrent, which is about $20.

Looking back on it now, I would give anything to know what he was thinking.

I Contracted a Flesh-Eating Bacteria and Lived

I Contracted a Flesh-Eating Bacteria and Lived

[Warning, there’s some gross-ass pictures below. I’d give them just a 6 out of 10, with 10 being a snuff film, but that’s me.]

While America hyperventilates into the world’s largest paper bag over terrorism, I’d like to draw your attention to a much more sinister boogyman. It doesn’t hate our freedoms. It craves flesh, and it’s the closest thing we have to a real Walking Dead nightmare. I know, because I got bit, and though I lived, it’s coming for you.

They say that to call it a “flesh eating bacteria” is a misnomer. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA, an increasingly common drug-resistant “super bug” doesn’t actually “eat” you, and instead “destroys” the nearby tissue. But I call that semantics. TomAto-TomAHto, it eats you all right! The fact is, if I’d lived in the Indian bush, or was off-grid on some round-the-world trek, I’d be dead already, if not from the infection than from jumping off a cliff; the pain was incredible.

It started out as something as innocuous as a pimple. One on the jaw, where you might scratch your beard, and then another on the abdomen over my rib cage. On day three it looked like I was hiding a gumball in my cheek, and as a general rule, if a growth is changing the shape of your head then it’s time for an intervention.

Unable to sleep from the pain, I lanced them in front of the bathroom mirror. I squeezed out the abscess in my jaw and to my horror, a cavity remained. I could stick the lance inside 1/4” in any direction and feel no pain. There was nothing left. Just a hole. I tried the same with my stomach, but to my surprise the nerve endings were still intact, and the pain dropped me to my knees.

In the morning my roommates recoiled at the sight of me. During the night I’d grown a beard of blood and puss as it drained all over my cheek. And the pain didn’t stop. As I walked to the emergency room I reminded myself that I’d gotten a full STD screen after Burning Man just six weeks ago and been on my best behavior ever since, so so tertiary syphilis it is not! But then Jesus Christ! What is it? This is not a pimple. This is a tumor. This is cancer! (Oh my god, what if it really is Cancer?) My last thought walking through the door was that if this is some kind of incurable skin cancer then I’m just going to off myself. This is why doctor-assisted suicide is a thing. All those bible thumpers going on about the trials of Job and the beauty of Christ can go fuck themselves. And let’s be honest for a moment: If there is a god, how shitty must he be that He would strike Job with festering boils all over his body just to settle a bet with Satan over whether one of his hoes really loved him. (True story–or not.)

Lancing a boil is not like popping a zit. They are similar, but similar in the way that six-year-olds playing pee-wee hockey look cute next to NHL players who get checked into the boards and spit out teeth. It’s the big leagues, and has to be treated as such. First you sterilize the area, then you slice. In the ER, the doctor held up a scalpel and said she would try to keep the scarring on my face to a minimum, because, you know, “it’s your face.” I told her to give me the full Tom Berenger. While you cut, you should remember, you’re not just poking a hole. The skin at the top has been corrupted, so you have to lop it off like a blown volcano.

Then comes the squeeze. There will be lots of pain, so if you don’t have a local anesthetic like lidocaine, knock them them out with propofol or a large rock. After squeezing out as much as you can, you’ll need to “manipulate” the infection, which means to get in there and dig around, dislodging any remaining corruption to give the body’s immune system a fair shot. Scraping out the infection leaves a cavity where the patient’s flesh used to be.

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In my case, a hole the size of a .45 caliber gunshot wound. It goes to the first knuckle, not that I tried.

 

Because the body will continue to fight the infection, there’s going to be more puss, and it will need to drain, which is why we “pack.” Take a spindle of gauze about 1/4” thick and start cramming it in there with some forceps. Really get it in there. The wound should be as swollen with gauze as it was before the lancing. Leave a little hanging out the top for easy removal later, and patch up the job with a good size bandage. I walked into the ER with two pimples and walked out bandaged up like a car crash victim.

Oh, and don’t forget the pain medicine. Whereas before the patient suffered from tenderness, you’ve just stabbed him in the ribs and stuffed his injury full of course fabric that’s going to clot and tear at every bump and breath, so only the best will do. I walked home stoned on Oxycontin. And this being the first time I ever got high on opiates, I’d like to take a moment to issue an apology to every junky I ever cast judgment on. (You are not weak. It really is that good.)

Save for one bandage-clad excursion to a strip-club for a friend’s birthday, I spent the rest of the week wasted on legalized heroin, playing Fallout 4 all afternoon and then sleeping until noon before taking more pills.

A few days later I returned to the ER to get “unpacked.” That was supposed to be it, but when the bandages came off, the sight was horrifying. This half-inch cavity was a swamp, and in it was some engorged worm that turned out to be the gauze swimming in puss. With one look she could tell the antibiotics weren’t working.

IMG_5684
I asked the doctor if she knew was a xenomorph was.

Then she yanked out the string of packing like she was starting a lawnmower. Next was my jaw, but without the element of surprise. Bent over my face to inspect the wound she turned my head and touched it with her latex fingers, then gave it an agonizing squeeze and I struggled not to cry out. “Just one more.” She said and when she finished I relaxed. Then she did it again. “Just one more.”

I hissed at her. “I don’t think that means what you think it means.”

The lab results confirmed her suspicions. It was MRSA. All I knew was that that’s bad, even for modern medicine. It can be deadly, but it remains treatable. Some strains keep an achilles heal. It might be resistant to all but one super-class of drugs. So they cultured the infection in several different petri dishes and introduce different antibiotics to each sample. Penicillin and amoxycillin had done nothing to kill it, but lucky for me, mine was still vulnerable to sulfamethoxazole (whatever that is).

After my beating and repacking, they gave me a week of super-antibiotics and enough Oxy to last until my next followup (again, so great!) It worked. The pain was subsiding. I got stronger, and after getting unpacked at my followup, it was clear I was going to heal up just fine.

But it remains a cautionary tale. With each passing year, doctors are reporting MRSA to be more and more prevalent, and more resistant to best drugs we have. It could get to a point where this increasingly common infection becomes so resistant that it has to be treated with chemotherapy, like cancer. I’d read about this “war” being fought against superbugs, but never took it seriously. Now I’m going to see the scars from it every time I look in the mirror.

Whenever you take a seat on a park bench, or ride on a subway car, or swipe your credit card, you’re some distance from an invisible assassin. So the next time you feel the urge to scratch your face or rub your eyes before washing your hands, remember: it’s out there, and the race to invent new antibiotics faster than MRSA can evolve is far from a sure thing.

You can read more in depth reports on the coming plague of superbugs here, here, and if you want to feel optimistic, here.

Burning Man Wedding = Best Wedding Ever

Burning Man Wedding = Best Wedding Ever

As an urbanite in his early thirties, the pace for weddings has picked up recently and not all of them have been traditional. The husband of a friend of mine wore an orange jumpsuit on their wedding day, as they had gotten engaged before he got charged with attempted murder. At another wedding, two avowed nerds rolled 20-sided die to determine who would read their vows first. One time, during the reception, a newly minted bride of a dear friend of many years thanked me for coming by closing her eyes and leaning in to give me a nice, slow kiss when no one was looking. She was wasted, as was the groom, so best to pretend it never happened.

Still, I find this much preferable to the traditional wedding format. Too often they are contrived ceremonies (Nobody walks that slow!), with awkward vows, followed by a bunch of people not dancing. And at no point in the last dozen weddings I’ve been to did anyone solicit guests for objections or to forever hold their peace. That’s probably for the best.

But the most interesting wedding I ever attended had none of these things. It was equal parts sexy and sincere, and entirely unconventional.

It was 2014 and my girlfriend and I were attending our first Burning Man, that decadent bacchanal of art, music, love, drugs, and general anarchy. We were riding our bikes through the darkness of this barren wasteland, dressed in feathers and tutus and top hats and nipple pasties, high on some pharmaceutical-grade molly we’d been gifted and riding towards the sound of music.

Tearing through the darkness lit up only by fluorescent wires and the pervasive firelight, we came upon a woman unlike any we’d ever seen. She wore a skin-tight leopard-print suit with cat ears next to a giant metal octopus that shot 20-foot flames from its tentacles. She danced alone while others watched from a distance, moving to the beat with the grace of a ballerina, and the sensuality of a burlesque dancer. She was in her 30s but possessed a body so fit and firm it would put almost any college coed on notice. We halted our bikes and stared, mouth agape at this dancing manifestation of pure femininity.

My girlfriend ventured out to join the feline in her dancing, and I stood and watched with the growing pool of onlookers as the a dance beat poured from a double-decker bus stacked with speakers. Deafened to everything but the music, I felt I had to share this moment with someone, so I yelled to the man next to me that this was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. I was answered in a comically thick Australian accent, “Why do ya think I’m Mehrrying her?” He yelled into my ear. I looked back in shock and beamed with pride.

He was older than her, but had confidence and class that said he knew he was lucky. He clearly knew a lot of things. “The wedding is tomorrow! You should come, mate!” He said.

I was introduced to the rest of their party, all Australians here for the wedding. When the dancing subsided and my girlfriend rejoined my side, the maid of honor, fit and blonde and beautiful, covered in face paint with a star like Paul Stanley from Kiss, said to us, “We’re all going to the Orgy Dome after this, would you like to join us?”

My girlfriend and I looked at each other in shock, but we couldn’t control our excitement. “Yes!” we blurted out in unison, and with that our caravan of bikes pedaled into the darkness, pushing through the cold and the dust to some approximate address in the wasteland. Somewhere along the way, we crashed our bikes on a sandbar and separated from the wedding party.

It took us an hour to find them again, only when we finally made it to the Orgy Dome. We passed through two heavy velvet curtains and a bouncer and table spread with lubricants and condoms and paper towels. Inside, we found the wedding party scattered under this bedouin style tent with tapestries on the wall and music filling every corner, the lights a glowing mix of green and red. The groom and best man were sitting back, sated and pleased with themselves as the bride and maid of honor lay naked and pressed together on a mattress, kissing and caressing each other. They excitedly beckoned us to join them when we entered the room.

I’ll leave the details to your imagination, but I will say that with the molly, every touch was as pleasurable as you can imagine, multiplied by a hot bath.

The next day we went to the wedding at the appointed time. In a wooden structure ornately decorated as a faux library and crowded with strangers and friends, the bride was naked except for a sheer scarf on her hair and a gold chain on her waist, from which hung a small cut of sheer cloth that only pretended at modesty. Gold metallic temporary tattoos accented her body as she stood before a crowd of strangers, tall and naked and proud. It in no way focused on putting on a show, or pleasing parents, or satisfying expectations, or impressing the community. It was about two people who were madly in love, and if you didn’t like it, then fuck you. It started as an orgy, and ended as the most authentic and loving wedding I’ve ever been to.

Stick that to your “dream wedding” Pinterest board.

A Fight to the Near Death

FeaturedA Fight to the Near Death

Continued from Drunk Girls and The Holi Party

It’s cold, my clothes are wet and I’ve got vomit on me. This party’s devolved into a putrid mess, and on top of everything, my jet lag is chasing my adrenaline. I’m done and ready to leave.

I come around the side of the farmhouse and see Samantha. She’s unable to walk and being helped along by two men. I don’t know what it is with these girls, but they drink like Japanese businessmen. I sense something is wrong, but I’m so tired that it doesn’t seem anymore wrong than the last vomit-parade. I walk right up to them and take Samantha into my arms before they even realize I’m talking to them. “Thanks guys. I’ll take her from here.”

One of the men bows his head. He has that “busted” look of shame, like he’s been caught re-handed. It’s Grabby Hands from the hot tub. I’m about to say something when the other gets in my face like I’ve stolen his kill. It’s the aggressive guy she’d complained about earlier. The one that was pestering all the girls and violently mashing color into their hair.

Now I understand. They were headed in the direction of the outdoor bathrooms, away from the crowd. A nice quiet place where no one will interrupt you.

I turn the dial straight up to 11 and march him backwards, driving through his personal space. “BACK UP, MOTHERFUCKER! IF YOU TOUCH HER AGAIN I’LL SMASH YOUR FUCKING HEAD IN!”

Really, I don’t have the energy to be a vigilante. I just want to grab her and go, and my sudden intensity has the intended effect, leaving him stunned long enough  for me to turn and pick up Samantha. I curse and keep looking around for Jampa with the keys. If there was ever a time to go, this is it.

With both arms supporting her, I’m left vulnerable, and now the Instigator has composed himself and is back in my face. His renewed confidence has energized Grabby Hands, and some other party-goers have come to have a look.

He won’t let me go. He’s hung up on my calling him a “motherfucker,” which, as a New Yorker, I can’t even begin to tell you how baffling that is. Is that really what we’re fighting about? I look to the crowd for some kind of confirmation, but get nothing. I’m backed into a corner of the lawn with Samantha in my arms and he and Grabby Hands leave me no exit.

I’m angry, I’m tired, and cornered with the instigator barking in my face, I’ve made up my mind: We’re leaving.

I roll a barely conscious Samantha onto the ground as softly as I can, then turn and punch him right in the face.

The problem is, even as a Sergeant in the Marines, I’ve never thrown a good punch. The few times I’ve fought off muggers or assailants, it’s been no more effective than hitting a beehive with a stick. The only upside in this case is that the bees have completely forgotten about Samantha.

The childish look of surprise hangs on his face for only a few seconds, and after the shock wears off, he quickly turns back into a snarling dog, running up to kick me in the balls and take a victory lap. It’s a poor kick and I feel no pain, so I just stand there, looking at him, thinking, Okay, that’s one for one. I tell him to leave. Instead, he runs up and punches me three times in the face, jumping back triumphantly for the growing crowd.

Fortunately, his hits are just as bad as mine, so I remain calm. Four for one. Can we go now?

I look to his friends and tell them to take him away, but when I go to pick up Samantha again, someone comes over to play arbiter. He has an air of authority, but it’s not enough. Even as I’m standing there, trying to explain that we want to leave, the instigator and a friend with a ponytail take turns hitting me in the head.

“He says you hit him.” Says the arbiter, uninterested on the continued attack. This must be what it’s like when the UN debates the definition of a war while it rages on.

I stand there in disbelief, watching his eyes while I take the punches. “Dude!” Thump! “Are you even-” Thump! Thump! “…seeing this!?” Thump!

Some judge he is, but his ruling is that I need to leave, and I’m happy to oblige, I just need to grab Samantha. Someone interjects in Hindi, and then he says, “She says she doesn’t want to leave with you.”

My tone is one of pure contempt. “What?” I walk over to Samantha and there’s this momentary ceasefire while I confer with her, probably only because if I’m ejected, then there’s no one left to tell them to stop. Certainly not from this crowd. I stand her up on her feet and grab her by the shoulders. She’s not even able to look at me.

“Samantha?” I say, and she musters a response.

“Yes?”

I speak to her in the calm, instructional voice like a grade-school teacher lecturing a child during a ‘teachable moment’. “Sam, if you stay, these men are going to take you into those bushes, and they’re going to rape you.” I let it sink in. “Do you want that?”

She mumbles a response, head rolling around, “No.”

“Do you want to leave?” I ask her, gently.

“Yes.” She says.

“Do you want to leave with me?” I ask.

“Yeah.” She says, swaying.

I turn to the arbiter with open hands and a look on my face that says, “Satisfied?”

But he’s not satisfied. He’s one of the Instigators friends, and they all swarm at me with shoves and punches.

I’m able to break free of the assailants and charge off cursing towards the pool to look for the host. The extra eyes of the remaining guests keep the violence from following me. I can’t find the host but I see one of his friends. I make sure he remembers me from earlier and tell him about the fight and that he needs to escort us to our vehicle. He agrees and follows me back to the commotion, however confused.

The assailants, five or six at this point, scatter from Samantha and keep a little distance in the face of some recognized authority. I pick up our bags, one on each shoulder and scoop up a barely conscious Samantha into my arms. Mercifully, Jampa appears from around the corner and I give him an unambiguous “We’re leaving!” jerk of the head. He can tell there’s danger and runs ahead to car. I follow him, carrying Samantha while the snarling pack nips at my heels, threatening me and telling me how they’re going to get me once we get outside.

My optimism craters with the realization that the car is parked outside of the gate, beyond the protection of the host. Oh Shit, I think to myself.

Outside, I find the car unlocked and prop Samantha against it to open the door. Jampa helps me push her into the backseat and I get in with her and shut the doors. Now it’s really time to go.

I count the seconds as I wait for Jampa to get in the driver’s seat. Through the fogged up windows I can see shapeless figures pouring out from the gate. The dogs are back.

I check on Samantha. Barely awake, she’s completely unaware of the danger.

Suddenly the door to my left flings open. 

Fuck me. I forgot to lock it.

A man dives in head first and starts swinging. The punches land on my face and the sides of my head, one after another.

I’m on my back and kick at him, trying to catch his fists before they can reach me. Then the other door opens and Samantha screams as someone tries to drag her from the car.

A third assailant begins hitting me from between the front seats.

I’m stretched across the backseat of this Fiat, legs kicking and grappling at anything that moves to stem the assault. Every thud against my head reverberates through my ears like a drum and dazed me with flashes of white. All this as six fists fight for real estate on my face.

My punches and kicks fly on instinct. I swing and get a shot in here or there. Somebody’s head. Somebody’s shoulder. Every time I reach out to grab something, I worry I’ll snap my fingers.

If there are any strikes to my body, I don’t feel them. There is no quitting or time-outs. 

I can’t stop wondering, How I’m still conscious?

After every impact, I run a system check like an old computer.

Ears? (Hearing.)

Eyes? (Still seeing.)

Bones and teeth? (Unbroken.)

Pain?

(Fuck pain.)

System: OKAY.

CONTINUE FIGHTING.

This happens over and over.

At one point I see a face near my foot and I heel-kick it as hard as I can, sending its owner reeling into the dirt. Somehow I get the door shut. I ignore the hits from the front seat. Whoever he is he has no footing to make them count. Climbing on top of Samantha I start grappling with the attacker from her side. When I push him back and get the door shut, locking it this time, the one I’d just closed flies open again.

There’s gotta be ten of these assholes! I think as I kick at him. 

I can fight two at a time, maybe three, but they’re pouring into the open doors of the Fiat like a scene straight out of Old Boy. I’m thinking I could really use a hammer right now.

With every hit to the head, I’m wondering how many more I can take. For a moment I see Jampa outside, trying to communicate with the attackers, he’s got his hands up and gets a punch to the face as his reward.

However many there are, here, crammed into the back of a Fiat, they’re funneled down to three at the most, but when I manage to hurt one, he gets tagged out by someone fresh and eager to get a few hits in. As soon as I get one door closed, another opens and me or Samantha get dragged by the head or arms, or just pummeled in place.

Through the chaos, I recognize the instigator crawling over from the front seat and he starts swinging at me. I manage to shield myself with one hand lock the rear doors with the other.

This is turning into a fight to the death, but through all of my fear, all of my terror, he’s the first one of them I’m relieved to see. If someone has to die for this to end, it’s not going to be me, and he’s the leader of this mob.

He keeps swinging and I flatten onto my back and lay the trap. I spread my arms to brace myself against the seat, leaving my face open to attack. He takes the bait and climbs right on top of me.

In my one moment of clarity, my only thought is, I got you now you now you son of a bitch.

I put my foot into his chest and lift him up, pinning him to the ceiling. Suspended in the air, he continues to swing, but his reach is limited.

He doesn’t yet realize what’s happening, and flush with adrenaline I push everything I have into the center of his chest. I i magine what it feels like to have 500 pounds crushing your heart and lungs. I feel his ribs bending and cracking under my heel. I can hear his friends outside, pulling on the door handles and banging on the glass, but I keep pushing. I’m fighting for my life, and I can see the panic in his eyes as he realizes that I’m not going to stop. His withered swings at my head turn to strained clawing at my leg. I want him to fear death.

I do.

There’s no pride left in me. No ego. I’m terrified, and I just want this to end.

The one that was trying to smash the window to rescue him is now trying to get at me from the front seat. It’s Ponytail Guy, here to save his rapist bastard of a friend. He manages to get past the blockage and starts hitting me. These hits are better than the ones before and I lose focus.

I drop the instigator from the ceiling and he collapses onto me like a rag doll. He’s unconscious but alive. With his body covering me, Ponytail Guy is having a difficult time finding a target. I’m dreading the one good hit that ruins me. The instigator is starting to regain consciousness. I can’t keep fighting two at once. I have to finish one of them, and he’s the most likely to cave or die first. And I’m willing. 

I manage to twist him around, getting his neck into the crease of my right elbow, and grabbing my left bicep forming a headlock. He’s awake and pulling at it to get free. With my left hand I reach over the top of his head and press my fingers deep into his eye sockets, worming my fingernails beneath his eyelids. I can feel them moving against my nails.

“Are you finished?” I yell, digging hard into his eyeballs. 

He screams, writhing in my arms and clawing at me to relieve the pressure. I’m trying to get my fingers where I can pop them out if I need to. 

“ARE-YOU-DONE?” I shout, pushing deeper into his eye sockets.

“Yes.” He whimpers, shaking.

I scream into his ear and keep the pressure on. “Yes what? SAY IT!”

“I’m done. I’m finished.” he whimpers, going limp.

I start to release the pressure, but even with his surrender, the blows from Ponytail Guy keep coming, and they’re dangerous hits. I dig my fingers back into his eyes and make him my hostage.

“TELL YOUR FRIEND TO STOP HITTING ME OR I’LL RIP YOUR FUCKING EYES OUT!”

“Stop! Stop!” He cries, and Ponytail Guy backs off and disappears.

I open the door and shove him into the dirt, leaving him to crawl, clutching his eyes. I lock the door and turn to check on Samantha. She’s been beaten, and she’s bleeding from the leg, but she’ll be okay.

Suddenly there’s a thump and a flash. I’m blinded by a hit to the face and my head gets yanked backwards against the seat. Someone came through the rear hatch and was wrestling me into the same chokehold I’d used on the instigator. It’s Ponytail Guy out for revenge, and in terror I feel his fingers hook into my eye sockets.

The pain is incredible, but nothing compared to the terror of knowing what comes next. There will be no opportunity for surrender. It’s fight or die, and once he takes my eyes, it’s all over.  Blinded, I kick at the air and claw at his hands.

Struggling to squirm free, I feel flesh against my lips and I bite down as hard as I can. I put everything I have into ripping a chunk out of his forearm, and his grip loosens over my eyes and manage to get ahold of two of the fingers he’d plunged into my right eye. I wrench them as hard as I can, and feel them snap.

He cries out, recoiling out the back, and my sight returns to me. I waste no time pulling the hatch shut. I have nothing left. The panic of has mixed with the adrenalin and the resulting stew has ruined me.

The remaining attackers are losing steam. Someone gets the door open and yells a threat and walks off. Another jumps in to take a shot or two but it’s all token gestures. Without their leaders, the fight is approaching its end.

Then I see a man at the door brandishing a razor, and turn cold when I see the flicker of light from the blade. I’m afraid, anticipating the wounds on my bare feet and legs. I could run through him. Maybe wrestle the blade from him, stab him, and make it back inside, but if he get a good slash in first, I could bleed to death before we get to a hospital. British police are trained in unarmed defense against knives. You WILL get slashed, but you’re supposed to block with the outside of your arms. I don’t have the guts for it, and I don’t want to bleed to death.

The brandisher just stands there, looking confused. I think he’s someone I was friendly with at the party, when he was called to the fight, he didn’t expect to find me here.

“Please.” I say to him, putting up my hands in surrender and  pushing back against a now-unconscious Samantha. Maybe pity will be enough. We just look at each other, me at him and his blade, him at me, curled up with Samantha and as far away as I can get. We’re frozen in place. Then he turns and runs from the scene and I pull the door shut.

I see Jampa outside. He’s crying in the arms of some onlooker who put a stop to his attackers. Through the fog of the windows I can see others from the crowd inching forward, tempted to intervene, and I realize what it will take to get away.

I start to cry as loud and sad as I can. Big, tactical tears.

“Please! Please stop! Please just let us go! We just want to go home!” If they feel like they won they can leave and brag about how they beat up some tough-talking American pussy. I don’t care, as long as they leave.

I think of Bill Paxton, crying and pissing himself at the top of the dam in True Lies during the mock execution. “I got a little dick,” He whimpers to his kidnappers, “it’s pathetic!”

If I knew Hindi, I’d scream it as loud as I can.

Samantha is starting to come to, and unaware of the new game plan, she starts yelling insults and talking tough. I grab her in a bear hug masquerading as a romantic embrace and tell her to shut up. “You know how to cry?” I say. “Do it!” I growl in her ear, and force her head onto my shoulder.

She complies and the watchers respond to it. Some start interrogating the attackers. Another comes to help by holding the doors shut. When it seems like he might leave, I give him my best Puss-In-Boots impression and beg him not to go.

It might be over. The host is now out front and he’s pissed. Jampa, his face beaten, gets in and starts the car, racing away from the farmhouse and back to towards the center of New Delhi. We’re so drained from the fight that he can barely keep the wheel straight. I’m afraid of a crash, but less so than being followed.

“Porrish!” he sounds at me, mouthing each syllable and he weaves the car in search of a thoroughfair. 

I veto the idea. I don’t need the police. I need a doctor, and I need one right now. Never mind the fact that I may have maimed or killed a man. I’m not sticking around to see how it plays out with an Indian jury.

We speed through South New Delhi looking for a hospital. It takes forever, but we find one. A public hospital, overflowing with sick people and holiday car crash victims. When we finally park in front of the ER, into the protection of the masses and police sentries, it’s the first time we feel safe. Jampa and I put an arm around each other and break down and cry without shame. Then we limp into the ER. 

There is blood everywhere. The place is packed to the gills. Smears on the walls and bloody handprints on the linoleum stretchers. Puddles on the floor. 

Jampa is barefoot, dragging his feet across the floor. He’d given his shoes to Samantha, who’d lost hers in the fight. Her arms and legs were quicy turning bruised, and dried blood crusted over a laceration on her thigh. 

As the only sober one able to speak, I have a hard time with the intake doctor. I can’t tell if I have a concussion or if it’s exhaustion. A combination of no sleep, 12 hours of jet-lag, and an adrenaline dump.

Because it’s related to a crime, they require me to give a statement to the  police office. Though nervous about involving the police, I didn’t come all this way just to get brain damage, so I tell them the story. 

 

The neurosurgeon looking over my scan disapproves. He tells me I’m going to see that kind of behavior here, and that I should remember I’m a foreigner. It’s too dangerous, he says. “Next time just don’t get involved.”

Continued in India by the Orbitals Part III — Whenever I get down to finishing it. These are the first of the India stories, and there are more to come. Suffice to say, I went to the embassy the next day, but didn’t flee. I just kept my ear to the ground and got my adventure on. And so it continues. 

Drunk Girls at a Holi Party

Drunk Girls at a Holi Party

Some of the names in this story have been changed to protect identities of the victims.


I’ve been in India for less than 48 hours and I’m in a public hospital waiting for the results of a CT scan. The ER is packed. Smears of wet blood on the floor, bandages scattered. The place is a mess. The ER beds don’t have sheets. They’re a kind of brown vinyl, some with bloody handprints at the edges. I choose to stand and give it to one of the two dozen gaping head wounds I see in the lobby.
My compatriots and I seem out of place. A white guy with a stoned look on his beaten face, a deaf Tibetan kid holding a swollen jaw, and a pretty girl in a tight shirt and Daisy Dukes, bleeding and covered in bruises.

I type some words on my iPad and hand it to Jampa, the Tibetan kid, “Thanks for getting us the hell out of there. I thought I was going to die.” He reads it and gives a nod of agreement. This is the most conversation we’ve ever had.

Once I get the results of my CT scan, I’m going straight to the U.S. Embassy. The fight was brutal, and I should probably flee the country before those bastards figure out my real name. I called my lawyer on the way to the hospital. He said that the way things had gone, I could be charged with attempted murder, never mind that I’m a foreigner. “Get out while you can.” He told me. 

I’d come to India to see the Holi Color Festival. If you’ve ever seen those pictures on Facebook of your friends covered in some rainbow of paint or powder after some mud-run, this is where it started. This was to be my Year of Travel– Whiteboy Walkabout, I call it, and I’d seen pictures of the festival on some internet bucket-list, so I bought a one-way ticket and figured I’d country hop until I ran out of money or passport pages.

I arrived in New Delhi on March 4th at 1130pm with no plans. and no reservations. I’d put up a profile on Couchsurfing.org, a site that connects travelers with hosts willing to put them up for free, and before I’d even made it through immigration, I had an invitation to stay at stranger’s house, and a young Indian woman named Samantha offered to show me around the next day. On the site, the host had positive references from other travelers and the girl looked pretty. Not a bad start, all things considered.

The free room was a king sized bed with leopard print sheets and disco lights on the ceiling. My kind of place. The next afternoon I went to meet Samantha in the central district. She’s was from the North East of India and studying for her master’s in New Delhi and took me around to run errands: Local SIM card, pharmacy, lunch, how to use the metro. She paid for everything, too. In the evening she took me to her favorite bar and I sang “Sweet Caroline” with India’s karaoke champion (which is apparently a thing), and then we met up with her friends and danced until dawn at someone’s apartment.

In the morning, she told me to grab my things. We were going to a “Holi” party. Downstairs her friend Jampa was waiting in a grey fiat. He was kind and agreeable, but he was also deaf and driving with both hands, so any pantomimed questions about where we were going or how far it was met with mumbles and head shakes. We were going to a farmhouse. That was all I knew.

Farmhouse is a misnomer. It was a large, ten-bedroom house with a pool and a hot tub on a large tract of land with a massive green lawn. The crowd was an eclectic group of Indians and Europeans in their 20s and 30s, and few older finance types (someone had to pay for it). There was an open bar, serving staff, and catering. This was not a slum.

I made friends and danced with the girls, I ate the food and drank the beer. Colored powder was arrayed on a table, and people would grab handfuls and chase each other around, tossing it into the air, which is the custom. Before long, everyone was a rainbow mess from head to toe. One of the guys playing grab-ass by the pool was a little too stoned, and shoved me into the pool while I had my iPhone in my pocket, so that was the end of that. I forgave him, seeing as it was a party, and went to sit on the lawn with Samantha a couple French girls.

Samantha pointed out one of the men, some guy in his early 20s. She said she’d seen him at other parties and he was always really aggressive, shoving or poking women to get their attention. Even as we watched, he snuck up behind some girls making polite conversation and mashed color powder into their hair, grinding it in with the delighted look of a young boy sticking worms in a girl’s hair.

“Maybe he’ll grow out of it.” I said. It’s hard, learning to flirt.

Later on I was in the hot tub watching some wasted girl try to dance and swing on a tent pole, only fall on her ass. Then she takes some unfinished cup of whiskey and stumbles over to her friends on the lawn. Samantha came and joined me in the hot tub. She was drunk, too, and starting to feel sick, but nevertheless would grab for my beer so she could keep going. I tried to cut her off, but had little luck.

Also in the tub was a young Indian man with a sad excuse for a mustache. We tried to make conversation with his broken English, but I knew what he was really curious about. Judging by his body language, he was just hoping to be there when the clothes came off, whenever that may be.

Before long, he had gotten close enough to bump knees in the water. Samantha whispered in my ear that she wanted me to scoot away. I did and gave him a cautionary nod.  Okay, buddy, that’s enough. The water was a brown soup of chlorine and Holi color dyes, hiding everything beneath the surface. I felt something on my leg, a hand that then slid onto my crotch.

“Hey!” I snapped at him. “You’re touching the wrong PENIS!”

He’d been reaching for Samantha, but missed. He backed away, embarrassed, and mumbled a kind of apology. I’d read about this kind of thing in India but couldn’t believe I was actually see it. Even still, this isn’t America, and I wasn’t about to burn the place down over it, so I suggested to Samantha that we go rejoin our friends on the lawn, and she agreed.

As we sat on the lawn chatting with the French girls, we watched a group of college-aged girls fussing over the drunken dancer. She had passed out face down in the grass and they were trying to get her into the backseat of a car so they could take her home. The girl was chubby, wet, and limp as a rag doll, so this was no easy task. They were all set to leave when we heard the girls burst out in hysterics. I ran over to find them screaming and crying in the backseat, all covered in vomit. The drunk’s inept cousin caught the most of it and was completely overwhelmed.

They were so preoccupied with their shrieks of disgust that they didn’t see their unconscious friend struggling to breath through a mouth full of regurgitated rice, pasta, and beer. The silent, choking death that only a BAC of 4.0 can give you.

I yanked open the door and dragged her down from the car, putting her on her side and scooping the vomit out with my fingers. Her eyes were rolled in the back of her head, and slapping and shaking and yelling did nothing to wake her. The drunk’s cousin, the worst of the girls, jumped on top of her to shield her from the assault.

I shoved her out of the way and yelled at her friends to shut her up and keep her away. First aid is never elegant.

I managed to clear her airway and had someone bring a few buckets of water to pour over the drunk girl’s head. For fleeting moments, she showed signs of a working nervous system. Eye-contact, if nothing else. Once her cousin calmed down, and we buckled the drunk girl into her seat, I made sure her friends understood what to do with her when they got home. No one had ever explained to them that drunks go face down, not face up! “That’s how Hendrix died.” I said. The owner of the car was a male friend of theirs, some poor sap saddled with the responsibility of driving this vomit parade. I made him vow to get this mess to the cousin’s apartment, then sent them on their way.

By now the sun has gone down. The party’s still going on, but the crowd has cycled. Most of our new friends went home sometime while I was dealing with the previous disaster. I’m pissed off and I need to find Jampa and Samantha and corral them both to the car.

When I finally see Jampa, I give him my best attempt at Sign Language. “Drive. Now. Where Sam?”

He didn’t know, but went off in a hurry to find her.

Continued in India by the Orbitals Part II: An Attempted Rape and a Fight for Survival