Friday, August 22, 2014

Life's a Beach: Excerpt #7

June 27th 2013

Some guests in cottage one had a barbeque problem and they were a little annoyed at the whole snafu. Maybe a lot annoyed. They really wanted to fire up some chicken wings that were marinating nearby, a sea of guts in a large bowl. I hopped on the radio, explaining the issue to Gary. How two out of the three cylinders inside the barbeque were not catching, so there wasn’t enough heat to cook anything except a grasshopper. “We probably need to replace it right away,” I told him.
These pachucos were having none of it. Disgusted with the subpar service, they made insulting comments underneath their breath, engineered to be just loud enough for me to hear: “Fucking stupid idiot,” said one generic fool.
We probably need to replace it right away,” one of them said, mocking me in a nerdy white guy voice. *Sigh* If people only knew what it’s like to be white in the 21st century.
There was no denying it—I was infuriated and humiliated. It was the maddest I’ve been at any guests since I started at Stillwater. I wanted to smash the butt of my radio into the first piece of scum that made a move towards me. I was burning with white-hot rage at these fucking Latino jerk-off punks, each one of whom I could totally kick the shit out of in a one-on-one battle (probably not). My anger bolstered my confidence. You learn to size a man up pretty quick at Stillwater if you want to keep those teeth in your gums. If it’s in your nature to be allergic to aggressive posturing, that will either change pretty quick or you’ll find another job. I’ve slithered out of all the potentially violent confrontations by either feigning superpower strength or feigning to call the police. Either way it’s all bullshit.
            The bulging muscles of a beefed up dude will affect the level of respect you accord him. I tone down the sarcasm and become respectful really fucking quick if the guy is 6’2” 220lbs. Luckily, most of these high school kids here tonight have a pea brain stuck between two spaghetti arms. Talk to them in the correct way and they bow at your feet; you can put them back in line with a stern voice. Not these particular teens. I started to fear that I was dealing with a drug cartel and not recent secondary school graduates. Why are they not respecting my authority? They just arrived and they’ll be kicked out from their beautiful riverside cottage if they fuck with me. Are they cray-cray?
I walked away from the group to hear Gary more clearly over the heckling. I’m going to be here well into the night with these dopes as they get progressively more fucked up,  and the slightest provocation could ignite the latent primal male rage that surely resides within me and I’ll probably get hurt real bad even though I upped my bench pressing from once a week to every five days. My soft feminine hands are filled with middle-class rage! So lookout!
            When I get off the radio with Gary, one of them, with an aquiline pencil-thin beard asks, “So, yo, you gonna fix it or what?” There was a smattering of snickers from both the boys and girls. I got the sense that they were from Toronto.
            I took a deep breath and sighed. A loner amongst hostile forces all leering derisively at me, I replied with a mendacious, Walter White-esque quip: “Do I look like a barbeque repair man to you?”
            They didn’t like that comment too much, and there was a collective, “Ohhhh” and as I quietly walked away, not wanting to incur any physical wrath, they were muttering insults under their breath and I was simmering for the next hour. I avoided them for the rest of the evening, only having to endure their stink eyes and smirks as they walked by towards the convenience store for some zig-zags and smokes. By the time the gang was coming back from the store I made sure to be somewhere else.

I have seen so many good looking eighteen year old Ontario girls in the last couple months it is nothing short of stupefying. It is positively life affirming! I have a renewed sense of faith in humanity! The milky skin and pert breasts, the taught haunches and shining blonde hair. Canada is full of healthy and vibrant women! As Yakov would say, “What a country!


June 29th 2013

At Cottage Court tonight, Friday night on the Canada Day weekend, I laughed truly and heartily for the first time in a while. It’s 7pm, and the hour-long thunderstorm is over. The stifling humidity has been sucked out of the air and it’s a cool night. Most of the guests are a racially mixed lot from Brampton. White, brown, and black kids are running wild all over the property hootin’ and hollerin’, not a care in the world. Oh, to be young and dewy-eyed again!
An immaculately toned black kid, clearly the class clown type and clearly drunk, whips out his cock and balls and jiggles them around for the whole world to see. I didn’t really want to see this kid’s penis, but like the sun I stole a glance at it before my eyes burned. You’d think an atom bomb of funny exploded. A few kids had the presence of mind to whip out their iThingamajigger’s and immortalize the lurid display. A lot of these teens reach for their hip instinctively whenever something remotely out of the ordinary happens. Reaching for an electronic device is like an outlaw reaching for his six shooter; you got to watch out for Billy the iKid. Now, I didn’t actually see the young black man’s genitals; by the time I glanced over he was zipping up. That’s not what made me laugh. What made me laugh was the reactions of his buddies, who I’ve come to know in the past couple days and am fond of. For one comes to know, understand, and bond with people in a deeper way during a dramatic life event, (ie., passing through the requisite, liminal lost weekend at the beach that proceeds the graduating of high-school and precedes entering post-secondary education and/or work. In other words, not a boy, not yet a man). Everyone was falling all over themselves, wailing and laughing so hard--it was infectious, and I too joined in from a distance. There is no feeling quite like laughing as hard as possible with a large group of friends. If only we could bottle that up and sell it for twenty bucks a shot.

Gary relocates me to Bayside, supervising a much smaller group on my own. Bayside is the best chunk of property to guard because most of the time I’m the fox in charge of the henhouse. At Cottage Court, there’s usually three or four guards on duty. Here, I can order a shot or accept a twenty and grant permission for a kid or two come aboard the party train without much fear of getting caught.
A drunk Indian kid in a tank top was running around, accosting guests and being generally annoying and unruly. He didn’t have the right wristband. I approached the young gent to kick him off the property but he was “bro, bro, bro-ing” me. I was in no mood for his nonsense and I clenched my fists and the words just spilled out: “Get off the property or I’ll break both your arms and then your Daddy will have to jerk you off!” I don’t know where it came from. It was meant to be serious--and I was--yet the line came out kind of funny and some of the guests laughed. He was too drunk to realize the full import of my warning so his two buddies grabbed his shoulders and ushered him towards Mosley Street, towards the next beachfront motel party.
            As they were walking away, he suddenly turns sober and serious and says “Yo, why you have to get all aggressive with a sixteen year old?” I cocked my head and shrugged my shoulders as if to say “You gotta do what you gotta do” and I never saw him again.

I know what it’s like to be in the Walking Dead. I live it most nights at Stillwater. In the early hours of the morning, they walk along the street, stupefied and stumbling, moaning incoherently. I’m the only one not infected (well, most of the time). 


July 2nd 2013

As previously mentioned, the best part about the 6am cleanup shift are the pristine goodies laying amidst the rubble of another mega beach party. Today I found four quarters, three bottles of Canadian, one can of Coors Light, a flash-bang firecracker and a pair of sunglasses with Canadian flags in the lenses.

A good chunk of my time on the clock is spent standing at the entrance to the various Stillwater properties and many folks will walk by me all day either say “Hi” or will sometimes stop and chat with me. I get asked all the common greeting tropes: “How ya doin?” “How are you?” “Doin alright?” “Yo, what’s up?” And of course, the least labor intensive verbal greeting, a mere reflexive guttural emission: “’Sup?”
Then there are various nods and waves of recognition in lieu of actual sounds coming out of your face to convey acknowledgement: Winks, smiles (showing teeth, not showing teeth), barely perceptible head nods, the casual two-fingered salute. I’m standing around, greeting dozens and dozens of people every damn shift—I find myself bored with answering with “Not bad” and “Doin alright, sir” and “Hey there” dozens of times a day, and organically I began to incorporate new phrases. This weekend, my go-to response to the eternal, “Greeting another human being for the first time question,” is the old clever talk-show line, maybe Rickles or Newhart said it.
TALK-SHOW HOST: “How ya doin’ _____?”  
GUEST: “If I was doing any better, it would be illegal.”
More than half a century later, the sunbathers who will never be on TV still seem to like it. Kind of clever if you’ve never heard it before; it comes off as witty—a verbal wink. The phrase itself is quite absurd when you think about it. What does it even mean? “If I was doing any better it would be illegal.” Like my life is in a zenith state, perfectly matched up with my dreams and if one more roll of the dice went my way it would be too much fulfillment and I could actually be ticketed and/or arrested because things are so darned good? I’m that high on life? 
Also, currently, I’m punctuating greetings directed at males with “Boss.”
“Doin’ alright, boss?”
“Having fun, boss?”
“Gonna fucking party tonight or what, boss?”
“Can I get a beer from you, boss?”
“Just chillin’, boss?”
“Hey, you got any blow, boss?”
“Hey, you got anymore blow, boss?”


July 4th 2013

A group of one hundred twenty five young adults from Mississauga came up to wonderful Wasaga Beach, Ontario, Canada to celebrate their high school graduation with a three night stay at Cottage Court. I began cracking jokes and most of them were pleased, putting me on a first name basis right off the bat. This one girl, rather plain, but definitely DTF, kept talking about how she was going to, “Smoke my cock. Room number nine.”
            “You’ll need a lighter with a lot fluid to smoke this cock,” I said. Her friends laughed, and it was all a half-serious charade with the security guard.

I busted into cabin six, and later cabin seventeen, to collect on the Taylor Tax. The ghetto party inhabitants were more than accommodating. Giving the security guard a shot is like feeding a monkey at the zoo: you’re not supposed to do it, but it’s irresistible.
I was feeling oh-so-fine and went to chat with a group of fifteen kid’s barbequing and smoking all sorts of things on the back porch area. This massive porch is about one hundred feet long and ten feet wide. It’s where the BBQ’s and graffitied picnic tables are. It’s where the kids hang out most of the time; where beers, faces, joints, and hookahs are sucked.  Across the river, the lights of the main strip waver in the humidity. Throbbing beats from the nearby clubs echo back at the Stillwater guests, delayed and out of time.
Below, at the fire pit by the banks, another drunken multitude is roasting dollar store weenie’s. They all laugh at one girl who’s weenie has fallen into the fire just as it was ready to eat. 
            In front of her whole clan, this girl again asks for me to see her in room number nine and makes the international blowjob motion, jerking her hand by her mouth, pounding her tongue against the inside of her cheek. “I’ll smoke your cock. You can finger my ass,” she says to the delightful laughter of the group.
            “How many fingers? One or Two?” I ask, and the group roars their approval at my willingness to participate in the game. I smile and walk away. Big brother is watching me and I’m supposed to be at the front of the property, not cavorting with the guests in back. 
            Speaking of smoking things--all the kids nowadays sit around massive octo-hookahs and huff flavoured tobacco. They don’t ever smoke pot out of these hookahs. Their tall glass bongs are kept right beside the hookahs. Or they smoke joints. Usually both. I’m still dumbfounded that practically every teenager smokes pot up here. I understand it’s a party resort, but these kids all smoke pot back in Mississauga or Ancaster or Toronto during their regular day-to-day life, too—they all tell me so. Christ, they haul the humidors and the bongs and the grinders all the way up to Wasaga like it’s their toiletry bag.
I’ve witnessed countless glass bongs topple over and shatter. Perhaps there’s a market for fixing these vessels of the magic herb; a golden opportunity for a shrewd entrepreneur to open up a seasonal bong repair shop. Let’s call it Bong Voyage. Guys with their names stitched onto coveralls in sweeping cursive--Bob, Gary, Don--with resin blotches smearing their faces, wiping their brows after a hard day’s work cleaning and repairing glass bongs.
            Marijuana is so integral to modern Canadian teendom, you wouldn’t believe it unless you saw it with your own two eyes. It’s outta control! I’ve seen some studies that say only a tiny percentage, like 3% of teenagers smoke pot daily but that has not been my experience this summer. At any moment the sweet, burnt pine smell of potent bud wafts into my nostrils while I’m pacing back and forth on the grounds. Joints, blunts, bongs, you name it, they smoke it. Seems to me that people smoke blunts as more of a display of wealth than any other form of smoking marijuana. These guys are the show-off types who like mega bling. Blunts are the five star hotel of marijuana smoking. If you smoke blunts, it says, “Yeah, I have enough fuck you money to burn this big ol’ thing full a weed rolled with the most expensive, thickest type of cigar paper.” Or, they’re simply connoisseurs of the herb and spend thirty minutes with their scissors and their wraps and their pile, carefully plucking out the stems and dropping them into the ashtray with a little rattling ping, like a doctor removing body lodged bullets out of another drive-by victim. And they put in a filter, usually a small rectangle cut out from a pack of zig-zag’s, and lick the blunt twenty times, pulling it out of their mouths and holding a flame under it to harden the fuselage and ensure it stays uniform while burning down. If these potheads put that much effort into world peace, we’d be shitting flowers.
            On any still night in town, there is a haze of marijuana and camp fire smoke that hovers in the air creating a thick, flagrant, muggy fog. Kids keep their appurtenances on the picnic tables in full view of the cops that drive by every few minutes. Wasaga is nice that way. You can freely sit outside your room or cabin and smoke away and the staff or the law won’t do a goddamn thing about it.  The kids get a kick out of it when I inform them upon their arrival that they can smoke weed right in front of the cops. “It’s all good,” I say. “This is private property. Smoke away!” If they’ve never been to the beach before, their reaction is incredulous delight at the freedom. God bless Canada! Young men and women come here to dance in their thongs and smoke weed in their bongs, shaking it to cheesy beats that loop and loop, a robotic voice spraying nonsense in between drops, fists pumping furiously into the air. This is freedom in the great white north. This is what kids do. They get fucked up and get fucked and eat sloppy hamburgers, and get half of it on their face, and then they hit REPEAT.
           
When a group of fifty plus teenagers sit around, drunk and stoned, inevitably one of the jocks whips out a football and three or more guys fan out and start tossing it around. One guy goes long. Too long. The ball ends up on Mosley St, where it’s like ‘60’s California: guys showing off their tricked out anachronistic rides. In Wasaga you don‘t simply go for a ride to get from point A to point B, the raison d‘etre for the ride in the first place is to go cruising by the strip and along Mosley where the resorts are. To show off the whip and gawk at the girls. ‘Tis a pity I don’t care much for steel horses. Doesn’t matter if there’s a good engine under that hood or if it runs on unicorn tears—all I know is I would look good in a new model, two door, black BMW. Men visiting Wasaga will sidle up to me and get all technical about an engine or valve like we grew up on the same block and had discussed the finer points of automotive maintenance many times. “The viscosity rate on the V5 block is atrocious,” he says.
            “Oh yeah, totally,” I say knowingly.
            If only I could talk Wimbledon with some of these nitwits! Don’t they know that it’s the men’s semis tomorrow!? Don’t they know Jerzy Janowicz is playing Andy Murray and that a Brit hasn’t won Wimbledon in like three hundred and fifty eight years and Jerzy is a great young Pole who has never made it this far in a major tournament? Jerzy is an emotional wreck, getting progressively more pissy-eyed after each win, but it’s true sports glory, the greatest kind of reality TV, and if that doesn’t hit you right here, than you, sir, have no soul.
But no. They want to talk about rims, upholstery, and matte black paint jobs.
We’re all on our own, and here’s to each and all of you.  

Monday, July 28, 2014

Life's a Beach: Excerpt #6

June 24th 2013

I’m a little bit of an alcoholic (is that like being a little bit pregnant?). I drink every day, but I don’t generally get drunk—not falling down, blackout drunk, at least. Nine days out of ten, it’s four or five pint sized cans of 5% Canadian beer spread methodically—occasionally with white knuckles—throughout the afternoon/evening. This is roughly a six pack of regular sized cans for those keeping score at home. Sometimes I stray from this formula and overindulge, though not often.
            The real problem begins when you start to analyze the stats: six (or more) beers a day . . .  that’s forty two beers a week . . . and one hundred eighty beers a month. One hundred eighty beers a month?! Are you kidding me? That’s a problem if I ever saw one. Where do I find all the time!?
I only go a day without drinking if I was totally sloshed the night before. Even then I may have a couple to tide me over until the four to five pint regiment begins again the next day. The thought of being without any beer in the fridge, or wine in the cupboard, is terrifying.  
           
If you internally scream Yes! when you come upon an unopened can of beer doing clean up, like the alcohol Gods have smiled upon thee, then you may be an alcoholic.
            If you go to either the Beer Store or LCBO 4-6 days a week, you may be an alcoholic.
            If you only walk with a gangsta limp when your gout acts up, you may be an alcoholic.
If you keep empty beer cans by your bed to pee into during the midnight hours (because there is so much beer in your belly and you don’t want to walk upstairs three or four times a night), justifying the behaviour with an environmental argument—less toilet flushes—then you may be an alcoholic. 
If you have $1.67 in your savings account and can’t afford any beer, so you pour a couple shots of mouthwash, thinking you’ll have both a solid buzz and fresh breath, then you may be an alcoholic.
             
***

There was a large melee out front of Cottage Court, and this one kid happened to get pepper sprayed—not by a cop, but by a fellow reveler, then sucker punched while temporarily blinded. A low-ball, yet highly effective play, if you ask me.
            I took it as my duty to find this kid and get his version of events.
            It wasn’t long before I found a short, mulatto kid with an angular haircut and a black eye. “Are you the one that got pepper sprayed last night?”
            Right away he launched into a terse explanation: “Fucking got sprayed then sucka-punched, yo.”            
            His topless friend in aviator shades and a straw cowboy hat took it from there, explaining how a larger individual first sprayed the irritant at the slightly structured mulatto boy, and while he closed his eyes, instinctually bringing his hands to his face to rub and soothe his burning eyes, he was punched on the left side of his face.
Crackalackaboom!
The wounded young man will leave the beach tomorrow morning with a badge of honour--for what can a man do after being pepper sprayed and sucker-punched? The teen did not cower, or get knocked during a fair street fight (if there is such a thing).
He was blind-sided, and everyone can sympathize with the guy who didn’t deserve it.

June 26th 2013

At this point, I meet Jackson, the figure skating sociopath. His words, not mine.
Jackson doesn’t work directly for Stillwater; he’s an independent contractor but Gary still runs the show. He’s the apex predator in the Stillwater ecosystem, overseeing all maintenance and management duties. Jackson is a trusted general contractor, jack-of-all-trades type. This week he is slopping concrete onto the base of the cabins, filling in the chips and cracks, then smoothing the concrete out. Touch-up work.
Upon meeting Jackson, my first impression was that of a calm, affable guy in his mid-thirties. From the moment I met him, he was very pleasant to chat with on the job site. Jackson was a physically well- proportioned man, tall and fit with good teeth and a head full of short cropped hair. The only unsettling feature of Jackson’s body  are the crudely drawn jailhouse tattoos covering all four arms and legs. The tats are now an unnatural bluish-green and fading fast; I could faintly make out one that read, “Harley Davidson” in the familiar orange and white logo. The rest were vague shapes and letters that were indecipherable. I comment on the Harley tattoo and Jeremy tells me he worked security for some biker bars in the past; also studied martial arts. He proceeded to dissect North American martial arts versus original Asian martial arts, engaging with me like we had been to hundreds of martial arts events together. He was committing a mortal sin of first impressions: talking about his interests in length and detail as if I, too, was also an aficionado. All I could do was smile, say “Yeah, cool,” and nod approvingly.
            Jackson told me I have a “good frame,” but for what I don’t know. Figure skating? Taekwondo? After I first met him, I came away thinking, “Seems like a nice guy.”


****

The previous paragraph took place a couple days ago. Then today, my second time working around Jeremy, it was more of the same friendly, pleasant chit-chatting. Out of nowhere, as we were shooting the shit in between two cabins, me washing out bins with Quattro and Jackson smoothing out wet concrete with a small darby, he says, “I’m a diagnosed sociopath.”
            “Oh, yeah?” I ask. What else am I supposed to say to a declaration like that?
            Curious about this guy’s past, and encouraged by his friendly demeanor, I then inquired, “Ever been to jail?”
            “Yeah. Been in Penetanguishene for a couple a years a couple a times. Assault, stuff like that.” Jeremy maintained the smile on his face.
            The smell of a burnt roach, freshly put out, wafted from his truck; I said I was a fan, too. He offered me a puff, I declined.
            “It relaxes me,” he said. “It’s the only thing I do. I can’t drink anymore or I’ll get too crazy, ya know? You sure you don’t want to smoke a bone?” Jeremy asked.
            “Nah, I like to smoke after work,” I told him.
For me, marijuana is a late-night, private affair, dangerous liason kind of thing. Plus, I didn’t want to get too friendly with a potential violent weirdo.
            Jackson lives alone a couple kilometre’s away from Cottage Court in a motel owned by Stillwater that inhabits mystery and intrigue because it does not have any guards patrolling it like the other three resorts. The residents of Seawater Inn, which is quaintly located right on the banks of the Nottawasaga, is home to a much older crowd. Men and women in their forty’s and fifty’s sit around bonfires in Adirondack chairs drinking beer and fishing. There’s no beer pong being played here. Only serious hardcore drinking; the booze unable to hide behind their tired eyes. These are the folks of Wasaga that time has forsaken. They once had dreams like the teenagers down the road celebrating the completion of high school. It’s okay to act crazy when you’re eighteen because you have your whole life ahead of you. Sitting on the banks, drinking a twelve pack, watching the water flow along on its merry way, at fifty-two, is pathetic. Humans are always analyzing whether the behaviour of others is age appropriate.

The difference between these inhabitants and the ones at the other Stillwater properties is the Sea Breeze folks are permanent--or at least they’re trying to be, scrounging up enough cash for today’s beer and next month’s rent. Neither families nor high school graduates come to Sea Breeze. It is for those who live in Wasaga barely cobbling together a living, never quite hustling enough money to get out of the monthly motel rent game. A lot of them are hardcore alcoholics.
            “So . . .” I begin, “if I had an accident with the lawn mower and my hand was cut off, blood shooting out in arterial spurts, you wouldn’t feel kind of weird about it at all, and think ‘Hey, that guy Taylor I met yesterday seemed like a nice guy, I enjoyed talking to him on the site . . . too bad he had his fucking hand cut off! I’m going to have nightmares about the horror.’ Or something like that? You wouldn‘t feel bad for me?”
            “Well,” Jeremy seemed to consider, “I’d definitely jump right in and help you,” he said, not fully understanding the thrust of my query. Maybe he was just dumb.
            “No, I don’t mean actually when the horrific lopping of my hand and the subsequent screams and cries happen--I mean later, when you’re at home eating dinner, reflecting on the incident. Wouldn’t you think about it? Unwillingly replay the horror of it all in your mind? Would you not hope I was okay, that possibly my arm could be surgically reattached and I could again masturbate with both hands if I so choose?”
            “Well, yeah, I suppose I’d have to have dinner. If it was later.”
            I’m sure Jeremy could be bullshitting me for his own twisted pleasure. I couldn’t quite tell, but he did seem to be genuinely off; I sensed it. Using my own twisted pop psychology, there was must be a positive correlation between Jackson’s tattoos and the number of years he spent in prison. Why else would his limbs be festooned with such nonsense as skeleton bikers with bandannas on their skulls, wildly waving machetes? Nevermind the tattoos are drawn with the skill of a common crackhead felon.
Could Jackson be a sociopath as he claims? Probably not. Sociopaths generally don’t go out of their way to tell you they’re sociopaths—they prefer to hide that aspect, to fake it so that others think they have appropriate human feelings/reactions. That being said, the guy really didn’t understand and/or acknowledge the basic thrust behind my hypothetically gruesome situation. I dropped the issue and went back to spraying bins with a highly powerful disinfectant, getting rid of barf and burger residue, wondering where it all went wrong.
I have an honorary degree in Psychology from a reputable Canadian University! Good lord! What am I doing with the plebeians and ingrates amid the rotting stink of dumpsters in forty degrees Celsius! Oh, the injustice of spraying bins with a commercial level disinfectant! My hands! My soft, precious, writerly hands! They’re so smooth, as if God used his own personal darby to carefully sculpt them. Whatever happens, I don’t want to lose my velvety hands!
            We had trouble locating the trusty yellow nozzle that we shared, the kind with six different notches of varying modes of H2O dispersal. It was supposed to be with the hose at all times, and it was driving me fucking nuts because I needed to wash out garbage bins, and more importantly, my psychotic pal Jackson needed to wash out some concrete bins with the jet spray before the concrete dried and hardened. All he needed was the goddamn yellow nozzle, so he could put it on blast, but there he was, laughing about how we couldn‘t find it.
Ha-ha-ha! No matter. The yellow nozzle would turn up sooner or later. He wasn’t getting frustrated like me. Secretly, I was worried that his calm and cool exterior would hit the breaking point and all of a sudden explode into a psychotic rage if I didn’t find the yellow nozzle for the hose. I feared Jeremy’s nice guy façade was only a ruse, that all the DIY jailhouse ink had invariably poisoned his well.
            “See, that’s the problem with this place!” I ranted. “Other people come in and use our shit and then don’t put it back where they got it! I’m going to take a yellow nozzle and go over here and attach it to this hose and then selfishly carry on with my business. Stupid, selfish motherfuckers!” Maybe I’m the psycho.
           
Jackson told me he’s been single for fourteen years. An unusual and embarrassing tidbit to offer up to someone you just met. Though to be fair, I did let him know that I myself had been single “for quite some time.” (“Quite some time” being a euphemism for “Years.” “Years” being a euphemism for “At this point, I’d fuck a hole in the wall.”)
            He tells me that he, unlike myself, couldn’t work security at Stillwater, because he knows it would provoke him. Jackson is a general contractor, a jack-of-all-trades, master of none, his own boss, because he knows he has issues with authority. At the very least, he’s well aware of his violent tendencies and is proactive about taking himself out of those situations. Quite a civil sociopath, this Jeremy. 
            At the end of the day he heads back to the Seawater Inn, back to the true-grit Ontario folks. They’re funny, these local gents. One day I helped a colourful group of them, under Gary’s supervision “move some things,” as Gary described over the phone. I arrived at the Seawater and walked down a ten foot wide set of stairs into the basement where there was what appeared to be a long-defunct club from the late 70’s/early 80’s.  many chairs and tables, as well as a massive, L-shaped bar. Gary explained that this was the décor for a disco club on a houseboat that cruised the Nottawasaga in the misty ‘70s. When I walked through the basement doors it was like being transported back to 1977. I could feel the Bee Gees’ nasally falsettos bleeding out of the walls. I listened to the guys doing the grunt work, mostly in their forty’s, bust each other’s balls to pass the time. They were putting on a show for me, trying to make an impression on the young outsider. I stayed quiet and politely laughed at their jabs. I accepted a proffered beer, the gesture ingratiating myself to them. After all, it was only ten in the morning. It takes hutzpah to slug  cheap beer at ten am. Though considerably younger and not quite as weather beaten, I proved myself a trouper. Am I looking into the future?
            We spent a couple hours lugging all the chairs and tables carefully up the stairs and into a hatch attached to Gary’s truck. The whole load was to be hauled thirty minutes away to a 19th century barn converted into the dining/dance hall of a bucolic bed & breakfast, nestled in the peaceful farmlands between Wasaga Beach and Barrie. The B&B was owned by Ned, the owner of the Stillwater empire, and Gary’s boss. The only man Gary is deferential to. Ned is the boss to end all bosses in this story. He’s the Godfather. Ned walks unnaturally, and constantly has an inappropriate smile on his face.  
            After a light-hearted debate between Gary and a greasy haired man with silver flecked stubble, that was, underneath the surface, a clash between two alpha males trying to assert dominance and leadership during a logistical puzzle. It was the kind of conversation that could spiral out of control into violence if one party says the wrong thing, jokes too hard, or does not acquiesce. As for the rest of us, we stood there mute, not daring to offer up our private thoughts about how best to haul the humongous Tetris piece up the stairs; our theories played out in our heads alone, clashing silently with each other.
There was a complex set of belts looped around the right-angled bar for leverage. These belts looked like they were torn out of an Oldsmobile. Eight of us, four on each side, grabbed hold of either a belt and/or the bar. One of the guys, with a short cropped head of hair and a six inch long goatee, took the lead: “Ready? One . . . Two . . . Three . . .”
Our ragtag octuplet gave it everything we had and began hauling that fucker up the stairs. After much testosteronal grunting and straining, we reached the top, the bar safely intact. One rowdy guy with the city of Hamilton spelled out across the middle of his back in bold, arching letters, walked away flexing his arms and screaming in victory: “Yeah motherfucker!” He then tilted his head back and slugged what was left in his can of extra strong bargain beer, the sun glinting off the upturned concave aluminum rim, the liquid gold flowing down his gullet.   
            We then hoisted the bar, home to the ghosts of thousands of elbows, up into the hatch. I hopped up and helped secure the irregularly shaped wooden beast with more belts. The move was and it was now hardcore drinking time. High fives went all around. Mr. Hamilton bro hugged me so hard I thought I felt a rib snap. If I had to guess, the total number of years spent behind bars by this feral clan totaled well over the age of a common Canadian grandpa.
Gary pulled out a wad of colourful bills and handed it to Mr. Hamilton, who in turn peeled off a couple of green twenties and handed it to a buddy who pocketed the cash and dutifully hoped onto his ten-speed and took off towards The Beer Store. 
            The men grabbed their open beers which were sitting conspicuously in a row on the ledge of a nearby porch, and went back towards the river bank to finish them off. There was a mass of soot and ashes in a pile. One of the guys threw a couple logs on top and squirted the wood with lighter fluid. It was a plan. A fire, lots of beer, and perhaps a hard-boiled egg with some Mr. Noodles for dinner.
It was only noon so the guys were mostly sober. Who knew what kind of state they’d be in come nightfall. When you don’t live with these down-and-outers, they are mostly delightful to be around—less annoying, yet more set in their ways than the teenagers jacked out of their gourds on MDMA and hormones.
            In the early evening, Gary sends me back to Sea Breeze to round up a man named Derek, as well as his dog, to stay the night at HQ, The Stillwater Inn, while some renovations are done on his Sea Breeze room. A common event, this temporary reshuffling for upkeep and maintenance.
The whole lot of them are wary when I pull into the driveway, collectively thinking Who is this potential bother and/or disrupter—until, that is—I get out of my car and they recognize me from the earlier move. Their faces fall into toothy displays of merriment. “What’s up, bro?” Mr. Hamilton said. Everyone was smoking at the same time, just like the kids at the beach, except these folks know the real monetary cost of long-term addiction and plan ahead, buying a lot of cheap cigarettes, the ones you buy in large Ziploc bags. Down the road, the kids mainly buy Belmont’s—generally the most expensive brand—mainly as a peacock display. The irony, of course being that the teenagers, compensating for their lack of manhood and financial stability, grasp at some of the lowest hanging cultural fruit (cigarettes!) to promulgate an image of refinement and wealth and overall badassery. Smoking a Belly is like a crack hit of cache. It’s not like pulling into the parking lot with a Porsche. The power of a Belmont is fleeting and ephemeral, yet it’s undeniable for a few minutes. And then juice is used up. Until you pull out another one.
Almost all of the Stillwater guests smoke Belmont’s. Do they have secret agents infiltrating this town? Every kid buys into this Belmont conspiracy. It’s about $14 a pack and you could trade a carton for a kilo of smack. Bravo Belmont. As a company peddling 1st class, downright tasty lung death in the 21st century, they’ve somehow, brilliantly, got a lot young Canadian adults on board even though they sell the costly cigarettes, and they’re not much better than any other of the decent smokes out there. I can remember it being similar in the late 1990’s when I was in high school. Only the cool kids smoked Belmont’s. They were expensive back then, too, a lot more than my brand, Du Maurier’s. It was uncool for a real, punk rock stoner teenager to be seen smoking a Belmont. Belmont’s were reserved for the nice looking, cookie cutter alpha jock types. The sensitive, artisanal snowflakes like me wouldn’t be caught dead with a Belly.       
           
I see a man sitting by himself on a log away from all the muckrakers, reading a book, while his large golden retriever sits in the shade, its tongue pleasantly lolling. He didn’t notice me as I walked towards him, his right hand holding a thick paperback in front of his face. He was an older gent and shabby looking. He appeared to be the kind of person that glory has no time for any longer; an unknown soldier in the battle of life.
            “You Derek?” I asked, the man setting his book down on his lap to look up at me.
            “Yep, sure am.”
            “I’m here to take you back to the Inn for the night.”
            On his lap was a small forest, written in fine print. The book looked like a serious endeavor.
“Whatcha reading there, Derek?” I asked.
            “Oh, just something about a captain, out at sea for many years,” he said.
Derek told me the author’s name but it eludes me now, not someone I’d ever heard of, so I didn’t inquire any further. He told me the dog’s name was Goober, that much I do know. We hopped in my car for the short drive to the Inn.
He was a pleasant man with a very Zen attitude. Not much of a talker, which I liked, because it’s tough to suffer fools and all those dumb sounds that spill out of their mouths.
 Derek did not seem like a current drinker, but he reeked of past abuse. Years ago he could have been at Cottage Court funneling an ice cold Molson Canadian, a crowd chanting his name. His whole life was ahead of him. Derek took some wrong turns, and now he’s ended up back at the party, thirty years too late. Derek has a story to tell, like anyone else, but I don’t know what it is. He remained silent. Was he abused by a creepy uncle? Did he have a family? A wife and kids? An ex-wife and kids? There were no answers, only questions that tumble into more questions. All he had was Goober.
We eyeballed the women walking in bikinis and hid the desire for our favourite girl. Goober’s head was far outside the window, a subhuman, goofball smile on his face, and he stared, presumably, at his favourite, too.
At a stop sign, I snuck a glance at Derek. He looked haggard and unkempt, the transient life clearly taking its toll. The eyes were clear, though. I imagined Derek flitting from hotel to hotel, barely keeping dog food in the dish. Not exactly homeless, yet still without a home. Like a light switch stuck in the middle between on and off, buzzing and flickering.

I left the two of them in the car and went into the office at the Inn to confirm the details. Jacky gave me a room key. I escorted Derek and Goober to their room for the night—the stock motel room laid out the same way as Sea Breeze. Goober was excited about the new accommodations, frantically inspecting and sniffing the room out. Dogs will love you just the same whether you live in a one room dump, or a house on the hill, and that’s more than I can say about some people.  

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Life's a Beach: Excerpt #5

June 22nd 2013

What is the average lifespan of a toothpick?

Gary is always munching on one, swishing it around from side to side. It takes a certain confidence of character to chew a toothpick. Spaghetti armed geeks and sissy boys don’t chew toothpicks. You got to earn that pick.
Toothpicks generally remind me not of a thin, double-edged wooden instrument used to poke out impossibly wedged in tendrils of corn and/or steak, but of Razor Ramon, the suave and ruthless Cuban-American WWE character from the mid-90s. That’s what toothpick means to me. 
            Men who constantly chew on things like gum, toothpicks, and pen caps tend to be high strung. They don’t know how to detune. Which reminds me of a phrase my uncle, who is a great pianist, often says: “Old musicians don’t die, they just decompose.”
I want to tell Gary to mellow the fuck out, but it’s no use. Like telling a tiger to drop a buffalo leg. Gary is alternately nice and laid back and then intensely aggro, creating scenarios out of thin air and asking vague, misleading questions where you’re bound to give the wrong answer and then be berated for giving the wrong answer. I’ve already seen him get right in people’s faces and scream at them, spittle dancing through the sun beams and sprinkling some turnt-up kids’ face. The mighty pines look down upon the proceedings, stoic as ever.
For instance, Gary barked at three harmless seventeen year old wimps without wristbands talking to their friends—who were Stillwater guests--on the edge of the property. Big deal. It’s the middle of the day, they’re peaceful teens on the cusp of adulthood, chatting in the summer sun. Let them be unless they walk deeper onto the property towards the cabins and out of eyeshot. But they won’t--because Gary and myself are here, and they know we’re here. A child won’t stick a hand in the cookie jar with Momma staring. Nonetheless, Gary duck waddles up to one of them and lays a paw on what little fabric there is at the back of his tank top, and like an elastic band stretched it until the boy inside reached the limits of the stretchiness of fabrication and flung backwards towards Gary.
            “Hey!” The teen yelled, “the fuck you doing, man?!”
Gary drags the guy to the road begging him, or anyone of his friends to “Punch me in the face and see what happens next.” I stood there, a few feet away, hands on hips, flexing my neck muscles to seem bulkier, hoping the situation didn’t escalate, but putting up a front that said otherwise. The teen stoners took off down the one way street abutting the property muttering insults towards Gary. Gary just smiled, his tongue juggling a toothpick back and forth.
            “I’ll be at the office,” he said, climbing up and plopping himself down into his white Ford truck.
The girls were taken aback by Gary’s iron fist.
            “What the fuck is his problem?” One of them asked me after Gary left. She was definitely stoned on weed, most likely on MDMA, and possibly drunk. She was wearing a neon pink hat with Wasaga, Bitch scrawled across in white capital block letters. “They’re from our high school; they just wanted to say ‘Hi,’” she lamented. Often, after I explain the simple wristband rule, how their friends haven’t paid to stay at Stillwater, they’ve paid to stay somewhere else--a resort with its own wristband policy, generally less stringent than Stillwater’s, enforced but with less zeal than us.
            Twenty minutes later I’m patrolling the front of the property looking down at the footfalls of my black shiny dress shoes, alternately crossing my arms for one go round then dipping them into my pockets for the next. I look up and see the same boys that Gary manhandled are walking up the street towards me. Ah, Christ. The gals are still out front drinking, too, smoking Belmont’s and listening to Drake. A confrontation was all but inevitable. I quietly curse under my breath and saunter up to the approaching gang. You got to lean into a hurricane, right?
            “OK guys, here’s the deal--I don’t give a shit if you stand around drinking and talking, but if you go into one of the cabins I’ll call the fat man.”
            “Nice--” one says.
            “Sweet--” another one says.
            “You rock, bro,” said a third, giving me a bro-hug, which is simultaneously a handshake and a half-hug. The other two then hit me with their respective fist-bumps.
            “He’s sooo cool, our security guard, huh?” the girl with the neon hat cooed.
            “Fuck yeah,” one of the guys agrees, lighting a Belmont off his buddies’ Belmont.
            “All in a day’s work, gentleman . . . ”

I was supposed to work from 6am until 12pm--the cleanup shift--but ended up working from 6am until 5:30pm. The cleanup shift is the least desirable of all the plebeian jobs at Stillwater because you actually have to work, like, hard; like, actually, actively making a difference. Cleaning up half-eaten, beer soaked vomit burgers, and making tens of trips to the dump lugging heavy, extra large, extra thick garbage bags with shards of glass poking through, leaking a murky brownish mix of vomit and stale beer onto your shoes.
But there are so many fun little goodies to find at 6am in the aftermath of a wild beach party!
Today’s leftovers consist of . . .
One red bra slung over an Adirondack chair; one full twenty ounce bottle of green tea alcohol, the cap sealed; one half full mickey of Jagermeister; three cans of Miller Genuine Draft; one crumpled pack of Belmont’s with four cigarettes left; and one half full forty-ouncer of Grey Goose with--unfortunately--no cap. I can’t go for that, no can do. 
            I don’t give a flying karate kick if anyone is manning the cameras, however unlikely that is at this hour. I take the Belmont’s and cans of MGD and put them in my car, on the floor of the back seat and drape a golf towel over my booty. I’m drinking one right now as a matter of fact. Wearing the bra, too.
            Gary told me I was going to have to work until around five or six pm. It would be another twelve hours spent mainly on my feet, patrolling in the blazing summer sun. These third world problems in the first world are that much harder on the soul. I could try to weasel out of things but I’d end up on Gary’s shit list. And I need the money, of course. Just from an organizational and professional standpoint, a schedule should be worked out with some modicum of accuracy and consistency. Isn’t that what schedules are for? Isn’t that a cornerstone of what successful companies are founded on? What was even stranger and more disconcerting was Gary seemed to relish the power and control of messing with the work schedule and by extension, our personal lives. He longed for control over the Edgewater dominion and all the plebeians therein.
            Last week Gary called me at 9:58pm to come in for a 10p - 6a shift. He wanted the staff to live in fear of his call to arms. The staff, most of whom, unlike me, actually had personal lives in and around Wasaga, Collingwood, and Barrie endlessly bickered about him being disorganized and lost in a fog of obfuscation. I bickered along with them, too, though, not because of the social disruption it caused in my life, but my inability, or hesitancy, to drink on some nights for fear of being called in to work. That’s the way this Stillwater ship is run.
            That night, like most nights, I was a few pints deep when the inimitable Gary called the home phone. My Mom yells downstairs that the phone is for me.
“Taylor!” She wails until I meet her half way and she passes the cordless baton and I go outside to speak in private.
            “What’s sh-sh-sh-shaking man?” Gary asks. “You want to come in for 10?”
            “Tonight? In two minutes? Oh man, I’ve been drinking, I can’t drive!” I tell him. Considering I only live a couple kilometres away from HQ, Gary gave it a long hard thought, I’m sure, but he didn‘t put up a big fuss, perhaps for legal reasons. “Alright, go to sleep. I may need you tomorrow, so call me.”
Click. Okay. What does that mean? I work tomorrow? I don’t? Call you at noon? Call you in the evening? Who the hell knew.
            The problem was coming back inside the house. “So . . . are you working tonight?” my Mom asks.
            “Uhh, no. He just wanted to check in and confirm for tomorrow night.”
            “Oh,” she said.

It’s hard to figure out any specifics of the weekend schedule until Thursday. For a regimented man, the lack of cohesion drives me nuts, but what can you do but suck it up and earn an honest buck when the phone call comes in? It’s either that, or find yourself another gig.  
I put on my best professional guard face and dive right into my duties, whether it be running around changing propane tanks, or kicking people off the property without wristbands, or mingling with drunken teenage girls in bikinis. I can do it all--I’m your man.
            Gary is like Matthew McConaughey in Dazed and Confused, plus two hundred pounds. I get older and they stay the same age, heh-heh. If I call him for scheduling information he’s tends to comment extensively on all the pretty things that he‘s ogling, like a play-by-play colour announcer, and I’m the only audience, staring forlornly at the Blue Jays and Song Sparrows in my backyard. The most oft used phrase in his repertoire, which he says to me each time with the same vigor as if it were the first time is: “I’d eat her pussy for three days before I even showed her my dick.” Yep, that’s it. That’s the line. I stopped even the half-hearted chuckles long ago. When you have about twenty employees operating below you, I suppose it’s easy to forget which person has heard which line and Gary is always getting his lines tangled, retelling the same phrases and stories over and over. The guy has a paucity of material and doesn’t do much with what he’s got.  
            Man oh man. I’m not exactly the leering, caveman type like Gary, but when you’re a zilch who hasn’t been laid in years who’s living in his parents’ basement, and all of a sudden there you are among scantily clad, boozed up young women in a unique position of authority, it’s nothing less than overwhelming. It’s like Rob Ford with a gift card to the local WC & V-Mart (Whores, Crack, and Vodka).
            Now, I’m nothing if not one of the most professional security guards at Stillwater--aside from the booze drinking/stealing. Professional in this context means not dealing drugs or taking monetary bribes from guests, or having sexual relations with guests. I don’t do any of that (except maybe once or twice accepting a twenty and looking the other way to let someone party with friends).
I’m just a run-of-the-mill addict piece of scum. Hardcore addicts only want to be left alone to consume their poison to the point of sweet, sweet oblivion. Other humans are mere props in the charade that is the life of an addict.
And I’m depressed as all hell, and the effort to seal the deal, in a sexual sense, with a woman, is so far beyond me at the moment. Sometimes it gets so bad that boiling an egg is like climbing Mt. Everest. I know, I know, somebody call a wahhhmbulance.
Everything beautiful is so far away.
I’m certainly no shill for any pharmaceutical company (though any representatives are free to contact me) but the pills I take really do help. SSRI’s don’t exactly turn me into a numbed out zombie, or a fully functioning happy worker bee. What they most certainly do, however, is mitigate the tendency to dwell in dark places. Before I was taking meds I could easily wallow in such outrageous self-pity and self-hatred for hours on end: I’m so fucking worthless, such a scumbag, so selfish and narcissistic, just die already, etc., etc.
Before taking anti-depressants, my emotions were more hysterical. I would cry during commercials, and not the really sad, sponsor-this-starving-African-child-for-the-price-of-a-cup-of-coffee-a-day; or an adopt-one-of-these-sad-eyed-caged-animals-or-they’ll-surely-be-put-to-sleep types.
I’m talking TP commercials.
There’s this one Just For Men ad where the single Dad comes home after the big job interview and the two young daughters run up to him anticipating the news and his toothy smile lets them know he got the position and they’ll be able to keep the house, and Dad, who is in his late forties, runs a hand through his lustrous, thick chestnut brown hair with a touch of grey.
It’s not like crying is out of the question just because I’m on Cipralex. The name Cipralex was, no doubt, endlessly fretted over in a pharmaceutical marketing boardroom. It sounds like an evil genius drug;  like something a villain in a Bond movie injects into our hero’s arm with a cartoonishly large syringe to get him to spill his guts.
The name also reminds me of an insect. I can picture a Cipralex Scorpion scuttling about the desert, or a Cipralex Beetle climbing a tree.
Thankfully nowadays, instead of tearing up during thirty second videos of multi-national mind control propaganda, I cry at more tasteful televisual works of art: the end of a Woody Allen movie, say. So, I’m not emotionally dead. It only takes a little more to get me to spill the salt water. I’m balanced.
There are, however, some side effects. Namely, harder to fall asleep (that’s where the weed really earns its money), and harder to reach climax. Aside from those two niggling biological effects, the drugs work pretty well. The warning on my the pill bottle should read: May cause difficulties extracting bodily fluids during masturbation and/or crying.
Depression, on the surface, really is a wimpish problem. Nobody cares if you have ‘depression’. Is that even a real thing, some ask. I don’t want to get up on Monday mornings and go to work, either, but I do, some say. And it’s true, to a degree depression is a cop-out, but to a very real degree it’s not. I’m not arguing about where the line should be drawn, only that there is a very real battlefield. It’s pervasive and debilitating. One of the problems of depression is that the very symptoms of the disease—lethargy, ennui, hopelessness, anhedonia, anxiety--make the patient forego seeking treatment in the first place. Imagine if your shoulder is strained and possibly dislocated, and it hurts like a mother. Though it throbs with pain, you think maybe it will get better after a couple days. After day three it’s a no brainer. All your friends are saying, “What is wrong with your shoulder? Go see a doctor already!” And you’re pretty much convinced there’s a basic bodily problem. Your shoulder aches when doing nothing, and lightning bolts of horror shoot through your nerves when you use the shoulder in any meaningful way. A call is then placed to the doctor’s office, and an appointment is booked (if you’re lucky), and off you go. There is nothing inherent about shoulder pain that would prevent anyone from seeking medical help.
That’s one of the painfully ironic loops of diagnosing depression: Pain screams for a cure, but depression’s scream is always in search of a mouth. The very symptoms of the affliction prevent the afflicted to seek help to stop the affliction so they retreat further into the affliction.
There are thousands of Canadians already on mind altering psychotropic drugs and thousands more holding out; grinning and bearing it. In a macro sense, the structure of modern North American life is to blame for the rise in depression along with the millions of dollars pharmaceutical companies spend promoting SSRI’s. It’s both of those converging factors that fuel the rise in depression. The industry is plugged in and now pretty much runs itself. My doctor prescribed Cipralex after speaking to him for two minutes. I told him my hands were always tingling and I felt faint, especially after smoking a cigarette.
“I’m going to give you a prescription for a thirty day trial period, and we’ll see how you like it, OK?”
And that was it. This was five or six years ago; only missed one or two days since.
            Like any intangible, ethereal, mental health issue, it’s difficult to describe the feeling of depression to someone who doesn’t constantly battle with it. Can someone without paranoid schizophrenia really understand what it’s like to be a paranoid schizophrenic? Or a synesthete? Or Lyme Disease?  
There’s a wide spectrum of depression, too. Some got the bug worse than others. Some can’t eat, can’t get out of bed for days on end. I’ve never had the beast dig its claws that deep into my back. I’ll take a steak and stuffed peppers on my worst day. Though I will occasionally starve myself and then binge eat. That’s fun. What depression feels like to me most of the time is more like a soft buzz that echoes through all thoughts, interactions, and teeth brushing; happiness sporadically sprouts forth like a dolphin leaping out of a deep sea of torment, its concrete coloured body shimmering in the sun for a second before disappearing again into the void.

Back at Stillwater, I’ve never so much as pecked the cheek of a young lady since I started almost two months ago. A couple of hugs, but that’s as far as it goes. That’s it for the lurid sex stories. I’m a professional, or something. Why would you want to read about that, anyways? Who cares if I took advantage of some eighteen year old or she took advantage of me (yes, there’s always one woman in the group who is quite aggressive, sexually. They don’t mince words, they just blurt it out in no uncertain terms. The other day a snookie-esque girl with a voice hoarse from screaming said she wanted to get a “Cock injection”).
This summer story is a quiet one. Or at least I’m trying to make it one. Somewhat like the main character, William Stoner, from the novel Stoner. Instead of Oklahoma, our setting is a small beach town in Southern Ontario. Instead of a professor of English, we have a security guard. Instead of an entire life, we have three months.
            Stoner is one of those books that stays with you long after you read it. Essentially, it is the story of one man’s simple, ordinary life told chronologically; its attendant ups and downs, detailed in sparse, tight prose. Just the right amount of detail. The result is a life rendered poetic despite its ordinariness, like most of our lives are in the end. Outside a handful of friends and family (if we’re lucky) we’re all nobodies with different sized egos.
That previous thought may sound easy when reduced to a simple sentence, “ . . . rendered poetic despite its ordinariness,” but in practice it is obviously not, or there would be tons of these books to choose from and enjoy. In John William’s semi-autobiographical book there are no superheroes, or guns, or mysteries, or post-modern trickery, or drugs (despite the title), or government cover-ups, or the deciphering of ancient symbols, or really much of anything that is typically considered entertaining. After all, the beginning and the end of the book are revealed in the first paragraph. William Stoner was born in 1891 and dies in 1956 at a typical age, late in his adult life from a common disease. The author does not want you to pay attention to those types of details. There is no mystery to figure out, so the reader relaxes and enjoys each line for what it is: perfect sentences that float along at a tranquil, steady pace behind your eyeballs. Who’d believe that a middle class man’s regular life in the middle of America, to his death in the middle of the 20th century, could be so engaging?

Man, guys can‘t get enough of the pussae. We just can’t stop staring at a tight, bubbly ass in cut-off jean shorts. The most refined gentleman can be reduced to a drooling, dimwitted, dunderhead in the presence of a beautiful woman--never mind teenagers. I see family men, in their forties, fifties and beyond who stare at Stillwater guests like pork chops and apple sauce as they pass by with the wife, dog, and kids. I guess the old adage is true: age really is only a number.

Gary has great teeth, all straight and shining. He’s definitely had work done. They’re cute little rectangular testaments to the wonders of 21st century dentistry. To any sane, objective observer with eyeballs they look ridiculous considering his giant, egg-shaped mirth. His weight negates any serious attempt at physical attractiveness. You would think that he would have lost a few pounds along with the dental work to bring the whole package together. Instead, the teeth are like a dollop of whipped cream on a turd.
            On top of the teeth, the only other thing Gary has got going for him is a great head of hair--straight and thick, yet with whispy strands fluffing about his forehead. And this big fat oaf likes to yell and get angry. I tell myself I’m impervious to his condescension-laced rants, and for the most part I am, but there’s this fragile sensitive man-boy inside me which is shaking, curled up in the fetal position, futilely clutching his kneecaps for a semblance of warmth, the world storming around him.
            He’s the kind of guy whose attention is never fully on you. Comments are made and he just looks around, oblivious to the fact that a comment was uttered directly at him, intended for him to mull over and respond to. That is how us humans with our big, smarty-pants brains vanquished the animal kingdom: communication.
Gary is the Rob Ford of Wasaga Beach.  
            I went back to the Inn to grab a recycling bin to bring over to Cottage Court and he called to yell at me about it. It wasn’t even a yell, more like spewing white-hot vitriolic rage.
            “WHY DID YOU GO TO THE INN? I TOLD YOU TO GO TO COTTAGE COURT!” (Muffled frothing and possibly eating sounds.)
            “I went to the Inn to grab a bi--”
            “I TOLD YOU TO GO DIRECTLY TO THE COTTAGES!”
            “Yeah, but I went to the Inn, I was trying to be respon--”
            “I DON’T FUCKING CARE! WHEN I TELL YOU TO GO TO THE COTTAGES, DON’T GO TO THE FUCKING INN!”
            “Jesus Christ, dude, I--”
            “DON’T YOU ‘DUDE, JESUS CHRIST’ ME!”
            “Well, actually, it’s the other way aro--”
            “SHUT UP! STAY THERE! I’M COMING OVER IN TWO MINUTES. YOU HAVE TO FIX A BARBEQUE.”
            “OK, then. See you soon.”
            Click.

He is a brute force of a man that plows through life, through his managerial duties genuinely unaffected by any employee resentment towards him. This beast is five seven, three hundred and fifty some odd lbs. Chew on that frame for a minute. Short and stocky. His arms and legs and monstrous, his fingers like sausages.

It was a long afternoon. Carload after carload of people arrived. Some were mom’s and dad’s in mini-vans and SUV’s, and some were teenagers in souped-up Honda’s. But the age and experience gap between the two sets did nothing to stop their mutual inability to figure out where to park. Granted if you’ve never been to Cottage Court, it can be difficult to figure out the parking scheme due to the irregularly placed cottages. The cottages go north/south, east/west, thirteen is where you’d think four would be, one is at the far end of the property, etc. To further fuel this fire, both sets of groups are in no mood to deal with something as trivial as parking. Either they want to get the hell out of there (parents), or to start partying as soon as possible (teens/young adults). I have to speak with each driver and correlate their cabin number to a specific parking space, or, rather, parking area, because there are no ‘spaces.’ The layout of Cottage Court is not like a strip mall. It’s a lackadaisical beach resort and aside from the parking fiasco it’s actually much more pleasing to the eye compared to a cookie-cutter suburban strip mall or Howard Johnson.
I do my best directing cars around the sandy patches of land, the nooks and crannies between, behind, and in front of the cottages where an automobile can be wedged in for the weekend. Typically, it’s a nightmare, veering into a total anarchy until slowly I reign it in after much juggling and car switching.
I only have a limited window of time for the rearranging because after half an hour the drivers of the vehicles are slamming shots and Stillwater has a strict policy about operating guest vehicles. I’m supposed to receive explicit verbal and/or written consent to operate their vehicle. For the duration of the summer I dread this check-in shift. It is the most stressful part of this generally non-stressful job.
            During the chaos of signing in two prom parties from Mississauga, Gary remarked to me apropos of nothing, “I can’t believe I haven’t been in a fight yet this year. Last year at this time I was already in three or four.”
            “Yeah, I’m surprised myself,” I chuckled.
            Gary is a man prone to violence. A man who relishes punishing limbs and faces with his ham hock fists.
            I often day dream about fighting Gary. Not because of some outrageous hatred, though sometimes because of that, but more from a practical, could I do it? angle. Sure, he’s way thicker and stronger than me, that’s plain as day; the man has two hundred pounds on me. I’m a lightweight and he’s in the humpty dumpty weight class. But all that heft can work against him. On my side is speed and reach, mainly speed. I only need to land one or two clean ones on the button without letting his t-rex arms get a hold of me to win. Dance around him, tire him out, spin kick him in the mouth, destroying his dental jewelry. Basically treat him like a boxer in Mike Tyson‘s Punchout!: Figure out his pattern, bop him on the head during my small window of opportunity, and then get the hell out of the way, bobbing and weaving until the window opens again. That’s all there is to it! Let’s fucking do this bro!