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!


Sunday, June 1, 2014

Life's a Beach: Excerpt #4

June 16th 2013

I’m at Cottage Court tonight with Zach from 6pm to 2am; not a bad shift, time wise. I can still get to sleep and wake up at a reasonable hour and be part of the day trippers. It’s a very quiet Sunday. Only about twenty kids from Oakville up for their after prom celebrations. I didn’t talk to them much; they kept to themselves and were generally well behaved aside from this one kid whipping out his cock and pissing in the river. Pissing in the river is a big no-no at Stillwater, even if the water levels are alarmingly low. I only stop him because the skies are watching and I don’t want to blow a chance to be a good employee on the surface. The world’s so goddamn filthy, what’s a little pee in the river? That’s what I say.
These well-to-do kids from Oakville are very polite and keep calling me ‘sir’ which some part of me likes, but it’s pretty far down.
            The only conversation I had with the their group the whole night was when I ran into a shirtless kid in between two cottages and he immediately leaned in to give me a bro-hug, and I really didn’t want to feel his bare, anonymous chest against me. I was quite hungover from the previous night and didn’t want to hug my grandma let alone this kid. I’m a negative creep who hates himself and wants to die when I’m hungover. “That’s okay, my friend,” I said and held my left arm out like a lance to prevent him from putting his arm around me. So young and so full of love for everyone, not a care in the world. It’s their carefree happiness that kills me—sure, it’s enhanced by molly and booze, but it’s still lurking under there. They’re just so happy.
He thrust a plastic Dr. Pepper bottle in my face and asked, “Jager bomb?”
I shake my head, “Nah.”
“Come on dude, we’re cool, right?”
“Yeah, yeah, we’re cool, but I’m good, bro. I don’t want a Jager bomb. Maybe later.”
“You’re a good man, sir, I can tell. I can tell you’re a good man, sir,” he slurred, as if I was the pope himself before heading back down to join his friends at the bonfire by the docks.
           
Zach and I spent most of the night talking with a newlywed couple in their mid-twenties, visiting from a tiny town outside the already small town of Timmins, ON. I try to imagine a potential honeymoon where Wasaga Beach is the dream destination to consecrate the undying love I have for my wife, but I fail.
            The husband was quiet and pleasant enough. He had one of those thin, angular chin-strap beards that are like magic to me because they seem impossible to sculpt. I don’t even know what kinds of tools are involved. The woman, Steph, was something to behold. She was a truly natural Ontario beauty. Yours to discover. Stems that went on for days; teardrop breasts; clear, tanned skin; shiny brunette hair; and sparkling mocha coloured eyes.
She even had a thin canopy of unshaven blonde hairs on her upper thighs that would only appear when the sun shone down upon them at a certain angle. Most guys don’t like hairy legs on a woman, and in that regard I am no different, but somehow it didn’t matter; she made it work. The girl was an absolute knockout. And she was a vertiginous six foot one on top of it all.
Steph was aware of how radiant she was but appeared tired of her attractiveness because she had been stuck with it all her life, in addition to being stuck with her high-school sweetheart turned husband. She works at the only salon in town, the only salon for miles and miles, making two stacks of high society a year chopping locks. I’d end up blowing my wad twice before she could finish shaving the sides with a number three.
Steph was wonderful to talk to as well, the conversation flowing gently like the Nottawasaga. Steph and Richard planned to go to the Elmvale Zoo the next day. She loves animals and asks what type they have, ewwing and ahhing after I rattle off each one: Emus (eww), goats (ahh), monkeys (eww), and I think there are even some giraffes (ahh). They drink sensibly and don’t smoke cigarettes or pot, which is certainly not de rigueur at the beach. They’re the kind of couple you can tell within a minute of meeting them that they‘re not hard drug types—never have, never will be. Steph was a few beers deep and began slurring more and more. This was, after all, her time to cut loose. Richard remained quiet, ever the uxorious husband, taking over an hour to finish one bottle of Canadian. It drove me nuts! I wanted to waterboard him with Canadian.
One couldn’t help but wonder what in the fuck this so far out-of-bounds woman was doing with a nice, quiet Joe Kanata guy like Richard. Is there something I’m not seeing here? Is he the notable son of a scion of capitalism? Does he have a coke can between his legs?
            As it turns out the answer is “No” to the former and “Unconfirmed” to the later. He is a pipe-fitter or pipe-repairman, or pipe-rejiggerer—something to do with pipes around northern Ontario. Seven days on, seven days off. And what is that exactly? It’s only a repackaged version of the nine to five paradigm. Richard drives a top of the line GM truck so he must be pulling in decent coinage. Is financial stability what keeps Steph around? They clearly are comfortable with each other the way couples are who have been together for years are comfortable. So at ease they’re almost by themselves in the same room.
            Steph brought up some commonly known exotic vacation spots her and Richard had been to in the past few years. Like most north country girls, she longed for soft sandy beaches, crystal clear waters and those sideways growing palm trees.
While on her honeymoon vacation here in Wasaga, Steph went on and on about vacations to Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. The ambient, depressing hum vibrating in the background of her recollection was that she seemed to live her life as if the other fifty weeks of the year were mere irksome interruptions to mindlessly plow through.
The couple , because the guy, he really can enjoy whatever they‘re doing--the beach, clubs, motorcycles—it doesn’t matter, as long as she‘s happy.  Then she spends all her time anxiously rearranging their vaca adventure schedule to maximize their vaca experience. Steph is undoubtedly a veritable Wall Street bond trader of her god given vaca stock. But there are only so many hours in a day. By the end of the week, the husband is in such a kerfuffle, he can’t wait to get back to regular life—back underground, fitting pipes, seven days on, seven days off, the way he likes it.
It’s a pain in the ass to get a sunburn during a vaca week in February only to end up back at work the next week in the tundra fitting pipes, each movement a stinging reminder of the relentless sun of a foreign land.
            That’s not to say I don’t like them--I do. They’re nice people who laugh at my bad puns (If I owned a head shop it would be called Bong Voyage). It was just kind of sad that their regular, daily life was something to steel themselves against to make it to the next vacation destination. 
            “What about you, Taylor?” Steph asked, all eyes suddenly on me, “have you been anywhere cool?”
            “The only time I’ve ever been outside of North America was when I went to Acapulco in 2005 with my parents . . . .”

I was out wandering the downtown streets of Acapulco one night, alone and drunk with no particular place to go. I was fresh meat for those who preyed on tourists: I’d never been to Acapulco before and I didn’t plan on coming back.
Only minutes into my walk, a young Mexican pimp, no more than nineteen, made eye contact and waved me over. “You want girls?” he asked, sounding like a writer taking George Orwell’s advice to leave out unnecessary words.
“Let me see ‘em,” I said.
            He cocked his head over a shoulder toward towards a gaggle of women in short skirts and high heels, standing around conspicuously. “Choose one,” he implored.
It wasn’t like scrutinizing the lemons at the supermarket, oscillating between this one and that, unable to decide on the healthiest lemon. Without hesitation I pointed at the nicest looking woman: She was slender, with dark hair, a flat stomach, and seemed to have all her teeth. Now, that’s not to say I think lemons are somehow more worthy of my scrutiny and attention than women, I don’t mean that at all. It was just immediately obvious which girl was the most attractive; I also did not want to openly gawk. However, women are like lemons in some ways: They’re full of zest and they brighten up most soups.
I’m drunk, half a world away from home and I barely know what I’m doing. I smiled at my date and the kid pimp ushered us into an idling cab.
Sitting in the quiet comfort of the car, the liquor hit me hard. Good thing we couldn’t communicate in our native tongues; it’d only be gibberish, anyways. I was trying to focus my eyes on any insignificant inanimate thing, a door handle or lock to keep from spinning around. I looked at the laminated cab license, and the letters danced before my eyes. My date and the cabbie began jovially conversing in Spanish, laughing and speaking easy. She looked at me and laughed at the mess of a human I was, and I caught the eyes of the cabbie creased up in laughter looking at me in the rear view mirror. I simply laughed back at both of them like I was in on the whole joke.
            I thought, “This is great!” I just met this woman and we don’t even speak the same language and I’m going to fuck the shit out of her for the equivalent of sixty Canadian dollars. God bless Mexico! I had never had sex with a foreign girl in a foreign land and obviously, the only way I was going to engage in sexual behaviour was to pay someone to do it. A raised eyebrow and a few winks won’t get yourself a kiss on the cheek in a faraway land. You got to pay for that!
            After a five minute ride winding through the maze that is an unfamiliar city, we arrive at a sleazy motel in the relative quiet of a side street off of the main road; the kind of motel you pay for by the hour. The humidity was so thick tonight, any kind of paper was limp and moist to the touch. We get into our room and I instinctively inspect it the way you would if on vacation with your wife. I couldn’t help it. That’s what you do upon entering a temporary home. It was nothing less than a damp, dingy, shithole.
            She started disrobing. I took that as a sign and did the same. The realization that I had yet to introduce myself struck me and I pointed at my naked chest, as if talking to a mongoloid, stretching out each syllable and said, “TAY-LOR”.
            She took the cue and said, “MAR-GA-RITA.”
            “Oh yeah? Do you live in MargaritaVille?”
She gave me a puzzled look.
Margarita began rigorously jerking me and I responded. She slipped on a condom, seemingly pulled out of nowhere. I could hardly believe I achieved wood in my state. We got down to it--missionary style, like a good Christian couple. I was so drunk, the ditchdigger-like monotony of the thrusting was tiring me out and the room was starting to spin, and the furious, oil-derrick pumping of my hips into Margarita’s love hole wasn’t helping one bit. In the madness, I did manage to grunt out possibly the greatest alliterative phrase I’ve ever muttered in my life with only a cheap Mexican whore who can’t speak the language as my witness: “Yeah? You like that Canadian Cock?” I cooed into her ear.
            Margarita didn’t respond in any noticeable way, the question being mostly rhetorical anyhow, and her flat, lifeless, heavily made up doll eyes continued staring at the ceiling.
No one stares at ceilings more than painters and prostitutes.
Her pussy was loose, sloppy, and after five minutes the whole situation was getting old. I’d had enough. There was no way I was going to ejaculate and I just wanted to go back to my four star hotel room and pass out in my high thread count bed. My penis also decided that he was done with the situation, and all of a sudden Acapulco Bay became Lake Flacid. Margarita let out a pathetically doomed giggle as I pulled out and laid down on my back, exhausted, rivulets of sweat dripping down my chest onto the crusty sheets. “I’m done. I can’t do it anymore.”
            Margarita scrambled for her clothes and ushered for me to do the same. The night was young and there was more hustling to do. She needed me like a barracuda needs a bicycle.
            The same cab was still waiting outside and we both climbed in again. I was too intoxicated to feel any kind of shame, and communication through speech being impossible, I stared blankly out the window listening to Margarita and the cab driver have a conversation interspersed with laughter. I knew it was about me losing my hard-on. It was a condescending laugh. Like they were making fun of the drunk gringo with the limp dick.
We arrive back at the intersection where I first entered the cab. The young pimp was cavorting with his pimp buddies. I got out and said, “Okay, bye.” Margarita half-smiled, and I began walking in the general direction of my hotel.
            All I had to do was walk fifty more feet and then cross the street to the gleaming front entrance with floor to ceiling glass. It was late and there was no one else around save for a policeman/guard/infantryman, I couldn’t quite tell, with a machine gun strapped around his neck like a guitar. I wordlessly passed by the man as he stood at the open front door of his SUV. Without hesitation he walked up and grabbed me, asking in a thick accent what I was doing here.
Startled, I said in the most sober voice I could muster, “I’m just walking to my hotel across the street--right there,” I said, pointing at the golden lights and sleek panes of glass.
            “I.D.” he said.
            I was afraid he was going to throw me into the open driver’s side door and take me to jail, or, worse, sell me off to the Los Zetas, and I’ll be put into a drum full of chemicals that dissolve any trace of my existence away and that will be that. I fumbled into my back left ass pocket and pulled out my Ontario driver’s licence. “I’m from Canada,” I said pleadingly, playing the nationality card. Everyone loves Canadians right?
            He eyed the I.D. then eyed me, then eyed the I.D. again. He handed it back. “Go back to your room,” he said, and that’s exactly what I did.
           
The next night I ventured out again, sober, and made it significantly farther from my hotel before I got roped into some nonsense. I looked down and walked with a purpose, ignoring any kind of solicitous comments aimed in my direction. I tried to give off a nonchalant, cool, vibe, like I knew the lay of the land, had been living in Mexico for years and knew all the tricks, even though I quickly became totally lost in downtown Acapulco. A much nicer looking lady of the evening compared to last nights’ date, a hot tamale with a tube skirt and thick lustrous black fronds of hair smiled at me. What the hell was I going to do but smile back? She approached and asked, “Would chu like some company tonight, mister?” Her English was clipped but otherwise intelligible.
            “Sure, let’s go to my hotel down the street.”
She asks which hotel and I tell her. She shakes her head, “Not a good idea; they won’t let me in there.”
            “What?! The hell they won’t! I can take you anywhere. You’re my guest.” I truly didn’t believe it. How could the hotel staff delineate who is a legitimate guest or not? Who is a prostitute or not? What about all the embarrassing false positives?
             After some cajoling, I handed her what amounted to thirty Canadian dollars and she was along for the ride.
            “What’s your name? Mine is Mariana,” she said.
            “Taylor. Pleased to meet you,” I said.
            She led us back to my hotel and we walked into the lobby, side by side, just another happy couple in paradise. We continued towards the elevator bank, her heels clickity-clacking on the floor, echoing throughout the marble foyer. Sure enough, it didn’t take long until one of the young men behind the desk approached us from behind and tapped me on the shoulder, politely informing me that my companion was not allowed in the hotel. “You are, sir, but she is not,” he explained respectfully. Full of bravado, after having been laid last night for the first time in over a year and about to again, I said, “Here’s twenty bucks, look the other way kid, okay?”
He looked bemused, like he was considering the offer. I tried to make up his mind for him by placing the twenty into his hand and balling it up, but he didn’t take the bait; his fingers unwilling to curl up and make the bill disappear. He shoved the twenty back into my hand and I played the “No, no, no, it’s your money now,” game, refusing to take it back. “Yours now,” I said, taking Mariana’s hand and leading her away toward an open elevator.
            “Sir!” the clerk said, this time with volume, volume being a good stand-in for authority, as I would later learn at Stillwater. The guy clasped my shoulder this time instead of merely tapping it.   
I was growing ever more agitated, the way a man will when some twerp Mexican hotel clerk gets in the way of a sexual rendezvous. “Get me the manager!” I yelled in my most aggrieved, privileged, white man’s voice. I tell Mariana to wait there by the elevators and I walk up to the front desk to confront the man in charge.
            “Listen,” I began, not giving the sturdy night manager in his forties with a thick mustache that is beginning to grey a chance to speak first, “She’s my date. What’s it gonna take to let her come up to my room? Twenty? Thirty? Come on, dude, she’ll be gone in an hour, no harm no foul,” I implored.
            “No, no, no,” the manager said, shaking his outstretched palms at me.
            “What? Why the hell not? We’re from Toronto!”
            “Sir, she is from Mexico. It is our policy, sir, that she cannot enter the premises.”
            “Goddamnit it!” I said, taking Mariana’s hand and escorting her back out of the lobby, the automatic sliding glass doors whooshing open; back into the oppressive humidity of another February night in Acapulco.
            “Let’s just go to the beach, it’s late, there’s no one there,” I say, and much to my delight she acquiesced. We walked arm in arm towards the Pacific, that endless, nameless, roiling darkness. We walked along the sand until the hotels lights were dim enough to not illuminate our sins and abruptly stopped. Mariana cast a furtive glance to her left and right to make sure there was no one else around. Satisfied, she unbuckled my pants and I breathed a sigh of relief as I immediately stiffened while she grabbed my cock and got on her knees. She placed a condom onto the tip and licked the head, rolling the condom down the shaft with a few strokes quick, jerky strokes. When receiving a blowjob, I feel no urge to moan or say much of anything. I like to sit back and enjoy the show. But if I don’t throw in a few ‘Oh Yeah’s,’ or ‘Ahhh’s’ then I become afraid that the girl (most of the time) will be offended, so I pressure myself to throw a couple perfunctory groans in to ease any possible tensions in that department.
            “Yeah baby. Oh, keep doing it like that, yeah,” I managed to say.
This was the life! I was getting a wonderful BJ, I could feel the sand in my toes, and the Pacific Ocean was my only witness.
            Predictably, her oral skills were nonpareil. No one sucks pipe like a Mexican whore. And you can take that to the bank.
We’re two minutes into the BJ when we both hear a two voices—a male and a female—floating along the breeze. Mariana stops sucking and picks up the slack with her right hand. I look in the direction of the voices, two amorphous shadows slowly coming into view. Mariana gets up and pulls down her skirt in one motion, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. I stealthily maneuver my erection into my jeans and zip up. Just as I’m buckling up the couple is upon us. They stop their conversation, sensing something afoul between us.
The awkward moment passes, the couple disappears into the darkness, and the only sounds are the lapping waves. Still half-cocked, I make like hell to unbuckle my jeans again, but  Mariana says, “No--we can’t do it here.”
I could see that she was nervous, and no amount of prodding would convince her otherwise. Since we couldn’t go to my room or the beach, and because I didn’t have the extra cash to shell out for a hotel room, she suggested we go to a nearby bar for a couple drinks, and I agreed. She was still on the clock, after all.
            As we left the beach I reached into my underwear and tossed away the semi-used condom, wiping the exterior condom slime on my right ass pocket.
           
We enter a bar that does not cater to tourists. Everybody is Mexican and they all turn away from the band and eyeball the two of us during our grand entrance. We grab a small table for two, in the middle of a sea of rickety, cockeyed tables seating groups of two, four and six. Right away a couple Coronas miraculously end up on our table from a disembodied arm. I was really horned up and had to put out the fire by pounding down cheap beer.
The local cover band was ripping through the 90’s alt rock standards. They rattled the rafters with songs like, “Today”, “Miss World,” and “Down In A Hole.” They weren’t half bad, either. The singer sounded like he was from 3,300 kilometres up the pacific coast instead of Acapulco. I wondered how many of the folks in the bar actually understood the lyrics, or if they simply knew the songs phonetically. And really, does it even matter in the end? One thing I know for sure, the chorus that needed no translation was “Lithium”.
            I couldn’t stop my hands from getting touchy feely with Mariana. My sex dam was built by one big beaver, the days adding up like twigs, and it finally burst open last night. Mariana put her hand on my thigh, variously gripping and rubbing it up and down like a long time girlfriend. I went so far as to stick my hand all the way up her skirt to check her temperature.  
            I gently grab her chin and tilt it towards me--we briefly kiss, our tongues coiling around each other like two snakes in the dirt. She pulls away sheepishly and we go back to staring at the band. They’re playing “Creep” and I yell above the noise into her ear, “I know how to play this song on guitar.” I can’t tell if she understands or not. She only smiles back at me, warm and comforting. There’s something here that cuts through both the noise of the band and the barrier of language. We are at ease with one another the way some people just are even on the first night. We didn’t scheme and choose our words carefully, we let them travel uninterrupted right from synapse to sound. You know you’re having a good time when you don’t stop to think about if you’re having a good time or not.
I look up and notice that a lot of the patrons are staring at us and/or laughing, but what can I do? I’m drunk, I’m horny and I’m not giving one flying karate kick about it.
            What the hell am I doing here?
            I don’t belong here.
            I don’t belong here.
           
After an enjoyable couple of  hours getting progressively drunker we got up to leave. To where? I had no idea. I was wasted, my monetary sensibilities drowned in beer. I pulled out a wad of bills to pay for the recycling plant that lay on our table. In a tender moment, intensified because it caught me completely off guard, Mariana said, “No, No, No,” and reached for the zipper of her tiny red purse. I, too, said “No, No, NO! It’s alright, I got it Mariana.” We passed the buck back and forth a couple more times, playfully arguing over the bill, until she finally relented and I plunked down more than enough, and we left the bar. Up to this point I had given her close to forty Canadian dollars for the anti-climactic blowjob on the beach. I supposed that’s why she was drinking with me--I had already paid her for her time, but I wanted to keep the party train going.
            “Baby, why can’t we take this to your place? I have more money.”
            “I have my kids at my place,” she said.
            Well . . . if they’re in the other room, that doesn’t bother me, I thought.
            “So, what? This is it? There’s nowhere else in this city where we can go?” I say, drunk, defeated.
I grabbed her by the waist and pulled her close to me, planting one her lips. Her mouth rejected my tongue’s slithering advances for a moment until she gave in and our tongues slugged it out. When I cupped her ass, my cock sprang to life and I made damn sure she knew about it, grinding my unit into her pelvic bone. It was a tactless, desperate move to say the least.
The night, the date was over. There was nowhere to go and no hope left.
            Until . . .
What is this?
She dug into her tiny red purse for a scrap of notepad paper and writes down a series of numbers that look like hieroglyphics from my vantage point. “Here’s my phone number. Call me tomorrow during the day and I can come to your room. No night time. And I dress different. Normal like.”
            “Yes, yes, for sure; I’ll call you tomorrow,” I said, pocketing the scrap of numbers. I gave her one last peck on the lips. I hated to see her go, but I loved watching her leave. Mariana, in her heels and form fitting skirt, had haunches that bounced agreeably with every step.
            She turned around and smiled, “Bye, Taylor, see ju tomorrow.”

The next morning I consulted with my inner bean counter and the peso situation was dire. I was still in Acapulco for four more days and I needed the staples: cigarettes, booze, and perhaps some sensimillia. These damn women were costing me an arm and a leg!
            Whilst lying in bed, every few minutes I grabbed the piece of paper off the nightstand and stared at the numbers, a tidy row of bubbly shapes and dashes, longer than a North American phone number.
I made an executive decision: Masturbate.
I fucked the shit out of my soft fluffy four-star sheets thinking about Mariana. In less than sixty seconds I arrived at the next stop: Jizz Station.

                                                          * * *

“You’re weird,” Steph said diagnostically, while Richard, well, I had lost him a long time ago, and he said nothing, still sucking on a piss warm Canadian.
            “I prefer to think of myself along the lines of the Hunter S. Thompson quote: ‘One of God’s little prototypes, never even considered for mass production.’”
            Then Zach said we better split up and do another round. So we splat up and did another round of the grounds.