In Germantown There’s A Bar Called Laff’s That We Don’t Go To Anymore

September 19, 2010

In Germantown there’s a bar called Laff’s that we don’t go to anymore. Which is a shame because the mechanical bull there is a blast, and it’s free. If Jamie is in a good mood and not too weepy over some dude you’ll get a free drink if you stay on the bull for as long as she thinks you need to to get a free drink.

September, 2004. Laff’s is crowded and I can’t find Mike. He isn’t returning texts and calls go straight to voicemail. Mike tends to be drunk before anyone else and he’s often a hassle when things don’t go his way. We wanted to go to a party in Beavercreek but if we had left without Mike he would have thrown a fit. I ask Jamie if she’s seen him and she says, I hope he’s dead in a ditch somewhere. I didn’t know this at the time but the week before Mike had done stuff with Jamie’s sister and he took pictures of her naked after she’d passed out and showed them to the tennis team. A guy on the team told me she had a weird-looking vagina; that’s why he took pictures.

I go out to the backyard. Mike isn’t out there. I go back inside and check both bathrooms because Mike would often shit at bars so there was a chance he was in the bathroom, maybe even passed out on the shitter. But he wasn’t. I ask Jamie again: Seriously, have you seen him? She says that she still hasn’t seen him but she’ll keep an eye out for a drunk pervert in a tie dye shirt. He usually wore tie dye he said so girls would think that he was a laid back whatever kind of guy and not a hassle and a half.

It’s almost two o’clock now and we’ve moved to the sidewalk. I’m negotiating with a girl I used to do projects with in social studies, but things don’t go well. I call Mike again and leave another message. I check the backyard again and it’s empty except for a group of girls we barely know and I ask if they’re going to the thing in Beavercreek. One of them says it’s not happening anymore but she heard that Devin is having people over. I didn’t know Devin. I ask if I can go to the party with them and they say yeah but you’ll have to sit in the truck bed, which is a bummer: Osgood-Schlatter is destroying my knee and the long ride there makes it worse. And Devin’s party isn’t a party but rather four dudes who I don’t know and the girls who drove me sitting on the floor drinking Popov and o.j. and watching Mallrats.

I go out to the porch and call Mike again. No answer. I give up on him and go inside and sit next to the quiet one and we chat. It turns out her cousin was my counselor at jazz camp and that was enough for her to go on and later on we’re doing stuff in the kitchen but then Devin comes upstairs and says we all have to go home. The quiet one says that she has a boyfriend kinda and all that never happened. The next day Mike still isn’t answering his phone and when we go to his house his mom says she hasn’t heard from him. But she knows that everything will be OK and that Mike is doing Mike again. That afternoon a cop car pulls in the driveway and a cop walks up to us and tells us that Mike’s Saturn was found flipped over near Terre Haute.

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Shower Prank

September 7, 2010

Our family friends the Derricks lived in an old apartment in Cleveland with strange plumbing: the shower was in the kitchen. We always thought it was adorable because if Mrs. Derrick was cooking while Mr. Derrick was showering they could keep each other company. And when Mrs. Derrick showered Mr. Derrick would sometimes boil an egg and they would chat with each other. One day Mrs. Derrick decided to play a prank on Mr. Derrick. She filled a cup with cold water and dumped it into the shower to startle him. He was very startled. He was so startled that when he turned away from the water he slipped and fell and cracked his head open on the faucet. The paramedic said it was a horrific accident. Mrs. Derrick replied that indeed it was horrific. Mr. Derrick died in the hospital. Mrs. Derrick doesn’t shower in the kitchen anymore but rather at the YWCA on Euclid Avenue. To her knowledge she is the only murderer showering there.

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Yellow Springs

August 13, 2010

Yellow Springs: artsy town, good for hiking, good for looking at goofy folks. Get a slice of whole wheat pizza at Ha Ha Pizza and then go for a hike in John Bryon State Park and find a spring. The village is called Yellow Springs because the water in the springs is so full of iron that it turns rocks yellow. Cup your hand and dip it into the water and drink. The water tastes like blood. If one of your friends brought pot then now would be a good time to smoke it. Walk away from the other hikers and find a secluded spot. This shouldn’t be hard to do because chances are, the other hikers are trying to walk away from you and find their own secluded spot to smoke pot. After you smoke drive back into town and browse the record shops, but be careful. One time our friend Mike chatted up the dude who worked at the record shop and the dude convinced Mike to buy four CDs, two by a local band called Romance of Young Tigers and two by a German jazz piano player whose name I can’t remember. Each one cost fifteen dollars. On the drive home we played a Romance of Young Tigers CD and Mike said he was in love with it but we knew he was just saying that because he’d spent his money on it. We also played the German guy’s CDs, which were recorded live and the sound wasn’t good. Mike said it was cool that the sound wasn’t good because it was raw but, again, we knew he was just saying that because he was the one who spent the money.

Yellow Springs: good for hiking and good for pizza, but don’t let those dudes in the record shops tell you which CDs to buy.

Yellow Springs is home to Antioch College, which was a bastion of progressive politics and free thinking until it closed in 2008 due to lack of money.

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Factory Smells

July 30, 2010

While driving on I-75 north of Cincinnati make sure to roll down the windows and let the smell of the Jim Beam distillery fill the car. Its smell is rather sweet and mild, like honey. The Proctor & Gamble soap, sponge and synthetics factory is closer to the river and that sucker really does smell like a factory. They make soaps and sponges and other synthetics there but after smelling it you’ll think they made dirty diapers. It’s the oldest factory in the city (1886) so the families living in nearby Addyston should be accustomed to the smell by now. This one family we used to carpool with, the Bayers, had to move to Addyston and after that we’d only see Trevor Bayer if the Addyston Orioles made it to regionals. (We always made it to regionals.) One year Sammy “Cakes” Frost said that he could smell the factory smell on Trevor when he tagged him out at third. When our teams shook hands after the game a few of us managed to get a good whiff of Trevor and we confirmed that he did indeed smell like a factory. Trevor also thought that he smelled like a factory but he said he didn’t mind so much because any girl he would consider getting with would also be from Addyston and she would also smell like a factory, or at least she would think that she smelled like a factory, and she wouldn’t mind getting with a dude who smelled like a factory. Trevor’s father was at the game but he left during the seventh inning stretch to get back to the factory. Trevor’s mother left the game soon after her husband left and a few of our parents said they were pretty sure she drove to Hyde Park to see the man with whom she was having an affair. At the time we thought that she was having the affair because she wanted to have sex with a man who didn’t smell like a factory but we now realize that it was likely more complicated than that.

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Who Wants To Hear Some Flamenco?

July 21, 2010

My guitar teacher encouraged me to start singing, but I didn’t want to. We argued about it and that led to another argument about whether or not I should learn jazz and how much I would benefit from him writing out tabs to Sublime songs. I decided I needed new guitar teacher. I called Jim McCutcheon, a beloved Dayton-area celebrity who had recorded a CD of kids’ music and taught at the University of Dayton. You have a lot to learn, he said after my first lesson. And if you don’t learn some classical tunes, you’re wasting my time and your time. So I grew out a few fingernails and learned a flamenco song that I figured was classical-sounding enough to be considered classical. Lessons 2 and 3: Jim made me play that flamenco song again and again, for half an hour. You’re trying to try but you’re not trying as much as I know you can try, he said. He also wouldn’t write out Sublime tabs and told me to Google that garbage.

Two of Jim’s professor buddies interrupted our fourth lesson. They wheeled their bikes into Jim’s practice room. One of them said, We need you to settle something. I say that the longer I ride my bicycle, the more in-tune I become with the way the machine behaves and thus, I become part bicycle and the bicycle becomes part human. The other professor said, Charles won’t shut up about this nonsense and it’s ruining my birthday. Please, Jim, tell him to stop.

I’m with a student. This will have to wait.

Your student is more important than the most vital question of our time?

Your student takes precedence over this horseshit that is ruining my sixty-second birthday?

Jim asked if I would mind if they stuck around for a few minutes and I said no.

Charles: Fact: As I age I become less of a man and more of a corpse.

Jim: I disagree. But continue.

Charles: I will die someday. The bike will break and rust and thus, die someday, too. But until that happens, I will ride it. And while I ride it, our energies will mix and we will create a new energy that’s bigger than both of our energies combined.

Jim: Maybe. You could say that about people, too. The more you know someone, the more energy you get from them and the more you become them and the more they become you.

Birthday-Boy Professor: Don’t encourage him.

Charles: Exactly. And I should mention that I’ve begun dreaming as a bicycle. Sometimes I sit in a garage and other times a young boy is riding me on a dirt road towards a tennis court.

Birthday-Boy Professor: That doesn’t mean anything. You’re just horny and depressed.

Charles: No. But I think my bicycle is horny and depressed. And I think the young boy represents my father because he played tennis until he had a stroke.

Birthday-Boy Professor [turns to me and says]: I need dumb friends.

Charles: Eventually the bicycle will be as much of a human as I am a bicycle. We will achieve equilibrium. And that’s when we’ll both die. Jim, if you’re still farting around Earth when we die, I want you to make sure we’re burned together in a big pyre. Near the Masonic Temple, if you can swing it.

Jim: Will do. But if I die before you die [and he turns to me] you’ll have to make the arrangements. Exchange phone numbers with Charles before you leave today and have him call you before he dies.

Me: OK.

Jim: Good. End of discussion. Now. Who wants to hear some flamenco?

Birthday-Boy Professor: I do.

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The Y Bridge

July 14, 2010

The Y Bridge in downtown Zanesville was built in 1814 to span the confluence of the Licking and Muskingum Rivers. It’s shaped like the letter Y so if you enter on the east side of the Licking River and veer to the left you’ll cross the Muskingum and end up on the same side of the Licking that you started on. Veer to the right and you’ll cross the Licking and end up on the same side of the Muskingum that you started on.

Gahanna Jazz Camp, July, 2001. I befriend a crew of theater kids from Zanesville: Marcus, Evan and Tara. All three are singers, and Marcus and Evan seem gay when they sing. I ask Tara if they are and she assures me they aren’t. She says, I think I would know, if you know what I mean. And I did know what she meant. I say, I could drive you home one day if you would want that. And she says, Evan always drives us, but thanks anyway, but if you want to come hang with us in Zanesville sometime, you’re welcome to. For whatever reason I never go hang with them in Zanesville but Tara and I exchange AIM names. Cut to:

Fri Nov 23 15:01:25 2001

-What’s up?

-Nothing much. I just got a trampoline, you should come over and jump on it.

-Yes I should.

-We could do more than jump on it.

-Oh my. Won’t your boyfriends mind?

-Boyfriends? Evan and Marcus? That nightmare is over.

-What happened, you guys were so tight.

-It’s a long story.

-I love long stories.

-So at first I was having sex with Marcus and it’s nice. And then Evan says he wants to have sex with me too and I’m like, yeah I want to too and I ask Marcus if he’d be cool with that and he says he would be. So I have sex with Evan. Just once. Well, two times in one day. I tell Evan that’s it, nada mas, I want to be with Marcus. Evan asks Marcus if he could have sex with me again and Marcus says he doesn’t care as long I keep having sex with him. But I don’t want to have sex with Evan again. I only want to have sex with Marcus. But I don’t tell Evan this because I’m Evan’s best friend and he’s really sensitive because he used to live in a foster home. So Evan and I have more sex and it gets really weird because Evan writes all these songs about me and my legs for our band. I have great legs.

-Oh?

-Yeah. So Marcus quits the band but, according to him, it’s not because he’s pissed about Evan having sex with me but rather because he wants to record some solo stuff that’s weirder than the stuff me and Evan like to play. Evan and and I are like, fine, we’ll keep playing without you, and we do and we actually get pretty good, way better than we were when Marcus was in the band. We get a new bassist and we play a few parties. This whole time Marcus and I are still having sex, and it’s better, filthier sex than the sex I’m having with Evan. Here’s where it gets weird: At this one girl’s Halloween party all of us are drunk in the backyard and we dare Evan to touch Marcus’ dick. And he does it. And then he gives Marcus head for a minute, right there in front of four other people. They wouldn’t tell me but I think they fooled around a few times after that but then they had a nasty falling out over God knows what. The next week Marcus shows up to our band practice all drunk and he starts hitting Evan in the head with a tennis racket. Evan runs away. Marcus tells me that he’s not gay and that he loves me and he’ll love me forever if I quit the band and stop having sex with Evan. I say, Go home, you’re drunk. Marcus threatens to kill himself. I say, Fine, I’ll quit the band, just to get him to settle down. He tries to have sex with me right then and there on my driveway and I’m like, yeah, I’m game, but let me get a pop first and I go inside and call Marcus’ mom and tell her what’s up and a few minutes later she shows up all pissed about Marcus being drunk and makes him come home. Evan comes back to my house all bloody-faced and tells me that he’s probably gay and that he doesn’t love me like I love him and he probably never will. I go a little berserk, because what the fuck, right? We all agree that we shouldn’t see each other for a long time, maybe never again. And this is what we did: we met in the middle of the Y Bridge. You know what that is?

-Yeah.

-We met in the middle of the Y Bridge. We hugged for a while and said we’re sorry for everything. Each of us chose one part of the Y to exit on and we turned around and walked out of each others’ lives forever. We still see each other at school sometimes, so it’s not like we never see each other. But we needed a certain form of ending. Man, that walk became a complete personal drama.

That Sunday I drive to her house and toss her around on that trampoline.

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The Man Who Brought Vaudeville To Ohio

July 2, 2010

The actor Robert Trist is credited with bringing vaudeville to Ohio. His show at the Orpheum in Columbus ran from 1919 to 1931 and would attract audiences from as far away as Findlay. Once he had the means, Trist employed two striking assistants, Flo and Grace. People said he slept with both of them at the same time. He would try to do that, but in truth he only ever slept with Flo.

Trist became the most famous entertainer in central Ohio. With fame came an insatiable appetite for sex with strangers. While on the road he would often bed a woman or two in every town. There was a rumor that he had both syphilis and crabs but according to Grace’s diary, “he only has syphilis but he deserves crabs too.” Grace also wrote, “I believe the only reason he hired me and Flo is because he needs a woman to rub his shoulders and tell him he is talented when he is in one of his moods. If only his admirers knew that their hero was such a lecherous baby.”

Halloween, 1934. Trist performs at the Golden Lamb Inn in Lebanon. After the after party, Trist, Flo and Grace drink in the hotel’s lobby. Grace goes to bed. The next morning, Flo and Trist are missing. Cops are called. The bellhop tells the cops that Flo and Trist had gone out to the porch to get some fresh air. The cops go out to the porch to find Flo slumped and bloody in a rocking chair with a letter opener through her neck. She’d also been stabbed in the cheek and raped. Trist drives south in his Packard. He stops for gas and food in Mason. He’s recognized by a gas station attendant and apprehended. After a brief trial he is hanged in a meadow that would later become Kings Island Theme Park. The hanging draws the largest crowd of his career. Robert Trist was the last man to be legally hanged in Ohio and he is now remembered more for the hanging than for the vaudeville.*

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*Seamus Moloney, “Trist and the Columbus Connection,” Encyclopedia of Vaudeville, Vol. 3: The Later Years, Phillip Minch, ed., (Philadelphia 1962), p. 97. For more on Trist, Kieth Drury’s Bright Lights of Ohio, (New York 2009), is recommended. There has been talk of Gregory James’ unfinished Fordham doctoral thesis which paints Trist as a more nuanced, empathetic character and not solely a lustful madman. James has unearthed correspondence and journal entries which show that Flo[rence] Knots and Trist had likely been lovers for years before the murder and that the affair was kept secret at the urgings of Trist’s agent, Rory O’Coole. James posits that O’Coole wanted to maintain Trist’s persona as a perpetual bachelor because while on tour O’Coole would arrange for Trist to entertain wealthy female fans. But was O’Coole truly Trist’s pimp? Further research is needed.

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