Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Life's a Beach: Excerpt #3

June 8th 2013

I’m at Bayside from 7pm to 6am tonight. Most of the inhabitants are socializing by the chiminea on the large swath of sandy grass in the middle of the property. Bayside is built for utilitarian partying—open your front door and there you are, right in the thick of things.
Think sleazy motel.
Visiting for the weekend is a prom from Mississauga. Right out of the gate I tell them about growing up in Brampton and they collectively groan their disapproval. Oh no, already behind the eight ball. Some people cringe at the mention of Brampton, their hearts bursting with pity, looking as if they’d like to pat me on the head and say, “You poor thing.”
Huh? Did I grow up in Chernobyl or something? It was the suburbs. Yes, there were a lot of visible minorities, particularly from India, Pakistan and the Caribbean, but it was the suburbs. The template is the same whether you’re from Oakville or Brampton; only the details change. Plus, our street hockey games were epic battles with imperialistic undertones—the Whites versus the Indians. Us whites generally won only because we’re genetically superior (duh!), but that’s neither here nor there.
A couple of girls with stupendous posture sidle up to me, their teenage heads full of air and vodka. One of them shoves an iPhone in my face, imploring me to say ‘turnip.’ I didn’t quite understand and asked, “You want me to say turnip? Like the vegetable?”
            They both laughed uproariously at my naiveté.
I must be getting old. I don’t even know why they’re laughing anymore. I was duly informed that it’s not turnip but rather turnt up, which roughly translates to fucked up. Got it now? Good. 

While I was having a smoke with Kelly, the manager of the motel next door, who cannot stop twitching and scratching herself, four youths ambled up to the party behind my back and made themselves at home. “These kids are always watching you!” Gary’s voice echoed in my head. We flicked our butts onto the street and went back to our respective properties. I sighed, knowing that once interlopers have succeeded in gaining access and have ingratiated themselves to the legit guests, it can be more difficult to get them to leave. If a guard is paying attention, as he should, he can stop the insurgents from even entering the property.
These four had already made themselves at home. I approach the four who are standing nonchalantly in a group of ten and ask to see their wristbands. One of them, the closest to me, in a bright orange hoodie, confidently holds up a wristband but it is not made of the same material as ours—it was cheaper and made of a papery substance. Our wristbands, on the other hand, were made of plastic, with multiple notches like a belt to secure it to a wrist. The wristband’s also a different colour. The other three don’t even bother to show theirs at this point. “You, you, you, and you,” I said, singling each intruder out with the rubber antenna of my radio, “have to leave the property now; you’re not allowed to be here. Let’s go.” I wave my antenna towards the street and add for good measure, “Hit the bricks.” 
            “Dude,” Orange Hoodie says, “relax, we’re from the same school. We’re just hanging out for a bit.”
            “Doesn’t matter. You guys aren’t staying here so you’re not allowed on the property.”
            “Can I at least finish my smoke?” Orange Hoodie asks, incredulous at this draconian display of power. He probably sees these people every day at school and finds it ridiculous now that he’s up north partying with them, he can’t even stand on the same ground and say hi. It’s a wicked world bucko, and the quicker you learn that the better, I want to tell him.   
After five songs, whose common themes were drug dealing, bitches, and weed, I again told them to skedaddle, careful to make eye contact with each of them. Two of them openly scoffed at my suggestion; I knew it was time for drastic actions--the threat level had to be ratcheted up a notch. I went over to the stereo and turned the volume all the way down. That got everyone’s attention.  “Kay guys, you gotta leave now,” I said, pointing in the general direction of the foursome, “or I have to get the boss down here and you’ve seen that fat bastard, he likes to fight, too, or maybe he’ll just throw out a random room. I’m not going to let the music play until you leave, either way, so . . .”
It’s simple: divide and conquer.
            All eyes are on me. I’m nervous and excited, unable to delineate where one feeling ends and the other begins. I’m the centre of attention and I have to out-duel these four guys, making sure they leave the party in a peaceful manner. Now that the four guys are pariahs, threatening to end the good times of the others, their backs are against the wall. Nobody ever wants to give in without a fight. They coalesce together in a huddle and discuss their future options for the night. They’re saving face, pretending to debate the matter and prolong the situation when they know full well they’ll be leaving any minute. Orange Hoodie looks back to see if I’m still watching—I am--and he mutters, “Fucking Paul Blart motherfucker.”
            “Time’s up. I’ve got to radio the boss and you can talk to him when he gets here.”
            Now, sometimes I’ll pretend to radio Gary (or even the police) and sometimes I’ll actually radio Gary. It depends. It’s amazing how easy it is to fake the use of a radio. There could be anybody on the other end. If I’m faking it, I’ll say, “Gary,” --pregnant pause-- “We have four guys here who are getting belligerent and refusing to leave the property, 10-4.”
            If I’m being for real, I’ll say, “Guy come in,” and wait for Guy to actually verbalize a response. 
            “We have four guys who are being belligerent and refusing to leave the property.”
            “I’ll be right there,” Guy would say.
            Guy is a kilometer away at the Inn or Cottage Courts. He could be here in his white Ford pickup in a couple minutes.
            The four guys are posturing to leave, but not wanting to make it easy on any of us. “I’ll fucking talk with the owner, I don’t care,” one of them chimes in with his own brand of musky braggadocio.
“That’s fine with me, he’ll be here in a minute or two,” I say.
            “Fucking Paul Blart, what a loser,” another says for me to hear as they finally walk away, and the four chuckle derisively.
I go and turn up the music, the first audible lyric being the tail end of a word ending with the two syllables: igg-er.
I consider how many words rhyme with the N WORD, because I hear that word come out in disproportionate numbers from the guests’ mouths and iPods, and I can’t help but theorize that rappers must know like every single possible word that rhymes with the N WORD. As the tunes are blasting through the Peavey amp, I scroll through my mind’s lexicon and could only come up with a marginal number of words that rhyme with the N WORD: Bigger, Trigger, Figure, Chigger. Are there any more?
Another world blossoms if you soften up the ‘er’ and turn it into an ‘ah’ sound. You can pronounce the word ‘litter’ ‘littah’ and well, the half-rhyme options become endless, as I’ve heard too many times to count. Does ‘Brita’ kind of half-rhyme?
Human language is so rich with the subtlest of nuances that it is the intent and context of the words that are being spoken by the word vessels (humans), not the words themselves.
And the N WORD is one versatile word. It can be a stinging rebuke, a racial epithet, or a greeting to a good friend. It is a happy, sad, angry, mad word, with lots of history, just like the world. It’s here to stay.
Most of the teens that come to the beach listen to rap and EDM primarily, but oddly, they also throw in the occasional country song as well. Without fail, it’s “Love my niggaz, but where’s my bitchez” this, to “I love my beer, but where’s my freedom?” that.
            There’s something comical and incongruous about these fresh faced, skinny limbed, middleclass Ontario boys and girls listening to hardcore rappers waxing poetic about the gangster lifestyle. Most of the rappers themselves are bullshitting, too.

I let a couple of harmless kids onto the property; they were clearly friends from the same school but couldn’t secure a room at Stillwater so they were staying at another motel up the road. I levied the Taylor Tax: Article One, Subsection Two, which states: “Unlawful entry onto Stillwater premises is permissible only if Taylor D. Nesbit is allotted one to two shots of vodka or similar spirit.”
The perps smartly complied.
            “We have to go into one of the rooms over here, though. There’re cameras all over the place,” I explained. A Bieberesque teen with a basketball hat planted atop his dome, carefully askew, follows me into room twelve and he declares to the occupants, “The guard’s gonna take a shot!”
A collective ‘Wahoo!’ ensues.
We can be heroes, just for one day.
            The Blackhawks/Kings game is on and it’s OT. If the Blackhawks win they go to the Stanley Cup finals. I take the bottle of Smirnoff and down a swig, big as I can handle without gagging or throwing up, a much bigger swig than if it was my bottle. I exhale, and the burn slides and sloshes its way down my esophagus like a waterslide before splashing into the pool of my belly. I repeat the process and hand the bottle back to the anonymously pleasant kid with swooping bangs.
Not all fires move upward, my friend.
It was refreshing to see a group of three fellas with an acoustic guitar, even if they were intensely misogynistic and aggro. Only one of them could actually play, lugging the guitar around on his back like Jesus with the cross. The guy played along with any old rock number that came on the iPod. He figured out the riff right away and learned the song on the spot, even some of the solos. I’ve been playing guitar for almost twenty years and this guy was quite impressive. They were listening to a song off of Tool’s album, Undertow, and drunkenly singing along. Shit adds up at the bottom!
Later on, I popped my head into their cabin (the door was wide open) and one guy was chopping lines on top of the fifteen year old Zenith TV. I stood there without saying anything hoping he’d notice me and offer up a snort. He never did, and I walked away, salivating and disappointed.
Attitudes regarding drug use are very laissez-faire on Stillwater property. I asked Zach about them snorting shit in their room with the door wide open, and he said it was Oxy, not coke.       
“They’re all carpenters from Brampton; they make hella money, bro” he said. “Gave me a line of Oxy, too. I don’t do that stuff though. It only made me dizzy.”
“What? You fucker! I was by their room and they didn’t offer me anything.”
One of the non-guitar playing carpenters, who looked like Stephen Baldwin in wigger gear, was shacked up with a short, buxom black girl who was herself a dead ringer for Serena Williams. You look at enough new people every night, they become incarnations of celebrities. She resembled Serena so much that I had to tell her, confident that she’d heard this dozens of times before from totally random strangers, because the resemblance is uncanny, and we’d laugh about it, but instead she was mortified by the mere suggestion. “I don’t look like that bitch!” she saucily said to me, an index finger cocked and wagging. The afternoon sun beat down upon my brow and I was sweating profusely. I didn’t want to incur the wrath of this feisty woman with the violent boyfriend, but the guy was laughing at her anger, and took to calling her Serena for the rest of the day until she simply disappeared early in the evening, never to return.
I thought she had merely gone to the corner store, so I apologized to the Stephen Baldwin wigger about offending his girlfriend. He told me it’s all good, “I only met her last night. Pump and dump, bro!” he said, laughing and taking a healthy swig from his can of Heineken.
You’ll never see a CD at any of these resorts. They are almost extinct, as you know. The march of progress is inevitable; it’s 2013 and I knew going in that CDs weren’t used much anymore among young people. I knew this because most of my friends don’t use CDs anymore, either (though I’m noticing more vinyl). Inherent in every smash success of a medium, encapsulated and woven into the form of it, is its death. iPods are at the peak of success right now and in ten years another goofball is going to anthropologically document his summer and he will lament the decline of the iPod, while simultaneously decrying the rise of microscopic boombox stereos implanted directly into our brains.
I yearn nostalgically for all of the extraneous uses of CDs and their covers. Just what in the hell do people snort coke off of nowadays!?
            Now that music is centralized somewhere in the digital ether, entire libraries of sound are literally at our fingertips. No more annoying stacks of CDs taking up precious space in the glove compartment. No more driving on the 410 while frantically searching for Ani Difranco’s Dilate, dying to hear Superhero only to discover the case is empty or it’s the wrong CD, and squeezing the case shut so hard in frustration that a plastic shard rips open my thumb and I have to pull over, tears dripping onto the blood soaked case. I licked up the fluids of a smooth piece of clear plastic and swallowed it. I’ll need all the blood and tears I can get. 
            Listening to music never really was a tactile experience. Would Houses of the Holy sound as good without prepubescent blonde children frolicking among ancient ruins on the cover? Probably.
While it’s true that ears and hearts do all the heavy lifting, but the artwork and presentation enhance the bond. It’s kind of like this: some potheads take great care of their bongs, replacing the screens and cleaning the pipe stem with a wet Q-tip, getting rid of all that sticky resin that builds up, knowing that the bowl of marijuana will be easier to smoke once the passages are cleared. It’s about the process.
            One outcome of the digitization of vast libraries of music is the ability to easily switch to any number of thousands of songs with the flick and click of a thumb. The end result is not letting any song play all the way through. I call these people who are forever changing the current song in search of a better one, Stereo Nazi’s. With the multitude of options it’s too irresistible. I’m guilty of it myself. There’s got to be something better going on somewhere else on this device. There’s got to be something better, something I’m not considering.
Songs are frequently cut off mid second chorus and then the next song only gets the intro and first verse, then okay, a full one (people are distracted playing beer pong), then half of Blurred Lines, then a prolonged silence while the iPod user scrolls through the alphabetized data for the perfect song, then finally finds it, after shouts from the interior of the party to “Pick a fucking song already!” and stands holding the iPod, still unsure of her selection though it had already been made, until the end of the first chorus, and then she gives up, gauging the lacklustre response from the crowd and plays another song right away as if she just gave up on the search, and walks away to join the festivities until another person takes up her place to futz around with the damn thing and the whole process begins anew.
            All hail our OveriLords!
One looming, uncomfortable drawback of this job is the clear and present danger of physical violence.
            Now listen: I’m a dweeby, lightweight, tranny-loving scumbag stoner who benches ninety pounds and couldn‘t tell you the first thing about a driveshaft. I don’t punch guys. I have soft feminine hands and I cry during Woody Allen movies. And if you don’t know, now you know, nigga.
            Real violence is plain scary. I’m not an embedded reporter in Afghanistan. I’m not a steroid slamming psychopath. I hit people in my dreams, not on the streets. Every now and again, though, I’m overcome with a seething rage, a will to violence--like given the slightest provocation I’ll gnaw your testes open and spit the viscous sack fluid in your face and then ground and pound your head until it’s hamburger meat--but it always passes after a moment or two.
            I am seriously unnerved by the prospect of violence from Zach in particular. I like him and get along with him well. We can joke around and shoot the shit, no problem. The guy attracts the ladies, too; very good looking--blue eyes, blonde hair, and well-built. Yummers! Next to Zach, I’m the fat guy with braces and a penis growing out of his ear. The kid’s got a nasty hair trigger temper, perfectly in tune with his primordial vestiges of caveman rage. He’s one extra lumpy protein shake away from making the first person who talks back eat a curb sandwich. My fear is that I’ll be the unwilling backup man who is forced into taking the other guy.
Zach is obsessed with fitness the way junkies are obsessed with heroin. Hours are spent sculpting obscure chest muscles. His girlfriend, too, is a bodybuilder/English teacher. He showed me a picture of her on his cell and she was a striking lass, even if I couldn’t tell where her pecks ended and her breasts began.
Because Zach places such a premium on physical beauty, it’s hard not to muse that his anger stems from his most salient physical flaw of which he has no control: he’s short. Like five foot seven six and a half short.

I sat there in the predawn hours on a ridiculously comfortable plastic adirondack chair and watched the stars slowly fade from the night sky until Gary radioed me, and apropos of nothing, asks to hear some jokes. It is immediately clear that Zach and/or Brianna have told Gary about all the dirty jokes from the other night and possibly even my ‘Possession of an Explosive Substance’ charge from when I was fifteen and for no good reason tossed a Molotov Cocktail onto a street from my backyard. The stupid thing just exploded on the asphalt like it was full of piss instead of lighter fluid. Memories!
            It’s five am and there is an audience of about six guards listening on their radios who are looking to ease their boredom via some distraction. I was tired and taken aback by the request to perform like a monkey on the spot to an unseen audience.
I bombed horribly.
Speaking on the radio is still a nasty feedback loop of self-consciousness that I’m slowly overcoming. I feel as though I am outside of myself and watching as this average looking white dude talks on the magical radio device. And then there are all the other guards listening in even though I’m not talking to them, but they’re listening by default because there are no other channels, so I have to watch what I say. Thinking clearly is not easy when caught in a feedback loop. I panic and the end result is I sound like a stuttering-muttering fool. And sounding stupid only further shakes up the nervous system and makes me more self-conscious about how I’m bombing and sounding stupid, and the whole thing makes my head hurt, never mind yours.
I am The Depressed Person, I know.   
I launched into the ‘Catholic Priest and Red Bull’ joke, willing my mouth to form the sounds that connote meaning. Like a mountain-bicyclist going downhill way too fast to maintain control, I held on as long as possible through the setup until I crashed and burned--forgetting the punch line and panicking, gnawing the loose flesh on the insides of my cheeks. I’m bombing horribly, and finally, after a couple seconds the magic of the joke evaporated anyways, and now I had to radio that I forgot the punch line.
I threw my co-workers out on the line and cut the cord. Who wants to hear the setup of a joke without the payoff of the punch line? They must think I’m a complete fucking moron. A moment later when I remembered the punch line, shamelessly diving back in for the re-tell, there was obviously no more heft left in the punch--the moment was over. There might have been a pitiful chuckle or two.
Comedy is a sensitive bitch, that’s for sure. You can say the right thing but if it’s not at the right moment, well then go fuck your mother.

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