Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Jackie-O's Part II

You may recall from previous stories that Padre is filled with colorful people and colorful addictions. How I came to be surrounded by such charming spirits (if by charming you mean strung out derelicts and frightening) was a combination of lack of funds and....that was it really. I guess there's no combination for it at all.

In any case, the day after Crack-head Mickey came over and tried to rob me of my Apple Jacks, the Landlord changed the locks on his apartment. As it were, it wasn't even his apartment. He was staying there because his girlfriend--a gal that my landlord said (and I quote)-- " had been put to bed wet a couple of times, if you know what I mean". **Chuckle chuckle** in response. Although deep down inside....No.? I don't know what that means. Was she known for getting drunk and falling into the bay? Perhaps, like me, she had an affinity for the beach and passed out there frequently--only to have the tide come and get her wet. I'm not sure. But she was my true neighbor and her crackhead boyfriend was house sitting while she was on vacation in Seattle.

When the landlord locked the door on Mickey, he started sleeping in the apartment complex laundromat (that is to say, in a garage with a washer, dryer in it).

Two weeks past and not a stir from the apartment next door. At 2:30a.m. I woke up to a pounding next door. It went on for 5 minutes. Silence...but not lasting silence. A calm before the storm silence. CRASH!!! Hooray, I was correct! A storm was brewing! Not only was I entertained by the breaking and entering taking place next door via the broken sharded kitchen window...I was also in fear of my life, thinking I would be next.

After calling the police and the landlord, we found out that it was the maiden who owned the place (own = rent). She had just gotten back from Seattle. Instead of going straight home and unpacking, when she arrived, she headed to the local watering hole, got drunk, and came home to a locked apartment and soon found out her keys no longer worked. Logically, she broke the window to get inside so she could sleep (but I didn't check to see if she was wet).

She was evicted the next day, but her boyfriend continued to sleep in the garage.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Boat Show

In those days, Coffeyville Kansas was a small town that didn't ask for much. Aside from a demolition derby here, and a reenactment of our towns' folk killing bank robbers there, we didn't have much for entertainment.
So the perplexing question my father must have asked himself daily..."How do I entertain these 5 kids of mine?"

What better way to bond with the family, than to load into an aerostar, drive 1.5 hours, to look at boats inside a convention center. (There is no water inside this convention center. The boats just sat there lifelessly).

I was four. In my lust for boats at that age, I must have gotten really excited by all the boats...or shall I say, mom and dad must have gotten really excited by all the boats, because the only true memory I have of that boat show is being carried by a man in a cowboy hat to the lost and found children (apparently cowboys don't like children wondering around boat shows unattended).

I was put in a play pen with other kids whose parents too, had been caught up in the hype of a still boat on concrete. Later I was reunited with my family.

The next day I was given a friendship bracelet from my mom...It looked like any standard velcro, wristband, bracelet of the decade...except this bracelet was extra special. For this bracelet had a curly chord (like that of a telephone) which connected to moms wrist. At four years old, I had never been so embarrassed.

I looked so uncool playing in my front yard with (literally) a leash tied to my mom's arm.

The leash came in handy later though when we all played house. Naturally, I was the dog.
In today's society, neighbors might frown on children running around in the front yard, while tied to a tree.

But in those days, they smiled and waved as I barked when they went by.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


It was really humid. In those days (post-Ludlow, in the apartment, across from the Marina), I'd wash my face three times daily to prevent unwanted white-heads. They still came. I never cried about it. I rarely cry about zits (much to the surprise of my family. And quite the opposite of any reaction that occurs when testing my doomed fate of seeing any picture put forth by the creators of "Magic Eye", the book. Those things can suck my balls--see "Note Found on Floor" post.)

After a day of cruising for fat chicks (not really), I returned home slightly defeated and sweaty. Upon the arrival to my apartment stood a man built with a 12 pack and a mountain of chest hair for which you could donate for love.

"I'm from Seattle," he said, but dare I say, he had shifty eyes?

"Oh so you smoke Pot," I said, clearly stereotyping every shifty eyed, soul who ever donned the title, "Seattle-ian.--or Seattle-ite". In my naivete, I naturally assumed everyone from Seattle smoked pot...............................a curve ball:

"Crack actually..." as he rubbed the back of his head with a coy look in both his eyes--as if he'd just done something ornery.
"I had to quit it though, cause it made me crazy and I kept telling my dealer I was going to rob him. So I don't do that anymore. **creepy chuckle chuckle**"

In my life, I've been fortunate enough not to participate in the taking of Crack-Cocaine. You may call it good luck. There was a time in my life however, that I watched "Death to Smoochy" nearly every night for an entire week! And this I cannot explain. But on a said night (day 3 I believe) a violence came forth from a pounding on my door.

Shifty eyes. He had the look of a mad-man and spoke like a wild park ranger whose favorite bear was no longer stealing pic-nic baskets, but rather stealing small kids and eating them.

I invited him in. Not because I'm "nice" per'd be more accurate to state that sometimes I do dumb things.

Turns out that earlier this day, the googly-eyed maniac had been walking down the street, gently minding his own business, when two homosexuals called him a faggot. ...and he said, "I ain't no faggot!!!!"

(I'm not sure what to call what he did next...I'll call it "air-bonging"...much like any awesome person plays, "air guitar", apparently when a crack-head is justifying the reason why he smoked crack, he may include a pretend hit of a crack-pipe...from a homosexual). He proceeded to "Air-Bong" a crack hit. Sitting on my love seat (next to me), he inhaled deeply and forcefully. A broken smile became a cemented image on his face as he held his breath, still smiling brightly with his teeth clenched tightly. It was a harmonious moment in time when all seemed right with the world...but not really.

When he let out his breath he casually told me he was there to rob me. Not having anything of value, I asked him what he planned to rob me of.

"Well I was just walking by and I saw your Jackie-O's"

"You mean my Apple Jacks? Well I can't have that. I'm calling the cops. Please leave."

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Son of Ludlow

I was laying in bed, trying to fall asleep in the place I now called home. The home of Ludlow. On this special evening, his son, Lenny, (an alcoholic man of about 40) had traveled down from Corpus Christi.

"I've gotta tell you Chreese, what you deeed, it took a lot of baaaalllls man...moving to a place where you don't know anyone, living in a tent...."

I didn't know what to say. I guess that's one way to look at it. Another way might be to say I was incredibly young and immature.

As I laid down to rest that night, I found myself, laying in the same room as Lenny, listening to his disgusting tales of life. The bedroom was big and had two full sized beds on the opposite ends of the room. He told me about his experience on the island, taking ecstasy and smoking drugs.

When I woke the next morning Ludlow, the frail, old, Mexican man was standing beside my bed and clapped to wake me up.

When I came back from the shower, Lenny had gotten into my clothes and was wearing my tattered jeans, and a pearl snap shirt, both of which belonged to me.

"Lenny!!!??? Why are you wearing my clothes?"

"Oh sorry man....COMMUNITY CLOSET!" And he said this, as if it made perfect sense. As if I were somehow lesser of a man for not knowing what this meant. The day went on. I went to the beach, Lenny went to Mexico for a "business" meeting. He came back thrashed. His dad cried and sobbed that night in my arms about how much he missed his wife (who'd passed). What am I supposed to say? "Hang in there...keep your chin up...I know how you feel...". I said nothing.

Lenny was passed out in the giant bedroom from his business drinking. At midnight he rose, stumbled out into the living room and proceeded for the front door.

"Going back to Corpus" he slurred, (which is a 4 hour drive).

"Before you leave, can I have my clothes back?"

And he pulled the shirt off his back...pulled the jeans off his legs and left them in a heap on the floor, and left.

I watched him stumble to his truck. I was slightly confused by the absurdity that was Lenny. His truck Vrrroooommed, and he sped off. Sped off in nothing more than a cowboy hat, and tighty whiteys.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Note found on floor last year

Hate Mr.

he can suck

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The day/night my tent broke

I realize now how long posts rarely get read.

One night I was sleeping in my home on the beach (which was a tent--see "arrival on the isle" for details).

A whopper of a squall came across the water and blew my home down...with me in it.

The next day I interviewed for a job at the Sheraton (I didn't get it cause I kept staring off into space from lack of sleep).

It was the longest night of my life.

5 days later I was living with a 70 year old Mexican man named Ludlow.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

One year later

This was me 1 year ago.

Arrival on the Isle'

It’s 3:30pm and I just arrived in South Padre Island. I’m 20-years-old. Mom, Dad & family expressed their enthusiasm of my trip via tears, threats of being grounded, and sheer disapproval.

Dropping my college courses to live in a tent on the beach seemed like a good idea at the time. In a tent I bought from Wal-Mart that was less than Hurricane proof, yet still claimed to be on the box.

(In two weeks I’d be laying in my tent at 3:30a.m., 45 mph winds ripping my “home” apart. Lightening would crash and ocean waves would spit on me, along with cold, piercing bullets of sideways rain. That, would prove to be the longest night of my life).

But today is good, because I have $400 in my pocket, peanut butter & jelly sandwiches (that I packed back home in Coffeyville), and a tent with 2 feet, long metal stakes (to drive into the sand).

4:00pm—I’m here…but I don’t really know what to do… I opt for convenience and go to a corner store. Ask the clerk where vagabonds and pitch a tent. “North end of the Island,” she says. “Woah…hey, I’m doin’ the same thing,” said a stranger behind me.

The stranger’s name is Dave, a college graduate from Rhode Island who tried to go backpacking through Mexico, but somehow wound up in Brownsville TX. When Dave arrived in Brownsville at 3AM, he hitched a ride from a homosexual.

13 hours later, Dave was in the corner store preparing to ask the clerk where a failed backpacker could pitch a tent. But I beat him to the punch.

Dave was a great neighbor because he loved to drink, but never alone. We also shared the same affinity for Keystone Lights and lawn-chairs. All in all, Dave and I were destined to be BFF (for two weeks—BFTW?)

Our typical day went something like this: Wake up at the ass-crack of dawn.

Why? Cause in the genius of decision making, when picking a paradise to escape to, I chose a location next to a Coast Guard Base. This particular base played a bugle every morning in some apparent attempt to wake the dead (along with everyone within a 15 mile radius). It’s not bad if you enjoy waking up and feeling like you’re at the horse track…Thus my “beach/tent neighborhood took on the name, “the Pardre Downs.”

We’d go looking for jobs throughout the day and eat peanut butter/jelly sandwiches. Mostly though, we just played in our front lawn (the beach)…played meaning, sit in lawn chairs, drink K.L. Smoothies and pee in the ocean.

But the good times did not last forever. (Contrary to what you might think, $400 does not last forever). Harsh times were yet to come……

Monday, October 27, 2008

Johnny was a man

Johnny was a man. A gargantuan black man who lived behind a convenient store in Padre (homeless). He'd done some time back in Alabama, and headed to the island for a chance to have it all washed away. He spent the days waiting tables at a place called Mango's. Mango's was on the verge of being a local hot-spot, but failed to acquire a liquor licence, which doesn't boad well for a spring break destination. Johnny's solution was to give the liquor away for free. . . A coworker offered him a place to stay. That coworker was my neighbor.

At night, we'd sit on the screen patio, which overlooked a beautiful sail-boat marina and drink red wine in the hot-humid air. We'd watch the sun go down over the empty sail-boats with backgrounds of pink clouds and orange glass water, which reflected the sunset.

Johnny would smoke a joint and tell me what to do if I ever went to prison (sit in a quiet...make them think I'm crazy). He didn't like authority, but he wasn't an angry man. He got excited when we bought him Christmas lights to decorate his room.

When my neighbors (who were married) had their religious parents come into town, Johnny took off. The weekend with the parents came and went, but Johnny was gone. 48 hours passed, but still...nothing.

On the third day, I saw Johnny strutting down Padre Blvd. (the main strip). I was cruisin in the LTD, with the windows down (tryin' to pick up chicks....but all I picked up was a coked out Johnny). He'd been doing cocaine all weekend, and this proved to be his undoing.

At night, we'd sit on the porch in our routine and drink our Cabernet. But Johnny stopped hanging out. He became a reclouse. My neighbors found crack in his sock draw and immediately packed his things.

The car was filled with Johnny's clothes and Christmas lights. When she got to the crack-house, Johnny wasn't there. He was on The Wave (a free public transporation vehicle with a drop right next to the house, by the marina, with the screen porch). But the locks were changed. So Jonny hopped the fence. The doors wouldn't open, so Johnny pulled out a window. He then sat on the front porch and waited for the Evictors to get home.

"I guess I'm kicked out eh?" he said.

She gave him a ride back to the crackhouse. We never heard from him again.
2 days after I said goodbye to the island for good, I received a phone call from my neighbors. The police (it could have been the FBI--but I can't say for sure) contacted the owners of the house. Johnny skipped out on his parole back in 'Bama. He was a convicted felon on the run. . .and he couldn't catch a break...but he loved Christmas lights.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The day of Oct. 23, 2008

In the course of the past year and a half, I've taught in the inner-city of the Bronx. Many stories will come from this experience (some as memories, some in real time). This is a "real time" story, as it just happened yesterday.

8:00am--Walked in. Broke up two fights in 5 minutes.

9:15am--walked by the principals office and there sits a boy whom I marked absent. . .I didn't say anything, I just changed his status on the attendance sheet.

9:16am--I turned the corner and a group of teachers are laughing and said the following: "Yo, yo!!!! Mista Noel......your student (the one I just saw in the office) SLAPPED THE SHIT out of an eight grada!" I walked away strangely proud of my 6th grade tough guy.

9:45--Waquira walks in...(she normally arrives about this time--in full splendor showing off clothes that are two sizes to small, and weaves that about two-million hairdos too old. She sits down and tells me to Fuck off.

10:00--The students are all engaged in the lesson. Waquira, "I gotta fart".....nobody pays attention. She farts. The students run away. I spend the next 10 minutes herding children back to their seats.

11:59--Students come back from lunch and tell me another fight broke out.

12:45--it's time for Gym, but I dont' let them go, because they've been shit-heads all week. Instead they sit quietly for 15 minutes. If one person says one word, the time starts over.

12:48--15 minutes starts again.

12:50--Oh, Andrea just told Ezekial the wants to start the 15 minutes again. (15 minutes starts again.

12:55--Waquira shouts out, "I gotta fart!" again...and farts again....

1:05--Waquira throws a book out the window and hits a car. The police come and escort her out. Waquira's mom calls me and asks me why Waquira's throwing books out the window...then she calls the principal and calls me a liar.

3:00--the day is over. Instead of sitting down to be called for line-up, students run around the room and play grab-ass.

Note: Waquira is supposedly transferring schools...again.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

At Night we Prayed

When I was a younger man, I took off to the sea of Mexico, residing in a studio apartment on South Padre's sister town of Port Isabel, TX.

At night the breeze would blow salty air through the screen door as I laid in bed. I didn't have a couch, but I had a love seat. One night, a drifter walked past and knocked on my door. In such a small town, nobody's really a stranger, and I'd seen this guy around. He was about 25 and I, 20.

We had a mutual friend and BBQ'd together once. So it wasn't a total stranger.

When he asked me why I was letting him sleep on the floor, I told him that I too was homeless (just 3 weeks before). There was a connection through the Catholic church in a small community just 20 minutes away called, Los Fresnos TX.

When he heard this, he asked if it would be okay if he prayed. I said yes...though I didn't expect him to drop to his knees and pray out loud.

"God...Chris has been given so much. And Bless him in his way. And let him remember that, to those that much is given, much is demanded. I'm sorry for doing cocaine."