Chapter 11 Portlandians
On the third day, the rain had not stopped, and Jack rose that morning in such a hungover stupor that he felt like he was rising from the dead. He stumbled drunkenly into the bathroom and emptied his water-ballooned bladder. He was groggy, he didn’t realize how strong those ales Nancy drank were.
Jack could tell that the place was empty, Nancy was nowhere to be found. Jack thought nothing of it and proceeded to load bong hits. Nancy returned fifteen minutes later with another twelve pack of beer and a few groceries, soaked from the storm still raging outside.
“We are in luck,” said Nancy.
“Why is that?” asked Jack.
“I just cashed my last check, and now I got hella beer money.” Nancy chuckled and lit a cigarette. He gave one to Jack along with a beer. Jack reluctantly accepted, remembering it was blasphemy in his world to pass a free drink.
They resumed their past activities of shit talking trash tv while getting drunk and stoned. Until after a loud crash of lightning and thunder, when the entire house went black.
“Ah fuck!” said Nancy with a chuckle, which made it hard to tell if he was seriously upset or not.
“Well let’s just drink and smoke.” Jack proposed.
They continued and jabbered on to twiddle the hours. This time Nancy went on a tirade about how it’s unconstitutional to pay taxes, which didn’t sound quite right to Jack, but he decided not to challenge it. He was not in the mood for a debate; he didn’t care if he was right or not. Jack liked Nancy, and he wasn’t about to instigate conflict by challenging his views.
The conversation then shifted to Nancy giving a thirty minute tirade about how stupid twitter was, and it ended with Jack admitting he had no clue what twitter was. Nancy explained it to him as “stalking made easy.” Then asked if he hadn’t heard about prisoners sneaking in phones where he got locked up.
“All the time,” Jack admitted.
“That’s one of the things they do with them, they actually updated their facebooks and twitters with shit like, ‘Oh shit some nigga just got shanked and shit like that.’” Nancy explained. “Charles Manson actually just got in trouble for that, but it makes me wonder how the fuck he got a cell phone. I mean a guy like him has to be pretty hard to get to.”
Jack pointed out that Manson did have a wife who visits him, and Nancy and him both had a laugh about how desperate that bitch must have been. Then they both cringed a little at how crazy the bitch must be.
The conversation shifted back to an explanation of twitter. Which led to a conversation about Facebook, which Nancy also hated, and from Facebook trends in general. Which lead to a conversation about dub-step. Jack admitted had no idea what it was, and Nancy immediately told him, “Good, it’s the worst trend in music and it’s an embarrassment to guys like you and me who don’t waste our time when we get fucked up. All dub-step is, is techno on ecstasy and acid. It sucks. It is the shittiest music genre ever. It’s worse than country, hell with country you have to at least have enough intellect to come up with lyrics, shitty though they may be. But with dub-step all you need is a mix-table and a laptop, hell you don’t even need the fucking mix table. All you need to make dub-step is a laptop, mainly because any dub-step song you make no matter what you use sounds the fucking same. The people who make dub-step don’t think so, they think they’re being fucking artists, and they get all pompous and bull-shitty about it. Now every jerk off with a PC can “make music” while spanking it to Bree Olsen and then go around calling himself a musician. It pisses me OFF!”
Jack had seen people in his cell block get stabbed, he heard them getting raped during quiet hours, and he had seen his father beat his mother to the point of death. None of those things scared Jack anymore. This reaction of Nancy’s, scared the living piss out of him, but like usual, he kept his composure and all he did was nod, and reply with, “I know what you mean.”
The time passed, Jack and Nancy passed the hours by drinking more beer, smoking more pot, and swapping stories. Jack told Nancy about meeting Leonard Peltier and how many shankings he had witnessed, 75, and Nancy told him about countless nights of blurred drunken escapades that generally involved either a sardonic take on satanism or some anti societal bias.
The storm passed the next day. Jack resolved it was time to leave his friend and carry on. Around noon they shared one last beer and bong rip, and they parted ways. As he walked away Nancy yelled out, “Remember you’re out and you can stay out. I know your girlfriend Bubba will miss you, but you’re a good guy, you don’t belong in jail.”
Jack said his thanks as he walked away, he felt bad he didn’t show more emotion because that was actually one of the nicest things anyone had said to him.
“A little kindness from a stranger can go a long way.” Jack resolved to himself. He knew he would miss Nancy just as much as he missed Fiona, Alex, and Kobe. He wondered if they ever thought about him, but soon resolved that he didn’t care.
“I don’t need people,” Jack always told himself, “I didn’t need them in prison and I don’t need them now.” Jack was very much in denial in regards to these matters. Like anyone in denial he knew he was, but still like everyone of them he told himself he didn’t care.
It was immediately after he had this thought that a homeless thug came up from behind and bashed him in the head, and robbed him blind.
Jack didn’t wake up for nearly two days, when he woke up he had no shoes and no cash, not even his books. Blood covered half of his face, some of it still wet and other parts drying to a deep red crust. He was slumped in front of a free clinic, according to a homeless man, he got dumped in front of the free clinic when he was taken to a hospital and it was found he had no insurance. They didn’t notice he was also an escaped felon.
Jack got his wound sewn shut after a three hour wait. He wandered the streets circling block upon block, his beard dirty and stained with dried crusty blood, lost in a confused amnesia like daze. For the first time in years Jack felt alone, scared desperate, and confused. He was like a three year old lost in the supermarket looking for his mom. He was clutching his dirty hobo hair on the verge of tears, lost in fear and anxiety. As soon as the world started to spin, Jack passed out again.
Every few hours Jack would open his eyes, only for few seconds, and then suddenly they would close again. Every time he opened them he saw something different. First he saw what looked like the shadows of humans surrounding him. Then he felt like he was being carried, moved , as if he was flying, he opened his eyes only to a bright beam of sun behind a form sitting next to him. He still felt like he was flying.
He didn’t wake up until the next day. It was to the smell and sizzle of fresh bacon. He awoke with a start. Could it be he was back with his college friends?
No, he wasn’t. He immediately realized thathe was not in a beachfront house, but an apartment, that looked like it was decorated by Tommy Chong and the Grateful Dead. Tapestries with celtic knots and tie dye covered the windows. Hendrix, Morrison, and Zeppelin posters decorated the rooms. The person cooking in the kitchen was some hipster in a thrift store sweater, fitted jeans and a beanie with a strand of hair sticking out over one eye. At the table was a pale kid with brown short hair and a lime green sweatshirt with the faded logo of some college no one’s ever heard of, he was strumming a baby blue nylon string guitar and singing about things he saw around the room. “Lamp, Lamp, Oh Oh I looovve Lamp.” He stopped when he noticed Jack coming to.
“He’s awake.” he told the guy in the beanie cheerfully.
The man cooking turned around to show he had a thin beard and glasses. He smiled along with his friend at the table. “Good, he looks way better.”
“Yeah he’ll be alright,” replied the guitarist.
“Where am I?” Jack asked still delirious from his pulsating brain.
“You’re in our apartment, we found you lying on the sidewalk with that bump on your head and that mutilated hand of yours and we thought “Wow, this guy needs help,” said the guy with the guitar.
“We were going to take you to a hospital but a guy lying knocked out outside of a free clinic doesn’t seem think you would have insurance,” said the guy in the beanie. “So we brought you here, did what we could for your wounds, you know, cleaned them and treated them with this balm.”
“Then we laid you down on the couch. You’ve been out for almost a day,” completed the guitarist. “I’m Hal, and this is Conner.”
“Nice to meet you.” Jack said, “I’m Jack. Thank you, that was an incredibly nice thing of you to do.” He was amazed, that was probably the nicest thing anyone had done for him, up to this point at least. These two had such a happy friendly air that Jack couldn’t help but feel happy along with them despite his pain, which was thankfully starting to die away.
“How are you feeling?” asked Conner.
“I’m feeling better, thank you.” Jack replied.
“So what’s your story stranger?” asked Hal after a dramatic strum. “How did you get all these wounds if you don’t mind me asking?”
Jack explained to them about the gash on his head and how the store clerk mutilated his palm. There only response was “Damn that’s fucked up,” followed by a comical tirade by Hal about how bad guns are.
Jack sat down at the table as Conner served the breakfast and joined them. Jack also explained that he was homeless because he was an ex convict, and about his past thefts. Hal sympathized. “I was put on probation for Opium possession when I was in college.”
“Bummer,” was Jack’s reply. Jack remembered when he was first put on probation when he was seventeen. Some bitch in school lied and told the cops he held a knife to her throat. Jack got two years probation and had to see a counselor. He faked his way through therapy then got busted again.
Jack enjoyed the company of these two. They had the air of living cartoon characters who were only concerned with having fun. Through their talks they revealed to Jack that they were musicians in a band. The had been working a lot of local gigs for the last couple of years, to the point where they can even make a decent living off of it. They had a few demos recorded but no official album. “Our dream is to get a record deal,” said Conner.
“We are getting there,” added Hal. “Our gigs are getting bigger and bigger and a lot of people follow our shows. So we already have fans.”
“We are going to be having practice soon if you want to hang out and listen,” said Conner. “The other members should be here around three.”
“I’m down.” said Jack, he felt the least he could do for these guys was listen to their music after they took him out of the cold, fed him, and treated his wounds.
The two smiled and were happy to have someone to play for. They spent the morning smoking a joint and playing Super Smash Brothers, waiting for the rest of the band to show up. The other two members showed up and introduced themselves. One was a long haired hippie named Seth, who Jack decided he liked immediately because he had as friendly of an air as Hal and Conner. The other guy, was Jason, a non pot smoker but avid drinker who showed up with two bottles of whiskey for everyone.
The band got their stuff together and started playing. They rehearsed their songs and covers, then worked on a new song for an hour or so. Jack enjoyed their sound, they sounded like a return to the rock n roll of CCR in an indie band with synthesizers added to the mix. Jason was a fantastic drummer, and Seth’s bass was perfect with Conner’s vocals and his guitar. From song to song, Hal jumped from a drum to a keyboard to a rhythm guitar, and he did it with such ease that Jack was impressed. When their practice was finished Jack gave them a genuine applause and praise.
“We have a gig in a few nights if you want to come?” said Seth.
“I’d love to.” Jack said
After the rehearsal, Jack spent the hours smoking with the members of the band and conversing. Jason didn’t partake but he stayed and hung out while serving everyone whiskey. While they got stoned, Seth and Conner began doing some half baked philosophy.
“You see I don’t think you can say humankind is good or evil,” said Conner as he toked up. “I think that people are what their surroundings make them and what they choose to be. You know, like good and evil aren’t really real things”
“That’s not a hundred percent accurate,” interjected Jack, which surprised no one but Jack, he was never one for philosophy. “I’ll agree that humans are not intrinsically or naturally one way or another, but good and evil are very real things. For there to be people who are nice decent and good there has to be people who are pure scum. I’ve been in Jail for a long time, I’ve seen both the most disgusting scum ridden piece of shit, and I’ve seen decent guys who just got a bad stroke of luck. It’s half luck, half effort when it comes to making your own world or defining who you are. But good and evil are very real.”
“Yeah but what defines good or evil?” said Hal, “Who’s to say what is good or evil?”
“Evil is the unnecessary harm of living things. Harm may be necessary at times, but people who profit or amuse or relish in the suffering and pain of others are evil. I’ve seen these people. I can say they were evil. As for who creates the written in stone definition of the two, that’s completely up to the individual. I said good and evil were real but I never said they were not relative.”
Jack was shocked at himself. That was the most eloquent and intelligent thing he had ever said. The others nodded their heads and mulled it over, then Hal suddenly changed the topic to opium laws and Andy Warhol.
Jack didn’t talk for a while after that. He was confused, awe struck even. He couldn’t figure out how a schmuck ex con like him, who didn’t even show up for most of his schooling, put together such an intelligent sounding thought. Then he realized, it was the reading and the travel. He was finally starting to see a world beyond that which he knew.
The gentlemen got more and more stoned or drunk until they were basically glued to their couches. They eventually passed out on the couches slumped in manners that would destroy their backs and necks the next day.