The Trickster Diaries/Chapter 40
Going home with Lorraine that night was one of the few times I looked forward to returning to my teeny apartment in the Mex ghetto. Booming Mex hip hop rolling down the alley in back vibrated the building, sometimes drowning the relentless noise of trucks dragging 40’ containers back and forth on Jefferson Blvd..
Screaming children, drunken parents screaming at each other.
Gunfire. Broken glass. Crying.
And, until I moved in, one unwritten rule: no cops. Cops meant jail. Jail meant INS. INS meant deportation.
So, being aware of their ultimate fear, I frequently called the cops, who responded forcefully, the offenders conceding to their demands instantly, for like, an hour?
Yes. Twice. The first came in the form of three young men who, when I’d return at night, were always hanging out in front, drinking. This time, coming back from a run late one weekend morning, they were on the stairs, blocking it.
Me: Excuse me. I need to get up to my apartment.
Nothing. No movement or response. Just a stare-down from the pack leader.
I stared back, then turned my head and hocked a big loog on the cement.
“Feel like moving now, punk?” I asked. (My finest Dirty Harry ever).
He slowly got up, walked a couple badass paces towards me, stuck his chest and nose an inch from mine, then gestured at his colleagues with his chin.
“Thank you,” I said, as they left the courtyard.
Home sweet home.
A couple months after Lorraine had gone back to Ireland, work wasn’t a helluva lot better than home. AJ was always pissed off, Marie was only there ornamentally, and Ingrid, still crazy lovesick, had switched from being hungover at work to being high at work. All the time.
One day, following the morning rush, I walked out and never returned.
Thanks to an early tax return, a final paycheck from David, a little savings, I was able to cruise for a while. And paint. It was late winter, 2000, and the first time I’d approached a canvas in six years.
Funny how one’s work evolves even after such a long layoff. I got lucky, maybe, and sold all three to Mike, a collector of my work since the mid ’80’s—same Mike whose home I’d landscaped prior to the coffeehouse gig. Same Mike who’d driven me to the rehab place. Maybe he was bailing me out. Maybe not. Either way I was good now through summer.
He also gave me an old IBM laptop and set me up with a dial-up email account. “If you don’t like it or can’t get used to it or something, pretty sure it’s pawnable.”
I tried to pawn it. They wouldn’t take it. Outdated OS or something.
So, like an idiot, I emailed Lorraine. She wanted me to come to Ireland, live with her and her family—mom, dad, whatshername, two older sisters—in their home in the country. I could work with her dad, a stone mason. Then we’d start our own business. I could make a fortune, she said, teaching yoga, while she provided massage therapy.
No way I could’ve known at the time, but this was to be my first experience with bad—or at least strange—internet juju.