Friday, December 26, 2014

A Christmas Story

  The Van Man woke up in a sweat. The nightmare had terrified him. He was relieved that it had all been a dream and he was in bed. Van Man looked over at the little Swiss number next to him. She was naked and curled up in sheets. It was her bed. Van Man was extremely grateful for the good night's sleep in the soft bed. A luxury that served him well before he was to leave for the Christmas Holidays. A seven o'clock flight to Kansas City. He looked at his phone. It was five-thirty and he would have to rush.
  Van Man blitzed into the shower and out. His clothes were crumpled on the floor along with the Swiss Number's. He found his and threw them on. She was still passed out. He remembered how grateful she had been the night before. Merry Christmas, everyone was grateful. Into the van he went. It would not start. The battery, thought Van Man. He popped the hood and connected the battery. The van soon roared to life. Van Man stepped on the gas and drove to the airport.
  He arrived. Van Man parked in Long Term and jogged to the terminal. He had only one bag so there had been no need to check luggage. Lucky him. Van Man stripped his shoes, belt and pocket contents into the white tubs. He noticed a father and daughter staring at his tub of pocket contents in disgust. They stared at him. Van Man quickly realized that he had a strip of Extra Ribbed French Ticklers in his tub. He had forgotten to pack them.
  Van Man made it through security and gathered his belongings. He stuffed the Ribbed Ticklers into jacket pockets. He rushed off to the gate. Passengers had already begun to load onto the plane. He made it at the tail end. Van Man breathed a sigh of relief.
  The flight was completely full. Van Man had no assigned seat. He had to take whatever seat was available. That seat was located between two very large men. They were both very serious looking. And they both stared at him as he squeezed into the very tight space between them. The flight time was three and a half hours. Merry Christmas.
  It was well into the flight and the Two Large Men slept soundly. Van Man noticed a child peek at him from the seat in front. She was blonde and popped up and down playfully. Van Man thought the Little Blonde Child was cute. He smiled. The Blonde Child froze and stared at him. She smiled. He thought it seemed more of a leer. "Soon.", Blonde Child whispered and popped back down. Van Man was glad that she was finished with her game. He closed his eyes and drifted off.
  Van Man awoke. The Two Large Men were gone. In their place were two children. The Blonde Child from the seat in front and a Ginger Boy. The Two Children seemed the same age to Van Man. They stared at him with insane eyes. They chuckled and looked at each other. Van Man was confused. "Are you two supposed to be in these seats?", he asked. The children stared at him and smiled. The Blonde Child whispered across to the Ginger. "What are you saying?", Van Man asked impolitely. "Soon.", the Blonde Child replied. Van Man then felt something nudge the seat. He tried to turn to see. The seatbelt constrained him. Someone kicked and kicked the seat from behind him. Van Man attempted to unbuckle the seatbelt, but the Children began to pinch his hands. "Ow, stop!" Van Man tried to push them back, but they retaliated and bit into his hands. He yelped. To his surprise, no on the plane looked. The Children chomped down hard into his hands. Blood flowed out of the wounds and mixed with their saliva. Van Man yelled. No one looked. The pain rushed through his body. He felt a presence above him and looked up. A Brunette Child with a straight razor stared down at him with insane eyes. She plunged the razor into his right eye. It made a popping sound as the eyeball splattered juice all over. Van Man screamed. No one looked. The Brunette Child yanked his hair back and pressed the blade to his throat. "Now!", the Blonde Girl screamed. The Brunette Girl sliced through Van Man's throat. He gurgled and blood squirted out. The Van Man's body twitched. The Children held his arms down. He bled and gurgled. Then his body went limp and slumped in the seat. And no one looked.
  The intercom clicked on. "Hi, this is your Captain speaking. We are making our final descent into Kansas City. Skies are blue and the current temperature is fifty-two degrees. We'd like to wish all of our travelers a wonderful holiday. Stay safe and, as always, thank you for flying with us."

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Rock 'n Fucking Roll

  The audition was long. And it was in San Pedro. Contrasting monologues, a three page questionnaire, singing and dancing. It was not the typical Hollywood "Say Some Lines And Get The Fuck Out" audition. The questions were designed to understand the actor better. The Van Man answered them as best as he could. What talents did he have besides acting? He lived in a van. What were his favorite games? He did not play games. What was his favorite food? Pizza, motherfucker. Van Man was not much of a singer, but he chose Blue Christmas for his song. It would do. After the rendition, The Artistic Director asked whom he had sung to. Van Man looked at the wall he had just sung to. "Um, all of the ghosts of my past." Artistic Director liked the answer. If Van Man had learned anything in his years as an LA actor, it was to know when to tell them what they wanted to hear.
  Van Man left the audition fairly unsure if he would be cast or if he even wanted to be. He left San Pedro on the One-Ten with the thought that it was one hell of a drive for a few bucks and artistic fulfillment. The Saturday traffic was awful. He needed music. The van had no radio. There was just a hole in the dashboard. He put on the headphones and plugged into his phone. Van Man found the song that had been stuck in his head from the night before. A brand new sex groove from the Godfathers of Rock. "Got Some Rock 'N Roll Thunder" was the sixth track off the new album, but it deserved the number one slot. AC Fuckin' DC.
  The Rock 'N Roll played. He drove on. Van Man and Mr. Funny had spent the previous evening drinking and listening to the album. It was a reminder to Van Man that no matter the age, there really was no such thing as growing up. The word adult was just that, a word. No person grows out of who they were at seven, fifteen or twenty-eight. The lettuce at the bottom of the salad was still the same lettuce that a patron started with. They might load up on bacon bits and mushrooms and croutons, but the salad was not a salad without the lettuce. The green leaves tie all of the shit together. Along with the Thousand Island.
  The Rock 'N Roll played. Van Man relaxed. If San Pedro called him back, he would take it. He was an actor, after all. He took on roles, that is what he did. The ten year old Van Boy with a dream was still alive. He was right there driving a van on a crowded One-Ten. He knew there was something very poignant about that. The Van Man was on the verge of making an important revelation about the human condition. But he could not put his finger on it. It was too busy shredding air licks as he Rock 'N Fucking Rolled down the One-Ten.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas Eve '89

  The holidays closed in and The Van Man had finished the Ibsen play. Post-show blues infiltrated his consciousness. To add to it, the Christmas Season was a traditional time of year for all people to visit the dark side. Van Man was not immune. People thought about things during the holidays that they did not want to think about in their daily lives. Dieting. Childhood abuse. And how much their ex was getting fucked. Van Man had always been brought to memories of Christmas Eve Past. The experiences were folk lore among family.
  When Van Man was eight years old, the greatest thing in the world was Batman. Not just to Van Boy. To every child he knew. Even the sixties television show of the Caped Crusader was huge. Batman was a religion. The Gospel According to Joker. Robin, Three-Sixteen. And if Batman was the religion, the toys were Sunday Service. Van Boy wanted so desperately to pray at the alter of the Bat Cave. It was the grandest of all the Batman toys. It was the one true object of his desire.
  Van Boy came from a single-mom upbringing. His parents were divorced which meant that he visited his father's family for Christmas Eve. A stable of Italians that cooked in twenty-four hour cycles, were way too loud and cried at everything. His father was a hustler, a man who always knew which grocery store had free food samples. He was a man that never came across a bet he did not like. The Hustler would whisk him off to the festivities early just to make a mad dash to bring his son home even earlier.
  It was time to open gifts at the end of that particular evening and Van Boy was excited beyond all imagination. Tradition had Van Boy and his Younger Cousin open presents together. Most of their presents were alike, as always. They were usually given similar gifts because the Italians thought it was "cute". However, Younger Cousin would normally win at the end of the night, receiving one big present that trumped Van Boy's. This was due to the fact that the Younger Cousin was a grandson and nephew to the Italians while Van Boy was not. He was only a cousin. Politics.
  Van Boy and Cousin tore through the wrapped boxes as the Italians looked on in delight. Only a few boxes remained when Van Boy realized there would be no Bat Cave for them. The disappointment was not heavy because he was not alone. Cousin had come away empty handed, too. Then the two children were told they each had one more gift that had been hidden away. The Hustler handed Van Boy a small gift that fit into the palm of his eight year old hand. A large box was dragged over to Cousin. The gift was nearly as tall as the boy and twice as wide. Van Boy looked down at the small box in his hand. He looked over to Cousin who ripped off the giftwrap. Inside the box he went. Cousin pulled out various Batman figures. That was not so bad to Van Boy. He already owned an Adam West Batman. Then Cousin pulled out a Batmobile. Van Boy handled it nicely. He had already begun using his Ecto One Ghostbuster Car as a substitute. Then Cousin's eyes popped out of his head. Van Boy watched as his Cousin pulled out the Bat Cave. That was an image Van Boy could not handle. He looked down at his present. He opened the little box. It was a mini, hand-held Batman video game. The graphics were a step up from Pong. It was hard to tell if the dark blob was Batman or The Penguin. Might have been the Bat Wing. It was real shitty.
  Van Boy stared at his game and pushed the buttons. His eyes filled with water. An old hag leaned over to him and asked if he was happy with his gift. A tear ran down his cheek and he nodded. He just looked at the game in his hand. He could not look at his Cousin and the Bat Cave. It was all too painful. The Hustler leered at his son from a scratchy couch. "You like that, boy?", asked The Hustler. "That's what you wanted, ain't it, boy?" Van Boy could only nod. It was a lie, but he felt the eyes looking at him from around the room. He wanted to avoid any further humiliation. Had The Hustler planned the cruel embarrassment? Was it some Italian initiation he had to go through? Then The Hustler mumbled something that would stay with Van Boy for the rest of his life. "Hey, what's that?" Van Boy lifted his wet eyes towards The Hustler. "You see that, boy? Over there behind the tree?" Van Boy was confused and heartbroken, but acquiesced. He walked to the plastic tree. He did not see anything. "You don't see it?" Van Boy did not. The Hustler walked to the tree and knelt behind it. "What the hell is this?", said The Hustler as he pulled the big gift out and handed it to Van Boy. "Santa musta' forgot it over here." Van Boy ripped off the wrapping and opened the box. There it was. The greatest present he had known since the Christmas of Eighty-Eight. The Bat Cave. Van Boy was beyond happy. The Cousin smiled and was happy for him, too. "How 'bout we trade this for that game?", asked The Hustler. Van Boy let out a loud "No".
  There would be other Christmases and the nineties ushered in video games and puberty. Van Boy would see less and less of the Italians. The Hustler got old and The Van Man moved away. The holiday never captured his heart quite like those old days. And maybe that was a good thing. But he would never forget the lessons he learned. Never let them see you cry and always check behind the tree.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Man Who Peed

  The Little Red Car had been parked in nearly the exact same spot behind The Van Man's van for nearly a month. It was gone every morning before he awoke. Van Man figured it must have belonged to some nearby apartment dweller. Who the fuck wants to park behind a van?, he thought.
  Van Man had been slightly irked by the situation. It was not just that a Little Red Car was parked behind his van every night. The car had actually taken Van Man's spot. And it was a good spot. Not too close to the main road. Not too far under the street light as to give police a bright target to approach. Not too far in the dark to make the van appear ominous. To Van Man, the spot was the greatest parking spot in the history of parking spots. Dumb mothafucka, he thought to himself. But, alas, Van Man continued on with his life. After all, there were bigger fish to fry.
  On a cold December night, the man who owned the Little Red Car made his presence known. And, to Van Man's surprise, he lived in the car. Van Man watched him. He had a ponytail down his back and no hair on top. Bald as a baby, he thought. Ol' bald hippie. The Bald Hippie let his dog run around in the cool park grass. The beast was big and yellow. The Yellow Dog stretched and pissed. Van Man noticed that Ol' Yeller was not the only animal that pissed on the park grass. Bald Hippie stood next to his Little Red Car and relieved himself. When he finished, Bald Hippie called The Yellow Dog and they both slipped into the Little Red Car. It was odd to Van Man that both had been able to so easily slink into the small space.
  Van Man tucked himself in for the night. He was no longer irked by the parking situation. The Bald Hippie had become a member of the Park People. Life in a van had made Van Man a welcoming sort. And he knew that if the police showed up one night, they would go after The Hippie first. That was some unwritten rule, he knew. The Van Man relaxed and slept soundly. It was a quiet street. Just a Red Truck, a Little Red Car and a Van.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Paying For It

  Van Man awoke in a deep chill. It was early and the December nights of Los Angeles had taken hold. The days were still capable if being Hades hot, but the nights had brought a lonely coldness. Alone in the desert night. Broke and cold was a hell of a feeling. He found it surreal, almost poetic to touch that level of the human condition. The True American Middle Class. Able to dream about the endless possibilities and no way of funding that pursuit. But work had arrived. 
  It was a construction gig. Three weeks had passed since his last money-making venture and funds were low. He had a couple of goals for the next year and a goal is nothing without the greenbacks. Van Man found it a comfort that he was playing a character on stage that spoke of the very same thing. "You do not get anything in this life without paying for it", he recited to himself. Doctor Rank was ahead of his time.
  The Lady needed a wheelchair ramp built. Van Man noticed she was not in a wheelchair. Must be for family or some shit, he thought. Van Man spent the next two days building the ramp. The Sun was happy and kept him warm. They were friends for the moment. The Lady had a request to have the ramp carpeted. More of a demand, but Van Man obliged. At the end of the first day, The Lady took a look at the half-finished ramp and proclaimed, "They're gonna love this!" Must be for her kids, damn sad, he thought to himself. At the end of the second day, he found out who it was for as The Lady released her dogs onto the ramp. The dogs were old and had trouble walking up and down stairs. The Lady was hanging on.
  Van Man collected his pay and headed out of Hollywood towards the Valley. He caught a glimpse of himself from years before. His younger self marveled at the sights of the boulevards and streets and the buzz of the crowds and traffic. There was an energy and he wanted to immerse himself in it. It made him feel somehow more alive. The Van Man he had become wanted to distance himself from it. Had he grown cold to the buzz?
  The evening arrived and Van Man washed clothes at the Laundr-O-Mat. It was a well-heated joint in Burbank and it kept the chill off. As he arrived at the park, he passed the Red Truck. They're still making it, he thought. The sight of the truck had always comforted him. It meant that it was still safe to sleep there for the night. But Van Man realized the other reason it comforted him. The Young Couple that inhabited the truck were fearless. They were capable of anything. They were part of that energy. And that meant he had that fearlessness, too. That power of youth.
  The Van Man relaxed for the night in earmuffs and blankets. He contemplated the future as the young man he was. On an adventure and everything was possible.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Rainy Days and Tuesdays

  Los Angeles needed the rain. And She got it in abundance. Three days straight and no Sun. The Van Man was caught up in it. He had his van and it would keep him dry. Then the leak began. Van Man did not fret or worry. He kept his composure and bought duct tape. Mankind's best friend. Van Man plugged the hole with an old sock and slapped half a roll of the tape onto it. The house was dry.
  Tuesday came and Van Man had an appointment with a focus group. He needed some extra dough and getting paid to be a test subject for a new drug seemed like a good idea. There's worse ways to make a dollar, thought Van Man. He was right.
  It rained with a vengeance . The heavenly showers had flooded the Valley roads. All the garbage-stuffed drains kept the water on the streets. Van Man had arrived at the destination that morning with luck on his side. He found a parking spot right out front. He was extra hungry that morning because the group administrators had instructed him not to eat ten hours before the appointment. He found that odd. What was the plan for Van Man?
  Van Man waited in the waiting room. He filled out paperwork. Then he filled out more paperwork. Questions that he did not have the answers for filled the pages. He did what a Van Man should. He lied. Van Man's name was called. The doctor would see him. But it was not a doctor. It was not even a nurse. The young man in scrubs seemed like a student. A very young student. Van Man followed Scrubs Boy into the room and listened to him explain how the study worked. There was a lot of bullshit that Van Man would have to do. Daily entries and drug use and messing around with some type of breathing device. The drug he had to ingest might not even be real. A possible placebo. Van Man hoped it was a placebo. Scrubs Boy informed Van Man that he would need to spend New Year's Day at the facility for twelve hours as they run tests on him. Happy fucking New Year's.
  Van Man agreed. The Scrubs Boy was happy. And the real surprise was layed on The Van Man. The medical staff needed to run tests on him right then. He needed to be screened for the group study. Van Man spent the next two hours breathing in tubes and being touched all over by "nurses". They made him raise his shirt. They made him drop his pants. They put electrodes on Van Man's torso. They told him there would be no electric sensations. Van Man thought there were a couple because his penis stiffened up. No sensations indeed. A female "nurse" needed to check his nuts. Van Man had a semi, but obliged. After the physical, They wanted his blood. Van Man was not too fond of needles. That was why he knew his dead body would never be found in the back of his van with a needle sticking out of his arm. The "nurse" inserted the needle and withdrew his blood. Van Man became dizzy and realized it was one o'clock. He had not eaten in over fifteen hours. One last obstacle remained. A urine sample. That was no problem for The Van Man. He was a world class pisser. As he stood in the bathroom, he heard voices outside the door. "Hope he doesn't need any toilet paper", said a man. "Let's hope not", replied a chuckling woman. Van Man finished urinating and looked over to the empty spindle. They were not lying. No toilet paper. Lucky for him.
  Van Man walked down the hallway with piss in hand. He dropped off the sample and was instructed to the waiting room. There was more paperwork to be filled out. Scrubs Boy entered and handed Van Man a crisp and clean fifty dollar bill. The first payment of the study. Van Man left and was happy. He marveled at the near-perfection of the cash money. It had been worth it.
  The rain continued. Van Man drove to the park to wait out some of the wetness and to recuperate from the testing. He had rehearsal that night. And fifty dollars. Life was damn good. After a nap, Van Man was refreshed and ready for rehearsal. He started up the van and began the trip to Van Nuys. He drove half a mile and it was evident that something was wrong. The van was dying. It was barely moving and the power was gone. Van Man pulled into the nearest lot. He shut the van off and ran to the front of the vehicle. There was fluid everywhere. He opened the hood and steam billowed out. Transmission fluid had been sprayed over the entire engine. Bad news, man, thought Van Man. The rain poured down. Van Man kept his cool. He grabbed a flashlight and searched for the malfunction. Nothing under the hood. If Van Man was going to survive the night, he had to get filthy. And that's just how he liked it. But first he would take off his scarf. He was a dirty man, but he was no animal. He crawled under the van. He waded through the rain water and greasy muck. Fluids dripped on his face as he looked for the problem. Nothing. He had to get creative.
  The nearest store was a mile away and he needed transmission fluid. Van Man locked up the van and placed a sign in the window: "Van broken. Will be right back." He started the journey. It was a long trek. Wet and cold. Van Man walked fast. He was not going to make rehearsal. But he would persevere. He reached his first destination. Von's grocery offered four quarts of generic transmission fluid. He bought them up at five dollars a piece. He needed more and continued on in the rain. The Seven-Eleven had four more at six dollars each. He bought them and headed back out into the dark wetness. He marched on to the van. 
  Van Man arrived at his van an hour and a half after he left it. He filled the empty transmission with the fluid and started the engine. A spewing sound emanated from underneath. Van Man surveyed under the engine with the flashlight. He found the leak. He shut off the van and went to work. Thirty minutes passed and Van Man had the leak fixed and transmission filled. The van was back in business and business was good. 
  It was late and the rain did not relent. The Van Man was filthy and wet as he drove to the park. He dripped and needed sleep. The crisp fifty dollar bill had been spent. But the van ran, man. The van ran.

Friday, November 28, 2014

A Thanksgiving Story

  The Van Man ate the turkey leg. The saliva mixed with the turkey juices and it ran down his fingers. It dripped on the floorboard as he sat Indian-style in the back of the van. Alone.
  He was thankful. He had found the delicious half-eaten bird just sitting on top of all the garbage in the dumpster behind the grocery store. Van Man was only there to throw away his bottles of piss and there it was. The Sun shone down on the partial fowl like it presented it to Van Man. A gift from the gods, thought Van Man. He looked around. No one was near. Van Man grabbed the Turkey with one hand. He unloaded the piss with the other. He was definitely thankful.
  Van Man gobbled down the gobbler meat. He had found a shaded spot by a set of basketball courts. It was Thanksgiving and it was quiet. Soon, though, he heard a scuffle. An ado of some type. He thought it must be kids playing basketball. The scuffle became louder. Van Man peeked out his window. A Young Black Boy was being taunted and shoved by Two White Teenagers. This ain't good, he thought. A moment later, an Older Black Man arrived at the court. He screamed at the White Teenagers. They screamed back. The yells turned into punches rather quickly. The fight was lopsided. The Black Man beat up the Teenagers and Van Man watched on. He was impressed. The Older Man and Young Boy embraced.
  A police car arrived at the scene and Two Officers quickly approached The Black Man and Boy. They screamed for The Black Man to get onto the ground. The Black Man tried to explain the situation, but The Officers would not listen. Van Man became angered. the Officers pushed The Black Man to the ground. Van Man had seen enough. He popped open the sliding door and ran to the scene. The Officers saw Van Man approach and demanded him to halt. Van Man yelled at The Officers. He screamed that they had the wrong idea about The Black Man. The Officers yelled back, but he could not quite understand what they said. Van Man continued explaining that The Two White Teenagers were responsible for the entire situation. The Teenagers heard this as they gathered themselves by the fence. The officers screamed louder and pointed their guns at Van Man. This frightened him. He raised both hands to The Officers. It was a plea for them not to shoot. They shot. The bullets tore into Van Man's chest and he fell backwards to the ground. The Officers ran to him. Van Man stared up at the blue sky. His sight faded. He was sure he could hear some voice say "I thought it was a gun". Van Man grasped the turkey leg tighter., he thought. Van Man raised the turkey leg high above him. The Officers stared at the blood-covered meat. Van Man's arm dropped. He was dead.
  The Sun welcomed The Van Man as it continued warming the November day. The Older Man and Young Boy walked away. And The Officers pleaded to deaf ears. The White Teenagers rode away in the back of their parents' cars and all were thankful to be alive.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Goodbye Horses

  The van was dead. Again. The Van Man had forgotten to disconnect the battery before he turned in for the night. And he would pay for the lapse in judgment. That's life, he thought.
  There was no need to worry. Van Man was at the park he slept at and there would certainly be plenty of park-goers who would come along, able to give him a jump. There better be since his phone was dead, too. He had spent too much time the previous night perusing porn on his cell phone. The sleaze had drained it. That's life, he thought. Indeed, it was. Van life had a way of making a person lonely sometimes. There was only so much seclusion a Red-blooded American Van Man could take until it got the better of him. With his van and phone dead, Van Man felt very lucky that some bad shit did not go down in the middle of the night. Some riot, perhaps, brought on by the frustration that came with what had happened in Ferguson. Chaos that boiled over from anger and tension that had been built up for far too long. Hell Night did not happen and Van Man just needed a jump.
  The morning burned away and Van Man was still without a jump. He realized that people at the park were avoiding him. They had probably seen Silence of the Lambs and were hesitant to approach the van. Afraid that Van Man would coerce them into the back of the van where he would surely knock them out. They did not want to wake up in a cellar pit with Van Man above. They were sure he would dance around to Q Lazarus with his dick tucked between his legs. Of course, he had done the Buffalo Bill Dance once or twice when he was a younger man after watching the film. But that had been the early nineties, a much looser time.
  A Gentleman who frequented the park with his dog showed up and asked The Van Man if he needed any help. The Gentleman had a Prius which neither knew how to use for a jump start. The Gentleman borrowed his neighbor's Ford for the task. Van Man was desperate and conceded to allow a Ford to help his Chevrolet. Just this once..., he thought. The cables were hooked and the Ford revved. The van would not crank. A minute passed and Van Man realized the van was still in drive. It had been in that gear all night. It was not the battery, after all. The culprit was Van Man's irresponsible nature.
  The Gentleman said goodbye and drove away. Van Man was at a loss. He felt stupid and angry. But The Sun was up and warmed the land. He was alive and still had a running van. He could escape any riot that was thrown at him. But most of all, The Van Man was no Buffalo Bill. People still saw the good in him.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Poem From a Van #1

Where's The Sun?
That fierce, piercing lady
That Goddess of everything that hates
Intense when she desires him uncomfortable
She wields a whip of heat
That rips his clothes off
Where is She?

The city needs her
It's been two weeks already
That homeless guy
The Sonny Bono guy
He's cold and talking to himself
He really needs to be warm
And talking to himself

The women don't look the same
Without The Sun
They smile only softly
The glint is gone from the eyes
They must wear scarves now
Showing their tanned legs no more
Where is The Sun?

And he's cold as hell
In the back of his chariot
Wishing her back
It's only November
March is a long way away
Fun in the sun with his gun
Where's The Sun?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Nothing Easy In the Cold

  L.A. had a way of getting cold. And The Van Man knew it. A body accustomed to the Southern California weather could sustain righteous heat waves and a blazing Sun, but any temperature below sixty and one might as well be in Auburn, Maine during a snowstorm. The residents were always enthusiastic about the weather change, at first. The holidays would sneak up and the scarves, coats and toboggans would work their way out into the open. A few weeks later and dread set in. They knew that it would be a couple of months before the SoCal warmth would embrace them again like a good friend. At least midday seemed to always bring a sliver of cozy times, even in the dead of winter. L.A., after all, was a desert. And it being a desert meant when it got cold at night, it got damn cold. Especially for those that lived in a van.
  Van Man had spent the previous two weeks filming and rehearsing while dealing with a tremendous Cough. The Cough was an earthquake of hellish suffering and Van Man had been beaten by it. But he had not been beat. He had a plan. And it involved the van.
  After the filming and before his next rehearsal, Van Man had two days free. He used them for an excavation of his van. It needed a major cleaning and he recruited Big Jim the Irishman to help. The interior had been lined for thirty-five years with carpet and insulation that had not ever been changed out. Van Man had been breathing their decomposing fibers for three months. He had made a decision to help himself.
  The cleansing itself was vile. Hundreds of thousands of dead fibers wafted through the air as Van Man tore through the van walls and ceiling. Dirt and grime saturated the underneath of the paneling and floorboards. Have I really been breathing this shit?, thought Van Man. At one point, Big Jim uncovered a pack of Marlboro Reds from Nineteen Seventy-Nine. Unfiltered. The previous owner was hardcore just like the van.
  As they tore out the paneling and floorboards and carpeting, Van Man realized how much love the previous owner had put into the van. It was a custom job down to the windows and lights. Every inch of the van was perfectly designed to the specifications of the Far-Out Owner. Whomever he or she was, this was their one true passion in life. And Van Man slept in that passion on a nightly basis. Naked sometimes.
  The job was finished on the second day. Van Man rejoiced. He drove back to The Valley where it always seemed about ten degrees warmer. The night crept in and he stared at the newly-cleaned ceiling. It was cold. It became clear to The Van Man how warm the carpet and insulation kept the van. Oh well, nothing worth anything in this life is easy, Van Man thought. And maybe he was right. The Far-Out Owner had put a lot of work into the van to make his or her groovy passion come to fruition. Just as The Van Man worked hard to tear it down so he could maintain a healthier life as he pursued his dream. He thought about that as he shivered himself to sleep in the desert cold. March was three and a half months away.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Greaser

  November had snuck into The Van Man's life. He had lived in a day-to-day fog since the rainy end to October. The Halloween Hangover. A Samhain Siesta. The City of Angels had continued on without him and he needed to catch up. There were rehearsals and film shoots and construction gigs on the horizon. November seemed to offer kindness to him. The Cough did not.
  Van Man had been plagued with the affliction for far too long. And The Cough was not ready to give up its lung apartment. He choked and wheezed for five minutes. He felt the throes of suffocation. Don't let me end up dead in the back of a van, thought Van Man. Who he had asked was a mystery to him, but it seemed like the correct dramatic interpretation in the moment.
  Van Man needed money and the construction work was plentiful. Cough or no cough, he would work. The gig was a three-man job. Van Man, Big Jim and The Foreman were to build a ritzy tree house at a ritzy house in ritzy Brentwood. The gentleman whom had paid for the entire job was a father of three and former collegiate basketball hero-turned lawyer. The Father introduced himself to Van Man and extended his hand which Van Man shook. A few minutes had passed and The Father explained some of the things he wanted for the tree house. Van Man noticed that The Father had gnarly hands. Two fingers were absent on each. One hand had the thumb, index finger and pinky intact. A sort of everlasting I LOVE YOU symbol made famous by "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka. The other hand lacked the index and bird finger. It appeared to Van Man as a good tool to spice up the love-life with the wife. Van Man chose a name for the sexual hand. The Greaser. A hook for the bush and two in the tush, she's lovin' that shit, thought Van Man.
  The three laborers worked the day away. They chopped. They sawed. They hammered and nailed. Up and down and up the tree they went. Van Man inhaled the sawdust which he knew was not a good combination with The Cough. His thoughts turned to Father Fingers. What had happened to him? Had he been a college hoops star with an NBA dream only able to see those dreams dashed after one night out with the friends? One too many drinks by some asshole who drove too close to the median. In a flash, traumatic events unfolded and the future uptown lawyer would wake up on a hospital bed. He handled the doctors explaining to him that four of his fingers were mangled beyond repair and had to be removed. He would accept the fact that his basketball days were over. What he could not accept was that two of his friends were dead. It would be a tragedy that would haunt Father Fingers for the rest of his life. But he would be dedicated to making his life great. A law practice. A beautiful wife. Three wonderful children. And a Tesla.
  Yes, Father Fingers had come full circle and was alive and well in the midst of a better dream. One that took place in Brentwood. One that inspired The Van Man who did not even notice the rupturous Cough as he contemplated the journey of Father Fingers. Van Man worked away in the tree. He was anew. And he was glad he had all of his fingers.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Christmas In October

  The Sun was up and blasting its FM Raydio. The Van Man opened his eyes and realized he had slept in. He could forgive himself for it. It was Saturday and he had a full day ahead. His first stop was the Monrovia Pick-a-Part. The tire mount haunted him and he needed it. He needed the victory. Van Man would find the right one this time. He would be prepared.
  He cruised in his van under the scandalous Sun. Down the two-ten into the San Gabriel Valley. The Sun was not laughing at him this day. It was smiling on him. It's my day, he thought. He arrived at the Pick-a-Part. Van Man got the correct measurements of the back door and entered the gate. The lot was full as fork-lifts brought vehicles to and fro. He searched up and down the rows of shattered autos. Van Man turned a corner at a rusted-out shit ford and spotted the treasure. A single ray of sunshine beamed onto the slivers of glass at the base of the old Chevy Van. It seemed to sparkle. And he had found it. The Chevy tire mount. Van Man compared the measurements. Perfect match. Hallelujah motherfucker, thought Van Man. He laid out his tools like a surgeon and went to work. He WD-40'd the bolts just to be safe. Van Man applied the ratchet to the first bolt. It broke off instantly. The bolt was so rusted that it crumbled with a little torque. The second bolt snapped apart like the first and Van Man was half-way there. Two more bolts remained and it had only been five minutes since he spotted the van. Too easy, he thought. And he was right. The last two bolts became the dragons that Van Man would have to slay. Three hours later, Van Man had vanquished the demons and held the tire mount above his head. Victory. Van Man needed to celebrate. He decided to attend a Halloween party. After all, he had his costume and needed to test it out.
  The evening arrived and Van Man's van pulled into a grocery store parking lot. It was close to his destination and the perfect place to get into costume. First went on the Santa pants, then boots. He put on the Santa coat. Van Man wrapped the extra long black belt around his waist and tied a knot to keep it from falling off. He put on the twenty year-old wig and beard. Next came the hat. The final touches to his Bad Santa outfit were the cigarette that hung out of his mouth and the bag full of naughty and nice presents. Van Man looked at himself in the window of his van. Wonderfully nasty.
  "Look guys, it's Santa!", proclaimed a male voice. Van Man turned around and saw a car with a Father and his Two Kids. The Kids had an awkward smile. The Father got a good look at Van Man and drove away.
  Van Man arrived at the apartment where the party took place. He knocked on the door. The door opened and a man dressed as a girl scout greeted him. Van Man walked in. To his surprise, the Halloween party had a theme. Troop Beverly Hills. There were all sorts of girl scouts and even a Shelly DuVall. Where the hell is Craig T. Nelson?, he thought.
  There was no time to waste. The Van Man turned to his Greeter Girl Scout and asked if he had been naughty or nice. The Greeter Girl Scout told him naughty. Van Man reached into his bag of presents and pulled out a condom. "Here you are, sonny", said Van Man. The Greeter Girl Scout looked at the yellow-colored condom in his hand. "Um, thanks Santa..."
  Van Man continued on into the party. Some that were naughty received condoms. Those that were nice received condoms. The few that said they had been really naughty received pregnancy tests and lube. The party exploded from there. Drunk karaoke and piano players filled the night. One-thirty struck and Van Man knew it was time to leave. He said his goodbyes to Troop Beverly Hills and whisked off in his sleigh van.
  The Moon glistened high above and the van pulled into its spot at the park. The Van Man disconnected his battery and noticed a message written in the dirt. It said JESUS SAVES and he could only guess the Red Truck Couple were the culprits. They had been naughty but he was out of condoms.

A Halloween Story

  The Sun laughed. It was hot that October day before Halloween. The Van Man had decided that he needed to park under some shade. That was the only way to go. He found a spot under a big spooky tree by the library. It was perfect. He disconnected his battery, as usual, and laid down a pillow by the cooler of meat. Van Man stretched out in the back of the van and before he knew it, he was asleep.
  His eyes slowly opened. He stared at the ceiling. Van Man sensed something unusual. He looked out the side window. It was pitch black. Damn, I slept a long time, thought Van Man. He looked toward the end of the van and saw Two Children at the back windows. They stared at him. Van Man was frozen. Not from fear. From confusion. Suddenly, the Two Children pointed at Van Man and shrieked in horror. Van Man jumped up. He banged his head on the roof and nearly collapsed. The Children shrieked louder. Van Man was scared and needed to get away. He jumped into the front seat and realized that he did not have his keys. He searched the van floor. The Children ran up the side of the van and banged on the windows and doors. They shrieked even louder. Van Man found the keys.
  "Motherfucker!", screamed a male voice from afar. Van Man looked out the passenger side window and spotted a Large Man with a baseball bat across the street on a lawn. "Jesus", muttered The Van Man. The Large Man with the baseball bat marched towards the van. Van Man jumped in the front seat. He shoved the key into the ignition and turned it. Nothing. Fuck, the battery, he thought. Van Man looked over and Large Man with the baseball bat was closer. Van Man jumped out of the van and accidentally knocked one of the shrieking Children to the ground. The Child halted his shriek for a moment to assess his situation. The Child took a breath. Then he let out a wail louder than Van Man thought was humanly possible. Van Man ran to the front of his van and opened the hood. He looked around. People stared at him from their living room windows. The Children's shrieks and wails continued. He connected the lever to the battery and slammed the hood shut. Van Man looked across the street. The Large Man was gone. Van Man ran around to the the driver's side door and stopped dead in his tracks. The Large Man stood at the door and he held the baseball bat.
"You fucked with the wrong kids, rapist motherfucker.", said the Large Man.
"What? No-no! I'm not, listen, man--I didn't rape!", pleaded Van Man.
"You're dead, motherfucker!"
"No-wait! I was sleeping!"
  Van Man stepped backwards and tripped on the wailing Child. He fell to the ground. The Large Man stomped towards The Van Man as he crawled back. The Large Man raised the bat high over his head. Van Man was frozen in fear. The bat came down and smashed Van Man's ankle into pieces. The pain soared through him and he let out a wail that bested the child's.
"Kill him, Frank!", yelled the children.
  The Large Man continued to bash the Van Man with his bat. The Van Man screamed. The People were no longer at their living room windows. They had joined the mayhem in the street. The People surrounded the brutality. After Large Man finished smashing Van Man, he pulled out a knife. Van Man was broken and he spit up blood. Some of his teeth were gone. His legs were obliterated. Both wrists were in fragments. The Large Man handed the knife to one of the Children. "Finish him.", said The Large Man. The Children smiled at each other and giggled. They looked back at Van Man and stared at him with insane eyes. They rushed over to his body. ", no...ple...please...", begged Van Man. The Child with the knife stuck it into Van Man's throat. He gurgled in pain. One Child held up his head while the other sawed through the neck bone. Van Man's legs and arms twisted in agony. When they had finished, the Children held up The Van Man's head high above their own. The moon shined mightily and the celebration of Samhain had commenced. Halloween had come and the Children received their treat early.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Cough

  It perplexed The Van Man. It had invaded his life for a month. It would sneak up on him in the dead of night or It would disrupt his abilities while he worked the construction gig. He would swing an ax and hack up a lung. It was relentless and sporadic. A mystery. A hypocritical affliction. It came and went when It felt like a party. Van Man had traced the origin of the cough to an interlude with a friend over the course of three nights. The friend was Mr. Funny and he liked to smoke. Van Man would smoke with his friend. After all, his Mother taught him to always be polite. Each night was followed by hard labor which consisted of digging massive amounts of dry dirt. The dust clouds did not help contain The Cough.
  In truth, The Cough had been around for a bit longer than a month. Van Man seemed to remember a long, drawn-out fight with The Cough during his run as Aufidius. Six weeks of Shakespeare in a dank and dirty former punk bar downtown did not help subdue his affliction. That had been over two months prior.
  He had done the right things to end Its reign. Juice. Water. Over-the-counter. Under-the-counter. In-the-counter. Nothing squashed the gangrel. Maybe I'm dying, thought Van Man. He humored himself for a moment. He thought of many mourners at a service inside an incredible temple of worship. The scene possessed him. He thought of a Priest as he stood in front of the mass audience. The Priest spoke gentle words. A message of hope and forgiveness. Then the Priest became enraged and ripped off his shirt revealing a tattooed torso. He wagged his six-inch tongue at the crowd. AC/DC's "Gimme a Bullet" began blasting from behind the pulpit somewhere. A tribute band entered from the outer wings and played like they were performing at a dive bar on Bon Scott's birthday. Two ladies stood up from the crowd and took off their clothes. Naked, they rushed the altar and gyrated to the music. The shirtless Priest could not take it anymore and confronted the first row of mourners in an attempt to get people on their feet and to rock. He screamed into the microphone, "I CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE!"
  The day-dream ended abruptly as The Van Man began to cough again. It was a burden. He was not scared of the lingering Cough. Just concerned. Concerned because LA had a way of getting cold in the winter. A certain type of cold in the winter nights that killed off the homeless. Their bodies became so accustomed to the warmth of Southern California that when the chill arrived it caused a brutal shock to the system. The strong survived. The weak perished. The Van Man would see which one he was. Just don't end up like Pollard in Scrooged, he thought. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Morning After

  It was Saturday morning. Nine-thirty. The Van Man had not slept in over twenty-four hours. He was tired and drained. He did not even have the energy to roll out his sheet or put on pajamas. Comfort did not matter to him at that moment. He placed a pillow at the base of the cooler where he kept the meat and laid his head down. Van Man thought about the previous day.
  Friday. The Van Man had work at an estate sale. The house was full of Stuff. Stuff everywhere. Antique Stuff. Crystal Stuff. Fishing Stuff. The ravenous people really wanted the fishing Stuff. The door opened and the horde of Huns rushed in. The barbarians had their way with all the Stuff. Except for the Christmas Stuff which sat untouched in the living room. While the house was raped and pillaged, Van Man spotted a Santa suit among the Christmas Items. Maybe a Psycho Santa, he thought. It was an idea. The festival of Samhain approached. Devil's Night. All Hallow's Eve. The sale continued and the amount of Stuff in the house lessened. The Things found better homes.
  At one point, a Young Gentleman who really was not interested in the Stuff took in the view from the back patio. Almost instantly, he recognized the scenery. "Oh, wow, that's the bridge from Chinatown. Where Nicholson inspects the dry riverbed." Van Man was intrigued. He looked out onto the scenery. He knew that the former occupants of the house had lived there for over fifty years. They had been witness to the filming of the iconic picture. Van Man saw the bridge. He was moved. Van Man also saw the golf course that had replaced the riverbed. "Not a riverbed no more", said the Young Gentleman. He was correct.
  The work day ended and Van Man was off to meet the excitement of the evening. Twelve straight hours of horror movies at an all-night horror-thon at a little theater in West Hollywood. But he would have to hurry to beat the Friday LA traffic. Van Man drove through Burbank and over the pass into Hollywood. He realized he needed lots of caffeine in order to make it through the night. He remembered the theater. The seats were rough. No give to them. The caffeine would help. He decided on chocolate-covered espresso beans. They would do the trick.
  Four o'clock. He arrived at the theater three hours early. It was right across the street from Fairfax High and the Lions had a home game that night. They were one and five, but they would still draw a good crowd. Better to be early and get good parking, he thought.
  Van Man pumped change into the meter and disconnected his battery. He crawled into the back of the van and made himself an early dinner of raw broccoli and pepperoni/ham/spinach roll-ups. He made sure to throw in a few crumbles of Salt and Vinegar potato chips. After all, he was not an animal. Van Man finished his meal and waited on his friend and fellow all-nighter to arrive.
  Five o'clock and Mr. Funny arrived. He was Van Man's friend and they proceeded to walk to the gas station for snacks. Mr. Funny was a humorous chap with a tendency to chain smoke. A relaxed Denis Leary minus the profane. They arrived at the gas station. Mr. Funny bought his smokes. Van Man could not find the chocolate-covered espresso beans. He would have to see what the concession booth had. The two All-Nighters left the gas station and headed for Canter's for a quick bite to eat. Van Man was not hungry but he could always go for a coffee. The waitress had not had a good day and let the All-Nighters know it. A few times. She wanted a good tip. Something to make her day. Something to help her buy food or pay bills or whatever it was that she needed. A plate of fries and a soda and a coffee was all that was on the receipt. Van Man and Mr. Funny guessed she thought they were made of money. Mr. Funny left a couple of dollars. He figured she needed it more than him.
  It was finally time to go to the theater. The time was near. Van Man and Mr. Funny arrived to find Three Goons already in line. Van Man asked one of the Goons if the concession stand would be open throughout the night. "I don't know, good question. You should have come prepared", replied The Goon. The Van Man was quite sure that The Goon did not know he lived in a van which was parked twenty feet away. It was a van that contained all types of preparations. Food. Water. Pillows. Condoms. That dork has no need for condoms, thought Van Man.
  Seven o'clock. The line had become thick with All-Nighters of various sizes, shapes, sexes and beards. The Lions had started their game across the street and an energy was in the air. The doors opened. Mr. Funny and Van Man found seats and prepared for the evening. Mr. Funny pulled out his cache of whiskey shooters while Van Man pulled out his Kit Kats that he bought at the concession stand. Van Man did not want to drink booze. He had stayed sober for a few weeks. The solitude of van life came at a price and the drink's toll on his spirit did not come cheaply. Eh, it's one night, right?, he thought and poured a shot into his soda.
  The movies began. Twelve hours. Horror movies from various sub-genres. Classic Creature Features. Seventies Obscure. Mainstream Euro Cuts. Eighties Gore-Outs. Italian Fantasy. And even Pauly Shore. The night was grand and luscious.
  Seven-thirty in the morning. The screening ended. The All-Nighters filed out into the day. The Sun was wide awake and laughing at Van Man and Mr. Funny. Van Man drove his compadre home and they exchanged farewells. Sleep was knocking on both of their doors. Van Man drove north on Sepulveda. Back to the Valley. As he drove, he thought about the movies he had just viewed. Those films had not been screened in LA for over fifteen years. A few of them had not been screened since they were released nearly thirty-five years before. Van Man wondered what the audiences were like back then. Were they that much different?, he thought. Longer hair and muscle cars...and no condoms. 
  Nine o'clock. He needed to brush the coffee and chocolate out of his mouth. Van Man pulled into the grocery store and grabbed his morning utensils. He went inside and found the Men's Room. He brushed his teeth and combed his hair. Splashed water onto his face. Took a piss. He was together.
  Nine-thirty. The van pulled under a nice shade by the library. Van Man situated his tired carcass onto the floor of the van. He was exhausted and comfort did not matter. His eyelids wanted to close. They drooped lower and lower. Before the sleep engulfed him, Van Man noticed his toe as it rubbed against the Santa outfit he had gotten from the sale. He was happy and shut his eyes. The Sun was high and children played. The Van Man slept in his van, peacefully. The Halloween season had officially begun and he finally had a costume.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Return of The Monster Maker

  Things had a way of working out. That was the simple philosophy which many lived by. The Van Man was one of those people. The Monster Maker was also one of those people. The Monster Maker was a man of character with a Dr. Frankenstein soul. His purpose in life was to create. In his case, it was creatures.
  Van Man and The Monster Maker had become fast friends on a horror movie set years before. At one point, Van Man had lived in The Monster Maker's crypt. A home for the wicked. An abode made for the blackest of souls. Van Man loved it. Horror was the name and The Monster Maker played the game. But LA has a way of bleeding you out while The Sun shines its deceptive rays and makes everything seem so golden. It bled The Monster Maker. He took his bride and traveled east. Florida. The home of oranges and swamps and a genuine southern charm that intoxicated him. The Monster Maker decided he did not want to make monsters anymore. He wanted to make a family. And he did.
  In LA, Van Man sweated it out. His friend was gone. Much worse, however, was the dream had died for his comrade. Van Man continued on even without being quite certain of which path to take. He lived in a van. A beautiful van, but a van. He auditioned and he drank coffee and he dug dirt and he swung sledge hammers. On a Sunday, Van Man had an audition for a play by a man named Ibsen. Something that was pure. Van Man could have used something pure. But he had been on a mighty cold streak. The auditions did not come as much as they had in the heat of September and fear had set in. Am I done?, he thought. He went to the audition. It went well. They all seemed to go well.
  In the east, The Monster Maker had an epiphany. The "normal" life he had taken on with the "normal" job was not what he wanted. He appreciated the life and the people who could do "normal". The world needs some normal, he thought. The Monster Maker was not "normal" and wanted no part of it. He needed his fingers to mold and paint. His mind needed to imagine the gnarly and his arms needed to create it. He was thirty-three and he had just begun. The decision was made.
  In the west, Van Man earned some filthy money and philosophized about his place in the universe. The two things he did mostly. The phone rang. It was the Casting Director from the play and she offered Van Man the role he had auditioned for. He gladly accepted. He hung up and knew there was no need to doubt. He was good. And he wanted to be great. There was still time.
  After some time, the phone rang again. It was The Monster Maker. Van Man listened intently as The Monster Maker made official his return to the creature creation life. They conversed for a long time and touched on a number of subjects that ranged from the moral compass of their generation to the relentless spirit of a true dreamer. It was a good talk. It was better. It was a great one. The phone call ended and Van Man felt anew. He did not feel the loneliness that comes with the chase for a dream. He knew that his friend, The Monster Maker, was still in the chase. They were in it together and they were only thirty-three.
  Van Man relaxed in the back of his van. Dusk had settled into evening and Halloween approached. The Van Man had not a clue what his costume would be. But he was at ease. After all, things had a way of working out.

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Midnight Dig

  The Van Man was tired. Dog tired. He and the Irishman had worked the day away filling a ten-ton dumpster completely full of dirt and bricks. Van Man was worked to the bone and just wanted to get back to the park. He drove up Sepulveda and imagined himself in the back of his van with curtains closed. He imagined himself on top of the rolled out bed sheets and asleep. Sound asleep. But he was dirty and The Van Man had to get clean. The gym was his first stop.
  It was late afternoon. Van Man hoped that the locker room was not full. He knew better. It was Thursday and people in LA loved to work out after work. Especially on Thursdays.
  The gym was crowded, but the locker room was not. Van Man found an acceptable locker and then slogged his way to the shower stalls. His body was caked in dirt and dead spiders. The water splashed down onto his body. It was a miracle. Van Man got clean.
  Van Man got back to his van. He was happy. Being clean can do that to a person. He also had a wad of filthy money in his pocket. Filthy money earned from the filthy job. A wad of money had a way of bringing happiness as well.
  The evening progressed and The Van Man ran errand after errand. It was late and he had finally made it to the park. The van pulled in to its usual spot. Its headlights illuminated two people playing in the dirt. Kids, thought Van Man. He got out of the van and disconnected the battery. A nightly ritual of Van Man's. He realized that the two kids who dug in the dirt at nine o'clock at night were The Young Couple from the Red Truck. And the two dug in the dirt with a determination more fierce than Van Man and the Irishman had earlier in the day. The Young Couple seemed artistic in their approach. They nodded at Van Man and he nodded back. The Young Couple had sheets draped over them as they dug and created. They're on acid, Van Man thought.
  The night wore on and Van Man woke up every so often to peek out his van window. The Young Couple continued to dig in the dirt. Van Man's body ached. He needed sleep but The Young Couple fascinated him. At midnight, The Young Couple ceased their dig and went to sleep. Van Man knew they had created something psychedelic out in the darkness. He was just too damn tired to move. The moon was full and Friday had come. The Van Man slept, comforted by the lunacy that October brought.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Answer To Everything

  I HAVE A SMALL DICK, read the message written in dust on the Jetta's back window. Van Man looked down onto the car from his van's high perch. He was in the midst of Valley rush-hour traffic and the heat was on. The message was hard to read. He first thought it said I HAVE A SMASH DICK. He was not sure if that was shorthand for "smashing dick" or if it was part of the new sex lingo. Van Man had heard the new breed use phrases like "I need to smash" and "we smashed" when they referred to fucking. Smash meant fuck to many of the millennials.
  Van Man had worked the day away on a construction gig with Big Jim, an Irishman from Missouri with a shock of hair as red as the ass of Satan. The two dug trenches of dirt and chopped down trees with chainsaws. It was October, the month of horror. Van Man thought the chainsaw use apropos for the season. The day ended and the two collected their pay. Van Man said goodbye to Big Jim and watched as the Irishman got into his own red van and drove away. Van Man and Big Jim were van people. This was understood.
  The ride home was a brief history of time while The Sun beat down. Van Man's mind raced though time and space. All the way to the Big Bang and beyond. He was certain he was close to the revelation of the great mystery of life. It all came down to pattern and repetition. In the beginning was the Big Bang. But that was not the beginning. It was the end. The Universe had contracted to the most infinitesimal point. This point of space harvested incalculable pressure and The Big Bang happened. The Van Man grew more excited with the next revelation. Before the Universe contracted it expanded. It had been in expansion for billions of years just like it was in Van Man's time. And it expanded from a Big Bang. That Big Bang was caused by a Universe contracting before it. And so on and so on. Time and space expanded and contracted. Expansion and contraction. Over and over like a heart beat. And there was the answer. The Van Man had realized that he was a small part of a truly organic thing. A large beast of some kind. He and the Universe were similar to Dennis Quaid's pilot in Innerspace. Just a tiny thing that floated around inside an enormous being. Was this God? Did this mean there was a God? Was this the clue to how to save the world? Van Man was on the cusp of the discovery when a much more important discovery occurred. AC/DC had just released their brand new single from their brand new album. And it rocked.
  Van Man was satisfied with his discovery and he drove to the coffee shop to take in the brand new sound. The Sun gave way to the Moon and the Stars shined. The Van Man listened to new rock from old legends and all seemed complete with the world.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

All the Spiders

  October had arrived and The Van Man was happy. It was his favorite time of year. It had always been. A month full of ghosts and goblins and Ghoulies. He had a two-week construction gig and was two days into it. The job was harsh and taxing on the body. There was much dirt to be dug and slung into dumpsters. There was a plethora of concrete slabs and bricks that had to be lifted and moved. And The Sun was a prison guard. It  presided over Van Man and the Young Fellow he worked alongside. He could not help think of the film Cool Hand Luke. Gettin' wata' here boss, thought Van Man as he guzzled water from the Niagara bottle. Luke and Dragline slung the dirt and sweated and dug the dirt and sweated and lifted the slabs and sweated and pushed the wheel barrel and sweated. Van Man reminded himself that it was good money.
  The work was not a problem for Van Man. He could handle most anything. Then The Spiders came. They were mean and nasty. They were hairy and dangerous. They were everywhere. Under the bricks that were to be moved. Beneath the concrete slabs that had to be lifted. Inside the dirt that needed to be dug out. And they were hungry.
  When Van Man had been a young fuck, he had seen a film about spiders terrorizing a small town. Arachnophobia was the title of that flick. Good title. The spiders in that film killed and preyed and killed some more. That was the lesson that Young Fuck Van Man learned. And years later, Van Man still knew that was what spiders do. They like that shit, he thought. 
  Van Man could not escape them. The Spiders surrounded him as he worked. A cruel joke to play on Van Man. He worked harder and the sweat poured down his face. The Spiders would crawl onto The Van Man's gloves and arms and he would fling them off and bash them good with a boot or a shovel. The gig had become a mini war. They were ghastly in appearance. Some were hairy black ones with white skulls on their backs. Some were fiery orange ones sent from the Devil himself. And still a few more were brown ones and Van Man knew those had to be Brown Recluses ready to fucking kill him. They're tryin' to get me, thought Van Man. And he was right. Before the day had ended, a Black Widow was unearthed. And it was angry. It wanted blood. The blood of the man who disturbed its sleep. Van Man dropped the concrete slab and crushed the monster. 
  The weekend arrived and The Heatwave Part II was in its second week of box office reign. Van Man had spent the night and following day swatting away invisible Spiders. They were on him. He knew it. The ghosts of The Spiders had come to haunt him. Halloween approached. And The Van Man had not even thought of a costume.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Red Truck Civility

  The red truck had been at the park for close to a month. The inhabitants were young and innocent. Gotta be early twenties, thought The Van Man. He had watched their comings and goings and was pleased to know they were auto-dwellers like himself. He wondered the who's and why's of their presence. So young and living in a red truck with their little foo-foo dog. It must get cramped in there, how do they fuck?, he thought.
  Van Man watched The Young Guy leave and walk every morning to work at some pizza joint down the street. Each night he watched The Young Couple unpack their belongings from the back of the red truck and situate them in the front so they had room to sleep. They meant business and Van Man was proud of them. And he was not so lonely knowing they were there. The park had become a community and he was not sad that Mr. Bench had vanished into the lonely lost space of an unconcerned society.
  The Heat wave had been in full swing and The Valley got the worse of it. Van Man found that sleeping in the nude was the only cure for the sweltering fever. In the deep middle of one hot night, The Van Man was awoken to the sound of a Young Woman arguing close by. He peeked out of his van's back windows and spied a car parked right behind him. The windshield was blocked out by a sun deflector and he could see that the other windows were covered too. The sweat dripped down Van Man's concerned face. It collected on his chin and dripped down his chest. Must be ninety degrees in here, the naked Van Man thought. He crouched in the back of his van and peeked out the windows. After a bit of time, the Woman's voice became muffled and he could not make out the conversation anymore. It was time to go back to sleep. After three days, Muffled Woman was nowhere to be seen. She had stopped coming to the park. She couldn't hack it, thought Van Man. He was right.
  After the Muffled Woman stopped showing up, Van Man met The Young Couple from the red truck. They were under twenty-one and both had priors. But they were nice and sweet together. The Van Man was happy to know them. They were neighbors.
  From then on, Van Man would wave to The Young Couple whenever he saw them. They would wave back and exchange smiles. The Van Man thought to himself that in a world where people starved and children shot each other up at school and beheadings took place, it was good to know that there was still civility left somewhere. Even in the most unlikely of places. And it did not matter if you had priors or not.

Monday, September 29, 2014

People In Dark Places

  The audition was for some soulless advertisement and the pay was shit. Van Man questioned himself as to what merit there was in it. He debated to skip out on the audition.
  For years, The Van Man wanted the life. The actor's life. Auditions. The freedom to go to as many as he wanted. But he had imagined  that by the time he turned thirty, the auditions would be for more fulfilling projects. Perhaps for film roles of a noble nature. A police officer torn between turning in his drug-running partner and his loyalty to the force. An ex-con seeking redemption but finding love in a small town. A priest faced with saving starving children in the Sudan in the midst of a rebellion. Instead, he had an audition for a guy giving a presentation in a board room. Fulfilling it was not. Full of something it was.
  He thought about those starving children and the millions of other people just like them that would trade places with Van Man in a second. Starving, sick people born into shit. Horrible thoughts filled his mind. Flies and maggots squirming around on skeletal faces in the wastelands somewhere. Yeah, I'll go, he thought.
  He drove to Hollywood and Van Man felt good about himself. He was a decent man. He would do it for them, the people who were hungry in those dark, lost places in the world. The people who would never know what toilet paper was. Or tooth paste. The ones who were just happy to breathe. Yeah, thought Van Man.
  Van Man walked into the audition room and said hello to the scumbags. Fuck them, thought Van Man. He did the monkey-see monkey-do of the commercial audition and then it was over. The Director asked Van Man about the possibility of getting a haircut. Van Man explained that he would get a trim the next day and if they wanted him to get it shorter that would be fine. The Van Man drove back to The Valley. He thought about the shitty money he could make from the project and how it would help him pay for the thirty-five dollar haircut he would get. He did not think about the poor people lost in the dark.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Mr. November

  He was in the on-deck circle for the last time. New York City chanted his name. One last time. Once more he was ready for greatness. New York was ready for magic. A generation was not ready to let go. But change was on the horizon.
  A shirtless Van Man sat on the floor of the sweltering house. He was alone in a house full of Stuff. Items from some life that was not lived anymore. Relics of a past which no other person had a care for. Stuff. Things that remained because their owner was dead. Items that the owner's children did not want. Van Man had been there to sell the Stuff. He was there watching over the Things to make sure no person came to steal any of the Items.
  The Center Fielder sacrificed the Runner over to second base. Mr. November was up. The stadium was electric and thousands of light bulbs flashed. The Splendid Splinter made a deal with The Devil and it was time for Old Scratch to collect. 
  Van Man had watched him play for twenty years and now it was over. Twenty years. Two decades. Three years before Van Man had lost his virginity. In those two-hundred and forty months, Mr. November was a constant. Always the same. Something to count on. He was there every Summer and nearly every Fall. He was finished with one chapter and ready to start the next. Van Man seemed scattered every day during those twenty years. He looked back at himself and did not like what he saw. Inconsistency. He felt he had only just begun his chapter after all that time. And the Stuff sat in the sweltering house.
  Van Man looked around at the Items. They were once new and now were not. They seemed aged, scuffed, alone. The years had gone by and the Things had seen change, but had stayed the same. Much like Mr. November. One day, different people would come to buy the Stuff. To make their lives seem fulfilled. The Stuff would become happy again. The Things would begin a second chapter. The Van Man knew one thing for certain and that was he was not for sale.
  Mr. November crouched into his signature stance, toggling the bat as he got set. The Pitcher liked the sign and checked the Runner on second. The bat wiggled. The pitch came in at eighty-six miles per hour and Mr. November laced a single into right field. The crowd roared and babies were born. The throw home was not close and Mr. November had won the game. He had given a generation one last moment to keep with their past. 
  Van Man sat in the sweltering house. Alone on the floor. Surrounded by Things that scuffed but did not change. Mr. November walked the field and said goodbye to the fans. Alone on the field. Surrounded by a stadium full of people who unknowingly changed while they watched him play for two decades. The Van Man knew he was close to the answer, but he could not see it. The heat broke in the house and Mr. November walked away from the adoring crowd and into the locker room. The end is the beginning.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Another Day In Paradisio

  The last day of the heat wave and it was one worthy of Hell. The Sun would not go quietly. Brown-outs littered the Valley, from Toluca Lake to Encino. Somebody went crazy from the heat and put a college in Woodland Hills on lock-down. And The Van Man had another audition.
  He needed a headshot so he dropped in on a photo lab in North Hollywood close to the audition. It was a cheap place he had discovered which was good because he was dead-broke. Before the audition, Van Man received a phone call from his Father, The Hustler. A few minutes passed and The Father dispensed his racist views of football and life. Van Man was relieved when The Father changed the topic to movies.
"You got Netflix, dontcha?", asked The Father.
"Uh, yeah.", replied Van Man. He lied because The Father threatened to never speak to him again if he moved into a van.
"I'll tellya whatcha gotta see. You ever heard of Nymphomaniac?"
"Yeah, I have."
"Boy, lemme tellya, that's strong stuff.", said The Father.
"Oh, yeah?"
"I'm tellin' you, son, strong."
"Did you see both parts? There's two parts--"
"Volume one and volume two. I got both of 'em. Hell, I got the dvd."
"You've got it?", asked Van Man.
"Yeah, I got it for this ol' boy I know. Wanted me to get it for him and he never picked it up!"
"Well...that's good."
"Everybody gets nekkid in it, boy. Every one of 'em."
"I've heard."
"Great actors, too. It's got that, wait a minute, Stellan Stars--Staarsgard."
"Shia Leboof. Charlotte Ramplin'...", The Father continued.
"Christian Slater.", Van Man added.
"He gets nekkid, too."
"I know a movie you might like. It's a foreign movie--"
"That Blue movie, yeah, I already saw it.", said The Father.
"You did?"
"Already seen it."
"With the two French girls?"
"Yes. Damn, boy, don't you listen'?"
"Now, that's some strong stuff.", said Van Man.
"Not as strong as this."
  After their conversation, Van Man was beaten. He knew he would become his Father one day, perverted and old. He was half-way there. And it was time for the audition. Van Man had no idea of what to expect which is the way he liked it. In the case of the audition, all he knew was that his character was some type of Russian/European artist named Fred.
  Only a lone young actor waited as Van Man walked in. That was a good sign that it wouldn't take long to be seen. The Young Actor had sides. Van Man asked he if could take a glance at them to see what the scene was about. The Young Actor handed him the sides and said, "It's real wordy." Indeed, it was. The scene was three pages of dialogue and it dealt with the Ottomans revolting against the Russians and Fred's feelings on that. Fred felt "wary" in one sentence. No matter, Van Man would commit no matter the theatricality of the dialogue. He knew to have conviction in everything he spoke. That was the key to acting.
  The Director, Casting Director and Producer entered and introduced themselves. The Casting Director was American. The other two were not. Van Man could only guess they were probably from the Ottoman Empire. Young Actor auditioned first. The Van Man tried to judge his technique. He watched and tried to find something he could steal. Unfortunately for Van Man, The Young Actor's acting seemed unnatural and forced. There was nothing he found interesting in that audition. The Director and Producer did find something interesting about Young Actor and whispered to each other. They're gonna love me, thought Van Man. He slated and began his reading. Van Man was Al Pacino. He was Daniel Day-Lewis. He was Gary Oldman and Marlon Brando with a twist of Dennis Hopper. Van Man raised the quality of the wordy dialogue, gave it depth and was poised throughout. That's conviction, motherfuckers, thought Van Man. He finished the reading and waited for the applause. It didn't come. The two Ottomans thanked Van Man and asked The Young Actor to stay. Van Man left, got into his van and drove away.
  He needed ice cream. That would help kill the demons that had taken over his head. The demons always told him that he's no good. They came every time. It didn't matter if it was failure or success, they would find a way. But ice cream would help. The brown-outs were still in full swing and the ice cream shop was closed. The demons rejoiced. They screamed louder. Van Man needed a fix. Something, anything. He pulled into the coffee shop. He rushed in, set up his laptop on a table and put on the earphones. AC/DC blared and the soothing began. He had his fix. The Thunder washed away his sins and he felt better. There would be more auditions, he knew that fact. There always had been.
  As the day changed into evening, The Sun lost its control over the people of the Valley. The college lock-down was lifted. The brown-outs were fixed. And The Van Man thought about who might have Netflix.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The King of the Park

  The Van Man was not interested to know the homeless man who lived at the park. Van Man watched him sit on the park bench every single day. He looked dirty to Van Man. He also seemed very crude. Once, Mr. Bench whipped it out and pissed on one of the trees. In broad daylight. Van Man lived in a van. He had enough insecurities as it was. He did not need Mr. Bench as a reminder of how close he was to being on the streets and filthy. He made a choice to never look in Mr. Bench's direction. No matter how long they both shared the park. Mr. Bench seemed like a nice guy to Van Man, though. He acted friendly to the joggers and would count reps for people that worked out nearby. Van Man knew those people did not really want to interact with Mr. Bench, but they feigned niceness. Van Man would have none of that. He was well aware that a kind gesture to the right person could go a long way. And to the wrong person it could be dangerous. He did not want Mr. Bench to feel that it was okay to start up conversation with him or ask for money or food from The Van Man.
  One day, Van Man arrived at the park to exercise and enjoy his lunch of meat and raw vegetables. As always, Mr. Bench was seated on his bench. As Van Man got out of his van, Mr. Bench said something unintelligible to him. Mr. Bench pointed with his cane towards the pull-up bars. Van Man had his guard up and ignored Mr. Bench. Fuck him, thought Van Man. He walked to the pull-up bars and noticed a white shirt on the ground. It was Van Man's white shirt from the day before. He had left it accidentally. And he realized what Mr. Bench had said to him. Mr. Bench had made sure nobody touched Van Man's shirt. He protected it for him.
  The locomotive of shame rushed over Van Man. He's a nice enough guy, thought Van Man. After the work-out, Van Man smiled and nodded at Mr. Bench. He reciprocated the gesture and appeared happy. Van Man was sure it would be different now. He would offer a smile to Mr. Bench whenever he saw him. He was now of the mind that a smile went a long way. That is, until the next day. Van Man arrived at the park and walked to the pull-up bars. He did not smile at Mr. Bench. He ignored him. Van Man did not want to get too friendly. But he still thought Mr. Bench was a nice enough guy.
  Then one day, Mr. Bench wasn't there. Van Man knew his absence was strange. And unsettling. Mr. Bench never showed up again. Van Man would not allow himself to think about what might have happened to Mr. Bench. That would have done no good. Mr. Bench was gone and The Van Man felt alone.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Crazy From the Heat

  It was the fourth day of a tremendous heat wave. People must have died. The Van Man was sure of that. In the Valley, not even the ice cream shops got off easy. One that Van Man frequented lost its power due to a brown-out. Damn, thought Van Man. He wanted to eat his Oreo Salted Caramel flavor in the coolness of the shop. He had decided on a treat for himself because of the discovery that his Van had a flat tire earlier that morning.. He had to pay a hefty sum to get it replaced right then. The Van Man understood that when one lived in a van, one must keep it mobile. He drove away with a cup of ice cream. It was too hot to be outside. Van Man drove to what had become his favorite coffee shop. It was his place of retreat from the heat and his solace for writing. It was also a perfect place to shit and brush his teeth.
  He drank the coffee and wrote on the pages. He wore earphones and listened to AC/DC. Van Man found that he was more focused and wrote better when he listened to Rock 'n Roll or Soul music. That day, however, he found out something far more interesting.
  AC/DC grooved in his ears and he noticed: every single woman in the joint moved with the beat. Every one of them. The fat ones, the skinny ones, the black ones, the white ones, the yellow ones and the browns. The gay ones and the straight ones. It did not seem to differentiate. And it did not matter which song played. Bon Scott roared and the women moved with such perfect rhythm. They're struttin', thought Van Man. Even the baristas behind the counter seemed to break out of their robotic motions and come alive. The old men who sat together and drank coffee appeared as though they smiled. Had Van Man made all of this up in his mind? He considered that he might have gone crazy so he ripped off the earphones. The women no longer moved with the electricity that they once had. The coffee shop had become sad and boring filled with robots and sad men. The Van Man was sad and he quickly put back on the earphones. "Gimme a Bullet" played, Bon roared and the party was back on.
  The heat swelled in the Valley and people died. Power was lost all over. But at a little coffee shop in Toluca Lake, a party continued. The Van Man smiled and listened to The Thunder From Down Under. It was hot outside, but not nearly as hot as that party.

Monday, September 15, 2014

St. Charles and the Valley of Lost Souls

  The Van Man drove along Moorpark Street. It was night and the air was hot. He was tired and beaten. The Sun had beaten him that day. He had showered at the gym and was heading to the park to sleep for the night. Van Man was lost in deep reflection. When he came upon the intersection at Lankershim Boulevard, Van Man noticed a Young Man slumped against the statue of St. Charles. The Young Man's head was buried in his arms at the feet of the The Saint. The light from inside the veranda lit the scene perfectly for all traffic to see. And, yet, Van Man knew the scene was private and he should not look at it. Another lost soul, thought Van Man.
  The Van Man drove faster. He wanted to get away from the loneliness of the scene. North Hollywood became Toluca Lake and he was troubled with thoughts. Van Man was reminded of the eerie image he had seen earlier that day. A handmade sign had been constructed using a chain-link fence and white foam cups along Victory Boulevard. The foam cups had been precisely placed in the spaces of the links and formed the message: GOD FORGIVE ME FOR IT. What had he done?, thought Van Man. He didn't really want to know. He figured the less he had to think about it the better. And he was right. But Van Man knew there was another lost soul in the Valley, brooding in the darkness. One that was sorry to God for whatever unspeakable act they committed.
  And The Van Man drove on. His thoughts scared him that night. They were dark and dangerous, filled with remorse for a past he did not belong to and shame for a future he could not see. Van Man felt a kinship with the lost souls. He was often one of them, distraught and tortured. He remembered The Homeless Beauty and he could not bare it. She was a lost soul, too, he thought. Van Man did not want that for her. He wanted Homeless Beauty to find herself. If she could rise out of the ashes, then maybe there was a chance for him. He drove on.
  Toluca Lake became Burbank and he was close to his destination. But the thoughts consumed him. Was The Van Man destined to end up like his Father? Broke, broken and alone? Living out the end of his days in a motel? Van Man chased a dream to be a successful actor, just as his Father chased a dream of being a successful gambler. The odds were stacked against both. He drove faster. The thing about a dream is that it lives on hope. Hope is what separates the dreamers from the rest of the animals. His Father had lost it somewhere. Van Man was not his Father. He was something more. A better man. Perhaps, but he had yet to show it. He lived in a van and had not touched his dream. And Van Man would, in time. But not that night. That night belonged to the ones who could not figure it out. The ones who were caught somewhere between truth and fiction in the Fantasyland of Hollywood. The lost souls of Los Angeles claimed that night. And The Van Man was happy to give it to them. They deserved it.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Pick-a-Part Blues

  There were some things that The Van Man did not understand. And there were some things he did. In 1986, Van Man's Mother bartended at a little joint called Our Place. Van Man would often help her set up the bar on Saturday mornings. He refilled the ice bin, set up the bar stools and stocked the tables with napkins and matchbooks. He enjoyed those Saturday mornings immensely because after his job was done, Van Mother would allow her son to watch Cinemax on the bar television. Van Man was happy because, for some reason in 1986, Saturday Morning Cinemax only showed horror movies. That was something Van Man understood. What the Van Man did not understand was why Van Mother would not allow him to use the Men's restroom at Our Place. She only allowed him to use the Women's restroom, no matter how badly he needed to go. And he did not understand why a fold-out photograph of a butt-naked, muscular man was stapled to the restroom wall. Van Man felt uncomfortable as he sat on the toilet and looked straight ahead while the naked man stared back at him. Every time he had to use the Women's Restroom in Our Place, Van Man would never understand.
  2014. Los Angeles. And Van Man still found himself not understanding some things. On one of the hottest days of the year, Van Man strolled along the aisles of rusted-out vehicles inside the Sun Valley Pick-a-Part. He hoped to find a tire mount for the back door of his Van. It was a Chevy. Van Man carried his toolbox and searched. And searched. The Sun beat down on Van Man and the hundred other men who searched among the vehicles. He was careful with his footsteps. He did not want to fall victim to the broken glass and twisted steel that littered the grounds. An hour passed and he realized that there were only three Chevy vans in the entire lot. This was something he could not understand. And it was hot. The time passed and The Sun's reflection danced off the glass-covered dirt. Finally, The Van Man came upon a suitable tire mount and realized to his dismay that it belonged to a Dodge. He did not understand why he suddenly had a disdain for the Dodge Corporation. It better damn work, thought Van Man.
  Van Man opened his trusty toolbox and began the disassembly. The Sun shone its trusty rays down onto the Boys of the Pick-a-Part. As he worked away on the Dodge Mount, Van Man sensed something among the many men who rummaged through the rust and debris. There was laughter and lively conversation in the air. There was camaraderie. He thought that the Pick-a-Part might be a place where girls were not allowed. Maybe it was a Men's Club. The last vestige of a bygone era, thought Van Man. Sweat poured down his face. And The Sun was hot. When he had the Dodge Mount off of the vile Dodge Van, he decided that it was time to go.
  Van Man walked up to multiple check-out lanes. It seemed to him that there were no less than one hundred tired and sweaty men in the lines. All of them with pieces and parts of Fords, Hondas, Toyotas, Chryslers and the dreaded Dodges. But not one Chevy part. That was something Van Man could not understand. The lines were slow. For the first thirty minutes, The Van Man stood in The Sun's mean glare. An hour passed and he had closed in to the front of the line. Van Man noticed a Dirty Man in the lane next to him. Dirty Man had oil and dirt smeared across nearly every discernible part of his skin. Dirty Man also wore a sweat shirt and a pair of jeans that were just as dirty. Van Man did not understand why Dirty Man wore the hot clothes on the hottest of days. The Sun is laughing at this dirty bastard, thought Van Man. Dirty Man approached the Check-Out Clerk. He seemed to ask a question, then a commotion began in the line behind him. Van Man watched as an Hispanic Man yelled in Spanish at Dirty Man. He ignored the Man. The Hispanic Man became more aggressive. Van Man did not understand what he was screaming at Dirty Man. And he did not understand why. What Van Man did know, however, was that The Sun was somehow behind the commotion. Must be the heat, thought Van Man. 
"Nah, man, tell 'em he's gotta go to the back!", screamed a Young Man.
The Van Man understood that.
"Make 'em go to the back, he's gotta wait in the Sun like everybody else!"
The Sun was going to like that.
In front of Van Man, a Gentleman clapped and smiled. The Check-Out Clerk ushered Dirty Man off into the Sun. Van Man watched as the many Men, in their lines, smiled and joked in camaraderie. Dirty Man was sad. The Sun was glad. And the Hispanic Man muttered something in victory.
"Fucking Asshole..."
The Van Man understood that well.
  Finally, it was time for Van Man to purchase the Dodge Mount. He did so gladly. The Clerk gave him a free bottle of water, something to use against The Sun. Van Man left the Pick-a-Part and The Sun beat down. He drove in the stifling heat with a feeling of better understanding of the world. He reached his destination, the park that he frequented. Van Man was happy to have the Dodge Mount. He took out the Mount and held it up to the back door of his Chevy Van. The Mount was a perfect fit. Except that it wasn't. It did not have the right hinge fixtures. It was, after all, a Dodge Mount. He knew that the heat had gotten to him and he had made a mistake at the Pick-a-Part. The Van Man was frustrated, The Sun had won and there were still many things he did not understand.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Homeless Beauty

  The Sun beat down on the residents of Los Angeles with an anger. The Silverlake boys and girls hid their fair skin inside the coffee shops, emphasizing the fading of the hipsters. The Malibu beaches were filled with everybody but the rich. And in Studio City, The Van Man's Van pulled into the Mobil at the corner of Ventura and Vineland. He needed gas. He had run empty only a few nights before coming home from the 24-Hour Fitness, the night of his meeting with the Headless Horseman, and he had to sleep in Van Nuys. All night, frightened by the sounds of the homeless rummaging through garbage cans with his blade and bat by his side. He wasn't going to run out of gas again.
  Van Man pumped the gas into the van. Out of nowhere, a homeless girl approached him. In the few seconds that passed before their interaction, Van Man was struck for an eternity. He couldn't believe what he was seeing in front of him. He thought her beautiful, but Van Man didn't understand why she had oil and dirt smudges on her face, neck, clothes and everywhere else. Of course, he had seen homeless before. He had seen young and homeless. He had seen gorgeous women with no self-confidence, too. But The Van Man had never, ever seen a Homeless Beauty. Her soft features peered out from behind the dirt and smudge. Van Man was taken aback by her black hair and dark skin, she was a Roman Goddess he had never read about. He thought her the possessor of the softest eyes he had ever seen. And he looked deep into her eyes and could see they were destroyed, crushed. Worthless eyes. She was timid at first and did not want to ask. Homeless Beauty wiped a couple of loose hairs off her forehead and spoke.
"Excuse me..."
"Huh?", replied Van Man.
"We're trying to get back home and we don't have enough money for the bus ticket. Can you help us?"
"Um...I'm sorry, I'm paying with a card."
"Oh, okay...", said the defeated Homeless Beauty.
  She was embarrassed. Van Man could tell that. She turned and walked off from where she must have come. Van Man instantly felt horrible and began to justify to himself why he didn't give some change to the Homeless Beauty. He couldn't rationalize a damned thing. As he pumped the gasoline, Van Man thought about those eyes filled with worthlessness. He asked himself questions that he would never be able to answer. Was she swindled by the world? Did she come into it broken? Broken little girl from a broken little home on a broken little street in a broken little town and now in a broken big city. Van Man finished pumping the gas and boarded his van. He thought about driving by the Homeless Beauty as he left the gas station, but he couldn't even look at himself in the rear view mirror to check his hair. Van Man pulled out a single dollar bill from his wallet. He walked over with a smile to the Homeless Beauty and her Homeless Dude. The Dude just sat on the curb and stared blankly, straight ahead. Van Man thought that there might be something wrong with that Dude. Homeless Beauty looked over to Van Man as he held out the dollar bill. She smiled warmly. As she grabbed the dollar, Van Man told her he forgot that he had this last one. She was graceful in her movement as she took the money and sat back down with Homeless Dude. Van Man walked away and got into his van. He was sad.
  As Van Man cranked the grizzly bear engine of his van, he thought again. Is she on heroin? Did she start dating that broken Dude and he got her on it? Promising her broken heart the world, saying that the truth of the world is on the spoon...made of that stardust. Or maybe they got on it together. Fueled by the energy of new love and sex between fellow black sheep. But they discovered something greater than the new sex and love and laughter between them. The greater thing joined them even deeper. That greater thing became a Hellraiser Box and they opened it together.
  Van Man pulled out of the lot and passed the Homeless Beauty. He smiled at her and she smiled back. He knew she still had that little bit of whatever made her beautiful in the first place. He knew that she wasn't completely gone. She wasn't completely defeated. Van Man knew that her beauty, which she always equated with an art that was original to her soul, was still very meaningful to her. She probably even caught a glimpse of herself in car windows from time to time, very quickly fixing her hair so the owner didn't spot a homeless person peeking in their vehicle. As The Van Man and his Van pulled off into the heat and traffic of Los Angeles, he knew why The Sun was so mad. And he was sad.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Late Night and the 24 Hour Fitness

  The night sky cloaked over the sleeping Valley and The Van Man went to the 24-Hour Fitness located in the Sherman Oaks Galleria. It was late and he needed a shower. It was past one in the morning, which some friends had warned him was not a good time for locker rooms and gyms. It was the Witching Hour. Van Man strolled into the front lobby at about one-fifteen, checked in and headed to the locker room.
  Van Man was alone except for a short, burly, twitchy guy. He was about The Van Man's age and seemed just as inexperienced with they gym lifestyle as Van Man, for he had only just started using the gym for its shower and mirror luxuries. A few minutes passed.
" know if it's okay to wear shirts in the steam room?", asked Twitchy.
Van Man was confused by this line of questioning and replied with a hesitant mumble that sounded like "I'm not sure."
"I guess for guys it don't matter. I know girls have to, so I was just wonderin'", said Twitchy.
Then Van Man realized that the Twitchy Man was trying to ask if he had to wear a shirt in the steam room.
  Van Man grabbed his towel, which was wrapped around a container of body wash and a plastic bottle filled with raw honey. He knew that displaying the raw honey and body wash was a sure-fire way to attract unwanted attention, so Van Man kept them concealed as much as possible. The shower stalls were all empty and he was able to select his favorite one. Van Man was glad. After a few minutes, he noticed that someone else had begun to shower in the stall across from his. He thought it must be the Twitchy Guy. As Van Man finished his shower, he opened his stall door and found himself looking at a naked, old butt. The Old Man that the butt was attached to hadn't closed his stall door which made Van Man very uncomfortable and he walked away very fast.
  As The Van Man got dressed, he thought to himself that stuff probably happens a good bit because it was a gym. He walked over to the sinks and began to brush his teeth. Suddenly, the Old Man appeared beside him. And stared at him in the mirror.
"You have a beautiful face. Very handsome.", said The Old Man.
"Thank you.", replied Van Man with the toothbrush dragging across his teeth.
Van Man just stared at his teeth and hand and toothbrush in the mirror. The Old Man stared at Van Man. Then he was gone. The complexities of peripheral vision had left Van Man frightened. He hastily rinsed his mouth and grabbed his bag, exiting the locker room through the back hallway which he had never done before. Van Man didn't even know where it led. The Steam Room. He walked past the steam room doors and from behind one appeared Twitchy.
"Hey, man, you know how to turn on the room?" Van Man did not. And he was glad to see Twitchy.
As they stood at the doorway of one of the steam rooms confounded, Van Man noticed a sign on the door window which read: "STEAM ROOM CLOSED 1AM - 4AM FOR NIGHTLY CLEANING". Twitchy saw the sign, too.
"Well, guess I'm not steamin' tonight." Van Man agreed and walked away.
  As he approached the front lobby, he noticed The Old Man talking with the Front Desk Dude. He was waiting. Van Man walked to the front door as Old Man held it open for him. They walked to the elevators. Van Man decided he had only one defense and that was to pretend he was on his cell phone texting. There was a disturbing silence filling the air as the two men waited for the elevator. It finally arrived and they both got on. Van Man did not have enough time to push the button of his floor because Old Man had already pushed it. They were going to the same place.
"I'm sorry.  I didn't mean anything by what I said.  I just like looking at you."
"It's cool.", Van Man replied. The Mother of Van Man had always taught her son to be polite.
  The two men exited the elevator, into the parking garage and walked in the same direction through the rows and rows of empty parking spaces. Images of Disney's Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman popped into Van Man's mind.
"You're just very beautiful.  Great face."
"Ah, thanks, man."
"I bet you get that a lot, don't you."
"Yep.", Van Man stated.
"I got that a lot, too, when I was your age.  From women and from men."
Van Man could see his van only fifty yards away.
"It was the Sixties. Do you know about the Sixties?", asked The Old Man.
"Yeah, man. I've heard about the Sixties", replied Van Man.
  Then there was a beep. A car alarm beep. The Old Man was at his car and Van Man was glad. The rest of what Old Man stated to him would forever be lost in the Sleepy Hollow of his mind, but Van Man finally got to his Van. And he had remained polite.