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.