Saturday, October 31, 2015

Give 'Em a Smile

  Morning traffic in The Valley crawled. The Van Man had a gig to get to and he needed the money bad. A drive into the Westside from Sherman Oaks. A piece of cake. He was to take Sepulveda. This was the wrong morning to take Sepulveda.
  The van sat still in a sea of vehicles. Van Man did not want to be late, but he knew everyone was going to be late that day. From the other direction, a car decided it wanted in on some of the slow-moving action and came to a stop at the van. The driver wanted Van Man to let her in. And she inched in front of him to make sure he knew it. Van Man had things to do and places to be, but he obliged. The car took the opportunity and promptly cut off the remaining three lanes to get where it wanted to be. Cars honked at the Woman Driver, but she did not care. What were they going to do in the slow traffic? Van Man knew someone would need a very large and fast machine to plow through all of the idling vehicles just to get to the Driver. Kinda like that crazy Oklahoma chick, thought Van Man. He was right, though. Someone crazy enough to drive the super plow machine would definitely be needed.
  A shuttle bus was now idling in the same position as the previous car and expected to be let over, so it could break some laws. Van Man was not going to let the Shuttle in front. He was comfortable letting the Shuttle get through somewhere behind him. As the traffic cleared and the van pulled up, the Shuttle pulled behind the van and honked. A small flame began inside Van Man. The Shuttle pulled up beside the van. Van Man looked over as the Shuttle driver stared at him and yelled in some strange language. The flame became red hot. "What?", asked Van Man and the Shuttle Driver continued to yell. The flame became a fire. "Fuck! You! Fuuuuck! Yooouuu!", screamed Van Man as the traffic opened up. The Shuttle Driver was dumbstruck that the man he wanted to cut off was screaming back at him. The van drove on and Van Man quickly cooled. Some motherfuckers got balls, he thought. He was not angry. Van Man felt good from the explosion. It had been a release from all of the coughing and hard times of late. The van slowed to a stop at the final intersection before the traffic loosened up. Van Man glanced to his right and spotted the Shuttle directly across from him in the far right lane. The Shuttle Driver stared and yelled. Van Man smiled like he was eight years old again and gave the Driver one more for the road. "Fuuuuuuck. Yooouuuuu", howled Van Man in a thoughtfully drawn-out way. He wanted to make sure the Driver understood exactly what the message was. The light turned green and Van Man drove away, chuckling.
  It was going to be a good one. The breeze was in and the clouds muffled the late October heat. The gig would pay him a couple of hundred and that meant he could eat. The cough was still hanging around, but nothing was perfect. The Van Man had a smile on his face and made it on time. There was not too much else to ask for.
 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Broken Sandals

  A quarter after eleven in the evening. The van drove on Beverly Boulevard, away from the sleepy downtown. It was a quiet Wednesday night and The Van Man had just wrapped another rehearsal. He was eager to eat a cheap taco and get some rest.
  The van turned on Normandie and headed into Hollywood. Van Man spotted a bum sitting on an old, discarded couch that was displayed on the sidewalk. The Bum drank from his bottle and spoke to invisible friends. That guy's got a party goin', thought Van Man as he reached for his snack of cheese balls. A delicacy he allowed himself to indulge in very rarely. Van Man found them for one buck. A dollar bag of cheese balls. There was not a better deal in town.
  The cough came, but Van Man fought it off. He was getting better at subduing the blackness. A red light at Normandie and Santa Monica. The van slowed to a stop. A vagrant tried to sleep sitting up against the steel-bar, front doors of a liquor store. The doors opened and a young Latino exited, disturbing the exhausted tramp. The Vagrant licked his lips and twisted his neck into a more comfortable position which looked very uncomfortable to Van Man. Green light and the van made the turn onto Santa Monica.
  In the distance, a police car flashed its red and blues and pulled someone over. A transsexual waited at a bus stop, alone on the bench. A man stood ten feet away and waited, too. They probably would not sit next to each other on the bus either. The van took Cahuenga and drove up through Hollywood. The back way.
  Van Man was tired, but strong. His sandals were falling apart with his sneakers not too far behind. He was broke. And he was alive. Van Man was acting and still had his city. Los Angeles nights were never uneventful. The cool breeze reminded him that Fall had arrived. Easy days ahead. Halloween crept closer and The Van Man was not, yet, talking to himself as he drank Thunderbird outside on a broken couch. Easy days, indeed.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Red Light

  For The Van Man, life was a constant search of perfection. He usually found it in the imperfections of the every day. A half-broken, yellow rose with a bee needling at the pollen or the homeless man with a shopping cart full of ripe pumpkins. But every so often, Van Man would be confronted with sublime flawlessness.
  The van slowed to a stop at the red light. The night was cool and serene. Van Man spotted her in an instant. She sat in her red convertible as it idled, waiting for the oncoming vehicles to pass. The convertible made the turn and drove by Van Man. Everything seemed to slow down, movements and time. The soft, blonde hair flowed back in the breeze. The moon glistened off the tanned, succulent skin. She glanced at him. He had everything he needed to know. The Woman was confident and a man-eater. She was not easily excited, yet, had a hint of vulnerability. Her hand held the steering wheel at the most elegant angle. Her elbow rested exquisitely on top of the door. "Wow", mouthed Van Man, lost in some hypnotic stare. It was no use. He was hers. She knew it. Their romance would be a beautiful nightmare. Van Man would have no strength with her. Whatever she wanted, whatever her desire. One does not say "no" to a being like that. Jealousy and alcohol would ravage his forties and she would spit him out. What a perfect way to ruin a life.
  The convertible sped away and The Woman was gone just as fast as he had seen her. She was down the road, on to her next red light of heartache. The October night had brought a glimmer of pureness, something ethereal. Thank god she's gone, thought The Van Man as he closed his mouth and blinked.


 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

A Conversation

  The Valley night was cooler than it had been for a very long time. A sign of impending Fall. The van rested at the park and, in the back, laid The Van Man. He coughed and it strangled. He was weak and his ribs ached from the wrath of the Black Death which controlled daily life. Sure, Van Man had felt alone before, that was natural for one who lives in a van. But this loneliness was different. A spirit of desolation. Van Man curled up on his left side and pulled a sheet over him. He tried to control the damaging barks.
  Thoughts swirled and the Devil Hound arrived again. It was nearly suffocating and he shook. His eyes were wet. A single tear rolled down the bridge of his nose. He was not crying. Van Men did not cry. Then he heard the sound. Outside the van, in the darkness of the park, a man hacked and vomited. It was Saturday night and Van Man knew this sort of thing happened to the best of them. A Good Time Charlie had one too many. Van Man coughed violently again. And, as if on cue, The Hacking Man hacked.
  The next twenty minutes followed that same script. Van Man coughed and cringed. Hacking Man hacked and heaved. They spoke to each other through misery. He's got it worse than me, thought Van Man as he sipped a bit of water.
  The conversation of coughing ended and the night quieted. Only the sounds of passing cars and blaring music remained. Van Man relaxed his body and wondered if Hacking Man was gone or still in the park, collapsed on a bench. He drifted away and was grateful. The Van Man had a van and The Hacking Man did not. That was something to truly be grateful for. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Overcast

  "Fucking young girls", said a black man as he exited his car. He had parked next to The Van Man, not expecting anyone to hear. But Van Man was the eyes and ears of western Burbank. An overcast morning, a favorite of Van Man. Shade was everywhere. He sipped his coffee, but did not partake in his usual oatmeal breakfast. He did not feel up to it. His body ached from intense rehearsals and incessant coughing. A vile hacking erupted and Van Man could only see it through. There was no way to fight the affliction anymore. It had become too strong. The demon bark ended and Van Man shook. He held the Styrofoam cup in one hand and his face in the other as he tried to regain composure. He would have smoked a cigarette if offered one, but that was a terrible idea. The coffee could only do so much.
  Van Man was exhausted from the episode and could barely write. It was extremely difficult to put pen to paper. He was a hundred years old. Van Man reviewed his bank account. Enough to get through the day. He awaited the unemployment check. Eighty-eight dollars a week was the amount which the state had granted him. Nothing, but still something. He had to find a job. But who the hell hires a consumptive?
  The library was quiet when Van Man arrived. No homeless outside the doors and no loud assholes within. That was the beauty of an overcast day. Van Man scrolled through the various job postings online. Nothing he seemed right for. He had a unique skill set that did not translate well in the present digital world. He was out of place, out of time. Like his taste in music and women, his ideology was old school. And the cough came again.
  Horrific and explosive, the hack was too much for the quaint library. Van Man could see he had bothered people and needed to leave. As he stepped outside, the cough worsened. He could see his van and was determined to make it. Every step seemed to elicit another avalanche of lung expulsion. He reached the van and leaned against the driver side door. The coughing had reached its peak and Van Man vomited onto the ground. He wrapped his arms around himself to control the shaking and to make sure he was still alive. Van Man looked around. No one had seen. He climbed into the van and drove away. He had read somewhere that hot water with lemon and ginger was a fine home remedy to alleviate coughing spells. The grocery store was his next stop.
  It stayed comfortably cloudy for the remainder of the day. Van Man laid in the back of the van, a bottle of pineapple juice on one side and the hot ginger, lemon concoction on the other. He was determined to beat the Black Death which engulfed him. He had no choice. The All-Night Horror Show was at the end of the month and The Van Man had his ticket.
 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Out With the Old, In With the New

  A new play. The Van Man was eager to perform again. Billed as a show about eroticism and fantasies, Van Man was intrigued. The theatre was located in an abandoned industrial section downtown. East of Skid Row, it was a place that housed many factories, once upon a time. An area that had made a great deal of money for the city, but in recent years became a poignant reminder of the Great Recession. Dead, empty brick buildings that longed for love. And then, the young and vibrant dreamers had made their way in. A revolution of creation had sparked the area back to life. Various bands rehearsed in the various warehouses and the street parking was ample. Van Man could dig.
  The artists were serious about their craft. They wanted to be provocateurs of the human condition, to open minds. Van Man craved intensity and the group delivered. There was also beer. A few of the Artists sipped from bottles throughout the rehearsal. It seemed a way to loosen up for the extreme nature of the production. Van Man was offered one, but turned it down. He was on duty.
  The rehearsal was fierce, the end came and the Artists relaxed. Van Man was spent. Being spent after rehearsal was akin to sex without cumming. It felt great, but it was a tease. The performance was the orgasm. So, he had a beer.
  Van Man said goodbye to the Artists and walked to his van. Bands rehearsed in the night. Inspiration filled the air, as did smells from a taco truck. He knew those lonely buildings were, once again, loved. Where manufacturing had been, creation stepped in. Like a dutiful son. The Van Man looked up as he drove away. The moon was close. It was a new beginning.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Epidemic

  The Van Man coughed. Then he coughed some more. The mornings had gotten worse, it seemed. Or maybe it was his imagination. Coffee always helped. He packed up his bedding, warmed up the van and drove to that spot of comfort. The coffee shop.
  The regulars were there. Like every damn morning. The suspicious, white hippie with his screaming black toddler. The lecherous geezer who hit on the staff. The pretentious retired group which always sat together and only spoke of the past, one that Van Man did not believe existed. He despised them all. Coffee helped him like them again. Van Man ordered his cup and left. Always the gentlevanman, he held the door for a woman. She coughed, as she entered. It was an unsavory hack. Van Man understood her pain.
  He sat in his van and sipped from the cup. A smaller car pulled up next to his van and parked. Van Man only took notice when the older man exited the car and coughed, loud and cruel. Van Man cranked the engine. It was too much sickness for one morning. He had things to do and he was uncomfortable in his most comfortable place.
  It was going to be hot the next few days and Van Man needed ice. The cheapest ice was found at the store where everything was under a dollar. He parked and, as he walked in, passed by a homeless man. The Homeless Man choked and coughed. A violent suffocation. Thoughts swirled in Van Man's mind. As he stood in the check-out line, he wondered if the Apocalypse had begun. The End of Times brought on by some contagion in the air. It was silly to think such things and Van Man purchased his ice. He exited and passed the Homeless Man, who stared at him with dead eyes. Van Man emptied the ice in his cooler and glanced back. The Homeless Man talked to himself.
  The next stop was the library. Whether or not the Apocalypse was coming, Van Man needed a job. The library computers were good and the joint had air-conditioning. The temperature was rising. Outside the library, a homeless woman slept on the ground. A sickening cough erupted from her and she stirred. Van Man entered. The quiet of the library would help him get his head straight.
  He sat at the computer and searched job sites. Monotonous and boring. Then he coughed. The demon wanted to consume him, but he fought back and subdued the evil. No sign of disturbance and no one shushed him. Always a good sign.
  It hit one-hundred degrees in The Valley, October was in full swing. The Apocalypse was not near, it had to be the Santa Anita Winds and smog. Everything's okay, The Van Man told himself. It had just been too much time in a van.

Monday, October 5, 2015

White Devils

  The rain had come. Surely, it was a signal for the oncoming Fall. The Van Man awoke in the back of his van. The temperature gauge on the cell phone told sixty degrees, but surely it was colder. He hacked and choked, then rolled up the sheet.
  The van revved and the engine warmed. A small, white spider dangled from its webbing. Right in front of Van Man's face. He swatted at the Creature and it fell to the floorboard. Van Man looked down and searched. It was there, somewhere. Alive. He had seen others just like it in the van. Ghostly, pale. Tiny Draculas that roamed his rolling abode. He had spotted them here and there, usually on the outside looking in. Along the windshield or the hood. Occasionally, one would be found on the inner ceiling and promptly smashed. Van Man was terrified of Spiders. They looked frightful. Every damn one of them.
  He grabbed a cup of coffee at the usual stop and sat in the van. He wrote the usual nothingness, thoughts and dreams. Another White Spider appeared. Van Man watched in horror as it crawled along the dashboard. He was frozen for a single moment. Then he was not. Van Man obliterated the Cream Demon with a used napkin. He wondered if the rain had anything to do with the influx of evil. Or maybe them's the breaks, living in a van.
  After the spider killing, Van Man decided to leave the coffee shop lot. He needed to find work and the library called. He rolled down the passenger window for air and a large, Brown Widow crept along the exterior of the door frame. Van Man, once again, froze. He watched as the Monster scuttled down the door side and, probably, underneath the van. That way it could eat Van Man later.
  He sped away and never looked back. He would be back the next day for his morning cup, unless the White Beasts got to him first. Van Man re-examined his being. There had been two, small insect bites on his legs. He had noticed them a week before and thought they were harmless. He was wrong. It was obvious what they were, spider bites. Had the cough been brought on by their poisons? He was no expert in the field of spiderology, or medicine, for that matter. Yet, it was certain that The Van Man was being murdered by the Spiders, one bite at a time.
 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Crazies

  Autumn in Los Angeles. Cold, early mornings in the van had begun. The Rose Bowl was filled with fans and The Dodgers were in the playoffs. People packed the Halloween stores, looking for frights to purchase. October had always been a pure source of happiness for The Van Man. It was the horror and gothic traditions, the scary movies and costumes. The one time of year most anyone could revel in their morbid fascinations and not feel like a weird fuck. Unadulterated escapism from the mundane life. Pumpkins, displayed at grocery marts, begged to be carved. Macabre imagery knifed into their chosen front side. There was an all-night horror show at the end of the month and Van Man was determined to go. But the Cough had persisted and would not leave until one of them was dead. Hacking all night in a crowded theater was no way to make friends, so Van Man decided to use the government's help.
  He made preparations with California's free healthcare organization. Medical care for the state's poor. Medi-Cal. How clever. Van Man made the calls and asked the questions. When the time came for him to make the appointment, he was informed that the physician assigned to him was actually a pediatrician. A case of simple mix-up. There would be more calls and hours of holding, but a new doctor was found. Unfortunately, Van Man was not allowed to see the new doctor until November. Shit happens, he thought as a homeless man talked to himself in the distance. Van Man wondered how the crazy ones managed? Who takes care of the insane street people? The ones that had dialogue with benches and crossed busy streets because they were invisible. Or worse. At intersections, windows are rolled up for those people, not down. They could not make phone calls for sickness, there were no more pay phones. Van Man decided he could tough it out. It was not as bad as being crazy.
  The Halloween season had a way of masking the ugliness. As he entered the library to use the restroom, Van Man walked by a dirty woman on the ground. She screamed a song at the top of her lungs and smoked a cigarette. He had seen her many times. But that was the loosest. There was a midnight showing of The Exorcist in Hollywood and he thought about giving a call to a friend. The Van Man had always found it easier to cope with the horrors of the real world by partaking in the horrors on a movie screen.