Scourge and Transparency

The Rise and Fall of Advanced Social Journalism during the Early Twenty-First Century

Post-Secondary Education Is A God Damn Joke

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At the young yet somewhat experienced age of 28 (going on 29) I have finally received an undergraduate honours’ degree. My major was political science; it took me about five years and I entered university after getting a college diploma in journalism. I now have somewhere around twenty-five thousand dollars in debt from student loans and just got back from an interview to wash dishes at minimum wage for three days a week. In short: I have wasted a shit tone of money and time on something completely and utterly worthless. What follows is a list of my detailed grievances as well as a warning for anyone about to enter a post-secondary institution and a big “GO FUCK YOURSELF” to all those involved in academia.  

First off when I was naïve enough to register for school I was told by countless acquaintances, friends and relatives a plethora of misinformation, ignorance and otherwise fucking bullshit. So many people said these exact words to me “you have to go to school (university or college)” or “you should study what you like.” I was a big enough idiot to take their guidance.  It’s obvious from my current job hunting that I never had to go to school and as for the second quote – I should have realized that what I actually like is to sit on my fucking ass all day! What they should have said instead of “like”is “tolerate” and if I had heard that I would not have wasted time and money and just kept going from dead-end up job to the next or looked for an occupation where I could slack off enough and still get benefits. Having said this I do – or did – like writing (hence journalism) as well as politics when I was registering for school, however,  one does not get the some sort of quality of education or certification when taking courses in these broad topics as one would in studying to become a lawyer, doctor or engineer.

I’m going to sum up at least seventy-five percent of every course outline (syllabus or what-the-fuck it’s called!) for every course I was required to take in political science at university. For each class one academic essay was to be written from about 10 to 20 pages on something vaguely related to the course over a period of 4 months and there was either an exam – that consistently mostly of a single essay question – and/or a presentation on something vaguely related to the course. These projects were then marked – and I am convinced of this – in at best a completely subjective manner or more than likely arbitrarily by an individual (teacher assistant or professor) whose only qualification was that they had written more of these bullshit meaningless essays than those you are submitting them. I would compare the marking of an academic essay to that of a movie review. Someone who is “educated” in the field gives their opinion of a product with absolutely no scientific calculation and justification for the difference between an A- and a B+ or an explanation for exactly how many marks was lost for not using italics properly on a god damn fucking footnote!

Here is how I wrote every essay I submitted at university – I picked a bullshit subject that seemed easy, searched the key words in a database, found quotes in other bullshit essays that were long, took up space and agreed with my prejudices, slapped the quotes in my paper and reiterated the same points over and over again until I reached the number of pages required. This could all be accomplished in a matter of a few hours. I did not learn from the subject under review nor was I required to. For many of my courses I was forced to provide a hard copy of this drivel with complete disregard for the environment, the cost of printing and the obvious ability many of us have to read off a screen.  Like I said – most of the marking was arbitrary and I was usually lucky enough for the wheel to spin to my advantage.  I got mostly As or Bs and some Cs. I learned early on that working hard on an essay, speaking with the TA or prof about your thesis and actually researching a subject could end you up with a C- just as much as pulling 10 pages out of your ass the night before it’s due could get you an A.

If you’re still considering putting down five grand a year to study humanities or social sciences, or what-the-shit majors like history or political science fall under, allow me to defecate in a more narrow way on how a course in subjects like these will go. In my intro to political science class I did not understand ONE FUCKING WORD that the prof was saying – he might as well have been farting the entire time and I could have learned more from him. I got an A in the course… The professors also like to list off these “required readings” on the course outline. This by no means what-so-fucking ever has you obligated to read every page of the book. In fact I gave up on spending EXTRA money on these extremely expensive and absolutely worthless soft cover boring pieces of shit after a couple of years. The professors are often nice enough to detail what pages “need” to be read for each lecture and I do not recall in my first naïve and ignorant years of university ever being “required” to read  more than eve half any given book – however we were supposed to purchase the entire thing anyway. As matter of bitter fact I remember a course in which I was horseshit dumb enough to purchase only half the required readings and pay attention in class and to my common person surprise the only single instance when THREE BOOKS TOTALLY OVER 20 DOLLARS EACH was even mentioned was on an optional question on an exam in which the student was asked to pick one of the three books to discuss!! What needs to be understood is that professors have no ethical boundaries – they something is “required,” students buy more money after tuition and the prof throws it out the window.  Of course the university hands out these little customer review sheets when each course is finished – the answers of which are kept secret from future students and serve no purpose to those currently enrolled whose grade depends solely on the mood and personality of the “intellectual” who will mark their paper.

At this point I am assuming that many of you would call me a pessimist or even a cynic. To you I say why don’t you throw 25 grand and 7 years of your life down the fucking toilet so you can earn minimum wage and then look at the glass half fucking full!! I’ve heard a lot of people and pupils say “well you learned a lot about research and writing at university” which is bull-fucking-shit because all I did was rap words around quotes and then repeat myself over-and-over again. There is not one god damn occupation (outside of the ivory tower of academia) that pays someone full time wages to write an essay every four months. University gives you nothing to bring to the work force – N-O-T-H-I-N-G! I’ve also heard the argument that “employers” are now looking for people with more than just an undergrad degree because so many people have them these days. To this I say “What fucking ‘employers’? Who are they? For what kind of work? And are they so dumb to believe that even higher education would somehow qualify you for the real world?!” If writing  pointless 10-20 page essays for years wasn’t enough “education” what in god’s fucking green earth is writing an 50-100 pages of boring ass crap going to do for me?! For fuck’s sake I was never even taught to write a memo or been subject to a 40 hour work week!

Is the whole work force just transfixed on this façade?  A piece of paper on the wall? Behind it which exists a waste of time and money…The prejudices of the world flummox me. So many people are impressed by honours degrees, master’s degrees and phds – they are about as hollow and gabbing as the soul and vagina of a heroin addicted dime store hooker! I learned and experienced nothing in university that I could not have picked up on the internet for absolutely free. And that framed piece of toilet paper on my wall should not have cost me – or the taxpayers – anything!

And while many like to suck university’s dick they seem to think of college (community college to the yanks) as something for the commoners or a bit of joke. However in my two years at college I experienced the equivalent to an actual job! Every day I had something new to do and it had to be done by the end of the day – I was responsible for people and to people on a day-to-day basis. I was not asked to maybe or maybe not show up for a lecture, or read or not read boring drivel every week and then come up with 10 pages of crap in four months. I had a serious and regularly stressful schedule – like a real fucking job! However I studied journalism at college which was stupid because you don’t really need a certificate in this to work in the field like you would in accounting or computer programming. In my defence I took this program because I was told to study what I “like.”

Now, I never intended to offend anyone who is or has studied at university to become a doctor or lawyer or gone to college so they could work in a trade. I think the people in programs like these might actually learn something. But what I hope I have accomplished is to piss off anyone who gets paid to write and mark essays at a university. I have also tried to explain to everyone that instead of paying to “study” abstract subjects I am vaguely interested in I could have read a book and used the rest of my money to buy a house, travel the world and have a lot of sex with hot hookers.


Fucking Amsterdam…

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Reclining on a mattress flat on the floor in a skid row bedroom. There is a dreary – almost balmy – weather breezing through the window. Syd Barret purposely plays in the background. I would never have tolerated this place if it were not for living off the shirt off my back in Western Europe for over a month.

Amsterdam seems like I good place to start: if Vegas ever fucked me, this Dutch city raped me ten times over like a slender shaved young kid serving an almost suspended sentence. After literally pissing sour Belgium beer for several days I walked around the so-called “weed capital of the world” looking for a pint under 5 euros.  On the streets of Amsterdam it is very easy to get talked into buying hard drugs. One of the many black gentlemen hustling got me to purchase a gram for 40 euros (a price I soon realized was popular).

Now – I was high and wondering through the Red Light district. I’d say I exchanged two words with some dude before we decided to binge together. I said, “what’s up?” and he says “I’m waiting for my buddy to fuck a hooker.” His friend walks out of a room right after our conversation shouting “God damn, I couldn’t cum! Do you wanta do some molly?” I say “yes” and mention the cocaine.

Long story short: it’s 7 am and I’m in a cutthroat hotel out of drugs and out of my mind. I tell these dudes I’m gonna make my way back to the hostel I’ve yet slept in to get some much-needed snooze hours. But they incessantly harass me to hang with them. Mind you I don’t even know these guy’s names. When push comes to shove they convince me by explaining that we’ll grab some beer for the time being and all will be right with the world.

So after being high as fuck till the sun rises over the canal you’ve got two anglophones with blue-ish snot dripping down their noses from ecstasy looking for a place that’s open to sell us a 2-4 so we can keep the buzz going. We eventually get some pilsner and keep drinking…and we get more Charlie….and more Charlie…or maybe it was M???  You can never be too sure with these European drug pushers. 

Well the next thing I know we’re snorting in my new best friends’ hotel room and they begin to pass out. And I can’t hold this against them considering we’ve been awake for about 36 hours and had nothing but drugs and alcohol in our systems.  But since they’re falling asleep I’m left with very little entertainment. When I look at these sleepyheads I realize I’m pretty sure I’ve paid for the better half of the coke we’ve got left. So I snort a couple lines, grab a beer for the road and steal two smokes out of their side pocket. Immediately I go downstairs and ask directions for a market I vaguely remember that is supposedly near my accommodations. When I arrive I wolf down some delicious French fries with mayo or something-or-ever and somehow make it back to the hostel.

When I awake I have no coherent memory of whether I arrived at my residence during either daylight or during night. Nor I am quite sure what day of the week and/or month it is. From the window view it is apparently dark outside. I go to the restroom to brush my teeth. The first man in the sink next to me I ask, “excuse me, do you what time it is?” and he bluntly answers, “I have not a fucking clue, man!” The next guy I ask the same question and he replies in a muffled accent, while examining his watch, “I don’t know because…I haven’t changed since my country….so sorry.” Fucking Amsterdam…and I spent five more days there…

Written by shanedantimo

January 15, 2014 at 12:28 am

Another Excursion

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Returning to Philly for New Year’s Eve seemed like a fun idea. I thought I’d get two birds stoned at once by dropping by NYC as well on my way back.  I kept pushing off my exact departure to the City of Brotherly Love as I engrossed myself in the bittersweet holiday spirit that accompanies visiting family in one’s hometown. It was one of those Christmases where one is able to surround one’s self for days on end in Yuletide cheer and then immediately be in loathsome moments of fierce family argument. No matter how hard you try to bite your tongue, pace your drinking and organize festivities who knows what’s going to come out of your mouth or into your body?

But enough about Jesus Christ let’s talk about the Devil’s birthday: New Years Eve. When I made it south of the border I was immediately disappointed that I would not be able to pick up any good cheap drugs. In spite of this upset I swallowed my pride and settled for some of those prescription anti-ADD uppers that seem to be so popular in the states. Every Canuck is overwhelmed by the many indulgences Uncle Sam has to offer. Not only are bars more abundant with better happy hour deals but there are also restaurants that often have cheaper and richer foods on every corner of the home of the brave. Thus, if I wasn’t go to get high I was certainly going to get fat.

Cheese-steak sandwiches tend to be more tourist attractions than an actually Philly delicacy, however I’ve had some of the best goddamn food of my life in that fair city. I checked out this deli I visited in the summer previous and shoved my face full of a concoction of hearty bread, salty cold cuts and bitter vegetables that almost gave me a boner. When I was leaving the establishment one of the patrons added the phrase “Be Safe” to his New Years’ greeting and this wasn’t the first time I’d heard those two words in Pennsylvania. I thought it odd that both the gangster Latino that sat next to me on the bus through New Jersey and the first person to sell me a six-pack of Pabst left me with the farewell “Happy New Year and Be Safe, yo!” As if they were trying to warn of some impending Philadelphia danger that I as a foreigner would naively walk into.  

My friends and I spent the count down to 2012 at a local bar and then made our way to a party. After drinking most of the day and helping myself to free liquor at the house party my awareness of what surrounded me was very much limited. The next thing I new I had my local friend’s house key in my pocket and was now only with people I had presumably met that very evening. At the same time I was hitting rails with a young lady on my lap and drinking champagne at a beautiful modern condo. I didn’t know how I got there but I was certainly enjoying myself. The girl on top of me asked if I wanted anything and I inquired if she knew how I could buy any of the stuff we were doing. She asked how much I wanted to spend – $40 seemed relatively not too high of an amount – and we followed some people up stairs. After a few lines for her and me in someone’s bedroom I went to make my way for the door yet was stopped and told to take the rest of “my shit” with me.  I had assumed my two twenties would have already been depleted but saw that I was still apparently and shockingly the father of a solid white ball the circumference of a quarter!

Needless to say one thing led to another and I awoke next to the lass I had met the night before. Her friends and me had a delicious gluttonous breakfast at a local establishment and drank our way to the Mummers Parade. I didn’t know what the fuck all those people were doing in those costumes and still have no idea what to make of everyone drunk out of their minds on the street. At one point I saw a guy driving a float take a swig out of 60oz bottle of liquor.  After 24 hours of heavy drinking, heaving eating and some fooling around I exchanged information with my femme fatale then met with my buddy on the other side of town before leaving for the Big Apple.

I only had about two days to kill in NYC and a lot of Charlie. I spent most of the time bumming around Greenwich Village and Soho always a little high as I went from bar to bar. I felt a lot like Lou Reed and was listening to The Velvet Underground in accordance.  In fact, as I was waiting to have dinner with someone I met in the East Village I noticed outside a used bookstore a beautiful coffee table book on the godfathers of protopunk themselves that I instinctively purchased. It would seem that events don’t always happen as one would expect but they can go be as exciting as they are regretful and there’s often a little irony thrown in.

In the end I probably cleaned off my credit cards only a few hours before crossing the border. I had met some beautiful random people, had some half-expected and very much yearned for experiences and got my fill of harmful vices – in other words: just another excursion. 

Written by shanedantimo

April 14, 2013 at 7:38 am

The Cape Fear

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I had not written a word until on my way out of Florida. And I have to admit I was somewhat happy to be leaving the state. The region is like every possible demographic and stereotype of America is crammed into one isolated and humid peninsula. There they have the rich, the poor, the very poor and the rich that are still culturally poor. I should ask the Floridians to not take offence here but who am I to tell people how to feel? – go right ahead and shit on me. My observation is partially based on 6 hours in an Orlando bus station where I expected my company to be Mickey Mouse but I got methheads instead. In spite of what happened in the foreclosure state it was all but a detour on my way to the bottom of the Mississippi River – New Orleans.
When I finally put pen to paper, while waiting at a roadside bus stop sitting on my bag, I took a look up and saw that I was directly beneath a palm tree. During the previous week I had for the first time swam in the ocean (although technically the Gulf of Mexico, still sea water nonetheless). People that grow up on the coasts always shit bricks when you tell them you’ve never seen the ocean – as if they’re unfamiliar with the Midwest or therefore assume that you are unable to even swim. I grew up near the Great Lakes and although it isn’t salt water the pollution has a distinctive taste and smell as well. The bus to the land of Cubans and crocodiles was a long 20-plus hours with layovers. Needless to say I was very irritable and groggy.
The reason I was stopping down that way was to visit my father. I was guaranteed some hearty free meals and birthday money – both of which were much needed. Unfortunately it is incredibly difficult getting through to my dad even face-to-face and almost like emailing a brick wall. I told him I was travelling coast to coast and could stop by his neck of the woods for a few days around the beginning of June. He said he was leaving Florida at the start of July but I could fly home with him – completely disregarding the clear description of my travel plans. Not only that, he spent the 48 hours I was there complaining that I should stay for another week. While sitting by the beach and having everything provided for me would be enjoyable, I had to move onto more exciting places – as scheduled.
Even though I had time to scribble in my journal, only moments prior I was worried I’d miss my bus and have to stay in Florida even longer. Despite having told my absentminded parent the date, time and location of my departure he coconsciously – or unconsciously – decided not to consult a map or arrange transportation to the bus pickup until minutes before it left. It seems my father was more concerned with me enjoying a “vacation” instead of realizing that I wasn’t on a hardly deserved holiday but on a pre-planned backpacking journey.
Instead of spending two days and two nights wallowing in some much-needed sleep, gluttony and time poolside I was dragged on an exhausting and stressful sabbatical. I was pulled through tours of neighbourhoods and beaches that all looked alike; woken up for breakfast earlier than when I would have set my alarm on a work day; introduced to people whose name and relation I instantly forgot; and more-or-less treated as if I had just become potty-trained. When I arrived at the condo after two nights on a bus without showering, shitting or shaving I desperately needed a good deal of time to get myself together. But after 15 minutes with the door locked behind me my father went into a panic; banging on the washroom and shouting because he thought I had obviously died. This wasn’t even the worst of it. While eating supper with some guests I excused myself so I could take a shit for the first time in four days. I had left some crumbs on my plate and instead of the dinner party departing after finishing their meals they all sat and waited for me to return from defecation. It was at this point that I informed my father that I was mature enough to be in the bathroom alone without worrying him.
The few days I spent in the Sunshine State were certainly something of a jarring experience. The miniature and moist vacation was squeezed between wild binge drinking and filled with child-like annoyances and pampering. It goes without saying I would have preferred more time to rest my head and less encounters at bus stations with people who looked like, and probably had been, arrested on COPS. Yet in hindsight it probably did me good to remove myself from a steady diet of crackers and alcohol in preparation for the Big Easy.

Written by shanedantimo

April 1, 2013 at 5:37 am

When In The Bay Area

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I was riding Greyhound up the California coast with a recently released Guatemalan sitting next to me. He could hardly speak any English and was very happy himself after leaving prison over problems with his immigration papers. I had become familiar with various hand signals Latinos use to communicate with gringos. This gentleman made an A-OK/circle with his thumb and finger to describe San Francisco.

The city seemed more downtrodden than I had expected, however, this could have been the neighbourhood I stayed in – for example I saw a man urinate in the middle of a busy street like he was spitting out gum. In other ways San Fran was demographically predictable – everyone and their mother was gay and there was tons of Asians. Only when one comes to town are they overwhelmed with all the media and mythology that has surrounded the area. From Dirty Harry to Full House; from the Beatniks to the Hippies; from Hard-Boiled fiction to Mrs. Doubtfire; from the zodiac killer to Vertigo – the list goes on and on. Another interesting point is that of the six weeks I spent on the road in the summer of 2012 the 4 days in San Francisco were the coldest. This corner of the continent is cut in some kind of separate vortex of romanticism and environment.

When one goes from coast to coast they notice the different ideologies along the way. People have been trekking west for generations and bring populism with them towards the setting sun. One sees this in the flamboyant attitude of those in California. Everyone is happy to express themselves whereas back east people are much more cynical in their old, crowded industrial metropolises.

I spent the next 72 hours on a steady diet of beer and complimentary bagels. Kerouac and HST have both pointed it out: if you’re on an epic binge you have to remember to eat and drink water. On the first day I awoke and felt like I was going to faint the moment I got out of bed. And then after walking along the beach towards the Golden Gate Bridge, past so many residents walking their dogs, I could barely lift a finger once I sat myself down. Nevertheless pure excitement and serendipity kept me going.

I had been laboriously reading Desolation Angels since Texas and just before arriving in town Kerouac was recalling wondering alone half-drunk through Chinatown. A situation I would by chance find myself in – although I wasn’t in the least bit lonely. A new a drinking buddy I made told me there was a plaque dedicated to father of the Beats somewhere in Chinatown. On the scheduled day of departing town I went to look for this commemoration. Quickly I was disillusioned due to the thronging of people and lack of description of what exactly to look for. Finally I gave up and saw a bar down an alley advertising happy hour. As I walked towards the establishment I looked down to find that I was standing right on the very plaque had I been seeking! Not only that, but the street was named after Keroauc and the bar I went to drink at was on old hang out of Jack and Neal Cassady right across from Ginsberg’s book shop! I even talked another enlightened traveller into purchasing On The Road.

The night previous I had met a lovely young German girl in a gay bar and it wasn’t the humping that woke the other hostellers but our hilarity at attempting to recover disarrayed clothes in the dark. She had easily talked me into staying another day in town and that evening we returned to the city’s oldest gay bar for its’ $2.50 beers – little did we know that that evening’s entertainment would come free of charge.

When we entered “the Gangway” the first thing we noticed was a Tranny drunk out of his or her mind in loud argument with an elderly man who seemed to be more-or-less unconscious. The transsexual then stumbled out of the bar shouting obscenities – past an old lady in a wheel chair with curlers in her hair – with no sense of femininity and hardly able to walk in glittery high heels. We ended up paying for maybe one drink each but got completely hammered. A moustached man with a slurred high voice and a constant childish giggle bought us far more intoxicants than we needed. Also surrounding us was a young Asian man with a head the size and shape of a television set and an older gentlemen drunk out his mind on some fruity concoction constantly repeating his astonishment and nostalgic towards my youth. At one point when Queen was being played all the men sang in unison to ‘We Are The Champions’. Based on the fascinating serendipity of my stay in San Fran I half expected Harvey Milk to walk out of the men’s room at any moment.

On my final day in town we toured Height-Asbury and after three days without a hot meal ate the most delicious Thai food that my lips have ever touched. I said a melancholic goodbye to my Fraulein and caught a bus to another town.

Blowin Out The Candles

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The people working at the Greyhound station in Houston weren’t very friendly or helpful. You don’t often come across an enthusiastic service person in the United States – aside from people working at restaurants or bars. I guess it’s because of low wages and having to live off tips. Anyway, it would seem the next bus going anywhere west was to Dallas. That day I had been hoping to catch an earlier route to New Mexico or El Paso at least. That day was my birthday.
I even had to wait a few hours in the Houston bus station before leaving. Although it was not all a waste – episodes of Gunsmoke were playing continuously over the monitor in the secured waiting area. I had learned early on not to take any shit from bus station security dicks. I had nothing dangerous on me and if they did thoroughly (or not-so-thoroughly in most cases) search my bag they’d likely find alcohol of some sort. So when it came my turn to be checked before entering the ticket-holders’ area I flatly told them they’d need to repack my bag if they wanted to see what was it in. To which the obviously underpaid security guard replied, “alright, go ahead.” Of course it wouldn’t be easy to drink openly for several hours at least. This pathetic worry was diminished by my surprise enjoyment of the classic Western series.
I also met a southern gentleman (well maybe not a gentleman but a southern man) who told me he had been married in Las Vegas not once but twice! when I had informed him that that was my next booked and scheduled destination. After arriving in Dallas I had hoped to switch buses that day and spend a night somewhere in the southwest before rolling into sin city. However after sitting on the coach eight hours and heading just as much north as west I decided to cut my losses and look for a cheap motel to spend my 27th birthday alone with some cold beer and maybe a meal.
This is not as sad as it sounds and interestingly enough the next 24 hours proved to be very eventful if not celebratory. I walked into a liquor store and bought a king can of something cheap and asked the patron along with the local guy you find in these liquor stores not doing anything but conversing with the person working there where one could find an inexpensive place to spend the night. Locals always want you to take public transportation or find something where close instead of walking. They don’t understand that to a traveller a 30-minute, 45 minute or even an hour walk through a place you’ve never been before can be a leisurely experience. They told me to keep heading down this one street out of the downtown area and the further I would go the cheaper the lodging would get. Just barely on the outskirts of the city core I noticed an oddly familiar street and hill that looked like something I had seen in a movie. It was not a crowded area at all but I saw someone take a photograph of the grassy hill and a section of the street. It was at this point that I realized I had unwittingly walked to the very point where John Fitzgerald Kennedy had been assassinated in November 1963. Obviously this was as good a place as any to drink a beer. So I sat up on the grassy knoll for a rest and read a few pages of Hunter S. Thompson.
HST’s book The Proud Highway had been my faithful companion for the past few weeks on the road. It was the perfect book for travelling. The back cover even had a picture of the author sitting on a backpack somewhere along the road in the desert. It’s a collection of letters written by Thompson to various peoples from the years 1955-65 – an early part of his career when he would have been around my age. While The Proud Highway read almost like a partial autobiography, because it was divided up into short letters it was also ideal for the low attention span of a spaced-out wonderer.
Eventually I moved on to find a place to rest my head. The area began to look like a place where they’d find a corpse on The First 48 on A&E. When I turned into a gas station, and bought a small cigar and glass bottle of coke, the operator could not tell me where I was or how far I was from anywhere I needed to go. This is the beginning of the Hispanic region of America. As the sun came down and I walked further I released I did have a “long haul” as the guy at liquor store put it. Exhausted after well over an hour of walking I picked up 24 cans of Miller High Life for $15 and finally found a $25 a night room. You know you’re in a classy place when they need to have a sign above the door that reads “no prostitution or drug use allowed.”
I spent the evening of my birthday with the fan on the full blast, stark naked with some cold ones. Kind of like Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now. Except that I also got text greetings from friends and watched a marathon of King of the Hill.
The first full day of my 27th year was arguably more self-destructive than mature. However, I did learn a thing or two and had enough of an unexpected and half-remembered time to make for a good story.
When I checked out I made for the grassing knoll again and talked to some conspiracy theory buffs about the history of the spot. Then I found a bar serving happy hour and drank some strong sangrias (regular sangria plus 151 rum). This was probably not a good idea since I had only eaten a rather disappointing Jack’n’Box breakfast on that very hot summer day. Another lone customer next to me was having his fill of food on the menu along with beers and whiskey. One thing I really love about the States is that people go to bars alone in the middle of day just to pass the time. I don’t know if it’s the price of drinks or the culture but that sort laid back indulgence isn’t practised enough Up North. I eventually started a conversation with the young guy over the similarity of our two shitty cellular phones. I quickly found that he was an Iraq War vet and when I told him that I had hours to kill before catching a bus to El Paso he was eager take me out for the rest of the day drinking on his dime.
I should have eaten some of the salty and cheesy dishes he had hardly touched so the booze wouldn’t have had such a lethal effect on me. The young guy didn’t care about money so he ordered anything he fancied at the moment. I, however, did care about my pride and couldn’t bring my self to speak the words “you gonna finish that?” no matter how broke and hungry I was. This, however, would have been the wiser choice. We went to the bar-infested end of town and got completely wickedly drunk. From what I can remember I had a good time. It was one of those afternoons when you meet a new person and ask every bartender “how long do you think the two of us have known each other?” to which they usually assume we’ve been friends for years. From spending an evening alone I had now met and got to know a perfect stranger.
When we really started hitting the vodka and beer hard my new buddy (whose name for obvious reasons completely escapes me) confided some of horrid shit he had seen and done while in The Shit in Iraq. I’m not gonna get into it here but let’s just say that people who have fought in combat have experienced things that have you view them with a mixed attitude of fear and respect.
I don’t remember how or when I made it back to the bus station but only came to in the middle of the night on some highway with a special issued military ring on my finger. When I went through my belongings I found missing the second pair of sunglasses I had lost on the trip and my personal bible: Hunter S. Thompson’s The Proud Highway. At this point such tragic depression hit that I was absolutely beside myself. I have tried not to give in to my obsessive side but when you fuck up and lose something that you felt was truly essential to what you were doing the only compulsion is to try and put yourself back to where you were before the shit hit the fan.
There was no getting the book back now but sunglasses could be bought at any pit stop. And because I was losing my mind over the wild stupidity of the situation I also purchased my first and only pack of cigarettes. Anyone who has got black out drunk, woke up the next day not knowing how they got there and feeling they had made mistakes will tell ya they prey on about how things were going so well till that tipping point when they went over the edge. I kept brooding about how I could have made things right by eating more or drinking something less hard. In the end one should realize: it is a lesson learned, don’t make any further mistakes in an attempt to rectify it and straighten out.
I had begun to become paranoid with worry that I could add getting on the wrong bus to my list of inebriated foolishnesses. Thankfully as I came in and out of sleep the sun rose to reveal the side of the road was filled with aridness and a bleak brown landscape. At the next pit stopped I walked off the bus with some black dudes who offered me their joint. When I looked around at the dry dirt and rust on everything I remarked “We’re in West Texas now,” and someone said “It’s desert from here on out.”

Written by shanedantimo

March 4, 2013 at 1:13 am

The Winds Of Shit

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Some summers ago I decided to take a short trip to some coastal cities I hadn’t visited before. I had scheduled to see Philadelphia first, with a layover in Baltimore, followed by a couple nights in Boston and maybe one night in Portland or somewhere. Most likely I would have a few days leftover to make it back to my cousin’s wedding in Southern Ontario. I also needed to reach Ottawa to pick up my only reasonable suit, bring it the 6-hour plus trip to Hamilton and have it dry-cleaned as well as make myself presentable in other regards. I had two weeks to do this all, which was plenty of time – most things considered. What I hadn’t considered was eventually not giving a shit about anything except the most basic responsibilities, coming into contact with some very interesting folks and a hurricane.

My first nights in Philadelphia were stereotypical. I did the regular tourist site-seeing: Ben Franklin’s grave, Constitutional Museum and the Philadelphia Museum of Art (basically everything one would do on a vacation to that city except the Old City Hall and the Liberty Bell).  My first of two nights in town there was a movie night in the hostel and I enjoyed some wine and watched an entertaining contemporary sci-fi of which the name escapes me. It should also be noted that I had a black 500 ml reusable water bottle that I filled with whiskey to sip that evening and continuously throughout my journeys.

I had learned some tricks of the trade on a voyage the summer previous. From going coast-to-coast I knew I only needed to take with me the absolute essentials and everything had to be as light as possible. The backpack was crucial as well as a flask to hide booze, a single pair of pants and little regards for socks or soap for they were easily left behind. My dollar store water bottle would prove to be a security blanket I would carry with me to various corners of the continent despite haphazardly misplacing it on several occasions.

The morning after a pub-crawl in Philadelphia I couldn’t find my flask but it turned up in the lost-and-found of the hostel with a few sips of whisky left in it. My second day there took me to the museum and outside its famous doors looking at the cityscape I got that sense of euphoria one gets when they’ve realized the distance they’ve travelled, where they’ve been and where they are. However no one can ever predict where they’ll be.

After some serious drinking and a disappointing cheese steak sandwich I moved on to Baltimore. I had heard many things about the city many of which turned out to be true from simply walking from the bus station underneath bridges to get to the hostel. On the other hand much of place was quite elegant. Like many US towns it’s just the wrong corner or the wrong area that is the real cesspool. I had booked one night here but when I saw that travel to an Orioles game had been organized by the hostel for the next evening I decided to cancel my bookings in Boston, stay two nights in Baltimore and go on to one or two nights somewhere else before moving back Up North. This change of planning made all the difference.

Little did I knew that Hurricane Irene was making her way up the coast in the coming days and would cause transportation between metropolitan areas to be halted indefinitely. For the next four mornings I would wake up partially still drunk quickly bathe, pack and run down stairs seconds before checkout to find out that no buses were leaving the area. I would then immediately re-check in to a different bed, rest and then drink again.

The evening that the storm hit the city had everyone hauled up in the hostel. Many Europeans hoped to spend their holiday in cities more glamorous than Baltimore and were morose do be stuck inside because of the weather. I had, however, filled my flask with brandy even though this hostel had a strict no alcohol policy.  I noticed in the crowded common room another young fellow pouring a bottle covered in a bag into a coffee mug. He offered me some of his wine but I informed I had my own and suggested before the weather got really bad we go out to grab some liquor to sneak back and drink the storm away. With the incredibly low prices of US booze we could easily get ourselves drunk and cheer up the other travellers with offerings of rye and coke. In spite of our generosity we were the only ones to really hit the bottle and were eventually blackout wasted.

The next morning I awoke in bed fully clothed with shoes on and completely soaking wet. When I came down stairs to find my partner in crime he explained that after getting busted with the forbidden liquor we took to the streets to try and find a bar open during the hurricane. While we were lucky enough to find such an establishment we were much too drunk on our return home to find our place of lodging despite being within a block of it. The umbrellas were blown away, the clothes completely drenched and the only person we found to come out with us for a drink turned out to be completely off his cracker. This dude, whom we left at the bar because of his queerness, came back wildly drunk and threatened to kill all non-American lodgers by waking them up with a flashlight in the wee hours. He was eventually asked to leave the hostel the next morning over-shadowing my friend and mine’s disregard for the rules. When we finally returned from getting lost in the hurricane him and me broke into the storage room the staff had put our confiscated substance in. We were then caught red-handed drinking from the bottle in a locked closet. This is all very much a blur. My fellow alcoholic with the wine in a mug remembers it better than I. He turned out to be from Philadelphia of all places and was in Baltimore on business.

The next day my new buddy and I went to another Orioles game and up in the nosebleed seats we discussed drug use. He informed me that he knew where to meet Charlie back in Philly and asked if I wanted to crash on his couch for a few nights. By this time I was long over due to race to Ottawa and pick up my formal clothing, get back to Hamilton, have the clothes dry-cleaned and get myself a haircut with barely enough time to make it to the wedding. But looking down at the baseball diamond after a few tallboys of Miller Lite and a hurricane behind me it seemed like the absolute right thing to do: go back to Philly, sleep on a stranger’s couch and do some drugs.

In the end the couch turned out to be a floor, doing drugs turned out to be a serious binge, and my second stay in Philly acquainted me with the city of brotherly love that I came to know in the many trips back to that fine town in the months to come. On top of all this I spent my final night of this epic journey in a shady hostel in Harlem NYC smoking a lot weed with some middle-aged women. Finally I barely made it to the wedding with a Zeller’s suit on, a large beard and not really a hangover but in constant state of alcohol abuse. 


Written by shanedantimo

February 15, 2013 at 11:37 pm