Wednesday, July 28, 2010



Monday, July 26, 2010


Once upon a time, the Midlothian turnpike continued a few yards down into a wooded area that eventually dead-ended at a tiny cemetery that is mostly hidden from view today, but too many teenagers parked their cars down here for make-out sessions. Too many Wiccans parked down here for midnight ceremonies. Too many Satanists parked down here for animal sacrifices. And then, there was just the group of kids who liked to park down here, get drunk, and deface graves.

Now, if you want to head down to Bachelors Grove, you have to park at the forest preserve across the street, then cross a fairly busy road, and then take the short path that was once a part of the turnpike through the woods to the chain-link fence that marks the cemetery. On the way down, you’ll notice one thick branch hanging over the path. Do you remember, from when you were a kid, the story about the boyfriend being hung upside down over his car so his girlfriend could hear his fingernails scraping the roof? This is where the urban legend started.

At the end of the path is where another urban legend found its beginning. Do you remember the story about the mental patient with the hook for a hand? Once again, this is the place where the story started. This is not to say that either story is true, of course, but this is where these stories were first told.

When you first set foot into this boneyard, you will first notice that everything is overgrown. There are no caretakers, and no one has been buried here for quite some time. Dead trees are everywhere, and some have even fallen over cracked tombstones. In fact, more than a few graves have been knocked over, concealing the names of those who have been buried here presumably forever. It doesn’t look like anyone has an interest in taking care of this place.

Need more evidence? Turn left and go to the double grave near the back of the fence. Notice anything? Someone has been digging in this grave, and no one has bothered to fill it in. In fact, the grass is already beginning to grow over the missing divot.

Take a look around at some of the stumps, and you’ll see melted wax from candles. These are from the regular Wiccan visitors. If you find the bones of small animals, they’re from the Satanists.

Through the fence at the very back, straight ahead from the opening gate, there is a hole through which you can step through and look across the tiny loch at the highway beyond. The surface is usually scummed over, so it is hard to tell exactly how deep it is. The mob knows, though; this was a popular body dump for them back in the day, or so the legend goes. It is also here that the two-headed ghost wanders, along with a ghostly farmer/horse team. No one can explain the former, but the latter apparently was dragged to his drowning death when his horse spooked and pulled him into the loch.

These are not the only haunts to hang around Bachelors Grove. There is the usual lady in white, a ghostly house, and back when you could still drive down here, some people reported crashing into a ghost car.

Are these stories true? Who knows? One might even point out that it doesn’t matter. This is one of the spookiest graveyards the Chicagoland area has to offer. Just be sure to not get caught here at night. No, not because of ghosts, but because of the police. They patrol the cemetery on a regular basis to keep vandalism down, and you don’t want to be caught by them after hours.

But if you want to come down sometime in the day, bring a camera. Most people wind up capturing mysterious images on film.

Bachelors Grove Cemetery
143rd St. and the Midlothian Turnpike
Midlothian, IL 60445

Friday, July 23, 2010



It started with a teeny-tiny lump on the inside of my upper thigh. I wasn’t very concerned; I get them every once in a while, usually if I sweat a lot after having just shaved my crotch. Either they’re close enough to the surface for me to pop, or they go away on their own. This one was a bit deep, so I figured that it would take care of itself.

The very next day, it had grown to the size of a baby’s fist—wrist included—and it hurt to do anything. I couldn’t walk, sit down, or do anything without this grotesque lump killing me. The only thing that felt good was when I laid down with my legs spread. Only then did I not feel any pain.

During these moments, I tried feeling this fucker out. It was literally hard as a rock. It had to be filled with pus, or something, but it was packed in really hard. You couldn’t see it if I was standing, but if I was sitting down, especially on the toilet, you’d be able to see it poking out from under my skin.

I remember thinking that this thing had to abate soon, so I started hoping it would just go away. It couldn’t possibly get bigger, right? And it had to stop hurting soon, because I hadn’t had a bowel movement in days. That couldn’t possibly be healthy. Not to say that I hadn’t tried, of course. It’s just that it hurt too much to sit down.

What shocked me the most was how hard this fucking thing was. It was exactly like carrying a rock under my skin. I could feel it move back and forth under my flesh with every step I took. I could feel it smoosh up against the chair whenever I sat down. The worst part: whenever I’d been sitting down for a long period of time, and my balls got stuck to the rock. Peeling my scrotum away from the lump was kind of like removing duct tape from a hairy spot on my body.

It didn’t take me long to realize that this thing was not going to leave of its own accord. My brother’s birthday is on St. Patrick’s Day, so I’d taken the day after off from work. You know, for recovery. I figured I’d see a doctor later in the afternoon of my day off to see what the fuck this thing could possibly be.

In the meantime, it was time to do what every hypochondriac in the country does when something goes wrong with their bodies: I went online. Because, you know, number one fear when it comes to a giant lump under one’s skin: tumor. In my mind, I was already assuming the worst. It wouldn’t be a tumor that would kill me. No, it would be malignant, all right, but it would be just bad enough to have to cut my leg off.

Hey, never have high expectations. If you do, you’ll be disappointed a lot.

I looked around a bunch, starting off with ol’ reliable, In no time at all, I had decided that I had a subcutaneous cyst. Sometimes, such things had to be surgically removed, but most times, all they had to do was drain it. This sounded a lot better than a leg-removing tumor, but I wasn’t going to get my hopes up. I was already trying to figure out how the fuck I was going to drive with my left leg. And since it was so high up, I knew I wouldn’t have a nub for them to put a prosthetic leg on, so I’d probably have to get around on crutches, or maybe I’d just get a wheelchair.

Then, things started to get uglier. The pain worsened. The rock got a bit bigger. And I started feeling kind of pukey. I would find myself hovering over the toilet, ready to break loose, but nothing ever came up. My leg started getting really, really hot, almost hot enough to cook off of.

Just about everyone at work said I looked like shit. I was sweating all over myself, I was pale, and it looked like I was going to collapse. I couldn’t take it anymore; I left work early to go to the emergency room.

After they took down my information, they took me to a room where they asked me to take my clothes off (except for my underwear) and put on a gown. I did so and sat on the cot and waited for the doctor.

Except, it wasn’t the doctor who came in but two nurses. Incredibly hot nurses. One of them was an easy 20 out of a 1-10 scale, and the other, while not as gorgeous as her partner, was still a more-than-serviceable 10. They each had a cart full of medical supplies, but everything was wrapped up, so I couldn’t tell what they were . . . except for the rubber straps, which were undoubtedly used for sticking needles into their patients.

And then I realized, holy shit. These incredibly beautiful women are going to see my pain-shriveled junk. And that is how they will remember me. Goddammit. And this is a considerable thing. My balls were still hanging at their usual spot, but my dick had shriveled up to the size of a cashew. A fat cashew, but a cashew nonetheless.

Luckily, they did not ask me to take off my boxers. They just asked to see the spot, so I carefully peeled my boxer leg up until the rock was exposed. The inside of my thigh was now a dark-red color, which it hadn’t been that morning.

“Jesus,” I said, and I explained the whole story behind the lump, as far as I knew.

Both nurses put on gloves and poked around the rock. Though their touch was gentle, I still felt jolts of pain go through my body. It took all of my willpower not to scream. Finally, after they’d had their way with the rock, they told me to lay back and wait for the doctor. I asked what they thought it was, and they said that I have an abscess.

What is an abscess? I hear you ask. Well, when there’s an infection in your body, your body (ever the efficient peacekeeper) sends cops (white blood cells) down to ground zero, where they barricade the infected area, causing a pocket to form. The infected stuff lives in here until the body finds a way to drain it off, usually by sending it squirting out of the skin . . . but my abscess was so far down, there was no way this would happen. The only answer was medical intervention.

How does such a despicable thing form? It could be caused by an ingrown hair, or a hair follicle gets infected, or a foreign object gets lodged into the skin down there, or there is some kind of trauma.

The rock was located almost directly on the crease between my crotch and my thigh, just on the thigh side of the line. Considering how I shave down there, I thought it was probably an ingrown hair that did me in.

The doctor came in, but only one nurse joined him: the 20. I’m usually not into blondes, but she was startling in her beauty. The ancient Greeks would have built a thousand statues in her name, and they would have worshipped her morning, day, night, afternoon . . . .

The doctor introduced himself and then described what he was going to do. First, I was going to get a dose of painkillers, and then they were going to make a tiny incision in my thigh in order to drain the bad stuff out. Then, after they got as much of the stuff out as they could, they were going to pack the pocket with gauze, something they called a wick, probably because a portion of it will be hanging out of my leg. The purpose of this is to soak up any more infection and allow it to drip out of me into a bandage they will then affix to my thigh. Then, I will be prescribed antibiotics.

Sounds like a plan. Let’s light this bitch up.

The nurse grabbed my boxers to pull them as far over as possible to give the doctor room to work. In the process, she grabbed my junk and yanked, nearly pulling me off the table. “Ug!” I gasped.

“Sorry,” she said. One of my balls had popped out, and she grabbed it—as if it were merely a grape—and shoved it back into my boxers. I groaned through my teeth. “Be careful with those,” I barely managed. “I might need those someday.”

“Sorry,” she said again.

I looked up just in time to see the doctor brandishing a needle close to my crotch. Instinctively, I threw my leg up to cover the frank and beans. Horrible visions of CEMETERY MAN slouched through my head.

“It’s okay,” the doctor said. “You’re going to feel a slight pinch. This is the stuff we give to people when we’re going to stitch them up.

Shit. Recently, I’ve had no less than three dentists sticking needles into my fucking gums. I could probably take this, right? I relaxed my leg and braced myself. And then the pinch came, along with a burning sensation. I started muttering, “Owwie, ouch, argh, owwie, owwie, owwie.”

The nurse laughed. “You’re doing fine, hon.”

I continued with my mantra of baby-pain-talk until the needle was out of me. “That’s the worst part,” the doctor said.

“I hope so,” I said.

“Pull his boxers back more,” the doctor said, and the nurse listened, yanking my shriveled penis with it. It felt like she was folding it into origami and trying to figure out where my balls went.

“Please stop manhandling those,” I whispered.

“Sorry,” she said.

The incision was surprisingly painless. It was done before I even realized it. However, when the doctor started squeezing my thigh, it was one of the worst fucking things I’d ever felt. Apparently, the painkillers can’t go deep enough, so I had to just deal with it.

It felt like I was getting a massage from the Incredible Hulk, and after each squeeze, a torrent of fluid came splashing out of my leg and into the pan they had between my thighs. When Niagara Falls stopped pouring, it sounded like he was squeezing a sponge rather than a rock. It was about that point when I realized he was actually getting blood from a rock, but I was too busy emitting a high-pitched EEEEEEEEEEEEEEE sound to let the doctor in on this little joke.

“Okay, we’re done with that part,” the doctor said. “Was that so hard?”

“I felt all of that,” I said.

He offered me a bemused look. I think it was his way of saying, “I couldn’t fuckin’ tell.” “We just have to put the wick in, and then we’re done.”

“Will that hurt?” I asked.

“Probably not.”

It did, but at least it was brief. “Put a bandage on him and get him on antibiotics,” the doctor said. “Good luck, Mr. Bruni. See a doctor in the next two days to check on the dressing.”

“I was going to see a doctor on Thursday,” I said.


I gave him the name.

“Don’t see him. See a surgeon. I’ll set something up for you. It’s possible that we may need to open you up and remove the whole thing surgically. So, see a surgeon.”

As he left, a woman in a powersuit came in, and I knew right away that this was the insurance lady. She quickly confirmed this, and she had me sign a bunch of paperwork, including a document that allows the ER to work on me.

“A bit late for this one?” I asked, nodding down to the area that had just been worked on.

She offered me a smile that said, “Just sign the fucking paper.” So I did. I finished up, and she was gone.

The nurse put a gauze bandage over the spot (which I still refused to look at). She then started putting a bunch of medical tape down over it. Then, just to make sure it would stay on, she started slapping it down good and tight. I began to groan again.

“We have to make sure it doesn’t come off,” she said.

“I don’t even want to think about how much hair is going to come off when that bandage comes off,” I said, an arm over my face.

She giggled. “There’s not that much hair down there.”

“Ma’am, one hair is too many.”

She laughed again as the other nurse came back in. The 10 handed the 20 a cup, and the 20 handed the cup and some water to me. “This is some Motrin and a Tylenol. It should help with the pain.”

I gratefully took the pills, but I was more interested in the water. Throughout the entire procedure, my throat was parched. Finally lubricated, I handed both cups back, and they helped me sit up properly in the cot, which now had the back up.

“Just relax,” the 20 said, “and I’ll be right back.”

Now that I was at the proper vantage, I looked down at my thigh to see the bandage, already going from white to a dirty brownish-red. My blood was everywhere. On my boxers, on the cot, on the floor. I saw the pan on a cart nearby and saw that it was almost full. There was at least a pint of blood in there.

When the 20 came back, I asked, “Is that all from me?”

“Yeah. And sorry about your boxers. You gushed too much. They were kind of cute.”

I didn’t know how to take that from the goddess of beauty, who had all too recently folded my genitals into the Gordian Knot.

“Okay, we’re going to put you on an IV of antibiotics. Let’s see your arm.”

She was on my left side, so I offered my left arm, squeezing my fist. “At least this shouldn’t be too bad,” I said. “I’m told that my vein is easy to find.”

“They are pretty big.” She put the tie around my arm and started to stick the needle into my arm. Except, it hurt more than usual. I’ve had some needles in my arm recently, and none of them hurt this much. I started my owwie mantra again until she said, “Shoot. Your vein collapsed. I’m going to have to go again.”

She moved to my other arm as I considered her verbiage. Collapsed? What did that mean? As she carefully examined the crook of my other arm, I realized that the only people I know who have ever mentioned collapsed veins were junkies . . . HOLY SHIT, SHE’S LOOKING FOR TRACK MARKS!!!!!

She didn’t find any, so she put the tie on my arm, and this time, she shot straight. I hardly felt it. She hooked up the IV and said that when it was done, I’d be free to go. I asked for another cup of water, and when she gave me one, she went off for a half an hour while I stared off into space. I sipped at the cup and waited, wondering if I should test my weight on my thigh yet. I decided not to.

The IV began to beep, and she came back to take the needle out. She had a bunch of paperwork for me, as well, including a prescription for antibiotics. Since the following day was St. Patrick’s Day, I thought I’d ask if I could drink. The nurse recommended that I don’t, since alcohol lessens the effects of antibiotics. Since I never want to go through anything like this again, I agreed with her.

She left, I got dressed, and headed for the pharmacy, where I purchased my pills at an ominous price: $9.11. It was a sign of the disaster to come . . . .

So, I went to see the surgeon just like the doctor recommended. This was after I had tried going back to work with miserable results. I could barely function in that place. I couldn’t even sit down for long periods of time. It was awful, so I decided to go home early, so I could sit at home, being miserable, while the rest of America was out on the streets, celebrating a religious Irish holiday with copious amounts of booze.

After a reasonable amount of sleep (because when you have a fucking hole in the inside of your thigh, right up there by your balls, it’s hard to find a position that will allow for sleep), it was time to get up and go to the surgeon. I waited an extra half-hour in the waiting room, and then I waited another half-hour in an examination room, before he finally saw me. He ran through the usual questions before asking to see it.

Here came the moment I was dreading. “There’s a lot of hair down here,” he said, “so I’ll try to go easy.” He then started peeling the bandage away, and sure enough, it was sheer agony. “Just one more strip to go. Hang on.” By this point, I was starting to wonder if maybe I would never be away from this hair-ripping bandage, but thankfully, he pulled the rest of it away and began his examination.

“There’s some good drainage going here,” he said, “but it’s not going quickly enough. I think I’m going to have to open it a tiny bit further, okay?”

“Okay,” I said. Doctors know best, right?

“Let me just see how deep this thing is, first,” he said, and he stuck a Q-Tip in the hole, which nearly floored me. Now I know what it feels like to be a gunshot victim in the Wild West.

He called for a nurse to help, and guess what? It was an exact replay of what happened in the ER. This nurse grabbed a fistful of my boxers and yanked to the side, and some of my junk wound up between her fingers. More gasps of pain. I was sure that when this was all over, I’d be able to survive anything the Spanish Inquisition had to offer.

“I’m going to give you some painkillers,” the doctor said. “They probably gave you these in the ER, so you know about the pinch and burn.”

“Um, those painkillers didn’t really help me out,” I said.

“We can only numb you so far down,” the doctor said. “Lay back and relax. It’ll be over in a second.”

I felt the familiar pinch and burn, just as I had before. I gasped, and the nurse had to remind me to breathe. “It’ll be better that way. And don’t move your leg.”

I moved just about everything else, but in my throes I managed to keep my leg still.

He pulled the wick out, and more stuff came gushing out. “We have some good drainage,” he said. “But this will make it come easier.” He turned to the nurse. “Give me a number fifteen blade.”

Number fifteen?! That sounds kind of big. My imagination started working in overdrive, and all of a sudden, the surgeon was Dr. Giggles, and instead of a scalpel, he had a chainsaw.

I refused to look, and once again, the incision was done before I realized it. I heard more splashing as more infected blood came pouring out. Then, he began to squeeze, and the agony returned.

“It’s okay, we’re done with that part,” he said. “I’m going to put a new wick in.” He held it up to show me what it looks like, and I was surprised by how much he intended on using.

“All of that is going in me?” I asked.

“Yep. We need to make sure you’re packed in tight.”

More stuffing. More agony. More manhandling of my balls, but this nurse was nowhere near as breathtaking as the other one. 4, tops.

The bandage was slapped on over the wick, and the doctor made sure that I was going to see him in five days. Then, he was gone, and the nurse was helping me stand up.

“Wow, you’re draining a lot,” she said. “You’re supposed to change the dressing three times a day, but I think you might need to do it more often. Here’s a bunch of gauze and tape.”

I looked down to see that another pair of boxers had been ruined by this fucking abscess. Before he’d left, the doctor suggested I wear briefs until this thing clears up. Too fucking right, I would.

“It’s draining quickly. Here, let me give you something to at least get you home.” She rummaged around for a bit before she came up with a couple of Maxi-pads. Super-absorbent. She slapped them on around the bandage, helped me put my pants on, and wished me good luck. The doctor wanted me on different antibiotics, so they were going to phone ahead to my pharmacy so it would be ready.

I went to pick up my new pills, and as I was reading the instructions, I was flabbergasted. It was demanding that I couldn’t drink caffeine. Which meant, no more Coca-Cola for me. Which is a horrible thought. And I couldn’t drink milk, either. And the most shocking of all: avoid the sun. Wait, sunshine has been prohibited?! What am I, a fucking vampire? Or that guy in Dean Koontz’s Snow books? Apparently, taking this pill and staying out in the sun causes sunburn in a very, very short time.

Fuck. No booze, no Coke, no fucking sunshine, not to mention that I haven’t been able to eat or shit in days. If I were ever going to commit suicide, now would be the time. Oh yeah, according to the instructions, I might feel suicidal impulses.

I hate abscesses.

I went home, where I was going to just relax and do nothing. Well, that didn’t turn out so well. I took off my boxers, which were saturated, to see the damage. The pads fell away, covered in blood, and I saw the bandage, which was absolutely, 100% full of blood. The stuff was dripping down the inside of my thigh. I grabbed the gauze and tape and ran to the bathroom to remove the bandage.

Remember about my hairy legs? Oh, yeah. Not pleasant.

I finally got the tape off, and the gauze stayed in place. I peeled it away from my leg and noticed just in time that the wick was coming out with it. With a grimace, I reached between my leg and the bandage to pull the wick away from the bandage.

It was in that moment that I realized just how big the incision had been. The doctor said he’d wanted to open it up a bit, but what I saw was a fucking five-inch gash. He didn’t open it up a bit, HE FUCKING UNZIPPED MY GODDAM THIGH!

And only then did I notice how much blood was coming out of me. It was all over my legs and the bathroom floor. I situated myself so that the blood would go into the toilet, but I wound up getting red streaks on the porcelain, too. Before long, the water was a deep tinted red, and gore was still pouring out of me.

Remember how I was supposed to change the bandage three times a day? I wound up doing it NINE times. It’s a miracle that I still have hair on my thigh. I also learned that if I put a gauze wrap around my thigh, it would take the blood a lot longer to soak through, and I would be able to tell right away when it was about to reach critical mass.

Jesus, this is what I have to put up with for two weeks?

When I went back to see the doctor, he noted that while the drainage was much better, not all of it was coming out. He blamed the ER doctor, who had made the cut at the soft spot of the abscess, which was at the top. As a result, a bunch of pus-y blood was pooling in the bottom of the pocket. His solution: “I think I should make another incision.”

“I’d prefer not to,” I said, considering how there was already a huge fucking gash in my leg.

“This one would be much smaller than the one I made before,” he said. “It’ll only be a little hole in the bottom of the pocket. The drainage will be much better, and you’ll heal quicker.”

“But that’s exactly where I sit,” I said.

The doctor shrugged. “You’re not going to get better unless we do this.”

Shit. “Okay, let’s do this.”

So now I have another hole in my leg, and it hurts more to sit down. I need bigger bandages, which means more tape on my fucking hairy thigh, which means more pain when I change the dressing.


EPILOGUE (See? It's not all old. This was written today, July 23.)

It's been a while since the abscess went away, but it remains on my mind nonetheless. Eventually, the wick fell out on its own, and the slit and hole started closing up on their own. For the longest time, it still continued to dribble, but all that remains now is a puckered scar.

Yet, every once in a while, I feel a bit uncomfortable down there. Maybe I'm sweating too much, or maybe there's a storm coming, but sometimes, I feel a slight sting where the abscess used to be. Whenever this happens, the memories come back to me, and I gnash my teeth and tear at my hair.

The worst, though, happened yesterday. As I was taking a shower, I felt a sudden jolting pain where the abscess used to be. When I got out and was toweling off, I felt it again. I bent down to take a look, and what I saw horrified me.

At first, it looked like the scar had opened up again at the pucker. Then, I saw that a zit had grown there. At least, I hope it's a zit.

If I get another abscess, I'm blowing my brains out.

Monday, July 19, 2010


Your life is not complete without the Scottish metal band, Alestorm. They are not just any metal band, no sir. No, they are fucking PIRATES. They’ve gone mad with rum, and they are ready to blow your brains out with their blunderbusses. And you will like it.

They sing songs of the high seas, of boozing and treasure and mutiny and all the things pirates enjoy. To put things in perspective, TREASURE ISLAND is less about pirates than Alestorm is. Take, for example, their song “Over the Seas,” a tale of how they purchase a treasure map “from an old man with a hook for a hand.” Or consider the tales of warfare at sea, like “Death Before the Mast” and “Terror on the High Seas.” In the latter song, they say, “Reload the cannons and sharpen up your swords/They will regret the day they faced the pirate horde.” These Scottish pirates do not fuck around.

And when they’re not raping and pillaging, they’re enjoying some time on land, drinking and whoring. “Nancy the Tavern Wench” is almost an advertisement for a good place to go for women, rum, and the possibility of adventure and treasure. However, “Wenches and Mead” is the superior song, showing a pirate having just returned from “a mighty quest.” He must unwind from all the stress of being a pirate. So “I head for a tavern for a drink/and get so drunk I cannot think.” Even those of us who work more mundane jobs can relate to such a need.

But the real gem of this album, so much so that the song’s title is also that of the CD, is “Captain Morgan’s Revenge,” which tells the story of a “bloody mutiny.” The ship was lost at sea, and the crew lost their patience with the higher ups, so they “took up arms and slayed the officers of rank/And with swords drawn made the captain walk the plank.” But Captain Morgan was not pleased with this and cursed each and every crew member with a looming, shadowy death before he was swallowed up by the sea. And sure enough, the curse is not a trifling matter. The narrators of this song are telling us this tale from their prison cells, waiting to face the gallows in the morning. It is all best summed up in the chorus:

“At sunrise we’ll all dance the hempen jig
So raise up your pint of rum and take another swig
The curse of Captain Morgan has led us to this fate
So have no fear and don’t look back, the afterlife awaits!”

Best enjoyed with Captain Morgan’s Reserve. Yar!

Band: Alestorm
Released by Napalm Records

Friday, July 16, 2010




I’ve had quite a few problems of late. Far too many to go into here. I’m sure many of you already know them, anyway. So it wasn’t really a surprise when all of my anger came tumbling out of me on Friday night. It was like I was a bottle of hate, and someone finally popped the cork off and turned me upside down. I try to keep optimistic about things. I kept my anger in when I was arrested, and I tried to face my dental problems with, heh, a smile.

But when the problem with my car’s tires reoccurred, I just couldn’t grin and bear it. No, it was time for doom and gloom and anger. A lot of anger. In fact, I would call it bile. Yes, bile is the perfect word for what came pouring out of me last night.

A couple of weeks ago, when the weather conditions were really bad, my car started fishtailing again. For those of you who have been around this MySpace page for a while, you might recall me venting my spleen about my bald tires about a year ago. Well, since then, I’ve had to get them replaced several times. Since my mom and grandparents have been driving my car, the tires have needed to be replaced at least twice more, most recently in August. These instances were for various incidents, but it is mostly because when other people drive my car, it starts falling apart. I don’t understand this, but this is what was happening.

Two weeks ago, when the fishtailing began again, we examined my tires to discover that after a mere FIVE MONTHS, the back tires were completely fucking bald. FIVE FUCKING MONTHS. There is no reason for something like this to happen, except that the product is DEFECTIVE.

“We have to get new tires,” my grandfather told me.

“With what money?” I asked. “All of my money is tied up in lawyers and dentists.”

“I can’t afford it,” he said. “Don’t you have emergency money?”

“Not anymore. You can ask the lawyers and dentists about that.”

“The car is not safe,” he said.

“I drove that fuckin’ thing through worse winters than this on bald tires,” I said.

And that was the end of the conversation. Things have been a bit drier around here since, so we haven’t had any problems. But Gramps isn’t one to let something like this go. Ever since he hit an age where he could be defined as “elderly,” he’s been taking advantage of being a shriveled up old man. If something goes wrong, he puts on his old man act, and he gets whatever he wants, especially if he’s dealing with a young woman. Even at 83 years of age, Gramps is an incredible flirt.

But there were no young women at the Dealership That Shall Remain Unnamed. No, just a bunch of young to middle-aged men working in service. Unbeknownst to me, while I was at work on Monday, Gramps went over to the dealership, and he put on his old man act to see where it would lead him, hoping that the destination would be two brand new tires for free.

For once, the old man act did not work, and the service guys were blaming him for being a bad driver and hitting potholes and such.

Whenever the old man act doesn’t work, Gramps switches gears to crazy old man, which is what he did in this case. He unloaded all of his anger on these service guys, he demanded to see their supervisor, and when everyone still refused to give in to his demands, he shouted at them that their product was defective, and he refused to leave until the car was made safe for driving.

It took him four hours, but they finally surrendered. Gramps received his satisfaction, and we had two brand new tires on my car for free. Cool, huh?

Fast forward to last night. When my mom and grandfather picked me up from work, I noticed there was a strange sound coming from the back of the car. No one knew what it was. It couldn’t be the tires. They’re brand new.

We went back to Elmhurst, and we were headed for McDonald’s for dinner when I heard a tremendous snap in the car, and we started bouncing erratically. We quickly pulled over onto a side street and examined the back of my car.

The wheel on the rear passenger side of my car was MISSING THREE FUCKING STRUTS. Three out of four. The only thing holding the wheel onto the car was A SINGLE STRUT.

My opinion: the car had all four when Gramps left the dealership. Over the course of the week, two struts came off while driving. What I had just heard was the final strut breaking. It wasn’t even a complete week from the tire transplant. My conclusion: the service guys fucked up. Big time.

Let me emphasize the importance of this: had that last strut popped off while we were on the expressway, WE WOULD PROBABLY BE DEAD RIGHT NOW. And maybe we would have brought a few other drivers with us. Perhaps it would have been a FINAL DESTINATION-type chain effect. The image of us smeared all over the Eisenhower made me sick to my stomach. Not because of fear. No, it was anger. We were lucky we were just on York Road at the time.

As my grandfather and I hovered over the wheel, I let loose with every single curse word I knew, and I think I made a few up, too. I was so angry I wanted to punch something, anything. My knuckles itched to connect with something. The people who lived on the corner of York and Jackson probably thought I was a madman, and I wouldn’t blame them one bit if they thought to put the chain on their doors. I was a raving fiend. I cursed the dealer and every cocksucker who worked there. I cursed their families and their pets and everyone who ever met them. I don’t remember being so furious in a very long time. Usually, I bottle everything up and take it in stride. Well, the bottle broke that night.

When I was finally out of air, muttering incoherencies under my breath, Gramps gave me a pat on the shoulder. “Those motherfuckers,” he said, shaking his head. “Think they did this on purpose?”

I said yes, but in all honesty, they probably weren’t that stupid. Maybe they’d fiddle with something else, but I didn’t think they would purposely do something that would endanger anybody.

When I calmed down long enough to use complete sentences, I called my insurance company, and they called a towing company. The tow was free of charge, which was good. Since the dealer locked up at night tighter than a nun’s butthole, there was no way we could tow it there. We had to bring it home, and then have it towed to the dealer in the morning.

When the tow truck guy tried pulling the car up onto the bed, the wheel in question locked, so some of the rubber peeled off before we could get it on the truck. Even though the drive was short, the driver and I had a weird conversation that ran from the dipshits that worked in service at the dealer to his friend’s DUI case to him witnessing a domestic dispute at the courtroom to how pit bulls get a bad rap. We ran that gamut in about five minutes.

The next day, Gramps tried his old man routine over the phone, and the dealer was having none of it. The service guys said they’d look at the car, but there was no way in hell they were going to tow it in for free. After arguing for a while, we gave up and tried my insurance company. It seems that I used up my only tow for the month, so we had to pay $110 for it.

(As an aside, it seems that certain numbers have been popping up in my life of late. Three lawyers, three judges, three dentists. I paid $110 for a sonic toothbrush that is supposed to restore my receding gums, and now I paid the exact same fee for a tow truck. Am I living THE DAVINCI CODE, or something?)

Anyway, as we waited for the tow truck, I started going over what I was going to say to the cocksuckers at the dealership when we got there. I was still full of bile, and I wanted to spew it all over the service motherfuckers. I had a whole new stream of curse words I was working on, and I was eager to use it on them. They put my family in danger, and I wanted satisfaction from the cuntfaces. If they didn’t give us what we wanted, I was going to threaten them with a lawsuit. I don’t know if my lawyers handle civil cases, but if they didn’t, I was prepared to find someone who would. The vicious things I had in mind to say would have made Al Swarengen of DEADWOOD fame blush. To make matters worse, I was hungover. They would only get more bile because of this little factoid.

The tow truck guy arrived, and Gramps knew him. It seems that he knows just about everyone in Elmhurst. And he’s not that civic minded, either. He just knows everyone. As it turned out, the driver had come for Gramps before. On the way over to the dealer, they talked back and forth. Gramps remembered that the driver was from Rockford, and the driver remembered Gramps telling him that I was an Elmhurst College student. We talked school for a while. I told him I was class of 2000, and he said that he’d given political science at the college a try, but it didn’t work out. As for now, he was getting ready to move down to Georgia, because he was tired of the horrible winters around here. Gramps told him to stop by Ft. Bragg-—and then he corrected himself with Ft. Benning--while he was there.

“I know all about that place,” the driver said. “I was stationed there.”

“Me, too,” Gramps said.

“Wow. Small world. You mentioned Ft. Bragg. Were you there, too?”

“I sure as hell wasn’t Airborne,” Gramps said. “Those guys were crazy.”

The driver laughed. “That’s right. You know those guys get steak and eggs every morning?”

“And then they go jumping out of planes,” Gramps said. “Crazy.”

“Yeah. Meanwhile, us at Ft. Benning, we were getting powdered eggs.”

“SOS,” Gramps said, and the two of them broke up laughing.

We pulled up in front of the dealership, and when Gramps and I got out, I noticed someone inside was looking disapprovingly at the tow truck. I figured it was some sales jag off who was scared that something like that would scare customers away. Fuck him.

As we headed for the service entry, the guy inside popped his head out of the showroom and he said to the driver, “Is that for service?”

“Yeah, but the wheel’s about to pop off. I’m going to ask where they want us to drop it off.”

“Okay.” And then he turned to us and flashed a smile. “Come on in."

I’m at a loss for words to describe what happened in that moment. Let me remind you that I hate politicians with a passion. They’re filthy scumsucking douchebags, almost as low as pedophiles and just a rung above alcoholics. But every once in a while, I speak with someone who has met a politician, and they tell me that in person, these people have an overwhelming charisma which makes it impossible to hate them.

I have always thought this was bullshit, until I met this guy. He wasn’t even a politician, and he exuded what I can only call presence. It was like a supernatural force baking off of him, and I couldn’t help but like him immediately. Over the course of our conversation, he said EXACTLY what I wanted to hear, and he said it with such charisma that I couldn’t detect a lie. He said all the right things, and to all appearances, he meant them all.

It turns out that he is actually the owner of the dealership, which used to be his father’s. When he gave his business card to my grandfather, Gramps recognized the name. It turns out that his father used to be one of his customers back when he was a clothing salesman. Not only that, but the owner’s nephew worked with Gramps at the very same clothing store. The next thing you know, Gramps and the owner are practically best friends. They started talking about people they knew, most of whom had passed away. Then, they started talking about vacations, and wouldn’t you know it? Gramps used to work for the travel agency the owner’s family used to book those vacations. In fact, the owner was friends with the people who ran the agency.

See what I mean about Gramps knowing everyone?

The owner then escorted us over to service, and he proceeded to mediate between Gramps and the service guys. Remember that catalogue of curses I’d come up with to use on the service guys? By the time we were in front of them, and the owner was working his charismatic magic, I had forgotten each and every one of them. I’d even forgotten “cocksucker.” Lawsuit? What lawsuit?

The owner politely and gently dressed the service guys down, and he said to Gramps that they’d have a look at the wheel and see what they could do. He then escorted us to the waiting room.

Ah, the waiting room. My old friend. It was filled with people, but we found someplace to sit down. Gramps watched some TV, and I cracked open a book. (Jones and Campbell’s BEST NEW HORROR 3, in case you were wondering.) I quickly cast my gaze around and was pleased to find that the woman who had asked about my chest hair was not present. In fact, these people looked pretty normal, so I didn’t expect any weirdness from them.

Soon, the owner came back and apologized profusely. They had no idea how something like this could happen, and they were going to fix it free of charge. It was going to take an hour and a half because they had to send out for the struts, but they would have us out of there as soon as possible. He then shook our hands, and he wished us luck.

I went to the bathroom, and as I urinated, I thought about the nature of politicians, and I thought that the owner would make a killing at the business. Had I been manipulated? For what purpose? To make sure that if I need a new car, I’ll come to him? Or was he just a good guy?

I hear that Bill Clinton has this exact same charisma, that people in his presence are overwhelmed by him. I guess it’s just something that doesn’t translate over television, you just have to be in the same room with him as he looks into your eyes and shakes your hand.

I’ve never been so completely comforted by someone before, and it made me slightly uneasy. It still does, as I type this up. But I know that if the owner ever ran for office, I would vote for him. Weird.

True to his word, it took ninety minutes EXACTLY before the mechanic came in to give us the keys to my car. Note that I said it was the mechanic, not one of the service guys. I guess they chickened out and didn’t want to face the wrath of Gramps again.

We went through the showroom to give our thanks to the owner again, but he’d stepped out. On our way to the door, I noticed that the face of every salesman was pointed in the same direction. It filled me with a weird sense of dread, as if I were watching INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS. It was like they were thinking with the same mind.

When I followed their gaze to see what they were looking at, I saw an incredibly hot woman bent over, rooting through the back of her SUV. I turned back to the salesmen, and their lust was painted on their faces. None of them had clustered together, so I got the impression that they’d noticed this spectacle independent of one another. Yet their expressions were all the same. Paint-by-numbers faces. Would they look differently if they knew I was watching them? Probably. I don’t know. I just wanted to get out of there.

Gramps and I got into the car and headed for the nearest McDonald’s, because I still had a hangover, and I needed the magical Double Cheeseburgers to cure it. Failing that, there were still energy drinks. At least the car was fixed, and the future looked a little brighter.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


The members of Korpiklaani have been conquered by so many invaders that they should have been Irish, and there is a peculiar pastoral sadness to their music which the Irish could most definitely identify with. But no, these warrior peasants are from Finland, and as one listens to their albums, one realizes that their English leaves a lot to be desired. The songs sung in their own tongue sound surer of themselves, and more aggressive. In English, they sound defeated, but in Finnish, they are unconquered.

Yet according to their lyrics, their village has been invaded many times, and they have been raped and pillaged by many, from kings seeking tribute to missionaries bearing Bibles and swords. Korpiklaani are willing to take up arms and fight for their land and gods, but it seems that they would much rather exist as a peaceful village, where one can enjoy women, drink, and the environment.

Their music is fraught with images of nature, from the eagle in “Tuli Kokko” to the deep forest imagery of “Journey Man” and “Vakirauta.” In fact, it would seem that the word “korpiklaani” means “wilderness” in Finnish.

They sing songs of farmers and hunters, simple folks, peasants who live in the wilderness, who govern themselves, and who on occasion have to take up arms against invaders who almost always win. But does this stop the invaded? No, their spirits are never broken, and they always continue to live with single-minded survival instinct.

Perhaps it is their constant need to party that helps them overcome the dreariness of their constant defeat. One listen to “Kirki” is enough to prove that they have an absolute lust for life and fun. The English translation leaves a bit to be desired, but one gets the idea behind such lyrics as “Nipples, fingers/hot phallus, raging fire!/Raise your horny head!”

There are two songs, both in English, which show their dedication to alcohol: “Happy Little Boozer” and “Beer, Beer.” The former is a testament to the power of alcohol (“He sees himself as the saviour of the world/his will is strong and he’s feeling good”), and the latter shows how soothing beer can be to one’s soul:

“When drunk I’m talking
When drunk I’m joking
When drunk I can be as I’ve
Always wanted to be.”

Through the joys of booze, they are able to escape the misery of having been conquered. All they want is to be left alone to live in peace, but if they’re challenged, they’re willing to fight back. According to “Cottages and Saunas,” “We eat iron, we shit the chain.” Korpiklaani are not to be fucked with. Raise a pint to this band, and hope that they will be around for a long time.

Band: Korpiklaani
Released by Napalm Records

Friday, July 9, 2010



"My body is a road-map of pain." Jeffrey Combs said that in THE FRIGHTENERS, and now I understand how he feels. I have just returned from Vegas, and just about every part of my body aches. My back and shoulders are throbbing because it was the first time I'd gone for a swim in a decade. My face, forearms, and legs (from mid-thigh down to my ankles) are all sunburned. There are three small perforations in the palm of my right hand (and a tiny abrasion on my pinkie) from accidentally scraping my hand against the bottom of the pool. And my upper lip has been cut to ribbons because I tried shaving while drunk.

But it was worth it.

It was actually a lot easier than I thought it would be to get through security at Midway. I'd heard all sorts of horror stories, but the reality was that if you get there early enough, the only annoyance is waiting in the long line to check your luggage. I breezed through everything else, and the plane actually left on time! Shockingly enough, WE ARRIVED EARLY IN VEGAS! It was only by five minutes, but I remember from when I was younger that the planes NEVER ran on time, much less get to your destination early. The flight was even pleasant. It was Southwest, and I was able to get on early enough to find a window seat (because you never, EVER want to miss the show of taking off and landing; I have no idea how most people can ignore such an awesome spectacle), and I managed to get through most of Brian Keene's TERMINAL (yes, I was on a plane reading a book called TERMINAL, and I sadly did not get a single double-take), which is an excellent book, probably his best, and I recommend it to you all.

Vegas has changed a lot since I was a kid. A lot of casinos are gone, and a whole hell of a lot more have gone up. I remember when most of the surrounding area was nothing but desert; now, they're building over everything in sight. They're even carving into the mountains so they can build there, too. Very soon, Warren Ellis's TRANSMETROPOLITAN vision of America being one big city will be a reality.

Anyway, I had an excellent time while I was there. I didn't gamble, but I did go to a place called the OG. Strip clubs in Illinois have a variety of rules, first and foremost that you are not to touch the stripper, and she is not supposed to touch you during a lap dance (except in the usual, accepted way, of course). If you break these rules, a bouncer is waiting on hand to break you. Not so at the OG. While the room is waaaay too dark (I was stumbling around, trying to find my way to a table), and you can barely see the stripper on stage, the lap dances are awesome. You can pretty much do everything except fuck the girl on a table. For more details, contact me, and I've got a hell of a story for you.

I staggered drunkenly around Fremont Street, which is kind of like a 24/7 European street festival. The road is closed off, so you can just wander around, get hammered, and watch the show on the huge fucking screen they've built to run along the entire street. The shows I saw weren't all that great, but I have to say, good or not, the fact that you're watching a show on a screen several street blocks long is pretty impressive.

If you're ever out in the area, check out Hogs and Heifers, which is an excellent biker bar with bartenders that do the whole Coyote Ugly thing on the bar. If you're a woman, do yourself a favor and dance with them on the bar, and if they go to steal your bra, let it happen. Look above the drink shelves, and you will see generations of stolen bras dangling down. It's tradition.

Did I mention that every bar has Wild Turkey 101 out there? Here, there is only one bar, the Spring Inn. All the others have the 80 proof slop. Vegas is a Wild Turkey paradise!

I spent the rest of my time just hanging out with my family, either by the TV or by the pool (and my brother, Frankie, introduced me to an excellent video game by the name of DEAD RISING; there's a lot of bothersome exposition, but it's an awesome, if difficult, game and I recommend it to those of you so inclined), and surviving on a diet of Coca-Cola, Wild Turkey 101, and cheeseburgers.

I have the most unhealthy diet of anyone you're likely to meet who actually lives indoors, but not even my body could take that. Don't tell anyone, but the secret to my survival is exercise, vitamins, and Tang. Without these things, I would have died a long time ago from my various excesses. But the thing is, I had a cold last week, and I couldn't exercise, and when I went to Vegas, I didn't bring my usual vitamins. So by the time I was on the plane home, I was in desperate need of vitamin C.

Let me tell you, coming down off a horrible drinking binge and not being able to sleep it off sucks. I tried my absolute best to fall asleep on the plane, but this is an impossible task for me, even when sober. I don't know how people do it. I used to weight 306 lbs., but I'm down to a very manageable 220, and I still couldn't do it. (Incidentally, the bathrooms on airplanes suck for anyone who weighs more than 120 lbs. I had the booze shits on the way back, and I could barely fit on the seat. My knees were pressed together, it was that bad.) There were some people on the plane that had to be 300 lbs. or more, and they were sleeping like babies. How?!

The flight attendant was a guy who looked a lot like my high school art teacher, who in turn looked a bit like Sean Connery with a ponytail. I bothered him throughout the entire flight, begging for more things to drink. There were no juices, and the energy drink sounded like a bad idea, so I asked him for water about every fifteen minutes. I was very well hydrated, but what I really needed was my Tang. I felt scurvy starting to set in.

Another of my current pains: my neck, because I couldn't sleep on the plane, no matter how hard I tried. I couldn't even read, my situation was so bad. I just had to ride it out, much to the displeasure of the poor woman who had to sit next to me.

But I made it home, and as soon as I got there, I drank down a gallon of Tang and Crangrape and whatever else has vitamin C in it that I could get my hands on. I then proceeded to pass out.

When I woke up yesterday afternoon (I'd gotten in during the morning), I unpacked and noticed something that I'd forgotten about. You see, when I arrived on Friday morning, my step-mother had a bottle of Wild Turkey 101 waiting for me, and it wasn't a fifth. No, it was a huge motherfucker. Go to my comments [ON MY MYSPACE PAGE], and you'll see that she posted a picture of me in their pool. Look at the right side of the picture, and you'll see the bottle. I finished a good portion of that sucker, but nobody else drinks Wild Turkey around there, so my step-mother told me to take it back with me.

I remember thinking, "That's probably an airline violation." But what's the worst that would happen to me? They'd take it away? Sure, that's bad enough, but still, I won't be going to Guantanamo Bay for it.

So we packed it, and now I have the remainder in my bedroom, waiting for the weekend.

It took a while to recover from everything, but even so, I still felt good enough to go out and drink with Jay, Stephanie, Cindy, Kari, and Lindsay last night at Doc Ryans. They used to have dollar pints on Mondays, but now it's $1.50. I'm weeping on the inside.

But I'm alive. So stop telling everyone I'm dead.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


“What America needs now is a drink.” --FDR upon the repeal of Prohibition

Did you know that whiskey wasn’t always bottled? Before 1870, you could only buy it by the barrel, and it wasn’t until a pharmaceutical salesman from Louisville came along with a brilliant plan to bottle the stuff that it was. George Garvin Brown, in an attempt to ensure that the customer received a quality product (because retailers sometimes screwed around with the barrels), decided to sell his Kentucky Bourbon in sealed bottles. On the label of each bottle, he hand-penned his promise of quality to his customer, and so Old Forester was born.

Ah, but 1870 was definitely before Prohibition, right? Old Forester, like all the other booze in the nation, had to take a 13 year break from production, right? Wrong. Mr. Brown, ever the forward-thinking individual, applied for a government license so he could continue selling his wares during that dark, ugly period of American history. Only six distilleries were granted such permission, and it was only on the grounds of medicinal purposes.

That’s right. Old Forester is one of the only Bourbons to have continuously been sold in America, despite Prohibition. It is a matter of pride with them, and on December 5, 2008, they released a special batch to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition. For a mere $6.99, you can buy this package. Within, you will receive a commemorative glass with the Old Forester logo on it, a pint bottle of 90-proof Old Forester with a reproduction of Mr. Brown’s famed label (complete with the archaic spelling of whiskey, “whisky”), and a scroll containing a reproduction of the heroic 21st Amendment signed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Vice President of the United States at the time.

But what good is such an august history without a quality taste? As far as 90-proof Bourbons go, the taste of this one is smooth, but there is enough edge behind it to remind a customer that this is, indeed, potent stuff. And as with others of its ilk, the scent is strong enough to make a corpse grimace, which is the perfect indication of a good, clean intoxication to come. There is very little doubt as to why a fan club has sprouted up from this fine alcoholic beverage, the 1870 Society. If you think you are a fan of whiskey, and you have not tried Old Forester yet, then you need to reevaluate your position on life.

Happy drinking!

Friday, July 2, 2010


[NOTE: Here's another camping story. Once again, I've cannibalized the ol' MySpace blog. Forgive me. There is new material coming soon. I've just got to get through some work that might actually get me money first.]

It all started Saturday morning. According to my clock it was 9:30, and I should have been in a deep slumber. But no, I was awake and sitting on the toilet, waiting for the inevitable whiskey shit. It had been Fitz's birthday celebration on the previous night, and I'd gotten myself wasted beyond belief. I was so far gone I'd karaoked the Dead Kennedys' "Too Drunk to Fuck."

So I found myself scrunching up my face, trying to force the diarrhea that had to come, and nothing happened. I'd farted pretty loudly, but that was about it. I gave myself a cursory wipe (Just In Case), and I forced myself into the shower.

Remember this shit business. It'll come in handy later.

Anyway, I headed out to Jay's because we were going to go camping way out by Utica. I don't remember the name of the place. Hickory something-or-other. Jay and Stephanie gave me directions, and they told me that they were going to stop off at Dave's place first before heading down to the campground, just to make sure we were all together on the same page.

We went down to Darien, I think, and Dave joined our wagon train. We were shortly on our way to Utica. It wasn't as long as the horrible, ill-fated journey I made out to Red Oaks in Wisconsin, but it was still a long time to hang out in traffic.

On the way we stopped at a Wal-Mart in Ottawa (their motto: "This is the first place Lincoln's voice was heard") because Jay and Stephanie needed to replace their air mattress. Stephanie was the only one of us who was doing anything productive; Dave distracted Jay and I by coming around the corner with a huge fuckin' box. It took me a moment to realize that he was holding the new Millennium Falcon. It came in a box so bit that it had handle-holes cut into the sides.

"Look at this!" he said, grinning. I was impressed. When I was a kid, I'd always wanted the Falcon, and my mom never had enough money for it. (The only thing I wanted more than this was the original Megatron, for the record.) Not only were there at least ten Falcons on sale, but they all came with Han and Chewy. I looked at the diagrams of the inside of the Falcon, and I realized how privileged kids were these days. I'm sure the original Falcon was nowhere near as cool as what Wal-Mart was selling to today's kids.

It was selling for $150. If I had money, I would have bought it on the spot.

But no, this Falcon sighting only aroused the geek within myself, Jay, and Dave. While we were pouring over the Star Wars and G.I. Joe toys, Stephanie was walking around looking for an air mattress.

Eventually she succeeded, and though the pull of the toys was almost overwhelming, we managed to break free and get back on the road.

The first thing I did when we found our campsite was to set up my tent. I knew I had to hurry because everyone was ready for lunch. While we were waiting for Cindy and her boyfriend to show up, I threw my tent together, but I didn't have enough time to start into my booze. That was fine, I thought, because we were going to get a burger for lunch and then go out hiking.

I should have known better. Before the hike was through, I'd be screaming for alcohol.

We all noticed that there was a huge gnat population where we were camping. Across the gravel road and by the corn, there were none. However, we started spraying each other with bug spray, so we were in fairly good shape. The gnats still got caught in our arm hair, and we had to keep blowing them out, but we weren't so bad off.

Soon we were ready to head into town, and I caught my first glimpse of Utica. First, let me tell you that they've been unfortunate enough to not only get flooded recently, but they also had a tornado come down that killed a dozen people, so they've been on edge for the past few weeks. As Dave drove us into town, I saw a sign that said there were about a thousand people who lived in Utica. Aside from that, the only thing I was able to glean from this sign was that Utica was "historic."

I'm horrified to say this, but the newest thing I'd seen in that town was the sign that declared it to be historic. And for the record, of that thousand people at least half of them are bikers, and very few of them are young. You wouldn't think it just to look at the town. Without seeing the people, you'd think that it was a dying farm town. No, the first thing we saw in the downtown area was a row of motorcycles, and a bunch of grizzly, middle-aged guys and gals sitting on or around them. I'm not kidding when I say that there were biker families out there. The younger folks, those who didn't escape from this small town, undoubtedly came from the older bikers we saw sitting outside of rickety old bars and leather shops.

I wouldn't be surprised to find out that Utica has blown away over the night. Many of the houses are about a hundred years old and crumbling away. Occasionally you'll find a few "USA all the way!" signs in front yards (surrounded by pink flamingos and lawn gnomes and jockeys and bird baths and Virgin Marys and a surprising number of other lawn ornaments), and other patriotic declarations, but you can tell this town is on its way out. Even the industrial areas seem dull and inactive and uber-religious. For instance, when I was leaving town I saw a bunch of Christians holding hands and begging the Lord to stop fucking with them. I don't blame them. Do you think you could take a tornado and a flood, one after the other? God clearly hates this cursed stretch of Illinois. You have to be stupid or stubborn to continue living here. They have a plague of gnats and natural disasters, and they don't have sex shops. It's sad to see such a doomed place, where people pray 24/7, and they constantly gnash their teeth and gnaw at their own tongues.

In Utica, they drive cars that are at least three decades old, and they operate out of storefronts that might have been new when Jesse James was robbing trains. If you ever want to see a live-action definition of entropy, stop by Utica.

SUS SAVES, says a sign. I know what they mean, but someone clearly doesn't give a shit about anything in this town. Religion has failed these people, and the government isn't helping. For Utica, it is the end times. The ultimatum has been handed down: evolve or die. And these people have chosen to die. Given the current economic situation, I don't blame them.

The burger in Duffy's Bar wasn't all that great. The environment was pretty cool. If I had to guess, I'd say that it's always St. Patrick's Day in Duffy's, considering all the green flags and mannequins dressed in green and the genuine love of Guinness, but the cheeseburger crunched when I bit into it, and a burger should NEVER crunch. Jay showed me the very pink insides of his own burger and suggested that he might have wound up with mine instead. He then proceeded to point at me and mock, for which I cursed his name and the waitress that accidentally switched them on us.

While everyone else was finishing up their food, I felt a familiar rumbling in my guts, and I thought now was finally the time to get rid of the whiskey shits that have been living inside me for several hours. I went to the bathroom and regretted it instantly. First of all, there was a scrim of wet filth on the seat, and secondly, if you had to sit down, you would have to sit sideways because the toilet paper roll was too big, and it went where your legs would go.

Not good. I decided to piss instead. A wise move. In the process, I let out a horrible strip-the-rust-off-an-engine fart. It seemed to relieve my guts, at least temporarily.

After the meal, Cindy and her boyfriend fled back to the campsite, and I later wished I'd gone with them. Instead Jay, Stephanie, Dave, and I were going to a hiking trail in Starved Rock.

At first it wasn't so bad. There were a bunch of stairs leading down to the path we would eventually take. I'm not talking a few flights of stairs here, I'm telling you there were at least 500 steps before we reached the path we would take. It wasn't so bad going down them, but . . . I'll tell you later.

The guard rails (where they had them, anyway) were surprisingly ineffective. If I wasn't watching where I was going, I'd probably wind up taking a fifty-yard drop. but that is neither here nor there. I like an existence without guard rails. However, there would soon be parts where I'd be surprised they let anyone walk, much less walk without guard rails.

I remember there was one part where we were descending a bunch of stone steps, and we were in a dark and spider-webby place. A lot of you are writers, and in such places you know how your imagination runs. Well, mine went in kind of a Jack Ketchum direction, and I said to my companions, just before we reached the bottom of the stairs, "This looks like a good place to rape someone." And it's true. I'd hate to be trapped in this area after dark, where a rapist or serial killer would be able to run amok and do as they wish.

Karma would make me pay for my lack of discretion . . . .

Before long we found ourselves off the gravel path and wading through mud. The floodwaters had receded, but here we were, slipping and sliding through a bunch of mud on our way to the bottom of the crevasse.

Things were going decently until we reached the Bridge of the Damned. Maybe it was straight and even fifty years ago, but now it was so lopsided that in order to cross it you had to hold both rails and step lightly, or you'd slip off and fall into the stream. We all managed, but on the way back . . . well, we'll get to that later.

The next thing I knew we were on a mud path where no human being was meant to walk. I knew things were bad when I started holding mossy rocks and dead tree limbs to prevent myself from taking a spill down the mud hill and into the filthy, green-scummed stream.

And then I looked up and realized we were a hop, skip, and a jump away from scaling a fucking CLIFF. There was no path, we were just traversing hills and rocks and fallen logs to get to the end of our journey.

We were all stumbling except for Stephanie. While I hung back, bitching to Jay that we were drunkards, not athletes, and that we should be back at camp drinking booze, Stephanie was hopping along without a care in the world, as if she were playing in her back yard instead of stumbling over impassable terrain. She was just about jogging along, and the rest of us were grasping for flora and fauna, trying not to fall into the mud. She taunted us from afar as we produced impossible amounts of sweat.

Yes Jay, you have chosen your mate well. In that moment I was convinced that Stephanie was Satan Incarnate.

After crawling over rocks and logs and streams, we finally reached the end, which was a rocky crevasse with a circle-shaped mucky stream around the inside walls. I found a rock and sat down, trying to get my heart rate down while wiping my sunglasses free of steam. Yes, I was so exhausted and sweaty that my sunglasses were fogging over. My hair hung in strings around my eyes, and my chest and arms were slicked over with sweat. My boxers were so soaked that it felt like rocks were tied around the insides of my jeans.

Meanwhile, everyone else explored. They crossed streams and walked through caves and the whole time I sat, catching my breath.

And then it came time to leave.

"Wait," I said. "There's an elevator that's going to take us out, right?"

"Uh, no," said Stephanie. "We have to go back the way we came."

"What?! No!"

It was horrible. I suggested that we call 911. I was fully willing to claim that my leg was broken, just so we could get a helicopter lift out of there. It was bad enough to take the path down to this filthy hellhole, and now we had to go back the same way? Maybe it was my imagination, but I seem to remember thinking there was a family down there weeping at the very prospect of going back. They were screaming and cursing God and rending their flesh with their fingernails. I knew how they felt.

I briefly considered taking up residence down there. Surely it wasn't so bad living in the crevasse. Of course, there was the constant threat of flooding, but I was fairly confident that I could live out the rest of my life down there.

But they were insistent. We were leaving.

As we clambered over mossy boulders, I remembered thinking I was touching the fuzzy nuts of nature, and I suddenly hated everything around me. I started drafting a letter to the governor of Illinois in my head. Dear Blago: You're a businessman, and I know you, like other politicians, are interested in paving over everything in sight so you can build houses no one can afford as far as the eye can see. I hate to tell you this, but you've missed a spot. This rotten crevasse must be filled in at the earliest possible convenience. Granted, it's not good land to build on, but I think you can put an Ewok village there on the cliffs, or perhaps an Eloi town like in the awful remake of THE TIME MACHINE. Think of the possibilities. And if this doesn't appeal to you, remember: this path is not handicapped accessible. Don't you think people in wheelchairs would like to see this so-called nature? Pave this fucking place over. Now. [NOTE: Blago is now on trial for corruption. This could have all been avoided if he'd paved over Starved Rock in the first place. I'm just sayin' . . . .]

Anyway, on the way out I noticed a family with well-prepared boys using walking sticks to traverse the hard parts. They were doing a good job, and I hated them for it. I considered knocking over one of the younger ones to steal his walking stick, but I didn't think that would be wise, since their dad was standing nearby. I'm sure my friends would have backed me up under ordinary circumstances, but I feared this situation would be a bit too grim even for them, so I kept my thoughts to myself.

Along the way I nearly slipped down the hill and into the stream, but I righted myself at the last second by holding a tree trunk. It was in that moment that I felt a burning at my rectum. Yes, the whiskey shits were threatening to push out. I knew that if I slipped for whatever reason, my pants would be full of shit because of it. For the rest of our journey, I tried to keep my thighs together from The Fear.

Going across the lopsided bridge was even harder this time because our feet were covered in mud. Sure, none of us had taken a fall (which was purely a matter of luck), but our footwear was sopped from sole to ankle with mud. Trying to keep our balance on such a poor bridge was nearly impossible, as our feet tended to slide toward the edge.

But we made it, and eventually we got back to the rape stairs. The going was a bit rough, but we made it to the top, where the smarter people had decided to stay.

"Is the going good down there?" an elderly couple asked us.

I immediately responded that only a fool with a deathwish would go down there. "The going is treacherous," I said. "Good men are dying down there for no good reason at all."

That seemed to get the idea across to them. I told them that it was beautiful down there, but no beauty was worth going through hell to see. They could see the very same thing from the bridge many yards up without having to go down there.

I think I saved lives that day.

"Which way should we go?" Stephanie asked.

"Whichever path leads to the car," I said. "I've suffered enough today, thank you."

So we started back toward the parking lot. The path became a lot easier to traverse until we reached the stairs that would bring us back to the offices. Holy shit! The exorcist didn't have to fall down this many stairs.

The others were transfixed by the beauty around them. I was filled with the overwhelming desire to shit my guts out. While they stood on a platform, I started the long and savage trek up the stairs. It felt like I'd been going up them forever, and I started noticing that my feet were no longer lifting up high enough to get to the next step. My legs were starting to go numb. I didn't think I was going to make it.

I looked up and saw just as many stairs leading up as I had before. "NO!" I screamed. "What am I, in the movie, IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS?! I'm stuck on a fucking mobius loop!"

Still I trudged on, and when I looked up after about three minutes, I saw the exact same amount of stairs. It was enough to make me want to gnaw my own face off, but still I continued, thinking, "So this is how Frodo felt on his way to Mt. Doom."

To my right, something moved, and I realized it was a chipmunk, hopping merrily along its way. I took it as an insult, so I shouted, "Fuck you, nature! Fuck you in your horrible, shit-reeking ass! I was always on your side until now! Now I understand why the corporations feel the absolute need to pollute everything in sight! For your crimes against me, I demand that you surrender yourself to be paved over!"

And then I reached the very top, and I shouted, "HA! Fuck you! I beat you! I beat you!" And then I cringed, remembering the end of "The Raft" in CREEPSHOW 2.

Nature did not strike back. Parents, on the other hand, looked aghast at me and covered their kids' ears, turning them away from the ugly, sweat-stinking spectacle of me shouting obscenities at nature.

And I wasn't even drunk.

Hikers, fresh and smiling with ignorance of what lay before them, looked at me funny, but fuck them. When they get to the bottom, they'll realize the reasons for my angst.

I rushed to the bathroom, and after shoving my muddy jeans and sweat-soaked boxers down, I slid around on the toilet seat as a shit rocket shot itself out from my insides. I trembled for what seemed like ten minutes as my guts spewed out into the porcelain bowl. While I suffered in my stall, the guy in the stall next to mine was cursing God's name and shouting all manner of racial epithets to his own shit. I wondered if he'd gone through the same ordeal as me.

When I was done, I tried to flush the toilet. The water swirled and sputtered, but it wasn't enough to handle my action. When I tried flushing a second and third time, I noticed that nothingt happened.

Something moved inside the toilet. Something that had once been inside of me.

When your own shit comes to life, it's time to go. Fuck it, I thought, I'm getting the hell out of here. I drank a midget's worth of water before stumbling to Dave's vehicle. We then drove back to camp in the relative comfort of air conditioning.

Shortly after arriving, after being swamped with gnats and mosquitoes in spite of the bug spray, we were able to hold them at bay by starting a fire. When the flames started to climb, we were pretty much bug-free, and then the debauchery could begin.

Good music, great whiskey, good times. As soon as the bugs were no longer an issue, and I was no longer considering having a state preserve paved over, I was able to begin enjoying myself.

Cindy and I had made a deal. She can't drink whiskey, and vodka drives me crazy, so we thought it would be interesting to swap booze. She agreed to drink from my Wild Turkey as long as I drank from her vodka. When she took her shot down, I think it scarred her for life. Each time I waved the bottle in her face after that, she seemed disgusted with not only me but also herself. The vodka was actually not that bad for me. The taste revolted me, but I didn't do anything crazy. Normally one shot is enough to send me raving and naked into the dark, howling obscenities that God hadn't even thought of, but I remained sane. In fact, I even remember the entire evening. This is a rarity for me.

But the hike had taken its tool on me. Not only did my leg muscles ache from the horrible "trails," but so did my arms from trying to keep myself from sliding all over the place. I was so tired that we only got through about three-quarters of the bottle of Wild Turkey before I gave up and stumbled off to my tent. This was probably at about 12:30, and as soon as I was ready, I stripped down naked and crawled into my sleeping bag. At first sleep came pretty easily, but when I woke up in the middle of the night, I realized how fucking freezing it was. It wasn't as bad as the first time I'd gone camping as an adult, when I'd shared a tent with a very flatulent Dave and nearly got frostbite, but it was still pretty bad. I was too drunk to think of putting clothes on, so I curled up and put my hands between my legs for warmth. I then passed out again.

It was then that I had the dream. The gnats and mosquitoes had come back, and they were crawling all over us. Instead of a campfire at the center of our get-together, there was a hog's head on a stick sharpened at both ends. Flies were buzzing all around it, and it was talking to me in a language I didn't understand. The only thing I knew was it was Beelzebub, and we were trespassing on his land.

I told him to fuck off because I was the master of my campsite. Beelzebub growned and spat a cloud of bees at me, but I started screaming about how I was the real fucking Lord of the Flies, and he was just an animal's head on a goddam stick. The head then melted away from the stick, revealing my own face beneath it.

Near dawn I woke up on my back, and I felt something heavy on my belly. It took me a moment to realize that it was a thick log of morning wood. My scrotum had shrunk to the size of a walnut, but my dick seemed to have grown an extra inch. It was radiating heat as if it were a fire in itself.

I was grateful for the extra warmth. I curled up and tried to keep the heat against my belly.

Very soon, I wanted to go out and get more beer, but my erection wouldn't go down, and it started to drizzle. I sat in my tent, listening to the patter on nylon, eating a sandwich with Flaming Hot Cheetos. Still, it was like a crowbar was resting between my legs. I started fearing that maybe I had priapism, that my dick would remain hard until it rots and falls off. I'd read enough Darwin Award stories to know that this was a very real possibility.

Thankfully, blood rushed to other parts of my body, and I was able to get dressed and get outside with everyone else. I had a few more beers (and a few discreet swigs of Wild Turkey) before I packed up my tent.

The rest of the trip wasn't all that great. We were going to go hiking again (this time with real trails), but everything was flooded and infested with gnats. We decided to cut our losses and go home.

One more thing: That morning, as we were sitting at our table waiting to be served breakfast, we overheard a few older guys talking with each other about the 2008 election. One of them said, "I was talking with a black guy, and he said that he was voting for Obama because he was black. I then said that I'm not voting for Obama because he's black. How does that make me a racist?"

Jay and I exchanged glances, and we all but slapped our foreheads at this man's stupidity.

Anyway, I got home yesterday and felt way better than I should have, considering all that I'd drunk. I should have wanted to die, but I was in pretty good shape. I didn't even need to take a nap. At the end of the night I drank the remainder of the Wild Turkey and still felt pretty good.

All that remains to stand testament to the camping trip are my red fingertips (from the Flaming Hot Cheetos) and the mosquito bites. Last night I clipped my nails because there was so much dirt and Cheeto dust under them. Now, I cannot scratch the mosquito bites.

I am the fucking Lord of the Flies.