That first semester in community college went poorly. My weed money was running out, and my dad wasn’t going to help me if I wasn’t passing my classes. I could’ve begged him for help and promised to change my ways, but that would’ve been a lie. Groveling was not beneath my dignity, but lying was. So instead I just forgot to enroll in spring classes, went downtown the day after Christmas and got a job bar-backing at Fred’s Tiki Lounge, a dive bar so filthy your shoes stuck to the floorboards whenever you tried walking around in it.
Fred was a greying, mustachioed little gay Jew who liked to wear denim short-shorts and Hawaiian shirts with his ginger chest hair flaming out the top. He had a house promoter, this gangly, sullen hipster named Lonny Abrams, and a gimpy, ginormous bald biker doorman called Forehead. On slow nights, Forehead used to summon me to his stool in the front entrance for special assignments. He’d be getting off his flip phone, hand me the key to a padlock and specify some boarded up shack down by the beach where he wanted me to hop the chain-link gate to the overgrown back yard, wade through the cat feces and rusty cans (that part was never specified) and bring him back the box of laptops in the tool shed without asking questions (that part was amply specified). Or else he’d tell me to go down to the trestle, look for a guy in a tracksuit with a camouflage backpack, and bring it to the office around back of the club. He never paid me less than $250 cash for these odd duties, and I never thought about the legal ramifications, because the unknowable consequences of refusal or failure were far less pleasant to contemplate.
Anyway, Lonny Abrams used to put on a stand-up comedy showcase every Wednesday night. Stand-up’s pretty ballsy, and I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it, so one week I slapped together a routine, and Lonny gave me a four-minute warmer set that went so well, they let me keep going for ten minutes. Flush with success, the following week, as I was writing my next routine, I hit on a real edgy theme that I figured was sure to gratify the counter-culture crowd by pushing the limits of free expression.
That Wednesday night I was in high spirits as I mopped the bathroom floors and replaced the urinal cakes ahead of the show. When the time came, Lonny introduced me, and as he handed me the microphone, I could see through the stage lights that the crowd was decent sized. I cleared my throat. “In this diverse, wonderful country of ours, there are so many ways we can all get along. But to make clear just how many, I wrote for you a song. The yellow, black and brown are here, the beige, pink, red, and tan, and they all have different ways to appreciate their fellow man. Some are gay, some are straight, but in our own special way, we all know how to hate. You could be a slope who hates darkies, a mick who hates spics, or a wee parish priest who thinks kids are for tricks. You could be a raghead sand nigger suckin’ camel cock for kike money, and if you think it ain’t funny, go blow yourself up for bus money!” I had another couple dozen stanzas of this, but before I could go on, my mic stopped working and the lights in back of the house came on. The place was dead silent. Then, as Lonny ran over to hustle me off stage, I heard a lone guy, way off in back, heaving with maniacal laughter.
Forward: Part IV
Back: Part II