Mad Max: How I Spent My Summer Vacation

I lived in a house built in 1892 without air conditioning, which (the house) still, to this day, has no air conditioning.I went to the very air conditioned public library a lot to read books, and I read a lot of books and got to watch possible real live drunk homeless people get escorted from the premises by real live public library security guards who had what I assumed was the Latin word for “SECURITY” written on a patch on their suit jackets.

I rode the bus to my unpaid internship and had or witnessed some really nice conversations with people at the bus stop: one was a convert to Islam who tried to explain (to me) the social dynamics of black, Christian single mothers who can’t find a man; one was dressed as if he were going for a run and discoursing (with a man in scrubs) about the attitude adjustment he advised to a particular, surly EMT at a medical emergency he had attended; one was a possible real live homeless man getting drunk on some kind of beer I’d never even heard of—it was his birthday the first day we talked (or so he told me).

I learned how and got paid to hang dry wall and tear out kitchen cabinets and lay a cheap linoleum floor in a bathroom and worked with a guy who tried out for Jeopardy stoned in the 1990s when he was in college; I can’t imagine trying out for Jeopardy stoned, what with THC’s well-known effects on memory and reaction time and my deduced suspicion that Alex Trebek is the exact kind of person I wouldn’t want to be high around.

I bought a Gibson Epiphone bass at a pawnshop and haggled with the squirrely dude that owned the place and got him to knock $25 off the price because of some minor body damage.

I found out that my car’s radiator had corroded in some pretty inopportune spots and I had a language-barriered interaction with an African stranger who helped me discover the corrosion when he poured a bowl of water into the radiator until we saw the water coming out of the corroded holes and, at the time, the whole thing felt like some kind of temporally adapted re-make of some 18th century explorer story where an African witch doctor tries to rescue some European explorer’s means of conveyance (e.g., something written by J. Conrad or R. L. Stevenson), which (the whole adaptation idea) sounded kind of racist even when I thought it at the time, in the moment, but I rationalized the racism with the fact that I had eaten three weed cookies at a pool party, which wasn’t really all that rational (the rationalization, I mean, although eating three weed cookies with strangers and then driving home probably wasn’t all that well thought-out, either, come to think of it[1]).

I figured out slowly and as a result of mostly proximity but also a few very polite interactions (e.g., the guy who helped me with my car, the bus stop conversations) that you can remove all the connotations from the word “racism” and suddenly see that we’re pretty much all racists in that we use racial identity to judge people (even sometimes not in negative ways but still judgmental ones) and it’s kind of fucking sickening, but also that realizing that “racist” (as an adjective) is meant to be applied to actions people take and thoughts people have (and not necessarily people themselves) means that if you practice thinking about people, you can start to filter out your own racist thoughts, and eventually you can get to where “black guys” in your stories become just “guys” because a story’s character’s skin color is important in only select stories dealing specifically with race or race relations, and we’re all fucking humans, for fuck’s sake.

I spent weeks learning that trying to sell a car for scrap when the title isn’t in your name or issued by the state you’re currently in is a nightmare as I tried to get all the necessary paperwork to sell my junked car to a salvage yard, which process involved a lot of shouted curse words during three increasingly maddening hour-long-round-trip drives to a BMV branch in 100+ degree weather with no air conditioning through a city where all the radio stations suck and every stop light was/is a total fucking dick.

I reckon I got hit on by a woman with a rural accent (which made me homesick, the accent did) at the liquor store around the corner from where I live on one of my several visits: she complimented my skull tattoo on my chest and was pretty chatty through the bulletproof glass during the times when we were in there alone with the pit bull but not so much when the [black][2] guy with the mustache was around watching her; her other co-worker who always wore pastel turbans always called me “Buddy”, which was cool, I thought.

I made exactly one set of plans with any romantic bird-chirping or bee-buzzing around them, which appointment I subsequently had to weasel my way out of (despite the co-conspirator’s I’m-willing-to-open-myself-up-other-people-why-aren’t-you protests[3]) after she claimed to have “a six sense [sic]”: God-given ESP, which was very confusing because she was the sort of girl who would text message me questions like “What are you thinking?” and the whole thing just made me wonder why it was so hard to indicate to someone who claimed to be able to read minds that you weren’t interested in dating her[4].

I wrote some songs on my banjo and some on that pawnshop bass and then wished I had someone to play them for or with.

I stared out a window while secretly high alone, blowing smoke (literally, I mean) through the cardboard tube left from a spent roll of paper towels and stuffed with dryer sheets to mask my stale weed’s scent; the big box fan in the window[5], set on “3” out of  “3”, would dispel the smoke as quickly as I could blow it.

I listened for sirens and motorcycle engines and contemplated the window’s view of a bus stop at the intersection of Meridian St. and McLean Pl.—located at some measurable interval between 21st and 22nd streets (as I am between my 21st and 22nd birthdays)—as a metaphysical metaphor for this sensation of stasis in my life where I feel like I’m waiting for something but I don’t know when/if it’s coming (which is usually how I felt waiting for the bus), so I’m standing in some metaphorical sunlight in a metaphorical summer on a metaphorical Meridian St.[6] waiting for a metaphorical bus to take me to some metaphorical destination that might be new and different and beautiful and more pleasant than any place I’d ever been, maybe, I thought; as I sat there (nonmetaphorically), shirtless and trying to determine if I felt high enough to stop smoking and turn the fan around so it was blowing the sensational relief of mobile air on me (instead of literally out the window), the whole bus stop metaphor came unraveled when I realized that the bus stop was on the west side of the street, meaning that the buses stopping at it were headed south on Meridian towards 21st street, and therefore not metaphorically apt for my whole process-of-aging-as-a-journey-through-metaphorical-space head trip that I (maybe naively) felt had to be heading on a metaphorically north bearing, or at least upwards numerically on a grid of numbered streets, what with the whole age-as-street-number parallel I’d already established.

I went to bed much earlier than normal most nights, especially after staring out the window, because the bus stop metaphors and slow-moving racial epiphanies made me tired, but also mostly just to get to tomorrow as quick as possible.

[1] Although it did give the whole adaption idea a Pynchonish slant.
[2] See what I mean?
[3] Which accusation of treacherous obscurity, of course, only heightened my acute sense of my own weaselishness.
[4] Although in her defense, she claimed her attraction to me was based mostly on her inability to “read” me, and also she normally wasn’t attracted to guys she couldn’t “read” but I was “different”.
[5] Upon which I wrote “MAX’S BIGGEST FAN” as a joke that no one else has seen to either appreciate or find idiotic.
[6] Google-generated synonyms for “meridian”: zenith, acme, summit, culmination.

Mad Max is our column churned out with style by Max Cothrel. 

One thought on “Mad Max: How I Spent My Summer Vacation

  1. Urgent and funny. A little DFW in the footnotes, but more so in those particular uses of “which,” and the use of initials to discuss the famous. Well done, M. Cothrel.

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