A Penny for 50 Cent’s Thoughts

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Some things in life can’t be predicted. Take, for instance, a chance encounter with 50 Cent.

After my first book Love & Vodka: My Surreal Adventures in Ukraine was published, I tried to think out of the box as much as possible in (usually failed) attempts at getting word out about my book. So if something caught my eye that I felt had any remote connection to my book whatsoever, I would jump on it immediately, leaving no stone unturned.

I realize now that many of these were misguided efforts to “bank” on my sudden “success” as a published author. Realize that “success” in this context simply the act of getting published – making a single cent was a whole other issue (let alone 50 cents).

My book doesn’t have a whole to do with vodka to be honest. I mean, there are certainly ample amounts, but the focus of the book is on my travel adventures in Ukraine, rather than a history of vodka…or love for that matter (though I devote a couple paragraphs to the history of vodka…and several chapters to love itself).

So I decided to milk the vodka angle for what it was worth. One event in particular caught my eye – an enormous vodka tasting festival called Vodka Vodka! inside the historic Royal Oak Music Theater just outside Detroit. Dozens of vodka vendors would be on hand, as well as models, a DJ, and miscellaneous other modes of entertainment.

But mostly vodka.

I figured I would fill a niche. I mean, who isn’t looking for a book when they come to a vodka-tasting event? Get people drunk enough and they will do anything.

On a whim, I contacted to the festival organizers to inquire about getting a both to peddle my wares.

“So what kind of vodka is this?”

“No, it’s not vodka. It’s a book. About vodka. Well, not really about vodka. Vodka’s in the title.”

In response to my jabbering, I was finally given a quote of $500.

Let me make this clear: I can’t even do the math required to determine how many books would be required to even break even. Let’s just say it would require a delivery truck and a forklift.

I couldn’t even sell that many copies at a book convention where the only book available was mine.

Suddenly, I found myself thrust into unfamiliar territory: the art of negotiation. Somehow, I managed to talk my way down to $250 when I essentially explained the pitiful reality of how much money there was to be made in this for me. Even at that rate, I would still be in the red, but I managed to convince myself that the exposure would make it all worth it in the end. Besides, I was also hoping to partner with a local vodka distillery with the hope of some sort of cross-promotional partnership (it never happened).

As the event drew nearer, I started having serious doubts as to why I was willing to shell out so much money just so I could sit awkwardly at a table with a stack of my books that would never sell. Hell, if I wanted to go for the eye candy alone, I could have just bought a ticket and attended the event as a spectator.

Just when I was about to inquire about getting a refund, I received an e-mail announcing a special guest celebrity who would be in attendance.

And just who might be gracing us with his/her presence? None other than:

The man.

The myth.

The legend.

50 Cent.

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But why?

On the surface, it made little sense.

But I came to realize that he was there to promote Effen Vodka, which he was somehow involved with.

And just like that, I had a singular focus: get my book into 50’s hands. At all costs. And it would be worth every last cent (it no longer mattered that I was unlikely to make the equivalent of his monetary moniker).

So why this irrational excitement for a washed up rapper who was never that great to begin with? It wasn’t like I was a huge 50 Cent fan even back when he was a thing. (Who was?) I mean, a casual fan, yes. (Who wasn’t?) And it wasn’t like rappers were a coveted demographic for my book. Not to say they wouldn’t like it. Point is, the idea of getting 50 Cent a copy of my book quickly became my latest obsession just for the randomness of it. I didn’t care if I didn’t actually meet him. But one way or another, my book would.

The event finally arrived – a cold, Michigan January night. My publisher, Jon, and I headed to the venue, hauling a couple of boxes of books inside, found our booth, nestled between Tito’s Handmade Vodka and a stairwell, which at least ensure maximum visibility. Attendees were sure to at least notice the book. The bright yellow cover drew people like moths to light.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. As it turned out, most people didn’t so much as glanced in our general direction, their internal GPS wired to take them directly en route to the next vodka booth. A small handful glanced our way, but nothing more than a precursory one. And often seemed annoyed by the books’ very presence.

After we settled in, we cashed in a couple of drink tickets to sample some vodka, but otherwise remained stationed at our booth. Jon made noble attempts to pass out post cards promoting the book – most of which were either ignored, or dropped to the ground seconds later, where they would be trampled on by the increasingly drunken attendees.

And an hour into the event, there was no sign of 50 Cent.

Where was the motherfucker?

Maybe it was all a ruse. Maybe he changed his plans. Then again, what else would 50 Cent possibly have on his agenda?

The Effen Vodka booth, which was located about four booths or so away from mine was certainly far more elaborate than everyone else’s.

For one thing, it included a VIP lounge.

And in the middle of the lounge was none other than a dancer pole.

Certainly seemed tailor-made for the 50-cent king himself!

At one point, Jon decided to make the rounds, and I remained behind to man the booth. We weren’t exactly staying busy.

As I sat there twiddling my thumbs, peering over two evenly stacked piles of books, I observed a clearly intoxicated woman in her late making it a point to make out with just a bout any random guy she could get her hands on. Particularly, random guys under 30. Most went along with it, as it was safe to assume that they were probably intoxicated, too.

Then she headed my way. The first one to actually pay a modicum of attention to us.

And she was drunk as fuck.

“What is this?” she asked, pointing at my table.

Though I sort of assumed she was getting at my books, I still wasn’t entirely sure. My guess is that she was wondering where the fucking vodka was (not to be confused with Effen Vodka).

“What are these,” the woman asked, as though discovering books for the first time.

“Books!” I said with feigned enthusiasm. By that point, I was feeling pretty down about this $250 decision – even with the promise of 50 Cent looming.

“What kind of books?”

“A memoir. Love & Vodka.”

“Oh, does it have vodka recipes?”

“No. It’s about my experiences traveling in Ukraine.”

“Oh. So you are some kind of author?”

“Yes. Some kind for sure.”

“Ohhh, I’ve never been with an author before”, she said, rubbing her finger alongside my cheek.

“Oh, well, I’m sorry to hear that,” I said, utterly flabbergasted.

“I can’t remember the last time I read a book,” she said with a hearty chuckle.

“Well, then you should read this one!”

“Yeah. Right,” she said with a sarcastic laugh.

And with that, she walked away. Better than nothing!

Within seconds, she was making out with a douchebag in a faux hawk.

I suddenly found myself asking: is a vodka festival such a good idea to begin with? It just seems like a disaster waiting to happen. Anyway, I wasn’t there to judge.

I was there to sell books.

And meet 50 Cent.

Almost another hour passed by with 1.) no sales and 2.) no sign of 50 Cent.

What was more likely to happen? Sell a book? Or, 50’s arrival?

Probably 50 Cent.

A duo of attractive and presumably highly-intoxicated (but not anywhere as obnoxious) women approached.

Perhaps I would work my nerdy charm and sell a fucking book.

“Hello!” one of them said – the clearly far more sober one. Her friend was really struggling to stand on her own two feet and seemed mostly oblivious to everything.

“Hi there!” I said, hoping for the best. But expecting the worst.

“So is this your book?”

“Yes, it is!”

“How cool! You wrote it?”

“Yep. Every word. And edited by this guy right here,” I said, pointing to Jon, still eagerly attempting to hand out postcards to anyone who passed by.

The less-drunk woman grabbed a copy and started thumbing through it. Despite reading the back cover, she still felt compelled asked:

“What’s it about?”

“My travel experiences in Ukraine.”

“So it’s fiction?”

“No. Non-fiction. Memoir.”

“So you went to Russia?”

“No. Ukraine.”

She continued to analyze the book like a scientist unique specimen. Unlike my previous customer, she seemed to at least understand what a book was.

“I’ll buy it!”

“Great, thanks!”

“Will you sign it?”

“Of course! Who should I make it out to?”

“Maria.”

“With one ‘M’?” I joked.

“What?”

“Nevermind.” I got to work signing her book, which I wrapped up by with my signature fox, which looked more like a rat.

As I continued writing, she asked me:

“So are you excited about 50 Cent?”

“Yeah! Very excited.”

“I hope to get his autograph, too! And maybe a little something more, if you know what I mean.”

“That would be awesome!” I responded, handing my book over to her.

“$15.00.”

“Do you accept credit card?”

“Sadly, not. I don’t have one of those card reader things.”

“Let me ask my friend. Britney, do you have cash?”

What Britney seemed to have was an extremely high blood-alcohol level, as she continued to struggle to find her balance.

“What?” Britney asked.

“Cash. I need cash.”

“How much?”

“$15.00.”

“I don’t think so. Let me check.”

She clumsily dug through her wallet. All she could produce were seven singles.

“I’m so sorry,” Maria said.

Now under ordinary circumstances, this would mean no sale. But since the book was personalized, I would either have to wait for another Maria to buy my book…or, sell it to her for a deep discount, which would mean I would lost $3.00 on the book when it was all said and done (now that math, I could handle).

“Are you sure?” Maria asked.

“Yes. For me, the satisfaction comes from knowing that somebody read my book. Enjoy!”

“I’ll pay you back.”

“Don’t worry.”

“No, I will. Are you on Facebook?”

“Yes! Feel free to add me!”

She never did. But at least I was going home with one less book.

That was as close to a sale as I would get that night. The question remained, however: would I be able to hand deliver a copy to the 50 Cent? I was beginning to hope that he would show up, let alone get my book to him.

As Maria and Britney made their way down the steps to the next booth, Britney tumbled, spilling the entire contents of her purse. Lying on the ground were what appeared to be several bills. Even if they were only singles, they certainly would have covered the balance of what they owed me.

And then:

“Ladies and gentleman!” said the emcee’s booming voice, as 50 Cent’s 2002 smash hit “In Da Club” started blasting throughout the theater. The crowd went nuts. Because everyone knew what this meant, even before the announcement was made:

“The moment we’ve all been waiting for! Put your hands together for 50….Cent!”

Louder cheers. A mob of people rushed toward the Effen Vodka booth as an entourage entered to a medley of 50’s Greatest Hits (all of which were said and done by 2005).

The hits included snippets of such golden chestnuts as: “Candy Shop”, “P.I.M.P.”., “21 Questions”, “Just a Lil Bit”, “Disco Inferno” and “Wanksta”.

The half-dollar king had entered the building! And the world couldn’t be a better place…for “just a lil bit”.

Though I couldn’t make get a visual on 50 himself, it was a safe bet that he was insulated by his posse, as he made his way toward his booth, which now showcased a half-naked dancer twirling on the pole.

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Throngs of women (liquored up enough to believe that it was 2002 and that thongs were still in fashion) rushed the booth, hoping to get a piece of 50. I even spotted Maria, pulling a hapless Britney along by the hand, determined to get an autograph… and the full 50 Cent piece.

After a few minutes, as a crowd gathered around the V.I.P. booth five rows thick, it became apparent that 50 had no desire to drink vodka – or Bicardi for that matter – with the masses. Didn’t matter if was anyone’s birthday as far as 50 Cent was concerned.

I would need to find a way to penetrate through 50 Cent’s remaining, rabid female fan base.

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I was less concerned about my ability to do so and more concerned how others might assume I was that desperate to get a piece of the magic stick. But I wasn’t going to let judgments from the masses deter me. Not after I got this far! Without a moment to lose, I grabbed a copy of my book and personalized it as follows:

           

Dear 50 Cent,

Hope you enjoy my book. Always and forever a fan.

Regards,

R.J. Fox

Of course, I included my patented fox drawing and put my contact info in there for good measure. Because doing so at least magnified my chance of hearing directly from him, than if I didn’t include it at all.

I realized that if my plan didn’t work out, then I would be forever stuck with it. And unlike “Maria”, I would have a much lesser chance of finding another 50 Cent. Signing it was a calculated risk I had to take. Somehow, I couldn’t help but feel that my destiny was sealed.

I took a deep breath and headed toward the two-quarter hip hop legend – or, at least the crowd of people surrounding him – all clamoring for the same thing, I realized that having a tangible item to deliver to him might actually improve my chances.

I stopped just short of shouting “Special delivery for 50 Cent!”

I strategized to find my best point of entry. After several attempts at getting nowhere fast, I decided I was going to have to be more aggressive. Nobody was going to politely allow me to push past them. I would just have to plow through, looking like the biggest dick in the process. Clearly, nobody was giving up on the hope that 50 would actually interact with them, which would have made my life so much easier if they had. I just had to work my way through, one female fan at a time.

And next thing I know, I was standing on the outer edge of his 50’s lair, smack dab in front of the pole and dancer. And then, I spotted him…sittin’ on a couch, watching the same dancer I was, and sipping on a drink.

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I felt a kinship to him like no other for that one moment.

I even managed to snap a few pics.

But now what?

I noticed a couple of sentries guarding the VIP lair’s entrance. That was my golden ticket! But it required muscling my way past more women eager to do the same. But I already got this far. Now, I just had to move laterally about 15 feet.

But my biggest challenge lay ahead.

The first few feet were a cinch.

But standing a half dollar between me and fifty were three large black women who did not want a scrawny white boy taking a piece of the birthday cake.

“Oh, hell no!”

“Who the fuck this boy think he is?”

And next thing I knew, I was flat on my ass, knocked down in what I think was an accident, despite not being fully sure.

I sat back up and from my vantage point, watched the women attempt to bust through security, but they were promptly turned away.

“Fuck this shit,” the one who “accidentally” knocked me down said. “Let’s go get some motherfuckin’ Goose.”

And there was my opening.

On the precipice of a dream!

I walked right on up to security, who braced themselves for a ruckus.

“So, I’m the author of this book here. And was wondering if I could some how, um, get this book to Mr. 50 Cent.”

They looked at me, then the book, then me again.”

“You wrote this?” one of them asked.

“Sure did! The whole thing! Since he’s into vodka, thought he might like to read this.”

“Okay, sure. We’ll get it to him.”

I handed my book over. And then watched my book pass not through just one channel of security. Not two channels. Or, even three. But four. And then, through a small opening, I saw 50 Cent himself receive my book. And it required someone having to stand between 50 Cent…and the 50-cent dancer was he was ogling over with quasi-indifference. He stared down at my book, then produced an expression that seemed to suggest “What da fuck?”

And then I walked away.

Triumphant.

I often wonder whatever happened to that copy of my book.

For all I know, 50 tossed it into the first trashcan he found. Or, pawned it off onto a member of his entourage. Or, perhaps he left it in his V.I.P. booth, leaving it totally up for grabs (which more than likely meant trash).

Of course, it was also possible he kept it, but never read it, nor has any intention to. I also acknowledge the possibility that just maybe 50 Cent has read my book. Stranger things have happened!

At the very least, I take great pleasure in knowing the possibility that – if only for one fleeting moments – there existed a copy of my book addressed to fucking 50 Cent. How many writers can take claim of that fact?

I could hold my head up high, no longer a wanksta…but much more gloriously, a gangsta.

The bottom line is this: I went in with a goal. And left with the goal accomplished.

And in this business, success in measured in small increments. One cent at a time.

 

 

Velvet Unicorn

“You’ll know it when you see it – or, more specifically feel it,” a hopeless romantic once told him (but since divorced).

With further elaboration, the “it” being the elusive unicorn Mark was seeking…and was lead to believe was out there.

Somewhere.

Just where this magical, mythical being was hiding, was anybody’s guess. Living with the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny, perhaps? He truly wanted to believe it existed. Once upon a time, he had no doubt. But it’s always only a matter of time before reality overshadows fantasy.

He certainly had ample reason to have his doubts – especially lately. But he was willing to suspend disbelief and give it a shot, joining the ranks of those who not only believed that unicorns existed, but believed that it was just a matter of waiting for the universe to help you find your very own.

Of course, it’s much easier to believe in such a thing when you are young and naïve – akin to a child’s belief in Santa. But as time goes by, it eventually fades into the rabbit hole oblivion of myth.

When we’re young still young, we are often struck by Cupid and can’t help but believe in it. But overtime, most come to see it as fool’s gold. And though Mark’s belief in true love was almost fully extinguished, there were still embers burning beneath the ash.

Even the most hopeless of romantics feel the foundation begin to crack by the time they reach 40 if they are still single. If married, their views of love have probably been significantly altered. As well.

Mark was certainly no hopeless romantic. And certainly way less now than before his marriage deteriorated beyond the point of repair. Not even marriage counseling could crack that nut. Or, more accurately, the nut was already cracked beyond repair.

Yet, despite fading faith, there was still a part of him that believed that his magical unicorn was lingering out there.

Somewhere.

And quite likely sharing the same thoughts and doubts as he was.

Holding on to hope wasn’t such a bad thing.

At 37, Mark was still young enough to be considered young. In the eyes of his students, however, he was ancient. And he couldn’t help but feel that way.

The downside to still believing that your special someone is out there at Mark’s age meant dealing with an avalanche of anxiety attached to the realization that even though you believed your soul mate existed out there somewhere, the universe was determined and conspiring to keep you apart at all costs.

And that time was running out.

He couldn’t help but wonder if this was worse than the contrary belief that one’s soul mate never existed to begin with.

When you truly believe that their special one is out there, life becomes an endless scavenger hunt. A game driven by the realization that every outing is rife with the possibility that your unicorn might be waiting around every corner, at every bar, at every café, or in every bookstore, which means leaving no stone unturned, for fear of missing out on the one thing you are searching for more than anything.

Because you are in search of that one person who not only truly gets you…but that you will truly get yourself. The one person who is like mirror reflecting your best self, deflecting all the things you fucking hate. Yet, despite the fact that you have everything in common, there are still several mysteries waiting to be unraveled. And it all seems too good to be true. And you can’t eat. Because your stomach is filled with the constant flutter of butterflies.

A unicorn is also someone that makes you feel compelled to write out long messages on a note pad before you type it out to make sure you get it just right. It’s regretting that you didn’t phrase a message just so. Or, that you left out a line. It’s hearing a song in your car and you’re convinced she’s hearing the same song, even when you know it’s not even possible.

And the world is never more full of color. Even during a dreary Michigan winter.

And then reality sets in. Before you fall out of love. Before the sex drive is gone. Before some one cheats. Before the dream is given up on. Before you feel like strangers, despite all the familiarities and similarities you once shared. When the allure of romance and endless potential becomes mundane, annoying, boring. And all you see are not only the worse parts of that person you were once so obsessed over, but the worst parts of yourself, which are now somehow, deeply and horrifyingly magnified. Once you get to this point, there is no turning back. You either go through the heartbreak of break up, or you both live with the heartbreak of wondering if the unicorn was fool’s gold.

A false flag.

And before you know it, you suddenly find yourself searching for your missing unicorn once again. And it’s doubly sad, because the person you thought was your unicorn is probably thinking the same thing about you. Or, possibly fucking someone behind your back. Or, perhaps, you are on your own private, lonely island, which means they are either oblivious, or they have become too complacent to give a fuck.

Of course, none of it really comes as much of a surprise. We are used to thinking the person who just might be “the one” actually isn’t – no matter how much and intensely you shared the same wavelength. In fact, it is often the ones that come on the most sudden that are often to be most disappointing. Sometimes, life simply gets in the way and despite doing everything in your power to make it work, you end up going separate ways. But we cherish even the failed or false unicorns because if even for a moment – a drunken night, an all nigh chat session, or whatever the case may be, it was fucking beautiful. Like a comet that goes as quickly as it came. Sometimes, a temporary unicorn comes into our life when we most need it.

And sometimes, this means realizing when it’s time to move on.

And evolve.

Coming to the realization that that our true unicorn is probably still out there somewhere.

But then we remember that it is called a unicorn for good reason: it’s not only elusive. It probably doesn’t even exist. Yet, we keep searching anyway. And falling into the same pattern that ultimately leads to disappointment, rejection, resentment, loneliness, desperation…which is more than often the case.

Which is exactly how Mark ended up drunk most nights at his neighborhood dive, notebook in hand, with the aim of putting a dent in the novel that he had been toiling over for 15 years. Spinning in its tracks.

Fifteen fucking years. Longer than his marriage by half. And perhaps even more frustrating and abusive. But yet, it was his first love. And he figured since he had already put so much blood, sweat, and tears into something that never reciprocated (much like his marriage – though he was equally at fault), he would stick with it, till death do him part (unlike the marriage she finally put out of its misery. Because, as she said “You’re too much of a fucking coward to end it.”)

Although his optimism regarding finding his unicorn was quickly fading, he still had full faith in his novel – his elusive Moby Dick. Though he was certain he would never give up on his dream, his biggest fear was that fucking novel would never see the light of day. It was this very fear that motivated him to keep poking away at it. In fact, the more time passed, the harder he worked at it. If only he put this much effort into his marriage. Then again, it was his “stupid” writing dream that played a huge role in dissolution of his marriage. Of course,

She would never understand how much it hurt him that in 10 year of marriage, she never read a goddamn word of what you wrote, nor did she ever ask what he was working on. Nor, get excited when he shared a new idea. She simply didn’t give a shit. And it hurt like hell. Eventually, he got to the point where he stopped sharing things with her. It was also around this time that he reached the beginning of the end.

And it wasn’t like he didn’t take interest in her pursuits. He understood it took two to tango. She just never wanted to dance.

For years, they were two people living under the same roof, but living two separate lives. Of course, not having kids only expedited this existence. Perhaps, if they had kids, they would have fought harder. Or, stayed married for the kids. Then how miserable would they have been? Maybe kids only would have made it worse.

As far as his book was concerned, he knew he ultimately had no control over whether would someone actually publish his book. But he would never stop knocking at doors.

Since the divorce, Mark devoted most of his evenings to his writing. Bourbon was his muse. When he wrote at home, he usually ended up passed out at his computer earlier than he would have preferred. So he started frequenting bars more often – not to pick up women, but so he could stay awake and write. He always wrote best when surrounded by stimulation. He fed off it. Every now and then, an attractive stranger would catch his eye and become his unknowing muse.

Lately, however, his he started to feel like perhaps the time had come to give dating a try, for the first time since he was last single – 15 years ago to be exact. He doubted he would be any better at the game now, than he was then. In fact, he was likely to be worst with rust.

It didn’t help that when it came to the opposite sex, he felt anxiety anytime he had to talk to a cute female – a waitress, cashier, whatever the case may be. So how the fuck was he going to ever start dating? Perhaps he would give a dating app a try. Or, two.    After all, his elusive unicorn could very well be a right swipe away. Narrowing things down could only help!

It was time to get serious about finding a muse, rather than his usual barista or bartender crush he was prone to falling for without their knowledge of his existence. Sometimes, he would fall for a fellow customer, going so far as to project an entire life’s history on to her. Yet, he would never give himself the opportunity to discover if his projection came anywhere close to the truth because he didn’t have the goddam balls to do anything about it. At least it wasn’t all for naught – often, these “one night muses” ended up populating his stories.

Lately, he was frequenting bars fare more coffee than his usual coffee shops. Part of it was the fact that caffeine seemed to be keeping him up at night, more so than in the past. But the truth of the matter was that he was depending on alcohol more and more lately, going as far as to convince himself that drinking was making his writing better. Much like his writing, his Mark’s life lately was one very rough, unending draft. And it was time for some major polishing.

Part of time hope that by frequenting bars – and increasing alcohol consumption – he would somehow find the courage to strike up a conversation and maybe – somehow – get back into the game.

Perhaps some girl will be so fascinated by a guy writing in a bar, she would approach him! It was only natural that if she his true unicorn would be turned on by his writing. Of course, in reality, he was aware of what a pretentious douche bag he probably looked like.

Then again, did he really want to drag another woman into the murky swamp of a writer?

He realized his desire for a muse was a bit selfish on his part. But he sure loved the idea of writing stories secretly just for her. Stories that she inspired. And then she would read them. And then they would have dinner. Watch a movie. Make love. And life would be good. Life could be good. If only he could just get out of his own way.

Of course, it was usually while riding the high of a writing session, combined with ample amounts of bourbon, that he was more convinced than ever that his elusive unicorn was out there.

Somewhere.

But where?

And then…

“Are you writing a book?”

Peering over his shoulder was the ginger angel of his dreams.

“Yes. Trying to, at least.”

Where in the hell did she come from? How had he not noticed her until she appeared? She was exactly the type of he would have typically instantly noticed.

“What’s it about?
“A thriller about a guy who realizes that ‘s an alternative version of himself living the life he always wanted.”

“Oh, wow. That sounds fantastic! String theory stuff, right?”

“Yeah. Exactly.”

“Are you a writer?” he asked.

“Me?” she said with a laugh.

“No. But I am an avid reader. Mind if I sit here?”

“Sure!”

What is happening?

            Surely some sort of prank. He kept waiting for a camera crew to jump out of some dark corner.

Was he dreaming?

This type of shit never happened to him.

Never.

Three hours later, they were still talking.

And drinking.

And sharing an appetizer.

Their conversation was effortless; their mutual interests endless – especially as it pertains to film, music, and literature. And despite everything in common, he realized how many mysteries remained to be explored.

From a physically standpoint, she was just his type. Red head, with a punk edge exterior, but a sweet interior.

And perhaps most importantly, she was so damn curious about his writing! He wasn’t used to this. Why would she give a shit? She hadn’t even read a single word he had written – but that was soon about to change.

“So what made you want to talk to me?” he awkwardly asked.

“Because you seemed so cute, writing away in your little notebook. And it was refreshing to see a guy in a bar who wasn’t there to pick up chicks.”

This. Cannot. Be. Real.

So what next? His lack of confidence was certainly still intact. Because he just assumed that even after this amazing conversation, they would go their separate ways.    Closing time.

He walked her out, an assertive action, aided by the fact that he had no choice since the bar was closing its doors.

Standing out the parking lot, a light snow flurry fell on them, as they awkwardly stood there awaiting an unwritten goodbye. Both seemed unsure as to what to do next, despite both likely wanting the same thing.

And then:

“Want to come back to my place?” she asked.

            No way this was happening.

“Yes,” he said in response to her question. “That would be great.”

With nothing to lose, he followed her back to her apartment just conveniently down the road, listening to “Across the Universe” as the replayed his unexpected evening in his mind.

Nothing seemed forced.

Or, awkward.

Just two people at a bar.

Just as he fantasized over and over again. Just like he had seen in the movies, time again. And now, somehow, it was happening.

But was it really?

It was happening.

And of course, how fitting that what happened next was the best sex of his life.

Surely, it was too soon to assume she was his true unicorn. Right?

“You’ll know it when you see it – or, more specifically feel it.”

And the second he entered her bedroom – moments before he entered her, he had as close to an answer as he could ever expect to get.

Hanging above her bed, was a giant, velvet painting.

Of a beautiful, glorious unicorn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Napkin Notes

“Life is a long preparation for something that never happens.” W.B. Yeats

 

I am surrounded by beards, moustaches, and knit hats, 80’s style glasses, and short bangs, wannabe DJs and rockers, and the sad, stale scene of PBR mixed with a hint of weed.

I am writing on a stack of napkins at a table across from the bar.

What a fucking cliché.

All that is missing is a goddam quill pen.

Or, typewriter.

Fuck, I am one step away from being that guy.

And yes, I realize the hypocrisy of making fun of hipsters while frequenting one of their establishments. But in fairness, I was coming here long before it was the “in” – or even ironic – thing to do. Before I was washed up

Is it even possible to be washed up if you were really nothing to begin with?

So rather than the cliché douchebag hipster, I’m the douchebag in the skinny tie, Banana Republic pants, and Kohl’s dress shit, sitting in front of a stack of cocktail napkins, writing all this drivel down, because I left my composition book at home.  You know it’s bad when I forget the one thing I never leave home without.

What would look worse, anyway? The asshole writing on cocktail napkins? Or, the asshole writing freehand in a worn composition book?

In a place filled with fucking douchebags and assholes galore, I am a fucking asshole douchebag.

Why am I being so hard on myself, anyway? So what if I left my notebook at home? There are worse things. Though I can’t help but be annoyed with myself. The sole purpose of heading out was to fucking write. Which is akin to forgetting a bathing suit when you planned on going swimming.

It doesn’t help that my mind isn’t itself these days. What exactly was that “self” anyway? Not even I remember. My friends seem to. They keep reminding me that the “old me” has disappeared. Might as well put my fucking face on a milk cartoon.

So specifically, why am I at this Detroit dive, wasting my limited funds on unlimited whiskey? First of all, I justify it with cheap whiskey. It wasn’t long ago when I would abhor that shit. Now, it’s all I can afford.

My, how the mighty has fucking fallen.

As to why I’m here? Where else would I be?

Home?

Define home.

Crashing on the couch of a stranger – the only communication being a clear directive that there is to be no communication beyond paying rent – of which I could barely afford.

And why should a complete stranger give a flying fuck about me anyway? It wasn’t like I gave two shits about them. It’s cheap rent. A roof over my head. And a couch pillow for which to lay my head upon.

I used to have a house, until my wife threw me out – or, at least the discarded shell of my former self. You cheat one fucking time and suddenly, you’re on the street. Don’t get me wrong. Not looking for a pity party. I fucking deserved what I got. I cheated. She caught me. And now I’m living with the consequences.

Apparently, when you fuck the universe smack dab into its clitoral core, the universe fucks you RIGHT back up the ass.

So why did I cheat? There is no “why”. There was never a why. There will never be a why. There’s just…is. Once one understands that, one understands LIFE.

To be honest, not even sure I would have wanted to work things out if she tried, so in some ways. It was almost like I wanted to get caught. At least, some small part of me. I was otherwise content keeping it all as secret for as long as possible. After all, it was just sex. Wasn’t like I had fallen in love or anything. Looking back, perhaps I should have just gone the strip club route. Or a rub and tug. Sure, it would have cost money. But look at the price I’m paying now!

 

Of course – and again, not to justify – the cheating didn’t happen until after years of slowly getting my fucking heart out ripped out by a selfish narcissist.

I know I should probably see all of this as a blessing. I’m free now. Maybe some day, I will realize this. When my feet are finally firmly planted on the ground. When the fuck that will be is anybody’s guess. Least of all, mine.

Sorry for the fuck-bombs, by the way. I honestly never swore this much until she left. Getting it all out of my system, I guess. But how much bile can possibly be left in me? In all honesty, it’s a habit I am hoping to break, once I find my center again. That oughta bring my fuck quotient down to a far more acceptable degree. But right now, swearing is cathartic as fuck.

And hopefully, by coming here tonight, I would get one step closer to finding my old self – my new old self. If not through my writing, then by some lasting memory.

For no particular reason, I just can’t help but feel as though something big is going to happen tonight. Not quite sure why – or what – but I do know I never quite felt this way before. At least not in this current incarnation of my life. Just what that something was, I have no fucking clue. Perhaps it would be finding the courage to talk to a woman at the bar? Maybe a new and profound story?

Or, the most likely probability…nothing at all.

So again, why this fucking shithole you might ask?

First off, fuck those pretentious craft cocktail bars that are taking over every other dive bar in town. Secondly, it’s close to home. And the music’s good (most of the time, at least…though it’s live music night and based on the first band, my hopes aren’t getting too high. In fact, it sounds like a fucking high school garage band that stopped practicing months ago).

Apparently, there’s a special benefit or fundraiser or some shit for some cafe that burned down.

Who would throw my benefit?

The bar tonight is too crowded for my liking. Not typical for a Wednesday night. And frequenting bars is certainly nothing new to me. Even before she left, I used to head out for writing sessions once or twice a week. However, the frequency was growing exponentially, despite the fact that the quantity (and by extension, quality) of my writing has gone in the opposite direction, despite the fact that bars were where I typically did my best writing – amidst the chaos of a public space, rather than in the quiet solitude of a desk. Then again, lately, it doesn’t matter where I write – or, more specifically attempt to write.  Really, all I’m doing right now is hoping that somehow, magical prose will find a way to flow out of my pen like diarrhea, aided by ample amounts of cheap whiskey.

I am fully committed at this point.

Anything to break free from this writer’s block that has been plaguing me ever since my muse-in-sheep’s clothing walked out the door. Had it been totally up to her, I would have stopped writing altogether. And in the months leading up to the end, that’s exactly what I did. And where I most lost my sense of self. Like a drug addict discovering that drugs are the only thing keeping you semi-functional.

So here I am, without my goddam notebook and using wafer-thin paper that tear apart upon contact with my ballpoint pen. Of course, I could have gone back for it, but then again, that would have required energy I didn’t have – or, no longer knew how to summon. Wouldn’t be the first time I resorted to napkins when suddenly overcome with an urge to spill out my guts with pen on paper. Or, my own flesh.

Besides, there’s something liberating about quickly filling one napkin after another, as though they were entire notebook pages, rather than a 6×6 inch square or whatever the fuck length they were, filled with loose fragments and tidbits that may or may eventually reveal themselves to be the DNA of an eventual story. More than likely, these impressionistic loose strands would never amount to a hill of beans, but it was still as exhilarating and cleansing as fuck. Take, for instance, this batch of bunched up bullshit, the “literary” equivalent of watching a chicken running around with its head cut off. At least I am putting something to paper. Progress. The next step would be to figure out how to break from the variation of the same theme that I had been writing about for a good couple of years now: dissolving, sexless marriages, and lonely, downtrodden protagonists desperately looking for a new lease on life.

The line between my fiction and memoir was becoming especially blurred and more circular than ever. No wonder why I have no clarity or focus.

Spinning in my tracks. In life. And in writing.

Before I know it, I reach the bottom of my original stack of a dozen or so napkins, presumably left behind by a previous customer (and – from what I could gather – slightly used). I head up to the bar to ask for more, but get the stink eye.

I mean, how dare I?!

After all, this is the same bartender that ignored my existence for over 10 minutes before he took my order. My favorite bartender had the night off. She would never ignore me. (Or, in my mind at least, she wouldn’t). She had been my unsuspecting muse for quite some time now. A muse is a muse, whether she knows it or not. And man, I wish I had the balls to ask her out. I mean, I am technically single now, even if not legally so. But could I have had ever worked up the courage to ask her out? Not likely. Chances are, even if I did come up with the courage, I would swing and miss like so many another avenues of life lately.

I still couldn’t help but feel like something big was going to happen tonight. I felt it the second I entered this bag.

But what?

Fuck should I know.

Again, probably much ado about nothing. After all, why the fuck should be any different than any other night? Getting my hopes up is the story of my life.

So, I will remain passive, armed with a new stack of napkins and a bottle of Stroh’s (I reached my whiskey limit and made the call to the bullpen) and continue to pour out these wayward ramblings in search of coherence and acclaim. Like Hemingway and Burroughs before me, equally boozed up, but with only miniscule fraction of their talent.

As the minutes dwindle onward, the feverish pace I was writing at minutes before has become a drizzle of words were doodles, mostly consisting of Batman and baseballs. The only two things I can draw. And even those are half-baked/ It was becoming more and more clear that the only thing I would accomplish tonight was finding the bottom of glasses.

I take a minute to scroll through Facebook. – the ultimate writer’s cockblock. Make it 10 minutes. Nothing of substance per usual, yet I addictively scroll and scroll and scroll – burning up the remaining fumes of my creativity. What I really need is a social media hiatus, but then again that would only further isolate myself from humanity. Lately, it seems all I did was piss people of on there with my snarky comments and passive-aggressive sub-posts. I never used to be like this. I was always sunshine and roses.  Now, I’m a goddam storm cloud, raining on everyone’s fucking parade.

Halfway through my beer, I decide it’s time to wander a bit. So I pocket my shitty scribbles and the puts the blanks in another. Part of me thought about simply throwing them away, but why chance discarding a potential diamond in the rough? Then again, once I got home, these napkins were destined to join their fellow orphan napkins, scrap paper, and envelopes tattooed with notes that didn’t amount to shit and that would never see the light of day again (at least, not until next time I opened the box to add new pieces of shit some future drunk night much like this one).

Rinse.

Repeat.

I enter the adjacent room, which features the stage, where a DJ spins New Wave tracks between bands. Her frantic, exaggerated movements behind the controls suggest she is doing way more work than necessary on New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle”.

A few scattered people stand along the perimeter of the dance floor. A lone dancer stand at the center of the floor, likely riding on a magic carpet ride of E. Maybe I should give it a shot sometime. Then again, I’ve barely smoked weed. Less than two years to be exact. And I could count on two hands the number of times I tried it. I thought it would make me more creative. But it didn’t. In fact, just the opposite. So clearly not ready to graduate to another drug. I’ll just stick with bourbon.

I head outside for some fresh air. The entrance is crowded with smokers, so I drift further down the street, into a light snowfall. A homeless man heads my way – the last thing I want to be dealing with right now. Torn green army jacket. Beard. Long-ish hair. Maybe he isn’t homeless. Maybe he’s just a patron.

“Excuse me,” the man says as he approaches me.

Here we go.

“Got a couple bucks?”

            Guess my first guess was right after all.

As broke as I am, I probably had more than him. At least, I hoped so. So I give him a couple of bucks. If I get booze, why not this poor sap?

“God bless you, sir. God bless.”

“You, too.”

“Do you gotta a light?

“Sorry, man. Can’t help you there. But I know some people who might be able to help.”

I nod toward the smokers at the bar entrance. He heads toward them. I follow. Too fucking cold for this shit.

I grab another beer. I return to my seat, hoping that my little jaunt will have somehow shook a story loose like a stubborn dingleberry.

Nope.

Nada.

Nothing.

The homeless guy has entered the bar. He hovers tat the door momentarily, then starts toward me. When he finally recognizes me, he stops, realizing he already solicited me and heads off in search of greener pastures.

Nobody seems willing to listen.

“Why the fuck won’t anyone talk to me?!” he shouts to no one in particular.

The bartender takes notices. Approaches. And likely to be a dick about it.

He is.

“What the fuck did I do?” the homeless man demands to know.

“You need to leave.”

“I just want to listen to music and make friends,” he pleads.

“Go. Before I call the police.”

He leaves without further incident.

This all could have been avoided if I invited him to join me. But I didn’t.

A hipster chick dressed all in pink begins setting up merch on the table next to me.

I notice she’s wearing a pink flamingo lapel pin.

“I like your flamingo,” I say.

A desperate attempt at flirtation?

Hardly.

But courage, nonetheless.

I scan the merchandise. A band called The Pink Flamingoez. That explains it.

We converse.

Turns out she’s the girlfriend of the band’s lead singer. She explains that the band is a “a Pink Floyd cover band with the combined aesthetic of John Waters.”

It all somehow makes perfect sense.

She struggles to set up a clothing rack, from which hangs Pink Flamingoez t-shirts.

I stare at the unused napkins in front of me. Take a sip of beer.

And the world continues to spin.

It’s all it can do.

With or without us.

And with that thought, I realize I am getting sleepy. And should probably head home.

I accept the fact that nothing of significance was going to tonight after all.

And then:

WHACK!!

The clothing rack collapses, knocking me directly on my head.

Metal on skull.

I see it from the corner of my eye before I feel it.

Miss John Waters becomes extremely apologetic.

But I laugh. And laugh. And laugh.

And then I realize: the “big” moment I was waiting for – hoping for – all night

had arrived.

A reminder that we’re all flawed. And vulnerable.

Or, to reduce the fraction – human.