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Archive for April, 2013

More non-fiction!

Here’s some more non-fiction

Snapshot Lifestyle

R U Ready?- TNGHT

                        The sky was too dark to let any stars shine. I was heading to San Francisco, by way of the Bay Bridge.  I drove under towers that had red blinking lights on their tops. Cables ran up and down on the sides of the bridge looking like moving waves of metal. To the right was the view of the downtown San Francisco. Skyscrapers darted out of the ground, giant inorganic beings of concrete, steel and glass, dotted with lit windows, showing that the creatures were alive and awake. The water under the bridge was so black that the downtown could not leave a reflection of itself.

Friday night. When I played high school football, Friday night was game night. What I really remember was when I played varsity football. It was my parents that kept me in that sport since I was eight years old. I didn’t like playing. It was something I always resented. But when I was under those fabled Friday night lights, I forgot what it was I was angry at.

The games were always at night, and we’d march out of our locker rooms to the field, which was on a hill. The lights were brilliant white stars that illuminated the green field that lay between grand stands; both the home and visiting sides would be packed, cars parked everywhere. People would swarm into the stadium like ants to a forgotten sandwich. The closer you got, the more people became visible in the shadows, all cheering you on and as you walked through the gates a wall of sound assaulted you. The roar of the coliseum. The lights were bright and they shone for the gladiators of the gridiron. The heroes of everyone. The moment of glory.

Once I got to the end of the bridge, I took the second exit. The nightscape was full of lights, but none of were as bright as the ones I remembered.

שׂ

            I always got an uneasy feeling before going to work. It was the kind of thing that would build over time, eventually becoming anxiety. Like waiting for football practice.

I’d get out of school by three in the afternoon and by five I’d be at the practice field. Every day before practice I’d get so anxious about going to practice that it’d take all my concentration away from being able to do anything at all; eat an after school snack, take a nap, watch TV. It’s like walking into a haunted house and being told that at some point you will see the monster. And the deeper you explore the insides of the house the louder the screams and roars grow; so loud it’s like you can see their shadows. And the shadows are moving. There is blood on the ground, mangled dismembered body parts and entrails; glowing red eyes in the darkness. The darkness is everywhere, and it is because of it that you never actually see the monster. But you know you will. It will find you. The anxiety of it is almost worse than the actual monster.

I’ve always been used to having to face off against someone bigger than me. My first year playing I was the smallest kid on the team. Despite having no experience, they’d set up drills that made me have to tackle the starting running back or get tackled by the starting linebacker in a head on collisions. Imagine an iron hammer. The blunt end, or peen, is as wide as you are, left shoulder to right shoulder. It’s as tall as you are, from the bottom of your stomach to the top of your head. This hammer comes crashing into you with such force, that it rocks your entire being and for a split second you black out. Then you come to and your falling to the ground and there’s a pain like a jagged dagger stabbing you in the back that takes the air out of your lungs. That’s how I remember growing up.

I sat in my car, listening to the radio play a song I knew the lyrics to, but that I didn’t like all that much. My uniform was all black. I was a shadow. Or something in it.  My seat was reclined, and I felt tired. But when I closed my eyes I was awake. Seconds passed. Seconds passed. I opened my eyes.

שׂ

            The moment. That’s what the game is all about. Organized attacks teams make against each other are called “plays”. These plays are the basis of the game. Everything is broken up into a play. Fragmented moments.

When the ball snaps, the world disappears and you don’t think of any coaches watching you, your teammates, the cheerleaders, the masses in the grand stands. Your last thought or need or want or belief. There’s the crack of pads and helmets. Your chest rises and contracts with every breath and before you make contact with the opponent, you can’t hear yourself breathing. Or feel it.

The average play doesn’t take long. Imagine a pass play. A quarterback is trained to pass the ball within three seconds. If it takes any longer for him to make a decision to throw or not, it could jeopardize everything. Now take airtime of the ball into consideration, along with when the receiver catches the ball. He can run for yards and yards and yards, but there are always corners/linebackers/safeties to take into consideration who stop and tackle the receiver. On average he won’t run for yards and yards and yards. So add a few more seconds. Three seconds for the quarterback, two for the airtime of the ball, and two to four seconds until the whistle is blown. At most that leaves us with an interval time of nine seconds. Nine seconds. For nine seconds the world isn’t there. For nine seconds all you live in is the moment. That’s how you learn to live. In the moment.

שׂ

            When I got to the club it was virtually empty. Everyone was setting up for the night. Bartenders stocking bottles/audio techs plugging in speakers/  people moving couches. I passed all of them and went to the security office. After I got my radio, a few bouncers, my coworkers, came in to start the night. Back outside, a line was forming. There weren’t too many people here yet, but there was excitement in the buzzing in the air like a thin cloud of hornets; smiling faces/ eyes downcast on phones/arms huddled around themselves or others to shield from the cold. It was Friday, and even though the sun had left the sky, the night had not yet started.

In college, Friday night meant something else. The university I went to didn’t have a football team. The mentality I had grown up with completely vanished into the university village’s dull, smoggy air. The place wasn’t known to be a real “university town”, but you could still find parties and things to do if you wanted. True, it wasn’t like UC Santa Barbara or USC, but where there are college students there will always be drugs/alcohol/sex. And I knew exactly where to find these places.

Friday night. Even if I couldn’t find anything to do, it was a good enough an excuse as any to grab a forty ounce of Olde English or a Mad Dog 20/20 and start bong ripping the night away. Cause it was Friday. That was college. That was when Friday night was everything you looked forward to. It was living in the moment; forgetting you had classes and papers and finals. It was forgetting that the one girl you wanted had a boyfriend. But whatever, you’d just find a party and some other girl. So you’d go to a house party and it’d be crowded with a lot of people you didn’t know, and some that you did, and you’d talk and smoke cigarettes outside while drinking beer. Inside your friends would raid the kitchen for any loose alcohol anyone who owns the house forgot about, while outside you’d be talking with a girl about something, but it doesn’t really matter because she’s smiling and laughing at everything you say and the music is too loud and you can’t hear what she responds. She scoots closer to you. Then issuing a challenge, a drunken guy and his friends approach you, shoving a bottle of Jack in your face. You take a swig and it’s as if you were drinking soda. You pass the bottle back to the guy like it was a phone and you were saying here, take this call for me. You turn your attention back to the girl, continuing the conversation as if nothing happened. The hero of the moment.

שׂ

            Anything can happen on a Friday night. That’s how it’s always been. In football it was that on any given play I could be hurt in any variety of ways at any point. In college it was finding the parties and never knowing what exactly I would find myself in, but knowing that there would be a story to tell about it later. Then it changed. I was still at the party. The scene. But now I was on the other side of the mirror.

To me, bouncing is similar to football. You never know if/how/when something will happen. You never know. Sometimes the tension is so high it dribbles out of everyone involved like sweat. Take a typical work night. I’m checking a guy’s ID before letting him into the club. He has tattoos on his arms and face. His shoulders are broad and he is physically larger than me. I can’t tell if he naturally scowls or if he’s angry. His girlfriend doesn’t seem to notice. Behind him are three of his friends who all look the same. And with him standing two feel away from me/with a whole packed line of people behind him waiting impatiently to get in/with my bosses watching/with a camera behind me/I’m told in my ear piece through the radio repeatedly to “fade” this guy out of line. So I “fade” him. I swipe his ID through the handheld ID scan, (which is pointless really, because the computer on the scan is frozen) and pretend that it was the card’s fault, not me lying, and that now he and his friends need to step out of line. And what if he noticed something? What if my hand leaned down enough so that he saw that I was bullshitting him?

Be ready for it when it happens. That was the life lesson I learned. Which side is it going to come from? Left? Right? Or maybe on my nose, crushing cartilage and blood together.  In my mind’s eye I imagine it coming in as a wide hook, and in the worst case scenario I’m not paying attention. This takes me on the left side of my head, his knuckles pressing my upper ear into my skull. It takes me off balance, but by now the adrenaline would have kicked in and within a second I’m going to respond. He might get a few more hits, but they won’t be well placed, or maybe they will be, but the anger and adrenaline will take away any sense of feeling. Then we’ll be broken up and he’ll be saying “You punk ass motherfucker I’ll crack your fuckin skull” and I’ll respond “Come at me motherfucker!” and my boss will shine his flashlight in the guy’s face to disorientate him and his friends will get into this too, as will my coworkers, until finally we push them away from the club and they curse us and I’m bleeding over my brow but I don’t realize it and his shirt is torn and he curses at me more and his friend bumps into a girl who almost loses her balance and spills her drink. It will end in seconds. Nine seconds.

Anything can happen. On this night, the first thing that happened that I hadn’t foreseen, was that I wouldn’t be working my usual post checking IDs at the front door of the club. Instead I was posted at the left side of the main stage.

The main stage (predictably) is in the main room of the club. It is the largest room in the club, and it’s here that the headliners perform their acts. That night, Kreayshawn was the headliner.

Kreayshawn is a new breed of rapper. When I was growing up in the long ago year of 2003, rappers were talking about bitches and hoes, doing coke and drinking and smoking blunts; living at a million dollars a minute and not giving a fuck. But that was just guys. Kreayshawn is of a new generation, a generation of sexual equality. Other examples of this generation are Rihanna and Nicky Minaj. Kreayshawn is the Bay Area version.  Now women can also say what guys say. Get just as fucked up and morally nihilistic as men. Cause why can’t they? Why should we deny a woman’s right to get totally fucked up off ecstasy and alcohol and weed at four in the morning in a strip club? Guys do it. So why shouldn’t everyone be able to? It’s equality. Only being fair. Right?

When the night’s first DJ started his set the room was dark and empty. People trickled in slowly, still too self conscious and sober to dance. A few made their way to the bar to get the night started. A fog machine turned on. It was like the walls were blowing hookah smoke in the air. When I looked at my watch, the time was 10:15.

My job was simple. On the left side of the stage there were a set of stairs, eight or nine steps in total. These stairs were my post. To my right was the stage; to my left a staircase. At the top of this flight of stairs was a doorway which opened into the green room where the artists and their friends got to hang out before and after their shows. People who go to the green room were wearing blue wristbands. Photographers made up most of the people with red wrist bands. Over time I noticed that regardless of wristband color, both groups of people drank alcohol without care or worry.

A woman came up to me asking if I could let her get on stage. When I leaned in to listen to her what she had to say, I felt her chest brush against me. Women have a certain way of interacting when they want something. They’ll pull you close, smile and lean in to whisper things in your ear. They all want something. To get on stage. To get in for free. To get into a closed entrance without their lame ass date who brought them here, and who now doesn’t have the limo he promised would bring them around the city for the night. They will come up to club staff in groups of three or four and ask “We’re a group of girls. What do we need to do to get a discounted ticket?” But you can’t give into this all the time.

DJs changed and there was no visible break in the music for me or anyone to notice. By now the alcohol and drugs have started to take effect. The room wasn’t crowded, but people had begun to dance. Everyone was laughing; wide open mouthed faces. But the music was too loud, so I couldn’t actually hear laughter. In front of me a lesbian couple danced and each girl pressed/grabbed/kissed/bit  the other all to the rhythm of the music.

The stairs where I was standing were getting packed because the main room was filling up too fast. The crowd in front had grown from just a few fish in a barrel, to a tin overstuffed with sardines packed slimily together. Everyone’s eyes were wide/glassy/red, pupils dilated. And more people were coming in. I was standing in place and even though I looked straight ahead and saw everything change, it didn’t feel like I saw it. Like getting high. It’s that strange moment when suddenly sober becomes high and you can’t tell the exact moment when everything changed, but you’ve reached a higher ground.

I stood in place for virtually the whole night on those stairs. If I ever moved, the stairs and stage would be overcome with people. Which happened anyway. And even though it did, no manager ever said there was anything wrong with it over the radio. But then again, maybe it was my fault.  Maybe people lied to me and I believed it. I’m not the best security guard ever. There’s the stereotype that the average security guard is of some idiot going nowhere in life who has no real authority. The kind of job an ex football jock would do. The kind of guy who can’t even do his job right.

As the last minute of one day passed and the next began, a new artist got on stage. I didn’t know her name, but she looked like a friend of mine. It was as if she had decided to become a music star, not a college student. She asked the crowd “Who out there is on molly!?” To which only a small select few in the very center of the room responded. I stood by while an entire packed room praised drug use and reckless behavior; singing along with the song, line by line. I  was on the same stage, staring back at everything I was, or possibly still am. But it was different. Because for that moment, I wasn’t in the party. I was the bouncer. I was the one that had to make sure that all this reckless behavior didn’t get anyone hurt. And I was completely outnumbered, even in the best case of scenarios. The edge of apocalypse. The bad guys were winning. The meteor was going to come crashing down with world ending force. It was so close that I could see the individual flames on the outline of the behemoth annihilation stone. And I waited for it. Anticipating the monster.

When the girl who sang about doing molly finished her set, there was a silence on the stage, but the crowd was louder than ever. That was because it was time for the real show. It was time for the headliner.

My coworker Allen appeared. He began ordering everyone off the stage, shouting loud enough to be heard over the surrounding pandemonium. People fled. Someone jumped on stage. Allen stormed the stage’s assailant, and the assailant jumped off the stage and back into the mob whence he came.  He began to shove a couple that was dancing together off the stage, but when they got to my stairs they stopped and the girl fell back into the guy and they both started moving their hips together in sync, as if they were fucking, and the whole crowd went wild until and after they finally got off the stairs. Then Allen told me to clear the stair well. I shouted into the stair well for everyone to leave. No one did. Allen came over and shouted even louder. Everyone left.

I resumed my post. As a girl in a black and white trucker cap with the word KUNT written boldly on the front told me about this review for a music website she was writing for, a scuffle broke out in the crowd.  Allen was shining his flash light on the fight. I entered the crowd. When I got to the center of the action, it dissipated. To my left was a Latino guy with a V neck shirt, and he was telling me “I’m su, su, sorr-”

But I responded

“You need to leave. NOW.” He vanished. A girl came up to me and while pulling me close and she shouted into my ear over the general commotion that he was pushing her. This happened a lot. A guy does something to a girl in a crowd, feels her up, puts a hand in a place that it shouldn’t be, and she realizes and she explodes on him like shots out of a machine gun, hammering down blow after blow and he backs up shouting “What the fuck?”

When I got back to the stairs I was posted at, it was flooded with people. There was simply no empty space left in the main room. Like water spilling over the rim of a glass. Two girls behind me started making out next to a photographer who took pictures. When I looked at the crowd, every here and there was a guy staring at the girls. They were thinking fuck yeah. One of the girls then ran on stage and took her shirt off. The mob roared it’s approval like a demon in a cave.

Eventually Kreayshawn came on stage. When I looked at her clothes, the light blue denim shorts, the suspenders, the yellow shirt and the beanie, the long baseball socks and Converse high top tennis shoes; she came off as very Bay Area. Maybe Vallejo. Daly City? No wait..Oakland. And that’s exactly what she was aiming for.

Though the crowd knew most of her songs, I didn’t. By this point another one of my coworkers, Markus, had taken up the job of standing in the way of the stairs. And he did a much better job than I did. I think part of it was that he was a wider person than me. Not saying that’s a bad thing. It’s not like I did a good job doing what I was doing. Later I went to the stair case to clear out the people without wristbands. The lone guy without one left without resistance. The two girls who were making out earlier were there and they didn’t have wrist bands, but it was okay. There was no one that was going to stop them from being there. And no one did.

After Kreayshawn finished her set everyone began to leave. It was the end of the moment of excitement, and people were sobering up. Or trying to. Or maybe not, maybe they were still down to get fucked up. They were now considering taking the fourth pill of ecstasy while late in the roll; make the party last longer, but it was now very obvious that the party will come to an end. The main room drained like liquid from a shattered bottle.

An Asian girl in a blonde wig was black out drunk and tried to crawl on stage, but the bouncer on the other side of the stage carried her back down. Practically everyone had left the main room. The night’s last DJ played his set to about seven people. Even the people who came without friends got self conscious and left. They’ve taken the fourth pill, but it’s not the same. The drunk girl from earlier sat on top of a speaker that rested next to the stage. She swayed back and forth, blacked out and unable to control her motions. Next to her was a couple, the girl a in a white shirt and light blue jeans, the guy wearing jeans but a darker colored shirt and looking ten years older. She was standing but bent over at a ninety degree angle and he was draped over her like a cloth over the corner of a table. He wasn’t pounding and she wasn’t gyrating, but they just lay positioned like that, her hands holding the edge of a speaker for balance, the same speaker that the drunk girl was sitting on.

A couple times guys would come up to the drunk girl and try to talk to her. When that happened it got my full attention. If either of them would of so much as touched her, my fist would have connected with their temple. Waiting for the moment. But I didn’t hit anyone. The couple always stopped their romance and told the would be suitor/rapist something that made them walk away. I stared them down as they walked away, waiting for the moment. Wanting to see the fear.

The main room closed. The front room was the last room left open. There was a dull blue light that gleamed from somewhere and there was music and enthusiasm and people danced like fucked up mongrels even though there was no alcohol. Cause regardless if they were sober or not, this was the tail end of the party. The last peak in the high. It was all going to end. At any moment. Any moment at all. So fuck everything. A guy in a white basketball jersey danced with so much enthusiasm, I knew it had to be the MDMA.

The drunk girl sat on a couch being sheltered by a completely different couple, who were older and it was like they were her parents. The mom wrapped her arms around the drunk girl while her dad went to the bar to get her water. A coworker of mine brought her an extra water bottle. She didn’t sober up. Her original “friends” were nowhere to be found. A suitor/rapist from before tried to talk to the girl again. He had a bad hair cut, and it looked completely eighties; being that his hair was the shape of a perfect rectangle. The couple sheltered the girl from this guy. As he walked away I made eye contact with him. Waiting for the moment. Becoming the monster. He disappeared in the crowd.

The music stopped. The white lights turned on and my coworkers shone their flash lights on the exits. No one paid attention. No one wants it to end. But it has. The drop is a free fall. No one moved after five minutes. The original friends of the blacked out girl appeared. The guy was wearing a dark blue blazer, and he looked like a person again; not a fuck beast. They found their “friend” and comforted her like they were neglectful parents who felt guilty over their actions. Some guy said he wanted to say goodbye to Stephanie. He was annoying and he wouldn’t leave and it was eight minutes passed closing. We forced him out, saying we’d tell her he said goodbye. We didn’t.

When I got home it was the coldest part of the night. Everything was quiet. Everything was calm. I went to sleep in a dark room. That was Friday night. But it wasn’t over. Even though it was 4:20 in the morning, it still felt like three in the afternoon. At some point practice would start. The next play. After I woke up and came to, I knew what to expect. Because after all, it would be Saturday night.

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