Tom and Tom the speed freaks.

angels my boyfriends

“-Tom and Tom the speed freaks. Maybe 100lbs between the two of them. They were easy to spot when they were tweaking because they drove around in a beat up old station wagon and sang “My Boyfriend’s Back” in a caterwaulingly loud falsetto. I asked them why they were singing a “girl’s song,” and they said they didn’t care. It was stupid, they were high, speed helped them harmonize and that was all that mattered.
-Dog and Duane the rip-offs. These were two biker types (I never saw them on motorcycles) who robbed drug dealers…like me. They were intimidating and ballsy and did not care that everyone knew exactly who and what they were. They rolled in like Omar the crack dealer robber from TV’s The Wire. They worked as a team so that when one jammed you and you turned to run, the other would be standing right behind you. I had someone tell me that they wanted to buy a bag of weed at the park on a humid summer night, but they were afraid that the police could be watching and wanted to do the deal behind the bandshell stage building. I didn’t know them, but they didn’t look like cops, so I said OK. Once we got back there I pulled the baggie out so they could see and smell the pot. I barely had a chance to register what was going wrong with their body language when I saw Dog rounding the corner, Duane coming around the other. I had nowhere to run, no way to beat them and no desire to get stabbed for a bag of weed. I gave up the bag. I walked away from that one. 

-Angel Ron, an alcoholic ex-convict who looked like a cross between Willie Nelson and Klaus Kinski’s Aguirre. He had done time with a lot of the older guys and bikers at Florence, the Arizona State Prison. He was a commanding presence and I tried to emulate a lot his mannerisms and gestures. He would shoplift half-gallons of bourbon from the supermarkets under his jacket, and never share a drop. Years later he almost got me shot when the guy we were trying to sell something we stole to decided to steal it from us at gunpoint. I was ready to box, as this was a fair amount of money (to me), but Ron, in his calm but emphatically stentorian timbre said “He will shoot you!”
My favorites were the in-betweens, the older biker/greaser/gangster old-school criminals who took the parts of all these different lifestyles that they liked and tossed the rest. They seemed to straddle the 50’s and 60’s and walk tall and cool into the 70’s. They were the first to call something bullshit, the first to say that they liked something whether it was popular or not and, in a pinch, the first to fight. They were the guys who drank Old Granddad, ate acid, did reds, listened to Merle Haggard and had more fun doing it than anyone else because they just did not give a fuck. This was who I wanted to be.



Best review EVER from a classmate for my last grad school paper and my attempt, per Lee Gutkind, the Godfather of Creative Nonfiction, to build suspense into my writing.
The most important thing I learned was how locking people up works. The State doesn’t have to carry out the punishment. It leaves that to the inmates. I did not enjoy being locked up or doing time in solitary confinement. I did not enjoy being here when I wanted to be there. I did not enjoy the powerlessness I felt when my girlfriend was drugged and gang raped and there was nothing I could do about it. All of these things were punitive enough on their own, but they paled beside the Hell of other inmates.
When people are thrown together in cramped quarters in a negative environment like this it tends to bring out the worst in them, like neighbors turning on you in an end of the world movie where resources are scarce. It is no small irony that this extraordinary level of anarchy takes place behind the rigid confines of jailhouse walls. I saw some petty, abusive and megalomaniacal behavior at the hands of guards and martinet administrators, but it was nothing compared to what we did to each other.
A few months in I did get a reprieve of sorts, but not a good one. I found that the prosecutor’s office had re-filed criminal charges against Lisa, the girl I had dumped my drugs on. My deal proved to be no deal at all, and I had nothing in writing to prove that it had ever been made. I was asked by her attorney if I would return to Phoenix to appear in court for her and confess again.
I was re-shackled, loaded in the transport van and taken back to Phoenix. I went through the labyrinth of courthouse holding chambers and was left in the tiniest, most cramped and claustrophobic, windowless janitor’s closet of a holding cell I had ever been in. I was praying that the guards would not put anyone else in there with me.
I wasn’t waiting long before one of the guards unlocked the door and said
“Looks like you won’t have to appear after all. The DA dropped the charges.”
It all worked out the way I had hoped, so I wasn’t entirely disappointed, but I was a little surprised that the DA’s office would try a cheap stunt like this in the first place. I had received a few letters from Lisa at Fort Grant and she had forgiven me and was clearly moving on with her life. I felt bad that I had dragged her into this in the first place, and worse that she had to relive it all over again.
I was preparing for the long, chained up trip back when the door was unlocked again and the guard poked his head in, saying
“I have someone here who would like to have a word with you.”
I expected another cop or detective or maybe even Lisa’s attorney. When the door swung open, I saw a weathered old cowboy, 5’5, maybe 5’6 and 110, 120 lbs. tops. He was the living definition of the word wiry. He wore a good quality hat and a worn denim shirt and jeans. Most of all he wore some mileage on his face. He wore it with an expression of resolve. I knew exactly who he was, and I had no doubt after looking in his eyes that this was a man who could kill me.
He was Lisa’s father.
She had told me that her father owned a horse riding stable on the North side of Phoenix. He was the last person I wanted to see. He stepped into the holding cell and the guard closed the door behind him. My hands were cuffed. My legs were chained together with less than a foot of slack and both were connected to a chain around my waist that kept my hands from moving more than six inches or so. I had no way to defend myself against the beating that this guy must be here to deliver. The worst part was that I knew I deserved it. I was processing every possible defensive move I could make in this broom closet of a room and I had nothing. I didn’t even know how to head-butt back then. The guard had obviously set me up, so no one was going to interrupt what was going to happen next
He stood even closer to me, tipped his hat back enough to show me his eyes and then………reached out his hand to shake mine.
“I just want to thank you for coming down here and being willing to do the right thing.”
I shook his hand and apologized to him with all the sincerity that a near death experience could move me to. It took me forever after he left to catch my breath and slow my heart back down.

Excerpt: “A revolution without beer is not a revolution worth having.”

abbie hoffman

“A revolution without beer is not a revolution worth having.”
I had made friends at the Yippie Free Store near the University of Arizona in Tucson. Their take on hippies being closeted crypto-Fascists mirrored my own and in no time I was living and working at the Free Store. It was a simple store front of maybe 5-600 sq.ft. There was one bathroom with a small shower. I slept on the floor in a sleeping bag. My partner at the store was a good-natured, hard-drinking ex-Navy man with a shaved head named Denny. He was jovial and easygoing, no bomb-throwing Trotskyite, bitter intellectual or space cadet hippie. He was dead serious about his politics, but not so much so that he was humorless or overbearing about it. He seemed more like someone I would work with at a warehouse or construction job.
The bulk of my job was taking donations of clothing and hanging them on the store’s racks. Pricing was not an issue, because everything was free. Most people who came in really didn’t get that part.
“How much is this?”
“It’s free.”
“And this?”
“That’s free too.”
“Well, how about this?”
“It’s all free?”
The working part was gravy. We would often get cash donations for the free stuff that people took, which my partner and I used to buy beer. We did have some dour Marxists from some splinter group come to the store once who were clearly displeased with our fondness for beer. 

“Alcohol is counter-revolutionary” 
one sniffed with contempt. Her tenor reminded me so much of a bitter Catholic nun that my knuckles got ruler flashbacks. We did not have any further conversation, rather we were held as a captive audience to her and her friend’s pontifications. When they finally left–and I looked to make sure they were well down the road–I turned to my partner, eager to hear his take on it. He waved his hand as though to dismiss everything they had said and made his own proclamation; 
“A revolution without beer is not a revolution worth having.” 
Sold me.




“I love that spot on the back of your head, where your hair used to be”
she said, while rubbing it, I imagine, for good luck.
“It makes me think of a sexy, Friar Tuck kind of monk, but one without all those troubling moral distractions.”
I was not entirely sure that this was a compliment, but it was being delivered while she stroked my remaining follicles as if she were giving her Schnauzer a belly rub, so I opted to let her seduction run its course. Still, I couldn’t help but dread the possibility that she would conclude her twisted sonnet with a;

“Who’s a good boy? Yes you are! Yes you are!”

Trish the Dish Meets Honest Jerry

First page of script from my first screenplay (writing course);cop buxom
Trish the Dish Meets Honest Jerry
Camera zooms in from over the ocean to the shore and inland hills, narrowing down to a crowded beach side parking lot full of civilian and military-looking types. There is a lot of activity in this open air market, but no stalls or booths or products are visible. The camera finally lands on a group of thirty-somethings, including a bearded man with longish hair and three-piece suit holding a tall can of beer, two nondescript but military-looking males in civilian clothes and one striking attractive, almost cartoonishly buxom young woman.
HONEST JERRY “I’ve got red and purple hair sinsemilla, skunk weed and…best of the best, opiated gold Buddha Thai.”
NONDESCRIPT MALE #2 “That sounds good. Can we get a dime of the Thai?”
HONEST JERRY VO (*Sirens and alarms are sounding off screen)
Only cops buy dimes. Cheap bastards. These two guys definitely look like they could be narcs. Still, the woman looks like she is not really with them. She looks like she would dump these clowns in a Detroit second if something, or someone, better came along.

HONEST JERRY “Smallest I can do is a quarter for $65.”
TRISH THE DISH (Looking incredibly flirtatious and somehow pushing her mesmerizing decolletage out even further than gravity should allow)
“Oh please!We have to be back tomorrow and we only have this afternoon to party.”
HONEST JERRY “AAAAAAArrrggggggghhhhhh!OK!”


T.I.A.s in the Days before the A.C.A. or Why I Wish I Could Have Had Obamacare Twenty Years Ago

Hard times and heart attacks in the time of pre-existing condition exclusion with elements of heroin addiction, long-term recovery, carrot juice and breathtaking ignorance.

honest Jerry

The emergency room doctor barely peeked over her glasses when she looked up from her chart to ask “Do you have insurance?” This was not the question, no matter how inevitable it was, that I wanted to hear, no less answer right now.
“No.” I had applied for Blue Cross Blue Shield in my early 30’s and been denied for a medical history of substance abuse treatment. My argument for appeal was that I had 3 years of clean time but that was insufficient according to their criteria. They wanted 15 years. When I countered that 15 years later I would be in my late 40’s and too old to insure, they answered with the standard non-answer “That is our policy.”
I had made it to the age of 49 with no serious medical events. I knew my blood pressure was high, too high, OK, way too high, but I was exercising and dieting religiously to try and bring it down. That day I got a status update in the form of a Transient Ischemic Attack, or “mini-stroke.” I had lost the feeling in my right arm and part of my right side. I had always read that heart attacks were often foreshadowed by numbness in the left arm, so I waited for it to pass. Everything passes. Walk it off.
This one did not pass. I did not want to pay out of pocket for an ambulance, so I drove myself–one -armed–to the emergency room at St. Joseph’s Hospital in downtown Phoenix. I am used to driving old cars and trucks and begging/praying/pleading to just make this one last trip, this one last mile. This was the first time I had to make that entreaty to my own heart. I was admitted to the ER with blood pressure reading of 250/190.
Poverty often makes us do really stupid shit.
After the eternity that followed my “No” answer to the doctor’s insurance question, she removed her glasses and leaned in closer, with the body language of a loan shark’s semi-benevolent leg-breaker who tries to offer some comfort while sizing up your kneecaps. “This…” she said, using one finger to sweepingly point out the personnel and high-tech appointments of the ER, “will break you.” I did not doubt her. Instead, I was struck with the absolute certainty that the leading cause of second heart attacks was receiving the bill for the first one.
I still couldn’t process how this came to pass. I was in what was undoubtedly the best shape I have ever been in. I quit all the bad things! I converted my former heroin outlay into health food and supplements. I juiced, for Christ’s sake! I explained all of this to the ER doc;
“I don’t drink, do drugs or smoke. I don’t gamble or date women with names like Bambi, Lexus or Destiny. I lift weights three days a week and climb Camelback Mountain three days a week. I live on carrot juice and the blood of virgins. I only eat red meat once a week and I feel really, really guilty about it afterwards. There must be some mistake here.”
I was resigned to one of two outcomes; either a pedestrian death or an incomplete life saddled with crippling debt. My “woe is me” reverie was fortuitously interrupted by a nurse bringing me more pills. When she dropped one of them on the floor but did not pick it up, I asked “What no 5-second rule?” “Oh God no, definitely not in here” she said. When I looked down at the floor I saw what was quite possibly the most soul-crushingly, sub-industrial, faded pale green and maybe-used-to-be white linoleum that even a lifetime of acclimation to institutional chromatic deprivation left me wholly unprepared for. I also found my strength and salvation there, as the loudest voices in my chattering, cognitive choir, the angels of my baser nature said with unmistakable certainty;
“We are not going out on green fucking linoleum!”

The Busman’s Holiday Buffet; Travels of a Blue Collar Foodie

The Busman’s Holiday Buffet; Travels of a Blue-Collar Foodie

76 truckstop


I spent a good part of the last thirty years traveling around the country as a furniture mover. I worked what was called short haul, roughly within 500 miles, for the first year or so. Working out of Phoenix, AZ this job took my co-driver and I to Texas, New Mexico, Colorado and mostly, to California. The company I worked for used a Union 76 fuel account and credit card, so those were the main truck stops we stopped, fueled and ate at. The restaurant that most of those truck stops had was Denny’s.

One of the first fallacies to be forever put to rest by this experience was the “Truck drivers know the best places to eat, look for the places with the most trucks parked in their lots” myth. Truck drivers eat at places where they can park a 75’ foot long truck. Those logistics tend to limit your dining options. Think about the last restaurants you went to that had truck parking. Because we were also running on a tight schedule, staying close to the highway and making the truck stop a one-stop shopping exercise made more sense. The problem was, eating at Denny’s twice a day, six days a week, we ran through their limited menu options fairly quickly. Truck travel is a lot like business travel in that the sights, accommodations and especially the food tends to become disturbingly uniform after a while. I will die happy if I never have to see “Moons Over My Hammy” again.


The obvious solution to our boring routine was to try other dishes at other places. Some truck stop food was good. Some was more adventurous. Some was…questionable. Nothing will drive you back into the welcoming arms of the known like driving 7-800 miles after unknowingly ingesting the unknown wrapped in a bad burrito.  Some of the smaller places had private, locally owned and operated restaurants or diners, while the larger ones tended to go with big fast food chains like Burger King or Wendy’s. The most common features were price and quantity. Truck driving does not pay much, and it is easy to overspend on food when every meal and snack comes at an aggravated retail price. Big and cheap and more bang for your buck was the biggest constant. We had slightly different needs from our more sedentary fellows, though, as we had to load and unload a truck full of furniture, by hand, often up and down stairs, every other day or so. We couldn’t afford to get too far out of shape or overweight.

We were still largely limited to Interstate-adjacent fare, but we did enjoy options that many other drivers did not. We drove a smaller, 24-ft long truck called a straight truck for one. We could, with varying degrees of effort, get into places the big trucks could not. Secondly, because we delivered furniture to people’s homes, we were not entirely limited to the commercial districts that freight haulers were. Our biggest constraints were time and money. We ran on something of a miserly food and lodging per diem. For us to eat someplace a cut above the truck stops, we had to scrimp and save on hotels and other meals. We also rarely knew where good restaurants were, and largely operated on a hit-and-miss strategy of trying to find places that looked promising.

The first and best thing I discovered was the endless variety of Mexican food that differed from state to state. Different Southwestern states were settled by people from different parts of Mexico, and their culinary traditions are reflected in those regional dishes. Arizona is characterized by mostly Sonoran Mexican food, while Texas offers Tex-Mex, New Mexico features the local chilies first and foremost and Colorado’s Mexican dishes tend to be more cheese-heavy. My co-driver was from Wisconsin and clearly no stranger to cheese-dominated cuisine, but tended to be a little less adventurous in reaching beyond standard Taco Bell fare. I managed to convince him that Mexican food was uniquely suited for road food owing to the spiciness of the chilies acting as on onboard disinfectant that rendered any malicious microorganisms that may be found therein stunned and inert if not totally lifeless.

I lied. He believed it. Our menu choices expanded exponentially.

The other big payoff was the occasional shot at fresh seafood when we ran to California. I spent a large part of the 80’s enjoying fresh Red Snapper at seaside restaurants before finding out in the 90’s that it probably wasn’t really Red Snapper. Whatever. My memories are unalterable. Buckets of steamed clams, Gulf shrimp and scallops, even things like abalone that didn’t quite pan out as expected were still worth living on Power Bars and sleeping in the truck for, just for the experience if nothing else. There were a few misfires, like Pacific spiny (rock) lobster and West Coast oysters that were somewhat disheartening, but were still valuable experiences. I could now say “Yes, I’ve been there and yes, I’ve tried ******. I was underwhelmed.” Moreover, I could say it with authority.


Perhaps the most important part, for me at least, was doing all of this on the clock. Actually, I worked on a percentage, so it was my clock, but I got paid to drive to these places and I not only had my meals partially subsidized as part of my pay, but I could write the remaining expenses off of my taxes. This brings me back to this blog’s title, The Busman’s Holiday. The term originally referred to bus driver’s who would vacation at the same destination that they drove paying customers to while on the clock. This also brings me to point I made earlier that truck driving really doesn’t pay very well. I developed a habit early on of structuring my work to pay for—at least in part—the things and opportunities I could not afford otherwise.