DRUNK PEOPLE DRINKING
I AM ALIVE!
Day 64 Hereford to Canyon
Mike is back in the morning. Last night he said he wanted to talk to me today, just after he asked me if I was a Christian. Today he has a book for me, a "Cowboy Bible," with pictures of cowboys with quotes by rodeo stars about faith and Jesus and being born again. On the first page he has written: "In the pages of this book you will find the words of the ONE true God (double underlined). In this you will find all the answers you seek. He will be all that you will let him be. God bless you." -Mike. I think that this will start happening more and more often as I move into Texas and Oklahoma. Should I just fake it and say Im Christian? No, but I will not argue. Ill just take the Bibles and the pamphlets and leave them in gas station bathrooms. I have heard that Garth is quote "a Christian gentleman," defined very much by his faith. I hope he does not ask me any questions about my religion. I hope the things I have written dont make these people send me hate mail.
Garths office walls are completely covered in family photos and pictures of a very modern looking Jesus, and bible passages, and contemporary Christian music plays on the radio. He is a good looking man, what you would get if you asked an artist to paint a picture of "a good Christian family man." We have a very good talk and he does not ask me about my religion, I respect him for that, he is not trying to sell me a product like so many others have. He wants to send us dog food on the road, it will help Cosmo gain some weight back, she has gotten thin. So many different kinds of food, and the changes are bad for her stomach. So now we have a free supply of good dog food, all because of Roddy and Jess and the Pilosopher and his wife and because I did not feel comfortable staying in that field last night. Hallelujah. Garth gives me an office for the afternoon so I can sit down and write and make phone calls. But stalling is still stalling, best to move on, I have place to stay in Canyon tonight, a college house, I wonder what they will be like?
On the road two policemen stop me for no reason. "Were not pulling you over or anything, we just need to do a full background check." I dont think thats legal, but Im not going to argue, just play the game so they will go away. They are surprised when I tell them I stayed at Merricks, no way a hobo like you knows Garth Merrick. But I do so go away. I get the idea that they would much rather have me be a bad guy. But I am quiet and just keep smiling and they cant stop me so full steam ahead.
At the junction to Wildorado (yes, that is a real town name), there is a place called Dawn, population 50. The restaurant is closed but Wanda, the owner lets me in and brings out a big piece of blackberry cobbler and a glass of milk. She is smoking. And watching a soap opera. Behind her, above another booth, is a 2 x 5 foot plastic relief sculpture of Indians on a Buffalo hunt, painted to look like bronze. We try to talk but we are both distracted by the Soap Opera. Scenes of a couple in the shower moving on to a fur rug by a fireplace, and then panning into the fire because they cant show what comes next. A commercial break, and when they return he is giving her his mothers wedding ring. He asks her to marry him, "
to love and cherish you for as long as we live." And she says, "And I swear to you here and now that I will love and cherish you just as much (soft piano music). Putting on the ring
"Its a perfect fit." "Just like us." Another insinuated sex scene and this time they are rolled up in a blue velvet sheet surrounded by 50 or 60 candles. Wandas husband Bill is sitting with his back to the TV, hes "not watching this crap." Why do people watch this fake world on TV?
Back home, back to the highway. But a van pulls me over right away, he passed me earlier he said, and 10 minutes later the Lord told him to "get his but back there and see if I had a Bible." He would like to give me a backup one, but I decline. I should just play along but instead I tell him I am not a Christian, to which he responds, "The only question you have to ask yourself tonight when you go to bed, is When I die, am I going to heaven or hell? Well, do you know?" he asks. "Yes I do." I tell him I have had my own vision on the road to Damascus. "Just so long as you know there is a superior being and its not just the sun and stars, someone had to set those in motion." Emphasis on "someone" (god as a pool player). I do believe in motion though. He then prays that the "Lord will touch me." As he drives off he is praying for me. Poor doomed hippie boy worshiping the stars.
5 miles out of Canyon I think I am in Canyon. It is a horrible trick, those buildings on the edges of towns always start 5 miles out and make me think I am done, when I still have an hour or more to go. But the end is always still the end. I pull up at the same time as two college kids. "Are you the entertainment?" They are not making fun of me, they really think we may be hired entertainment, that is what we look like. Side show Bob and wonder dog with a flaming cart full of flaming hoops and loopty loops, and I suppose I would juggle for a $5 bill. I am supposed to ask for Sonya or Justin. It looks like I found the right house in Canyon. This place is called the Pikey house.
A party is about to begin. There will be large quantities of beer drunk tonight. I know because there are 5 cases of Natural Light out. Sonya has made something like 50 chili-dogs. Bump bump, music that I do not know but which is appropriate for the scene plays loud. People beginning to pulsate, not yet dance, but it is hard not to move a little when there is music like this. Amanda wears childrens pants because she is so small, they are red and covered with white flowers, they lace up and go only to her calves. Her expressions are photogenic, she drinks, she lays on the ground, she has one green eye and one blue eye, I like her mannerisms.
I do not choose people to photograph because I like them more, some people do not understand this, I photograph a particular person because I know I will catch something human, something dramatic, something different. So I watch Amanda. All of these people are much younger than I am, with the exception of Big Pikey, also known as Josh. Justin is little Pikey, but he is not little, he is 64" so you can imagine that big Pikey is big. I love these guys. A Pikey for a night, time warp, college party. But he is not the beer busting keg carrying image of the K.A. shirt he wears, there is more to him than that, and we begin to talk about the human condition, and the power of myth, and what man is really supposed to be doing. But I am not going to talk about that kind of thing tonight. Tonight I will talk about getting drunk and why people do it and how people connect in that place and why everyone would like to be drunk forever and dance to this music that is playing on the stereo for eternity, so long as the hangover does not come. But it always does. No one thinks about that tonight though, tonight they, tonight WE, will dance on tables and I will forget the road and forget that I have bills that I cannot pay and I will forget that men are separated by so many petty things and I will bond with these people in a way that I wish all of us could bond, a way which I pray someday we will. No hangover in Nirvana.
These people are all best friends. It shows. The biggest smiles. Arms around eachother. Greg has just gotten off of work at an Italian restaurant , he wears a white collared shirt and a tie and a button on his shirt that says Hospitaliano! Greg #3. His soccer number. Soon the table will be stacked with soccer players wailing songs that this time all of know. Johnny has his shirt off, he is ready to drink. Amanda sits on the floor in her tight red pants waiting for the games to begin. Drinking games like I used to play in London when I was in school and when I still liked getting drunk and built walls of tall London beer cans and blackouts, and sure, why not, Ill play, and that means Ill get drunk, and Sonya says that she will hold my head over the toilet if I need her to. Everyone laughs, "The walker is going to get shit faced!" So the game begins, with Johnny, and Hospitaliano Greg #3, and Little Pikey, and Steve, and Sonya, and Red Pants, and her friend, and Courtney, and Seth, and Kyle, and of course, Big Pikey, and the walker. The game is called "links," so if the cards are linked you drink and the bigger your cards are the more you drink and I keep getting the biggest cards and they tell me to just keep drinking, because I have 3 face cards in a row, 12 drinks with this card and 13 with the next and double the next and the cards are linked all the way around the table back to me, and even if I keep opening beers I cant keep up. So things begin to get funny and people make toasts and people have their arms around each other and people roll around on the floor and a new game is proposed.
A box of Marlboros is tossed into the air. If it lands flat you pass, if it lands on its side you make someone drink, if it lands straight up you make a rule. And the girls have made the rule that the guys have to strip every time the girls drink, so dont make a girl drink or we will all be naked, but the clothes are coming off because the girls make the girls drink, and at least I am not drinking as much, but I am losing my clothes. Will I end up naked in Canyon, Texas? It would not surprise me, why not, I might as well. Tonight I am with these people, more than documenting, I am living their life, I am one of them, that is the truest documentary, so Viva La France, bring it on. But I see little Pikey cheat and stops the box so it stands straight and the girls dont catch it, so the game is over and we did not get naked. I am done with the beer, no one will have to hold my head over a toilet tonight, I will not go that far back into my past. I will be happy drunk and sit on the stairs talking with Sonya drinking water because I learned that lesson a long time ago, and watching Amanda passed out face down at the top of the stairs. And I will be quite easily convinced to take tomorrow off because they say they will have another party, and dont we all want to be in a permanent party?
Everyone wants me to see the wall of fame, like every college house has, but now I know the people and I enjoy these pictures and I see myself in them in my past in my present in knowing why they do this. Drunk people on spring break and drunk girls in bras, drunk boys in boxers and drunk keg stands and drunk in the snow, drunk people on birthdays and drunk people at home, drunk people passed out and drunk people with beer bongs and drunk people showing their asses and holding handles of Rum and drunk people smoking and drunk people with t-shirts that say "sober" and of course, drunk people drinking.
In my life I have gone beyond escaping into alcohol, because yes, there is always a hangover and it is dangerous, and people fight and people cry and people hurt each other, and there are other ways easier to see now, but then, when I was 20 it was the most common, the most accessible means of entering no worries, no restraints, no inhibitions, no Im afraid to say this or say that and no maybe I shouldnt. And that creates great highs and great lows, and a voice cries out "I AM ALIVE!" There are better ways, but tonight I am here and tonight I agree to stay and play. Cosmo is passed out in the corner. We have been walking for 10 days at 30 miles a day. We deserve to play. To dance on tables. So let us begin, and they already have, singing "its a beautiful day
dont let it fade away
" and they all have their arms around each other and invite me to join and keep it going boys as though it will never end. So that is the game we play as humans, the game of trying to escape and that is why we like drugs and drink and coffee for hours on end and what will be the next fix the next distraction, 500 channels on TV? But there are some things to learn or I would not be here. Break down a wall, hug a stranger, say what you need to say. Run through the streets screaming "I AM ALIVE!"