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19. Number Nineteen, In Which Our Author Hops Trains And Kicks Teeth

I got a bug up my ass to travel once.  I had close friends who used to ride trains around the country and I thought that was where it was at.  I still envy these kids, I really do.  It almost killed me.  By the way, that's literal, not a cheap THS rip-off.

My close friend, Shad, was in town on a break from travelling.  He'd brought this ugly scary chick he'd found at some homeless camp in Canada.  She was filthy and built like an ox.  Her face looked like a child crying in a sandbox and her pores looked three times as large because of the coal dust crammed in them.

She was a masterpiece and so goddamned ugly I could appreciate the women of the rennaisance paintings.  Our idea was to ride a train out to West Hollywood to meet up with some of Heather's friends.  After about four bottles of Mad Dog 20/20 I came to driving through Nebraska in my mother's car.

None of us had any money or food or clothes.  I had about five days worth of morphine which I made last a whole three days.

Even being sick and having stolen my mother's car, this was a great time.  Like outlaws we stopped in small town off the map and stole gas or we'd wait behind a pizza joint at closing and the teenage kids would give us their throw-away pizza.  You can also go through the garbage of a fast food chain and dig out a bag, take the receipt inside and claim you didn't receive a couple of the items.

I saw a lot of the country with zero dollars.  Always staying off the expressways if we could, listening to the three crust punk and one Willie Nelson tape that we had.  At this time, right around Georgia, Shad wanted to get back to riding trains and the gorilla he'd brought with him was thinking the same.  As much as I wanted to I did have my mother's car and just didn't feel comfortable leaving it on some Georgia back road to be accosted by gypsy moss and the slow, dragging heat.  It just didn't seem fair.  My conscience works overtime at the  most inconvenient of moments.  We agreed to stay together till Hollywood.  I told Heather she could get out at any time and that she was ugly to boot.  You remember the movie Cry Baby with Johnny Depp?  She was Hatchet Face with tangled brown hair and shaped like an odd dwarf, everything proportionate except her short arms and personality.

We decided  that we wanted to stop in Albuquerque, New Mexico after we had a grand old time in Denver and New Orleans.  (I didn't even want to talk about New Orleans.  Alison and I went back there not to long ago and it was a much more relaxing time, except for the stupid phone call that I made to Eron.  I apologize still, not only to Eron, but to Steve, EJ, (Was EJ there?) that chicks tight pants and her husband.)

Denver, though, was beautiful as was the Garden of the Gods.  All those rocks with flowers planted around them by people who aren't gods.  I should think that the gods would be less concerned with pretty areas of land and more concerned with the amount of retarded babies they're making.  Besides my cynical observation it was beautiful and we got drunk as fuck up there and probably left a few bottles of King Cobra around to prove it.  Nobody gets mad when there's a 40 bottle laying on Mack Ave. even with it's extraordinary architecture, but leave one King Cobra bottle among a bunch of rocks and flowers and you're a real piece of shit.

On our way to New Mexico we needed to stop for gas and the only place that was close enough was this fucking huge mega truck stop.  I pulled in and it was chaos.  About five acres of trucks in the lot, 15 pumps all being used, and last but not least - four cops parked outside a restaurant attached to the service station.  All of them were inside but I was still nervous.  Nervous like an altar boy.  No, it was less sexual than that.  I was nervous like a child who has thought about returning the candy bar to the store shelf but said "fuck it.  In for a penny, in for a pound."

Anyways, we're all scared shitless and nobody wants to pump.  I decided to do it because it's my mother's car.  Where I came to the moral or ethical decision that I should be the one to pump the gas just because I was the one who had stolen the car, I'm not entirely sure, but I started pumping.  Okay, so rule one when stealing gas is to look nonchalant.  Now, if you're within view of four cop cars I DARE you to look non-fucking-chalant, especially if you look like I look when you're just regular old chalant.  Needless to say, I was shook and because of this my reasoning told me to just put in a few gallons, like that made any goddamn difference.  I then gently took the nozzle out of the gas hole (that's an Eron term. "Get your nose hole away from the gas hole," regarding me smelling how much if any gas was in Pinky.) like any small click or noise would alert the guards, and then rested it on top of the pump itself.

Fact:  If you steal gas and then hang up the nozzle it will beep inside to let the cashier know that you're finished pumping.   Don't steal gas, friends.  Listen to that little cop on the sticker on the pump.

I got back into the car and Shad and Heather were crammed in to the back seat like I was a fucking bomb or something.  I told the to stop being pussies so I'd stop feeling like a pussy and tore off a little too fast and a little bit in the wrong direction.

I ended up lost in the lot full of semi-trucks and I couldn't figure out how to get out.  It seemed like I circled that lot for an hour thinking that those cops would be blocking the entrance if I ever found the fucking thing.  Every lap or so I could still see the cops parked at the restaurant.  I finally found a hole and took it.  It wasn't necessarily an exit hole but it got us out of there and, just so you know, a 90's Lumina can take some serious air and be okay.  We entered into traffic Dukes of Hazzard style with an impressive fishtail that fizzled out too quick for my taste thanks to front wheel drive, ran a red light, and jumped on the expressway like five gallons richer.  For forty minutes we thought the State Police would be behind us at any minute.  That little restaurant in New Mexico must have had some really good food.  I don't think that any of those cops budged unless they were some elaborate decoys or something.

We made it to Albuquerque.  We were there to meet up with some of Shad's train-hopping buddies for some R and R and general rowdiness.  I'd never been to the desert before this and I'd probably be okay with myself if I never do again.  If I ever hear somebody say "Yeah, it's hot but it's a dry heat." I'm gonna punch their face and say, "Yeah, it's a punch, but it's a dry punch."  So, it's hot and there's no grass yards.  People rake their dirt.  I'm not shitting you, these people are all crazy.  The one plus is that all the bars and shit are outside and they have this system where it mists on you from pipes hung overhead.  It's so hot that you never get wet, it just cools you off.  If you don't have any money, you can walk along the sidewalk and benefit from this mist - and get drunk snatching drinks off the table while the people at it are staring at your friends' facial tattoos.  Win-win in my book.

We met up with Sid, John, and this other kid - I can't remember his name.  They were part of train gang called The Outlaw Rail Riders.  I can tell you with all honesty that these kids are 10 times more scary than any colored gang or motorcycle club by far.  These guys and girls leave home at 12 or 13 years old and live on these trains going town to town like goddamn hurricanes.  You don't know much about them and you've probably never seen one unless you live in a major city.  They're rarely dangerous to anyone that's not a traveler, but among themselves their like warring tribes.

Now if you consider the normal gangs, they sound dangerous.  They are, and that's why we love them, just not out loud.  It's just that their danger is more mythical.  These big gangs can become infamous as the result of one publicized incident and ride that out for years with just small pockets of violence to keep the myth rolling.  These train kids, they're the real deal and they don't want you to know it.

In the life there's different castes, so to speak.  Train kids who just like to travel and are crusty and dirty can be violent and drunk but they're not always murderous.  There's hobos, these are the original train hoppers.  Some are absolute wet heads from drinking wine that comes by the gallon for so long that they're harmless in a scary insane way.  Then there's the others who would kill you as soon as look at you.  Lastly, there's the train gangs - young, indiscriminate killers but also, coincidentally, really fun to party with.

These guys live in a way most will never experience and that I only got a glimpse of and ultimately was at the receiving en of.  One minute we're partying, having a good time, the next someone's gulping for air with that scared, long away look and everyone's slowly walking away.  There was no argument, no screaming and fighting, and no "fleeing" the scene.  There, in fact, was no scene because we were literally in the middle of nowhere because the train had stopped in the middle of nowhere.  There are hundreds of faces on milk cartons that at one time matched the scared, gulping face of a kid who just didn't know what he'd gotten himself into.  When the young murder, it's more primitive than moral.  It just is and it feels that way.  When you see it, it feels like a ritual in some way.  Like Inuits pushing the elderly out onto ice floes.

Sid, John, and the guy who's name I can't remember were alright, though.  Shad had traveled with them before and they had a pretty good repoire.  They were still pretty stand-offish with me for a while, especially Sid.  Sid was 16 and his face was completely covered in pseudo-Maori tattoos and random train signs everywhere else.  This kid had absolutely no regard for anything, living or dead.  It was like walking around with an untrained and un-diapered spider monkey.  It was an example of barbarism that can only be exercised by hungry youth.  We spent two days together camped out in the back yard of some crazy guy who walked around with a grocery cart full of junk and claimed to be the manager of GG Allin.  It must have been true, he DID have a GG Allin shirt.  In those three days I witnessed Sid punch two college kids for no reason and got into a rumble with him one night drinking Early Times.  Sid was on my team.

The six of us had stolen a fifth of Early Times at the grocery store and were sitting in a circle, passing it around.  an hour or so into this peace pipe-type drinking session, four kids happened along.  Among the train kids they're called House Punks (the punk rock kids who have homes). and the ones who want to be more but try too hard are considered "oogles".  They are hated.  They are from a weaker tribe, an invading tribe.  These kids sat down and we drank and things got impressively tense.  One of the guys had no shirt on, a pair of suspenders, and the word "oogle" spray-painted on his back.

After I've been drinking I can become violent.  There's never any doubting that.  When I am violent it's usually over a slight I've perceived as being at myself or a friend.  I had been with these people long enough. I started to become entrenched in their ideology.  The mindless violence for violence's sake.  The way these kids would tattoo their faces and become murderously violent unprovoked might have been a preemptive measure.  It might not have.  I do know it was contagious.

For no reason I got up from the circle we were all sitting in and with my steel toed Carolinas I kicked that oogle dead in the mouth with a football-style punt.  His mouth exploded and he tipped over backward, bleeding and choking on teeth.  Before I could even decide what to do next, this kid's friend and I were fist fighting.  When I think back on it I'm glad someone cared enough to risk major bodily harm to keep his friend out of a coma.  If this guy hadn't jumped up and started swinging at me I'm sure I would have continued to stomp and kick at the downed kid.

Now here's where the unflagging loyalty of like people shows itself and has been something that has never left me.  While I was one on one fighting, the downed kid's friend and his other friends had circled me.  they had no time to accomplish revenge.  Sid had already smashed the whiskey bottle over my opponent's head and was moving to the others.  There was a general melee that happened faster than I can recall and then they all ran, Sid and John not allowing them to collect their fallen friend.  This guy I'd kicked, unprovoked, in the face was dragged and left in a ditch.

Being so deeply entrenched in this lifestyle I felt no remorse for him.  I wont lie, I still don't.  Men fall, some don't.  It could have just as easily been me.  As a matter of fact it was me.  I was probably left worse.  We're not there yet, though.


  1. Awesome.
    "Okay, so rule one when stealing gas is to look nonchalant. Now, if you're within view of four cop cars I DARE you to look non-fucking-chalant, especially if you look like I look when you're just regular old chalant."

  2. This is really good writing. Like, for real.

  3. I'm telling your mom about the car.