In which I unsuccessfully sell my soul

In which I unsuccessfully sell my soul

He wasn’t what I expected at all.

When I decided to meet The Devil to sell my eternal soul, I envisioned a smooth talker in a sharkskin suit with gator shoes. He would have a pencil-thin mustache and be carrying a Fender Telecaster. The temperature would rise as he approached.

Our meetings would be at The Crossroads, not in downtown Boulder in front of a purveyor of fine kombucha at 1:30 in the afternoon.

The Devil, who would tell me his name was actually Brad, wore a grey, puffed-out Patagonia jacket. It was 65 degrees outside. He was also clad in road-worn Teva sandals and he had shaved his head, which appeared to be slightly balding. I couldn’t help but feel disappointed.

“Thanks for meeting me here,” The Devil, or Brad, said casually. “I needed to pick up some herbal tea. So, Mr. Bear, you wish to sell your eternal soul to the Prince of Darkness? … Mr. Bear?”

“Yeah.”

“You summoned me here today, Mr. Bear?”

“Oh, yeah. Sorry. I was distracted.”

“You wish to sell me your soul.”

“Uh, well, yeah. I recently quit my job as a newspaper reporter, which I had done for about 13 years, and I’m feeling kind of lost. I’m thinking that I just turned 40 and now seems like a good time to go into being an outlaw country singer.”

“An outlaw country singer,” Brad repeated.

He furrowed his brow ever so slightly. It threw me, and I could feel myself start to stammer just a little bit.

“Uh, yeah. Like, I always thought I would make a good outlaw country singer. You know, like Waylon Jennings.”

“I’ve always been more partial to John Mayer.”

“Really?”

“Oh yeah, Dave Matthews, Counting Crows … I love that adult contemporary stuff.”

My heart began to sink. How could The Devil be into Dave Matthews Band? All that great music and … focus, John.

“So I can kind of play the guitar but I can’t sing. I was hoping to sell my soul for a good, smooth baritone and better guitar chops.”

“Hmm, I’m just not terribly familiar with the genre. People usually ask to be blues singers when they are having this early-40s, mid-life crisis and want to suddenly become musicians.”

“Yeah, but I’m a white guy. I don’t want to be co-opting blues music more than it has been already. I figure some good outlaw country would be honorable for a white guy. It’s still kind of bluesy.”

“Is it now?”

“Totally.”

“I see,” he said, then paused for about three seconds and shook his head. “I guess this is all moot anyway, Mr. Bear.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, we’ve been examining your soul, and we can’t really do much with it.”

“You don’t want my soul?”

“Not really. First of all, you have $41,000 in student debt that will become our debt when you die. We just can’t take on any more right now. Also, it appears your soul was put away wet once. Really, it’s pretty useless after that. I’m sorry.”

“I think I’m going to be sick.”

“Would you like a kombucha?”

“No.”

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Whoopi Goldberg has fun with fentanyl and so can you

Whoopi Goldberg has fun with fentanyl and so can you

My father was a pioneer in the cable and VHS tape piracy racket, so I watched bootlegged copies of movies ad nauseam during my formative years. One of my favorite genres is the ’80s cop movie.

Your average 1980s movie cop savagely abuses people’s civil rights, but he gets results, so who cares? The ethnic gang members are laughably stereotypical, like the Bloods and Crips in “Colors”: all wear either red or blue bandanas, people reduced to a hue. An ’80s movie cop usually shoots at least three people and goes back to work an hour later.

In the classic interracial buddy cop flick “Running Scared,” detectives Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines rough up a suspect who cries about police brutality. Crystal replies something to the effect of, “No, this is just harassment. If that doesn’t work, then we’ll try brutality.”

All of this would be a nightmare in reality, and I suppose it’s a statement on our culture that this fascist behavior passes for entertainment. I’m not sure what it says about me. Call it a guilty pleasure.

But among these not-at-all enlightened pieces of cinematic trash, “Fatal Beauty” stands out as surprisingly progressive.

Whoopi Goldberg plays Detective Rita Rizzoli, a wise-ass Los Angeles narcotics cop. Within five minutes, Rizzoli blows a drug bust to come to the aid of prostitute taking a beating in an alley, killing a pimp and taking a racially motivated thumping in the process. Most of the movie follows that basic setup — Rizzoli vs. Stupid White Man.

Rizzoli’s romantic interest is “Roadhouse”-era Sam Elliott, considered by many to be a heartthrob. The hunky white dude chasing the black woman (who shoots his car at least once) is a nice break from the usual love dynamic in cop movies.

Sure, there is plenty of civil rights abuse on display in “Fatal Beauty,” but it’s a pleasure to watch because it’s always highly deserving dudes taking the abuse — everyone from rich developers and cruel pimps to wild-eyed Nazis and snotty tennis club socialites.

The film came out in 1987 and was written off as a rip-off of “Beverly Hills Cop.” Aside from happening in the Los Angeles area and having a black protagonist going up against elite white folks, I don’t see the similarity. Some people probably just said, “There was a black person in that and a black person in this. Therefore, this is a rip-off.” Some people have no imagination.

The plot still feels relevant in this lame year of our Lord 2019. Rizzoli is desperately trying to take down a duo of murderous white supremacists who are selling a load of cocaine that has been cut with fentanyl. Fentanyl is the latest boogeyman in the war on drugs, in case you’ve been in a coma since 1995. It’s strangely prescient to see it featured heavily in a 1980s movie.

“Fatal Beauty” has a bit of that Reagan-era, “Just Say No” preachiness, but that’s to be expected in anything from the 1980s. It’s available for 3 bucks on Amazon. Treat yourself.

Man problems: Pregnancy Edition

Man problems: Pregnancy Edition

Todd grimaced and clutched his midsection as he and Sally, his girlfriend of five years, perused the ramen noodle aisle at a Wal-Mart Super Center on a Sunday afternoon. The selection of noodles in Styrofoam containers of various sizes and shapes could only be described as “expansive.”

“Ugh,” Todd whined, expecting a sympathetic inquiry from Sally.

They danced this number once every three months, ever since a burst of gamma radiation struck the Earth three years prior and gave men the ability to become pregnant through contact sports and guys night out. In the six months that followed, unplanned pregnancies increased 9,436 percent. Shortly after, Congress passed the 28th Amendment, which guaranteed men abortions on demand and 12 weeks of paid abortion leave a year.

When Sally didn’t say anything for five seconds, Todd groaned again, although this time a little more lugubriously.

“Ugh.” He really drew out the vowel.

“Yes, dear,” Sally finally said while reading the ingredients on a package of chili shrimp sriracha ramen noodles.

“I don’t feel well.”

“Sorry to hear that. What is wrong?”

Sally picked up a package of four-cheese ramen and put it in the shopping cart. To match Todd’s histrionics, Sally looked at Todd, cocked her head slowly to the right and pushed her bottom lip forward faux display of sympathy.

“I’m pregnant,” Todd finally offered.

“I figured.”

“How is that?”

“You always get grumpy when you are pregnant.”

“Sorry.”

“Go get an abortion.”

“Meh.”

“We’re already at Wal-Mart. They have an abortion clinic at the McDonald’s.”

“I don’t like getting abortions at Wal-Mart.”

“Why not? They are completely safe and affordable, just like the 28th Amendment prescribes. Lindsey Graham had one on Instagram last week.”

“I’m just not in the mood for McDonald’s. The last time I got a McDouble, it was super dry. It was like a salty hockey puck. I’d rather have an abortion at Taco Bell. They have those new Chipotle Cheesy Gordita Crunch Wraps I want to try.”

“Well, I guess you can go to Taco Bell later today.”

“You sound like you don’t care.”

“You go out with your work buddies and get drunk and get pregnant every six weeks, Todd. I don’t want to go to Taco Bell. I’m tired. I worked all week. I want to get my cheesy ramen and go back to our apartment that I pay the rent on. Go get some Axe Abortion Spray.”

“Fine. I’ll go to Taco Bell later today. It sucks. I’m going to have to take paid abortion leave again.”
Todd picked up a shrimp cocktail-flavored package and put in the cart.

“It’s crazy what happened in Alabama,” Todd said.

“Yep, terrible. All those people, vaporized by nuclear weapons.”

“Well, that’s what they get for passing a bill restricting men’s access to abortions to banking hours.”

“Yep.”

“Babe?”

“Yes?”

“I’ve decided to be an adult and just go get my abortion at the McDonald’s.”

“Good for you,” Sally said, giving Todd a thumbs up.

“Yeah,” Todd said, gazing off toward the deli aisle. “Good for me.”

The Lonely Death of D. Christopher Bear

The Lonely Death of D. Christopher Bear

Editor’s note: This column is from 2016, but I wanted to post it to close out Mental Health Awareness Month.

I know it’s our right as Americans to own guns, and when I listen hard enough, I can hear the faint, ghostly echoes of our forefathers loudly proclaiming, “Don’t take our muskets! (Or our slaves.)”

It’s our inalienable, God-given right, blah blah blah. It’s probably better, however, if some people aren’t allowed to own them. Freedom be damned.

Case in point: my father.

When I was 11, we owned a dog named Leroy. Leroy was a good dog. He was surly, an alpha dog in the truest sense of the phrase. He had been gravely injured as a puppy then literally screwed back together by a doctor who worked on race horses.

Always a beast, he bit a hole in the plate as he scarfed down his last meal and dominated our other four dogs up until the day before he died. My dad, having no emotional connection to human beings (hence owning five dogs), was crushed. I was somewhat nonplussed, because Leroy was 21-years-old.

“Come here, boy,” my dad said, grabbing my arm and speaking in the west Texas accent he affected when he turned 40. “We are going to have us a 21-gun salute.”

This seemed like a bad idea. We lived well within city limits. But how do you say no to a grown man who is crying and speaking in a Texas accent when he grew up in Nebraska and Kansas?

“Is this a good idea?” I asked nonetheless.

“Don’t worry about it, boy,” he replied. “I’ll make us a silencer. Go outside.”

I walked out to the yard, kept my hands in my pockets and kicked a rock. My father emerged a few minutes later holding a white trash bag and a Ruger MK II semiautomatic pistol with an extra magazine.

“Here,” he began. “Wrap the barrel in this trash bag. It will muffle the shot. Fire it into the ground, just to be safe.”

I chambered a round, wrapped up the barrel in the trash bag and squeezed the trigger. It’s funny how loud even a small-caliber weapon sounds in the middle of a densely populated neighborhood.

“Somebody goddamn lied to me,” my dad screamed as he wrenched the gun away and stomped off into the house.

So Leroy got only a one-gun salute. My dad buried him beneath a rutabaga plant after wrapping him in plastic so he could take him with us if we ever moved.

My father came to a lonely end in his immaculately remodeled steam shower which boasted black marble and a 6-foot bench. The official cause: lead poisoning. The manner, given my dad’s taste in firearms, was likely a .38 caliber. He was upset because he lost his car keys. Two weeks earlier, my stepmom had taken his guns. He said, “I have a right to own a gun,” and secretly bought another.

Having likely not met my dad, you have to ask yourself this question: Was this a man who really should have been allowed anywhere near a gun?

The Liberation of the Sleeping Mexican

The Liberation of the Sleeping Mexican

I first noticed him while walking to the open space trail near my spacious, two-bedroom apartment in Arvada. The “trail” is not much more than an easement that runs along an irrigation channel, but it’s a good place to go look at mallards.

I go for walks to ease my mind and relieve stress, so I try to close my eyes when I walk past the ceramic — we will call it a “Sleeping Mexican” — piece of yard art taking a nap against the side of a three-bedroom home. I always remember the statue, because it’s a block or so away from the man who sits in his open garage with the Confederate flag and human profile target.

I shake my fist at the Sleeping Mexican. He’s wearing a sombrero and poncho combo. His knees are pulled up to his chest, and he’s taking a siesta. Every time I see him, I’m like, “Really? Really?”

The other day, I saw a pickup truck with a large American flag affixed to a flag pole anchored into the bed parked outside a nearby Chipotle. I was sitting in a Middle Eastern restaurant at the time. My neighbors listen to country music at concert-hall pitch on Saturday nights, and not the good kind. I’m sure they own multiple copies of “American Sniper.”

Man, what the hell is up with my neighborhood? This is supposed to be a big, cosmopolitan metro area, and I feel like half my neighbors just came from a Lee Greenwood concert that they paid extra to attend. (Disclosure: Lee Greenwood was played at my father’s funeral. That was permanently unsettling.)

I’m just going to go ahead and say it: Colorado is weird. It’s like it’s half vegans who run three marathons a week and half people who hunt vegans at marathons. In fact, I’m pretty sure my neighbors came home with a triathlete strapped to their hood the other evening. They certainly made a “we are carrying a struggling triathlete up the stairs” level of noise.

But I digress.

I’m really bothered by the Sleeping Mexican in the yard. I’ve never been overly politically correct, but I want to tell the owner, “Man, it’s 2019. Lose the Sleeping Mexican.” He or she, and I’m betting he, likely wouldn’t be too concerned about my concern. When I walk by, I often wonder what kind of horrors lurk in the backyard, closed off from the world by an eerily sterile white, plastic privacy fence. It’s almost certain they have a lawn jockey, maybe two.

Sometimes I plan “Operation Rescue the Sleeping Mexican,” but the go code is never issued for numerous reasons. Chief among them is the offending home has, some would say, a disturbingly well-manicured yard complete with a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag flying on a 20-foot flag pole. The Gadsden Flag signals that the homeowner has assembled an arsenal of high-powered rifles to protect the yard art. He or she, and I’m betting on he, calls this collection “my right,” but we all know it’s a hobby.

I’m afraid that liberating the “Sleeping Mexican” will have to wait. Only an asshole gets killed over yard art.

A Pulse Nightclub on every corner

A Pulse Nightclub on every corner

Editor’s note: This first appeared in 2016.

The world needs more gay dance clubs and fewer guns.

That was the first thing that came to mind after I learned a man walked into Pulse nightclub in Orlando earlier this month, killed 49 people and wounded dozens more.

Before we launch into another debate over gun control, radical Islam and, of course, blaming mentally ill people every time a mass shooting happens, let’s just admit that more gay dance clubs would be a positive change for the community.

I don’t have much experience hanging out at gay dance clubs. It’s not because I’m homophobic. I just hate crowds, leaving my house, alcohol, those wristbands they make you wear, people and so on. If we are being totally honest, I’d rather have my feet pulled out through my ears than listen to dance music.

Barring any firsthand experience, I’m going to have to use secondhand information and knowledge I’ve gleaned from my years as a journalist and frequent sayer of “No, that’s OK. You guys go. I’m going to stay in and watch ‘For a Few Dollars More.’ Again.”

I’ve known plenty of women who frequented gay bars and clubs because it was a good place to go dance with friends without having some highly intoxicated stranger grind his semi-erect penis into their evening wear. That’s just no fun at all.

I’ve been a crime reporter for about 10 years, and I’ve never written the following sentence: Police responded to a massive brawl at the [insert gay dance club name here] on Friday night. Hey, maybe it happens, but I’ve never seen it. I’ve definitely written, “Police responded to a brawl at [insert not gay bar/club name here] on Friday night.”

One time I wrote about two men who got beaten up by the performers at an Oklahoma drag show for making homophobic remarks. But that was just funny.

I delivered pizza for about two years in a part of town home to most of the gay and lesbian bars and clubs. Many of my fellow drivers refused to take pizzas to these establishments. I always did. One, I’m not an asshole, and two (at the risk of making a broad generalization), gay people are excellent tippers. I cleaned up at those places. My favorite was a cowboy/leather bar called The Ranch. More gay dance clubs would bring a supreme financial boom to the open-minded pizza boys of the world.

It’s just something to think about. Sure, there will be push back. The religious fundamentalists will protest. Fox news will decry the homosexual agenda. People will say, “What about the children?”

But let’s be truthful. The New York Times reported that 8,124 people died from gun-related homicides in the United States in 2014. The unfortunate event at Pulse notwithstanding (Peace be upon you all), I’m pretty sure gay dance club-related fatalities are shockingly low.

Now’s the time, people. A Pulse on every corner.

Bear with me: I still hate that stupid border wall

Bear with me: I still hate that stupid border wall

Editor’s note: This first appeared in 2016. I still hate that stupid border wall. Anyone But Trump 2020

There has been all this brouhaha about building a giant wall to separate the Republic of Mexico from the United States of America.

I don’t think I’m making a bold statement in saying that I oppose such a wall because it’s racist, xenophobic and highly impractical.

There is a more important reason, however, at least for me. An immigrant from Mexico — who in all likelihood was not in the country legally — saved me from being seriously injured and possibly killed when I was 14.

I had taken a job at my stepfather’s adobe yard, stacking bricks. Because my stepfather is an old Jew from New Jersey, this practice was called “schlepping adobes.” Everyone should do a little manual labor. It helps you appreciate typing.

The men I worked with were all Mexican nationals. They liked me. They used to make fun of my pants. Among them was a man named Isidro. Isidro had a serious predilection for large blonde white women, and there were always a half dozen or so showing up at the yard angrily looking for him.

But I digress. It was 107 degrees when the guy who would soon fuck up my day arrived — a beet-colored redneck with a large flatbed truck emblazoned with a confederate flag and a stereo blasting Lee Greenwood at concert hall pitch. (OK, I made up the Lee Greenwood part.)

He was loud. He was obnoxious. He had a handlebar mustache and an American flag T-shirt. We locked eyes for a moment, and I knew that I hated him. He bought 2,000 adobe bricks, and I was told to help load them.

Math lesson: An adobe brick weighs about 40 pounds. It might not seem that heavy, but you try loading 2,000 of those little brown bastards in the blazing desert sun and get back to me.

A hand train was formed, and we took to loading the bricks. The redneck was not helping. He was, of course, directing. He noticed that I was struggling and decided it would be a good idea to scream, “Hey boy, catch,” and chuck one at me.

The brick was enormous. It spun and flew upward for hours and hours before slowing and beginning its terrifying downward trajectory. Toward me. I put my arms up, feebly. It was little league all over again. But this fly ball sounded like a buzz bomb.

Out of my right peripheral vision came Isidro, My Savior. His body was nearly perpendicular to the ground. He blotted out the sun. The brick hit him in the stomach, hard, and he grunted horribly before righting himself and sticking the landing.

He put the brick on the truck, straightened his white cowboy hat, kicked his boots, muttered something unprintable at the redneck. And that was that.

The point is that heroes can come from anywhere. If you start restricting their movements, children are going to get crushed by adobe bricks tossed by idiots. And the next time someone tells you Mexico isn’t sending its best, remember Isidro.