Looking back: A column about gun violence from 2012

I used to be an AR-15. But then I found Jesus.

Editors note: This column originally appeared in the Weekly Alibi. I wrote it shortly after the Aurora theater shooting. Oh how so little has changed. 

When the next senseless mass shooting takes place, you are not allowed to come up to me and say, “You know, guns don’t kill people … .” Keep it to yourself, Mr. Heston.

Likewise please refrain from telling me, “Well, if there had only been more heavily armed people in that–” … shhh.

That’s the most idiotic thing I’ve heard all week. A person carrying a concealed weapon might take down a maniac before the maniac maims and kills a few dozen innocent people. It could happen. But I’ll be conservative and wager that 95 times out of a hundred, you’d just have two unstable people in a crowded place shooting guns. It’s called a crossfire. Bad stuff.

Twelve more people dead in a movie theater in Colorado. I am reminded of a guy who stood outside the University of New Mexico during much of the latest war with a sign that kept a running tally of the dead and read “How many is enough?”

This whole gun thing has really gotten out of hand. The very fact that whether to bring a gat into a theater for self defense is even up for debate is so scary, I think I’ll never sleep again.

This column was originally a response to the senseless killing of Trayvon Martin. Every subsequent gun tragedy eclipses the one that preceded it, I suppose.

An AR-15 was the door prize. Second prize was a fishing pole.


Anyway, even if the names and places have changed, my views on firearms have been fixed and immutable for quite some time: If you melt guns down, they make excellent paperclips.

All this media coverage has made me realize just how much guns have played a role in my own life.

It started in the late ’80s. Neon shirts were in fashion. New Kids on the Block was No. 1. And I was a Cub Scout. The pack leader’s sons went to a neighbor’s house to feed the cats. The neighbor left a gun out (genius). The two boys began to play with it. One of them was shot and killed. The troop made sympathy cards at its next weekly meeting.

Trust me, it’s not a good idea.

I’ve had a gun pulled on me twice, once by an irate tagger, another time by an irate police officer because I was tagging.

An insurgent in Iraq retrofitted an old Russian surface-to-air missile with a crude fuse and shot my brother in the face, earning him the nickname “Duck Dodgers” for the remainder of his tour of duty. He ducked. He dodged. He narrowly avoided losing his head. OK, I made the nickname up. But it’s apt.

My father fostered a strange, macho fascination with guns, then killed himself with one. So did my favorite rock star and the writer who made me want to be a journalist.

I guess this is just part of being an American. We like guns. I covered a Republican Party event in early June. An AR-15 was the door prize. Second prize was a fishing pole.

People who own guns get shot more than people who don’t.

A segment of the population wants to own guns and is afraid the government will outlaw it. News flash: They aren’t going to take your guns away. It’s called the Second Amendment. Stop being so paranoid.

Lots of these people seem to think they have a right to shoot people. Stand your ground laws are bad news. I am an adherent to the Richard Pryor school of thought on this: Why be a badass when you can RUUUUNNNNN? I’d never shoot somebody over my stuff.

I have a strict no-gun policy in my life. People who own guns get shot more than people who don’t. According to a 2009 University of Pennsylvania study, packers are four times more likely to get shot than nonpackers. Really, it’s a safety thing.

Out here in the countryside where I reside, there’s a lot of gunfire, mostly from bored people with 18-packs of Natural Light. I have lived in cities, too, where neighborhoods are judged by the amount and nature of gunfire. Hearing gunshots is fine. Hearing gunshots being exchanged is another matter entirely. Automatic gunfire is an automatic move out. Unless you’re downwind from an artillery range.

In fact, I’ve dwelled next to such ranges—air defense and field artillery. Cannons are also guns. They are loud. The walls in your house crack from their booms. The Army post I lived near served as the testing site for a cannon that could be fired around a mountain. You can’t let a mountain ruin a perfectly good day of firing rockets at people (see above paragraph re: “Duck Dodgers”).

Police need to carry guns, but they’ve gotten a tad paramilitary in the U.S. for my taste. I don’t like to see my cops dressed in Army helmets and carrying automatic weapons. It doesn’t make me feel any safer. On a trip to Juárez a few years back I gazed in awe at the city’s paramilitaristic police force armed with machine guns. It’s unsettling, knowing that you just walked in on the end of The Wild Bunch, the real version.

I need it for self defense.

Some Americans have the nerve to complain about drugs and cheap labor flowing north when our legally purchased guns flow south. A mayor and police chief in Southern New Mexico are accused of running guns to the cartels. There is a special place in hell reserved for such people.

I am loathe to say I don’t want other people to own guns, even with the border violence, school shootings, domestic disputes, drive-by shootings, assault weapon raffles and now, sadly, theater massacres. I believe in the Constitution of the United States of America (except for the overtly racist stuff). As a huge fan of the First Amendment, I have to take the good with the bad. So go ahead, buy that Bushmaster .223. All the heartbreak that results is on you.

No, I’m sorry. I thought about it. Throw your guns away. If you must carry a weapon, might I suggest an acerbic sense of humor? That’s gotten me out of many a jam.


Malignant fungus: We are in control

The Doom Bloom announced on Friday that it has assumed control of the Trump administration

Editors note: This story did not appear anywhere, because every newspaper and television station closed due to lack of interest. This editor, for one, no longer cares and is sick of this job. He is going to binge watch “Keeping up with the Kardashians” and get drunk. Enjoy your fungal overlords.

A malignant strain of hyper intelligent fungus confirmed for the first time on Friday that it has assumed control of the United States via intracranial infestation of President Donald Trump and most of his high level advisors.

“We are the future of the planet that you call earth,” said the fungus who calls itself  “Doom Bloom” and claims to be a “singular collective consciousness capable of maintaining intellectual unity across non-contiguous space.”

The entity declined to elaborate.

“We have watched with objective horror at how your hairless bipedal ape race has infested the closed ecosystem known as earth and degraded it exponentially in the past 200 years,” the fungus said. “We will now replace you as the dominant species.”

Media analysts have long been concerned that Trump and most of his high level team appear to be suffering from some sort of group insanity or dementia. Many of Trump’s advisors have taken on an increasingly sallow appearance. The announcement on Friday appears to corroborate that concern.

Former presidential advisor Steve Bannon

“Well, we all know that Trump has trouble finishing sentences,” said political analyst Chip Wellington. “This is a troubling development. It’s too early to speculate, but I think it’s safe to say that his body has been hijacked by the Doom Bloom.”

The fungus said that it infects the host organism via fast food, which is how it was able to gain entry to President Trump, his former top advisor Steve Bannon, television host Sean Hannity and spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway, among others.

“You may have noticed, with Steve Bannon in particular, that the infected appear to be unhealthy, like they are wearing someone elses skin as a mask,” the entity said. “That is us. We infect the host and it eventually dies. But we can continue to use it as a vessel for several months.”

He’s not just being mean, it turns out. He’s been overtaken by malignant fungus.

It added that Trump’s apparent dementia is the first phase of brain death in an infected host.

“Trump’s inability to form coherent sentences, his word salad, is a result of our subdural presence along the frontal lobe,” the entity said. “He will eventually die and take on the appearance of Mr. Bannon and Ms. Conway. We are in control. We are the Doom Bloom.”

Bannon was speaking a white supremacist conference in Des Moines on Friday and couldn’t be reached for comment. Conway appeared on television but blankly smiled and spoke no words only vowels for about 20 minutes.

On his morning radio show, Hannity called the idea of Trump being subsumed by a intelligent fungus “absurd” and “fake news” and blamed any malignant fungal infections on female comedians and minority politicians.

“What we have here is another liberal conspiracy to undermine this wonderful and humble man who I love very dearly,” Hannity said. “If it is true that My Little Donny is, in fact, infected by a malignant parasite, it’s totally the work of liberal democrats we all know hate America.”

Sean Hannity (Orwell reference)

Hannity attempted to continue his tirade on his evening television show, but blood began pouring out of his nostrils and his eyes. His head tilted backward and he fell silent for about 30 seconds before he resumed speaking.

“We are fine,” he said. “We are all fine. There is no need to worry. Your leaders. Trump. Your leaders. Your leaders are fine. We are all fine.”

The fungus said that it had not infected top Trump advisor Stephen Miller, and that his appearance is not in anyway associated with the Doom Bloom.

“We honestly don’t know why he looks like that,” it said. “We declined to use him as a vessel. We didn’t want to get sick. He is a very disturbed individual.”

Yeah, it’s a lazy Stephen Miller joke but he ain’t worth the effort.

Miller couldn’t be reached for comment on Friday afternoon as he is unable to breath earth’s oxygen-based atmosphere.

Dr. Frank Krolenheimer, a parasitologist with the University of Eastern West Virginia, said that malignant fungus can live inside a host’s cranium and slowly feast upon the gray matter. Such an infection, he said, can result in dementia, insanity and eventually death. It appears to inordinately affect stupid, mean people.

He added that he has not seen a hyper-intelligent fungus with a hive mind during his 30 years in the parasitology field.

“That is new to me,” he said. “I’m an atheist but it probably wouldn’t hurt to say ‘God Help Us All.”

He added that further study of the fungus isn’t likely as science funding has been slashed to give tax cuts to wealthy families.

Reached for further comment, the fungus denied that it had cut science funding for tax cuts.

“We are a collective mind,” it said. “We have no interest in aiding the privileged. The tax cuts appear to have originated from whatever sliver of your leader’s consciousness that still exists inside his brain. Soon he will be no longer.”

The fungus said that now it has operational control over the United States, it will initiate a thermonuclear war with Russia and bring about the end of what it calls “tyranny by lifeforms that cast a shadow.”

The fungus declined to give a firm date on the nuclear conflagration.

“Once the nuclear fallout settles, we will feast upon the dead and a new, glorious future will begin,” it said. “You can not defeat the Doom Bloom. You are the disease. We are the cure.”

The future belongs to the Doom Bloom.

In which I move to Canada and meet PM Justin Trudeau

Attack Dog Training
I couldn’t find an photo of a pack of snarling dogs. But you get the idea.

The pack of dogs wasn’t far behind. I could almost feel their teeth on my heels, and I knew if I fell down, I was kibble. Each faint growl crept up my legs and spread across my body like an electric shock. The Canadian border was only a mile or two away, but it felt like a light year.

It was cold, but each breath pumped fire into my lungs.

For reasons not worth recounting, I’m legally barred from leaving the United States. When I was declared an enemy of the state, ironically because of one of these cheeky columns insulting Supreme General Trump, I had no option but to flee.

My girlfriend stands 4 foot 11 inches tall and was easy to overnight to Toronto. I had to drive.

I trekked across Wyoming and into South Dakota and halfway across North Dakota before a Freedom Patrol blocked the road, and I had to flee into the plains. A kind old Sioux man picked me up on a dirt road and drove me to Big Falls, Minnesota. From there I hitchhiked to Birchdale and walked into the Franz Jevne State Park.

AJAM Border Militia_46.JPG
What a freedom patrol will probably look like.

That’s where a private border patrol squad picked me up. Six guys dressed in fatigues with AR-15s. They had me.

“Let’s kill him,” a pimply-faced teenage boy growled.

“No, we’ll turn him over to the Department of Fatherland Security,” an older man I assumed was the commander said. “They’ll deal with him. You a writer, boy? You’re going to find out what your toes taste like.”

I had to think fast.

“Hey guys! Look, someone is putting up an American flag and it’s an inch lower than the Minnesota flag.”

“Where!” They screamed in unison.

I broke and ran into a thicket. Once they realized my subterfuge, they started firing. The bullets zipped past me.

I ran. I ran some more.

Almost home.

The icy waters of the Rainy River were my salvation. The fire in my lungs turned to ice. I swam in the dark. Just when I thought I was going to drown, I reached Canada. I pulled myself ashore and lay there sucking air.

“Hey, get out of my country you Ice Back,” someone said in the darkness.

A man’s form appeared out of the darkness.

“I’m sorry. Please help me,” I pleaded through panic breaths.

“I’m just messing with you,” the man said. He was young and good looking. “I probably shouldn’t say ‘Ice Back.’ It’s kind of mean. I’m Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. I like to come down here and meet all the new folks. I presume you’re a journalist?”

He even offered to buy me breakfast.

“Yeah,” I replied. My breathing was slowing.

“Ah, I figured. Probably wrote something snarky. They hate that. Anyway, you’re welcome to stay here.”

“Thank you so much.”

“But I’ll have to warn you. I’m taking three pieces of Canadian bacon, which we call bacon. You only get two. We call that a Canadian hate crime, haha.”

“It’s ok.”

“Oh, I’m just messing you. We can split the third piece. You seem like a nice fella.”

Canadian bacon. Or as they call it in Canada, bacon.

Portrait of the artist as a young douche

My dumb tattoo has its own t-shirt!

When I was 19, I walked into a tattoo parlor, picked out the Japanese word for “madman” and slapped 60 bucks down on the counter. Soon, I found myself in a back room with an affable fellow who told me all about his power pop band as he applied the indelible reminder of my impulse-control problems on my left arm.

“There you go,” he said as he finished. “You have it for life.”

I think he realized that I had just asked for and been granted a stupid tattoo. Bear in mind, I did this before every Dave Matthew’s Band fan had the Japanese words for “Peace, Strength, Harmony and Honor” inked next to their tribal pattern.

Japanese tattoo = dumb. Sheep tattoo = awesome

A few years later, I took a job as a writing tutor and showed my arm to a Japanese woman studying English, and she confirmed that it does, in fact, say “madman” and not “random Japanese word” or “udon special.” But it’s still a pretty lame tattoo. (When I was 25, I impulsively had a sheep tattooed on my right arm. But it makes me laugh whenever I see it in the mirror. So no harm, no foul on that one.)

I don’t know any Japanese people, and I don’t speak Japanese. I have no Japanese ancestry as far as I know. There is no plausible reason for me to have such a tattoo. Every time I see it, I mumble, “You are such a douche bag for getting that tattoo.”

I’ve considered having it covered up. But with what? Truth be told, I don’t really want more tattoos nor do I tend to be flush with tattoo money. Of course, I could have it surgically removed, but whenever I consider this option, I recall the immortal words of the tattoo artist: You have it for life. Asshole.

So I guess I’m keeping it. Maybe I’ll burn it off some day, but probably not. I’m trying to think about it philosophically. When I was 19, I drowned my emotional issues in a sea of alcohol, drugs and women with misspelled first names. Although I gave up booze when I was 24, I drove drunk quite frequently and fell into a near coma more times than I’d like to remember.

I have a natural curiosity that has served me well as a journalist but probably should have gotten me murdered and buried in the desert in years past. For example, I’ve partied with a roofer named Cobra and watched with equal wonder and horror as he snorted enormous piles of methamphetamine off a card table. The drug was pink because the cook had used generic Sudafed with the red coating.

Anyway, as I gaze upon this stupid tattoo every morning, I’ve arrived at the conclusion that if the only permanent damage I sustained from that period in my life is a douchey tattoo, I was lucky. Deal with it, John.

The end of my gap year

You can just barely make out the gap in my mouth as I interview Capt. Hook. Ironically, he had all his teeth. (Photo by Jeremy Papasso)

July 31 sucked. I picked my girlfriend up at 1:30 a.m. Because she worked in downtown Denver, I nearly ran over five or six drunks who staggered off the sidewalk and into the street. Then I got lost west of I-25.

By the time we made it home, the foulest of dispositions had overtaken me. I try hard not to take my mood roulette out on loved ones. I bottle it up. The bottle must have been full, because I reset face first into the floor.

At the emergency room, I noticed that one of my front teeth was loose. After two stitches and a cat scan, I was sent home in an Uber. All of this cost $5,000 that I can’t afford to pay because, in the immortal words of Childish Gambino, this is America.

A surgeon removed the tooth a week later, and I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of sadness when I saw it whisked away on a tray, landfill bound. It had been in my mouth about 30 years. It also hurt, but because some jerk in eastern Ohio had gobbled up the last OxyContin, I was not offered any Schedule II narcotics.

A few weeks later, I received a plastic temporary tooth, a last-ditch effort after two retainer-like “flapper” teeth didn’t fit. I never got used to the temporary tooth. It always felt like it was going to break off and choke me to death. I wasn’t too sad when the surgeon yanked it out to drill in a dental implant.

My new $3,000 zirconium tooth. It’s fissile so if I chew on enough uranium, my mouth will go super critical.

For six months, I’ve had a conspicuous gap in the front of my mouth after I declined another fake tooth. It’s been what I would call an interesting sociological experiment. Most people don’t bring it up, but I’ve seen many eyes drift stage right while I’m speaking.

The most interesting part of the missing tooth saga happened when a schizophrenic woman who asked me to write about the guy stalking her through the radio in her car angrily called my boss to report me as an imposter. No real reporter would be missing teeth. Ironically, I’m now the one with the implant in my head.

More irony: I’ve smiled more during the past few months than I have my entire life. I was tempted to keep the gap — I’ve been enjoying the anti-social charm it has imparted, a physical sign of my poor attitude and lack of respect for authority. I just smile and let the world know. I looked like Brad Pitt in the “Fight Club” movie poster if Mr. Pitt were 30 pounds overweight.

I might have kept it, but the gap made my mom nearly burst into tears that last time she saw me. A burly police officer I know said it broke his heart to see the photo of me smiling with a full-on black eye. A dentist ratcheted in the crown on Tuesday. It looks nice, but I have to pay my respects to my rakish gap-toothed smile: 2017 to 2018. Rest in peace.

An earlier post involving my teeth and a solar eclipse

I’ve always had a good set of teeth in my mouth, but during the past year, order is

Me and my dumb cat

beginning to deteriorate. It’s like society at the beginning of “Mad Max.” Who knows? By the end of next year, my pearly whites might look more like “The Road Warrior.” Even more terrifying would be “Mad Max: Beyond Thunder Dome.” Bad movie.

OK, that was a bad metaphor, too. But sue me. My teeth are shifting in my head like Pangaea (better metaphor), and I’m not thinking straight. It’s uncomfortable. In the last month, I’ve had a a tooth surgically removed and more visits to the dentist than I’d care to remember (six).

It’s been interesting to watch people’s eyes drift toward the dark gap in the front of my mouth during interviews. Usually, I’d just chock that up to paranoia, but it’s happening, a fascinating lesson in sociology. The thousands of dollars it will cost to fix the tooth are worth it. Once one’s teeth start dropping out, so do one’s options.

On Monday, I had my first root canal, because the tooth next to the missing tooth is a bad tooth, a very bad tooth, and it had to go. I was grateful when the dentist took pity and prescribed opiate pain killers afterward. I cried for four hours following the surgical removal of the previous tooth. It was unmanly, and anyone who knows me knows I’m the pinnacle of manliness. (Hardy har.)

But I can’t take schedule II narcotics at work. The pill I swallowed Monday night brought with it an odd urge to start a grunge band then kill myself at the height of my popularity. I need to type and have the end result not be a William S. Burroughs novel. Drooling at work is also frowned upon.

Anyway, also on Monday, a total solar eclipse passed over the United States. Much to my chagrin, all of the white supremacists, Nazis, polo shirt-clad alt-right bros and other assorted pasty-faced losers who’ve emerged from the orange rock they’d been hiding under didn’t all kill themselves so they could hitch a ride on the mothership. Bummer.

But as terribly disappointing as the lack of mass Nazi suicide was, I was at least afforded the opportunity to see the eclipse. I went to the dentist’s office Monday morning under the assumption that while I wouldn’t see the moon pass in front of the sun, I would at the very least see stars as the electric drill sank into my jaw.

Interesting fact: I could see the handiwork inflicted on my tooth from the reflection of the magnifying lens hovering above my mouth. I haven’t had that much metal stuck in my head since the CIA installed the implant.

Anyhow, the dentist had extra eclipse glasses, so we put the dental surgery on hold for 10 minutes so we could stand in the parking lot and crane our necks skyward. There it was in the sky, a big orange J, just for me and my Orioles cap.

And the one I wrote right after I lost the tooth

Me at the Denver Post printing plant

I’ve noticed today that missing a front tooth gives one an automatic West Texas accent. That’s disturbing, particularly since I hail from New Mexico and West Texas is our sworn enemy.

The price is on my Official List of Least Favorite Things. One Thousand Dollars. That’s how much it costs to have a tooth removed and some fake bone affixed to the root. The alternative is a darkening tooth, flapping in the wind every time I spit on the sidewalk.

I felt a tinge of sadness as the dental surgeon carried the tooth — which had snapped in half when I fainted about two weeks ago — away, probably to an unceremonious grave in a biohazard bin. I’d had that tooth about 30 years. So long, Mr. Tooth.

The surgeon told jokes throughout the operation. This offended some of the people to whom I would later recount “The Funeral Procession M. Tooth.” Personally, for $1,000 I demand a show, and the jokes better be good.

And they were. The surgeon also played some classic rock on his phone. (I chose classic rock. It seemed like something everyone in the room could enjoy.) I know I am satisfied with this particular medical professional, because I woke up today still thinking “Paradise City” is a decent Guns N’ Roses song. I went to a dentist last year, and I was thoroughly unsatisfied with the work. I still can’t hear Simon and Garfunkel or Cat Stevens without flying into a fiery rage.

Afterward the surgeon snapped a couple of pics of his handy work.

“You better not be posting those to Snapchat,” I remarked.

“I’m barely on Instagram,” he replied.

Me shortly after getting into a fight with a hardwood floor. Anxiety is a mother.


I pulled out my phone to take a peak at my face and had one of those Jack Nicholson as the Joker moments.

“Don’t worry about it,” the surgeon reassured me. “With the STP t-shirt, you’ll fit right in in The South.”

I laughed. That’s all there was left to do.

The surgeon offered me some Schedule II narcotics, but then said I likely wouldn’t need them and gave me Ibuprofen. I’m not going to lie. I cried for two hours once the lidocaine wore off. The pain was excruciating. Apparently, I can’t have any OxyContin because Oklahoma ate all of it. (I apologize for this unwarranted attack on the Sooner State.)

“Well It’s not like you’re not giving birth,” my mom said during my second or third hysterical phone call.

Shut up, mom. (And thanks for the $1,000.)

The pain vanished by morning. It’s probably good the surgeon didn’t give me any opiates lest they end up ground up (or is it grinded up?) on a glass topped coffee table.

Anyway, the tooth extraction is the first of several rounds of unpleasant dental work yet to come. But why? I brush my teeth. I floss, goddamnit, and yet I look like the NASCAR reporter for Fox News. I’m pondering a trip to the thrift store for a NASCAR. Let’s take ironic hipster clothing to dangerous new frontiers.

The Great Methamphetamine Satan

0511 meth lab
Actual meth lab photo I took.

I went through brief period of trying to write fiction. I’ve since learned I’m better at writing the truth.

For about a year-and-a-half — the longest 18 months of my life — I worked as a crime reporter in southwest Oklahoma. This was in 2007 toward the end of the meth lab, we’ll call it golden age, in America when people used to knock pseudoephedrine into methamphetamine.

People were were pouring anhydrous ammonia over allergy pills and metallic lithium and smoking, snorting and injecting the resulting product. They robbed, stole and sometimes killed people. One time a guy ran from the cops and backstroked in a cattle pond until his high wore off.

It seemed like good fodder for a book. So I started writing it down. And then goddamn
“Breaking Bad” came out and it just seemed like I was writing fan fiction. Thanks a lot, Vince Gilligan.

“I’m Vince Gilligan. John Bear hates me for thinking of and executing an idea before him. He’s weird like that.”

Anyway, this would have been a chapter in a book called “Hurdy Gurdy Man.” The title originated during a conversation with a friend about how the Donovan song of the same name would sound cool during a shoot out in a meth movie. I later found out that a hurdy gurdy is a crank-turned instrument, much like the protagonist.

Here goes:

The Cowboy shot Mud at Boot Scoot’s this evening.

I was having a beer with my ex-girlfriend Trisha. She strips down at Mr. Peepers. We were sitting there, drinking Corona’s and The Cowboy walked in and shot Mud dead right there at the bar.

It wasn’t that crowded in Boot Scoot’s that afternoon, but The Cowboy will probably get the death penalty thrown at him for killing even a scumbag like Mud in front of a dozen drunks and a couple of heads.

The Cowboy told me last week that he was going to kill Mud if Mud didn’t pay him the money he owed him. It was about $1500 he said. I had stopped by Irish’s apartment last week to pick up some camp fuel and the Cowboy was there with his eyes wide open. He had old 12 gauge pump and had sawed the barrel and stock off.

I asked to hold it because I have an affinity for sawed off shotguns. He had taken the slide down to about five pounds and filed the serial number off.

After checking it out, I wiped the thing down because it constituted a parade of felony charges.

‘Why you gonna kill Mud, Cowboy? ‘I asked, playing along.

Another hot item in Oklahoma. (photo by Scott Rains)

That’s when he told me Mud had burned him for an ounce of dope. He wanted $1500 or he was going to ‘pop a cap in Mud’s ass.’

I didn’t ask too many questions. I told him he shouldn’t be fucking with AIDS heads like Mud in the first place.

‘No shit, Sherlock,’ he fired back through clenched teeth. He was spun.

I thought he had just been talking shit and would cool off, but I was wrong.

The thing that stands out most in my mind is the music that was playing. Scoots is owned, operated and frequented by people with no taste and no class, so the usual music is country pop bullshit like Garth Brooks.

“As the lines in my face grow deeper, And the well of my soul runs dry, I find that I drink more and more From the memories of you and I.”

But for some reason, “The Memories of You and I” by Waylon Jennings was on. It was a freak occurrence.

I noticed it right off because its the kind of song that just drops you into a scene that seems like it’s been going on for a million years. The slide guitars, the sloppy drumming and Waylon drinking and crying about some rotten woman. It’s beautiful.

I had noted Mud’s presence when I got their with Trisha, who is an exgirlfriend but we still get a beer now and then. Needless to say, I did not say hello to Mud, as I find him to be a filthy junky who probably has AIDS. But I like to be aware of my surroundings.

We ordered and I went into the men’s room and took a rip off the pipe to tune myself into Trisha’s fucked up wavelength.

When I walked out is when “Memories of You and I” came over the PA, and I was pleasantly surprised.

The whole world slowed down at that instant. I suddenly felt as if I was way faster than everyone in creation. Only me and this swaying twangy song. I like that funky twangy 70s country.

The Cowboy walked through the door and the light flooding in from the outside outfitted him with a sinister aura. He was wearing a dirty white Stetson, shooting glasses and and a white shirt and jeans. The cowboy had transformed into the Great Methamphetamine Satan.

He levitated across the bank of tables near the front door. Once he hit the bar glided toward a seated Mud.

That furball Mud had his back to the door. He was drinking a Budlight and selecting a ring tone on his phone, oblivious to tuned up death floating up behind him.

The Cowboy was carrying the shotgun he had shown me the week before. I hadn’t noticed it until he pulled it up to his shoulder and fired one round into Mud, who was taking a sip of his beer.

Mud’s body rocked violently forward, then he slumped dead on the floor.

I snapped out of it. Everything sped up. I ducked down and looked at the Cowboy. His eyes met mine and and for a second I thought I saw him smile. He took Mud’s now vacant seat.

“A beer,” he said, setting the shotgun down on the bar.

This is Mickey Rourke, but he looks like The Cowboy.

The Waylon Jennings song was still playing. It sounded like noise. I couldn’t stand it anymore.

The Cowboy was looking at himself in the bar mirror, which was now stained with Mud. He took a sip of his beer and lit a cigarette like nothing had happened.

Most of the people in the bar were still on the floor. The music stopped and the room fell silent. I took a long circular route around the inside of the building and slipped out a side door.

Trisha yelled out my name as I walked out the door. She sounded like Leonard Cohen.

I reached my truck started it up and peeled out of the parking lot. The sun hurt my eyes and I didn’t have my sunglasses so I pointed it south toward Texas.

Legend has it RTJ said FU to NFL

“NFL been trash,” said el-p when declining to give NFL free song at Superbowl

It was with great joy I read a tweet from my favorite rapper, el-p, regarding his and  Killer Mike’s — the two form Run the Jewels —  declining of a National Football League request to use their song “Legend has it” during this year’s Superbowl.

El-P writes “NFL been trash. they asked for the rights to play legend has it in the stadium during the superbowl. we said no because fuck them. they operate like they’re an indispensable public utility. they aren’t. they are gone with the flip of a channel. fuuuuuuck you.”

Good on you guys. I was going to talk about how much I appreciate you having integrity — rappers being kind of notoriously whorish when it comes to appearing in advertisements — but el-p tweeted a little later on that the NFL also wanted to use the song for free. Fuck that noise, Jack. (I feel cognitive dissonance in appreciating that my favorite rappers wouldn’t let the NFL use their song while also feeling disgusted that the NFL wouldn’t pay for it.)

The follow up tweet was also great.

Thursday’s news that the NFL will be punishing players for not standing up for the National Anthem is lame for numerous reasons. Sure, the NFL is a private organization and can do what it wants, but censoring and fining mostly black players — who make the  team owners millions and millions of dollars — seems like something Americans will be collectively cringing about in 20 years. (And good decent folk are cringing about right now.) Not to mention many of these players will suffer terrible injuries and brain damage for the privilege.

The whole thing smacks of racism and pandering to a relatively small group of jerky people who think they are better than everyone else because they can stand up for two minutes and listen to “The Star Spangled Banner.” I for one am cool with doing away with the National Anthem, because it, like saying “Thoughts and Prayers” on Facebook following a mass shooting, allows people to feel superior while not really doing anything.

The same goes for the Pledge of Allegiance. I pay my taxes. I’m allegianced as hell. In any case, this is America. You shouldn’t have to stand up if you don’t want to.

Back to the National Anthem. It’s dated, and the guy who wrote it, Francis Scott Key, was a slave owner. (As a lawyer, he sometimes represented slaves, according to the Baltimore Sun, but let’s not muddy the waters. Anyway, he also represented slave owners.)

Hi, I’m Francis and I owned slaves and shit. I also wrote one song.

Aside from being written by a slave owner and containing a passage bashing on slaves who fought against the United States, “The Star Spangled Banner” is also a bitch to sing. As a journalist who has covered way too many Labor Day festivals, city council meetings, sporting events and other goings-on that begin with the song, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard some sweet-faced teenage girl fail to hit the high note on “Rockets Red Glare.” It can be ear-shattering and makes one ponder how this girl made it this far with no one telling her she can’t sing. It’s sad, really.

So I propose we change the National Anthem to “Kick out the Jams,” by MC5. There are no high notes, and I love the thought of sweet-faced teenage girls who can’t sing yelling out “Kick out the Jams, Motherfuckers!” at high school softball games.

In my perfect America, you can stand, you jump up and dance, you can take a knee or you can stay seated and yell out “Kick out the Jams sucks!” It’s all good, baby.

Ladies and Gentlemen, please stand, or not, for our National Anthem.