THE DUBIOUS LUXURY OF ORDINARY MEN
Preparing for the move Friday morning. It's a cop-out, I know, but we're slammed at MK12 and can't afford anyone being away right now -- bad enough that I'll be gone for the day. So for less than 200 bucks, Some Dudes With Truck are showing up at eight and moving my shit for me. The utilities are set to roll over Friday afternoon. I'm ahead of the ball, packing-wise -- it helps that I've thrown out half my shit -- so it should go fast. No more than two hours, three tops. Maybe forty boxes, the bed, the couch. I've rented a car, so I'll take loads of stuff over myself. Wake up, let Some Dudes With Truck into Ft. Eviction, get them rolling, go to the new, as-of-yet-unnamed place, do the walkthrough with the New Landlord (who assures me he cannot do it any sooner than the first of the month, meaning I can't get my shit outta here until then), hang out waiting for utilities and Some Dudes With Truck, help unload. Good timing, too-- there's a cold front coming through on Saturday with snow and ice.
Shitty week, hectic and bad. On top of getting jerked around sortakinda by some clients, we're getting slaughtered on our taxes. I've not eaten or slept well. My heart is doing this fluttery thing. Too much going on.
On Tuesday I'm flying to Los Angeles. I'll be pitching MK12's short film MAN OF ACTION! to the SCIFI channel as a potential series. Nerve-wracking. I'm not letting myself feel it. I talk about it as though it were a rudimentary task: wake up; brush teeth; sell TV show to SCIFI; eat breakfast. The deadline creeps up closer and I'm starting to get nervous. I feel like it's mine to blow. We've decided to work up a short bible to pitch along with the show; I haven't started writing it yet. But I've got a big, wide weekend of nothing but me in my new apartment and writing.
I also write comics, allegedly.
Wednesday night, Danyon calls.
One Sunday morning last spring, when I was at the absolute rockbottom of my horrible year, he called out of the blue. He was stuck in KC on an eight-hour layover or so; did I want to get some coffee? Danyon and I seem to drift in and out of touch; the last real time we spent together we were both shitfacedrunk, babbling into the phone at 2 in the morning until he'd passed out. His surprise visit last spring was like a breath of fresh air that blew into my life in the shape of a Handsome Black Actor.
Before then, I always felt that Danyon was ahead of the curve by about twenty minutes and he'd been shouting back what he was ahead to help me out. The weekend we met, I remember being absolutely nuked out of my skull on reams of LSD, talking with a stone-sober Danyon in the laundry room of our dorm. I was so flabbergasted to find someone so similar to me in so many ways-- for I too am a Handsome Black Actor-- and yet he seemed to be just a bit further along than me. He gave me some of the best advice of my life that night.
He said, "Keep running and don't look back."
And then, so he didn't sound like a pompous know-it-all jackass, he laughed really, really hard.
I can't explain that Sunday last spring better than this: everything started changing afterwards. Literally, that week, it all went ass-over-teakettle in the other direction. I'd been ground into the dirt from the middle of 2000 and, if I were a more superstitious man, I'd say that Danyon was a harbinger of my peculiar change of fortune.
The keyword of that Sunday was 'fellowship' -- I wrote it in my journal and everything. He said it, I said it, I don't remember whom. We'd gotten our asses kicked over the last few years, and in the waning light of that afternoon we tried to fill one another in on where we were at. We'd finally arrived at the same place at the same time, a psychic ground zero, maybe: we were both at the end of Something Horrible. The only thing either of us knew was that we needed fellowship, we needed one another.
So Fraction chose life, and hugged his friend goodbye at the airport. We'd seen one another subsequently in NYC when I was up there visiting Kelly Sue; we'd exchanged mail and played some phone-tag. Weird connections between him, me, and Kelly Sue -- if you wanted to be technical, you could probably say he was responsible for she and I meeting. Strange.
The other night, when the phone rang, I suppose I was in the market for some fellowship. We talked for three hours, filling in more blanks of the past twoorthreeyears, surprised at how we appeared to be mimicking each other's experiences once again.
It's good to spend time with people you love. The boxes you have to pack will take care of themselves.
Thursday night. I'm a little behind, and a little panicked, but I have a lot of Red Bull and adrenaline amplified by fear. Didn't sleep much. Got home today to find a note nailed to my door saying that at 5 PM Friday, they were cutting all utilities to the building and boarding the doors shut. Okay.
Chat with Plant Girl and Ugly Man, my upstairs neighbors with a predilection for bullwhips, moose-sex, and reggae. They're running through Ft. Eviction like vultures, scavenging abandoned furniture from the empty units. Ugly Man picked up fistfuls of Prozac from Squatter Girl's empty place. His weed dealer will exchange one for the other. I give Becky, my plant, to Plant Girl.
The big news is Jumpsuit Bill. The building eccentric -- and that's really saying something -- Jumpsuit Bill has had a warrant out for his arrest for several months now. The story goes that Bill was sortakinda dumped by his dominatrix girlfriend and went, well, he sortakinda went a little crazy. There was sortakinda some vandalism and some property damage and a warrant out ever since. Formerly the building handyman, he'd been sortakinda fired from that gig and remained on the premises by sortakinda squatting. Private detectives, cops skulking around at all hours. Well, dumb story short, turns out he got pulled over on his motorcycle the other night because it was too loud. And he's been in pokey ever since with bail set at 50 large.
The charges, Plant Girl assures me, have been trumped up. She also tells me that a friend of Bill's has been squatting in the building, but not sleeping in Bill's place, because he's afraid of the cops. So if I see a strange guy, that's who it probably is. Good to know.
Xtop comes over. He wants to fuck shit up, and so do I, but I'm way behind. We monkey around with the fire extinguisher. We shoot it off down the hall and outside. We go into Squatter Girl's place and shoot it off. We run from the churning cloud of vapor, giggling like schoolgirls and coughing like cancer patients. Shutting the door behind us, we notice a strange mattress in the middle of Squatter Girl's floor. "Whose mattress is that?" asks Xtop.
"Oh, shit," I say, remembering Bill's squatter pal.
"Well," says Xtop, "Tough shit."
Xtop is a leader of men.
Three in the morning I finally declare myself finished. Everything I own is in boxes. I wrapped all my dishes in my clothes. Tomorrow, while waiting for the utilities, I'll do laundry and start writing. Perfect, perfect, perfect.
Wake up bright and early. Call Kelly Sue, excited. DUDE! I'm moving to OUR PLACE! While we're on the phone, I open up my blinds to see the movers go driving by. I assume, oh shit, they're lost. I'll call the moving office; I'll give them directions. The office gives me the driver's cel. I call and have the following conversation:
M: Is this Apartment Movers?
D: Yeah. Well, No. It's a cel phone.
M: Do you work for Apartment Movers?
D: Who is this? You're gonna have to call the office.
M: No, I think you guys are moving me today and I wanted to make sure you didn't need help finding the place.
D: You're gonna have to call the office. What's your name?
M: Matt Fraction. F-R-A-C-T-I-O-N.
D: You're gonna have to call the office.
M: I did, and they gave me your number.
D: So why are you calling?
M: I just saw a truck drive by. I thought it might be you.
D: No, I don't need any help finding it.
D: You're gonna have to call the office.
M: I-- I did.
Yeah, that's right. I said "bye-bye." I call the office again. "Huh," says Reed, the moving office boss-guy. "Well, he's got a bad attitude."
Bad. Attitude. I roll that phrase around on my braintongue and it occurs to me that everything is about to go horribly, horribly wrong.
Reed calls back ten minutes later. "Yeah," he says, "He says he's not gonna move you today." We go around and around on this for a bit. How many stairs are there? Well, four little ones to the sidewalk. I live on the safer-than-safe ground floor. He's boggled, Reed is. Calls the guy back, guy again says he's not going to move me.
Should I freak out? No, says Reed, I'll get another truck out there. Okay, great. When? Give me about half an hour, an hour. It's still eight; I don't have to be over to the new place for the walkthrough until eleven or so. I'm in good shape. I'll load up the rental car in the meanwhile and wait for Reed to save the day.
It's five-'til-eleven when I finally call Reed back. He tells me he's still working on it. I tell him I have to go. He says okay, he'll have someone over to me no later than one. Not the best of all possible worlds, and I might miss some utilities, but since when has a utility company actually been on time, right? I run a handful of panicked errands and get to the new place. My new landlord, Mormon Man, is very very nice, but very very... pokey. Chatty. The walkthrough takes forty minutes. He'll be around for a while but he's got to leave at noon. Well... okay. Mad but refusing to panic, I get back to Ft. Eviction. Call Reed, who says that maybe I should try to find another truck.
I get mad. It's the first day of the month, and a Friday. No one in town will have a fucking truck. What recourse, I ask Reed, do I have as a consumer? Reed doesn't understand the question.
I call every truck-rental place in town. The only ones available are well over six hundred dollars.
I take the first carload over to the new place. In the half-hour between me leaving, Mormon Man leaving, and me showing back up, all of the Utility guys have shown up and left me little notes saying I missed their appointments and I have to reschedule. I start to trip a little bit while I walk, like I'm losing my balance.
I start to shake.
I do carloads all day long. By sunset all that remains are about fifteen boxes and the big shit. It will take professionals no more than an hour to do the rest. I call Reed at five-thirty or so; he says he won't be able to get a truck out to me, but assures me that the guy that stood me up won't work for him again. I wonder if he looked up 'recourse' in a dictionary. He says he'll have a crew out first thing in the morning. I don't have much choice. I call the Ft. Eviction landlord. Are they REALLY boarding up the building and shutting off utilities? No, he says. Just between you and me, he intimates intimately, that's just a scare tactic to get Jumpsuit Bill out of the building, and I can have the whole weekend to move if I want.
At one point, talking to Kelly Sue, I sorta fall into a wall.
It occurs to me that since getting hit with the tax bill, hammering through workstuff, sweating the SCIFI thing, other random I'm A Fucking Lunatic nonsense and packing... that I haven't really eaten or slept in about three days. This would explain that falling stuff.
I grab a bite and take a nap. I wake up later that night, rested and full, ready to get on with it tomorrow. In a fit of spiteful, loving pique, I write five reviews for ARTBOMB. I'd probably have lost the rest of Friday to unpacking anyway, right? The stuff for SCIFI just isn't coming. I go over to Xtop's to hang a little while, sometime around midnight.
It starts to snow. A lot. Fast. I head home; it's about two in the morning and I'm sliding around the road like I'm sledding drunk. I get inside and there's no heat.
Do not drink Red Bull and nothing else for two days. You will pee orange gravy.
I wake up Saturday to no heat and three inches of snow outside. The wind is blasting at 40 miles an hour, dropping the temp to minus-22. It sounds brutal. High-pitched and whining.
Ever the optimist, I call Reed. I'm not getting a truck today, sorry, roads are too bad. None of his crews are doing runs. First thing tomorrow morning, no problem. He's right about the roads; I can't even take carloads over in this shit. There is no heat in Ft. Eviction, and I missed the gas company at the new place. Doomed to be stuck and cold. Can't write, can't think, can't move. Gonna blow the SCIFI thing. Feel trapped, feel stupid.
So I lose my shit.
My fellow CBR columnist Lord Steven Grant wrote in this week's PERMANENT DAMAGE that:
I figured if I had $6,000,000 in hand, I wouldn't have to earn a cent again for the rest of my life… if there's anyone out there who wants to make a seven-figure arts grant so I can just get down to work… get in touch.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I would be willing to do the same thing for the fire-sale bargain price of a meager FOUR million dollars.
Beat that, Lord Fancy.