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Sing With Me If It's Just For Today...
If I should fall behind, Guyster, wait for me.

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I knelt and brushed away the brown cut grass from the dark gray granite, pulling a few stubborn green blades that encroached on the dates that anchor the bottom corners––the left side is August 2, 1962 and the right states January 21, 2002. While doing this busy work, I prattled on.

“Get out of here, stupid grass. There we go, baby. Much better now. Wait. Let’s get this.” I licked my thumb and rubbed the oval porcelain photo––the shot I took of him on the boardwalk one random day never knowing it would end up being so definitive––removing a few whites specks with my thumbnail. “There. Handsome guy.”

I brought more than I normally do on my weekend morning visits, because today was special. Along with the usual two bunches of baby’s breath, the Today, Tomorrow, Forever heart-shaped balloon, and a blue windmill, I bought a silvery mylar Happy Birthday that had someone’s idea of a festive cake printed on it.

For gifts, I had a few key chains in my pocket, one from a recent stopover in Chicago and one from Montreal, the city where Billy proposed to me in 1998. I’d fit those onto branches of his tree later on, but now I had arranging to do.

I fluffed one of the bunches into a giant snowball that stuck out from the vase centered over him, jammed the windmill into the ground to the right of the headstone and the birthday one on the left.

Crisscrossed lines from the grass etched my knees as I stood and walked the ten paces to Billy’s bench. The tree was overgrown, it’s branches flopping down in a way that startled me every time I drove up, afraid I was going to find that the park had trimmed them away, and all of those key chains that I’d woven into its branches over the years would be lost.

I untangled the other bunch of tiny white flowers next to the bench, another summer snowball, putting the heart balloon next to it, but decided it looked better swaying in the center of the unpolished front edge with WILLIAM LEE LEDBETTER engraved across its length. I took the newspaper that’d wrapped the flowers, wadded it up, and wiped a few white bird droppings away.

I looked up into the tree; the sun flickered through the moving leaves, a disco in the park. It was cooler there, and I tore open the Hostess Cupcakes package, a brown plastic bra, turned it over to tap one out, and laid one of Billy’s favorite snacks on the upper right hand corner of the bench.

After inserting a red-striped candle, I lit it with a match, cupping my hand to keep the flame alive. Water filled the inside of my Revo lenses as I bent over to blow it out.

“I hope you’re dancing right now, baby.”

I sat on the other side of the bench and polished off the twin cupcake, staring toward the downtown skyline that seemed a hundred miles away, the silence broken only from my pleas for none of this to be true.

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“What do you think you’ve missed out on the most?” It’s a question I’ve wanted to ask Billy for the past few years, and I’ve endlessly pondered his possible answers.

“The iPod!” He blurted it, his lower lip jutting out, his arms huffily folded.

“You know you would’ve gotten one right away from me.”

“I know.”

“What else? Do you miss dancing?”

“I still dance.”

“Oh.” Well, of course he did; nothing could stop that engine from running.

“And the house! You know I’d love that house even if we had to give up Venice.”

“I bought it with you in mind. I always imagined how much you’d like it. And what about Stephen and Eddie? They’re no Bob Slobbers, but¬¬––”

“I sent Eddie to you! And I can’t believe you bought a house in Saint Elmo! I told you that you’d like it there!”

“I should’ve listened then, huh.”

“Yes” He paused and looked down at his feet. “Maybe. I dunno what else. I guess just having your arms around me at night.”

“That’s what I miss the most, too, Guyster. Wrapping you in my arms and holding you tight, real tight, and never letting you go.”

And just as I reached out to demonstrate, he was gone.

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I can’t remember whose idea it was for Billy to wear the red wig, but it looked funny with his bristle of a mustache sticking out and I remember he wanted to wear his shirt backward, so I buttoned it up for him. It was Billy’s first and last appearance on television. Our friend Mickey hosted and produced a cable access show that was a purposeful train wreck, and on this episode, she booked Francine Dancer as her guest.

Francine was an LA-famous, yet homeless woman with a fondness for garish clothes and bouts of spontaneous street dancing. I believe she had her own cable access show, too. Mickey asked Billy if he’d like to dance with Francine on the show, and while Billy said yeah, sure, he was still too shy to do it without some sort of disguise.

That Herman Munster laugh you hear in the background is mine, egging him on, proud as can be.

When Mickey gave me this clip a few days ago, I asked her when it was done. She looked it up and said it was November 21, 2001, which makes it two months to the day before Billy left. Two fucking months later…

And I still can’t believe it.

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They’ve called Ludlow a ghost town ever since Interstate-40 came along and destroyed its little Route 66 businesses. Sitting in the middle of the Mojave desert, sped past by most except those riding on the fumes of an empty tank, the only thing in Ludlow besides the abandoned diner are a gas station––a sign warns that the next fuel is eighty miles up the road––and the Ludlow Motel with its Vacancy sign always lit. In our house, though, the very mention of the name of that spit of a town meant, It’s time to shut the hell up and accept the fact that I love you, no matter how mad you or I are right now.

It was our time-out, or a safe word.

I spent Thanksgiving in Saint Elmo, Illinois, Billy’s hometown, where the business district is two blocks long, yet it’d make Ludlow look like a bustling metropolis, but once you get outside the town’s limits, there’s nothing but winter cornfields and an endless sky.

I drove to Mattoon, up north a bit, the next day to get my annual tattoo, a ritual that celebrates our anniversary. This year it was our sixteenth and while that number doesn’t have a particular meaning, I’d already designed what I wanted in my head.

His oldest sister Dixie asked me why I just got that name, Ludlow, tattooed on the back of my calf––I had it done in a classic sailor font with an orange fill. That night, we were at dinner with every member of Billy’s family except for that sister Deb whom no one likes (and I guess she feels the same way about them), and when Dixie posed the question, the table silenced, even little Jack, just thirteen days old, but old enough to know to hold his tongue when a good story was brewing.

“Well, when Billy drove out here to fix up Grandpa Hopper’s house…” I saw every eye on me, except for Kaeden and Kael, too young to know where they even were, and I felt like some exotic creature from that crazy big city out west, but I just continued.

Billy had called me in a panic, his little Toyota truck hadn’t made it more than two hundred miles away from home before it broke down. He was stuck at the gas station off the Ludlow ramp and the mechanic there told him all he needed was a hose. He’d already called an Auto Zone near our house and asked if I could drive it out to him.

Without thinking twice, I jumped in the car, bought the hose for five bucks, and got on the road for a nice long drive. It was about a half hour into the trip that the temperature gauge shot into the red––the only thing to do was turn on the heat so the engine wouldn’t burn up.

To make the story more exciting, and accurate, I emphasized to the family that it was a hundred degrees out, which made it cooler outside than inside the car, and I was sweating. Oh, and all four tires were as bald as the crown of my head.

I made it all the way to Ludlow, somehow, and found a dusty roadside motel and a gas station with one guy there who had no access to auto parts. Billy was sitting in his motel room with the door open waiting for me. When he saw me, he beamed and hugged me and said he could never thank me enough.

“Oh, yes, Guyster, there is a way you can thank me,” And there was. I thought of it while sweating over the past four hours.

Almost every bad fight we had, Billy would retreat into the corner of You don’t love me, you don’t care about me… and I would then have to find ways of reassuring him that he was, in fact, loved.

“OK, from now on, every time you think I don’t love you, I will say one word and one word only. Ludlow. The only reason I’m here, Bill Ledbetter, is because of love. Pure love. Love love love. Love drove that fucking car and love is going to drive it back. So. Ludlow. Got it?”

He nodded in agreement, went out to borrow tools from the attendant and fixed his truck himself. We went back into his motel room. It was dark and cool. We laid there in silence and then started to fool around. It was great being a fleabag motel room and we made the most of it. We fell asleep in each other’s arms. We woke up around nine at night, the sun had said goodbye, and it cooled off outside. I didn’t want to drive back the next day in the heat, so I kissed him, said “Ludlow” as a reminder, and left.

Ludlow became shorthand for love in our home. Ludlow is one of the many words engraved on his memorial bench that sits under the tree near his headstone. Ludlow.

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“What do you want for your birthday, Guyster?”

“Nothing.”

“What do you want for your birthday?” I repeat the question with playful annoyance.

“I dunno.”

My thumb runs over the smooth glass, tracing his arm.

“How about I wrap up some dog poo and give it to you?”

“No.”

“I’m gonna unless you tell me––“

“No!”

I rub over his face.

“Okay. I’m going to take you to dinner and lavish you with expensive gifts that you’ll never use.”

“Whatever.”

“iPhone?”

“No.”

My forefinger wanders up to the silver-plated frame that’s lost its luster over the years; the words that Billy had engraved I’m Missing You are still visible. He’s shirtless, a beaming smile under his sailor hat, his arm outstretched and anchoring him to his bunk.

“Want to have a party? It lands on a Saturday this year.”

“Surprise me! Get me whatever you. I’m busy.” He noodles with his mixer, one earbud dangling down his left side. The whole conversation is silly, really, since I’ve already bought him that iPhone, and I have organized his friends to surprise him in the private room at Baja Cantina.

I give his smiling face a long wet kiss, the glass warm on my lips, and put the framed photo back in its place, by my bedside.





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I woke up gasping for air, my arms pushing straight out, which almost sent Billy flying against the wall.

“Stop it!” He grabbed the bedclothes and curled up into a protective ball with his back to me, armed for any further surprise attacks.

“I just had the most awful dream,” I said, still getting back my breath.

“What was it?”

“I dunno. I don’t want to say. It might come true.”

“Then go back to sleep. God!"

And I did just that, wrapping my right arm around Billy’s warmth, my hand resting over his heart in a pledge of allegiance.

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If you didn’t already know that we lived in a non-smoking house, the twenty flyers Billy had plastered everywhere would have given you a clue. It had been a week since he'd first complained that he was short of breath, and drawing on what I considered to be my encyclopedic reserve of medical knowledge, I had insisted we both stop smoking immediately. I hammered this edict home by buying a box of nicotine patches the same day.

It was the Sunday before a holiday, if you consider Martin Luther King Day to be much more than an interruption in mail delivery, and after I surprised him with breakfast in bed, two slices of egg-in-the-hole, he finally got up and ambled into the kitchen while I washed the dishes. He stood by the back door, lifted his shirt, and said, “Put my patch on.

I obliged, of course, still in shock that he’d taken to a non-smoking lifestyle with the enthusiasm of a recent religious convert. We’d been trying to quit for years, and sometimes we’d even go for a few months without a cigarette, but then we would get into a fight or a few beers would come along, and we’d be back to Kool Milds and Camel shorts–Billy liked his menthols while I chose my grandfather’s brand loyalty.

I put it on his bicep, telling him to press the patch once it was on, a trick someone had once told me that was supposed to make it work better, and he leaned against the dryer doing just that, rubbing it like a genie’s lamp before he pulled his shirt back down, the long-sleeved one I’d given to him as one of his Christmas presents.

I asked him if he wanted to go see a movie, but when I told him that it was Gosford Park, he made his stink face and said, “Too much talking.”

“Well, then what do you want to do?"

“I think I’ll go over to Hal’s.” When he said that, I knew I’d soon be eating popcorn. I hated Hal, a man given to too much cologne and too many drugs, who called other men “girlfriend,” as if he were still roaming with the boys in the band. In fact, there weren’t any of Billy’s friends that I liked to hang out with. Billy claimed I was a snob, but I just found his friends dull and cloying, people who couldn’t even name the current Vice President, not that that opinion wasn’t a source of trouble in our house. For nine years, when he spent time with his friends, he usually did it stag.

We sat at the kitchen table with a large bag of croissants between us. I’d bought the bag a few days earlier, thinking Hell, what effective smoking cessation plan doesn’t include French pastry? I told him I was going to the movies anyway, without him, but he was more than welcome to join me if he changed his mind. He shrugged, chewed his croissant, and said he was going upstairs to mix music.

I might have asked him how he felt, or maybe I didn’t. Over the past week, he'd stated that he had chest pains, and a few times actually said, “I think I’m having a heart attack.” I even caught him saying so on videotape with the camcorder he gave me for Christmas.

After I made the bed and tidied up the front house, I made plans with our friend Tommy to see the movie, then bounded upstairs to see Billy and, as I expected, found him in headphones at his DJ stack, lost in his house music, dancing with the twelve-foot coiled cord swinging in time. All eighty pounds of Bob were sprawled on the couch, struggling to watch Billy as he slowly lost the battle to stay awake.

I mouthed, “Okay, I’m going,” which prompted Billy to un-cup one ear and ask what I’d said. “I’m leaving, Guyster,” I repeated, and asked him what time he’d be home. We arranged to have dinner together around five, and I left without stopping to kiss him goodbye.

I dropped Tommy off on the way back from the movie and headed to our favorite neighborhood Italian restaurant, a tiny place next to a 7-Eleven in a strip mall. Neither of us had a regular paycheck coming in, money was tight, but it was the night of the Golden Globes, so it was a forgivable splurge for us. I waited outside for the two orders of spaghetti with meatballs and mozzarella marinara, glancing at the convenience store where I’d bought my daily pack of smokes with just the tiniest bit of desperation.

The lights were off and it was chilly in the house when I got home. Bob was waiting in the green leather chair that he’d claimed as his own, his tail wagging as I opened the front door, and he slipped off the chair to follow me and sniff the bag I was carrying. I walked through the living room, left our dinner on the kitchen table, and climbed the stairs of the back house with Bob trotting behind me.

“Where’s Billy?” I asked Bob; he just looked back at me with his head tilted slightly to the left. I turned on the TV to watch Joan Rivers forcing women to show off their once-in-a-lifetime shoes, and took a couple of hits of pot from the wooden pipe that had been in our family for years. The bong that Billy bought me for Christmas was still downstairs.

I could hear footsteps on the stairs an hour later and the door swung open, Billy huffing as if he’d just run around the block. “Scoot over!” he said, and I sat up to give him room. He snatched the pipe from me, fired it up, and I asked him how his day was.

“I dunno. A day. How was your movie?”

“You wouldn’t have liked it. Too much talking.”

He took another toke, hopped off the couch, and went to the computer. “I have to post some more stuff.” Billy had started his own eBay business, selling random items he found in the neighborhood trash during his long walks with Bob. “But first I have to take some pictures.” He always gave a running commentary of what he was doing, just in case I didn’t notice or as if he needed to remind himself that he was doing it. More than once, he sat upright in bed while sleeping and proclaimed, “I’m tired,” to which my practiced response was, “Good thing you’re sleeping, then.”

It was cold upstairs, too, and I stretched out on the couch with a blanket over my legs, half covering Bob, who had curled himself into a black fur basketball at my feet. Billy worked on taking photos of his future sales, framing each one with Madison Avenue precision.

I looked over my shoulder, watching Billy set up his next shot, the tip of his tongue peeking out from his lips in concentration, and that’s all it took to bring it all back, that perfect, earnest magic he had, and with that, I fell in love with him again, finding him standing there as if I’d lost him in the fog of the overly familiar, as if anything could really hide that light. He was working hard to get his business off the ground and I was proud of him. The past several months had been very hard on him, on us, both unemployed and depressed, bad habits resurfacing, and still, there he was, on the other side of it. In that second, I could see how much he was enjoying himself, that he believed in himself, that he had his own future in control.

Nicole Kidman won, Moulin Rouge won, and the awards were over. For me, it was time for bed. “C’mon, Guyster, let’s go downstairs.”

“Okay.” He was back at the computer uploading pictures on eBay. “I want to finish up.” He flapped his hands shooing me away. “I’ll be down in a minute.”

“Come on, Bob.” Our dog trailed behind me as I shut the upstairs door.

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“C’mon. Sit down. I want you to hear something!” He mumbled the last part, but with ceremony, Billy turned the black leather desk chair around so I could face him at his DJ rack.

“What song?” I was already annoyed by the interruption of my online porn surfing, and just thought he'd play some house music that was already our annoying soundtrack.

Our song.”

I crossed my arms. He slipped a cassette into the deck, pressed PLAY, turning to watch me. It was one of those songs I'd have changed the moment it started on the radio, some diva purse music. I started to say some—

“No! Listen.”

Sometimes the snow comes down in June
Sometimes the sun goes 'round the moon


I harrumphed and squirmed sitting there.

“Stop it, Terry. God! This is about us.”

I listened. The song was pretty, I guess, but I watched Billy mouth the words and soon he was singing along, his eyes watching me, but by the end of the tune, he was belting it out, hamming it up, a big finish on its way.

“Just when I thought our chance had passed,” he warbled at full volume, “You went and saved the best for la-a-a-a-st.”

He beamed when it was done. Even did a little bow.

“That’s very nice.”

“It’s true, you know. We made it through. You know.” His voice was soft, a little disappointed. He thought I thought it was stupid and he felt embarrassed, or at least that's what his expression told me. And in that moment, I knew what he meant and why the song held such weight for him, and for me.

I walked the few steps over to him, grabbed him tight around his waist pressing our bodies tightly together, and I kissed him lightly.

“I know, baby. You saved the best for last.”




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The video was brief and shaky, a cell phone taking it with the unsteady hand of excitement. The elephant was butting its head against a towering palm in the median strip of a busy tànon yài . He––or she, it was hard to tell from the angle of the video––had just stomped the head of his trainer and escaped the circus; years of abuse and isolation let loose on the evening news.
*
Work has been as unsteady as ever, and while the conclusion is in sight, I’m fatigued from auditioning for a job I’ve had for four years. I put out feelers to some key agent friends, people who know what’s going on in the job market, and one set me up for an interview with the masters who bring Americans Wife Swap and The Two Coreys. I suck in an interview and this was no exception. After the president of the company did a hard sale for me on their future, I told him I wasn’t really looking for a new gig and thanked him for his time. Like the needy bumbling asshole I am, though, I hedged and on my way out, I said how much I enjoyed watching the Coreys. Too bad that it hadn’t aired yet.
*
All New Mega-Doppler 7000, our local ABC affiliate’s weather-predictor showed that the next seven days will be 83 with a low of 66, every single day. Each panel on the 7-day forecast showed a yellow sun with a wispy little cloud nudging its lower left. I’ve been looking for that cloud, but it has yet to appear.
*
On the flight back to Los Angeles from Montreal, I scored an aisle bulkhead seat. That would’ve been a primo seat had it not been for the guy to my right sneezing and snotting for five hours, or the Indian woman who decided that crouching next to me, using my armrest, and yammering to her teenaged daughter in a loud, clipped voice was acceptable airplane behavior. I had to tell her to go sit in her own seat, which earned me a dirty look, yet she continued her conversation in a stage whisper. When I involved the flight attendant and the woman was forced to go back to her place, her husband, who was sitting directly behind me, spent the next three hours kicking the back of my chair.
*
The news anchor said that the elephant had been wrangled and returned to the circus. Even for the most noble of animals, sometimes there’s just no escape.
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The moment I mentioned O.J., the owner of the store who was a well-groomed man with snow white hair and a complicated goatee gave me a sidelong glance that went all the way out the door and around the corner. I went to Ross Cutlery, the oldest knife shop in downtown Los Angeles, to get a new set of clippers, the kind professional barbers use before they slap on that cool sting of Clubman aftershave.

“There’s not a day that goes by when somebody doesn’t ask me about O.J.”

“Sorry. Didn’t mean to be your one today.”

“That’s okay.” He started to tell the story, polished from daily use, and there was no stopping him even if I wanted to. Two weeks before O.J. butchered his wife and an innocent young man, he came into Ross and bought a large knife with a bone handle. “Just like this one,” he said, pointing to a blade on the bottom of the showcase. He told me that the police took it, sealed into an envelope, and it never came out at trial.

“Fuhrman said that it was the Swiss army knife that he got as a gift,” I added from my vast and useless knowledge of the trial. “The police photos showed the empty Swiss army box in the bathroom, but they never found the knife. Fuhrman said he used the fish-scaling blade.”

“And he was right. That knife down there never could’ve been the weapon. They showed me the autopsy photos and I knew it wasn’t my knife. The Swiss knife, now, that could cut through steel.”

I wondered how many people mentioned to him that he was the first potential prosecution witness to sell their story to the National Enquirer, thus making any testimony he might’ve given invalid, and that’s why the knife was never introduced at the trial.

I know I didn’t touch that one with a ten-foot sword.

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The wicker loveseat that I bought on a whim at Home Depot lends the perfect view of the neighborhood––tucked to the side by the leaded glass that breaks the wind from the north, as if we’d be lucky enough to have a breeze to come along and cut through this endless dry heat. The two guys who grew up in the house next door have their girlfriends over and the smell of lighter fluid is slowly wafting this way, making me hungry or lonely, or both.

There hasn’t been a cloud in the sky for nearly three weeks, a giant blue dome encasing the city in cheer and drought. The weatherman said last night that this is the driest year in the hundred and thirty years they’ve kept records of such things with a little over three inches of rain in the past twelve months. The whole city is starting to smell like dried dog pee. Or maybe it’s just my front yard.

Stephen is splayed out on the porch in front of me and Eddie found a place in the shade under the jacaranda, now naked without its pretty purple flutes. I like sitting out here, lately a when I crawl home from what’s been a very stressful few months of work and want to relax. People pass on the sidewalk, some see me, others I can spy unnoticed.

Our home in Venice is off the market, bought by a couple who are getting married at the end of August, or so says their wedding website. She’s a realtor at Sotheby’s and he’s ungoogleable. The house had been empty for so long I got used to it, used to seeing it for sale on MLS for months and months, in play, and when I saw it go into escrow sixty days ago, I could only hope that the deal would fall apart and the house would stay still waiting for my humble bid that would’ve been accepted.

I drove by it today and saw they put up a fence moderne that’s at odds with the quaint little cottage up front. They’re screwing with the exterior, too, adding sheet metal to the shingles to match the back loft. What this happy couple doesn’t seem to appreciate is that the contrast between the original beach house and the towering architectural structure above the garage is what made the property unique.

That and a thousand other things.

When I hear the slightest rustle of leaves, I let my eyes take flight up to my left to see the little wooden anchor that serves to stir the wind chimes into action. It sways a little, threatening to make contact with the metal tubes, teasing me with a possible song, but the wind is never quite enough.

The girls next door just squealed out some laughter, the lighter fluid is starting to smell like cooked beef, and I’m going to just sit here and wait for that breeze to come along and make me some music.


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I didn’t know Mario, didn’t even know his name. The only thing I knew was that on Memorial Day, I saw a crowd of people standing on the corner of the 7-11 where I stop every morning for my Super Big Gulp. Some had their fingers jammed in the air pointing at something or someone, and then I heard sirens behind me coming up fast. I pulled over just long enough to see a shirtless man lying on the ground, his muscular back covered in a tattooed giant cross of Christ, and as I drew nearer, I saw the sidewalk covered in blood pouring from his head, too much blood. The man wasn’t moving, just the cluster of people who stood and stared, and pointed.

For the past week, there’s been a shoebox sitting right in the middle of the 7-11’s wide glass-top counter that houses twenty kinds of scratcher tickets, but this week the shoebox covers the display. The box is wrapped carefully in paper that suggests mother of pearl with a hand-written plea for help, words of love, and the young man’s name. Mario. Saran Wrap seals the box except for the money slot that cuts into its top. An enlarged photo that’d been taped to the back of the wrapped bank sways every time the front door opens; it’s a snapshot of Mario, handsome and slightly bemused. He couldn’t be more than twenty years old. The box asks for donations to Mario’s family, to help them cover the funeral costs, or as the box reads, “Please help so we can buried our son.”

When I first saw the box, I emptied my wallet of all its cash, all eight dollars of it. I asked the guy who checks me out every day if Mario was the man I saw shot. He nodded without looking at me.

Armed with a twenty the next day, I slipped it in. Yesterday was another twenty, and today being payday, I put in thirty. I’m not bragging; I don’t view my contributions with anything more than the understanding of the horror when something so unexpected happens and the ugly practicality of paying for it.

I look at Mario’s photo every day, and I can’t seem to shake the first time I saw him, lifeless and alone, all alone, except for the strangers that surrounded him.

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Scott said that this guy knew me, that he was a crewmember on Without You, I’m Nothing. Tom’s name didn’t sound familiar, but it’s been eighteen years since I produced that film. Who remembers that far back? Scott wanted me to be his wingman, to blunt a blind date that his friend Deb set up for him with Tom.

As soon as I saw him, though, I recognized Tom’s face––thick dark hair, eyes the color of a cobalt ashtray. Deb was there, too, and we awkwardly shuffled around the table at the Farmers Market in a game of musical chairs until the silent music stopped and we sat. I ended up directly across from Tom, not at all what Scott had planned.

Two minutes into the small talk, he said, “You know John died, right?”

First thought: No. What?
Second thought: John was there when Billy and I met for the first time.

“What happened?”

“Overdose.” I heard it. I slumped. “Yeah, he was doing all kinds of shit like crystal for about ten years. His dad found him in his apartment last September.”

I just sat there doing the emotional math. John and I had a complicated relationship, each vying for Sandra’s attention, approval. I didn’t like him. He always won. He was a trust fund baby, spoiled and talented.

His dad found him. His poor dad. Poor John.

I kept staring at the table, lining up the flatware this way and that while I tried not to cry. I didn’t want to look at Tom. Scott must’ve noticed something, asked me what was wrong. Tom took up the slack when I didn’t answer--told Scott and the rest of the table.

John was a visual artist before he met Sandra, his canvases a celebration of narcissism. He’d take sofa-sized sea and landscapes, and stencil his phone number in school-bus yellow across them. One of my favorite pieces was a detailed architect’s rendering of his condo with lines drawn from the couch to his bong and from his couch to his anti-depressants.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Shipwreck, John Boskovich, 1989



Shipwreck detail, John Boskovich, 1989


I wrote a long piece on the rhapsody of ruin that comes with crystal, but it’s really this simple: If you’re doing it, please seek some help, not only for you, but for those who love you. Don’t try to convince me or anyone else that you’re happy doing it. That’s a lie and you know it.

If you know someone who is trapped by it, be patient and do your best to guide them toward help. It’s fucked up tough, I know. But once the claws are in, it’s mighty hard to escape, and your love and compassion will go a long way toward saving your’s friend’s life.

This is a good starting point.

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The first thing out of Jamie Spears’s mouth was, “I’m an alcoholic.” He gave a throaty Bubba chuckle to punctuate it before saying, “I’ve got nothin’ to hide.” I kept waiting for him to mention that he was “recovering,” yet that didn’t happen. He came in to pitch a show with his employer, Phil Maloof, the youngest of the dynasty and by all accounts, the Fredo of the bunch--a spoiled brat slumped in his chair with the look of a child who just got his toy taken from him.

I sat there looking at the red-faced hillbilly whose daughter has become a public nuisance, whose grandchildren have all but been abandoned, and here he is talking about how this petulant little shit of a fuck that he works for likes his fried chicken and wouldn’t that make for a great series.

No. It wouldn’t, Jamie, and please pick your daughter up from rehab, buy her a pretty wig, and act like a fucking parent.

That was the worst pitch in the past few weeks. The best one was Joaquin coming in with his producing partner with a breathtaking series that spotlighted humanity’s bravest and most extraordinary people. At the end of the meeting, he hugged me. I stood stock still afraid to hug back, afraid that I’d never let go, and security would need to be called.
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When I looked out the front bedroom window, I saw Scott outside of the gate flapping his arms in a movement so rapid that they suggested a desire for flight. I ran downstairs to find out what was wrong.

“I can’t find my fucking keys! How could I fucking drive here and not have the fucking car keys?” He had that look of defeat and exasperation I’d seen from him a thousand times before, and I followed him to his car that had the doors already wide open like wings.

I bent down to reach under the seat, over the dash, behind the passenger seat, in the glove compartment, anyplace that could accidentally hide keys. I stood up and shrugged. He started hollering again, his hands waving around in an angry mime. That’s when I saw them.

‘They’re in your hand.”

He looked at the dangling car key as if it were burning his hand, and the one to the house that I’d given him, too, and his shoulders slumped. He protested that it had to have been some valet parker’s fault, but all I saw was Scott with his keys gripped in his hand.

And that’s what it’s like living with Scott.

He left on Thursday after staying with me for three weeks as he worked out a stand-up set from scratch prepping for a headline gig in New York. We didn’t fight, much, and he’ll move to Los Angeles into my guesthouse next month. My current tenant gave his notice at just the right time to have Scott slide in with his cat, Uday, in tow.

My boys are going to have to change their bad attitude about cats. I think one good swipe should do it.
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I really need to learn how to say “Have you seen a black dog?” in Spanish.

For the second time in a month, someone opened my front gate and let my dogs out onto the street. For kicks. I’d taken to padlocking the damned thing at night, but on Monday night, I forgot.

I saw the gate ajar from upstairs while I dressed for work yesterday. I’d only pulled on my boxer briefs and a pair of thin navy dress socks when I ran down the stairs three at a time and raced through the neighborhood screaming “Eddie! Stephen!”

Maybe it was the outfit that attracted so many stares, although once I went back home and gussied up in my suit, I felt even more out of place. Where I live, I think the underwear and socks combo is more common streetwear than a suit.

I found Eddie right away. His tail shot up and he was all smiles while I wagged my finger at him. I picked him up, cradled him home, all the way cooing “Bad doggie,” in his over-sized pointy ear.

Then I went on the hunt for Stephen. He’s not the brightest guy in the world, a four-legged Jeff Gillooly. After over a year, it’s still a new experience for him when he arrives at our gate.

First I ran around the sidewalks then drove hollering out his name from the open windows while Eddie kept good watch from the back. This went on for three hours. I made some new friends with the neighbors along the way, even if we didn't speak the same language.

I gave up, drove to my office, my lip on the verge of quivering. About an hour later, one of my neighbors called to say she had Stephen in her front yard. Her name was Maria, a stout woman with a kind smile and a limited grasp of English.

I dashed back home, saw him roped around her fencepost, and I scrambled out of the car. I thought I pressed the Up switch to unlock the back, but as soon as I slammed the door, I realized I locked the car while it was running, the keys safely in the ignition.

I called AAA and waited.

I asked Maria what she liked. Flowers? Candy?

“No, no, no. I like seeing the look on your face when you see him.” She gestured to Stephen. I wanted to hug her, which seemed wholly inappropriate with her teenaged son standing nearby.

I’ll get her some flowers this weekend. Thank you, Maria, for putting Stephen’s gangly legs and stupid smile safely in my sights.

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The entire video only has about thirty-eight minutes of footage of Billy, most of it taken during our trip to see the Rose Parade floats the day after New Years.

The scenes here at the end of the tape are remarkable only in how completely ordinary they are––me pestering Billy while he reads the paper, the two of us fawning over Bob who's recovering from a pulled tooth, Billy on the couch with Bob, the two of them hugging on the top landing of the back house, Mickey telling Billy about a mouse under our sink, and the final shot of Billy saying, "See you soon."

All of this video here was taken during our last week; the last scene was shot on the day before .


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It was fifteen past nine in the morning on Martin Luther King Day when I trudged up the stairs to the back house, slightly pissed off and wondering.

Goddammit he locked the door again! I pounded my fist against the door. Nothing. Shit! But something somewhere started to attack my mind. Why else would I grab that discarded rickety wooden ladder that was propped up against the side wall, and set it against the balcony to climb up to the French doors on the other side of the back house?

The ladder was shaky on the uneven ground. I made it up there, barely, and saw him lying on the couch naked, uncovered. It was too chilly out for that.

How could he’ve fallen asleep like that? Wait. Oh, God, no!

I shoved the doors open with my shoulder pushing the couch away just enough for me to crawl through and I tumbled on top of him.

The screams started and didn’t stop. I shook him. He was so cold and as wooden as that ladder. I screamed his name over and over and over, and I hugged him. His name over and over and over until I made my way to the phone.

I dialed 911, ran back to Billy, the cord pulling the phone onto the floor with me. A woman answered.

“Billy’s dead,” I think I said. I’m not sure. I couldn’t get words out. I couldn’t breathe. I remember her telling me to calm down. I couldn’t. Billy. I know I told her that he was my lover in response to something she asked. I remember thinking that it must’ve sounded ridiculous to her.

”Lover.”

A man was suddenly yelling at me on the phone, telling me to listen to him, ”Listen!”, that I should try CPR.

“It’s too late!” My voice was ragged, terrified, knowing.

I gave them the address. I know I did that. I hung up. Ran back to Billy. Held him. He moved in a single motion. Frozen. “Oh, God, no. Billy. Billy. Billy.”

I ran to the door. Unlocked it. Wild-eyed. Screaming all the way down the stairs. Opened the front door of the main house then ran back to Billy. It can’t be. No! Billy!

Our dog Bob followed me upstairs and jumped onto his daddy’s legs. They didn’t accommodate him like they always did. Bob was on top of them.

I looked around, found Billy’s pants lying on the floor, threw them over his privates. Oh, no. They can’t see that. On the coffee table was a porn video cover. The TV screen was on, but blank.

It couldn’t’ have been more a few minutes before the EMT barged in, saw me wrapped around him, pulled me off, and started yelling, ”Get the fucking dog out of here!”

I hustled Bob downstairs. Our neighbor Stephanie had made her way over. She was crying. She took Bob into the living room. I ran back upstairs, saw them hovered around Billy. I guess I was still screaming nonsense. They yelled at me to leave. I did.

That was the last time I saw Billy like that. I’d see him eight days later dressed in his favorite white corduroy shirt covered with tiny navy blue stars and his latest favorite pair of jeans. I know he was wearing his favorite Docs cause I picked those out, too.

And that was the first and last time I've ever called 911.

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metalskoolThe band Metal Skool played Def Leopard loud enough for the floor to shake under our feet when Mickey and I walked into the House of Blues. We looked around, our ears adjusting, and Mickey screamed, “The guys here are so fucking hot!” She was right, of course. It was a sausage fest dressed in real biker gear with a sprinkling of their chicks in tow.

The party was to honor NASCAR Nations’s lovable biker family whose show proved to be a ratings winner on our mothership network, but now the program is migrating to our popular lifestyle channel. It was a corporate decision to get our namesake back to its core roots of science, nature, forensics, and of course, sharks.

We milled around. “I want to fuck him so bad,” she growled comically when she spotted the father on the show, a big biker daddy known for verbally abusing his sons.

“I wanna get something to eat.” I eyed the huge spread of ribs, Cajun shrimp, crab salad and jalapeño cornbread.

We went to the bar. I ordered her an Absolut cranberry, and a club soda with lime for myself. I turned around to hand her the drink to see her already flirting with a tall beefy man in a BoozeFighters jacket. I’d later find out they claim to be the gang that was the pattern for The Wild One .

She spun around to grab her drink from me, turned back to flash him a smile and another shot at her impressive cleavage. “He said, 'You can call me Buster’,” she laughed in my ear.

“And you should’ve said, 'And you can call me Mickey Hyman'.”

mickeypaulieSome executives from headquarters saw me and ushered us into the VIP area cordoned off for the stars of the night. We shook hands, blared our names over a note-for-note cover of “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” and I took Mickey’s picture with Junior.

One of our press people took my arm, told me that we could all get our photos taken outside, and we followed all of them out to a set-up for photo ops.

There were several professional photographers there snap snap snapping while the family posed by their custom bikes, and at one point, the press person nudged us in for our turn. My colleague John snapped blurry one, too.

“Where’s Buster?” Mickey asked as she looked out over the crowd. I shrugged. The party wound down. Mickey kept looking. It was time to go.

“Wait! There he is,” she pointed toward a large group of black leather, one of them being Robert Patrick .

“Come on.” I pulled her arm.

blurred“No. Wait. Buster! Hey! Buster!” She hollered over the crowd waving her arms as if she were trying to get Santa’s attention at the Christmas parade. Buster didn’t turn around. I kept pulling at her sleeve. “Ah, man, I want Buster.” She pretended to pout.

“Yeah, baby, I know. I know. Another time.” She sulked back to the car.

“I am so gonna rub myself tonight thinking about Buster,” she said, dreamily.

“I got it. Why don’t you think about Buster and Junior together?”

“Um. Ew.”
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