Cover art by Kimberly De Huff
budget press review #6
johnnie b. baker editor/publisher
featuring becky bain steven conway kimberly dehuff steven hovey violet levoit jared mcbride dallas mclaughlin christopher mulrooney jeffrey s. ribaudo cassie j. sneider and johnnie b. baker
budget press 3620 keating st. san diego, ca usa
When Nabokov stops liking little girls When Ginsburg stops liking little boys When Crumb stops liking fat bottom women When Nin becomes monogamous When Bukowski stops drinking When Burroughs stops shooting smack When Kesey stops taking LSD When Gysin stops staring into the dream machine When Pryor stops cursing When Carlin finds God When Kinison respects women When Hicks beats cancer When Elvis stops shaking his hips When the Beatles get haircuts When James Brown stops being black and proud When Jello Biafra turns Republican When Pamuk becomes a Turkish nationalist When Solzhenitsyn embraces Stalinism When Voltaire becomes a monarchist When Ai Wei-Wei molds a bust of Hu Jintao, and not ironically
Then, and only then, will I shut the fuck up
johnnie b. baker
air, trees, water, animals violet levoit
I look like the abortion of Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra. I wish I looked like the abortion of Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder instead. I bet that was a beautiful child.
I check into the motel room at three pm. The desk clerk is Indian. If I knew more about Bollywood I could tell you what abortion she looked like. I've got my suitcase. Inside my suitcase I've got my pencil. It rattles around inside like Christmas morning.
The first thing I do when I get to my room is pull the blinds and take the lampshade off the lamp and work on getting an erection. Then I unsnap the briefcase and hold the bare bulb lamp just so until I can scrawl a silhouette of my johnson against the wall. A thin grey pencil wiggle that looks like it could just be a crack or an accident. I know what it really is. I lay the lamp on the floor. The shadows jump to all the wrong places and the room gets spooky. Changing the light is the quickest way to make chaos.
The suitcase is still open, like a ventriloquist's trunk.
Speak of the devil. Hi, ladies. I'm sitting on the bedspread and she's sitting on the bedspread and she's sitting on the bedspread. One's a mugshot and the other's a daguerreotype. I like how they're naked and also
What do you say? Good Evening, I say. How Do You Do. I think they like my politeness. The instant I wonder does the dirty motel bedspread feel harsh against their split pussies? I get the answer in the soft space between my eyebrows, whispered into the blowhole of my third eye. We don't mind. Then for a second I feel the bedspread against their labia, feel every stitch of white polyester thread pressing like a staple against their mucus membranes, feel the Triscuit weave of warp and weft against pussies I don't have, a phantom limb mixed with a lucid dream. How do they do that? Then it's gone. I think I'd like one of them to blow me. Daguerreotype gets up and takes the pencil and writes something on the wall. When—I Get to the Bottom—I go back to the top of the Slide—and I stop and I turn and I go for a Ride 'till I get—to the Bottom—and I see You again Mugshot's between my legs. She's looking up at me while she does it, I love when they do that. I see the pencil wiggle on the wall bob and surge each time she chokes down on me. I can't help it, I think of more of them. Lana Turner and Mickey Rooney. Howard Hughes and Rita Hayworth. Catherine Deneuve and whoever knocked her up. I try to slow it down but that's where my mind goes. Jean Seberg. Wait, that doesn't count. Mug's got an X in her forehead, right over the third eye. She had one, right? And Dag died a virgin, maybe. I'm not surprised. Eyes like sherry left over in the
glass, my ass. But Mug's attractive. The prettiest of all of them, I think. When I look back I see Mugshot rearranged the furniture. The desk's against the door and the bed's against the wall and the TV with the chain is in the bathtub. Dag's still writing. I think—it is Coming Down Fast—and so Creepy-Crawly I cannot Wait Steven Parent kindly stopped for Me— I'm surprised her handwriting's such a mess. It's like sprung wire. Mug gets up now and stands in front of the light and I can see how thin she is like an alley cat, how the bones jut over her ass in the back, how the backs of her thighs are covered in sand flea bites. how four shipwrecked vertebrae surface and dive in the small of her back. She takes the pencil from Mug. Big letters. HEALTER I thought she'd have acid casualty penmanship. My mistake, perfect Palmer writing. Straight teeth and curly Qs, lost remnants of ballroom dance lessons, not quite debutante-y rearing, but with the aspiration of middle class striving. Rituals of any girl in those days. And then the desert calls, sun on hot sand and the race war. And then all those Xs in soft white foreheads, as if carved into Wonder Bread. Yep, he cut them good, right down to the quick. I see now she's got a dazzle blind look in her eyes, that heavy-lid sweet look that died in girl's eyes just around seventy-six. Glazed like honey. I don't know what's replaced it. Coke nerves, coffee buzz, nicotine got hip.
Girls aren't like that any more. I think of the Xs on their foreheads. I think of XX chromosomes. About the baby girls those Xs could have paired up to make. I didn't notice they've both got their fingers in to the knuckles in each other's cooches. Back on the bed, by the way, close to the wall. Dag writes on the wall with her good hand. Are you all the way alive? Mug scrawls back with her bad hand. I am all the way alive. They're up to the wrists in each other now, making that ouchouch face that I so love. I gulp when they go past the wrist, up the elbow, their arms disappearing into each other's cooches to their shoulders. Their faces are blank now, lips open, sweat beads on their brows. Each other's breech birth in reverse. Only once they slide their heads inside each other do I declare that I've seen everything. Then they go in up to their waist. They're just two sets of legs now, kicking on each side like some big crab, a snake biting its own tail. They have to dig their heels into the bedspread to push in past their thighs. When they're in past the knees they just wriggle. It gets slippery and easy. They're a bowtie of twisting ankles. They're a little knot of flesh and hair and disappearing toes. Then they're gone.
I open the window. It's pretty outside. For the first time in weeks I don't wish I was someone else's abortion. Air, trees, water, animals. I think everything's going to be okay.
it comes in the window a pot of flowers under a table under a cursing lot of gentlemen gathered there to snicker after a long day of work the dog is in the yard snuffling the rosebushes the air is blue the sun is in it at work the staves are broken in to stock or stone
the Salon of 1975 the available artworks are presented in two tiers the forward-looking and backward itâ€˜s like this the King enters the mobile saloon predicated on Regionalism as a rule he rides a tortoiseshell ottoman guided by two seers in black coats and perfumeries which is to say courtiers he selects an award winning arrangement and hustles herkily and also the other component jerkily to receiverships for one and all partnerships for some body or other consulships for the august pauciority and midshipmen for his private retinue
Dead of Ninety-two “... Frenchmen of today, Bonapartists, Republicans, remember your fathers in ‘92, etc...” —Paul de Cassagnac, Le Pays Dead of Ninety-two and Ninety-three as well, Who, pallid with the mighty kiss of liberty, Calmly, under your sabots, tromped the yoke so fell Upon the soul and brow of all humanity; Men ecstatic and tall within the very tempest, You whose hearts leapt up with love beneath your rags, O Soldiers whom great Death has sown, noble Mistress, To regenerate them, in the furrows of the past; You whose blood washed clean all greatness rendered filthy, Dead of Valmy, Dead of Fleurus, Dead of Italy, O million Jesus Christs with eyes gentle and dark; We shall let you go to sleep with the Republic, We, bent beneath kings as though beneath a cudgel —They’re talking to us about you, the Messrs. de Cassagnac!
Arthur Rimbaud tr. Christopher Mulrooney
Evil Whileas the ruddy spittings of a bullet-volley Whistle all day underneath the skyâ€™s blue choir; And scarlet-clad or green, next the King full jolly, Battalions in their numbers crumple under fire; Whileas a fit of madness most appalling grinds And makes a hundred thousand men a smoking heap; â€”Poor corpses! in summer, in the grass, in joy of thine, Nature, o thou who made them in thy holy keep!... There is a God, who laugheth at the damask cloths Of altars, at the incense, the chalices of gold; Who in the lullaby of praises sleeps of old, And reawakens, when their mothers, gathered close In anguish, weeping their black bonnets underneath, Give him a pretty penny tied in their handkerchief!
Arthur Rimbaud tr. Christopher Mulrooney
Jeffrey S. Ribaudo
Sinatra in a Russian Banya Jared McBride “Do you want to try, Dzhered?” Masha asks, as she waves the microphone in my face. I am half-nude, standing in front of a cheap Japanese karaoke machine in a small three-room sauna somewhere on the outskirts of Moscow. The Russians I am with are calling this place a new funny word, “banya,” which to me, at this point in time, sounds like a sleazy word for bath. “Davai, Dzhered, we’ll find a song just for you.” As I ponder the impending horror of having to sing a song, I scan the smiling, attractive Russian faces with their poignant bone structure and quixotic eyes staring back at me. I look to my right and peer into what I can only describe as the “sex room.” This room has a large heart-shaped pleather bed and leopard-skin patterned carpet walls and a large painting of buxom ladies draped with vines standing near jungle animals. My assumption is that this room was supposed to be classy with the appropriate touch of sexy. This was just the first of many moments in the next decade I will spend in Russia that I find myself asking the question, “What are the chain of events that led me to this exact moment in space and time?” I knew I had taken a long metro ride into the south of Moscow. I knew my friend Masha, her sister and boyfriend and friends had arranged a trip to a banya called VIP (which Russians pronounce as one word: veep). I knew I was told to bring sandals and a towel. I knew Masha was one of my first Russian friends and I wanted to make a good impression. I knew I had come to Moscow to live and work before I began my PhD. Despite this apparent abundance of information, as I sat there, I still could not wrap my mind around where I was and what I was doing. During my first trips to Moscow, I often felt like the befuddled, Chaplinesque character “Mr. West” from the film The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks. In the film, Mr. West, a YMCA president, travels to Moscow in 1920s to expose Russians to the ideas of YMCA. He bumbles his
way around the city, scared of the new environment and even more so of the Russians in it. After a run-in with some thieves, he is saved by the police and subsequently given an immaculate tour of the city, which of course, wins him over. The film ends with him calling home and asking his wife to put up a picture of Lenin. Back at veep, we had just finished listening to a few more lovely Russian tunes. At least, I assume they were lovely, since I understood not a single word of them. “What song for the Amerikanets?” Masha and her sister ask as they pour over a karaoke catalog. As an American visitor in Moscow, I figured I wasn’t exactly stumbling upon something new in the banya. In fact, there is a story in the Primary Chronicle, written in the early twelfth century, about St. Andrew visiting the Slavic areas around the Black Sea and encountering the “wooden bathhouses” where the Slavs “warm them [selves] to extreme heat, then undress, and after anointing themselves with tallow, they take young reeds and lash their bodies.” The banya obviously has a long history behind it in Russian culture. For centuries now, it has been a place to hang out, talk, drink, cajole, and disport to your heart's content. The banya ritual, which every Russian knows by heart, is as follows: first you reserve a spot at a public sauna or rent your own. Before arriving, you pick up drinks and food to consume during the event. Upon arrival, you strip down and take a large white sheet and warp yourself in it. Next head over to the parilka (steam room) for some heat! The steam room usually has two or three levels of seating and the temp will run somewhere around 200 degrees Fahrenheit or 110 Celsius. Take a seat and enjoy the heat. If you’ve brought a hat, now is the time to wear it. This protects your head from the heat and keeps you cooler. You can likely stay in the room anywhere from 2-7 minutes. While in the hot room you can beat yourself or a partner with some veniki, which are leaves/branches from oak, birch, or eucalyptus. After a good beating, your olfactory senses will be inundated with a sweet earthy and medicinal smell from the leaves. Once properly heated, you head to the washroom where there will be either a large wooden barrel (bassein) of cold war, or pool(s) and showers. If you happen to be in the provinces in the winter, you can
go jump in the snow to cool off. Now go sit back down and enjoy food and drink and repeat the process over and over for two hours. Little did I know during this trip to VIP, that it would be just the first of many future banya experiences. In the coming years, I would visit the beautiful Sandunovsky baths at Kuznetskii Most where Muscovites have bathed for over one-hundred years. I would rent my own private banya in cozy, bucolic Suzdal outside Moscow. On my last research trip to Ukraine, I ended up in a home-made banya in someone’s backyard with five young Ukrainian men deep in the recesses of the Volhynia region. In future years, I would even be the one showing visitors to Russia how to have a proper authentic banya experience. “Vot, we have found a song for our little Amerikanets!”, cries Masha’s sister. Finally, my turn arrives. “Nu, Dzhered, how about Nu York?” It takes a second, but I realizedthey had chosen Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.” Now due to my political orientation, I’m not one to get too wrapped up in the idea of nationalism or patriotism. And I can’t call myself an adherent to provincialism for that matter either. By the time one figures out what provincialism is, chances are you are already too far away to not be under its spell. As far as I’m concerned, New Jersey and the tri-state area just happen to be a place where I lived until I was eighteen. Politics aside, the next thing I know, there’s a microphone in my hand and the music has started. As soon as I heard those horns blowing, my pulse rate doubled, even before Frank’s voice kicked in. “Start spreading the news...” “Ok, I think I can do that.” “I want to be a part of it...” “Yea, I guess I do.” A few stanzas in, I am thinking to myself, “God I have a horrible voice,” but…“I want to wake up in a city that doesn’t sleep”…“I’m just getting warmed up – that’s all. Keep going!” “My little town blues are melting away…” I could feel the seed of New Jersey/New York pride stirring deep down in my pelmeni filled belly.
“I’m gonna make a brand new start of it”...I'm splayed out in Central Park in July soaking the sun. “Jesus, can't they turn my mike up a little more?” “I’m king of the hill, top of the list.” I’m seeing Yankees pinstripes shoot down the banya walls. “I’m gonna make a brand new start of it...”, I belt out. I take a breath because I know the ending is coming. I feel like a matador circling the bull, my sword unsheathed and thirsty for blood. “Right there in old New York.” At this point, perhaps due to inebriation or the extreme heat in the sauna, I swear can hear the heavily accented Yiddish voices of my ancestors ricocheting off the rooftops of Cherry Street in Washington Heights as they discuss socialism, the recent election, and the stars above them. “You know, I’m gonna make it just about anywhere…” By the time I hit the last line, I'm balling my lungs out, tears in my eyes, oblivious to everything else in the world at that moment. As the music dies down, I open my eyes to see four bewildered Russians observe me with a mélange of curiosity, admiration and pity that I’ll come to know quite well over the next decade. Blushing from heat and embarrassment, I come to the realization that I'm standing in my underwear with a microphone in my hand in a sauna called “VIP” in a snow-covered Moscow in March, some four-thousand miles away from the greatest city on the face of the earth that isn't sleeping. I didn’t know it at the time, or maybe I did, but I was becoming a character in my very own film: Adventures of Mr. New Jersey in Post-Soviet Moscow. I called home and asked my mother to put up a picture of Putin on my bedroom wall.
Darkness Climbs The hourglass of heaven as broken, its contents yield beneath my feet. Seagulls fly like white bonnets in a wind. Darkness climbs from earth's edge, an occasional cloud tears pieces away from the moon. A saltshaker of light sprinkles sparkling crystals across the sky, some fall and float, shimmering on the surface of the sea; while sleepers sink into the depths of their dreams.
the long tree lined parkway where wheels turn in front of the stacked stone wall the gate is open behind the square sign does gleam in darkness like a white beacon w. blue words youâ€™re told this is the place where drugs & therapy take you to the land where alice wonders about her visionary perceptions gathers armies of cards & chess pieces larger & brought to life where split personalities come visiting you remind me of a carriage w. adjustments being made on your mania & depressive moods more or less chemicals to make you behave the way they want you to feeeeel love & compassion is all i can give to you as you look so much like a frightened child i never knew people went thru such can only offer my hands lips pressed against you in spite of the trembling i promise I'll return....
First Psalm Bless us with sunlight melting shards of ice, hanging from above, dripping like a leaky faucet. Bless us with the rain in April washing browness from the grass leaving it gleaming green and fresh. Bless us with leaves sprouting from buds on shriveled brown fingers straining to touch returning geese. Bless us with slow night crawlers in puddles and mud feeding robins that hatch eggs and fill the sky with songs of praise. Bless us with stems blossoming in colors matching those pictured on seed packages. Bless us with soft hands to hold as we stroll beside the river flashing past Boothe Memorial Park. Bless us with satin and white veiled promises flowing from a train of fidelity, "till death do us part". Bless us with castles made of sand that won't slip into the sea, eventually.
i worked at a whorehouse hotel third shift front desk clerk viewing human amoeba performing perverted gratification dances in providence my voice was swimming airwaves on an eleven station network i landed in pittsburgh an urban jungle gigolo just a monkey on a tree around in black river i was an alcohol alchemist a balloon salesman in winona inhaling helium speaking in bart simpsonese an eloquent speaker on seventy eight rpm in madison i lived on the st. died at waterloo someone stepped on my heart.
I remember that flesh to concrete sound like hamburger slapped flat, a whole chicken thrown. Against walls you slammed my mother. Into the hospital she went with broken bones. She still loved you regardless of me, the girls having to stay at priests and friends houses. While mom was disabled she said you were sick and couldn't help it. Terror in darkness turned to anger, grown up from the fear of your foot steps coming up the stairs; echoes in the hall and prayers you won't breathe stale beer breath in our faces, with stinking cigarette fumes. I swear I'm going to beat your ass when i grow up, teach you a lesson. You never forgot the night I became just like you after we closed that bar. Three times you pushed me. I warned you not to. I saw you in a flash back hitting mom, whipping me with that coathanger. I saw myself leaving you in the gutter with a broken jaw... sorry dad, I'm just like you!
its measured in the drip drip dripping of tears thousands of blue grey eyes falling from the sky lying on the gound just staring melting into one another the fly looks in from the ledge flashing blue beams from multi faceted gems on his head w. the crashing it turns into a praying mantis rubbing his hands greedily like the pope of money a tiny black leg disappears behind jagged jaws.
Self-Titled Cassie J. Sneider The neon sign was driving me crazy. Twice I had tried to fix it, and twice I had woken up in the window of the record store, displayed under the flashing letters. Traffic passed by outside, cars pulled in and out of the parking lot, but no one noticed the electrocuted human being laying under the fritzing neon light. Usually my boss was here, yelling at the guys who worked in the basement, calling them feygeles, the Yiddish word for faggot, so on any normal day, you couldn't hear the buzzing of the sign. Bruce was on vacation, though, and things were strangely quiet, so there was no choice but to listen to the neuron-splitting sound of pink light flickering a million times a second. It was just me, old neon, and Billion Dollar Babies playing softly on the overhead. Before noon, the record store was sort of a motorcade of debilitation. There was Richie, the maintenance guy at the Taco Bell down the street. He had every Diana Ross record on indefinite layaway, and wanted to shake hands after every transaction. His fingers were always coated in different stages of nacho cheese, from wet to crusted, but I shook them anyway because he said I was his best friend. There was also Daniel, the guy with two lazy eyes who came in every day to find out if Hatebreed put out a new album. He was the cart-person at Stop-N-Shop, and I was responsible for getting him into Alice Cooper. “How'd you like Love it to Death?” I said, the day after recommending it. “It seems like the kinda music you'd wanna listen to with yo' girlfriend.” “Really? Love it to Death??” “Yeah, it's the kinda music you'd wanna listen to with yo' girlfriend, if I had a girlfriend...” He looked at me, at least his best approximation of looking at me: one eye directed at the counter, the
other somewhere to the left, maybe staring at the Pink Floyd poster of naked chicks. It was an uncomfortable silence that trailed off into an imaginative pause: me and Daniel, rolling around on the floor of his Section 8 studio apartment, listening to Alice Cooper, going at it like two disabled rabbits, not gazing deeply into each others' eyes, but to the left or right of each other. Every morning, I could also expect Jim to come in. The bell on the door would jingle and then came the sounds of someone laboriously dragging a walker and a bag of groceries. “How are you doing today?” Jim would say, though it didn't really matter if anyone responded. He would leave his walker in the doorway and hobble over to the dollar CDs, which he bought ten at a time. Jim was eighty-five years old and had the biggest teeth I'd ever seen. He was like a giant, hairless, liver-spotted rabbit. His front teeth were at least an inch long, and one of them was broken at an angle into a jagged isosceles triangle. When he spoke, drool streamed out of the hole, and if I was lucky, he mopped it with a dirty handkerchief; if I wasn't, it pooled into the dollar bin and I would have to give it the once-over with a paper towel. That day, Jim was the first customer, which either meant it was a slow morning or he was up early, dragging himself all over town. “How are you doing today?” he said, mopping his mouth with a filthy rag, which meant it was going to be a good day. “I'm good. How are you, Jim?” I blew on my gas-station coffee, listening to “No More Mr. Nice Guy” playing at a pre-noon background level. “Oh, not so good,” he said, still smiling by default of those giant, honking teeth. “Why's that?” “Oh, I just found out I'm the product of a rape.” He toddled to the dollar bin and started digging around. “What?!”
“Yeah, turns out my grand-dad had a brothel and made my mom work in it. So, my grand-dad is actually my real dad and I'm born from a rape.” I tried to wrap my brain around how someone would suddenly find out a dark and terrifying family secret at the age of eighty-five. It didn't make any sense, but I also wasn't about to question it. Jim sighed and flipped through the scratched disks, wiping his teeth with his shirtsleeve. “Yeah...life goes on, I guess.” The sign buzzed. Jim made a mouth-suction noise. “Tell you what. You can have whatever you want for free today.” Jim sucked his teeth. “That's very kind of you.” ** My boss was back from vacation the next day. “Did you know that Jim is the product of a rape?!” I said the moment I walked in the door. “Did you get me a tea?” I put the cup next to the cash register. “Are you even listening to me?” “What does it matter? He's a pedophile anyway.” Bruce flipped through a stack of papers and dialed a number on the fax machine. “He only buys albums with teenage girls on them. He must have bought the first Britney Spears album a hundred times. Feygele.” The bell on the door tinkled and a walker scratched across the industrial carpeting. “How are you doing today?” SUUUUCK. WIPE. “I'm good, Jim,” Bruce said, not even looking up. He put his signature on an invoice and I went downstairs to fill the order, where
School's Out was playing at a deafening volume. To my knowledge, there had been no neighborhood kid-touchers in High Fidelity, no mentally retarded Hatebreed fans in Empire Records. If Alice Cooper walked in the door of my record store, it would probably be because he wanted to sell a waterlogged copy of the Wayne's World soundtrack to buy date rape drugs, and when he left, we would call him 'faggot' in Yiddish and make fun of him all day. If I was living a rock and roll fantasy, I didn't know whose it was. When I came upstairs, Bruce was still on the phone. He nodded for me to look at Jim's selection of CDs, and sure enough, there was Mandy Moore, 'N Sync, a scratched copy of a Christina Aguilera bonus DVD. Bruce held up the Britney Spears' self-titled album from the pile, of which there were two. “How many copies do you have of this at home, Jim?” SUUUUCK. WIPE. “Don't suppose I know.” Bruce looked at him. “How many copies do you need, Jim?” “Don't suppose I know.” I put the CDs in a paper bag. The neon sign shorted out every few seconds and the record skipped on the turntable. The doorbell tinkled as Jim left, and I looked at Bruce. “Fucking feygeles,” Bruce said, blowing on his tea. “This is decaf, right?”
‘12 car pileup’ Jeffrey S. Ribaudo
Damnit! Dallas McLaughlin Every March a group of friends and I go on a trip to Las Vegas. Before I continue there are a few things you need to know about this Vegas trip: On this trip we don’t go clubbing or try to hit on girls. We go to gamble, drink, watch March Madness and get into as many heated arguments about how elite pitchers are better draft picks than elite hitters as we can. They aren’t. You see we take this trip every year to hold our Fantasy Baseball Draft. Yes, it’s an extremely dorky reason and yes we are extremely serious about it. We have a trophy. It’s a real trophy. It’s heavy and you can drink from it. It’s called the Chris Sabo Commerative Cup. When I had it made in 2003 I spelled “Commemorative” wrong on the engraving sheet and literally no one noticed until 2008 nor have we done anything to fix it. And lastly, it is very important to us that this tradition continues as long as we live. Which brings us to last year’s trip. Lately, we’ve had a new Vegas tradition where on Saturday night after out draft: we make our way to the Imperial Palace for some two in the morning karaoke. We each order a bucket of beer, sing some songs and watch others be way too serious about performing ‘Black Velvet’ in front of drunks. This lasts until we get bored or one of us throws up and/or gets in a fight. Now, my “go to” karaoke song is usually “Bust-a-move” by Young M.C. I know what you’re thinking and yes “Principal’s Office” was Young M.C.’s masterpiece, but I’m good at “Bust-A-Move”. Really good. Like awkwardly good. However, this particular evening I chose to stray from my standard and sing a song called “Dammit” by Blink - The 182 part of Blink’s name was added after the Cargo pressing of Dude Ranch, which is the last Blink record I enjoyed so I refuse to recognize it. “Dammit” is essentially a song about a guy and a girl who break up and then the guy starts hearing about and then seeing his ex-girlfriend out with new guys. Something we’ve all
been through and will continue to go through because for the most part women are sadists. I broke pattern and sang this song mainly because I knew my friends would think it was funny, but at the same time sing-a-long un-ironically, because you see five of the eight of us grew up in San Diego and we were the right age for this song to matter when it was released. As I sang the song (Or just did an impression of myself singing punk music in 1994 which is actually just an impression of Fat Mike from NOFX.) I started to notice that the chorus of the song took on a whole new meaning. If you remember the chorus of “Dammit” just repeats, “Well, I guess this is growing up.” The lyrics are kind of overshadowed by the somewhat famous line in the second verse, “Did you hear he fucked her?” However, it was the chorus that turned my smile to sadness. This is our ninth trip to Vegas and our twelfth year playing fantasy baseball together; and in recent years this trip is the only time I get to really hang out with a couple of these guys, which makes the trip even more important to me. All of us are now between 29-32 years of age and the last couple of trips it has really started to show. Not only are three guys now married, but two more are engaged, one owns a house and now has two children. BAM! Real life dropped on us in room 2149 of Caesar’s Palace before the fifth beer. These life changes prompted some Vegas rule reminders, including one that was introduced in our mid-twenties when it became apparent some women for some unknown reason might actually want to spend their lives with us: No wives or kids will ever be allowed on this trip. I have a feeling that this rule will hold strong although I’m almost certain that it won’t. While cruising through the second verse I started to realize the situation at hand and I could do nothing about it. When you start your annual Vegas trip at 22 with some of your best friends willing to do anything just to make one person laugh you feel like nothing will ever change. When you find yourself at 30 so hung over after the first night you’re thinking of leaving, you know that everything already has. No more strip clubs for fear of loved ones getting upset, no more all night binging because we know have people who depend on us and of course no more Fatburger. For lunch that Saturday we headed somewhere in some hotel that I can only remember as too bright for me to handle. I sat poking at a plate of mush that looked like a
hamburger salad, barely able to form sentences and nursing a headache so bad I’m amazed I every time I yawned the four horsemen of the apocalypse didn’t come riding out of my mouth. This meal is known as the “Before Draft Breakfast” that happens at 3pm. It’s usually reserved for proposing rule changes, adding new members or player trades. But, as we all scanned the table we noticed no one was laughing or smiling or even talking. We were all feeling “it”. No one at the table could accurately describe what ‘it’ was but let’s just say whatever it was rhymed with ‘age’. Maybe, just maybe we’re getting too old for this. Years ago we would have been a hip looking group of twenty somethings cruising the strip looking for trouble, but now we find ourselves stumbling through those groups of kids lost, sloppy, looking for the Sportsbook and talking to our loved ones on the phone trying to convince them that fifty beers in a day is not that much - all things considered. Then like prophecy someone asked a question that was on all our minds we just couldn’t put it into words: What happens if one of us dies? This turned into a pretty spirited debate, which ended an hour later with two solutions: Either that person’s eldest son is offered the position in our league or you must name a successor in your will. This was not a joke and this… …Is why I love these guys and fantasy sports. With all the thoughts of our own mortality, the conversation never dipped into what will happen to my wife, or will I have a secure retirement. It was purely about one thing and one thing only. That night onstage nasally yelling the last verse of my Karaoke cover I became lucid. Because, that night a somewhat shitty pop-punk song turned into a Shakespearean tragedy. We were adults now, sitting on the ides of fucking March. We were too old. This was behind us and we did not know exactly how to handle it other than try and kill ourselves with free Coors Light and doubling down on a nine just to piss off the table. Right before the last chorus of a song meant to be a joke it become abundantly clear that I was the real joke. Not my life, mind you but the ridiculous expectations I had of life. The one thing I learned from that afternoons breakfast filled the room so thick I could taste it: This trip was never about escaping or baseball or trying to stay young forever like some balding version of the Lost Boys. No, this trip is our way to lighten the darkness that is growing up.
I walked off stage; high-fived my friends, laughed, then sat in the corner nursing beer number thirty-eight. As my buddy Sean hopped on stage to belt out Third Eye Blind’s ‘How’s It Gonna Be’ the clarity only became more…well…clear: The person you think you’ll always be at 22 is never the person you become. It’s not even the person you’re supposed to become. And what’s worse is that you could never make your younger self understand that this isn’t necessarily good or bad, it’s just how it is now. Things change and as much as I (Probably most out of the league.) don’t ever want them to, it’s not up to me. It’s the curse of life. If me at 22 saw me today he’d probably cry and ask the simple question, “What the hell happened to you?” I could only reply, “Everything?” And as younger me turned around to walk away he’d stop and say loud enough for me to hear, “Dammit.”
Oy Vey: My Date With A Conservative Jew Becky Bain “I’m Hannukah” is how I would describe my religious background in elementary school, because that’s all that religion means to little kids – how many presents you got, and at what time in December you got them. (Everyone else at my school was “Christmas”, except that one kid Mohammed and the lucky brats who would boast that they got double the amount of presents because they were “Both!” I hated those little assholes.) So, yes, technically I’m Jewish, but I’m not religious – I’m mostly in it for the access to great food and jokes. I never care about the religion of the guys I date (maybe, because one day, I hope my kids get to be “both”), but my parents certainly do care. They’re pretty secular, but their obvious disappointment in my choice of gentlemen callers would hang like a weight in my peripheral vision as they would watch me explain to Christopher or Christian what matzo was and why we didn’t have a Christmas tree. Those made for some awkward Passover dinners. I thought it couldn’t hurt to try to appease my parents’ wishes for me to date another Jew. It would make them happy, and as the saying goes, “Happy parents continue paying college tuition.” And if you’re gonna go, go big. I met Moisha Goldensteinberg at a frat party. Okay, his name wasn’t as ethnic as that, but it may as well have been. He wore a Star of David necklace around his neck large enough to be considered “bling”, and a yarmulke atop his frizzy Israeli fro, pairing it with some questionable facial hair that could only be described as "splotchy." He shimmied up next to me on the Kappa Sigma dance floor, his eyes locked into mine. “Shalom,” he said – “Shalom” means hello in Hebrew. “Would you like a dance, gorgeous?” Usually when I see Jews dance, it’s the Electric Slide or the Horah at a Bar Mitzvah or wedding. Not too sexy. But Moisha could actually groove, and despite being overdressed for a frat party in a black suit and prayer shawl, his charm won me over. While every other girl was being ass-groped by a wasted frat guy, me and my Joshua
Timberlatkes were gettin’ down, polite-style, our hands to ourselves. After our dance, Moisha asked me my name, and then he asked if my mother was Jewish. When I replied in the affirmative, he asked me out to a comedy show that weekend. That Saturday, Moisha picked me up around 8pm, when the sun had finally set. He couldn’t participate in any forbidden activities (like driving a car, handling money, or looking down my blouse) during the Sabbath, which lasts from Friday night to sundown the next day. Being conservative must seriously put a lot of pressure on your weekend, since you really have only one night a week where you can go out and make a drunk ass out of yourself without having to wake up early the next morning for work. Imagine all week you’re looking forward to Saturday, and then everybody you know is busy or out of town, and then you’re stuck inside your apartment left with nothing to do but watch episodes of Game Of Thrones stacked up on your TIVO? Depressing. I felt so honored that Moisha picked my company on his one night of freedom that I completely swallowed the fact that he took me to a free open-mic comedy show on campus, which I wouldn’t exactly consider “painting the town red” for a first date. I don’t want to say Jews are cheap or anything, but… no, I still won’t. After the comedy show, he drove me back to my place and parked his car on my street without me telling him to. I’ve learned from many, many nights out that ended with me and a dude getting naked that this is the first sign that the date is not over yet. I asked him up for a glass of Manischewitz, which I said as a joke, but he said, “I’d love some,” without laughing. A few screwdrivers later (“Oopsy! I must have totally drank through my Yom Kippor stash of Manischewitz, my bad!”), we started making out and within three smooches he went straight for the boobs. His oddly patterned facial hair see-sawed between tickling me and scratching me, so I picked his head back up and lowered mine down. “Wait a minute, wait a minute,” he mumbled. “What is it?” I said with his belt strap between my teeth.
“I’m not into that,” he said. Although the lights were off in my room, I could tell he was blushing. “You’re not? Aren’t you a guy?” “Yeah. But oral sex is a fruitless activity. It doesn’t honor God with the possibility of procreation.” Am I really having this conversation while groping somebody’s penis through a thin layer of cotton? I could tell Moisha didn’t meet a lot of girls like me around the Chabad House, which is where the most Jewishy students hung out right off campus. Praying, eating and singing prayers pretty much sums up what goes on in there. Not a whole lot of bonor-inducing activities. No wonder he went wandering in the frat house that night I met him. But I was different from those Chabad girls. I didn’t wear skirts that ended mid-calve. Fooling around with me must have felt like ordering a bacon cheeseburger at a drive-thru on a Friday night – exhilarating and naughty. I was really enjoying being in complete power of this situation – we all have a little dominatrix in all of us, no? Some of us use whips, and some of us use mind games, and I had conservative Jew desperately wanting to be pushed to the secular edge. “I can promise you right now I’m not procreating with you no matter what we do tonight. I’m on the pill.” And then I went and had sex with him. Once he settled into the fellatio I was giving him, he transformed into your average twenty-something guy who will go along with whatever the girl he’s with wants to do to him. I climbed on top of him and we went at it. He devoured the bacon cheeseburger I was offering, so to speak. On the whole, it was a pretty typical date for me back in college – cheap, nearby, and ending in brief, expected sex. Like punching in and punching out, practically. But right around the time he moaned out of me was when things got really verklempt. Right after he retracted his circumcised piece, Moisha freaked the fuck out. In between dry heaves, he confessed that he had had sex
only with one other person, a recent ex he thought he was going to marry. Unlike Catholicism, Judaism doesn’t teach sex to be something you should be shameful of. But it doesn’t like you to be a big fat slut, which is what Moisha must have felt God viewed him as, undressed in the bed of a girl he had not yet invited over for Shabbat to get his parents’ blessing. Flirting with girls was one thing, but Moisha wasn’t thinking things through when he asked me to dance and then took me out and then took it out. He kept shaking his head in his hands, his kippah hanging from his head by one bobby pin. I just sat there, dumbfounded at the role reversal. Isn’t it my job to freak out after sex? To regret my frivolously made life choices? And yet I was the one calming him down, telling him it was okay to indulge in your sexuality and God still loves you and blah blah blah. Must have worked, because once he stopped weeping, we had sex for a second time. I guess he figured he’d already done it once, may as well do it again. God can’t smite you twice for the same crime, right? Sin seemed to be growing on Moisha, because the second time around he took the lead, pushing and pulling and rubbing and tugging like a pro. Psssh, conservative schonschmervative, I thought. So after round two, Moisha, much more relaxed, asked me about my thoughts on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, his idea of pillow talk. This is never a good topic to bring up, particularly when you’re naked at 3 a.m. and you’re still out of breath from doing it doggy style. I said I was not that informed about the situation. “Didn’t you learn anything while you were in Israel?” he asked, accusatory. “Um, I never said I went to Israel.” “You’ve never been to Israel?!” he screamed at me, in the same tone people often ask me “You’ve never seen The Goonies?!” (No, I haven’t seen it, and I probably never will, so fuck off.) Still naked, Moisha jumped out of my bed, went on my computer and proceeded to sign me up for a Birthright trip to Israel.
“That’s okay, you don’t have to do that…” “What’s your social?” “Um… 167-5, uh… seriously, it’s late, let’s do this tomorr—" “And your birthday?” “January 6, 1983. Is that the sun? Time for breakfast!” “When did you have your bat mitzvah?” “I never had one.” He shot daggers at me as though I had just force fed him a communion wafer. “You never had a bat mitzvah.” Not a question, he just repeated the statement back to me as though I didn’t hear it correctly coming out of my own mouth. “Nope. Only went to Hebrew school for a year. I got bored so my mom said I didn’t have to go anymore. I took three years of tap, though, are they asking for dance experience?” “You are Jewish, right?” Would now be a bad time to tell him that despite my heritage, I actually consider myself an atheist? Somehow I don’t think my love of delicious rugelach or brisket would be Jewish enough for his standards. “I’m so Jewish. Wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles, God took a tailor by the hand…” “What are you doing?” “Singing. It’s from Fiddler. On the Roof? Man, are you Jewish?” Bless Yahweh for my camp production of the 1964 musical back when I was 12 years old. It bought me a pass til either Moisha’s guilt returned (sometime around round 3 of sex) or he realized that he and I could never be, and he excused himself from my apartment.
How do you say “It’s not you, it’s me” in Hebrew? I saw Moisha once more after his shameful departure from my bedroom that night. It was a few weeks later, and we ran into one another on campus. He was on his way to the Chabad House, and I was walking to something probably not Jewish enough for him. He told me he got back together with his ex-girlfriend, and he was really happy. “Mazel Tov!” I said sarcastically, but he said “thanks” without blinking an eye. After a brief and cordial catch-up, we bid one other a fond Shalom. Shalom also means goodbye. Thank fucking god.
Budget Press Review #6 Content and layout © 2012 Budget Press Artists retain all rights to their work
Credits Becky Bain is a Hollywood jack-of-all-trades. Her work has been produced by the likes of E!, FOX, and Upright Citizen's Brigade, and her comedy videos have been featured on UCB Comedy and Funny Or Die. beckybain.com Steven Conway has been published in Massachusetts Review, Paris Atlantic, Penny Dreadful, Nasty Piece of Work, 247 Artzine, Poems to Wrap Your Lover In, Kitty Litter Press and so on. He lives on his sailboat in Providence, RI. Kimberly De Huff is a Southern California kindergarten teacher and artist. Recent projects include Artscape, art for public spaces, and Art Nouvelle for Division 9 gallery. Steven Hovey is an artist and musician, appearing in such memorable bands as Corner Man Store, Lodo y Asfalto, and The Plushies. He has embraced domestic bliss in Portland, OR. stevehoveyink.com Violet LeVoit is a film and arts journalist whose fiction has appeared in many publications in the US and UK. She is the author of the short story collection I Am Genghis Cum from Fungasm Press. She lives in Philadelphia. Jared McBride blogs at Motherland to Borderlands, and is writing his UCLA PhD dissertation about the Second World War in Ukraine. Now he’s in Philadelphia. motherland2borderlands.com Dallas McLaughlin has written for Yo! Gabba Gabba, The Aquabats! Super Show!, So Say We All and Fansided.com. He lives in San Diego and waits for it to rain. thewholeofthemilk.tumblr.com Christopher Mulrooney has written poems in Pacific Review, Compass Rose, Otoliths, Mot Dit, Orbis, Weyfarers, and Kaffeeklatsch. He lives in Los Angeles. Jeffrey S. Ribaudo is a mixed media artist and member of Collaboration X art group. Jeff has shown his work nationally and internationally, and curates both J & J and RC project spaces in Rivercide, CA. jeffribaudo.com Cassie J. Sneider is a writer, cartoonist, and puppet-maker from the murky depths of Lake Ronkonkoma, NY. A collection of her stories, Fine Fine Music, was recently published by Bed Bug Press. cassiejsneider.blogspot.com johnnie b. baker is the editor/publisher of Budget Press. Back cover—Jeffrey S. Ribaudo ‘Pussy Vortex’