Saturday, April 30, 2005

Norcrest the Incontinent

Latigo Flint is occasionally seized by fits of paralyzing melancholy. See, Latigo Flint is the quickest quickdraw the world has ever known. People are given to believe they've just had a seizure and lost time when they behold the awesome sight of Latigo Flint slapping thigh and shucking iron. But bitter this wasted, useless talent - so cruel a birth 150 years late (or early?)

Sometimes talking to a dying hippy cheers Latigo Flint up, and sometimes it doesn't.

As far as I know, the sun doesn't shine on an afternoon that won't find Norcrest the Incontinent sitting on his bench at the north end of the Silverlake Dog Park. No one knows Norcrest's real name - he legally changed it in '68. It's quite possible he doesn't even remember what it was now. "I was all about change, man." Norcrest the Incontinent admitted to me several years ago, "My name needed to reflect that. But man, the irony is-" At that point, Norcrest let out a little groan, glanced down guiltily and promptly switched subjects.

But my friend Norcrest was in his very bad way yesterday and we couldn't engage in our normal ritual of comfortable conversation that always brings us both some joy.

"Abner!" He was weeping as I approached. "Abner, those men are all prettier than me." It's never a good sign when Norcrest forgets my name. It means at best our conversation will be little more than two gloomy strangers talking to themselves side by side. I sat down and tried to shake his hand hello, but he wouldn't stop waving them about long enough for me to do so. "Abner it's wretched... that Cat Stevens just blew up a bus carrying a junior high girl's basketball team." I sighed. "You know that's not even remotely true Norcrest, so stop self hating." He hugged his spindly white legs hard against his chest, closed his eyes and started softly singing Paul Simon's A Church is Burning.

It was obvious we were to have no rational dialogue today. I went with it. "Louis L'Amour died June 10th 1988. I was young and laughing that day, I didn't know. I'd go back and scream if I could."

It was Norcrest's turn. "Cancer in my bowels is the funny thing that happened on the way to a wasted life."

And mine. "They killed the noble mustang and turned 'em into dog food. Some crazy hippies tried to save 'em. They didn't try near hard enough."

His. "I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children."

Mine. "My opinions on which animals deserve to be saved are guided by a sick, self-serving hypocrisy."

"I'm Norcrest the Incontinent and I eventually drive away every friend I have."

"Well I'm Latigo Flint and I may just dislike you enough to prove you wrong there."

Norcrest fell silent then. He tried very hard to hide the slow, warm smile that crept to his face, but I saw it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Just Hanging in the CCF

Latigo Flint's chaps need re-stitching and Latigo Flint doesn't like telling stories without them. Shouldn't take more than a day or two to repair. In the meantime, I saw a couch this afternoon and it reminded me of better days.


From the Archives, 01-27-05:

Just Hanging in the CCF

Through a bizarre statistical oddity, Latigo Flint's cute neighbor has walked up to his open apartment door exactly three times for various reasons over the past year, and all three times she's happened to catch Latigo Flint in the process of building and/or playing in a giant Couch Cushion Fort.

The disappointing part is that of course she doesn't know it's a bizarre statistical oddity - See, Latigo Flint knows that as a point of fact, those three were the only occasions, and with a very good reason for each. (Equal parts nostalgia and turpentine huffing.) But as far as she knows, this occurs 100% of the time, and must therefore believe Latigo Flint to be completely insane.

It didn't help matters that on the third and final occasion, Latigo Flint had his back to the door and didn't notice that she was observing his entire impassioned speech to the garrison's besieged troops (as played by silverware, several rolls of socks, a Woody from Toy Story doll and a Jeremiah Johnson DVD).

She must have taken an uneasy step back when the speech climaxed with a string of shouted oaths and Native American based racial slurs, for her shirtsleeve brushed audibly against the screen door. Mentally frozen in the humiliation of discovery, Latigo Flint could only think to offer her a sniff of turpentine... which she declined.

When Latigo Flint sprinted for the bathroom to obscure his complete nudity is when she made her hasty retreat. And I presume dialed Mayflower Moving Company only a minute or two later, 'cause the truck got there awfully fast.

Monday, April 25, 2005

If Trampolines Could Sneer

They made it look so easy, those happy neighborhood children in the local rich kid's backyard. It's called a trampoline, this device upon which they gleefully bounced - Latigo Flint has seen them before in the picture books and on the television.

And Latigo Flint desperately wanted a turn!

I carefully observed them with my keen, squinty-eyes. They had to be using some sort of structured selection protocol to determine who got to bounce next. Ah yes - It didn't take me long to ascertain what it was.

"I call nexts!!!" I bellowed, vaulting the fence and crashing through the hedge. I shoved my way through the crowd of surprised children and placed a possessive hand on the stretched black mesh. "Nexts! I got nexts!" The selection process was obviously two tiered - you "call" from afar, but must affirm it verbally as well as physically. If you are unchallenged at this point, the next turn is yours.

(Actually it's not unlike the method of selecting a prostitute in Dodge City in the late 1870s. William B. "Bat" Masterson would have been proud.)

I strode confidently to the center of the mat and took a couple exploratory hops. The fabric undulated powerfully beneath my boots. My word, it was an elegant force, so yielding yet so explosively repercussive. I launched into a series of mighty bounds. Something about the fourth jump seemed a little off. When I landed on my face, my spurs managed to embed themselves in the back of my head.

The children started shrieking and in the distance I heard an urgent door slam. I paid no mind, I had just been completely weightless! What glorious devices, these trampolines. Unable to stifle a giddy laugh I staggered to my feet. I made it to five this time, each one successively higher. Then the sky lurched and I crashed to the mat like a screaming pretzel. Most of my limp body tried to rebound, but the toe of my left boot snagged in the springs and I was flung in a vicious arc into the side of the garage.

In a stumbling run I charged the trampoline. A device hadn't fallen in my esteem so rapidly since my loom exploded. In a blind fury I attacked the vile mesh. I would stomp it into sloppy fibers beneath my savage boot heels. Too late I remembered the futility of this form of attack, and I ended up kneeing myself in the mouth twelve times before collapsing into an oozing heap of diminishing bounces.

When I came to I was staring into the angry eyes of a wealthy housewife. "Just what do you think you're doing?!" She inquired. "I had nexts." I managed to mumble between pulpy lips. She waggled a disapproving finger in my face and spoke to the children without looking around. "What's the rule about shoes on the trampoline?" The children were in a traumatized daze, but at least this was one thing still familiar to them, and they answered loudly in unison. "No shoes on the trampoline!" The woman nodded. "That's right, no shoes, or boots on the trampoline, they scuff the material."

I started dragging myself to the edge, a dark smear marking my path. She repeated the question. "So what's the rule about shoes on the trampoline?" Despite the pain, I managed to chuckle slightly to myself. "Damn lady, they just answered you-" Oh wait, she was asking me. For some psychotic reason I was supposed to answer as well. She clapped twice in my face. "I'm waiting... What's the rule about shoes-" I tried to kick her, but lost my balance and toppled off the trampoline into some rose bushes.

She leaned over me and I could see down her blouse. "Lady, soon as I can stand again, I'm going to kill that trampoline." She laughed humorlessly. "Oh hell, suit yourself. Soon as I find out where Roger hid my pills, I'm baking the whole bottle into the dinner roast." (And eyes that empty were capable of it.)

She abruptly straightened and started herding the children into the house. "Who wants a juice box?" She was almost inside when I called out. "Lady!" She turned. I motioned toward the trampoline. "It's pure evil isn't it?" She stared at me for a long time and I thought she wasn't going to answer, then she gave the slightest of nods and disappeared into the house.

I gave the trampoline a knowing squint. "Your secret's out trampoline. You're exposed, and I'm going to kill you soon." A spring detached and whistled past my head. I started to laugh at that point, and don't remember when or if I stopped.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Eve Flint (Hey, I Just Like Saying It, Okay?!)

For whatever deserves to exist deserves also to be known, for knowledge is the image of existence; and things mean and splendid exist alike. -- Frances Bacon, 1561-1626.

Twenty-six things Latigo Flint knows about Eve:

1) Eve is very smart.

2) Eve is very beautiful.

3) Eve is one of the splendid things.

4) Eve doesn't want a corn dog.

5) Yes, Eve has no doubt it's a perfectly good corn dog, Eve still doesn't want it.

6) Eve has a younger brother named Farrod.

7) Eve frowns at people who giggle at her brother's name.

8) Eve's critically acclaimed debut album sold nearly 2 million copies.

9) Eve does not want to come over to Latigo Flint's apartment and watch the movie, Open Range, with him.

10) Eve really doesn't care how amazing Open Range is, she's not coming over to watch it.

11) Eve has pretty eyes.

12) If Eve is offered that corn dog one more time, there's going to be trouble.

13) Eve is a Scorpio.

14) Eve did not know that Billy the Kid's real name was most likely William Henry McCarty, not William H. Bonney as is commonly believed.

15) Eve was born and raised in Philadelphia.

16) Yes damnit, Eve knows who Kevin Costner is.

17) Look, it doesn't matter how many times Eve is asked, Eve is never going over to Latigo Flint's apartment to watch Open Range with him.

18) No! Eve wouldn't rather watch South of Heaven, West of Hell!

19) Eve doesn't care if it is Dwight Yoakam's directorial debut, she's still not coming over to watch it!

20) Yes, Eve has respect for Billy Bob Thornton as an actor.

21) No, for the love of Christ, Eve won't reconsider just because Billy Bob happens to be in South of Heaven, West of Hell.

22) Eve's patience has a limit.

23) Eve has a friend who looks like he could play middle-linebacker in the NFL.

24) Eve's middle-linebacker friend doesn't want to come over and watch Open Range either.

25) Eve is sorry it had to come to this.

26) Eve's name is a palindrome.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Reclaimed Water

Larry "Loose Sluice" MacKenzie, the recently elected Mayor of the dusty town of Bishop, California, has just offered Latigo Flint the position of Deputy Mayor.

The prospect of being a Deputy Mayor appeals to Latigo Flint. Naturally it's not the same as being a Squinty-Eyed Gunslinger in the American Old West, (curse my 150-years-too-late birth) but there are certain similarities. Gunslingers and Deputy Mayors both have a certain mystery about them. The townspeople have no idea what they're truly capable of, but since no one really wants to find out, Gunslingers and Deputy Mayors are always treated with a cautious respect. And like Gunslingers, Deputy Mayors are allowed to shoot people as long as it's not in the back.

Bishop's Mayor-Elect MacKenzie is directly descended from the Overland MacKenzies, early settlers to the Owens Valley, originally a lush Eden in Eastern California, near the Nevada border. His ancestors braved the treacherous Death Valley crossing and became successful silver miners, agriculture speculators and land owners - and then of course in the early 20th century, William Mulholland, J.B. Lippincott and the newly formed Los Angeles Water Department conspired to turn his family's future from one of wealth and prosperity to one of dusty poverty and vengeful eccentricity.

MacKenzie's Mayoral platform consisted of exactly one issue: The City of Los Angeles is going to give us our friggin' water back, every goddamn drop, or else...

Mayor MacKenzie won in a landslide, with a record turnout reported in Bishop and outlying municipalities. Namely the Town Dump, Smiling Ed's Famous Trout Hatchery, and Jimland, a partially buried doublewide trailer in a gully just outside of town that was proclaimed in the early-nineties to be a sovereign nation by its inhabitant, Shrieking Jim. (Under the accords of the peace treaty, Shrieking Jim gets to vote in Bishop elections provided he never again declares war on the tire pile behind the Shell Station.)

As Deputy Mayor of Bishop, Latigo Flint's first official duty would be to launch Operation Not So Funny When It Happens To You, Is It?! Which would basically consist of sneaking up on Los Angeles residents and knocking the water bottles out of their hands, along with assorted acts of toilet related sabotage.

I have yet to reach a decision. Los Angeles, this wretched, glorious city, is my home and treason doesn't become a Squinty-Eyed Gunslinger. But at the same time, how many chances do we get to be a Deputy Mayor?

I guess I'm going to have to drink on it heavily and give my answer in the morning... the late morning.

(You callin' Latigo Flint a liar?!)

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Cougar Jack's List

Today, April 20th, is Cougar Jack's birthday. Cougar Jack was Latigo Flint's occasional drinking buddy. I say was, because Cougar Jack died alone in a motel room outside Bakersfield a while ago.

Cougar Jack liked to keep a list of things that build character. Apparently he'd been keeping it for years. He called it, "Cougar Jack's List of Things That Build Character".

Cougar Jack left the list to Latigo Flint in his will. Latigo Flint reads it every day, but twice on April 20th.

The first item on Cougar Jack's List of Things That Build Character is: Go for twelve days without speaking.

Number two: Watch the woman you love marry another man without breaking down, even a little. Bonus character points if you can manage to grin.

#3: Listen to a child die.

#4: Drink under the table every last one of them smiling bastards who walks through that door for the span of exactly two years.

("Two" was crossed out and replaced with "three and a half". "Three and a half" was crossed out and replaced with "Goin' on fourteen". "Goin' on fourteen" was crossed out and replaced with "Reap it you laughing, ghostly dancers.")

There were only four items on Cougar Jack's list, but Latigo Flint reckons four is as good a number as any.

Monday, April 18, 2005

On the Savage Shores of Mirror Lake

Apparently it's possible to do something called: "Defacing a National Landmark", and it carries a substantial fine.

Well okay, so now Latigo Flint knows.

You know, it would have been nice if the Yosemite Visitors Guide pamphlet had mentioned as much - perhaps a paragraph or footnote about how you aren't allowed to paint a twenty-story portrait of yourself on the cliff face of Half Dome by repeatedly base-jumping off the top, armed with a high-powered paintball gun. But I guess that's just another example of government inefficiency right there.

They never would have caught Latigo Flint if it weren't for that bit of trouble I had on the twenty-ninth jump. I was concentrating on painting the shade of my hat brim so it falls just right across my squinty-eyes. Not exactly an easy task when your brush is a paintball gun and you're twisting to the earth beneath a parachute.

The trick was to graze the black paint pellets across a sharp outcropping, slicing them open but not altering their trajectory. Then momentum and the wind would work together to deposit a nice dusting shade. I squeezed off a couple dozen perfectly aimed rounds. Even from here I could tell it was going to look really, really good.
"Hot damn!"
I hollered and raised my hands in triumph. The barrel of my paintball gun tangled in my left riser and I instantly veered into the cliff. "Well, that's kind of ironic," I thought as my forehead smashed into the greasy, painted granite. "I'm head-butting myself in the eye."

Then I looked up at my shredded canopy and realized I had bigger problems.

In a near freefall I plummeted towards the ground, crashed through a grove of rugged Douglas Firs and landed with a brain-sloshing impact on the shore of Mirror Lake.

For a while I could do little more than moan softly to myself. I heard horrible grating sounds coming from various internal organs. Then I noticed a child sitting on a stump five feet away, watching me.

"Little boy!" God, it hurt to talk. "Little boy, Latigo Flint has injured himself. Go get help please!"

The boy frowned at me. "You landed on a tiny frog."

"Yeah, that's nice boy. Go get help now."

"He was small enough to fit on a nickel."

"Look, that's super. I think there's a ranger station down that trail a bit."

"I named him Philip. He was my friend."

Christ, I didn't have time for this, it felt like my kidneys were using my ribs to swordfight. "I really don't care. Go get a goddamn ranger!!!"

"Philip never did anything to you."

Obviously this was going to require a different approach. "Look boy, did you hold Philip?"

"Yes, very gently so I wouldn't hurt him. Philip let me pet him. Philip liked me as much as I liked him. He was showing me which flowers are his favorites. Then you squished him."

Success, I had the little bastard! "Well, there you go boy - there's an oil on human skin, especially the fingertips, that kills little frogs. The second you touched him you condemned him to a long and horrible death. I'm Philip's real friend, sparing him from that. Now go get the fucking ranger!!!"

The boy reflected on this for a moment then looked back at me. "That's a lie." He said it as a fact, not an accusation. "I see experts holding frogs on nature shows all the time." Then he stood and walked away.

"Attaboy! Ranger station down the trail. Get the good helpy-help for Latigo Flint. No boy, the other way. The other way!!! Boy, can you hear me?!!! BOY!!!"

Right around then is when I passed out. They tell me some hikers found me the next morning. I was half-frozen and having a delirious conversation with the splattered remains of a tiny frog. First thing I remember is coming to in an airlift chopper. Next to me sat a ranger with a calculator, filling out bills and taping them to my boot. All in all it was really quite an expensive weekend I just had - financially and pridefully.

(And the damn frog was endangered, so that was like another four grand right there.)

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Footprints Across the Heart

Latigo Flint has just returned from an incredible evening at the opera. Latigo Flint is the quickest quickdraw the world has ever known, not a reviewer of theater, but the production I saw tonight is most worthy of mention.

The opera, Footprints Across the Heart, tells the powerful and emotional tale of Gary, a lifelong Sasquatch seeker. It was perfection, start to finish, but some of the particular highlights include the high-energy opening number: Daddy Got a Promotion and it's in the Pacific Northwest, which mostly consists of the child actor playing Young Gary stomping around the stage shrilly singing: "Daddy Got a Promotion?!" To which his parents cheerfully answer in tandem: "And it's in the Pacific Northwest!"

This is followed by the sad, quiet duet with Young Gary and Mother titled: Don't Worry, You'll Make New Friends.

Who Goes There? Is a tense solo a bit later on, in which the adolescent Gary first begins to suspect something large and mysterious stalks the woods behind his home. What begins as curiosity for Gary slowly becomes an obsession.

The last song before intermission is the emotionally charged, We're to be Married Tomorrow and You're Going Camping Tonight? In which Gary tries to convince his beautiful bride-to-be that his bachelor party is actually being held in a remote section of the Wenatchee National Park, deep in the Cascades. ("And so then where are all your Groom's Men?" "My love, they'll meet me there.")

Gary's lie hung ominously in the air as we wordlessly shuffled to the restrooms and the snack bar. Every seat was re-filled several minutes before the act two warning lights flickered in the lobby.

Grief, heartbreak and despair spanning four decades awaited us in the second half. One man's life, and all its opportunity was slowly and systematically bashed against the mossy pines and dark fern glens of mid/northern Washington. Every dew-covered dawn brought with it the possibility for ultimate triumph. Every disappointed dusk raised the cost until at last the debt became so large it could only be paid by tomorrow's triumph.

Gary's unapologetic crossing of the point of no return was eloquently expressed in the duet he sung with his daughter titled: I Left my Reading Glasses at the Base of Glacier Peak What Time Today is Your High School Graduation Oh I'll Definitely Make it Back by Then.

The climatic multipart number found the elderly Gary sitting beside a campfire, reflecting on his wasted life. A woman loved him once, she's long remarried now. His children call him 'Gary', when they call at all.

This section was accompanied by inner-thought narration over the theater loudspeakers. A bold choice for opera but I thought it worked very well in this case.

Gary stared at his small blaze. He'd watched literally thousands of campfires die, and now this one gets to return the favor.

With dreadful acceptance, Gary exhaled raggedly and slumped over. Minutes ticked by and an electric expectation began to swell in the audience - something was coming, we could feel it. We weren't disappointed. Our eyes locked onto a slow movement in the shadows, stage right. We gasped when an old Sasquatch stepped out and moved with majestic sorrow to Gary's body. It knelt and gently caressed his face.

Trembling violins lead a slow-building orchestral surge. The Sasquatch sat cross-legged and started to gnaw its own foot off. The woodwind section joined the violins - "something incredible is happening," the oboes murmured. A battery powered pump somewhere in the furry suit leg started spraying red dyed corn syrup all over the first five rows. Grunting with pain and determination the Sasquatch continued to savage its ankle. The brass section joined in with a heart stopping charge. Then finally came a kettle drum roll punctuated by sharp timpani blasts, and with a triumphant scream the Sasquatch ripped through the last tendons and held the dripping foot high above its coned head.

In great pain, Sasquatch inched closer to Gary, placed his large, severed foot in the center of Gary's chest and wrapped Gary's limp arms around it. Every member of the orchestra was gasping for air at this point. Sweat and salvia streamed from their frenetic limbs and/or mouths. The Sasquatch raised its face to the heavens and in a guttural harmony, shrieked:

"Friend, here is your proooooooooooooooof!!!!!!!"

Then Sasquatch stood and solemnly hopped off stage.

The place just erupted. My dizziness yet remains. I won't even try to seek the adjectives to describe the feeling, I'm still much too overwhelmed.

If Footprints Across the Heart comes to an opera hall in your town, you must drop everything and see it, Latigo Flint implores you.

I only hope in my enthusiasm I haven't given too much away.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

A Two-Bit Song

Just so you know, that cute Starbucks cashier has zero interest in learning a nifty and catchy song that will help to always remember why a quarter is also called two-bits. Latigo Flint is letting you know this in case you live near where Latigo Flint lives and one of these days you decide to converse flirtatiously with her - Latigo Flint highly recommends a topic other than why a quarter is also called two-bits.

This morning I smiled warmly and placed my drink order. "Three twenty-five." She replied, not bothering to look up. 'Well, I can change that.' I thought to myself.

"Alright, here's thirty-two bits for the pretty gal."

She sighed and took my money. "Out of four -- seventy-five cents is your change."

"And six bits back to me."


But I was the only one in line at the time. "Say Ma'am, do you know why a quarter is also called two-bits?" She looked up at this point but it was only to wrinkle her nose in disgust at me. "Sir, you go over there to pick up your drink."

Squinty-eyed gunslingers live for a challenge so I stayed right where I was. "You know, two-bits... quarter, they're like all synonymous and stuff - know why?"

"Sir, I don't care. Go over to that counter and wait for your drink."

It all became clear to me then. "Oh Ma'am, I understand now. Trust me, you don't have to feel ashamed for not knowing, plenty of people don't. Here, would you like me to teach you a little song that'll help you always remember?"

No need to wait for a reply, of course she would. I launched into it:

"Ohhhhhhhhhhh -
Well our country was off and running
but it soon became quite plain
we had none of our own money
so used silver Reales from Spain

Oh pieces of eight
pieces of eight
you can chop them it's so great
pieces of eight
pieces of eight
Your bits will number eight

Now if you've studied fractions
You soon will understand
That if you had two pieces
You'd have a quarter in your hand

Oh pieces of eight
pieces of eight
you can chop them it's so gre-"

I had to stop at that point because she'd bent the nozzle on the cappuccino machine ninety degrees, and started blasting scorching hot milk into my eyes.

(And it's a damn shame too, 'cause the next four verses were about pirates and migrant Chinese rail workers, respectively, and a spectacular tempo change for the last chorus.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

A Character Plane

So Latigo Flint's relatively trusty sidekick, Kid Relish, has been significantly less trusty these past few weeks. No doubt about it, he's caught the celluloid fever, the cinema aspiration infection that runs so rampant in this godforsaken town, (see February 14th and March 8th for reference) and it's starting to seriously detract from his sworn sidekickeral duties.

Today Kid Relish shambled up to my doorway, hunched over a steno pad. I watched his furious scribbling with the bemused detachment of a squinty-eyed gunslinger. His pen hand slowed and he spoke.
"Latty, I'm sick and fuckin' tired of all these goddamn character arcs you see in movies. I'm writing a movie with no character arc. It's about a guy who likes viciously beating down random passersby with his titanium pimpstick, so that's what he does. And one day he doesn't beat people with his titanium pimpstick, but not for any particular reason - he just doesn't do it that day. Then the next day he's right back to beating people with his titanium pimpstick."

It's impossible to ever be remotely prepared for anything Kid Relish says. The trick is to repeat part of his statement back to him while you're thinking of a response. "Sick and fuckin' tired of the character arcs huh Kid? Well you know, um, change is kind of like a common thread, uh, running through the fabric of the universe and stuff. Um, so probably on like a subconscious level people relate more to characters that go through some sort of transformation."

He lowered his steno pad and scowled accusatorially at me. "Peter Pan never grew up, he never changed and that's like the favorite story of all time and shit!"

I sighed; I was already tired of this conversation. "Kid, Peter Pan fell in love for the first time with Wendy. Pan learned about mortality when Tink nearly died. Pan discovered the concepts of true friendship and sacrifice. Pan came to realize-"

Kid threw his pen and me and started angrily kicking the wall. "Pan never loved Wendy, he was just pretending-" He paused in mid kick, eyebrows shooting up his forehead. "Why that's perfect, I'm a goddamn genius Latty. At some point my character will meet a girl who disapproves of his titanium pimpstick bludgeonry, so he pretends to change in order to have sex with her and then afterwards he goes back to beating people same as before. That'll be my twist ending like in the 'I See Dead People Movie', the audience will think there's a character arc going on but then at the end they discover there wasn't any character arc at all."

There was no way I was continuing this inane discussion. "Fine Kid, I see it now. Yeah, you're right, that's the best idea ever." Kid Relish slowly turned toward his room but stopped and looked back over his shoulder. "You know Latty," I was struck by the tremble in his voice and stared at him in amazement. "Latty, I just wanted to do something great you know. You're the quickest draw in the world. What have I got?"

The Kid's eyes looked like they were starting to moisten. I was astounded and sudden compassion for the guy surged through me. "Oh God Kid, I had no id-" I halted abruptly, every cilium in my inner ear screaming "danger!" I slowly pointed at him. "You're pretending right now aren't you Kid? Pretending to actually have a human emotion." Standing, I could now see what appeared to be a lead pipe wrapped in aluminum foil tucked into his back pocket. Kid grinned wickedly. "Keep moving forward to hug me Latty and I guess you'll find out."

I sat back down, disgusted at my foolishness. "You may actually have what it takes to make it in this town Kid. Are you going to pay my old friend D.Mor for use of the term 'Titanium Pimpstick' or just beat him until he signs a waver stating you made it up?"

But Kid wasn't listening to me anymore. "How amazing I am Latty, I just got the title: And So They Fall Beneath the Bludgeonry." He looked back at me. "Except it's pronounced with the emphasis on the 'ge', bluh-GIN-ry."

I could hear him saying it over and over to himself as he walked away: "bluh-GIN-ry, bluh-GIN-ry. And So They Fall Beneath the Bluh-GIN-ry."

And right then is when I started to fear for producer's lives, just a bit.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Illogical Tourniquet Placement

You know, even though there aren't any sharks or giant squid, swimming in a deep lake can still be kinda scary.

Latigo Flint didn't have a very good day today. I guess it all started early this morning as I slept. For the 57th straight night I had that dream in which I'm outdrawn and gut-shot by the teenage Irish girl with flame-red hair and a mocking smile.

And last night's was particularly vivid and cruel. As always, her pale, thin hands flashed impossibly fast and easily bested my world-class quickdraw. I pressed desperate fist to my ruined stomach and slumped to the ground. She laughed lightly, holstered her pistol with a dainty flourish and started making calls on her neon-green cell phone. I squirmed around in dirt made muddy by my own blood and esophageal juices while she sat on a nearby rock chatting with her friends. Every so often she'd casually give them an update on my condition; there'd be laughter and an unintelligible reply from the earpiece. The girl would giggle and roll her eyes - "I know, right? I mean like, eww, right?"

I awoke to a dull roar and a spinning ceiling that kept fading in and out. It took a few moments before I realized that I had somehow torn my sheet into a tourniquet strip and had wrapped it around my neck. (And here all this time I was under the impression some sort of R.E.M Paralysis prevented us from this kind of illogical tourniquet placement/attempted self-strangulation.)

I loosened my grip in the nick of time, stumbled to the kitchen and made myself a contemplative cup of instant coffee. "No doubt about it," I gloomily mumbled into the java steam, "Same dern dream fifty-seven straight nights has got to be prophetic."

The coffee looked a little lonely so I added a splash or twelve of whiskey and some antifreeze. I finished it, made myself another, hold the coffee, and reached a decision - today I would die in a jet ski accident. Not suicide mind you, just blindfolded, high-speed jet skiing with random turning until I crash into something. Reasoning being, if the dream is prophetic then I'm going to cheat it and go out my way. If it isn't prophetic... Well I haven't had a good night's sleep for fifty-seven nights now, which means I'll probably die soon in some fatigue related accident anyway.


When the jet ski ran out of gas I had to swim to shore.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Suffer the Cinema Hipsters

The warning currently racing through the Los Angeles Cinema Hipster Community is that under no circumstance should you engage in a conversation about movies with Latigo Flint's relatively trusty sidekick, Kid Relish. They say the best-case scenario is you'll emerge annoyed beyond belief. Worst case - well this is Kid Relish we're talking about, so naturally worst case is a vicious beatdown.

There's a lot of hysteria and myth swirling around right now, but if you take the time to wade through it all, certain trends emerge:

1) Kid Relish seems to enjoy insisting that Henry Ford invented the motion picture camera. He's more than willing to come to blows over it.

2) Apparently Kid Relish says "Rosie Perez" when he means "Diane Lane", and vice versa. If you correct him, he kicks you in the shin.

3) It's next to impossible to state any sort of cinema related opinion without Kid Relish wholeheartedly disagreeing and then referencing some aspect of Bushwacked, with Daniel Stern, as proof of his opinion's validity. Rebuttals lead to violence.

4) Kid Relish has memorized the names of thousands of bit part and character actors, and whenever he talks about a movie he continually refers to it as theirs.
Overheard example: "Bitch, please, I can't believe that the Larenz Tate film didn't win for Best Picture this year. I mean, yeah, the Jay Baruchel boxing movie was well directed and acted and shit, but come on - after everything Ray Charles went through and then on top of it all, him dying and shit. Think about it, right? How the hell do you not give the Best Picture Oscar to Larenz Tate's Ray?!"

If you frown or look even slightly confused while he's speaking, he lights his drink on fire and throws it at you.

5) Details are sketchy on this one, but apparently Kid has devised a complicated argument trap that ultimately ends with you admitting that Denzel Washington is a racist because he never acted in a movie with Kiefer Sutherland. If you later reverse yourself, he overpowers you and makes you repeatedly backhand your date in the face with your own hand.

6) (and most terrifying due to frequency) Whenever anyone happens to ascend the well-worn platform of Keanu Reeves Acting Ability Belittlement, Kid Relish stabs them in the stomach with a letter opener and defecates in the wound.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Daydream Believer

Latigo Flint is very, very glad that spiders can't fly. If there is a hell, you can bet that in it, all the pretty butterflies, benign moths and gnats and such, crouch flightless in dark corners and overhangs, while all the horrible, hairy, poison-burbling spiders flit, flutter and swoop, smacking into face and hair every minute of every wretched day.

It had never even occurred to the cute young woman standing in front of Latigo Flint in the Starbucks line to be thankful for this, but when pressed, she finally mumbled her agreement. When Latigo Flint started listing every poisonous North American spider he could think of, she pretended to answer her cell phone.

This stuck me as rather rude, but a moment later she received her due shame when in the middle of her phony conversation, the phone actually rang. She desperately tried to pretend it was coming from her laptop computer: "Oh hey, um, Julie," she stammered into her ringing phone, "I just got that email you sent me, um, you can probably even hear the AOL notification ringing in the background."

I smiled gently and rested a conciliatory hand on her bare shoulder. "Ma'am, if you don't want to talk to Latigo Flint all you have to do is say so." The phone stopped ringing and she slowly returned it to her purse. "Well, you are wearing guns and a cow skull bolo-tie." I lifted her chin and looked directly into her wide eyes. "Ma'am you have nothing to fear. Why, you could search a lifetime and probably never find a purer gentleman than a Squinty-Eyed Gunslinger. And plus, these are actually my authentic replica Colt Peacemakers, I haven't received the replacement firing pins for my real ones yet." She roughly brushed my hand off her shoulder. "Well in that case, go fuck yourself and leave me alone."

For the split-est of seconds I imagined the foam ceiling tile directly above her splitting down the middle, depositing a writhing, hissing clump of about a thousand tarantulas directly onto her ponytailed head. But then my even-keeled Squinty-Eyed Gunslinger temperament returned and banished such vengeful thoughts.

(And for the rest of our six-minute wait in line, I cheerily hummed Daydream Believer by The Monkees to let her know she hadn't hurt my feelings in the slightest.)

Monday, April 04, 2005

Journal of the Nameless Cowpuncher

Latigo Flint found the Journal of the Nameless Cowpuncher to be extremely moving. The journal is currently on display in Los Angeles at a very prestigious history museum. The museum recently lent the journal to Latigo Flint. This was quite an honor; museums are typically rather asshole-ish when it comes to letting people borrow their stuff.

Since the museum probably won't ever let you borrow it, I'll tell you the last ten entries so you know how it ends:

July 17, 1874
It was dang hot today. I don't much like punchin' cows. That sway-backed steer keeps trying to bite me. I think I'm gonna shoot him when Boss ain't lookin'.

July 18, 1874
Even hotter today. Cookie's stew gave me the wind something fierce. Too hot to bother shooting the sway-backed steer who keeps trying to bite me. Accidentally dropped my favorite neckerchief into a ravine.

July 19, 1874
Day dreamt about Sarah today. Was lost in pleasant recollection of the way she brushes her gingham bonnet back from her pretty face, her laughing eyes, sweet smile... Then the sway-backed steer tried to bite me and I couldn't get her image back after that. One of the Allen twins hit the other one over the head with Cookie's bone rasp.

July 20, 1874
Boss got sunstroke today and went plumb out of his mind. He said he could hear the cows whispering of escape. Boss sat in a barrel of water and said we weren't moving one more inch until someone counted all the cows. I drew the short straw. That sway-backed steer follered me around all day long trying to bite me.

July 21, 1874
Today we had to shoot three hundred and forty seven of our cows. I must have accidentally counted some of the cows twice, 'cause this morning Boss ran out of his tent waving the inventory above his head, ranting and raving about "infiltrators". I tried to persuade Boss that the sway-backed steer was one of 'em, but Boss ran his nose across the steer's back and said it didn't smell like an infiltrator.

July 22, 1874
It rained a little today and we were all mighty glad. Out here on these plains anything that settles the dust, even if only for a spell, is proof of the Lord's mercy. For some reason Cookie looked awful guilty as he ladled the stew into our bowls this evening. I actually don't want to know.

July 23, 1874
All morning long we had no idea where Boss was. One of the Allen twins finally found him 'round about lunch time. Seems Boss had come upon a large prairie dog colony about three miles west of camp, and spent most of the night and all morning bringing 'em cactus berries. I'm startin' to suspect there's something very wrong with Boss.

July 24, 1874
Seven mean looking range wolves jumped that sway-backed steer in a narrow gully this afternoon. I was the only one around and was fixin' to back quietly away and let 'em finish him off like I'd always wished upon him, 'cept for some reason I couldn't. Even though that sway-backed steer is always trying to bite me, I've come to kinda like the old boy. The last wolf did bite me on the shin while I was reloading, but it's little more than a scratch. As thanks for saving his life, that sway-backed steer tried to bite me.

July 25, 1874
There's something powerful wrong with my leg where that wolf nicked me yesterday. The fever's coming up on me too.

August 1 or maybe 2, 1874
Pretty and kind as she is, Sarah's gonna have no trouble finding another man who wants to marry her. This makes me mighty happy and mighty sad at the exact same time. I wonder if

And that's how it ended. Latigo Flint wonders if the museum curator noticed the three or four smudgedy tear stains at the bottom of the last page when he returned the journal. If she did, she was kind enough not to mention it.

Friday, April 01, 2005

It's Never Too Early for Anguish

Trust Latigo Flint on this one, Squinty-eyed Gunslingers can always sense when we're being watched in our sleep. We're much like wild animals in this respect. (But we're only like the sleek and sexy and dangerous wild animals - not the slow, ugly, stupid animals. Like a frickin' manatee can sense when it's being watched in its sleep anyway.)

This morning even before my steel gray eyelids snapped open, my blazing hands had already instinctively slapped thigh, shucked iron, and were in the process of obliterating the fish tank on the far wall. A sharp head snap sent pillow (a pair of shear stockings filled with empty Pabst Blue Ribbon cans) flying backwards, in case an assailant was charging from behind. Legs scissored then flung blanket into air for distractive cover. Two tuck rolls. Exploratory shot through window. Toe clench on bowie knife handle, kick ball change and knife whips into bathroom, slicing through shower curtain. Three preemptive rounds fired in direction of closet, two into recently vacated bed and two shots fired directly overhead for no particular reason.

Time elapsed: 1 point 9 seconds. It was probably quite a sight to behold. But if it impressed Kid Relish, my relatively trusty sidekick who was lounging in the doorway, he didn't show it.

"Mornin' Latty."

"Mornin' Kid."

Kid Relish glanced at the gasping goldfish. "I don't think L'Amour is gonna make it."

"What the hell do you want Kid?" I was grumpy at having forgotten to put a few slugs through the open doorway, an almost unforgivable lapse for a squinty-eyed gunslinger.

"I did a Google search on the words slapped thigh this morning Latty."

"A what sort of search?"

"You're at the top Latty. Number one and two out of about one hundred and eight thousand."

"Is that a good thing?"

"Depends on who you ask."

I mulled this over for a moment. "Hey Kid, what about shucked iron?" The Kid shook his head, "I got down to somewhere like two hundred and still hadn't seen you." I couldn't believe what I was hearing. "What the hell is up with that Kid?" He shrugged, "Sorry Latty but apparently oysters out of their shell are referred to as shucked, and oysters just happen to an excellent source of calcium, niacin and," he paused dramatically, "and iron."

"Well that's a goddamn suck!" I was a little depressed now. Kid looked at the floor near my shattered closet door and grinned wickedly. "You know you just shot a hole in your autographed picture of Clint right?"

Part of me could hear Kid Relish laugh as he walked away down the hall. Then I fell to the glass-splattered floor, all sound and light faded, and the bad grief time began.