Image by Duc Quang Tran from Pixabay
it's always the same
stella with a cold glass
double patron silver  chilled really well  salted rim
at the same bars with
different people
and a lot of times
the same people
wishing they had a cigarette in
their fingers
a woman or man on their arm
drunker then they are
they know they won't make the night
face up.  
Image by Jose Fernandez from Pixabay
jack daniels.  and eddie and mary and joey or pat or jose or eduardo or absolute and if it has alcohol
that's fine too.
this is not cheers
but everyone knows your name
but have no clue who you are.
Image by Social Butterfly from Pixabay
we're not really here
we're somewhere off
on a beach resort with a
tall one and a pink umbrella
and a tropical evening breeze
your brain is numb
to the hammering 
in your head
the screaming from the loudest
drunks in the room
pretending they’re not leaning over
just a little too much
or smashed down on the bar top
their face in their three dollar drinks
the plastic swizzle stick stuck up their nose

and they’re laughing 
their asses off

and no one even notices. 
Image by Angel Chavez from Pixabay
this is not cheers
but everyone knows your name
but have no clue who you are
and that's a good cold drink.

January 23, 2010

We’ll be right with you.

The following is based on an exercise in English 404, Creative Nonfiction, to write a 100-word essay. This is fiction.

100 words
Image by Corey Ryan Hanson from Pixabay
After waiting for hours, the blood had congealed on my hands. A reminder that the blood was not mine. It was hers. 

She was once alive; now…she is gone, and I am waiting for an assuring message, someone to tell me it was all over so that I could go home.  

But I know that’s not going to happen. The ER is just a way station, a rip in the fabric of my life. My head is throbbing, cheap tequila rising from my pores. 

Consequences, they kept shouting at me while I waited for them; there are consequences.

I know. 

Reckless in Sodom and Gomorrah (Part Two)

The following essay, a work in progress, is not fiction. It was written for English 404, Creative Nonfiction. P.S. I have been sober since September 11, 2011 (the date is coincidental).

Part One HERE

“Folly is a child of power.” ― Historian Barbara W. Tuchman

The Capitol Building (Image by David Mark from Pixabay)

My recklessness began in 1980. The Columbian Cartels controlled the drug traffic into Miami. The Cocaine Cowboys ran rampant in the city, leaving shootouts and dead in their wake. Out of that chaos, someone I met began smuggling gallon-size plastic bags full of cocaine rocks up from Miami into Washington, D.C. Along with those drugs, there were unlimited amounts of alcohol, sex, and rock n’ roll, with some jazz, salsa, and soul music thrown into the mix. Less than two miles from the White House, I began living a lifestyle of debauchery and self-destruction.

A Reckless Time (Photo by Art Jones)

I was a sixties boomer who remembered the free love days of my generation and the seventies disco era and now saw them slamming into the early eighties with a bang. To quote Tony Montana in Scarface, I was on top of the world. Well, at least the local world of Washington, D.C., beyond the halls of Congress, the White House, and federal agencies. There was money in my pocket. I was patched into a network of professionals who worked for the local government of Washington, where the residents had no voting representative in Congress and often referred to D.C. as Congress’s Plantation. We still plowed ahead, making laws, fighting the man at every turn, led by a charismatic figure who had cut his teeth in the Civil Rights era and was known for getting things done, Mayor Marion Barry.

Old Haunts (Image by David Mark from Pixabay)

Someone described us as the Young Turks, the future leaders of Washington, D.C. We proudly called D.C. Chocolate City. A city of nearly three-quarters of a million people who were predominately Black and other people of color. But we were no gang. We were respectable, local government and Congressional staffers, government and private lawyers, and lobbyists. My friends and I did not fit the stereotype of drug users and dealers on street corners or alleys. We wore jackets and ties to work, casual wear to the bars and restaurants along Pennsylvania Avenue on Capitol Hill, a stone’s throw from the center of American power. I deluded myself into believing that power equaled invulnerability and permission to test the boundaries of what was allowed. I was thirty-one when I began working in the office of the Mayor of Washington, D.C. I was living high and fast. It was all about working hard and partying harder, without restraint, with no limits. Reckless. Hell, this was the time of my life.

I don’t remember the moment I went from inhaling cocaine like it was air to selling it. I remember that I was partying like Sodom and Gomorrah, breaking every night. I began doing private deals with friends, sharing the wealth of drugs that came my way. I knew laws were being broken. Right there, in the nation’s capital. I feared not getting high more than getting caught. It wasn’t like we were slinging dope out in “bad neighborhoods.” This was white powder cocaine. It put a few extra bucks in my pocket so I could party some more. This was my twisted thinking. It’s not like I was smuggling tons of cocaine from the Columbian Cartel. Okay, there was some smuggling going on from Miami. But I’m talking a couple of ounces here, some grams there. Party weight.

The White House (Image by David Mark from Pixabay)

In the middle of my drug recklessness in Sodom and Gomorrah, President Ronald Reagan declared a “war on drugs” on October 14, 1982. He called illicit drugs a direct threat to U.S. national security. I was probably at a party when he announced the war. Shoveling cocaine up my nose and laughing that it was all harmless fun. Except, I was falling deeper into addiction. It was only a matter of time before I eventually found myself crying in a fetal position on my best friend’s laundry room floor in his apartment building.

Washington, D.C.
I so miss this city (Image by David Mark from Pixabay)

A second federal subpoena arrived. This time it was specific what the Feds wanted. “Any and all correspondence, receipts, letters, notes, and canceled checks blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” In the middle of all that mumbo jumbo, there was a name. A familiar one. The focus of the investigation was a fellow government worker, someone with whom I’d had a brief friendship. I called her asking for a meeting.

We met in a slowly gentrifying neighborhood at a favorite lunch spot in downtown D.C. She sat across from me and, with no prompting, spilled the truth. Through my slowly steaming anger, I heard words like affair, buying drugs, giving it to you know who (never mentioning his name), and something about we should never see each other again. She apologized, got up, and left me with the truth and pain.

Washington, D.C.
The Tidal Basin (Image by Patrick Gregerson from Pixabay)

My life became a rolling nightmare of lawyer meetings, DEA interrogations, deal-making, promises to snitch to avoid prison time, and a grand jury appearance. My fast, reckless life in Sodom and Gomorrah had crashed, and I didn’t think it could worsen.

On April 18, 1984, the phone rang in my Commission office. Putting the receiver to my ear, the voice at the other end was familiar. “Good morning, Antonio, it’s Joe Pichirallo, Washington Post.” He wanted a comment about a ten-count indictment that morning against my former friend. I could hear something about my being an unindicted co-conspirator in count ten of the indictment. “Would you like to explain?” Every part of me began to shut down. At that moment, I suddenly realized that I would forever be known as an unindicted co-conspirator in a federal drug case.

The air in my lungs was sucked out. All I could gurgle out was a lame “No comment.”

Reckless in Sodom and Gomorrah (Part One)

The following essay, a work in progress, was written for English 404, Creative Nonfiction. I often wish the essay was fiction.

“Folly is a child of power.” ― Historian Barbara W. Tuchman

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

I first saw the two pairs of shoes. They’d seen better days. When I looked up, two white men were in my office doorway in downtown Washington, D.C. I immediately knew they were the messengers of death. The one with the tan raincoat flashed an identification wallet—a badge and a picture id card. Drug Enforcement Administration. Wearing a crumpled-up brown suit, the other man handed me the subpoena, an off-white 3 ½ x 8 ½ sized folded paper. At the top, in large letters, was printed “United States of America vs.” Below it, in caps, SUBPOENA FOR THE GRAND JURY. “You’ve been served,” the man said, and then, they were gone.

My memory of what happened next in October of 1983 is faded now. However, the emotions of that moment jump up now and then. I remember fear, panic, resignation, confusion. I looked around to see if my Commission staff had seen the men arrive and leave. Probably asked myself, “How did I let this happen?” What a dumb question, I would have thought in response.

A Reckless Time (Photo by Art Jones)

Looking out my large, paneled windows at the Martin Luther King Jr. library across the plaza, I sat down at my desk. The federal subpoena, still folded, lay in my hand. I looked down and unfolded it.

There were those words again: THE UNITED STATES vs. Below it on a separate line: In RE: Possible Violations of 21 USC 841, 844, 846. I had no idea at the time what those numbers meant. My lawyer would later tell me. The federal government was investigating me for conspiracy, distribution, and possession of drugs. Then, he ticked off potential prison sentences if convicted. I stopped counting at thirty years.

I couldn’t think of any words to console me. All I kept hearing rattling in my head were cliches. It was time to pay the piper. The chickens had come home to roost. Don’t commit the crime if you can’t do the time. I knew life was a maze of choices and that I had taken a wrong turn somewhere. At thirty-four years old, I was stuck in a corner with no way out. There was no going backward. All that was behind me was the previous four years of being reckless in Sodom and Gomorrah. A time of endless sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll. I looked down at the subpoena and suddenly felt the rush from that past life come to a screeching crash.

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

It’s no secret that ingesting copious amounts of cocaine and alcohol can lead to desperate paranoia. But damn, Drug Enforcement Administration was surveilling me. The Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Columbia did seek a subpoena against me. And the Chief Judge of the District Court approved it. All of them were demanding a reckoning. They wanted to know why a mildly successful mid-level government official allegedly facilitated selling drugs to the alleged mistress of the Mayor of Washington, D.C., Marion Barry.

To be continued.

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