Wednesday, February 17, 2010

the jack of hearts

the night that I met owen felt distinctly like autumn though it was the first blush of spring, as the leaves had inexplicably begun to fall in late february of 2004. I was packed like a pubescent sardine into a jetta full of girls stuck in bumper to bumper traffic on a friday on telegraph avenue in berkeley, listening to a liz phair mixtape, when an audible gasp of a mentionable decibel erupted from the front seat. taylor, resident loudmouthed redhead of the crew who supplied everyone else with a hoard of endless adderall pills as well as pretentious anecdotes, had spotted a prime specimen.

"oh... my god," she said, "ohmygod."

the god she was referring to was about 6'2", lanky and lean, with tousled dark brown locks protruding in a curly mop from underneath the brim of a trucker cap, wearing an amoeba records bag slung haphazardly across his shoulder. he walked with his moon colored eyes to the ground in a shuffling gait, and the brooding affect he embodied made my heart skip several beats. he had the essence of a young bob dylan incarnate, save for the stupid hipster hat.

taylor continued, "would you look at that."

rose answered without skipping a beat, shifting the gears of the car while it idled, "homo."

"no way," I said, "he can't be..."

"totally gay." rose said.

taylor protested, "but why! he looks like he could be into chicks."

"it would be such a waste." I observed wistfully, noticing the curvature of his perfect behind in tight blue jeans.

"he's too pretty, and he knows it." rose said, and as if on cue, the boy turned his head to meet our lascivious stares. it was true.

"fuck." taylor muttered, as we all awkwardly turned our heads to look ahead to abruptly curtail our collective gawking. I couldn't resist to immediately look back, which he graciously met with a lopsided smile, and I turned beet red right as the light turned green.

"flamer." affirmed rose. and with that, we were off on our adventure seeking. we arrived at le chateau co-op shortly after, which was much more of a shanty motel than a dormitory, and was rumored to house the most elaborate meth lab in the greater bay area in its basement. every corridor was dark and lined with nubbly, cheap nylon carpet that is commonly found in dentists offices or mobile homes and littered with cigarette butts and empty beer cans. each sheetrock wall was covered from floor to ceiling in profane graffiti, obscure poetry, or splatters of paint. there was a vague yet omnipresent tincture of pee, and one of the squatters had brought home a runt pig named bella that ran amok, squealing and snorting amidst the constant melee.

the layout of this artfuck bomb shelter was comprised of 5 floors and resembled what might have been an ideal labyrinth for a mental institution if it hadn't been taken over by hippie stoner college students. the rooftop displayed a twinkling view of san francisco and the east bay, and at any given hour was giving airy respite to a tortured musician, be it a bongo soloist or an indie folk prodigy. the pool in the backyard was oft filled with random, floating pieces of furniture and gorgeous naked people who effortlessly embodied carefree, irreverent youth. everything about the co-ops was weird, gross, surreal, and made me feel drunk on puerility and freedom. it was a representation of what I thought might have happened if the babysitter gave up and left after the parents never returned home. these kids were wild and well versed in the alchemy of chaos and hedonism, but also maintained 4.0s. where had they been all my life? I wondered to myself, as I took another gravity bong hit.

le chateau

velkjo, me, mysterious hand on abe, abe

hanging out at the co-ops was my most "hands on" social experiment. each night there had the potential to end in a gory, savage lord of the flies showdown with some random RA's head on a stick carried by a pack of sociology majors donning togas. I learned how to shotgun beer, dumpster dive for produce, and accurately quote emmanuel kant. I did whipits in a bunk bed with a drug dealer named fliz who wore ski goggles and parachute pants and I meticulously managed a list of people who participated in my "makeout revolution" with a key in the margin to decode what kind of kisser they were and who I did "more" with. I got all of the animal house experience without any of the college, and it was some kind of incredible. on one bizarrely autumnal february night in the beginning of my epic berkeley ballad, I met owen, and his best friend rob.

cloyne was twice the size of chateau, home to over 200 cal students and the odd squatter, which was essentially what I became for a period of about 6 months. it wasn't quite as ghetto as chateau, and had a much more congenially aesthetic layout in addition to an outdoor hot tub that was really quite pleasant once you were drunk or high enough not to care what you might be swimming in. (real talk.) it was a sophisticated sort of squalor that made me feel grown up and edgy, existing in a glamorous indigence that I'd only dreamt of in my childhood bedroom as a sickly teenager.

rose had caught wind of a princess bride party across town at cloyne that promised free two buck chuck and choco tacos while supplies lasted, and her, taylor, myself, and several other usual suspects all piled on top of each other in the tiny car to jettison ourselves between co-ops. immediately upon walking in the front door, I peered into the darkened room where the movie was projected on the wall and the scene where wesley is rolling down the hill in the countryside yelling "aaaasss yoooou wiiiiiiiiiishhhhh" played out, and I saw a familiar face flickering in the light of the movie reel. it was the telegraph heartthrob from hours before... still wearing that abominable hat. I gasped and dug my pink glittery talons into rose's skinny thigh and hissed, "trucker cap. TRUCKER CAP! he can't be gay! do gay guys like the princess bride?" I thought better of it. "don't answer that."

rose observed the miracle that had occurred... we had manifested a face to face meeting with the mysterious street walking indie god of berkeley. we watched the rest of the movie and I bolstered my confidence with a choco taco, a drink, and a line of adderall, and as the credits rolled, the crowd dispersed and re-convened in the common area by the courtyard. someone had recently experienced an epic paper mache disaster, because in the middle of the floor there was a ruptured bag of plaster of paris that shot crusty white streams of powder ten feet in each direction, giving the ambience a coke-party-gone-awry feel. across from rose and I, on a different couch that was a veritable petri dish for scabies and other unsavory, itchy things, sat the boy in the trucker cap, and his friend who resembled a young robert smith with an unfortunate bleach job north of his ears. they were nursing PBRs and engaged in a conversation I desperately wanted to interrupt, but was at a loss for how to go about it. there was a moment where they both stopped talking and looked up at me at the very same time, so I did the only thing I could think of, in my split second of coquettish boldness and terror that I'd end up ridiculed. I looked at the object of my affection in the questionable hat, and stuck up my pointer finger to beckon him over to me. rose and I both stopped breathing, as we waited for a response. this playful mating dance was becoming more stressful than disarming an atom bomb.

the two boys continued to stare at me, now both wearing a bemused smirk, and then they looked at each other. trucker cap looked back first, and pointed to himself mouthing the word, "me?", and I finally exhaled as I nodded affirmatively. he shrugged to his friend, who was getting up to wander elsewhere, and rose took her leave back into the fray of the party.

now as he had come over to my side, I could see that he was blushing, and I felt sanguinely confident.

"hi, I'm owen." he said, sitting down next to me.

"christina. nice to meet you."

"that was impressive, what you just did right there. you're pretty ballsy, aren't you?" he asked, leaning back a little as if sizing me up.

"eh." I shrugged. "shy people are creepy. I had to meet you after serendipity set us up twice in one night."

"oh, that was you! in the car full of girls..."

"that were eyeballing you as if you were a fine christmas ham, yes. sorry about that." I laughed nervously.

"no, it made my night. until now."

"I'd have thought the princess bride to be a high point."

"but, you can see Rodents of Unusual Size on any given night here at cloyne."

"inconceivable!" I shrieked, and as we leaned back into the cushions, heard something in the frame crack underneath us making the couch sag in the middle, sliding our hips together. I fought the urge to faint.

"hey," he adjusted himself a little so as not to be sitting directly on me, "you remind me of a much more attractive helen hunt."

I stared at him and then furrowed my brow. he was lucky that his eyes were huge and grey blue enough to sail dreamboats.

"like, way more attractive." he continued.

"wrong answer." I pat his knee. he got up, grabbed my hand and helped me out of the busted la-z-boy, and we walked out into the moonlit garden. I was delirious from the endorphin rush, and I could hardly believe what was happening was real. suddenly, across the courtyard there was a great crash of broken glass and an anguished scream, and one of the palm trees shook and dropped cracked branches onto the pavement. owen dropped my hand and muttered, "oh, jesus, rob."

I looked up into the peculiarly animated tree and a hand shot out of the palm fronds clutching a half full bottle of charles shaw, followed by that brassy blonde afro that I recognized from my battle flirting just earlier.

"I'm okay!" he yelled, though no one had asked. "... but, I may have broken my ankle."

a herd of girls in dresses made from black glad bags tittered as they walked by, the last of which was pirouetting and singing "strawberry fields forever".

"that's my best friend." said owen, gesturing to the palm tree.

"well," I sighed, "this doesn't seem like the sort of place where anyone can survive without someone to help them undermine the spectacle."

to be continued...


Little Black Tree said...


lydz said...

ahahahahaa I totally know Fliz! In '03 or '04 I randomly gave him a ride to a desert rave on an indian reservation, and he spent the whole party in his tent smoking bong loads and taking whippit hits. I'm pretty sure he hooked me and my boyfriend at the time up with acid and I danced with an indian chief in full regalia. I continued to run into him over the years, he almost got kicked out of the country for being an illegal immigrant caught with drugs or something, but managed to graduate berkeley and stay somehow. last time I saw him he and his girlfriend had a business giving dating seminars and counseling to people. he actually cleaned up really nicely. so funny.

the only co-op I really remember hanging out at was CZ. but I can't remember much about it or where it was. ah, berkeley... you smell.

christina hurricane said...

HAHA!! of COURSE you gave fliz a ride to a desert rave, you burning hippie! PLUR was the soul essence of fliz. oddly enough, I had heard of his legal troubles having to do with getting busted, and I'm pretty sure he did some time for those whippits. glad he's on the straight 'n narrow now... do you think he'd offer me some free counseling, these days? from one reformed co-op kid to another?

Anonymous said...

oh my god, I totally wasted most of 2 years at cloyne.

HATE that place. My ex and I used to crash there almost every night and he ended up fucking a bunch of the girls who lived there. I got in a huge myspace battle with one of them for blogging about how fucking gross their co-op and it's residents were.

That was back when I was selling/using a lot of really bad drugs. I made a fortune off those trust fund Cal kids though.

- kk

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