Friday, September 17 2004
setting: 5 miles south of Staunton, Augusta County, Virginia
I drove the forty miles to Charlottesville this afternoon and showed up in Jessika's Hogwaller neighborhood at about 2pm. There was a note on her door featuring a depiction of the Frankenstein monster with the words "Please call before coming over. Thanks!" Ah, Charlottesville, where the only thing worse than enemies is friends. There was another note specifically addressed to me that said Jessika was tending the dogs next door. They were huge dogs and one of them had stripes nearly as prominent as those found on a tiger. They belonged to a woman named Jessica (with a c) who was off consorting with an internet boyfriend. The internet is indispensable to a lot of people these days. Not only did it propel me on my current life trajectory (after Jessika convinced me to take my first dotcom job back in 1996), but these days Jessika is making most of her money on Ebay. See, you can check out her store.
Back at Jessika's house, be drank some wine and talked about some of the changes that have come to pass since I last visited more than two years ago. I'm married and Jessika has a different boyfriend, Scotty the Hillbilly Werewolf. The movie viewing room (with its dozens of dead CDs tacked to the ceiling) has been replaced with Scott's art studio, wherein he makes ghoulish dolls and action figures from familiar mass-market originals. He also changes the packaging to refer to the figure it contains. The house is full of such creations, indicating a level of productivity unusual among Charlottesville artists. Jessika has also made a number of dolls of her own. Prominent in the kitchen are some "children" that Jessika and Scotty procreated. They're a series of plastic dolls floating in preservative in jars, each resigned to his or her freakish anomaly. One of them had two heads.
Scotty came home from a shift at the Continental Divide carrying a twelve pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon. He's a hillbilly werewolf, so the hillbilly in him likes his blue collar beer, though he and Jessika drink it as if it's Corona, with a slice of lime (perhaps that's a werewolf thing). Scotty is sort of the physical embodiment of the backwoods macabre environment with which he surrounds himself. He wears a baseball cap, drinks Pabst Blue Ribbon, and is covered with ghoulish tattoos, the bald head of one cartoonish figure rising surprisingly high out of the neck of his black teeshirt.
Soon after Scotty had handed me my first Pabst, he had us all playing a game called "record roulette." The idea was to randomly pick a record from the record collection and then pick a song from that record and play it. We went in turns, so the music was continuously changing, kind of like your ultimate independent radio station, with obscure songs played at low-wattage interspersed with dead air. Of course, the underlying reality of the situation was that we were selecting from the combined record collections of just Scotty and Jessika, and that pretty much eliminated such possibilities as Michæl Jackson, Johann Sebastian Bach, Snoop Doggy Dogg, Marvin Gaye, King Diamond, Cream, Donovan, Barry Manilow, or Quiet Riot. Nearly all the music fell into one of three categories: Rockabilly, vintage punk, or oldie country. For awhile we sat at a compact little tiki bar in the corner of the living room, eating first a burrito Scotty had brought home from work but then moving on to a huge plate of nachos Scotty cooked in record time. Then Scotty moved on to watching wrestling on teevee, manifesting a bit more of the hillbilly dimension of his personality. But then it was time for his werewolf dimension to manifest itself and so we watched The Black Cat on Turner Classic Movies. It featured both Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, although I can't really remember much of what happened.
By Jessika was creating beverages consisting of wine and something else, seltzer perhaps. Scotty expressed an interest in marijuana so I went out to my car to see if I'd remembered to bring some, but I couldn't find any. I should have known better before setting off for Charlottesville that people there would want to smoke pot, though truth be known it's never factored as a big interest among any of the friends I've had there except perhaps Nikolai, singer/guitarist for various bands (later in Los Angeles he played in Moth).
We drank a hell of a lot of beer but somehow kept going, the three of us, until fairly late. Periodically Scotty distributed a round of pills called "Chaser" which supposedly make it possible to drink a lot of booze and suffer no hangover the next day. Even on the chance that it might work, it seemed like a good idea, so I ate them, never really caring what they contained. That's less of a Charlottesville attitude than you might think; in the old days tommorrow was always so far in the future that precautions taken to make it more pleasant, no matter how trivial, seemed like a huge bother.
At one point I was talking to Scotty about all the horrible things happening to the world and how our civilization is poised for imminent ruin. It was still daylight then, and we went out on the porch and both of us smoked cigarettes. At another point we all got to talking about politics and I was quick to confirm that Jessika and Scotty plan to vote (not that Virginia is still a swing state). Jessika said that even after all the shit George W. Bush has pulled her father is still a right wing Bush backer. His reason for voting against Kerry: "He betrayed his country." (For the symbolism of throwing his medals away after first risking his ass in Vietnam.) "Bush never even showed up," I replied. "I know, I know," Jessika said helplessly.
During the movie and even somewhat during the wrestling, it was a odd to see Jessika being so cozy with a boyfriend; I'm more familiar with her holding everyone, particularly boyfriends, at something of a distance. But Scotty and her are an unusually compatible match. I got the feeling that they really are benefitting from living together and feeding off each others' creativity. That sort of thing is, after all, the best one can hope for out of a human relationship.
Jessika has a mouthful of nachos in this picture.
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