The Reservoir: Part 1 (of multiple parts)

I often start stories, but don’t finish them. LIKE A TRUE SLACKER. Here is one of them. Will I finish it, will I not? Who knows? But I wanted to post the first part since I was sick of looking at it in my Google docs folder.

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“I need to get to the reservoir.”

Kevin was sitting on the floor, staring at the ceiling. He was holding a small glassine bag containing two pills, one red and one yellow.

“I need to get to the reservoir.”

Jim paced around the room in their apartment on Allston Street, occasionally stopping to look out the window.

“I need to get to …”

“Shut the fuck up, Kev. Shut up, shut up, shut up.”

“I need …”

“One more time and I am going to punch you in the face.”

Kevin opened his mouth. He looked at Jim.

“My fist in your face.”

Kevin shut his mouth.

“Thanks,” Jim said. “But seriously, we need to get to the reservoir?”

Kevin nodded.

“Fuck.”

****

Jim and Kevin had been in their apartment for almost two straight days.

“Do we have any beer left?” Kevin said.

“One. And it’s mine.”

“Is it a High Life?”

“Yes.”

“From the case of High Life I bought?”

“So? I gave you money.”

“False.”

“I am the older brother,” Jim said, “and am claiming last beer as is my right.”

Kevin got off the floor and opened the door that led to the small balcony outside their apartment. He sat down on a small, wooden chair and lit a cigarette. It was noon, and while he usually didn’t smoke during the day, he figured today was a special occasion. Jim walked to the fridge and grabbed the last beer.

Kevin looked down from the balcony at Allston Street.  No cars. No people. There hadn’t been any of either all day. He leaned his head toward a broken glass panel on the balcony door.

“We’re still on lockdown, right?” he said.

“According to my girl on Channel 7 News, yep.” Jim took a sip from the can of beer.

“She say when it’s going to end?”

“Nope. She’ll let us know when she finds out.”

Kevin took a drag from his cigarette.

“I need to get to the reserv …”

“I fucking know you need to get to the reservoir! You have established that you need to get to the reservoir. Christ.”

“You don’t have to get hot about it.”

****

The lockdown had started Monday night. They had walked, well, stumbled into the apartment after spending a few hours at the Banshee, a local dive. Jim had nearly gotten in a fight on the three-block walk home. Some college kid walking behind them had the nerve to yell, “I’ve never been this drunk in my life!” Jim responded with, “I remember my first night drinking, too.” That did not go over well. After a bit of back and forth, things ended when they aggressively yelled “Have a good night!” at each other.

When they got into the apartment, Kevin said he was going to put on a pro wrestling DVD. Jim told him to wait until he used the bathroom, so Kevin turned on the local news. Jim’s “girl,” the weeknight anchor, was on. She said:

“… Boston is on lockdown until further notice. Schools, including all colleges and universities, are closed tomorrow. Everyone has been asked to stay inside. We’ll give further updates when we get them from the mayor’s office.”

“Did you hear that?” Kevin said. He heard the toilet flush. Jim walked out of the bathroom.

“What?”

“We’re on lockdown.”

“Shit. They say why?”

“Nope. Since when do they tell us why? Just said that schools are closed tomorrow. Including universities.”

“Nice.”

Jim taught an 8:30 a.m. class on Tuesdays.

****

This wasn’t the first lockdown. They happened … not frequently, but once every few months. Generally, however, it was a 24-hour thing. A report would come out telling everyone to stay indoors. People who could, worked from home. People who couldn’t lost a day’s pay or took a personal day. Small businesses suffered, but there weren’t too many of those in Boston at this point. Eventually, there’d be an announcement that the lockdown was lifted, everyone was now safe. Bars would fill up.

“Do you think the girls across the hall have extra beer?” Jim said.

“Why would they give it to us if they did?”

“To be neighborly.”

“Would you be offering beer to them if we somehow had an abundance of it?”

“Of course.”

“False.”

Jim opened the fridge and started to move stuff around, hoping somehow a can was hiding behind one of the containers of leftover Chinese food or some other item of food that should have been thrown out weeks ago. He closed the fridge. Opened it again. Then slammed it shut.

“I’m gonna ask them.”

“Go with God.”

Jim walked out of the apartment. Kevin once again pulled the glassine bag out of his pocket and held it in front of his face, inspecting the yellow and red pills inside. The door to the apartment opened, and Jim walked back inside.

“They gave me two beers!,” Jim said. “One of the girls also said an unknown number had called her and asked if she knew anything about the two guys across the hall.”

“Wait, really? What did she tell them?”

“Just that we were a couple of drunks.”

“That’s it?”

“So she said.”

“We need to get to the reservoir. Soon.”

“I know. But let’s drink these beers first.”

****

Whenever a lockdown was lifted, there’d be talk that two people had gone missing. One time it was a bookstore owner and her husband. Another time it was a pair of ushers who worked at Fenway Park. The last time it was a doctor and the patient he had performed a heart transplant on the week earlier. None of the combinations made any sense. None were reported on the news, either. You’d see people talk about it on social-media sites, or you’d talk to someone at the bar who knew someone who knew someone who vanished, but nothing was confirmed. Kevin and Jimmy heard about the Fenway ushers from their cousin, who had season tickets to the Red Sox.

“Wait, does this mean they’re coming for us this time?” Jim said.

“Why do you think I’ve been so adamant about getting to the reservoir?”

“But how do you know?”

“A hunch. Which I think was confirmed by our neighbors getting a phone call.”

“You have a hunch that we, in a city of millions, will randomly be the next two people to ‘disappear?’ Does it have anything to do with those pills you’re always carrying around? Because I have a hunch it does.”

“Not all hunches are equal. Let’s get moving.”

****

They stood in the lobby of their apartment. Jim brought a bag of trash down with them.

“That would be your priority right now,” Kevin said.

“Our apartment smells.”

“Our apartment always smells.”

“But now it will smell slightly less.”

Jim walked through the door that led to the garbage pails in the back of the apartment. After a minute, he returned.

“So I’m thinking we should run from here to the reservoir,” Kevin said.

“No chance.”

“Why not?”

“Because the reservoir is like a mile and a half away.”

“That’s not far.”

“It’s mostly uphill.”

“How about we start off running, then adjust.”

“If by adjust you mean walk after running for a block.”

“This is potentially a life-or-death situation.”

“Me running more than one block is, yes.”

Kevin lifted up his head, looked directly into the sun and sighed.

*** TO BE CONTINUED ***

Brian Cougar

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The Reservoir: Part 1 (of multiple parts)

Scattered thoughts about “Born to Run” on its 40th anniversary

“Born to run, it’s got the feeling of that one, endless summer night. That’s what the whole record feels like. It could all be taking place … in the course of one evening, in all these different locations. All these different stories on one, sort of long summer night.”

— Bruce Springsteen

When “The Sopranos” ended, people were pisssssed. Most were pissed because the series finale ended out of no where, and they thought their cable randomly broke. I was pissed for a different reason: I thought the show was going to end with Tony Soprano saving New Jersey while “Jungleland” played in the background.

Saving it how? I don’t know. Saving it from what? I don’t know. There was no reason to think “The Sopranos” was gonna end on a positive note, but I thought it would. There was no reason why “The Sopranos” was gonna end with Tony as the hero, but I thought it would. The main reason for this is “Born to Run.”

And why did I think such things?

“Barefoot girls sitting on the hood of a dodge, drinking warm beer in the soft summer rain.”

I can’t think a story — any story — isn’t gonna end well in a world with lyrics like that. Especially one set in Jersey! I lived in Jersey for almost seven years, I felt bad in Jersey. But I also knew “Born to Run” was born in Jersey.

“We can make it if we run.”

“Born to Run” ain’t even my favorite Springsteen album (that would be “Darkness …”). But it’s perfect. It’s got barefoot girls sitting on the hood a dodge, drinking warm beer in the soft summer rain.

And it’s got Tony Soprano saving New Jersey. From what? Aliens, maybe. The poets down here don’t write nothing at all.

Brian Cougar

Scattered thoughts about “Born to Run” on its 40th anniversary

Mai-den, Mai-den: Up the Irons aka the hand of fate is moving and the finger points to you

Looking like a champ while purchasing the last Iron Maiden album in 2010.
Looking like a champ while purchasing the last Iron Maiden album in 2010.

Sometimes (well, in 2011) you finish work at 2 a.m., walk to the PATH train, wait 40 minutes for the PATH train, get on the PATH train, hear a drunk dude yell “Winning!” and think to yourself, “This jabroni makes more money than me, doesn’t he?” Sometimes you finish work at 2 a.m., drink a beer in your home “office,” then go to bed. And sometimes you finish work at 2 a.m., check the TWITTER and find out Iron Maiden have just released their first new song in five years.

I’m gonna bet I’m not alone in this, but I got into Iron Maiden due to the song “Teenage Dirtbag” by the band Wheatus. That song was a somewhat-major hit in 2000, and its chorus was “Cause I’m just a teenage dirtbag, baby/Yeah I’m just a teenage dirtbag, baby/Listen to Iron Maiden, maybe, with me. Wooo-ooo-oo-OOO.”

I’m sure I’d heard Maiden and seen Maiden videos before this song, but I hadn’t noticed them before.  I thought, “I am also a teenage dirtbag, maybe I’d be into Iron Maiden?” Then, around this time, I was home one Friday night and the Rock Show, hosted by Anthrax’s Scott Ian, was on. He said they’d be playing the new Iron Maiden video, so I kept watching. And he played “The Wickerman.”

HAND OF FATE IS MOVING AND THE FINGER POINTS TO YOU/HE KNOCKS YOU TO YOUR FEET AND SO WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO/YOUR TONGUE WAS FROZEN NOW YOU’VE GOT SOMETHING TO SAY/THE PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN IS CALLING YOU HIS WAY

YOU WATCH THE WORLD EXPLODING EVERY SINGLE NIGHT/DANCING IN THE SUN THE NEWBORN IN THE LIGHT/SAY GOODBYE TO GRAVITY AND SAY GOODBYE TO DEATH/HELLO TO ETERNITY AND LIVE FOR EVERY BREATH

YOUR TIME WILL COME (Repeat YOUR TIME WILL COME a bunch of times)

Never had I immediately gone from not knowing a thing to being, “This is now my favorite thing, for it is the greatest.”

I bought all the albums: the Paul Di’Anno era (if someone tells you they’re not that into Maiden but they like the first two albums — even if they’re being honest — don’t trust them), the Bruce Dickinson glory years, the Blaze Bayley period (X-Factor is underrated).

I saw them live (nine times, if I’m counting correctly). The first time, I had to hike several miles on the side of a busy road in Long Island to get to their show in Jones Beach because we were stuck in traffic and my friend Dan needed to return his dad’s car, so he kicked me to the curb. The second time was at Madison Square Garden, and it’s still the best show I’ve ever seen. I saw them at Ozzfest and sang “Run to the Hills” with these two giant, blonde-haired Swedish dudes I randomly befriended on my way back from getting beer.

I read all I could about the band/the members of the band. Dickinson is a personal hero, because he’s a tremendous singer/songwriter/entertainer, a modern-day renaissance man and he got me into the wonderful television show, “The Prisoner.” I once defused a fight at a bar between a group of my college friends and some Scranton townies due to the fact that one of the guys in the other group was wearing a Motorhead T-shirt and I told him I had seen them open for Maiden. He was impressed. Then, when he said goodbye at the end of the night, I yelled “Up the Irons!” (the Iron Maiden slogan) at him. He was less impressed.

But would he be impressed with the new Maiden track? Who knows? Who cares? Up the Irons.

Also, Rape of the mind is a social disorder.

Brian Cougar

Mai-den, Mai-den: Up the Irons aka the hand of fate is moving and the finger points to you

Hail, hail the lucky ones: Running in a storm

“Sweet summer rain. Like God’s own mercy.” — “O Brother, Where Art Thou”

“That looks ominous,” I thought to myself while looking at a dark cloud approaching as I waited at a crosswalk in Watertown on Tuesday. Channel 7 News had said we might get some heavy storms in Boston, but it was sunny when I left for my jog a half-hour before. “If I turn back now, I should get home in plenty of time.”

Then this dude ruined those plans. I’ve been jogging off and on for the past three years, and I get weirdly competitive with complete strangers. Generally, if I can see a person running ahead of me, I will attempt to pass him/her. Even if the person is clearly in better shape than me (aka, most of them), I will start speeding up to see how much I can close the gap. And this guy was wearing a headband. And a sleeveless T-shirt. To quote the band Titus Andronicus, “The enemy is everywhere.”

So I decided to continue the run. When the light switched to the little white-outlined guy, I sprinted across the street. The sleeveless-shirt dude, not realizing he was now in a race, was soon far behind. Having declared myself the winner, I looked up at the cloud that was now directly overhead and decided to head back to my apartment. After about 30 seconds, it started to drizzle. A few seconds later, hail started to fall. Then, a torrential downpour, mixed in with hail. BOOM! Also, lightning and thunder! “Things are not good,” I thought.

I kept running for a bit. Maybe the storm would be brief. A piece of hail bounced off the top of my Dallas Cowboys hat. I started running with my hands placed on the top of my head. Protect the cranium, for it is filled with wisdom. My shorts, soaked, started to slip downward. One hand now protected the cranium, while the other kept me from not running around in just my boxer briefs. “Things are not good,” I thought again.

More lightning. More thunder. Take shelter! My options were to hide under some trees, fall to the ground and assume the fetal position or jump in the Charles River. So I JUMPED IN THE RIVER. No, that’s not true. I hid under some trees. That seemed to be the smartest idea. Was it? I clearly made it through the storm, as I am now typing this, so, yes — yes it was.

While hiding under the trees, I did the only thing a person in my position would do: I pulled out my iPod so I could take a picture. Gotta Instagram this hailstorm! However, the conditions were too severe for gramming. A moment lost in time. I must ask you, the reader, to forgive me for this.  If you would like to simulate what I went through, I suggest you fill up your bathtub halfway with water, step in, turn on the shower and throw ice cubes at yourself every 30 seconds.

After failing to Instagram this magic moment, I put my iPod away, tilted my head backward and let the rain wash over me. Within 10 seconds, I entered a state of complete serenity. Minutes later, the rain stopped.

I resumed my jog. Soon, I passed a young lady who had also clearly got caught out jogging during the storm. We smiled at each other. Then a man approached riding a bicycle. He was completely dry, pedaling with neither hand on the handlebars. He wore a headband and a sleeveless shirt.

I assumed the fetal position.

Brian Cougar

Hail, hail the lucky ones: Running in a storm

Good-guy Roddy: Piper/Hart at Wrestlemania VIII

(WWE Network)
(WWE Network)

“Mrs. Hart used to come down, make them sandwiches, throw on that bologna. Of course only one piece of bologna, but that don’t matter, I was hungry!” — “Rowdy” Roddy Piper

Roddy Piper passed away on Friday of a heart attack at 61. Piper is best known from his time as a heel in the 1970s and ’80s, but my first memories of Piper are of him as a good guy in the early ’90s. I loved him as a kid because he was incredibly entertaining and because his theme music was bagpipes, which I thought meant Piper was Irish (he was not). My all-time favorite memory/match involving Piper involves him taking on Bret “The Hitman” Hart for the Intercontinental Championship at Wrestlemania VIII.

Before the match, the two are being interviewed by Mene Gene Okerlund. Hart doesn’t say anything until the end of the interview, with Piper, not surprisingly, going on a rant. Now, both were “good guys” at this time — Piper was champion, having defeated the evil Canadian Mountie for the belt at the Royal Rumble — but Piper being a good guy doesn’t mean he can’t also be kind of a jerk. He doesn’t hit Hart with a coconut, but he spends his entire time talking taking minor jabs at the Hitman while reminiscing about growing up together until it ends with them standing face to face ready to throw a punch.

The match itself is also very good. Hart has always been known for his in-ring skills, while Piper’s style was more of a brawler. Here is the PLAY BY PLAY I did while watching post-work at 3 in the morning:

Wrestle normal match, basic moves. Hart dumps him, Piper spits on Hart. Piper calms, challenges him to test of strength. Hart appears to hurt shoulder, Piper backs off, Hart small package. Piper loses it, slaps him in the face. They both dump over the rope. CHANGE. Piper holds ropes so Hart can get back into the ring, fans cheer, Hart goes to fix his boot, then Piper punches him in the face. Piper starts brawling, busts Hart open. Biting. Hart comeback with FIVE MOVES OF DOOM.

Piper throws Hart into ref while trying to escape headlock. Ref = KNOCKED OUT. Piper grabs bell. Reluctant to use it. Fans pleading no. Heenan, “Give it to me, I’ll hit him!” Piper drops bell, puts Hart in sleeper. Hart uses turnbuckles to push Piper back, gets the 1, 2, 3.

It’s a great storyline for a match, with Hart wrestling a bit dirtier than usual because A) he wants to be champ and B) he knows it’ll rile Piper up. Piper, on the other hand, tries to keep things clean at the beginning, reverts to his more dirty-pool ways for a bit after Hart ticks him off, then, when he has the chance to slam Hart in the head with the bell for the easy victory, he does the RIGHT THING (which causes him to, uh, lose).

After the match, Piper returns to the ring, hands Hart the belt then secures it around his waist. They exit the ring together. The match basically ends up being this …

“We are not enemies, but friends.  We must not be enemies.  Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.  The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” — Abraham Lincoln

… in wrestling form.

RIP Piper.

Brian Cougar

Good-guy Roddy: Piper/Hart at Wrestlemania VIII