The Epic Legends – Atlanta Day Two

Atlanta, Georgia.  There are two great things I can say about the place.  The first is that it was once razed.  The second is that it is home to the most delicious soda I have ever tasted.  It might as well have been fucking Ambrosia.  On day two of my great voyage, I learned many things.  I learned to overcome my fear of recently-released prisoners who were hard-up for cash.  Kind of.  I learned how to piss off an entire bus full of people.

Mostly, I learned that almost everything you do will suck in some way.

These stories are not for the faint of heart.  They depict graphical things graphically.  They involve less-than-flattering portrayals of the author in his younger days.  There are some points at which many people would be offended.  In fact, if many people aren’t offended, I am not doing my job right.  The Atlanta Saga, as I have come to call it, was a series of events that shook me to my core, and changed the course of my life, subtly, but I would not be who I am without it.  So now, without further ado, on with the story.
Day two:  The first thing I remember is hurrying downstairs to the lobby, and enjoying what very well might have been the best free omlette I’d ever had, it contained expertly-cooked sausage, bacon, and cheese.  It was so good, that I forgot I hated eggs themselves.  The warm embrace of the prescription medications I was then dependant upon was upon me, and I was having a much better day, especially when compared to the horrors of day one.  Whereas the first day was a lesson in anger, the second day was a lesson in humility.

For a good while I talked with my few acquaintances in the hotel, I didn’t have many.  Most of the people were older than I or too irritating to endear myself to.  While the setting was strange, the social model was still that of Woodson High School.  That is to say, the rich and beautiful rule everything, while people like me attend class in the back of the school and ride the short bus.  That, however, is a story for another time.

I found myself starting to think that the trip might not be as much of a disaster as I’d thought it would be.  At the very least, my skin was not turning green, and nothing was being smashed as a result.  Soon, however, the real business of the day would unfold.  Competition!  I was here to sing, after all, and it is a little known fact that my gorgeous tenor is responsible for a full two out of my three total relationships, so I was good at it.  I still am, though that voice is now manipulated into a pop-rock hybrid of Anthony Kiedis and Jonathan Coulton.  Attracts more women than old British naval drinking tunes, though those are still fun.

We boarded our dread-chariots once more, leaving Atlanta altogether, to go to, oddly enough a suburban high school much like my own.  A deep-south doppelganger that made me wonder why we couldn’t have just mailed these fuckers a tape.  We were scheduled to perform last, and as it is my nature to suspect the worst in all things, I had come prepared.

My tuxedo hid the equivalent of a small game store, laden with various people’s GBAs and the new SP variants, I functioned as an entertainment mule.  Why?  Because, my friends, my tuxedo was the largest.  I was 6′ even and roughly 270 lbs in those days.  While I stil retain the title of “hefty motherfucker” I’ve managed to shrink that to a relatively svelte 200.  My gargantuan pockets were lined not with silk, and carried not handkerchiefs, but games!  As I passed out my hoard to the eager waiting masses, disaster struck.

My tuxedo jacket decided it was no longer pleased with my physique and the fact that I had jammed it with no fewer than three handheld gaming systems, and decided to send two buttons flying violently from my gut into a pretty young lady’s face and eye.

Now, the staff was prepared for such (legitimate) wardrobe malfunctions, so I was not worried about looking like a sloppy bum on stage.  Well, no more than usual, but still.  What I was worried about was that this extremely attractive girl who I’d known since we were the innocent ages of seven was incapable of opening her right eye, and about to reveal that she was not only pissed off, but capable of Hulk-tendencies herself.

My friends, not since the summer of 1994 had my groin felt such pain.

As i lay slumped against a Snapple machine, ice-pack pressed firmly against my manberries, a grown woman I did not recognize approached me with a pitying look in her eyes.  She reached inside my jacket and extracted the spare buttons, and proceeded to repair my vestments, but not my pride, or my testicles.  The two are good friends and would be suffering for some time.  On the upside, it did help me reach the high notes during my solo.  Not all was disastrous.

Our performance was solid.  As solid as it could be considering one of the sopranos fainted under the blistering heat of the stage lights, which I for one believe should be used by the government as riot control devices.  My solo went off without a sour note, I was pleased with my performance.  We sang heartily and with good humor, dare I say we knocked those British naval drinking tunes out of the metaphorical park.

The advantage of performing last is you don’t have to wait up forever to get back on your buses and travel to whatever hellhole is next on your agenda.  For us, it was a twofold stop.  Constructed for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, the Coca-Cola Pavillion and the Atlanta Underground.  The Pavillion speaks for itself.  It is a monument to Coca-Cola, in all forms.  We went on a guided tour, which was unremarkable and boring, that is until we reached the fountains of the gods, as I have come to call them.  There were two rooms, wherein one could sample an entire world of Coca-Cola products.  There were of course the local varieties, the traditional concoctions, these were all in great supply, pouring from mighty apparatuses adorning the walls and ceilings.  It truly was quite a spectacle.  However, the second room introduced me to a flavor so tremendous in its power I have a difficult time believing it has not been marketed in the United States.

Watermelon Soda.

Watermelon soda from China, no less!  This was a variety of Fanta (which, as they declined to point out, is a relic of the Third Reich, that Coca-Cola devoured after the war) that was manufactured and distributed in China, as the faucet stated.  It was, simply put, the greatest beverage I have ever sampled.  I drank as much as I could.  Seriously, I filled myself to bursting.  Thankfully I was in civilian clothes once more, and these had no potential for rupture.  I’m reasonably certain they would have.

While I was quite reluctant to leave the soda behind, the soda that I have been searching five long years for, all in vain, I had to.  We had a schedule to keep, and I was not going to be the one to fuck it up.  I marched across a fairly tranquil square, with a fountain in the middle to the Atlanta Underground.  Now, if you haven’t been, I suggest you don’t go.  The place is a shithole.  A sort of underground mall, only lacking anything even slightly interesting.  There is food.  Indeed there is a Hooters, which is where most of the people on the trip with me promptly disappeared to.  I soon realized the folly of my soda-consumption, though, when I was hit with a sudden and uncontrollable need to urinate.  I saw a restroom at the far end, which I walked into.  Walked, however, might be too kind a word considering the state of this lavatory.  I waded, into the two-inch deep muck of human filth that covered the ground.  Desparate as I was, I was still not about to proceed further into this piss-swamp than I had.

Has anyone here seen Trainspotting?  There is a scene entitled simply, “The Worst Toilet in Scotland”.  Remember that scene?  I bet you wish you didn’t.  This is the scenario I was facing, only it was not merely a toilet, but a whole 8’x12′ restroom.  I have no idea whether the situation there has since been rectified (ouch, bad choice of words) but I will never, ever return.

What happened next can best be decribed as one of the most surreal moments of my life.  A large black man near the doorway looked at me, standing dumbstruck.  He knew my thoughts.  He said in an unassuming voice, “You gotta take a shit?”  I turned sheepishly and nodded.  He told me to follow him.  Now, keep in mind that while Washington DC, and indeed my portion of the suburbs has its share of black men, many of whom I am friends with, I am not in Washington DC.  I was suddenly acutely aware of my whiteness, and the fact that this man was a giant, And the Atlanta Underground was indeed underground, and a very dark place even in the brightest of daylight.

I followed a cautious eight feet behind, roughly the length of his arm, I’d say, as he showed me to the clean restroom.  Relief.  Relief at last.  I hurried into the one available stall and proceeded to urinate with a force that would put industrial machinery to shame.  I may have blasted a hole clean through the porcelain of the bowl.  Before I was finished however, I saw something I’d never seen before.   A familiar face looked down at me from the neighboring stall.  The Giant.  He proceeded to explain to me, the very definition of captive audience, that he had recently been released from prison and he didn’t have much money.  Gulp.  He also asked if I could spare some.  I couldn’t.  Double gulp.  Of course I didn’t say that because this man could take my skull between his thumb and forefinger and simply twist it off my body.  Instead I told him to wait as I finished up, and to please stop watching me piss.

I took my sweet-fucking-time as I was suddenly unsure whether or not my last moments would be spent Elvis-style, on the toilet.  When i finally decided to give him five of my remaining dollars, I emerged and handed him the money, told him it really was all I could spare, and hurried past his titanic form and out the door.  I spotted among the stalls of cheap trinkets and ridiculous clothing one that carried several samurai swords.  No doubt they were of poor quality, but nevertheless I decided to park myself near them.  I went to the Dairy Queen directly across from it and bought a Blizzard.  I was the most paranoid person on the planet, and must’ve looked like some kind of fiend.  In fact, I was so paranoid, and so afraid to leave my position of strength near the weapons, that I lost track of time entirely.

I was half an hour late for my bus.  Fearing the worst I chucked the Blizzard and bolted for the entrance, hoping to find the bus where I left it.  What I ran into, however, was a search party.  Four individuals, selected because of all the people on the bus they were the least likely to murder me for making them wait half an hour in the sweltering Atlanta heat, were sent to scour the underground for me or my remains.

I ran into them, and explained the situation.  I recounted how I was on the run from a giant, and that it was in my fear that I had stayed as long as I had.  This may have appeased them but it did not appease the other thirty people on the bus, driver included, who all wanted to rip me limb from limb.

It was in this moment that I was able to put into proper order my capacity for risk assessment.  It is one thing to be potentially kidnapped/raped/slaughtered by a total stranger who is half the size of God.  However it is far less dangerous than pissing off a bus full of people, one of whom has already delivered a crushing blow to your genitalia in the span of this day.

My place as the most awkward motherfucker in the history of school trips was secured.

Soon we arrived, late, at a cafeteria-type restaurant.  The name escapes me, mostly because the food was terrible and I was still fearing for my life, or at the very least the structural integrity of my reproductive organs.  I engaged in some oddly satisfying conversation with one of the nearby girls on the bus who Colin the Traitor did not violate on the journey down.  Something strange happened.  I was talking, I was being sheepish and self-deprecating in regards to the day’s events, but she was laughing.  Not at me, but with me, as the cliche goes.  She thought I was funny.  She was hot!  She thought I was funny!  I promptly made arrangements with the girl she sat next to to swap seats, so that she and Colin could tongue each other some more, but more importantly that I could utilize my newfound talent of flirting with attractive young women.

In not too much time,  we returned to the hotel, where catastrophe struck again.  The announcement came that the hotel had opened their pool.

Now, for obvious reasons I did not go to the pool.  For one, I cannot, and have never been able to swim.  Also, I weighed 270 lbs and my skin tone rests somewhere between albino and irish on the Whiteymeter.  I didn’t want to blind anyone.  Instead I sat in the lobby, reading a book (Scott Adams’ God’s Debris if you were wondering) and drinking tea.  I actually looked fairly sophisticated.  I looked, dare I say, normal.

And then.

Out of nowhere.

Or rather, out of the pool, come those who did decide to swim.  A parade of young, beautiful women in bikinis, and muscled Adonises.  A display of youthful sexuality that demolished me.  One, my recently-recouperated penis wanted to see what all the fuss was about and decided to pop up and take in the scenery, giving me my second school-trip record, of most embarassing hard-on.  Two, I was suddenly acutely aware of how unattractive I was in all ways but one, and how oh-my-god-stunningly attractive my classmates were.  I was in the bottom one percent, here.  I realized why I’d never had a girlfriend.  I realized many things.  One of them was that apparently scantily clad women are allowed to sit on the laps of scantily clad men in the lobby of a public hotel, dripping wet, in rather expensive looking chairs, without any objection, other than the thousands of ones my mind was screaming at them.

To be fair, my mind’s objections weren’t specific to upholstery, they were mainly objections that none of them saw fit to sit on my lap, though in retrospect that was probably a very good thing, considering the tent I was pitching.

I briefly considered breaking out one of the calling cards I’d been given to contact my father and call for rescue.  I wanted to bail.  I wanted to wash my hands of all this nonsense and just leave.  Go home, where everything was safe.  After all, I’d done my job.  I’d sang perfectly.  There wasn’t any reason for me to stay the final day.  Ultimately though a voice I’d come to know far more intimately in the coming years would tell me to stay.  It was myself, my hidden courage.  At some level I knew this was something I had to face.  This trip embodied every social fear and anxiety that I’d ever accumulated, and I was going to conquer it.  In any case I would not run from it.  I would not be conquered by this city, or these people, or myself.  So I went upstairs, to the room I had signed up for.  I faced Sergio, also known as Bigfoot, and his lustrous coat of thick black hair.  I unpacked my bags.

Fate was with me that night.  I won the coin toss for the one bed in our room.  I had another peaceful night of sleep.  Waking up the next day restored a bit of pride, a bit of faith, and a bit of feeling in my ice-numbed scrotum.  The itinerary for this day was simple.  There was only one stop.  Six Flags Amusement Park.  Then, the long journey back home.

To be continued.

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The Epic Legends – Atlanta Day One

I’d like to introduce a new feature here at the Chaos Fold, since I’ve been told I’m a good storyteller, and I’ve got some good stories to tell, a series of autobiographical short stories, some funny, some sad, some funny and sad, some odd, some uncanny.  Together these are the stories that make me who I am, and bring me to where I stand today.  These are the Epic Legends.

I’d like to start with a story that goes back to the early summer of 2003.

In 2002 something of a calamity struck my life.  Everything was shaken up, including my scholastic situation.  I was forced to change from one school to another, and I was generally a wreck.  If you want a good look at our national psyche in the year 2002, one need look no further than where I was.  I’ve always been an empath, perhaps it was just a reaction to the tumult of the times, that in turn brought that tumult to my own life.  In 2003, though, at the time of this story, I was in a better place.  I was looking up, not down, and I was singing.

Yes, singing.  Your humble host was once a choir boy.  And I was good.  On a night in early May, I returned to my high school in Fairfax, Virginia to board a charter bus, and travel through the night to Atlanta, Georgia, where I would sing in competition along with a cadre of others.

I was granted a stipend of cash by my family for what would be my first voyage beyond the borders of my state to pay for food, drinks, whatever the situation called for.  Naturally, upon arrival at my high school, I walked directly across the street to a strip mall and bought Pokemon Ruby for $40, along with a friend who bought Pokemon  Sapphire.  The idea was to mitigate the boredom of the impending journey by catching them all, or at least as many as we could.  We’d picked up the newly-released Game Boy Advance SPs days earlier, so we were ready to roll.

And roll, we did!  The buses started their voyage around 10 PM.  I learned quickly that while the three seats at the back of the bus may seem appealing, it is in fact the worst possible decision I made.

The bus rumbles down I-95 as terrible PG-13 movies are played before us on the screens.  Legally Blonde 2 is first on the docket.  I break several laws of nature in the process of pulling out my gameboy faster than anyone has ever done before.  I begin playing my newly-purchased game, though the particulars of it have long since been lost to the fog of time.  What shines brightly, though, is the broken pact between my erstwhile compatriot and I!  Not an hour into the ride, all pretense of gaming our way through the boredom is gone, as the third musketeer, a longtime friend of mine by the name of Tony, and to this day the only man I’ve known to make good on his childhood dreams, was ousted from the third seat in favor of an asian girl whose name has also long since faded in my memory.  What I do remember, is Colin, better known to me as Judas (fitting my messiah complex), making out with this girl in the back of the bus, as I sat uncomfortably against the window, trying to ignore the foul treachery going on two feet to my right.

She did not stay forever, though.  In time, other women came to that seat, performing similar acts!  There was no pretense of monogamy in that wretched quadrant of the bus.  It became too much to bear, as 12 became 1, and 1 became 2, and I was soon forced to surrender my seat to the usurper!  Colin and the final girl of the night decided that they wanted to sleep up against the side of the bus, rather than the wall of the bathroom, so I begrudgingly gave up my seat to them, as they, and everyone else drifted silently off to sleep.

There would be no sleep for me, that night, however.  For I was in the clutch of Geodon, the most vile medication I have ever been prescribed.  Geodon, classified as an atypical antipsychotic, was being used to treat a condition I did not have, and in doing so, produced the following effects:

One:  When I took Geodon, it would be impossible to wake up the next day.

Two: When I did not take Geodon, it would be impossible to sleep that night.

Three: If I did not sleep, the cycle of sleep deprivation would accelerate eightfold, leaving me as exhausted as I would be after a week of wakefulness in a mere 24 hours.  Hallucinations are included.  Famously, I once saw  my left man-boob open up and spew forth egg yolks, while a radio booth I was looking at filled up with milk.

The bus was silent, and in my medically-induced madness, I had time to brood.  Brood, I did.  I lamented silently the perpetual lack of female companionship in my life.  I thought back to 2002, and I did weep.  It was the longest night of my life.

Sometime around 5 AM, the buses came to a stop in Buttfuck, South Carolina, parked squarely between a Waffle House and a Burger King, on what could only be described as an unpaved highway.  It was the furthest south I had ever been.  The fact of that alone made me uncomfortable.  I chose to spend my breakfast hour debating whether or not to throttle a parental chaperone for refusing to give me my medication, and pacing back and forth on a patch of grass, shooting contemptuous looks at various people i may or may not have known.

Time didn’t make much sense.  We couldn’t have been stopped for long, but it seemed like an eternity, walking that ground in the grey mist of dawn.  When we got back on the bus, most returned to sleep.  I was still incapable.

I was long past the point of anger or spite, all I wanted now was sleep.  Instinct seized control.  Instinct was no match for devil Geodon.  I remained awake the entire night, as we emerged in the bright Georgia sun, and made the first stop on our itinerary: Stone Mountain.  The Confederate Mt. Rushmore.  A great uncle of mine was in fact enshrined upon its face.  I wanted sleep.  Initially I set out with the people I had boarded the bus with, so that perhaps I could glean some enjoyment from this hellhole.  My decision earlier to brood, rather than eat, had returned to haunt me, though.  The only eatery I could find was something of a rustic fast-food joint, a Civil War-era McDonalds.  I bought a ham sandwich.

The sandwich is another thing i remember vividly, mostly that it was terrible, and it cost ten goddamn dollars.  Not Confederate dollars, mind you, real, US Dollars.  Greenbacks.  The bread was dry and stale, the ham was worse than what I could get at any supermarket, and the sandwich was so poorly constructed that where a tomato should be, there was instead a grainy paste of what once may have been a tomato.  I swallowed my pride and ate the food, my cash reserves down to under thirty dollars.  When I emerged, much to my surprise, the people who said they would wait for me, were not waiting.  I searched in vain for what seemed like another eternity, the sun lighting everything up a little too brightly.  Reality didn’t feel real.  I was moving into the final stage.  I needed sleep, I needed it soon, or someone may get hurt.

I fled, returning to the bus and lying down on the bare concrete in the shade, curling up and trying to sleep, even as the asphalt seared me through my shirt.  It was better than nothing.  At least I enjoyed a time of silence, without the running of motors or the prattle of my fellow students.  Sometime later the driver returned, and mercifully let me into the bus where I took my seat and got roughly ten minutes of actual, real sleep.  Total incoherent madness would be postponed for a time.

Soon enough, though, the rest of the passengers would return and I would be sleepless once more, until we reached the Embassy Suites in Atlanta.  When we arrived, I was on my last legs, and the chaperones decided to do the worst thing they could possibly do: Wait.  We waited.  We waited for over half an hour in the driveway of the hotel before we could disembark.  When the adults finally allowed us off, they allowed us off in a kludgy, bureaucratic manner that could only have been concieved in the shadow of the Madness Spire, that is to say the Nation’s Capital.

Baggage Captains.

Baggage captains were selected at random to remove the bags and sort them, person by person.  We would then leave and claim our bags once they were organized… in alphabetical order.  As you might glean from the last name adorning my lovely logo, I was the last person to be allowed off the bus.

Was I a bad person in a former life?  Did I kick babies or something, because my definition of Purgatory is sitting in an unairconditioned bus, in the middle of Atlanta, in the summer, while sleep-deprived to the point of seeing everything with a slightly orange tint.

Once I emerged, though, bags in hand, I found another obstacle between me and a good sleep.  The crowd.  The bureaucrats who figured it would be a great idea to let people grab their bags in alphabetical order somehow forgot to mention that these people should also go up to their rooms in the same order, so instead of being greeted with an empty lobby and a welcoming elevator to the fourth-floor suite I would share with several cretins, including one walking human carpet named Sergio, I walked into a mobscene of students clamoring for spots in elevators.

When I did find my way into one of the elevators, I suddenly realized the delay was not made of a systemic failure, but rather a small group of jackasses, who were holding the elevator doors closed with their hands, laughing, and preventing me from exiting.

Shit got real.

Every ounce of strength I had in me came rushing back, adrenaline filled my body, and my high school nickname of “The Hulk” was earned.  I dropped my bags, pried the doors open, Tackled the fucker holding them closed, reached back in, grabbed my bags, and swung them wildly as one would bludgeoning weapons, nearly knocking the three people responsible off a balcony.  Shortly before any crimes were truly comitted, I dropped my bags, sent them fleeing down the stairs, then took my bags quietly to my room, and emerged.

Nonchalantly walking down to the ground floor I told security of the cause of the commotion, as well as the choral director.  He finally saw that there would be merit in giving me my medicine and allowing me to sleep.  A chaperone was forced to surrender their room to me, I was given the ability to order room service, for actual food, and a full-size bed in which to sleep.

Blissfully I slept through the rest of that day (and night’s) events, waking right on cue the next morning.  Fresh-faced and ready to perform.

Though the journey down was complete, the story was just beginning.

To Be Continued…