Strove to find a way to punch people in the face by using the Internet.


Live! Crack-Smoking Action! With Your Host, Dirty Mike!
I used to want a good nickname. (Shut up! Bad News Hughes isn’t a nickname. It’s a persona.) In my teens and 20s, it seemed like every third guy I knew had a good nickname: Chuck From Hell, Bob Chicken, Frank Boy Cool, The Saucy Pirate, etc. (Okay, I admit I totally made that last one up. But I think it’d be hard to argue its potential.)

Anyway, one day I realized I had a nickname: Pat Hughes, spoken real fast like it’s one word. “Hey, it’s Pathughes! Get him!” “Put your damn pants back on, Pathughes!” “Do me a favor? Don’t tell Pathughes about the really fun party I’m having.” It doesn’t confer any special attributes, reflect superhuman abilities, incorporate the word “atomic” or have any kind of a ring to it, but it’ll do. At least it doesn’t serve as a blatant warning, like say Stabby Jim or Dirty Mike.

Not that warnings are always heeded. When I was 17, I got kicked out of the house and overlooked the obvious, signing a lease on an apartment with Dirty Mike. At the time, I thought a shared love of punk bands the Misfits and Naked Raygun was a perfectly solid foundation for becoming roommates. As it turned out, though, there were compatibility issues of a much higher degree of complexity than anything I anticipated lurking just behind our happy domestic facade. Like, for one example, Dirty Mike liked to snort a lot of bathtub crank and smoke a little crack cocaine once in a while. And I didn’t.

Well, I didn’t like to smoke the crack, anyway. I must admit I gave the speed a try once or twice and discovered it pretty much made me feel like I always felt — anxious, nauseous and borderline violent — only crappier, and so I ditched that shit pronto.

Before I had moved in with Dirty Mike he told me the story of how he had earned his nickname. As a teen, he went to school on Halloween dressed like a hobo. To create his costume, he took a shit, and wiped his ass with his shirt. Which he then wore.

His creativity resulted in expulsion, something that needled him even years later. “I mean, that’s what bums really do,” he would mutter while relating the story and grinding his teeth down to brown little nubs. “I was just trying to make a realistic costume.”

Somehow this anecdote didn’t dissuade me from moving in with him. In fact, at the time, the story seemed to land him somewhere between “genius comedian” and “brave martyr.” “Subhuman asshole” didn’t get added to the mix until after I had lived with him for a few weeks and my precious Samhain tapes ended up stolen and sold to support his drug habit. And I watched him smoke crack.

At first, he would be fairly discrete about it, and retire to a back bedroom to enjoy a rock or two. Occasionally, he’d invite a few redneck biker friends over for a little crack party. Eventually, he’d just fire it up while we sat there with our friends, enjoying the special garbage-dump ambience we’d created.

I didn’t even give a shit. I was pretty beaten down by the time Dirty Mike started openly huffing down that sweet crack rock. In fact, I was as sick as I’d ever been in my life. Stress, poverty, booze and poor nutrition — er, make that no nutrition — had put the atomic whammy (say, that’s not a bad nickname) on my immune system something fierce.

The first physical manifestation of my malaise occurred the day after a show by a punk band called the Descendents. I woke up around noon, briefly considered going to school (I had fallen out of the habit, mostly because I was lazy and hung over all the time but also because it was when I was at school that my tapes tended to disappear) and finally decided to shower, shave and go hit up the goddamn Hare Krishnas for a free meal.

Rubbing my hand over my strangely lumpy face, I thought, “Man, the pimples sure came out in force last night,” and started to squeeze a big one. Then I noticed the “pimples” were all over my chest, neck, arms, legs and ding-dong. What the fuck could this be?

Hmmm… I had recently been over to a friend’s house, where his little brother was sick with chicken pox. Could this be chicken pox? Shit, everyone has that when they’re little, right? Turns out the answer was no. A quick call to my lunatic mother revealed that, indeed, while I had contracted my share of entertaining rashes and ailments as a child, somehow I managed to dodge the pox. Well, no longer.

Chicken pox wasn’t so bad, actually. I had transmitted it to at least three or four people at the Descendents show, which for some reason seemed really funny at the time. And it gave me a solid reason to stay home from school and get high on Benadryl for a few weeks.

And the thick, pink layer of dried calamine lotion that covered my face and neck came in handy when the cops dropped by. They didn’t seem to like standing too close to a lumpy, crusty, candy-colored leper, so I’d get trotted out in my ratty blue bathrobe to tell them we didn’t know anything about the case of beer just boosted from the 7-11 (actually sitting in our refrigerator) or the runaway kid whose parents were desperately looking for him (actually hiding in my closet). A few cursory questions from them and a (very real) wheeze or two out of me and they’d be on their way, off to something safer and more fun, like getting shot at by bank robbers.

Toward the end of my pox convalescence, my lunatic mother broke into my apartment around 7 a.m. and started throwing things around and screaming. Seems the school had called her about my absences, and this was her way of checking up on me. I wasn’t a big fan of my mom at the time, seeing as she was supposed to give me money out of the child support she received from my father so I could buy food (and, um, smokes), but refused. Instead, she’d keep the dough, bag up totally random old stuff I recognized from around her kitchen (what the hell was I going to do with canned pumpkin?!) and bring it to me, lying to my dad all the while that she was using his money to buy me groceries.

Anyway, crazy ol’ mom was rampaging around and hollering, rousing me and the three or four dudes that had crashed on the floor the night before. We sat there, bleary, for a few minutes, trying to decipher her incomprehensible ranting, when I decided I had enough and took action.

And spit on her.

Yup, I spit on my mom. Does it get any lower than that? Just hocked a big, green loogie (no shortage of material for that, either) right out of my mouth and on to her.

Look, I know this is indefensible (unless you’ve met my mom), and I’m not proud of it, but I have to be honest. It felt pretty damn good at the time. And it shut her crazy ass right up, too.

I glanced over at Dirty Mike and the other guys, their faces lit up like Christmas. Clearly, my act of defiance was the greatest thing they had ever seen. They couldn’t have looked more surprised and delighted if I had spray-painted the Black Flag logo on President Reagan (r.i.p.) while jumping a skateboard over a tank of piranha and Nazi skinheads. After the shock wore off, they actually started cheering, and mom cleared out.

Soon after this wonderful exchange, my dad came to Gainesville to pick me up and take me to the doctor. Ostensibly, this was to give me a check-up after all that chicken pox nonsense, but really he wanted to get me tested for drugs, after hearing about the mom-spitting incident. And who could blame him? Though I suspect he probably knew exactly what I was feeling at the time, and was maybe even a little jealous.

No secondhand crack fumes had flown up my nose or anything, and the visit to the doctor turned up no evidence of drug use. It did uncover that, in addition to chicken pox, I was also suffering from pneumonia and viral bronchitis. No explanation for why I occasionally threw up blood, but whatever.

Satisfied that I wasn’t on drugs and not really giving a shit about the other stuff, dad returned me to Gainesville. Soon after, the carpet caught fire and we were evicted. Dirty Mike took to the streets, and I moved back in with mom. Things went downhill from there. But that’s a story for another time.

Dirty Mike? Why, he got his act together, passed the GED and through hard work and perseverance eventually became a successful investment banker and philanthropist, of course, and… Shit, you know, I don’t know what really happened to Dirty Mike. And I don’t fucking care.


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