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


Gentle Traveler, Stride Not Into Yon Lake of Poo Water
He woke up when I was spraying the shaving cream on his crotch, but he never noticed the swastika. I had drawn it on his forehead with a permanent black marker.

He was asking for it. I mean, he had passed out on our floor while we were still coherent enough to fuck with him. This wasn’t Miami, you know? This wasn’t even Nicaragua. This was Gainesville. Crackers play for keeps around here.

Really, we had no clue as to who the guy was, other than a Nicaraguan dude from Miami. He dressed kind of conservatively for a punk rocker, seemed to like late-‘70s junkie bands a little more than the next guy. Mumbled a lot.

We didn’t bear him any real animosity, mind you. Aside from a disconcerting resemblance to Billy Crystal, there was nothing about him that would make you want to draw a swastika on his head. He was just there, snoring away on our floor. An easy target. He had arrived with a mutual friend — who split after a few minutes, leaving him in our care — drank three or four beers, and then just sacked out. We had to do something. Perhaps we wanted to teach him a lesson about trusting strangers too much. Or perhaps we were just dicks.

Anyway, he sat up, bleary-eyed and festooned with Nazi pride, looked around to see where he was, mumbled something, wiped the giant pyramid of shaving cream off the front of his jeans and a few seconds later stumbled out the door. Off into that dark night he went, swastika no doubt shining like a beacon, leading him through the fog to... to... ummm... Germany?

I’ve often imagined the moment when he discovered what I’d done. Did it come at a friend’s house? A grocery store? Church? Did he try to pick up any girls or anything with that shit on his head? You know, I actually knew what happened, at some point in my life. But I’ve long since forgotten; the actual moment not being strong enough to hold up against the various scenarios I’ve manufactured. Which, as you might guess, involved grocery stores and churches and Jewish people. By the way, if you know the truth, keep it to yourself. I’ll cling to my sweet falsehoods, thanks all the same.

Later, little Swastika Head would become Gainesville’s unsung punk-rock MVP, enhancing any band he joined with gloriously caustic Johnny Ramone/Keith Richards/Johnny Thunders guitar and a deeply ingrained anger that manifested itself in yelling and swollen forehead veins. He would also become my roommate, and I take no small amount of pride in knowing that I helped stoke the rage that entertained us so much back in those days.

This should come as no surprise, but I’m impossible to live with – moody, irritable, mean, too big to easily beat up. I’ll mock and deride your idiosyncrasies, and I did it to this guy. For example, he never wrapped up his cheese, and it would get all waxy in the refrigerator. I’d yell at him: “Dumbass! Wrap up your cheese! You’re fucking ruining that cheese! How fucking old are you, dude?! You don’t know to wrap up your cheese?! Didn’t anyone ever instruct you in the proper care of cheese?!”

“Maybe I like it that way,” he’d mumble. It was some weird ass-backwards Third World Nicaraguan cheese, too, no doubt made from old soap or bat’s milk and probably unsuitable for consumption now that he no longer lived in the jungle. God, you know what? Six years later, I’m still getting pissed off thinking about that fucking waxy cheese.

What else? I also hate having people over, and I hate paying all the bills, even though I don’t trust anyone else enough to delegate that responsibility. And I go to bed early, and will totally flip out if I get woken up. And this guy would wake me up.

He liked to take showers, you see. Not excessively, by the standards of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder — just three or four a day. He’d go out drinking every single night, and come home and shower at like 3 a.m. before going to bed. The bathroom was next to my bedroom, and the sound of the water and his drunken smashing around would invariably wake me up. Oh, once or twice he skipped the shower, like when he passed out on the floor before getting to it. We found him the next day, a Wednesday morning or something, unconscious in front of the TV with a porno tape churning away onscreen and a couple of bagels charred to black in our malfunctioning toaster. Thank god he fell asleep before unsheathing his weiner.

We’d fight about those showers. He kind of needed them, you see. And I tried to be understanding about these things, I really did. I figure if he needed an extra two or three showers to make it through the day, it was a pretty harmless quirk, and who was I to judge? It wasn't like the cheese, sitting there unwrapped in the fridge, turning all fucking waxy. But the noise of those showers drove me crazy.

Eventually, this was resolved when he started dating a girl who lived a few houses down from us. Frankly, I suspect he was just using her for her bathroom. But again, who am I to judge? If she didn’t mind, and he didn’t want to use her for her vagina like a normal person, they had my blessing. They probably have different customs regarding relationships and stuff back in the Nicaragua, and I’m remarkably open-minded about primitive cultures.

He did other weird stuff in the bathroom, though. He’d go in there after work and wash his hands for about 20 minutes. If you didn’t notice, this was fine. But if the sound of the faucet turning on and off registered on your consciousness, the noise was like torture: SHHEET-shoot. SHHHEEEEET-shoot. SHEET-shoot. SHHHEEEEEEEEET-shoot. SHEET-shoot. SHEET-shoot. SHEET-shoot. SHEEEEET-shoot. SHHHHEEET-shoot. SHHEET-shoot. SHEET-shoot. SHEET-shoot. “AAAAAAGH, for the love of god, man, those things are clean enough! If you don’t stop jacking off the fucking faucet I’m calling the INS! Comprende?! La migra, motherfucker! El deporto your ass-o!!!” I’d yell that in my mind.

He also went through a roll of toilet paper a day. This was weird, because he didn’t seem to be wiping with it all. Just peeling it off and flushing it. Once we established that this practice meant he needed to buy the goddamn toilet paper for the house, nobody cared. Let him flush away, if that made him happy. Like I said, we were tolerant of his stupid foreign culture. Maybe it was some kind of sacrifice to one of his pagan gods. Better to flush the toilet paper down to his monkey jungle Aztec shit-god than our still-beating hearts or something.

One day I was fixing to go to class, and decided to check the mail before catching the city bus. A communal mailbox had been installed in our yard for the benefit of the mail carrier, and I hiked over to it. The ground seemed a little squishy to me, which was strange. It was sunny out, and hadn’t rained for a day or two. Standing in front of the mailbox, I looked down, and noticed I was standing in a large puddle of bright blue water.

“That water’s really goddamn blue,” I thought. Then I noticed the shreds of filmy white paper strewn around the area. A sick realization began to creep up on me. I stared down at my feet, trying to place that color... Then a turd floated by, and I flipped out. Holy fucking mother of god, I was up to my ankles in a small lake of poo water.

Howling in rage and terror and flapping my arms with all of my might, I made it back to the house without touching the ground. I turned and looked. That poo lake was fucking huge. It took up like a third of the goddamn yard. Some kids were already messing with it, giggling and using a stick to poke at a stray turd out on the lake’s periphery.

My stomach sank as I surveyed the scene. I couldn't just go back inside and pretend like I never saw the poo water. This was going to be my problem. I recognized that shade of blue, you see. It was the color of the disinfectant tablets I used in the tank of our toilet. While I didn’t particularly care about ridding the bathroom of ass-germs, I found the blue water immensely cheerful. Anyway, there was no denying it. That poo water was our poo water.

Yelling a few words of encouragement at the kids, I kicked off my shoes and went inside. A few phone calls later, I was relieved to find out the city would take care of this problem. If no money had to come out of my pocket and the incident wouldn’t put more than a two-hour cramp in our flushing, I could relax a little.

Until one of the workmen came and knocked on the door to let me know they were done. “A cap burst off the top of a pipe in your yard,” he told me. “There was a giant clot of toilet paper out under the street that was causing your pipes to back up. Damnedest thing I’ve ever seen. Anyway, you’re lucky it didn’t come back into the house.”

I thanked the guy, and turned toward the phone. Eyes wide and hands trembling, I dialed my roommate’s work number. He answered. I began gibbering semi-coherent threats. “GOBBA HOBBA POO WATER!!! HOBBA HOBA TOILET PAPER!!! GIBBA GOBBA NO MORE, MAN!!! NO MOOORRRE!!!”

That night he came home and quietly presented us with his solution: a second bathroom trash can, deployed specifically for toilet paper. Since he didn’t actually wipe with the paper, but just yanked it off the roll by the yard, its presence would be unlikely to offend. We all agreed this was satisfactory.

In fact, it turned out fine. Better than fine. One day while using the bathroom, I glanced to my left and noticed the auxiliary trash can, filled to the brim with unused toilet paper. It was conveniently folded and loosely stacked in attractive, orderly rows. A few experimental swipes proved it had not lost any usefulness, and from that day on I no longer had to lean so far forward when practicing this particular form of personal hygiene.


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