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Friday, July 19, 2002

A Pizza Man

Red Dixon


The pizza man's car is destroyed.


Tooling down a busy street somewhere near the Haight, belly and thoughts full of blotter acid, Red hears Jason, “Driving on fry’s all colors and glints of sun off the cars like stars.” Blinding and confusing, but you can do it. It should be enough Red's driving in The City in all its traffic glory, where the accident always happens to someone right in front of you or to the roommate you moved out on. Red is sure it’s Michelle’s car he's driving, and Jon is on the next bucket seat trying to roll up new green. In back, Matt puffs away madly at a Marborlo or one of the dirt weed joints rolled for the trip. Radiohead takes stage in an hour, and Matt’s freaking out, paranoid as anything. Red too. He keeps waiting for that feeling to kick in but he doesn’t know what that feeling is. A few puffs of chronic on top of whatever else Red's got in his head uncomplicates.

Matt is screaming now and Red is sure the red Sentra’s not going to make it. Whenever he hits the brake it shudders and shimmies with raw mechanical desire; the radio dial that tunes you up. Matt's waving a map, and it’s time Red told this 15-year-old kid to have a little respect for his elders. Red is screaming, hollering and Matt is yelling right back in his face, map in fist accompanying hot breath. Two screaming, Jon turns up the radio and takes over the map. Michelle wavers between sleep and gross irritation, glaring at Matt with heavy-painted lidded eyes. She’s wearing a skimpy $5 tank top again, with her thick lips drooping and scowling set to look like some kind of Asian dragon. Cops never know how to racially-profile her, and she gets fiercely offended if they check the “Mexican” box. And Red might have slept with her at that one party but he doesn’t remember anything and he doesn’t really want to know.

Any second Red knows he is going to see the street curl up in a wash and all the cars come together and feel his bones bursting through his skin and the windshield mixed with his friends’ bodies and brains, but right now all he wants to do is make it to the Bill Graham quick.

Tickets are expensive and they have way too much good dope to waste it driving around and there’s no way Red's going to maintain much longer.

Maintain, maintain. Jon, or the wind.

And they’re finally at the theater, and there are so many people but the line of feather boas and spotty kids who’ve come from The City and anywhere but lining the dingy white wall moves fast, and Red can’t feel time anyway. Guards dig hands inside his jacket, but the weed is down in a cigarette pack carefully tucked between Camel Reds and smelling like that basement party with the dirt floor, two hammocks and four bongs. It's where he is, going on into that downtown dungeon on the fringe of the Financial District and the freeways and the junkies; somewhere you know you go because you’re lost and this is where you knew you’d end up and you’ve got four tickets in your hand and they’ve got all the appropriate fish stamps and you’ve paid the service charge and they’re going to let you in whatever and you’re going to go inside and listen to the music with a rollie stuck to your chapped lips and lie back and remember why they wrote that song “Creep” they’ll never play outside of England.

And they’ll forget the music though they paid $35 plus $5 and really love the CD they bought for $20 even though the boys at Eddie’s Pizza call it heroin music when Red meets them out back to smoke out in the rental car he’s driving because that 67-year-old maniac made that illegal left turn in front of him back in Stockton, but the cops wanted him to pay so Red took them to court, the whole lot, and Michelle was a witness even though it was the woman who’d be his wife who was sitting alongside him and who’d got a bloody lip and who Red took to bed ripe with young lust as soon as he’d got home and right after he’d breathlessly called his State Farm agent. And nobody’s paying Red because the oldster's old and married and established and Red's young and not. And all those UOP sorority girls saw what happened or maybe they didn’t but anyway Red's got a rental car and it’s a hot Chevy and it drives fast but it sucks away the pizza-delivery tips because when you roll up in a car like that and leave the motor running on the poor side of town everybody thinks you’ve got more money than they do, which may or may not be but they don’t know, and Red doesn’t know, that he's not going to get any money back for this rental car and he's going to have to pay back grandma’s credit card and no one knows Red's going to be unemployed but somehow score these ticket and buy bud and the other grandma’s going to spot him enough money to get new wheels and here he is and he loves the music but it feels like it might rain and the acid still might work.

Now they’re pushing through the crowd and it’s all red, white and blue jeans and young female belly flesh and treated hair shining the stage lights back all crazy as the reflections outside should have been when Red was driving. It’s Amy who runs up and who Red has loved since he was 12 and who he gave that smoky red marble because it was the best one in his collection and who didn’t have any idea what that meant, but took it in her pale hand and said “Pretty.” She was. They all press close but there’s no need to touch her cause Red's got magazines and a steady. Amy keeps yelling and her shrill voice is splitting Red's head and Jon can’t stand to collide with sweat. Matt’s hollering red round face is slack and he might be losing it and Red's going to hurl if he stays in the pit with these people so the three of them and maybe Michelle who they all liked but were never quite sure if she was along or not is probably tagging behind.

And Red leaves that flesh press to join the empty seats and the stoners his parents’ age up in the rafters where you can see Tom York’s back and the acoustics are still good. Down below, the mass ornament surges and sways and even though he’d never read Kracauer, Red knew what he was looking at and it was seething and the acid might finally be working. The crowd moves like a violent-colored speckled worm and the music comes up and hours pass before they’re driving home and nobody’s fried even a little, they’re pretty sure.

Amy’d been through the floor on her back, lost self-awareness and crossed over to her old self through the first-aid tent. And Red knew she was like this, that she’d done this sort of thing before, and he kind of cries when he looks back and compares notes and realizes that while most of them are out, she’s still there in Arizona rehab tied to a machine that loves her like a liver and she’s got old scars on her wrists but he doesn’t even know how old or how many and whether she’s got other scars or cigarette burns all up her arms and legs like Matt.

Red knew she needed guys but he was never one of them, and Red knew she needed the night and a bottle and maybe some pills to wash down on her Sacramento balcony with roommates out drinking too late to call the cops until she’s blue and cold and crisis and her baby’s at home sleeping in the crib near Baby Boomer gramma and grandpa who never thought their religion would fail their children. And when Amy called Red that cold night in El Cerrito, from that same sad apartment in Sac where she’d hasten her dying, she’d wanted him to pick up her friend who was wandering around near the Haight with sick veins and red eyes and a lesbian grin on her 14-year-old face and she wants Red to get her to Amtrak to L.A. because her parents are so hateful and she’s got friends down there who’ll take care of her. “Dix, You know what it’s like.” And Red looks into his wife’s dark eyes and sees $80 of green swirling in the toilet for the last time and he looks at that red marble in that pale hand and he hangs up the phone.

© Red Dixon PizzaManDixon@aol.com