INK PAINS

Written by Hal Van Man Photos by Frank DeBlase

I’ve got a lot of different wounds to lick. That’s for sure. But more often than not, I end up pouring salt on them. Still, I’m trying to loosen or unleash my grip on the past and all that it once meant to me. One month you’re rolling in dough and the next one, you don’t have a pot to piss in.

I don’t deposit my money in banks—but rather in racetracks all over this great country of ours. Which is interesting, ’cause there is usually no payoff! I never had much luck with women, either. They’re just like horses…

I just don’t know how to pick’em. Come ride with me, honey, on the TILT-A-WHIRL. We’ll go spinning in circles forever. I’ll be your boy and you’ll be my girl, or at least until the toothless man pulls the brake. She used to be my lover, but in time, I would discover that I was, at best, a tourist rather than a victim!

I’ve been in a lot of bad places, mentally and physically. And when I arrive at the bad place, I document the moment with a bottle of Jack and a brand new tattoo. Yeah, there was a time when I didn’t need tattoos to show (remember) the places I had been or the woman I had loved. But, those days are gone. My pain is now decorated on my skin, and my flesh is a canvas reflecting my life of SIN and HELL!

I can still see myself years ago driving around the winding roads near Toledo in my used Jeepster Commando with Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Wanda Jackson, and Sam Cooke blasting from the 8-track. Man! That was when time stood still! My girl Doreen beside me and my baby just got a brand new hairdo. (She had this Veronica Lake thing going on.) It broke my heart when I drove away, leaving her at the Sunoco station eating Cheese Doritos and drinking a tab.

But she was far too clingy, too demanding, too suffocating. I had to break free like a mutt snapping its leash. The tattoo I got in Fort Bragg one hot July was a python wrapped around a panther—its out-stretched body trying to escape as the panther squeezed the life out of him on my upper back.

That one is for you, Doreen.

Or, tearing through the Black Hills of South Dakota on my Triumph Bonneville TR5 500. (The same bike the FONZ rode on Happy Days.) Stopping at some roadside bar for a beer. Leaving all the roadkill behind. And, all those divorced cocktail waitresses and endless jukeboxes. The road is mine, Baby. Sworn to fun. Loyal to none. Somewhere in a Phoenix Greyhound bus station locker sat all my worldly possessions—an old pair of Keds, my MAD Magazines, my EC Horror Comic Books collection, a Howdy Doody dummy, and my autographed picture of Soupy Sales. Oh yeah, and my huge paper weight of the Eiffel Tower, and my VHS copies of Modesty Blaise,

Tigers in Lipstick, and Girl on a Motorcycle with Marianne Faithfull and Alan Delion were in there too.

As luck—bad luck, that is—would have it, I’m back on the road again, shadow-boxing with the passion of terror. Yes, terror. Terror that took me by the hand and dragged me through an endless NIGHTMARE! Two trigger-happy hoods.. .a baby-faced sadist sprung from the death house. Meanwhile I was stuck in a motel with a voluptuous redhead, a bipolar beautician, from Teaneck, New Jersey. We were trying to outrun the vengeance of all our countless enemies. She was a skin-tight vision with a fire-breathing dragon tattooed to the small of her back. But that was back in my cocaine days. We were both hooked, but I gave the cocaine and her up, even though her tattooed butt was as sweet as a nectarine. I never gave up Captain Jack Daniels, though, but all that blow had to go, for it had me on a hook.

It was my captain. My captain! And, it was getting me into a load of trouble. On my left biceps I now have a tattoo of the cartoon character Captain Hook—a dagger between his gritted teeth and a golden spoon around his neck to remind of the pain and danger of being hooked on that stuff!

I had stayed away from women for a while, too, but that all changed one night. In my wallet I had carried around a short poem by Dorothy Parker. The poem went.. .“Some women break your heart in two. Some women fawn and flatter. Some women never look at you. And that cleans up the matter.” Well, that made perfect sense to me. But sometimes you have to let your testosterone do all the thinking. And one night through a cathode haze of rock-a-billy music I sat in a gin-soaked joint with nothing in between me but a circus midget, a grafter, and a roller derby queen. The bartender glared at me as I sat down at the bar and lit a Newport. The cat looked like Mr. Clean, in a white tee-shirt, towering and strong as an ox, and balder than a ballerina’s armpit. They called him Sgt. Rock. He was like G.I. Joe with the ultimate kung-fu grip. I could tell he did not pity the fools, scamps, or ratfinks easily. So, I was on my best behavior. I was on my second Jack and coke when the place started to fill up with carny folk from the traveling circus passing through town. Pinheads; snake charmers; the fat bearded lady; the skeleton man; the dog boy; Gorgo the Giant; Hank, the human pin cushion; and Phyllis, the female scorpion all crowded the bar for drink and mirth. The dime store museum slowly turned into a penny dreadful—a peep show melodrama—and, of course, Henry, the horse-faced man, danced the waltz as the air grew thick with smoke and tension. A fist fight was just a nod and a wink away. Plastic GO-GO DOLLS in vinyl, wearing white Nancy Sinatra walking boots. Plasticine peroxide bottle blondes that were dark at the soul and darker at the roots. A Halloween party thrown by Salvador Dali and Hieryromous Bosch. Boris, the born again, Satanic worshipping ferris-wheel operator from Romania roared up to the place on his Harley and swaggered inside yelling, ‘‘Bury the dead. Counsel the doubtful. Comfort the imprisoned. Bleed the rich/’

And then she walked in. What a sight! She wore a tight-fitting pink Sex-Pistols tee shirt that defined the curves of her big firm breasts! A pair of cut-off blue jeans showed off a great pair of legs, and black wedge flip-flops that let you see her scarlet red toe-nails—they touched your heart! You could tell she was a HELLACIOUS delight at just a glance. And, of course, her flesh was all covered in ink. Even on ice this dame would probably slink. I could not take my eyes off of her. She was titillating, tantalizing, and mesmerizing. She had me turgid, bewitched, bothered and bewildered.

‘‘Be careful with her, Mac’’ the midget said, winking at me. ‘‘She’s the sword swallower, and she’ll eat you alive.’

Yeah, right, I thought to myself. Sometimes you have to see trouble before it comes. She was a feral feline. That’s for sure. Faster pussy cat, KILL! KILL!

This kitty kat can put you in a KOFFIN. She slithered up to the bar, right next to me, a mocking little sex-kitten and purred in my ear, ‘‘Meow or never. Don’t blow your chance. How long do you expect the cheese to stay in the trap? Are you a man or a mouse?’’

Somehow, I managed to bluff my way into her intrigue before she walked away. We got to talking. She was whip smart, and I wanted her bad!!

“I know your type,” she said, turning her glance to Sgt. Rock. “Another troubadour wearing the scars of the road like a badge. Aren’t you getting kind of old for this game?” she said, while using her finger to trace a thick purple scar on my throat I had gotten from a broken beer bottle in a brawl in a Hell’s Kitchen bar. Maybe she was right. I was getting kind of old for the game. I was just another asshole living on the outskirts of society, but it was the only game I knew! “Well, even an old dog can learn new ticks,” I replied, “or turn and twist them into something completely different.”

“New tricks,” she said, laughing. “You look like the type who wanders from town-to-town, from pawnshop-to-pawnshop, from one skid row flophouse to another, with an old toothbrush and a piece of toast sticking out of your pocket. A shirt stained with blood and stinking of sweat and booze. Constantly tempted by the flirty jail-bait hanging outside at the various 7-11’s, Taco Bells, and sleazy roadhouses littering the highways while trying to figure out how to make another buck’’.

‘‘Wow! How perfectly descriptive» I said, nodding my head. ‘‘You should write fiction.’’

“You should see my resume,” she said, placing her hand on my thigh.

Of course we ended up back in her trailer. The sex was rough and as raw as a MEATHOOK! And it only got meaner from there. But that’s another tattoo for farther on down the road. Until the next round. Be well to all those living on the outskirts.

Your partner in crime,

BRADY LIME!

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