The Suburban Buffoon’s Complete Guide … Pt 1

The Suburban Buffoon’s Complete Guide to Fucking Up an Obvious Assault I Conviction Pt. 1

By Mark Driver

9/12/03

“Has anyone here ever been involved in an assault?” asked the prosecutor.

He was built like a teenage bear, a think platform of a neck sporting a deflated face, like an ashen Fred Flintsone with cholera. I pictured the prosecutor at home, drinking Coors Light in gray sweatpants on the dark leather couch in front of a huge television while upstairs, his wife lost at countless games of solitaire on a third-generation computer set up in an unfinished home office filled with unpacked boxes, dusty with dereliction, pushing indented squares into white carpeting, contents unknown, unnecessary, and absolutely undealt with.

If the prosecutor was a sad bear, the defender, obviously appointed by a court, was a dead ferret in a borrowed suit. He looked more nervous than the defendant, who was in his early 20’s, grimacing, growing out a shaved head, wearing a high-collared shirt that barely covered the blue tattoos on his neck.

The judge looked like Wilfred Brimley deprived of his oatmeal for a week, and I SWEAR the bailiff was that saucy old bailiff from Night Court—four-foot nothing, New Yuck accent, cigarette-seared voice, slight limp, the works.

Goddamnit, that whole courtroom was ugly, clogged with detritus, dully radiating faded civic glory from a dull, musty bulb. Limp flag in the corner. Uneven stacks of papers polluting all flat surfaces. 70’s era microphones propped in front of mouths while a withered prune typed transcripts of the entire affair into a discarded prototype of Eli Whitney’s cotton gin.

It was early and cowlicks ruled the morning. We filled seats in the audience. We were potential jurors. Government officials were weeding through us in search of twelve hunks of agreeable meat.

Did he ask about assault? I raised my arm. I was under oath, after all. I was supposed to tell the truth, right?

Christ, I was off my game. For the first time in seven months, I had pulled myself outta bed before 10:00 am—6:30 to be exact—and, as already documented in countless passages of complaint, my body does not react well to early rising. It is not a moral issue, or a matter of laziness. It is a physical reality. A whiff of peanut dust and some people turn blue and keel over. Others swell shut with boogers at the slightest mention of dairy. Some people are allergic to cobra bites and others seem particularly sensitive to falling out of windows. For me, it’s getting out of bed.

Waking up early kills my stomach. It makes me sad—nay—ANGRY. My teeth feel soft, my guts hurt, my nostrils burn in the dead morning air. I’m nauseous. My eyes show me everything in blurry triples. My head pounds. My weak voice trembles and clanks like a pebble in a bedpan. Every biofeedback indicator available to my brain rains it with painful stimulus. Every warped gene in my body stands up in open revolt. Suffering a complete lack of comprehension and a confusion about the world around me, an inability to conduct logical thought or construct reasoned arguments brings me to a state of consciousness that I can only assume approximates what it must feel like to be Anne Coulter* (If you want to check out a REALLY funny columnist—although now that I think about it, she might not be trying to be funny—and you can stand a site that seems to be hosted on a Commodore 64, go here. If nothing else, this seemingly random collection of words either proves that a) anyone can write a column, or b) it is possible to consistently churn one out in under two minutes. And anyone who doesn’t agree with me is—get this—a traitor! Grrrr!).

Fuck morning. I could miss every waking sunrise until death snuffs me out and I wouldn’t feel like I missed a thing—although this brazenness is certainly fueled by the fact that I’ll inadvertently catch plenty as I stumble home from nefarious entertainment activities that last far, far too late.

Yes, late to bed, late to rise. I would make a lousy:

Milkman
Farmer
Garbageman
Bird
Juror

The English muffin I swallowed on the forced deathmarch down to the courthouse was fermenting in my stomach, a stomach that undoubtedly still held a handful of tequila from the night before, hoarding it greedily and letting out tiny amounts to keep my blood happy. I was not happy, though. I was confused. Four hours earlier, I had been closing down the bar. Stacking chairs under a disco ball, kept company by deafening strains of black metal and fistfuls of shredded mozzarella from the kitchen, pushing a mop around a greasy floor and belting out choruses in my best Norwegian opera voice to scare off potential robbers.

And now, mere hours later, my bony butt was collecting bruises from a polished wooden bench worn yellow by an assembly line of ass. I was wedged between members the rat-bitten masses, a mixed bag of creeps that stank of roach droppings, burped breakfast hamburgers, fabric softener, baby powder, gelatin, cigarettes, Salvation Army sweatshirts, mildewed shower curtains, re-swallowed vomit. They scratched at their dandruff-caked skulls and pretended to be my peers.

I wanted out of jury duty as soon as possible.

My journey had begun with a postcard that led to the sixth floor of a menacing steel building looming from the downtown gloom, ringed by cops, bums, and espresso stands. Pushing though a rotating door and then a metal detector, I followed signs with arrows that led me up five flights of marble stairs and into a clammy classroom. Walking through the open door, I was assaulted by two hundred red eyes, the random disapproval of strangers whom I instantly disapproved of, décor that stimulated memorial terror waves of a dank, reeking New Orleans Sunday school daycare center circa 1977. The bent benches held scores of the living dead, broken accoutrements lined with leaking pustules.

I was late, of course. Once again, I’m the idiot who walks in the room after all the seats have been taken, after all the pencils have been passed out, after the instructions have already been read twice. I rubbed at my stupid smashed-with-a-lead-pipe haircut while a videotaped Raymond Burr gave civics lectures and juror instructions through a blued-out television set hanging above me on the ceiling. I looked around the room. No seats. No coffee. Just the smug stares of direction followers. A water cooler with no cups. A payphone. A trashcan. Bulletin boards stapled blind with informational brochures. Jackets on the floor. Old magazines. Spilled coupon circulars from yesterday’s newspaper. Stink.

I stood against the back wall, nodding in and out of consciousness until I heard my last name called over a loudspeaker. A gruff city employee breathed coffee on me as I hurried to fill out the form I should’ve already filled out. Didn’t you listen to what Raymond Burr had to say?

“Raymond Burr is dead,” I tell him.

I got my juror badge (why does the number 23 plague me so?) and followed a herd of derelicts upstairs into a courtroom where a defender and a prosecutor attempted a few clumsy pokes at charm as they weeded through potential jurors. It’s called voir dire, and it’s where the lawyers look into the eyes of unwilling and find the most easily persuaded—or so I thought. In actually, they just wanted to kick out the kooks and find 12 members of the public capable of following simple directions.

They did not succeed.

Our ranks were 40 strong, they had to get down to 12. There was a lot of rot to cut from the patient. The cheap suits began their questioning. First they rooted out the cops, and then the cop fetishists. Then they booted all the really old people, most of whom had already fallen asleep. They got rid of the riff raff: child support scofflaws, gang members, substance abusers, progressive social activists. They got rid of victims of violent crime, of family members of victims of crime, of those abused as children, of people who spoke shitty English. They got rid of the guy who went on a bizarre spiel about the INS, Islamic conspiracies, and thousands of apples that had been tampered with by terrorists. They got rid of the morbidly obese guy who had been carting around a stack of self-help books indicating by their titles that he wanted to simultaneously release the psychic pain drilled inside his third Reiki chakra while loving the inner child hidden deep within his magical animal soul. Crystals were somehow involved, possibly at the expense of a prolonged and reasonable program that included a sensible diet and moderate exercise. Whether or not the pain was actually contained within the inner child’s third Reiki chakra, or simply loomed precariously above the small lad’s head was not revealed during voir dire.

As a quick personality indicator, the suits went around the room and asked what everyone had brought to read. Damn. If I’d have known, I could have brought The Anarchist’s Cookbook, the Unibomber Manifesto, a photocopied third generation Al-Queda training manual, my worn copy of Bill O’Reilly and the Turtle Who Loves Him, NAMBLA’s October newsletter—but no. There’s me, toting a blown-apart Day of the Locust like a total idiot. Nathaniel West may have done some important things in his short career, but he never got anyone out of jury duty.

We were down to about 20 contenders. I had to think fast, or I’d unwillingly end up testing theories concerning the lethal effects of sleep deprivation on agnostic alcoholics, forced to fulfill my civic duty as a citizen of what public relation campaigns assure me is still a freedom-based democratic society. I had my health to think about.

But, oh! Part of me wanted to be there. Aside from the fact that being on a jury is one of the few meaningful exercises of power for an American subject-citizen to wield against our social betters (unless you can afford to buy a helicopter for your state Senator), I wanted to see how the whole system worked. And if this tattooed kid was up for something stupid—marijuana possession, tagging a billboard, MP3 idiocy from the dildo sniffers at the RIAA—I’d be happy to send him skipping freely home. And if he was a violent shithead proven by a preponderance of the evidence to be fucking up the block and further aggravating the daily struggle of the hard-workin’ folks in my neighborhood, I’d be more than happy to cage him, his boo-hoos, and his dumbass tattoos.

Yes, my friends. Jury duty is your duty. Do not avoid it; embrace it with both tentacles. Considering the idiots allowed to float freely through our society, we need all the reason-caked minds we can get.

But of course, I was a disgusting hypocrite who did not embrace jury duty. I was already working a 65-hour week at jobs that did not give one shit about my civic responsibilities. Hey, I could dish out justice from 8:30am until 3:30pm, write copy from 4pm until 9pm, and then bartend from 9:30pm until 4 in the morning, right? Sure! With a whopping three hours left over each day for essential sleeping, drinking, reading, and fucking. The judge said it would be a two-week case. I could go without a decent night of sleep for two weeks straight, right? Dude, just sleep the entire weekend! Oh wait. You work on the weekend too! How good can a juror be on that little sleep? How can I beg for tips at the bar if I’m passed out in the ice machine? How will I lure the unsuspecting philistines into the art museum with such tired text? And that’s not even to mention the adult literacy class I teach, my Spanish lessons, the volunteer work down at the pet shelter, my triathlon training, the ongoing translation of James Joyce’s Ulysses into hieroglyphics, and all the other things I planned to start doing that week.

It was while I weighed what was right versus my own personal comfort that the prosecutor asked his question about assault. Aha! I could truth my way out of this and join the lucky people who kept walking out that door. Sweet freedom; I just have to tell the truth. This joker wants assault? I’m loaded with assault. Finally, the long history of my mouth getting the shit kicked out of the rest of my body comes in handy, if for nothing else than to get my civic balls back in bed where they belong.

The prosecutor got to a guy on the other side of the courtroom first. Black dude, shaved head. He had his little story. A few months back, he and a friend were drunk after a Sonics game, walking by the traffic jam that always clogs up Denny Way as the game lets out. He was “being foolish,” mouthed of to the wrong carload of guys, and three men got out and put the hurt on him. Another pack of his friends, who had been hovering around a Honda full o’ honeys, saw what was going on from a distance, rushed the scene and, after a impassioned conversation that resulted in blood, ambulances, and further gladiatorial entertainment for overfed families waiting to take their SUVs back to the ‘burbs, he ran away with bloody knuckles and a handful of someone else’s hair. The man then mentioned his drinking problem, his gang past, his history of violence against women, his desire to see oceans of pink kittens impaled on stainless-steel knitting needles … you get the picture. I tipped my haircut at him. This man and I were on the same exact wavelength.

The prosecutor thanked him and then came to me. “Number 23. You had your hand up.”

I became surprisingly nervous as the lawyers, the judge, the defendant, and the rest of the room turned their attention my direction. “I work as a bartender,” I managed to squeak in my shitty morning voice. “I’ve been assaulted three times in the process of breaking up fights, and once while leaving at the end of the night.”

“Have you been involved in assault not related to your job?” he asked. Gulp. Suddenly I didn’t want to be speaking. Of fucking course I’ve been in fights. But do I have to mention them? Can they arrest me for this shit?

“Er … I got in a fight last spring and uh, banged another guy up pretty bad. I was going through a lot of stuff at the time … and plus … he started it. Another time—”

“Have the police been involved in any of these cases?”

“No.”

“How about at the bar? Were you ever seriously hurt?”

“Nothing too bad.”

“Were you ever hospitalized?”

“No,” I paused for a second, trying to bring a little volume to my sentences, “but I’m pretty sure somebody else was. I mean … sometimes people just deserve a beat down.” There. I told the truth. Some people DO deserve a beat down. Now let me go.

He thanked me like I’d just given him directions to the pisser at Pike Place Market and went on to the next question. Whew. That was easy. I looked over at my comrade in responsibility avoidance. He looked back and nodded. We traded superior smiles. While he rolled his jacket into his left hand and began to stand, I gathered my shit in preparation of being excused.

We ended up sitting next to each other for the entirety of the trial.

===

PART 2: The Suburban Buffoon’s Complete Guide to Fucking Up an Obvious Assault I Conviction, up by Tuesday the 30th. Swear.

*Happily, Anne is not a lone voice hilariously mangling history and using rotten Florida oranges to bake us funny-tasting American apple pies. As I made a recent long-distance drive down to LA, right-wing radio entertainer Dr. Michael Savage regaled me for hours with inadvertent adventures in historical fiction, detailing the exploits of President “Stonewall” Jackson. I had been previously unaware that the Confederate general (born 1824, accidentally shot by his own troops in 1863) had apparently, at age five, begun serving the first of two terms as President of the United States, terms that stretched from 1829 to 1837, when he presumably turned 13 and went on to attend high school. Between forced Marxist indoctrination and lessons on how to be a homosexual, my public high school briefly covered American history where liberal textbooks incorrectly taught me, among other wrong things, that Andrew Jackson had been president during these years; I’m glad there are such strong voices on our airwaves, voices brave enough to bring real truth to real people. Equally impressive was Savage’s analysis of the events leading to the fall of Ancient Rome, citing atheism and moral depravity as the impetus for the crumbling of the 1,000-year empire, while conveniently ignoring Rome’s overextended military resources, budget problems, rabid Christian zealots in high governmental positions, and political apathy amongst its easily distracted citizenry. Hey, wait. Does someone see a similarity between Rome and—HOLY SHIT! I’M STARTING TO THINK LIKE A TRAITOR!


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Ugh. My fucking server Westhost decided that it was going to “upgrade” its services, those upgrades seemingly including making my site inaccessible for a month and my email not work at all. AWESOME JOB, GUYS! WAY TO TEST THAT SHIT OUT! I hope they got some friggin’ value added shareholder concentric robust explosive business solutions out of it.

That name again? WestHost. Yes, it was WestHost. Apparently, in the mighty wash of useless junk and promotions they always send me, I got an email that told me that everything was about to explode—which I deleted of course, along with Nigerian credit card offers, assaults to my penis size, human growth hormones by mail, 0% down mansions for free, and naked adults sticking things in each other.

A DNS issue. No big deal, that shit could be covered by customer service in like a week, right? You’d think. Four weeks of no response to very sweet, very respectful letters. FINALLY I started getting rude, and then I got a letter back. Now I’m dealing with Newtwork Solutions. Feeuck meh.

Anyways, 9/11, two years later. Y’all probably read plenty of shit on this, so I won’t bore ya with more overanalysis, but if’n you gots the readin’ bug, here are a couple of good articles that sum up the state of things.

From Slate
From Philly

And if that ain’t enough to cheer ya, check out what hot shit we used to be.

It didn’t have to be, tigers.

==

Just Another Empire is rolling right along. BOOK BOOK reservations have exceeded 600 copies. The cover is finished. The printer has been chosen (Hello, Kansas!). The ISBNs have been applied for. Mailing supplies have been purchased. “Hello, Office Max! Can I have 1,000 puffy envelopes please?” Famous friends and influential critics have been contacted and begged for jacket quotes. Roddy Chops and his mystical sidekick Trinket are still whittling away at the manuscript with their red crayons. We don’t want to rush the copyeditors. Trust me.

And thanks to all my good buddies down in LA for putting me and the girl up for the week. Hanging out with y’all ALMOST makes me want to move back to the hood (keep dancing, Tyrone!), even if Venice has been taken over by ladies who lunch, and the men who spend thousands trying to fuck them. Bring back V13! Go Crime Go!