Private: Garbage Bag Johnny
If you don’t remember where we last left off, that’s perfectly fine. I don’t particularly remember either, and I doubt it really matters all too much in the grand scheme of things. In fact, not many things do. That isn’t to say there aren’t things that do matter scattered about everywhere, and each time through, they may be the same or they may be different. However, there are some things that are just as important every time through. Let’s reacquaint ourselves with them!
Above all else–and this might take some getting used to–the thing in you that makes you feel a sense of consciousness is no different than, and more importantly, not separate from the thing in anyone else. It’s all part of the same experience. So basically everyone that exists alongside you is also you, the idea of experience itself, standing skill in a concurrent parallel disguised as perpetual motion. Take, for example, someone playing a clarinet, and imagine that you’re the musician’s breath. As the air passes through the instrument, it creates a distinct sound. Eventually, that breath leaves the bell and rejoins air en masse to continue doing all the other things that air does besides being that particular noise. You think you may be the clarinet when you are inside the clarinet, but you are the air, and so is everything else experiencing consciousness.
Everything else but the clarinetist. And when the clarinetist dies, we’re all pretty much fucked.
April 19, 2011
We were in a highrise somewhere in Dallas (though it wasn’t even in the top ten tallest buildings in the Dallas/Fort Worth metropolitan area according to a magazine I thumbed through while waiting in the lobby). It was owned by a company that nobody much had heard of because it was one of those companies that owns a bunch of other companies but doesn’t make anything you can buy in a store. I’d been in buildings where you had to take multiple elevators to get to the top. This wasn’t one of those.
“Hey, Johnny. Have a seat.” Mr. Caldera stood up and gestured to the chair across from his desk. It’d been a while since I’d seen him, and there was something more disheveled about his energy than usual. I sat down and crossed my right leg over my left knee. He started pacing toward the window. “Can I have Ashley Two bring you anything? How about a mineral water? We brew our own here. I call it Turbobrau”
“I’m good sir. I was actua-”
“Ashley Two!” he barked, finger on the intercom button of his office phone. “Bring us two Turbobraus!”
The blinds were down because of the angle the sun took in the late afternoon, but sometimes Mr. Caldera would stop and fuss with the blinds or spread two of them apart at eye level and peer through. Then he’d pace away but never too far away.
“Anyway, what brings you here today?”
In truth, I was there to tender my resignation, and I was hesitant to do so face to face with a man like Steven Caldera with his moderate highrise money and all the confidence of a model on a men’s hair dye package. In the past, I’d have just taken a shit on his desk and not come back, but I couldn’t do it with him in the room. If we made eye contact I’d clench up and I’d just be up there, crouched with my bare ass out until security came to forcefully remove me.
“Well, I don’t really know how to say it other than just coming right out and sa-”
The door opened, and Mr. Caldera’s assistant, Ashley Two, backed into the room pulling a cart topped with a stainless steel cloche. She removed the lid, revealing two empty glasses and a carafe of Caldera Enterprises’ proprietary sparkling energy drink.
“Thank you, dear.” Mr. Caldera’s attention shifted from the blinds to the cart as his assistant began filling the glasses with Turbobrau. The mogul downed the first glass without taking a breath, let out a pained growl, and took the second glass for himself. “Each serving has two hundred percent of the recommended daily dose of taurine, and that’s not all! It’s infused with shark essence. You see, I’m putting together leadership retreats where this is the only thing you eat or drink for like a week. That’s gonna be the big thing, the retreats, because they’re going to be super exclusive. I don’t have all the specifics nailed down yet, but I’ve definitely settled on them being all nude from the neck down.”
I didn’t really know what he was talking about, and I had no idea how to steer it back to quitting. I just didn’t want to do it anymore. I didn’t care much for the fighting or the travel or the toll either took on my body. The drugs weren’t even doing it as much for me. I don’t even remember how I ended up in the ring in the first place, and I suppose I wasn’t fit for much else, but I didn’t need the money anymore, and I was bored, I guess.
“Oh, and I also want to do something with hunting your fellow man, but like, more sexual, you know? I’ve got my compliance team looking into ways around certain liability issues. Hey, you wouldn’t want to be one of the targets, would you? There’s big money in it.” He flashed me a grin.
“No, not really.”
Now finished with both glasses of Turbobrau, he started fidgeting with the blinds again. This time, he was no longer trying to distract himself by pacing back towards his desk. It didn’t seem to me like there was anything out there. It took me a minute to realize that he wasn’t going to say anything else to me if I didn’t interrupt.
“Sir, the reason I came down here was because I wanted to let you know I’m quitting.”
“Quitting? Quitting what?”
“GCW. I’ve been running things there, and-”
“Oh yeah, I couldn’t put my finger on it.” He looked relieved. “Yeah, that’s fine. The wrestling thing isn’t making us as much money these days. Might as well get off that ship before it sinks.”
“So, yeah. Thanks for everything.”
“You sure you don’t want to be one of the targets? I did mention that it’s all nude from the neck down, right?”
“Yeah, you did, but I think I’m just going to take it easy for a while.”
“Ok. Suit yourself.” I felt like a weight had been lifted and hoped that before an even heavier one found that I was unburdened and fastened itself to me, that I could get some rest for a while and think things through. I just wanted to go back home, roll myself a comically oversized doobie, and sleep for a few days and repeat the process as needed. At this point, Mr. Caldera had his finger on the intercom button again. “Ashley One, can you show my guest to the elevators?”
The Next Day Or So
The Golden Nugget Hotel
Las Vegas, NV
I woke up in a fog on the floor, and I was surrounded by bottles in various states of emptiness. There was whiskey, rum, vodka, sake, tequila, and beer. It looked like a real party headquarters. And lo and behold, though it was loaded with alcohol, there was water and snack food, too. There was even a bottle with a half constructed tiny ship, but that probably belonged to the other guy in the room who was prodding me with his prop cutlass.
“Oi, Johnny! I thought I was going to have to roll you up in a rug and send you down to Davy Jones’ locker.” He wore a wig under a bandana under a tricorne and his outfit was a mess of scarves and beads and belts and puffs and buckles. He reached a hand out to help pull me up, but I felt like I’d been hit in the head with a piano and wasn’t yet ready to stand. “You were loaded to the gunwall, mate. Three sheets to the feckin’ wind. Even drank half that boat.”
“Hey, aren’t you Captain Jack Sp-”
“Aye, but for legal reasons, I have to go by Admiral Jacques Finch.” He took one of those exaggerated bows where you make a big to-do with your bowing hand before you lean forward over it, and I couldn’t help but wonder if he was a figment of my imagination since he kind of fit the description. I appreciated the company regardless. “Pleasure to make your acquaintance.”
“So, uh…Admiral, can you get me up to speed?”
“Alright, so I was doing a birthday party for this doctor guy, and it was like him, a few of his friends, you, and like, five other celebrity lookalikes he’d hired. By the end of the night, it was him, you, me, and maybe two Crime Clowns. I think one was supposed to be Heath Ledger and the other was supposed to be Joaquin, but there was some mixup, and they were both Heath Ledger jokers.”
I nodded to break up the paragraph.
“Anyway, when we woke up, we thought you’d partied yourself to death, so the doctor guy offered me five hundred dollars to get rid of your body before housekeeping found you.” At first I thought that maybe this new character was the one that was a figment of my imagination, and Admiral Finch was real, but if Finch was real and the doctor wasn’t, how would Finch have seen the doctor? Both of them could have been figments, sure, but I suspected that the doctor may have been a figment of a figment of my imagination’s imagination and not one of my own. “Must be my lucky day, though. It’ll be a lot easier to get you out of here if you’re alive.”
“I guess that all depends on how much of that five large is my cut.” He was taken aback. “I want half.”
“I’m the one that made the deal, though. That’s worth a bigger cut.”
“I think you may have written a check that your swashbuckling ass can’t cash. The way I see it, there are only two ways I’m getting out of this room. Either I get half, or you’re going to have to physically remove me.”
“If that’s the way it’s going to go, then this is the day you’ll always remember as the day you almost weaseled Admiral Jacques Finch out of $250.” He tried hooking my legs underneath his armpits to pull me towards the door, but the Admiral either overestimated his strength or underestimated my density. I had a bit of a size advantage over him, and as he grunted and groaned and tried to drag me across the floor, I kicked my legs wildly and latched my hands to dresser drawer handles and the underside of the bed and just about whatever I could reach along the way.
After a short standoff with minimal progress, the Admiral relented. He sat down against the wall and took a swig from a half-finished bottle of rum that was tipped over on the floor near him.
“So, we got ourselves a deal?”
“Why fight when you can negotiate?” He realized his reference was lost on me as he pushed back to his feet, still clinching the bottle of rum.
I still wasn’t ready to get up, but I reached my hand out for help anyway. Admiral Finch stood up to pull me to my feet, but he’d noticed some writing on my outstretched palm.
“Shiver me timbers…is that some sort of treasure map?” His eyes lit up and he pointed towards some scribbles on my palm. I sat up and took a look. It wasn’t a treasure map, just sloppy handwriting. MGM Noon.
“Say, you wouldn’t happen to know what time it is?”
The Admiral reached into his front pirate frock coat pocket and pulled out a cell phone. “12:47”
One Shuttle Bus Ride Later…
“So, you just really liked the movie, or what?”
“The movie was fine, but I’m mostly into the look.” Jacques took a swig from the bottle of rum as we stepped down onto the boulevard curb. “And chicks dig the look, too, if you know what I mean.”
The shuttle door closed behind us as we started off towards the MGM Grand. As we approached, I noticed that Jacques was looking up at a huge banner that spanned across the length of the top several floors. It was an advertisement for a PRIME promotional event going on inside. I recognized some of the names and faces. One of them was mine.
“Is that…you?” The Admiral recognized it, too, and he stared at me squinting. “That’s gotta be an old picture, but yeah, I can totally see it.”
There was an empty feeling in the pit of my stomach. I scanned the details on the banner in disbelief. I didn’t remember agreeing to be part of any more events, but even though it was starting to sweat off, the proof was still scribbled on my hand. The final line on the banner read: “Tune in to ReVival 1 on ACE Network this Friday, 01/21/2022.”
“That’s gotta be a typo, right?”
“What’s gotta be a typo?”
“Look at the date. Why are they promoting something so far in the future?”
“What do you mean? That’s like a week from now.”
There were so many thoughts hitting me at once that I couldn’t make sense of any of it. I didn’t know if time had passed while I was unaware or if I had somehow jumped ahead in time. The last thing I remembered was being in a hotel room in Fort Worth, a free man in the freest state, ready to exercise my freedom to opt out of society and reality alike. I wondered what would be different now. There were no flying cars or robots walking among us, and I hadn’t even seen any people with robot parts. If this was 2022, it felt pretty much the same.
I thought about how much I didn’t want to be in the ring and about how much I didn’t want to think or talk about wrestling. I wanted to move on from becoming more and more a caricature of myself, but that’s what the business does to you. I was right back where I started, and when I thought about just leaving it all behind again, I wondered if, now that I’d skipped ahead over a decade, I had any money or anything tying me to my identity other than my apparent employment. When I woke up, I didn’t have a phone or a wallet or anything. At that juncture, I guessed I had no choice.
“Blimey, Johnny. Are you alright?”
My legs felt like they were going to give and I stabilized myself by grabbing his shoulder. He buckled for a second, but we were both able to keep upright.
“Yeah, I, uh.” It took a second to reorient myself. “Yeah. No. I can’t do it.”
“Can’t do what?”
“Listen, do you want my cut back?” I held out the two-hundred fifty dollars. It was all I had on me. “I just need you to go in there and pretend to be me, and they’ll ask you a bunch of wrestling questions, and I honestly don’t give a shit how you answer them.”
He looked confused, but I was already putting the money in his hand and closing his fingers around it.
“Oh, and we’ll need to trade clothes.” I started disrobing right out there on the street, hoping that if I started taking my clothes off, he’d follow my lead without giving the proposition enough thought. “Keep the wig, though. The wig’s a nice touch.”
“But this costume is really expensive. I didn’t just, like, pick it up at a Halloween store.”
“Yeah, I know. We’ll meet back at the Golden Nugget when you’re done.” I was in nothing but my underwear for a while, but eventually, Jacques began undressing, and we traded outfits just before it got too weird for me to be standing out there like that all by myself, assuming I wasn’t already by myself as it were. The Admiral couldn’t hide his concern as he looked me up and down in his attire. “We’ll switch back later. I promise.”
“Just be careful with those. Okay?”
“Relax, man. This is all gonna work out. You’ll see”
I took a swig from the rum bottle I was holding and disappeared into the crowd.
April 19, 2011
Fort Worth wasn’t a flashy city, and there was more charm than you’d expect a place to have after spending so long playing second fiddle to Dallas. The downtown area was nice and it seemed like a city full of nondescript, good, hard-working folks who were proud of where they called home. The staff at the Sheraton went out of their way to be kind and attentive, and they had brought me a bunch of extra towels I’d requested so I could roll them up and block the cracks around both the front door and the bathroom door to hide what I was gonna do in there.
I had a whole system where I’d hold in my shits all day so I could trade off between pinching off segments of movement and sliding off the bowl to take a drag that I’d exhale into the toilet and flush before the smoke could float away. That way, nobody would find out I’d been smoking in the room and add extra charges to my card on file. A lot of folks asked about the pinching, but it’s simply just so that when the weed smell starts to overpower the shit smell, you can overpower the weed smell with a fresh drop. It really was the safest way.
At the time, I was sitting there in phase two, kneeling on the floor with my boxers around my ankles, and I was just about to spark up a real beauty of a dutch tulip that smelled like nature ought to. But as I looked down, I saw my reflection rippling up at me from the water in the bowl and sighed. I tossed in the lighter. Then I tossed in the joint.
I stood and pulled my boxers back up, and then I flushed.
Simon Tiller: Hi, folks. I’m Simon Tiller, Junior Reporter and all around little boy for PRIME, and I’m here with the man known as Garbage Bag Johnny. Now, Johnny, it’s been over ten years since we last saw you in the ring. What have you been doing in that time?
AJF: Mostly, I’ve been sailing the open seas looking for treasure. Let’s see, I was marooned on a desert island for a while, but I was rescued by a lady pirate who was trying to get me to lead her to a specific treasure.
Simon Tiller: Cool. So a lot of treasure-related stuff. The prize for the Almasy Invitational Tournament is the Universal Title, the biggest belt PRIME has to offer. What kind of odds do you give yourself?
AJF: Not all treasure is silver and gold mate.
Simon Tiller: You’re going to be facing off against Doozer on the inaugural episode of ReVival. Do you have any thoughts on who you drew as your first round opponent?
AJF: I don’t, but I wish him the best. And if he, or anyone he knows, is looking for a celebrity impersonator for a party or a business thing or whatever, tell him I know just the guy.
Simon Tiller: It should be a great matchup! Johnny, do you have any last words before we go?
AJF: Yeah, just that the guy I was talking about has a special offer where you can book four appearances for the price of three if you book them all at once. Weddings. Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. You name it. Just, if you book four appearances and then cancel any of them, you don’t still get the free one, so don’t even try it.
Simon Tiller: Thanks, Johnny. It’s been a pleasure. And best of luck to you at ReVival!