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Rights go to Josh Rank Published by Deckfight Press, 2011 www.deckfightpress.tumblr.

com EPub, PDF & Other Electronic formats This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercialNoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons. org/ licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA. Visit: www.joshrank.blogspot.com www.deckfightpress.tumblr.com www.deckfight.com www.deckfight.tumblr.com

I’M HERE RIGHT?
ATL STORIES BY JOSH RANK

DECKFIGHT PRESS, 2011

TABLE OF CONTENTS DO YOU WANT TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL? MORAL DIARRHEA THERE ARE KIDS AROUND CROSSWALK! CALL UP THE MUSCLE HOW MANY OF YOU ARE FELONS? PG. 6 PG. 9 PG. 13 PG. 17 PG. 22 PG. 28

New Years Eve is a pretty big night for a lot of people. New year, new beginning. Another tally mark on the story of your life. A new end to the equation when writing the date on your rent check. However, New Years 2010 was a big night for me in a completely different way: It was the first time I got hit by a car. I don’t really remember it happening, which I’m going to blame on a concussion instead of the alcohol, so this is pieced together from stories told to me by a few friends and my own soggy memories. One thing I can remember is that getting hit by a car is exactly as cool as it sounds. Before I left Milwaukee, I saw a woman get hit by a car. It was nuts. My hat goes off to her, however, because she got smacked a lot harder than I did. I was driving along Capital Drive when I saw her standing on the side of the street. Capital Drive is pretty busy; two lanes of traffic in each direction that get stuffed around the time banks close. She looked both ways, where she saw cars going around 35 miles per hour in all four lanes as far as she could I’M HERE RIGHT? 6

see, and stepped off the curb. Somehow, she Froggered her way across the first lane of traffic before she got lit up. She slid up the hood, slammed her head into the windshield, and flew into the air. Flew. Up. Before crashing onto the concrete. I pulled over and called the police as I got out of my car and watched people come running out of Outpost Natural Foods with blankets and grave expressions. The stupid woman lay on the ground and screamed in Russian while the driver of the car got out saying, “It wasn’t my fault. Right? It wasn’t my fault?” As I later told the police, it wasn’t the driver’s fault at all. The stupid idiot walked right into traffic, basically asking to get smacked like an idiot. I’m not exactly sure if my little run-in with the front of a car was my fault or not. I was crossing in the crosswalk of a busy street with people jaywalking all over the place, but it’s very possible that I crossed against the light. As I said, I don’t really remember it. My roommate stood on the sidewalk arguing with his girlfriend when he looked over her shoulder and saw some dude get hit by a car. “Oh shit, that guy just got rocked!” he said. She turned around. “I…I think that’s Josh.” “Oh shit.” Turns out, she was right. The funny part being that out of the three of us she was the first one to know I got hit by a car. Not the guy that saw it happen or the guy it had just happened to. The car hit my right side. I hit my head on the hood and slid up a little bit before the car stopped, kicking Newton’s first law into action and throwing me onto the concrete. People came to see if I was okay while the car took off. This makes me think the driver was at least equally as guilty as me for the transaction. He/she had to be drunk, otherwise he/she would have gotten out like a normal person. If the person was sober, that would make him/her the biggest asshole in the world. I stood up, dusted myself off, and walked over to my roommate. 7 BY JOSH RANK

“Hey dude. I just got hit by a fucking car.” I wasn’t hurt. I had a tiny cut on the side of my head that looked like it could have happened shaving, if I shaved the side of my head. A bystander walked up and told me there was a cop around the corner and that I should go speak with him. I shrugged, said okay, and followed her. The officer had a gentle demeanor and looked at me like I was a crazy person. “Are you hurt?” he asked. “Nope, I’m okay.” “Do you want to go to the hospital?” “Nope, I don’t have insurance. I could use another drink, though.” One of the people that witnessed the carnage happened to get the car’s license plate number, which she gave to the cop. The interview ended because there wasn’t much more that I could say besides, “I got hit by a car. It sucked. Whatever.” I woke up the next morning with a pretty well-developed headache which could be due to the alcohol or from my head bouncing off of the car/concrete. I’m going to say it was the car/concrete. I noticed new aches and pains as the day went on. A sore wrist, hip, and back were like sprinkles on top the headache sundae. Getting hit by a car is awesome.

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Where I come from, Martin Luther King Day is no more important than Arbor Day. Everyone still goes to work. Everyone still goes to school. It wasn’t until I moved to Milwaukee that I realized some people take this holiday seriously. Specifically, black people. Since there were, maybe, three black people in Appleton when I was growing up, MLK Day was not a big deal. Milwaukee, however, has a large black population. Thus, big deal. The university was shut down and people actually mentioned the holiday. Now I live in Atlanta. Ebenezer Baptist Church, where MLK was a pastor, is about a mile from my house. I was excited for the festivities of MLK day, and not just because I like large gatherings of happy people. We drove to Ebenezer around noon. On the way there, we listened to the radio which played an MLK speech with a Dr. Dre beat behind it. I guess you gotta get the kids to listen somehow, right? After parking, we walked to MLK’s tomb. The atmosphere was fairly somber. Families lined the fountain in which the tombs of MLK and Coretta Scott King sit. Digital cameras photographed the fountain, the concrete tombs, the eternal fire, and the crowd gathered outside the massive church across the street. People spoke in hushed tones and seemed to be trying to drink the atmosphere with their eyes. Of course, there was also a large group of disinterested kids that had obviously been dragged their by their parents. Standing in the middle of this was a strange feeling. Within the concrete box in front of me lay the man everyone has revered so much that they pretty much beatified him. On a side note, it’s funny that MLK is in a tomb. Here’s why: Tombs are boxes that we put dead people into that will never disintegrate, and MLK was all about integration. (Zing!) I’M HERE RIGHT? 10

We walked away from the tomb to find a table promoting light bulbs. Light bulbs? I guess it makes sense, since light bulbs have a lot to do with civil rights and community organizing. Unfortunately, this was not an isolated incident. Auburn Avenue had been blocked off and lined with booths for a mile-long stretch from the church to the highway. Everyone had their try at hocking shoddily made MLK shirts, MLK bracelets, MLK necklaces, MLK posters, etc. Oh yeah, and deep-fried Oreos. Can’t forget about the Oreos. After running the gauntlet of exploitation, we walked to the church across the street from the tomb where the service was being held. This is the service you would have seen if you were watching TV that day. A giant TV surrounded by an equally giant sound system sat outside the church so the people that couldn’t make it inside could still hear the speeches. The speakers were almost uniformly boring and repetitive. MLK was great. His influence is still felt today. Forced allusion to Obama. No shit. We know all of that. Everyone basically gave the same speech and tried to sound important while simply sounding like a play actor reading a script. And then Dr. Cornell West took the stage. He effortlessly spoke in the “important” tone that the others simply imitated. He jumped around the stage, often walking away from the microphone and simply shouting at everyone around him. He was funny, at one point discussing moral constipation and the need for moral diarrhea. He was clever, and did a great job referencing MLK while also extrapolating from his teachings and making it relevant in today’s society. When everything died down, we drove home where I grabbed my bike and headed downtown for the march. About ten blocks of Peachtree, the main street in downtown Atlanta, were sectioned off. I showed up before it started so I walked from the starting point to the end. People were everywhere. Some were chanting, some were singing, some were beating drums and dancing. Everyone was in great spirits. However, there was one strange thing: Protesters. They weren’t protesting MLK or anything like that. They were protesting completely unrelated topics like health care and unemployment. I’m all for organizing like this, but what did they hope to accomplish? Yelling, “More jobs!” at 11 BY JOSH RANK

someone that works at Walgreen’s isn’t going to further your cause at all. The city had an atmosphere of camaraderie that, I guess, MLK hoped we would have everyday. It was great to see, but also a little disheartening. I knew that January 19th would be the same as January 17th. People will still be mugging each other. People in need will still be ignored. Luckily, I missed the news later that night because I probably would have kicked a hole in my TV if there were any robberies that day, which there surely was. I was near the beginning of the march in front of a Hooters restaurant when it started. I didn’t plan it this way, it was just a happy accident. As the groups went past me, I got to see all the adolescent males notice the Hooters, tap their friends on the shoulder, and laugh/yell/wave at the girls watching from the window. Amusing. This was the first MLK day that I thought anything beyond, “Shit, the post office is closed.” Watching the speeches, well, I guess just Dr. West’s speech, actually had an impact on me. This was not expected. I think it’s because the goal they have, the world they want to live in (as do I), would be very easy to reach if people weren’t such jackasses. The solutions are very simple. It basically boils down to, “Don’t be an asshole.” That’s it. Don’t be an asshole and we can have parades where everyone’s smiling and kids wave at Hooters girls every day. Doesn’t that sound nice?

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The bar didn’t start serving drinks until 12:30 p.m. Sure, you don’t usually need to start drinking before noon, but how are you supposed to enjoy a gay pride parade without being drunk? Sure, I could enjoy the diversity of the day and celebrate how wonderful all the differences in the world are and how they make our society stronger and more interesting. Or I could drink warm whiskey out of a water bottle until the bar starts serving and then dance the afternoon away in the street. Finally, 12:30 rolled around. We placed our drinks at Park Tavern and waited. And waited. I know that Coors is brewed in Colorado but I was hoping they would at least have some sitting behind the bar instead of shipping it in glass by glass. After flagging a waiter and telling him our server abandoned us, the waitress came back and took everyone’s orders again. Everyone besides me. “Am I here? I’m here right?” I asked the person next to me. Once in a while I need to make sure I’m still around. Automatic faucets never seem to work for me, and people never move out of my way on the sidewalk. The only plausible explanation is that I cease to exist once in a while. Eventually, we got our drinks and headed off to find the festivities. We saw gay people everywhere, but no blowjobs. What kind of gay festival is that? Aren’t there supposed to be blowjobs, kids getting emotionally scarred, the sanctity of marriage being destroyed, and birds with pink ribbons tied around their necks flying around? We found a cop and figured she could help us out. “Excuse me, do you know where the free blowjobs are?” my friend asked. I guess since it was a girl asking a girl it wasn’t deemed offensive and the cop simply laughed. However, I have a feeling that if I asked the same question, I might be I’M HERE RIGHT? 14

writing about how it feels to get pepper sprayed right now instead of a gay pride parade. We left the cop, found an open spot on the curb, and waited for the parade to dance its way towards us. We could see it coming down the street like a typhoon of selfassurance and flamboyant cheer. Sailors without shirts. Roller skaters without shirts. Leather pants…without shirts. As the floats and cars cruised by, we decided to give something back to the paraders. I mean, they were giving so much to us. We offered pepperjack Cheez-Its to all comers, only a few of which were willing to join in the fun. However, acceptance or refusal had little to do with them actually being exposed to the Cheez-Its. I perfected a Cheez-Its toss, much like that of a Frisbee. The arc is the thing you have to learn to control. Once you get that, you’re set. Cheez-Its began flying at all angles towards all comers. Dancing on top of a float? Doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a treat. Open up that mouth. We danced, slapped high fives, threw food, and drank in the gayest way possible, having a great time doing it. However, the pack of lesbians ten feet to my right didn’t share my enthusiasm. “Hey! Watch your mouth. There are kids around!” they said. I looked left and right. Up and down the street. I was not able to spot one child. Even if there was a child, it’s pretty unlikely that it would be able to hear anything I said due to the gay music blasting all around us. Besides, I don’t judge them for their lifestyle choice. Why should they judge me if I like to swear and tell cross dressers that I want to sleep with them? That’s unfair and, frankly, a little hypocritical. I thought pride parades were all about acceptance. This led me to wonder, if a lesbian were to beat me up, would I be the victim of a hate crime? Of course, no. But I decided yes. Yes, I would be the victim of a hate crime. This gave me the motivation I needed to ignore their warnings and continue yelling obscenities with a smile towards equally happy strangers. I saw no reason not to. I was basically like Malcom X, but for straight people at gay pride events. The festivities eventually ended and we made our way out. I left my friends and walked down a street where I thought my car was waiting for me. It wasn’t. Somehow, I 15 BY JOSH RANK

had been lucky enough to forget where I had parked my car, leaving me with a really fun version of hide-and-seek.

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I walked into work on Monday and heard the stories of what I had missed over the weekend. First, there were complaints about the unusually large amount of homos walking around and coming into the restaurant due to Black Gay Pride Weekend. Second, there were jokes at the expense of all the people in town for Dragon Con. “I saw this one at the gas station dressed as, I don’t know, some kind of Star Wars monster or some shit. Why the hell would you dress like that?” Why? Because that’s what they’re into. Some people are into sports, some people are into music, some people are into movies, and some people are into dressing like their favorite video game/comic book/cartoon character and partying with people who are into the same shit. Different strokes for different folks, y’know? I calmly explained this to them, but they still didn’t get it. So I looked back and forth between the two people I was speaking with, tapped my foot a few times, and said, “I was there. Both nights.” After their initial shock wore off, the questions started pouring in. “What do they do? What is it like? Why the hell were you there?” Dragon Con is a yearly convention over Labor Day weekend in Atlanta based around basically nothing. There isn’t a unifying theme, people simply dress as whateverthefuck they want and hang out. Anime, comic books, cartoons, TV shows, movie characters, whatever you want. It’s basically an excuse for adults to dress up in costumes and act like weirdos on a large scale. We had a large crew ready to head out on Saturday night, but only half of us made it there. No costumes, we simply walked up to the hotel and joined in on the craziness. I’M HERE RIGHT? 18

I got a picture with Scooby Doo, my friend got put in a headlock by Sergeant Slaughter, and we connived our way into a VIP-ish bar. I say VIP because there was a line to get in, which we bypassed after my friend sweet talked the security guard. I say “ish” because we saw other friends up there that obviously had no trouble getting in, as well as a pile of puke next to a table which was unjustly blamed on me. When I think of VIP areas, I don’t think of sloppy drunks puking on the floor. We walked around and laughed at costumes, bought way-too-expensive drinks, rode the elevator to the top of the hotel and tried not to spit on people, and then took a horse-drawn carriage to a local bar were I promptly blacked out, fell out of my barstool, and almost broke my shoulder on the way home because my roommate’s a dick. And that was only the first night. It was decided that for our return to Dragon Con the next night, we were going to need costumes. We noticed Halloween candy at Wal-Green’s earlier in the day, so we figured they might have costumes as well. However, while walking to the store, my friend decided to simply break into somebody’s house and steal one. So we did. Okay, it wasn’t a complete break in. She knew the guy and happened to know where he hid his key. But we were there without permission so I’ll still say we broke in. So we broke into this guy’s house, found his pink, full-body rabbit costume and hit the road. Wal-Green’s ended up being a bust so we headed to the bar to figure out a game plan. After putting our Hurricanes into to-go cups, we decided we would have her fiancé bring over her bag of costumes from their apartment once he got out of work. Yeah, that’s right. She has a bag of costumes simply sitting around her apartment. Flash forward a few hours, and we’re suited up. The bag of costumes didn’t end up having any complete outfits, so we were forced to improvise with what we had. My roommate had some leisure suit kinda thing that he threw on as well as his Barney Rubble wig that was left over from the previous Halloween. The fiancé had Santa pants and a black tank top that he unstrapped from one arm to look like Andre the Giant. My friend had the pink rabbit costume. I had blaze orange shorts with an electric blue Club Med tank top as well as a blond surfer wig. We walked up to the hotel looking like the zombie apocalypse had finally 19 BY JOSH RANK

happened and they had taken over all retail outlets, forcing us to clothe ourselves with what we could find in a Salvation Army donation bin. Entrance was not as easy as the previous night. The security guard asked us for our entrance passes, which was the first any of us had heard of them. We collectively whatthehelled for a while before I found the knife. It was sitting next to a railing about ten feet to the left of the guard. Just sitting there, waiting for a bum to walk up and make good use of it. My roommate walked up to the security and told him about the knife, following it up with, “I think letting you know about that should get us into this place, eh?” He agreed. The lobby was less full of people in costumes and wigs than the night before, but still surprisingly full for a Sunday. After buying two drinks for thirty goddamn dollars, I managed to get a green army man to flip me off, meet the guy that called Seinfeld a phony, hug a mermaid, get an entire bathroom to harmonize with me, and finger a robot. And that was just me. There were three other people doing equally ridiculous shit. After getting our fill of ridiculous pictures and random movie lines thrown out at the character that said them, we tried to leave. However the escalators had somehow wrapped themselves into a Zelda-like puzzle which took all of our collective brain power to figure out. Eventually, we exited the hotel and said something to the extent of, “That was crazy.” Then we heard the bass. We figured it was just some car passing by, but it wasn’t. It was something much more magical. As we turned the corner we saw the crowd. In the middle of the crowd were two guys with amplifiers strapped to their backs like backpacks pumping out rave/dance/ ecstasy music. Surrounding them? About twenty people dancing their asses off and following the music like mice to the Pied Piper. Without checking with each other, we ran into the crowd. The dance riot skipped along the sidewalk like a parade. Onlookers simply laughed, took pictures, or joined in. It was like a costumed katamari ball set to a pounding bass line. Occasionally the group would pause at a certain point and party for five minutes or so before moving along and picking up more people. I’M HERE RIGHT? 20

Chants were in abundance. Crossing a crosswalk? Might as well chant “Crosswalk!” while doing so. Approaching a different hotel that has nothing to do with Dragon Con and has no idea what’s going on? Might as well chant, “I’m so horny!” After about a half hour of dance rioting, we decided to split off and head home. The crowd had grown twofold since we joined and didn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. While explaining my Dragon Con experience to my coworkers, I left the majority of this out. For one, I didn’t have the energy to tell them everything. Even if I did, they wouldn’t have understood. The fact is, it’s a pretty hard thing to explain to somebody and have them fully understand. There is a weird energy at an event like that that can only be described as a you-had-to-be-there kinda thing. It’s pretty easy to make fun of some skinny kid dressed as a ninja walking around downtown at three in the afternoon. But, there’s a good chance that kid is going to have a brand of fun you’ll never be able to understand unless you join in yourself.

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I go to jail almost every night. Sometimes more than once. It sucks. Every time. Don’t worry, I’m not a habitual thief or anything. I’m simply delivering there. I rarely go past the metal detectors, where I wait while trying to avoid conversation with the guard sitting behind the table who alternates between reading a magazine, staring at the wall, or making a joke along the lines of, “They won’t notice one wing missing from that box!” That joke wasn’t funny the first time I heard it, and it’s still not funny after the thousandth time. Also, I don’t carry around extra food with me. This seems like common knowledge but apparently it’s not since I get asked all the time. I guess people assume delivery drivers simply grab a pile of food before they leave the restaurant, toss it in their car, and figure out the order when they get to their destination. “Let’s see here, ten wings for this gentleman, a hamburger, and a soda. Good, looks like I’ve got two sandwiches and seven chicken wings left. I was worried I didn’t grab enough!” The funniest part about going to the Fulton County Jail is the the waiting area that is filled with people either dressed in oversized t-shirts and tattoos on their face or sitting with a baby carriage while their two other kids run around screaming. These people sit on blue, plastic chairs and wait for their family/friends to be released. There is 23 BY JOSH RANK

an electronic sign in there and it’s the same kind of sign that might advertise the lottery jackpot at the grocery store, or to inform you that you have just entered Spencer’s Gifts at the mall. It has the multi-colored letters that sometimes scroll from the left, sometimes from both sides, sometimes appearing pixel-by-pixel, sometimes exploding after the message is fully formed, etc. spelling out messages such as “Welcome to the Fulton County Jail.” It’s surprisingly festive and supposed to portray a “fun” mood which is pleasantly juxtaposed with one of the most oppressive atmospheres in our society. One day, I showed up to work to find a ticket for 901 Rice Street. The jail. A great way to start a night because you know you’re going to have to wait a long time for them to show up and you know you aren’t getting tipped. This is just the way it works there. Either guards at the jail don’t make much money, which would be largely unjust, or they’re simply assholes. I’m leaning more towards the second choice. I’ve spoken with quite a few of these people. Not all of them, but a large majority of them come across as self-important and arrogant, yet inept at the same time. They seem like the type of people that would make the sports team in high school, but would never play and have held a grudge against the world ever since. As I parked my car, I noticed a CNN van sitting in one of the parking stalls. I walked inside the jail and asked the guard what was going on. He told me that a woman had set fire to a day care she was running, with the kids inside of course, before fleeing to Nigeria. She was then extradited back to America and was being held at the Fulton County Jail. Lucky us. It was obvious he had told the story about twenty times and relished the fact that he could keep telling it as new people were continually walking in and out of the jail. At one point, some guy who worked for the jail walked past while munching on a Honey Bun, who of course heard the story. When the first guy was done with the incinerated children story, Honey Bun asked him about another gentleman standing outside. The guy outside had been there since I showed up and hadn’t moved more than ten feet from the front of the jail. He was smiling, swinging his arms, and talking to people as they walked past him, at one point he clapped the rhythm to the start of the car wash song (“Working at the car wash, yeah!”) while slowly dancing back and forth. I’M HERE RIGHT? 24

The guard told Honey Bun that the dude outside had been released earlier that day and was waiting for a ride. “He’s intimidating people out there, man,” said Honey Bun. “Yeah, I’ve already told him he needs to go. I’ve been nice. If he don’t leave soon I’ll call up the muscle. I’ll put it on him if he don’t leave. I’ve tried being nice,” responded the guard. “Yeah, he said he was gonna snatch my Honey Bun,” he said as he crinkled the wrapper and shoved more in his mouth. Eventually I found the person I was delivering to, but there was a problem and I had to call the restaurant. Since you can’t bring phones into the jail, I had to step outside to make the phone call. I was about six feet from the dude that wouldn’t leave. I finished my phone call as a girl approached the jail with her cell phone in one hand and her I.D. in the other. The dude snatched her I.D. from her and started twisting it, trying to tear it. “I know you. You live on Brookhaven. I know you,” he said as he bent the card without actually breaking it. He did this for ten seconds or so while the girl stuck her head in the door and frantically asked the security guard to help her out. The guard came out, as did Honey Bun and another guard that was standing around doing nothing. “You gotta go. You gotta go,” said the guard as he pulled his can of pepper spray from his Batman utility belt. As soon as the pepper spray came out, the dude started power walking into the parking lot as the guards followed him. I figured the show was over so I went back inside to finish the delivery, get my no-tip and carry on with my night. I walked inside, and waved for the guard to meet me by the metal detector since I couldn’t take my phone inside. The guard started walking towards me before inexplicably quickening his pace. I turned around and saw the dude sprinting towards the jail. Towards the only door into the jail. Towards the door I was behind. The dude tried to open the door and come back into the jail as four security guards body checked him into the glass like hockey players and took him to the ground. The guy I was delivering to, another guard, 25 BY JOSH RANK

ran outside just after the dude hit the ground. I glanced around to see if it would be deemed inappropriate to take a picture of the ordeal with my cell phone. I turned to my right, towards the waiting room, and saw two different sets of gold teeth smiling and watching the fight. Two other jail workers sat safely behind the glass and watched with smiles. A woman walking up to the jail from the sidewalk stood a few paces from the brawl and watched it like a TV show. I felt like a cell phone picture would not bring resentment due to lack of tact. The only resentment it might foster would be from the fact that I was the only person that had access to their cell phone to take such a picture and the resulting jealousy. Now, this dude was strong. Freakishly strong. Meth strong. The guards had to fight him for over a minute to get his arms behind his back to handcuff him. When they first took him down, I saw the can of pepper spray roll away from the pile, obviously slipping from the hand of the guard during an attempt to use it. Before he was tackled, I was nervous the dude was going to get into the door directly next to me. But after seeing how strong he was, I realized how lucky I actually was that he didn’t get through. I have no reason to believe he was coming back inside to hurt me, but I also don’t have a reason to believe he wouldn’t. One punch from that maniac and I would have been a bloody, shitty Josh. Eventually, they cuffed him, stood him up, and walked him back into the jail. It wasn’t until ten minutes later, when I finally got to leave, that I thought about what had just happened. The man got released from jail, banished from the premises because he wouldn’t leave, and then arrested as he tried to break back in. To jail. He got arrested because he tried to break back into jail. Think about that. My first thought was that maybe he didn’t have anywhere else to go. He looked like he was out of his mind, and after the events I witnessed I have no doubt he was. It’s not like he was going to go back to school or anything once he was out of jail. Maybe not being in jail is scarier for him than being in jail. At least you know you won’t get rained on and when you’re going to eat next when you’re in jail. That’s a strange thought, that normal society may have been more frightening to him than jail. And this isn’t a nice jail either. I’ve heard stories from coworkers about what goes on in there. It’s fucking I’M HERE RIGHT? 26

horrifying. Quick tip: If you’re in jail and someone asks you for your shoes, just give them up. When I got back to the restaurant, I told my coworkers what had happened. “He didn’t want to be out.” “Yeah, he wanted to be right back in there.” They raised another good possibility: People could be looking for him. People that are obviously worse to get caught by than the police. Perhaps he owes someone money. Perhaps whatever he got arrested for in the first place has earned him a beating, or worse, by whomever he committed the crime against. Or it could just be that he has severe mental problems without the resources to take care of it. Maybe he’s just off his meds and didn’t know what to do/what was going on and ran towards a familiar place. I was looking into his eyes as he tried tearing up that girl’s I.D. He was nuts. For sure. There’s this vacant look I’ve come to recognize in many homeless people that are either fucked up on drugs, mentally insane, or a mix of the two. It’s not a good look. This man had it. Either way, he’s in a reality I can’t even begin to understand. It’s funny to watch a dude getting taken down by the cops when it’s obvious that it needs to happen. But it’s a little depressing to think of what might be going on inside the dude’s head as he struggles with all of his strength to keep his arms from being forced behind his back to be handcuffed.

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After graduating college, I decided to say, “Fuck it!” and move to Atlanta with no job prospects, no apartment, and no friends besides one dude I’ve known since I first started liking New Kids on the Block. “I’ve got a college degree. I should be able to find something in a few weeks, right?” Wrong. It wasn’t until six months later that I found a steady, full-time job. During this six month hiatus from real-life, I had a gang of failed attempts and temporary gigs. One of which lasted three days; two days of orientation and one day of on-the-job-training. What was this wonderful job you may ask? Meat salesman. Doorto-door meat salesman. Yeah. The two days of orientation were in a poorly ventilated storefront acting as a conference room in Riverdale, which is south of Atlanta. Get all notions of Archie comics out of your head, this is a different Riverdale. It’s not the kind of town where high school kids stop off at the local malt shop in letter jackets to talk about Leave it to Beaver and someone might ask a nice lady to catch a movie on Friday if he can borrow his dad’s car. This is a place where companies like The Cattle Exchange train felons to approach strangers at gas stations and convince them to buy meat from a cooler. Why did I just say “felons?” Because on the first day of orientation, the instructor asked, “How many of you are felons?” and about fifteen people raised their hand, including the 29 BY JOSH RANK

instructor. Here’s an example of how awesome this guy was: During the orientation he mentioned that he needed a copy of a lease that he didn’t have for some scam he was putting together. One of the guys in the orientation said he could make him one on a computer for twenty bucks. He brought it with him the next day. After two days of sitting in the hot, stinky room with a bunch of felons, it was time for the on-the-job training. I had a feeling it was going to suck, but I had already put in two days of listening to the instructor say, “Sheeeeeiiiiiiiiiiit,” after every stupid joke he made so I figured I might as well check it out. Of course, we had to sit around and listen to more pointless motivational speeches that basically amounted to, “It’s all about OPM,” which I later learned to stand for Other People’s Money. Thirty people sat in the room, getting pulled out one by one. A driver would wander in about once every ten minutes. We were getting impatient. Eventually, a few of us just stood outside with hopes of getting picked simply because we were in their line of sight, which worked perfectly for me. “Hey, do you have a license?” said a voice behind me. I turned around to find a tall, thin dude standing next to me, but not looking at me. He was looking at the other people standing around and, I guess, looking to see if there was anybody better than me to pick. It felt like captains choosing teams at a football game during recess in elementary school. Usually, the person who is the most different from the group is picked last, or at least that’s how it goes in movies and TV shows. But somehow, the lone white kid got picked before the other guys that would have enjoyed listening to rap all day a little more than me. “Yeah.” “Alright, let’s go.” He started walking away. “My name’s Tim,” he said over his shoulder. I followed Tim while the others either stood in the sun or sat in the dingy room that smelled like mold. I was picked after about an hour, and it didn’t look like there were many drivers left. This meant at least ten to fifteen people didn’t get to go on the ride-along, even after sitting in the room for an hour or two. A small part of me wishes I’M HERE RIGHT? 30

I had been there to see how they reacted when they were told they would have to come back the next day for the privilege to drive around with someone and sell meat from a shitty truck. I’m sure their reactions were very reasonable, as felons are known for their restraint. Tim and I were assigned a vehicle and started loading it up. The company provides the driver with a truck with a freezer on the back in which you cruise around looking for people who like steak. That’s the job. However, when Tim and I were ready, the supply of operational trucks had run out, so we were assigned a van. Not only was the freezer in the back of our van missing a part of the lip, it also refused to stay closed. As you can imagine, this makes it hard to keep the meat at a proper temperature in the summer heat. Our method of fixing this problem: Setting a cinder block on top of the freezer door. This meant that every time I had to quickly decelerate, the block would slide towards us and fly off of the freezer, nearly cracking one of us in the back of the head. We loaded everything up and hit the road. After Tim downed two miniature bottles of liquor you might find in a hotel mini-fridge, we stopped by his house so he could help someone move some scrap metal, making himself a quick ten dollars. We then headed towards my house. We drove down Boulevard, which is known to be a bit on the shady side, and he started yelling out of the window. “Hey man! I got steak at ‘hood prices! Three dollars a cut!” As you can imagine, this made me a little nervous, as he said he was making a point to look for “dopers.” We cruised around for a while without selling anything. Not even a ribeye. We decided to head north to Gwinnett where Tim had a client, otherwise known as a repeat customer, who of course wouldn’t answer her phone when we finally got there. “It’s cool, man. We’ll just get a couple of beers and head to my sister’s house.” We pulled into a gas station where Tim jumped out of the van. “What kind of beer do you like?” “I don’t care, whatever.” 31 BY JOSH RANK

“Malt liquor?” “Sure.” “Really?” Eyes wide open, high-pitched question-voice. It was as if he’d never seen a white person drink malt liquor. “Sure.” He smiled, got a little spring in his step, and ran into the gas station, shortly returning with two 24 oz. cans of Crazy Horse malt liquor. We drove to his sister’s house and sat on her porch, drinking our huge beers. Now, I know that the black community will often refer to each other as “brother” or “sister” even though they have no real familial relations. However, I thought these two were actually related. So when we were on Nelly’s porch and Tim walked inside, I asked her, “So you’re Tim’s sister?” This is when I learned they weren’t actually related. Stupid white boy. This is also when I learned that if I needed strippers for a party or if I wanted a “Hollywood caliber” girl to spend the night at my house, all I would have to do is holla at Tim. We finished our beers and started looking for people to hock some meat to. A few Mexicans were walking around Nelly’s apartment complex to fix the building that had burned down across the parking lot. “Pollo! Pollo!” Tim would yell at them. I guess yelling “chicken” was the best Spanish sales pitch he could think of. As we left Nelly’s, Tim got a phone call. Well, actually, I got a phone call since he didn’t have a cell phone and had been using mine all day. “Hey, man, we gotta swing back for a minute. I gotta pick something up.” He reached into his pocket, pulled out a five dollar bill and handed it to me. He said he felt bad that we hadn’t sold anything yet, but he assured me that it would happen. We drove back to the apartment were he said he would simply run in, grab something, and come back out. There’s no reason to turn off the van. After fifteen minutes of sitting in the van and listening to T.I., Tim came running back out with a 24 oz. can of Icehouse. He offered me some, but I politely declined. I’M HERE RIGHT? 32

Icehouse in hand, Tim tried to sell to a car next to us at a stop light. He saw them laughing in their car with the windows rolled up. “Hey, I wanna laugh too!” he yelled at them. Eventually, the woman rolled down her window and Tim started talking to her about random stuff. I guess you have to set up some rapport before you try to rape them on meat prices. The woman thought Tim was trying to hit on her and got pissed. The man in the passenger seat leaned forward and stared at us as if he was trying to burn holes in our faces with his eyes. This continued until the woman finally said, “You want me to call the cops? Ima call the cops.” The light turned green and we drove away, laughing. What could she possibly have called the police on us for? Of course, there was an open can of beer in the van and I had just finished drinking 24 oz. of malt liquor, but she knew nothing about that. We continued driving around, knocking on doors and bothering people at gas stations without selling anything. The only productive part of the day was when I was walking back to the van after being told to go fuck myself by someone on their porch and a short, fat kid came up to me. He was probably six-years-old and had red stains on his mouth, probably from a Popsicle. “Can you fix my bike?” “I can try. Let me see.” I flipped the bike over and saw the chain had fallen off. After a few minutes of messing with it, I was able to get it back on. “There you go,” I said as I flipped the bike back onto its tires. He smiled and hopped right on it, cruising in circles and popping wheelies. I watched him for a little bit and talked to his friends before Tim came back and got into the van. I usually don’t like hanging out with kids, but after the day I had been having, talking to these kids was great. As we drove away, one kid ran next to the van and tried to race us. He got up to fifteen miles per hour. Not bad, little guy. My sales pitch evolved as the day went on. At first, I did it the way they taught us in orientation. That didn’t work. I then tried to work the familiarity aspect and adopted a southern accent. 33 BY JOSH RANK

“How y’all doin’ today?” I’d ask as they opened their screen door. That didn’t work, either. Eventually I realized that there was no way I’d be doing the job after that night, so I switched to survival mode. I would walk to people’s houses, trying to pick ones that looked as if the owners were gone, and give them my new pitch if someone actually answered the door. “Hey, I’m Josh. I’m selling wholesale steak, chicken, and fish.” No bullshit. No sales pitch. Just the facts. I have this, do you want it? No? Cool, have a good day. We didn’t sell anything all day, meaning that we had a lot of product slowly thawing in our shitty cooler. The sun was going down and Tim simply wanted to get the food out of the van. “Alright, we gotta find the ‘hood. We gotta unload some boxes.” I didn’t know why lower income people would be more likely to buy boxes of meat from a dude in a van, but it seemed like he had done it before. After driving around, not finding anyone to buy anything, we headed back to the store. We were a little early so we stopped at a motorcycle shop where his brother, his actual brother, worked. We hung out and I talked to some of the guys that were standing by their bikes. People were drinking 40’s still in the plastic bag and smashing them on the ground when they were finished. There was a pitbull chained to the bed of a truck, which ended up being a really nice dog. I felt like I was in a DMX music video. After wasting enough time to where it looked like we had tried our best, we returned the van. They made fun of us for not selling anything and I got the hell out of there, knowing I would never see any of them again. All together, after three days of reporting to The Cattle Exchange, I had made five dollars. That made the hourly rate for the time I had spent there at about twenty cents per hour. I’d say it was well worth my time.

I’M HERE RIGHT?

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Josh Rank lives in Atlanta, GA and is looking forward to moving the hell out. He is currently working on two novels that you should help him publish. Find more of Josh’s writing and some of his music online at www.joshrank.blogspot.com.

This has been an e-chap by Deckfight Press. Other Deckfight Press authors include J. Bradley, Bryan Harvey, Jordan Castro and Josh Spilker. All of the Deckfight Press E-Chapbooks are at www. deckfightpress.tumblr.com. Follow us.