You — and by “you,” I mean everybody, not any specific demographic, strata, gender, party, orientation. proclivity, or inclination, even the verdammt Dodger nation I will include in this “you” (they should all with their team be aboard a flaming bus as it plunges off a cliff into a freezing sea full of heavily armed sharks wearing Giants gear), who, even though not complicit in our NLDS defeat, are still the chosen team of genocidal dictators everywhere and therefore anathema to right-thinking people — have a social circle, a grid of friends, family and acquaintances with whom you interact, hobnob and shoot the proverbial shit. You may be a crazy homeless person and every blessed one of them may be imaginary. But that doesn't make them any less significant to you. You may be chained to a wall in a dank dark dungeon and they may be only rats and centipedes, but they're your rats and centipedes. They are the links in your chain, the mesh of your net, and the fish in your school. You know what to expect from them, and they from you. You know how they will react to specific stimuli. You know when it is or is not a good time to come a' callin'. You know on whom you can count and for what and when, and this makes for a fairly orderly and sensible process of social interconnectedness.
You know, for instance, that, being it's Sunday, Evaline is likely to be elbows-deep in soil as she engages in her usual weekend wizard-level gardening, and her husband Lemuel is, as is his predilection, at the keyboard banging away at his book about Civil War saddlery and tack slowly takes shape. But just down the street Tonk and Roger are likely to be on the front porch with their feet up, drinking gin and tonics from out of Mason jars and listening to fiddle music and would be more than pleased to have you join them and discuss local politics. You know that Arvin's capacity for taking shit is nearly boundless, as befits an AXE-wearing Padres fan, but that poking at Sheila P.'s sore spot regarding the loss of her beloved daytime dramas is not recommended. And so on, for them all, little rules and formulae govern your social interaction so that everyone feels respected and no one get inconvenienced or discommoded, mostly, barring emergencies.
However (there's always a however), in the alternate universe operating cheek by jowl to this normal one wherein your friends and neighbors receive their due consideration and deference, the one called Tweakerland, whose denizens are even now cocking their heads in puzzlement at my description of a race of humans who consider the comfort and well-being of others to be as important as their own, they're thinking what do you mean? I mean, I get what you mean, but what do you mean? Know what 1 mean? What the hell have other people got to do with me? If they have something I want, that's one thing, but otherwise they're just in the way.
Look, let me lay it out for you (says the tweaker). If I need to take my car down to bare metal at 3:00 AM using a 5500-rpm industrial sander plugged into the side of your house, that's just the nature of things. My power got cut off and I need to paint this stolen car. You wouldn't want me to end up in jail, would you? So we keep different hours, so what? Do you hear me telling the sun to knock it off so I can sleep? No. I duct-tape aluminum foil to the windows like a normal person, which also blocks micro- and radio waves. Yeah, I hear you bitching about kids and school and something called “a job,” but frankly, it's all white noise and I wish you'd keep it down.
In Tweakerland, there are no rules, or if there are, they've been applied in ad hoc fashion and are liable to be altered or reversed immediately and without notice.
You probably have a sleep/wake schedule that goes something like 8/16, 8/16, 8/16… with minor variations to reflect life's little divergences. Imagine yourself going 0/86, 31/.5.67/44, 2/103, 39/50, 0/17, without any kind of discernible pattern and paying no more attention to light/dark cycles and the body's own Circadian rhythms than you do to concepts of ownership and private property. It's no wonder they walk around muttering to themselves and capping off spigots to prevent the intrusion of sewer ghosts. The brain is an amazingly nimble and resilient organ, but it has its limits and if you persist in running it at peak RPMs without respite or lubrication, it's going to start shedding crucial components and operating way under capacity.
The social circle of the tweaker is an ever-mutating kaleidoscope of fractured and tenuous bonds, shifting allegiances, and constant circling so as to gain a more advantageous position vis-a-vis the back, the easier to plunge a knife in. It's not unheard of for one to be in an active vendetta one day and sharing a pipe with the erstwhile focus of the blood feud the next. The overarching ethos in Tweakerland is I’m Gonna Get Mine, bonds of blood, friendship, or matrimony be damned.
I was spending the wee hours one night/morning in that condition of heightened awareness, volubility and focus characteristic of a peak in the Tweakercycle, but unfortunately, my roommates were deep in a trough and dead to the world. Perhaps actually dead; I'm no doctor. All I know is, they weren't moving and I, being a little more considerate than your average speed fiend, was doing my best to keep it quiet and dark for them and the forced restraint was putting a serious crimp in my getalong. I needed to be around some people tuned a little closer to my frequency, and fast. I ran through my
mental Rolodex and recalled that the klatsch over on Boice Lane had taken delivery of a quantity of the same prod that was concurrently vivifying my form and causing it to vibrate and hum, so I decided to make my way over there and see what mischief I might be able to involve myself in.
Problem was, I was waaay on the other side of town, a fair distance up East Oak, and without wheels. Motorized ones, anyway; there were a few bikes outside, though none were light-equipped, and if there's a quicker way to get pulled over than being a skinny middle-aged man on an unlit bike at 3:00 am, it probably involves nudity. We are nothing if not resourceful, though, and my chemical buddy and I came up with the following solution: Fill two clear plastic tumblers one-third of the way up with sand. Drop a votive candle into each one. Duct tape them to the handlebars. Light, and voila! A legal and environmentally responsible way to ensure my safety and visibility.
I should note here that at the time I truly believed that. I was quite proud of my ingenuity, and it was only blind luck that I encountered no fuzz on my crosstown trek. I might as well have been sporting a flashing neon sign reading "TWEAKER!"
I flickered up Boice Lane, awash in the relief that attends a successful mission, and when I got to the house all the lights were on but it was absolutely silent. I stopped just short of going up the driveway and blew my candles out. Standing there astride my bike, I held my breath and strained to hear, picking up a distinctly eerie vibe. Something was definitely off. I took a few tentative steps forward and heard a voice from the bushes off to my right. "Get off the bike! Down on the ground or I'll blow your head off!" it said, in a harsh whisper.
I recognized the voice as belonging to Demetrius, resident of the house and a decent if slightly unstable fellow.
"It's Flynn! Don't shoot, bro, I come in peace," I said.
"Yes, Flynn! Relax."
"What the fuck are you doing here?"
"I just came by to say hello, maybe smoke with you. Easy."
"Alright, dog. It's cool." He came out of the bushes holding a rifle and looking skittish, eyes darting every which way.
"What's going on, man?" I asked.
"Ah, it's been a really weird night over here. It started with some normal garden-variety paranoia. Lester started worrying about CIA flyovers and black helicopters and that got Hans going about the mole people. He headed down to the basement with a shovel and pickaxe, and wouldn't you know all that talk was a little infectious and I started thinking about the dolphins. You remember the dolphins, right?"
"The DEA-trained ones that are monitoring us from just offshore?"
"Exactly. Think about how far we are from the shore, man. They have sonar. Anyway, we talked ourselves into a state of high alert, put the house on lockdown mode and armed ourselves."
"Then the phone rang. You know that guy they call Mrs. Potato Dick, down in the harbor?"
"Well, he was kinda in on that deal we did earlier with Elbo for the half-ounce, only we sorta curtailed his participation after getting his money."
“You mean you burned him."
"Well, yeah, you know, but remember that thing down in the harbor with the pills and the salmon and the hooker? I was behind all that, and Hans lost 200 bones in that deal, so we figured it all evened out, but Tater didn't think so. He made all kind of threats, talking about coming over and blowing us all up. Lester and Hans are inside making booby traps. I think you better go, dawg."
"I think maybe you're right," I said. "Look, you guys try not to kill anyone, okay? It's not worth it."
“The night has a thousand eyes," Demetrius said, cryptically.
I lit my candles and pedaled off, but decided not to push my luck riding back across town. I cruised over to the Beacon, got a bottle of Gatorade and waited out the dark making conversation with gas customers. When the sun came up I was cruising across the bridge toward home, thinking about ways to repurpose my handlebar tumblers for daytime use. Flowers? Gumballs? I was limited only by my imagination, and dognose that was cranked up to 11. To the Safeway!