Justin Grimbol and I throw back bottles of chili sauce at a dive outside town called The Bonkness Monster. We’ll be here all night and he calls me “Lula” and I call him “Sailor” and for awhile this place is like a hot tub jailbreak on fire.
He buys me another twelve dollar bottle of tequila, but I exchange it for a half-drunk tub of Tabasco. I’m ripping into this night New Mexico style, just pretend we’re in the desert and the jukebox is a raft. Or a van. “If the jukebox is a party van,” I say, “we should pop a tape in the deck, use flashlights for microphones and see how far we can fly. I’ve seen stars blinking pink, you gotta believe.” But Justin has scuttled his bearded rump onto the dance floor. “No, man,” he says. “We’re Drinking Until Morning.”
He potato-hops, twists, and humbugs for the next hour or five. I pass the time trying to read Gifford. My gut itches, tickles. The sauce is a furnace. “Wait until morning,” he tells me. That’s when the bees sting and the peppers howl. I don’t catch his drift and he spins me out onto that dance floor. It’s packed silly with rumps. We bump chests like bros, like The Bonkness Kids of Instagram. He cannonballs into the middle, gets caught by a group of high schoolers from eighties films. It’s just like he said it was gonna be. And for awhile, we let it flow, keep rewinding the tape. I sit down in the middle of a horde of stomping feet, thunderous grooves and let the world spin hot. It’s that Tabasco. It’s all these words.
Big hands plant my tush on a stool. “Is it morning?” I say, too groggy to sleep, too sleepy to drive. “It’s never morning, friend,” he says. “We’re driving this bus past the horizon, until it crashes dreams to books and poems to paintings.” “Thank you, Reverend,” I say, feeling more Wisconsin than ever–must be the music. And Grimbol’s gone again, but his voice drifts closer than ever like time itself. It fills The Bonkness with a swill of the dog that bites us all, the burden of joy, the party eternal. I let my head sag, my foot tap, and brace my drooling mouth against the Tabasco bottle, and the room spins Grimbol, until morning never comes. And that Grimbolian voice sings old country tunes that keep the place bonking, keep the happiness flowing. And the bartender yanks me up by the hair, tells me sleep is dead wrong and gives me three reasons why that Grimbol is a monster. Here, dear reader, are those three reasons:
“Grimbol’s style is a mixture of youthful nostalgia, X-rated sexcapades with an uncomfortable touch of weirdness, real-life drama, hilarity, and a lot of heart.” —Gabino Iglesias, author of Gutmouth
“Really funny and really trashy. Kind of reminded me of One Crazy Summer with elements of Harmony Korine’s Gummo and 80s junk culture. Also, the author photo in the back might be one of the greatest I’ve seen.” – Andersen Prunty, author of Slag Attack and Morning is Dead
“Ballsy.” – David W. Barbee, author of A Town Called Suckhole
So, I listen and sip, sip and listen, but the best is yet to come. “Hey, Lula,” Grimbol says, but he’s changed. He’s sixteen going on ageless, an open bottle of pure party mania on the dance floor. “I’ll give you three shots,” he says, “to get your booty out here and tear it up like a smokestack,” he says. And on this desert night of the burning gut, I’m one lonely cowboy in dire need of three shots. “Lay ’em on me,” I say. “Wake me up, soldier.”
And this, is how Justin Grimbol blows the roof off the joint and wakes me up:
PLATTE RIVER, by Rick Bass
There are three short novelettes in this collection. Each reads like a long epilogue. I love that. The stories don’t rely on conflict or excitement, but instead an intense feeling of the grace and grief and all the goofiness that comes out of our souls when we get away from things.
Nature plays a big role in all of Bass’s work. The woods and the creeks in his stories have a lot of personality. But his take on nature is never too sappy or cheesy or hallmarky.
WILD AT HEART, by Barry Gifford
This book has such great dialogue. Gifford’s characters just ramble on and on. One thing I noticed was the confessional nature of the way his people talk. They are constantly telling secrets. People love to come clean. People are rarely blunt or honest really. Still, the need to confess is always there. Good dialogue, both on the page and in real life, should feel like the person’s soul is doing a strip tease. Bad dialogue feels like you’re at the beach and you got too much sand in your asshole.
This book compiles letters written between Sam Shepard and his best friend, Johnny Dark.
It reads like a series of prayers. It reads like dirty notes sneakily handed to you during class. There’s all that sweet bitching that only good old friends can do.
I want to write more letters. But all I got are texts. Sometimes I get pics of my ex girlfriends baby sent to my phone. That baby is gigantic and adorable. Then other text from my best friend, usually involving pictures of naked girlfriends. And sometimes I send dick rhymes to my friend May. Here’s a couple. My dick Directed by Michael Bay. Your dick, needle in the hay. My dick Dances with Kevin Costner. Your dick just an imposter.
By the end of the night, I’m beet red and shimmying up moves I didn’t know I had in me. “Pretty good, Sailor,” I say. “Ready for round two?” “Round two?” he says. “I’m on round twenty-two, baby.” And it’s true. It’s all true. This Party Lord Crud Master has done me up and done me good morning, sunshine. Is it morning? Does it matter? It doesn’t. Are you dancing? I am. Keep dancing. Keep dancing and it never ends, friend. It never ends.