diary of a professional antagonist
Tag Archives: Ireland
I started life as an actor, a jobbing, useless motherfucker desperate for attention and cursed to serve my more supple skin days in the car parks outside parties I wished to be invited to. I did it all, park cars, take tickets, find keys, keep wives at bay while their director husbands had their cocks sucked on by my coat-check girl colleagues – all of whom found careers in the spotlight, even if they still bow down before they get the green light. Me, I took the hard road into the light and had to pave that same road in blood before I got my shot… and then blew it.
It was a cold, crisp December night. The Ritz looked prettier than a supernova and I felt like shit. 2:30am and only one set of keys was left. I told the others to go, hoping on a big tip but really waiting on the owner for something else, an introduction. Then he staggered out, the director of what would turn out to be one of the greatest movies of all time. The 70’s were already flying but this was going to change things. I helped him to his car, he fell in before vomiting all over my shoes, then apologized. I played it cool, said I was waiting for an excuse to get a new pair of brogans anyway. I told him I was an actor and would love to work for him.
“Drive me home, kid, I’m late.”
The wait was worth it, I had a foot in the door and one of the icons of the 70’s now owed me. Then we got to the house he was staying at in the hills and things changed. A black sedan was parked outside. I helped him to the door, it was already open. Something was off, the air was dead and I didn’t like the way the floorboards creaked inside. Deliberate. Expectant. He pushed the door open to reveal an abyss of darkness beyond.
“Come back tomorra’, kid. We’ll work something out.”
“Thanks, Mister –”
Suddenly, an electrical cable whipped through the air behind him, wrapped around his throat and dragged him inside. I ran – into an elbow. When I woke I had a view of the stars I hadn’t asked for and a gun pointed at my head. The director was on his knees, begging for his life, saying I was his nephew and that we would do anything to live. These weren’t the kind of guys you fucked with. These weren’t actors, these weren’t Hollywood. This was a different ball game that jumped the fence and invited itself to the party. Nobody was going to tell these guys ‘no’, not the cops, not their wives and, as piss leaked into my shitty brogans, I realized I wasn’t going to say it either.
They told the director to fuck off back to New York and never look back unless he wanted me, his ‘nephew’, to experience the digestive system of a fish. Naturally he agreed and after he crashed his car twice trying to get out the front gate they took me as collateral into the dregs of the city’s slum in the back of a car, despite my pleas of mistaken identity. A couple of seconds later I knew life was about to change in a very real way when a .38 revolver was placed in my hands. The fingers that pressed it into my grip were colder than the devil’s and harder than the bit of a jackhammer.
“Get a feel for it, kid.”
They raised it, forced me to point it at the back of the driver’s head.
“Go ahead. Pull the trigger.”
The driver flashed a look at me in the rear-view, his black eyes filled with dead fury and burning intensity. He winked at me then said –
“What’cha waitin’ for?”
I looked at the man in the shadows next to me. The brim of his hat bobbed ever so slightly and I caught a brief reflection of silver light in the black coals where his eyes once used to be. I couldn’t tell which of them said it, but someone whispered –
“Snap back the hammer, then squeeze. It’s that easy.”
I admit, I thought twice about putting it in my own mouth and doing just that, then a hard *snap* jolted me to my senses as a blade jabbed me in the ribs and cut the skin. I pulled back the hammer and held my breath. Time stood still. Snow flakes seemed like they were floating for an eternity toward the front windshield.
The gun was empty. A booming laugh filled the car, my arm was still locked forward. Something like post-traumatic stress was setting in but then I noticed what they noticed –
“Look at that.”
My arm, unflinching, holding that weapon like it had been born with it. The man in the shadows started to clap, he stopped when I pulled the trigger a second time, then a third and my eyes locked on those black coals of his.
“I’m hoping for your sake four, five and six are just as hollow.”
He didn’t move, but the driver did. I had his attention, he was worried. He knew how to count and knew the score.
The tires screeched, we hit an embankment then slammed through a wall. The accelerator was still down when I came to, blood dripped from my face, none of it my own. The man in the shadows stood outside looking in and I could feel cold steel against the skin on my neck.
“That was a first, kid. You’ve some nerve, but you’ve got balls, too.”
“I don’t know what I was –”
“You’re workin’ for me now.”
He pointed at the driver.
“I’m a man short and the work’s backed up.”
“What kind of work.”
It wasn’t long before another car pulled in beside us. He got in but before he left threw the .38 to one of his goons and pointed at me. I was left with an edgy, semi-psychotic looking waif.
“When you’re ready, kid. Let’s do this.”
He took me to a warehouse where this fat bastard was tied to a chair with a bag over his head. This was to be my training. Over the course of the next eight hours he showed me the how’s and where’s of the trade then made me finish the job. Details aren’t important, suffice it to say my stomach was long since gone and the shred of sanity that remained was going to leave me on the breadline or in bottom dollar jobs for the rest of my life. Somehow I made it through and they set me up in an office on the strip with nothing more than a phone and a poster of the ocean – one a reminder of where they wanted me at all times, the other a reminder of where I’d end up if I tried to run.
So, for four years I sat there, took the odd call and rid the world of one more scumbag. I started to decorate the place, decided if I was going to have an office on the strip I might as well act the part, so I had a guy engrave my name on the door and put ‘productions’ after it. I never made it as an actor, fuck that game, I was going to be top dog, hot as shit producer, no credits to his name but a shit load of firepower backing me up. They dropped in once or twice, thought the idea was funny then realized there was an angle and put some money behind me. I was legit, I was making porn, but I was legit. They ran drugs, guns, everything through that little office, made connections they couldn’t have before and introduced me to all the wrong people. It wasn’t to last and the fun was about to come to a dead stop.
Word had spread about an indie producer who kept a low profile, they were billing me as a Howard Hughes type and some buzz started to build. The guys didn’t like it and I got the feeling they were about to send me to the ocean for a long swim. A knock on the door saved my life. A hero of mine, a real life, big shot producer walked in the room, introduced himself and said –
“What’s your story, kid? You’re starting to steal my thunder.”
I had the cover story down but my mistake was underestimating this guy, a guy who had heard every bullshit pitch from A to Z and knew a phoney when he saw one. Somehow, all that blood and firepower made me forget that I was stupid. He had heard things, names of people seen up here and knew I was knee deep in shit so rancid I’d leave a stink on the strip that would outlast the next four generations of my seed. Then he dropped a bomb on me, he was talking to the feds and guaranteed that if I gave up what I knew there would be a way out. The weight of the last four years buckled my knees and I finally gave up.
They moved hard and fast. It was a blitz, and before I could breathe the first breath of the next morning all my employers were behind bars or full of lead. With nowhere else to go I went back to the office and found my hero waiting with a big, fat cigar in his mouth, directing the removal men as they cleared out all of my shit.
“You did a good job, kid, but I promise you this – you’ll never work in this town again.”
He patted me on the back on his way out. A fed took me out of town then dumped me in Salt Lake City to lie low. I stayed there for a few years, living out a shitty, boring existence and to fill in the time started to write. Lucky for me my hero’s promise didn’t have the legs to outrun cancer. He sank into the dirt a few years back and the door to the strip opened once more. Sure, I’m a hack, a bum, a screenwriter, the lowest of the low, surviving on that one shred of sanity, but that’s all they ask in Hollywood, and if you last long enough someone will make a movie about you, too.
I was once a proud person. My life had more or less been filled with the same experiences the average Joe Boxer-shorts checks off the life list by the time he’s reached the age of twenty three, so I had no reason not to be. Of course things could have gone better at times but you’ve got to take the rough with the tumble and chalk it down to the building of character and the formation of a well-rounded human being. However, at twenty-three I took my first trip abroad, and embarked on a life-changing holiday in Ireland, which gave my pride a solid kick in the sack and finished with me clambering aboard the plane home wishing “beam me up” wasn’t just a phrase from TV but a very real and private mode of transportation which would spare me the shame, and spare my fellow passengers those six hours of smelling the stale piss sloshing about in my loafers and the acidic stench of bile and puke wafting from my mouth and hair.
My Irish roots are supposedly on my mother’s side and I figured I’d spend a week in the old country, live where some of my people had lived, soak up all there was on offer culturally and hope to be charmed by a lady leprechaun before finding a job back home and beginning to build a career. O’Neill was her mother’s surname and they hailed from a place called Ballyjamesduff in County Cavan which I found close to the middle of nowhere, somewhere north of the midlands (the actual middle of nowhere). Having landed in Dublin Airport, with not one building worth calling a skyscraper in sight, I began to wonder that if this was the capital city then where in the Christ was I headed?
Despite being initially impressed by the scenery, my enthusiasm waned as the bus took roads the width of sidewalks and ventured into towns which wouldn’t pass as villages at home, where we were usually greeted by a man waiting at a red pole signaling desperately to be collected and taken back to civilization. The fact that every fifty yards saw a new curve in the road and our driver insisted on meeting or exceeding the speed limit at all times encouraged my stomach to repeat its efforts in ridding itself of the slops it was thrown on the plane ad nauseam. Then the bus stopped and I was there, but, where the fuck was there? The man who signaled desperately to the bus had remained on board. This clearly was not his stop…
After battling the hotelier’s accent for a solid fifteen minutes I eventually understood that I was the only occupant and that rain had been forecast for the next seven days. I ditched my bags in the room and decided the only way to go forth would be with a sense of adventure, camaraderie for my fellow Irish men and dive right in, so I changed into something more comfortable and made tracks for one of the local pubs. I spied an O’Neill’s and figured that’d be a good start. Order a glass of Guinness, fit in, feel comfortable and then dig for stories of my ancestors.
My first step inside was met with silence, then laughter. I shrugged it off, probably a coincidence and bad timing, so I hit the bar – “a glass of your finest Guinness, please”. More laughter. It was definitely me they were laughing at. Men were repeating what I’d said to the older gentlemen at the bar, the ones with hair growing out of their ears, who in turn also laughed. As I took my first sip I smiled, content that this would ingratiate me, however, as I looked around I soon realized my error. I was holding a glass, thin and slender, while the other men were holding thick, bulky glasses with twice as much Guinness in them. The fact that I blushed at the moment of realization only made me look like more of a woman. Then I noticed their clothes and how their choice of dark threads and fabric served almost as camouflage against the walls of the drinking hole. I looked at myself – brand new white sneakers, khakis, blue sweater and polo-neck – all I was missing was a big fucking pink sign around my neck with ‘on vacation’ printed on it.
I’d lost the respect of the local men and could feel myself slipping deeper into infamy by the second, slowly becoming part of the ‘go to for quick laughs’ section of every local barfly’s tall tales encyclopedia. I tried to shrug it off and asked the barkeep if he knew of any O’Neill’s in the area – more laughter – I think someone said “you’re standing in his fucking pub, y’daft, yank, cunt”, but I can’t be certain. Hearing, or convincing myself that I’d heard that word uttered aloud, and to jovial acceptance and laughter, prompted my balls to seek shelter north of their normal resting spot. Not five minutes into the visit, I was standing on the most hostile ground I’d ever stood and contemplating walking away. Nobody took the next natural step to prompt a fight and so I persisted and asked again, making direct reference to my grandmother’s people. Then they really started laughing.
“God-damn it! What in the heck is so funny?” Silence. I’d said that. Shouted that. Even I couldn’t believe it. Something changed in the air, a few of the men looked to each other, nodded, then one got up and made his way over. I downed what was left in my glass and prepared to die but then this fellow reached out to shake my hand. I accepted. “How’a’ya? Name’s Thomas Comiskey.” I introduced myself, folded my arms and said – “well, care to explain the source of merriment?”. Someone scoffed in the corner. Thomas looked at me earnestly, like one would at a relative when doling out some heartbreaking information. “Sorry to tell ya, lad, but if y’say who y’said is yer granny then I’m sorry t’have ta tell ya that yer granny was a hewer. Didn’t mean t’laugh, just thought y’knew the local legend and was tryin’ to have a laugh with us. No offence meant. Welcome t’Ireland.” He gave me a pat on the back then made for the toilet.
It was the fastest unravelling of a man’s family tree since Cain and Abel hit their teens, looked over at Adam and Eve and said “huh?”. Of course all I had was this man’s word to go by but the fact that most of those present wouldn’t look me in the eye for the next ten minutes spoke volumes. Someone broke the ice and told me that I should have a pint, not a glass. I guess I laughed but honestly can’t remember. I was supposed to be the exotic foreigner, full of mystery, bringing awe and wonder to a small island full of old fashioned brogue and tradition. Instead I’d been transformed into the most common, ignorant, son-of-the-daughter-of-a-whore within an hour of hitting the family turf.
Whatever it is about returning to the places your roots sprouted, I noticed a change in myself that evening which evolved into a compulsion which then spawned a hunger. I started to drink pretty darn hard. After three days I had frequented every bar in the town at least twice and had been thrown out of half at least once. Turns out I had a “real taste for a drop” as the locals put it. I didn’t eat much, the Guinness usually lined the stomach well but the consequence of this inaction was a lack of very many memories. I get the occasional flashback – urinating into the gas tank of a tractor, chasing sheep, running downhill blind and getting tangled up in barbed wire, having my face punched in by some farmer and being berated by the local law, a stocky, short cop with a penchant for twisting my balls while making idle threats – he didn’t have a gun so his countless warning fell on deaf ears. By the fifth day I was unrecognizable, a black and blue, wild, roving mess, stinking of body odor and alcohol. Logic and reason were gone but I somehow ended up back at my hotel, starving.
I’d paid up-front for the week which included bed and breakfast. A moment of clarity reminded me that the hotel hadn’t fed me once to date and so I protested and demanded all of the breakfasts I’d missed in the last five days immediately. The owner’s wife brought me a monstrous plate heaped with what I estimate at ten sausages, five chunky bacon strips, five eggs, five fried tomatoes, ten pieces of pudding – five white, five black (good shit) – a can of beans, maybe fifteen chopped mushrooms, a toasted loaf of bread and two pots of tea. I dug in. Not only was it the tastiest meal I ever ate, but about an hour after finishing I dropped the greatest shit of my life and returned to the bar a new man, with a new hunger – the hunger for some Irish lovin’.
Somewhere in the region of my ninth pint of the night I struck up conversation with a young filly and after another three pints, and having lost the sense of sight, instinct suddenly kicked in and I came to with her pinned up against the wall of the bar and my tongue dripping translucent saliva from the corner of my mouth. She was embarrassed but led me out by the hand. My face made the acquaintances of the coat rack, the door jamb and then the outer wall of the pub as I tried to figure out how these rubber legs I’d inherited worked. As it turned out I’d chosen the easiest mark in town, probably a relative knowing my luck, and was soon lying next to her in a stack of hay. I couldn’t understand a word she said with that thick fuckin’ accent but started into the motions hoping that’d shut her up.
I imagined that at some point my own relatives had probably been laid in this very same barn. It was a suicidal thought which led to my mother’s face, then my grandmother’s face in the throes of pleasure. Blood rushed from my nether regions, up into my suddenly disturbed stomach then hit full speed and raced for my head and sent me into a dizzy spin. My filly playfully punched me in the gut to get my attention. Bad move. The vault was unlocked and I spewed left, right and center. I covered my date and myself in equal measure with the undigested remnants of that epic breakfast marinated in Guinness and whisky. Her screaming alerted what turned out to be her parents, both adept at inflicting pain with shovels and spades. As it turned out, Daddy was the local cop who I’d managed to incense countless times over the past few days.
Balls in a twist I was dragged and thrown into the back of his cop car, taken to the airport, handed my passport, my plane ticket and a bottle of holy water, which I was told was the only thing that’d prevent the plane I was on being struck from the sky by a bolt of lightning. I was covered in vomit and, trying to remember my name as I approached the check-in desk, soiled my slacks – it was only when they asked for my passport that it clicked that my effort had been a costly and unfortunate waste of brain function.
Six hours later, back on home soil, I was placed in a decontamination chamber as part of US quarantine protocol and berated by a guy I went to high school with who was now working with homeland security and had received notification of US deportation from Ireland. When he finally stopped reminding me how disgraceful my representation of citizens of the US of A had been he asked what had happened to me over there. All I had was, “Leprechauns. Fuckin’ leprechauns.” In the sorriest state of my life I failed to hail a cab and began the long, sobering walk home, revisiting the few memory entries that had returned of my week of debauchery and carefree insanity. By the time I reached home a smile had found it’s way back onto my face and I could think only one thing – Ireland fucking rules, man.