"Es mejor morir de pie que vivir de rodillas."- Gen. Emiliano Zapata,
Mexican Revolutionary Hero,
Wearer of "Cowboy Stuff"
OXFORD, Ohio (ZP) -- It's three o'clock in the morning.
And I'm neither drunk nor sober.
I'm simply enjoying a cold November storm, in fact, a lovely late night stroll through the rain, my gray Stetson sagging beneath the weight of a thousand cold water droplets.
Smoke from my thirtieth Marlboro of the day forms wispy plumes around the brim, water seeps down my jeans into my boots, the baptismal waters of a man deep in thought liberating the soul as Ariat heels clickclack down miles of sidewalk.
Good God Almighty! I say to myself, eyes closed, leaning against a telephone pole, There's just nothing quite as liberating as a man's thoughts, alone, in the rain.
Personal freedom, just like money, seems to be in short supply these days.
* * * *
I'm thinking, for some odd reason, about a different approaching storm - the shit blizzard of a failing global economy that, yep, my country's elite and their backroom financiers have unleashed, a Pandora's Box full of sub-prime demons, bailout monied monsters, and reckless, destructive capitalist devils of all shapes and sizes.
And, for some reason, General Zapata popped into my waterlogged head, a ghost from some long ago learned history, ¡Tierra y Libertad! now less of a rallying cry and more of a ominous echo against the bad debts of the Gringo Nation.
Hey, these things happen, market collapses. Especially when things like consumption as status and not of function has been encouraged for more than two decades...
Well, goddamn, you've gotta quit reading so much, dude.
Yeah. Head like a slingshot, really. Put the right pebble in, pull back, and release. It's self-loading.
* * * *
Suddenly, from nowhere, they're upon me. Two very drunk women, bundled in Northface jackets and impromptu rain gear, stagger out of the shadows from a side street, their heels clicking away an off-key collegiate chant.
"Ooooh. It's a cowboy!" One girl says.
"Ah.... ah... A CUTE cowboy!" The second girl says, too drunk to realize that the cute cowboy is right in front of her.
I stop, tip my hat, smile. A welcome disruption.
Some things, well, are just too damned depressing to dwell on for too long. And I don't know of a single straight guy or lesbian who doesn't appreciate being called cute by two mysterious, albiet drunken, hot women in skirts at three in the morning, either.
"Mr. Cowboy, I love your BOOTS! I, like, love, ohmygosh, cowboy stuff!" The first girl says.
"Yeah, I get that a lot."
The second girl bums a cigarette and begins what I call the Wasted Girl Play - the attempt to indicate, through wobbly eyes meant to be seductive, the convienient throwing of dead weight meant to be a casual arm around the waist, that, if I'm willing...
"I LOVE cowboys! When I was in Texas once... And I hooked up with a cowboy. I like... reVERSE COWWWgirl...."
The first woman, by the look on her face, is both the more sober one and the one most embarrassed. I laugh and discreetly slide out of the way-too-despera
" We're kinda fucked up, sorry," The first woman says.
"It's okay. Happens. So's the world, if fact."
Again, I laugh. Another welcome distraction.
* * * *
The first woman and I chat - turns out she's been sobering up for hours as her now babbling friend had been getting more and more wasted - for a bit, over cigarettes, as the second woman rambles on, in fact, to the same telephone I'd been holding up before I'd surrendered it to her.
Also turns out that her father just found out he's being downsized after Christmas - hefty early retirement buyout from the sounds of it. He's been with the same firm since before she was born and, well, he's already put her on notice not to expect as much help with college expenses as she'd like.
So, she explains, she figured she'd better go out and get drunk with her whore of a roommate before the real world kicks her family in the ass.
* * * *"Um, this is kinda silly, but can I try it on?" The first girl asks.
"Try what on?"
"Your hat. Looks Mexican or something. Like gunslinger, you know?"
I take off the hat, start to plop the soaking wet thing atop her head. And then, well, I don't know if it was the soaking wet hair, or the way her shivering skin shuddered beneath a cold street light, but I asked for something in exchange since I'd be giving up my shelter from the storm...
She didn't even hesitate. I guess, well, either I'm a good salesman or it was merely a good deal worth taking advantage of, when the money's getting tight.
And by kissing a stranger, yes, by even embracing and turning a peck into an impromptu make-out session, we were able to both share warmth and the brim of an old Stetson in the middle of a November rain. A hot mouth and a warm body beats shivering in the cold alone.
Drunk Girl No. 2? As the telephone pole proved to be too sober for her, she fell to her knees just in time to puke up all sorts of foul stuff, including what looked like semen.
Right in front of an ATM machine, down the street from a real estate office.
Land and liberty, General Zapata's fighters used to chant. There are, of course, still other things in life that are free, are open to better negotiation and barter and open free market exchange than our countrysides and our freedoms.
And yes, it is better to live and die on one's feet, even in the rain, than it is to live on one's knees spitting up a stomachful of vodka and jism.
Even in hard times, a fair trade in an open, honest marketplace, where each party uses the other for something in exchange for something, beats the alternative.
* * * *
Hey, chicks dig the hat. And the "cowboy stuff."
What more is there to say, really?
Really wish I'd bothered to catch the woman's name. Or to have given her mine.
That's a market where I'd consider investing again.
- # # # -