I’m in the hot basement. It’s a Fernando’s Hideaway of sorts. The music is playing; the beer is brewing and my alarm clock finally turns itself off. Time to crack open a cold Brewington Beer.
There was no totem pole. We were both at the bottom but played important roles. Thinking back to how it all started, I wasn’t easy to work with. I felt bad for bro. If only there was some way to help.
Don’t judge. I knew Ottis O’Toole a bit. The twenty-seven-year-old with boyish charm and charisma knew how to act on the airwaves, at least at first. Too bad he was stuck in Hellstead Apartments. Unfortunate, an unsatisfying lover, but bro was talented. He never phoned it in like we were jizz bros. He was highly skilled, but it was not alright.
The Rude Native, Brewington’s classy bistro, not like a coat factory chain, but a converted farmhouse under a rum and coke sky. Near The Weber Warehouse, farmland and dirt. A high-class joint. The nowhere bar reeked of urine, yesterday’s farts, and rotten asparagus. The pit of the Karaoke scene.
O’Toole’s rural fanbase wanted the Karaoke performance of a lifetime. O’Toole flew in like Clark Kent. God was Ottis ever stoked. Bro started with Thriller and he sang his heart out. A real natural, but he wouldn’t stop. Ottis O’Toole, a familiar face who was dabbling in drugs, vandalism, shoplifting, assault, not paying taxes, faking suicides, working Karaoke shows wearing face paint, and remembering back to recent auditions. Karaoke was his only superpower. Meditation and skull-fucking were some of his lazy pastimes.
He was supposed to play this guy that was a loser boyfriend, a rock-and-roll guy who is scum, the impetus for new Aztec settlements, stumbling into radio broadcasting. Everybody in Brewington knew that. When it was pitched to him, they said it would be two or three episodes only, then he would be done. Ottis was very intentional about staying up the whole night before and really just come in the office and be a wreck. But Ottis just wanted to be helpful. Mike Rogers was auditioning for Buck Rogers, just like a real Mister Rogers, doing a really bang-up job and everything, but buddy wondered what was wrong with Ottis, because he looked terrible. Mike didn’t know he was heavy into marijuana, selling coke to his agent to buy more weed. Ottis rambled on about on-air method-acting, conditioning to go full-on Native American. Even bragged about it. Took to a peace pipe. Watched retro baseball. Cleveland’s double-headers. All the while, talking about how there were more Indians in India. Mike thought he was more of a meth-head. Ottis didn’t care what anyone else thought. Drowning in student debt, he went back home. He went back to gummy edibles and assorted soft chews, trying to make his breath minty fresh and clean. Ottis didn’t want me, President Deadhead, thinking he was a professional con artist.
Back home, Ottis gave up acting like Mario Juan Valez. A flick of the switch. He became someone else, even branded the name. I never really made it through the first month. A fearless Superman warrior, Daniel Blowden would’ve tied me down to watch Bram Stroker’s “Cockula” then smash through the door, but bud just stared me straight in the face, wearing beads, necklaces, tribal headgear, feather-work bracelets, and a wampum belt. He was equipped. With a Voodoo mask and a war bonnet tucked in his duffel bag, Ottis had a pretty fantastic studio set-up. His lush, green apartment, about the size of a coffin. “Daniel, how are you doing?” I said, but bud never responded, bobbing his head from side to side. “Nice lapel microphone, bro.” But God, did Ottis ever reek. The music was good, but he smoked one too many super blunts on company time. Smoked pipes and cigars. But that wasn’t the problem. A hard worker who maybe worked a little too hard. In it on his own. Ottis oozed a bit too much confidence. Thought he could do it alone. He told me to get the fuck out of his apartment.
All of a sudden, out of nowhere, he came alive. His bobbling head swayed faster. It looked like he didn’t want me to go. He mumbled and said, “Mr. Show-Business, I don’t mean to be insensitive.” Bro shouted, “You know what drives me out of my fucking mind? Fucking grocery stores are all the same. None of them have American cereal, protein shakes or bars or the good stuff you can find if you go to Buffalo. I fucking hate cotton candy and Disney World.”
Ottis was jumping up and down like a four-year-old. He had a nervous breakdown. I was agitated and needed to go. “I wouldn’t fuck you with Bea Arthur’s dick,” I muttered, lowering my head, slowly walking over towards the door.
“You really nailed me, you prick,” he said. “‘Golden Girls’, McDonald’s commercials….” He pointed at a foam box on the table. “That’s the McDLT, bro.” Seriously, I had to go. I sighed then shook my head; pissed with the leaker, closing the door behind me. It wasn’t fair and nothing was, but my job was done. Time to go. Ottis needed professional help.
The plague was tough. Ottis took fate into his own hands. I’m not like Ottis playing Daniel, a native brother from the gutter. But I remember what it felt like to live without hope in the wrong place at the wrong time. I wanted to reach out. WRICH wanted to help. But I had to end it. The last pay bought Ottis a squeegee, a “cool” window cleaning tool. Ottis even bought a fly swatter. They considered his radio performances and car detailing non-essential. Sure, he’d return to Karaoke, dishwashing, and selling limousines in his spare time, but from grungy pants and a shirt to Native tribal gear, bro made virtually nothing for all of the menial jobs. The shows turned kookier and more abstract before I let him go. Bro thought Kevin Costner was the last action hero. It tickled O’Toole to share his radio shows online.
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