The season of my discontent
Summer’s here, and the time is right for @*#%ing in the streets
When I initially set out to write this wistful contemplation on the vagaries of summertime romance here in Sacramento, my first thought was: What the f—- do I know? My visits to the amorous twin cities of sex and romance have been tawdry excursions into the nether regions where simple precepts such as “good” and “evil” or “agony” and “ecstasy” blur into meaningless phonics. I take the road of bad intentions to the city limits and head straight for the buffet. All you can gorge on at one low price. I am a pleasure vacuum. I suckle at the teat of unbridled physical gratification and all other hedonistic worldly pleasures. From the opulence of Caligula’s Rome to the run-down tenements in the outskirts of Moscow, where teens frolic in front of gawking black-market video cameras, wearing nothing but grandiose Red Guard hats while bad ’80s techno thumps in the background—I want it all.
I hear you, gentle readers. We know what you want, Mr. Yudt, but what can you give?
Well, uh … nothing.
That is, nothing but the following moral invectives, the downside to my lust for life. You see, all good things, too, must come to pass. And sometimes they pass yelling and screaming and hurling objects at your skull that once were amusing and decorative bric-a-brac. This is a cautionary piece, to be sure. The surreal art of breaking up. Unless you’re a weirdo and married the first person you humped, you’ll be one with me and be touched by my pain. Hey, that was kind of sexy, huh?
But I’m sure that if you are reading this, then you are a well-adjusted, happy, perfectly decent human being. You and your loved one enjoy ambling around aimlessly on Second Saturdays, practice the ritual of having a dinner at a restaurant neither of you has ever been to before, and go to the Tower Theatre to check out the latest French romantic comedy that stars Gérard Depardieu’s nose. You hold hands. You cuddle. And every so often, you’ll f—- like beasts. You’re all right. And sometimes, so am I.
When: summer of 1982
Where: a Denny’s coffee shop in Rancho Cordova
Soundtrack to the breakup: Flipper, Generic Flipper
It all went south of heaven muy pronto after I kicked her in the leg bone in front of the Showcase Theatre with steel-toed combat boots. She started leaking blood-red blood and whirling a dervish of lamentations for all to hear. Passers-by shot me the stink-eye, and I felt them ricochet one and two at a time off my inner monster. As it Pollocked her leg in corpuscles and platelets, I mumble-grumbled a few half-apologies before the accused became the accuser. Why did you take me to see a Paul McCartney & Wings movie? Did I really kick you that hard? What do you want to do now? Anything to disguise the fact that I was a stupid kid who always did these stupid things.
Poor Lisa. She was the test subject in Project First Girlfriend, a trapped white mouse regularly being injected with massive doses of Adolescent Male Simplex in this cruel experiment. She was barraged with stunted growth and a variety of reality deficiencies and was made to suffer the near-fatal First Breakup Disorder. I was the all-consuming parasite on her nubile, unblemished host, sucking the juices of winsome innocence down the gullet of my plague hole and shitting out spirochetes of bloated self-import and festering doubt. Helter-skelter was coming down fast, man.
Fast-forward a couple of months. My head was dizzy, buzzing, sweaty. I knew nothing except that the boat on fire inside my guts was actually the Andrea Doria and that the guy sitting across from me stirring a cup of black and bitter was not my friend. He used to be. Now he was Lisa’s boyfriend. And that was that, he said. Faster than you could say “F—- you,” an infinite number of revenge fantasies careened akimbo in my pink think-meat, a frenzy of tiny psychotic pachinko balls all pingponging around variations on the theme—the flaying of skin on the feet, face and upper thighs; arcane bloodletting techniques culled from centuries of cruelty; a colorful laundry list of methodologies that Amnesty International might take umbrage at—yet none of them seemed severe enough. Was this really it? Were we past tense? I glanced up at the smug contempt smeared across his equine glare, upper lip knotted up in one corner betraying a hint of yellowing enamel as his facade shifted into full sneer mode. And with that, Rancho Cordova became my Waterloo.
When: summer of 1984
Where: Milk Tree, Vacaville
Soundtrack to the breakup: the Birthday Party, Prayers on Fire
My favorite breakup. It was so civil, yet devastatingly terminal. There was no subtext, no second chances. So pure and crushing was the gesture that I revel in the fact that I was jettisoned in such an extreme yet tasteful fashion. And goddamn, this is the fine art of denial. A lost craft in these days of lax handgun laws and shallow graves, of screaming public spectacles and police intervention. Good people, I implore you—when it’s over, it’s over. Let it go. Move on. Find someone new to love and/or hate you. Don’t you read Ask Joey?
Bonnie was a fresh-faced UC Davis student, a top-shelf ballerina and (like myself) a rabid music fan. We bonded over midnight trips to area trailer parks to steal pink flamingos and garden gnomes, records by the Cramps and Hasil Adkins, and massive amounts of libido liberation. She had but two rules to our relationship, a pair of golden commandments which were never to be broken, or punishment—swift, severe and final—was to rain down upon me like, uh, mean, evil rain. Rule No. 1: Don’t lie. Rule No. 2: Don’t do drugs. Simple.
Soooooo, I was lying about doing drugs. I was harboring a nasty lil’ habit working the nightshift at Tower on Watt Avenue. It consisted of copious amounts of everything, always. And for months, it went undetected. Then a nemesis appeared. Remember the guy in the breakup above? Lisa’s new boyfriend? Now he was Bonnie’s best friend’s squeeze, and he still felt like there was some “unfinished business” to take care of, so I was “outed” as being some cross between Sid Vicious and Manuel Noriega.The night smelt normal. At 1a.m., I was riding shotgun in her ’66 Corvair heading north toward nowhere fast, feeling my spine trying to brrrrreeeeak out through my skin to relieve the pressure and all the muscles strrrraaaaining to rip off the bone as the first pangs of withdrawal kicked in. A hundred and twenty-five pounds of meat hung on my 6-foot skeleton, and I was disappearing before pinpoint eyes.
The drive was wordless, the Doppler hum of traffic swelling and releasing as we rolled down the windows to let in the humid summer air blowing across the causeway. The snap, crackle and pop of tires on gravel as we pulled into the Milk Farm coffee shop a half-hour out of town. I vaguely remember it being dark inside. I had no appetite, to go along with no sleep, no desire and no hope. No nothing.
She’d never seen me like this, a puddle of toxicity, a useless lump of muttering nerves. I held my head up by propping my palms against my jutting cheekbones. She was a stern matron, the look of disappointment without a hint of sympathy. Bonnie began speaking in her lilting birdlike voice, tersely, matter-of-factly. “Do you remember the two rules?” she asked as my synapses popped left and right, struggling to comprehend the sounds coming from between her lips. She reiterated them, clarified her stance: No lying. No drugs.
She stood straight and tall as if to show me that she had her dignity intact—which she did—ran her fingers through my hair, quietly hinted at the word “goodbye,” gave me one last look of disappointment, sauntered gracefully out the door, got in her car and vrrrooommmed away. A classic adieu.
I spent the next few moments playing scenes from my past 20 summers in my head, and all my movies had the same sad ending. Someone always saying goodbye. As the curtains closed, yet again, I came to the realization, albeit several minutes after the fact, that, hey, SHE WAS MY RIDE HOME! The night just got longer.
It would be another 10 summers before I would finally get it right, and over that time I lost the taste for those forbidden fruits and other psychotropic temptations. Not that I had one moment of regret. Oh sure, there were some unpleasant, heart-stopping, blood-spattered, felonious nightmares, but that was like one week total out of 20 years. But, oh yeah, this is a cautionary tale. About romance. About love. About sex-u-al deee-sires. About learning from mistakes and figuring out this whole kooky life/love/loaf thing. About how even those nasty breakups can be just one more chapter in this weird cosmic comedy.
But first, let me tell you about this mamacita I know down in Tijuana who’s just crazy about her farmyard animals …