Hash Oil Factory Part 1

South Milwaukee, Wisconsin was in the deep freeze during the winter of 1983, everything froze up, it was impossible to get a pizza delivered without it turning to ice before it came to your door. Figaro was working part time at the Harley Factory on Juneau Avenue, spray painting Harley tanks, fenders and side covers as they flowed by, strung on wire hooks and chain. $8.75 a hour and no benefits. FL lived in a room in a old south side factory, with no heat or electricity. There was Fig and big Mikey, AKA his 'countship'.  To survive we set up propane heaters and slept in our snow mobile suits with space blankets. If the propane heaters ever blew, our snow suits would fire up like spark in dry pine. We would use bedside buckets at night to pee because the only toilets in the old factory were frozen thru. 

Fig and big Mikey were working for the drug lord of Milwaukee,  Jimmy,  AKA the 'Chemist'.  On the second level of the old factory, sitting on the mighty 100 year old scantling, sat a 200 gallon stainless steel drum that the Chemist had welded up as a hash oil distillery.

Fig and big Mikey were paid $225 cash a day. A hefty sum for us poor south-side boys. Figaro was stashing the money from work at the Harley Factory and hash oil still to "flee da holy by Jesus"  out of deep freeze  Milwaukee for paradise, Mexico City.

Working at Harley spray painting tanks was awful on Figaro Lucowski's lungs, It was as though the tradition of  'The Wisconsin Death Trap" the rugged wooden cross of self destruction, socialism and Jesuit teachings, meant that as young men, both Fig and big Mikey would do dangerous work selflessly. After work, all young Jesuit south-side socialista were required to  destroy their bodies even further, doing boiler makers (shots of well whiskey dropped in large steins of Blatz).  Smoking filterless cigarettes, only Luckys and the rare pack of Camels were true to form.

The work with the giant 200 gallon stainless steel hash oil still was extremely dangerous. Using canisters of propane run through copper piping to stoke the slow burning flame under the drum. Boiling dried, shredded ganja mixed with butane and flaxseed oil, in minutes a supercritical fluid extractio, hash oil seeping through. The Chemist would show up from time to time, like a Wehrmacht engineer, with a pointer, quantifying, lecturing, shacking his head stiffly, not enough hash oil. Fig and big Mickey knew the still didn't have enough ventilation, one spark, boom and out like two fleshy fire balls.  The metal work, tightening, welding, wiping the drum clean, had to be done before loading the ganja mix and firing up. Once fired, Fig and big Mikey wrapped up in green army flannel. Any mental; belts, chains, keys, crucifixes, engineer boots removed. "Smoke em if you got em" filterless, Luckys dipped in Hash Oil outside the factorium meters from the still. There was allot of in-between or downtime, listening to blues & jazz on a ghetto box, powered by a small Honda gas engine generator.  Three or four meals a day, Meatball and Tuna subs from Subway,  Cheesy Dans Pizza and coffee from the Coffee Trader.

Fig was working the spray paint line at Harley, it was burgundy flake day, at break time FL got a  call on the Harley factory phone from a the Chemist. Using code he said that the newspaper had been shut down because of lack of circulation, telling Fig to pick up his shit, paycheck and beat it. The still wasn't producing enough hash oil to cover expenses. Jimmy was making so much money as Milwaukee's number 1 coke supplier, the hash oil scheme was a jape, a five minute coca vision.

Aside: The Chemist eventually got busted after Figaro Lucowski was long gone from the hash oil scene. He did five years in a Federal pen and roomed with the Reverend Jim Baker. He later told Fig that Jim Baker was the most impossibly anal person in the world. Baker's job at the pen was cleaning toilets, wiping every one of them personally. After the Chemist did his time, he used the coca money he stashed in a locker at the "YWCA"  to buy up real estate on Milwaukee's Eastside. He was a great guy really who invented the phrase "sport fucking" and  never got  involved in any violence in all his years of dealing coca. 

Lucowski in the earily eighties would buy his clothes in the hispanic neighborhood of Milwaukee's South-side, Leo's Wholesale. Pants with color, burgundy, brown, purple. Long pimp loafers, red and brown, lumber man boots in winter. Knee length brown or black leather coats, shirts, open collar of all colors, and always the essential fashion accessory, a Harley leather wallet with chain. With hair died black to his waist, Figaro Lucowski was a rare breed of white-bread peacock, biker, junk and pimp. 

Figaro was out of a job and broken hearted after breaking up with his platinum haired beatnik old lady Pearl. With a healthy stash of cash, Lucowski would venture into dark caverns of gothic night and fuel bars, snorting coca mixed with heroin, drinking cognac to keep warm in still winter. He would prey on goth geishas using coke and hash oil, laying Trout lines, Gold-fishing, skilled at breaking down tough exteriors with false words of love, he could fuck women and girls every night of the week, Still dead inside, missing Pearl.

Lucowski had  one VCD. He watched it over and over, he memorized the lines, it was his touchstone, his bible and savior, his personal lotus charm. 'The Night of the Iguana' the John Huston film, screenplay by the brilliant Tennessee Williams. FL was bi polar with brain endings that needed kick starting.  He loved watching the opening scene, Richard Burton as Reverend T. Lawrence Shannon breaking down as he delivered his sermon to his flock of grey faced puritans. Lucowski would watch Shannon breaking down over and over again, as though 'the something' that was breaking down in Shannon was breaking in Lucowski as well.

Aside: Religion for me is personal and subjective, it does not need to be hung from a crucifix, memorialized in Rome, participate in unholy wars or wear payot.
Modern day religion; preceding, out of touch, restraining mother earth and human kind from breath taking spirituality and transcendence. If Jesus, Mohammad or Mose came back to earth they would all be appalled! You could liken this to Norman Mailer's metaphor on NASA rockets blowing spent jet fuel into space, disturbing the angels highly tuned sensitivities. 

Aside: I wrote the preceding statement a year ago and have since become a atheist who holds tight to fantasies of angel names like:  Galgliel- Haamaih- Jophiel- Lailah- Manakel- Trgiaob

It was March in Milwaukee, still winter. Lucowski had watched "The Night of The Iguana" a couple of thousand times. Figaro was unemployed, broken hearted over the loss of platinum haired Pearl, so cold that he could feel it in his bones, sitting on $10,000, he figured it was time to make a pilgrimage to Mexico City. Lucowski could remember winter vacation with his family in Mexico in1968. One such flashback went like this, as written in Lucowski's diary.

My best Christmas memories are unconventional and have nothing to do with garlands, cozy fires and egg nog.
In 1967 I spent Christmas in Mexico with my family. We were staying at the Las Hamacas Hotel on Acapulco Bay. In front of the hotel, on the bay, there was a small taco cafe that had a juke box with a few gringo hits, topical music of the time. Psychedelica: The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, The Rolling Stones and Beatles.

On Christmas Day, I met a Californian surfer dude with blond shoulder length hair and his younger sister from Malibu, they were also staying with their parents at the Las Hamacas. We shared a common interest, scoring some marijuana. We were told to look for a local Mexican by the name of "Maestro Magico". The process of scoring was like a pagan ritual. When we found the Maestro, we scored a few fingers of "Acapulco Gold" wrapped in paper sack.
We Three Kings went back to the Las Hamacas, hid in the toilet and turned on. It was my first time; we sat at the pool and threw small stones in, watching the water ripple outwards as ringlets, expanding , each ripple a Sacred Malady of life.
When we got bored with the pool we decided to go body surfing. We were fithteen and seventeen, but the Mexicans on the beach sold us all the Corona and tequila we wanted. Corona was great in those days, comparable to german beer in thickness. We were smashed in a seconds, we smoked our Acapulco gold openly on the deserted beach.

After the sunset, we went back to the Los Hamacas to crash. I passed out with my surfer friend’s sister in their room.  Joy, blind without her oval tortus shelled specs, long sepia hair, pear like breast exposed allot in her macramé bikini. She was a angel. We  fumbled and managed to get it on somehow. I didn't know where her vagina was for sure, guessing it was somewhere between her legs. Back then in the late sixties, tongue swallowing kissing, was the best thing happening.

Through a mescal golden haze later that night, I realized I missed Christmas dinner with my family. When my mother got hold of me, she verbally hammered out the "riot act" in triplets. Then she smacked the shit out of me, punching me a few times, calling me a little shit. She was a tough old Army RN for sure. The discipline was energizing, in a few years at sixteen I left home. 
But I am going to tell you, the ass kicking I got was worth it.  For those who may breeze through the diary of scared beast, that groundbreaking Christmas was the best on record. No church or crucifix, garland or colored light, no cozy fire place, no fat dinner, could make me as happy as the parting of: Virgin angelica and sacrifice, I enjoyed the night.

Some times dreaming on mescaline, Lucowski remembered reading "The Night of The Iguana" was filmed in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. He wondered if the dried leaf roofed and cheap brick beach houses were still there? FL visualized, hoping somehow, that the players were all in place, interacting.  Some local Mexican actors could have taken over and carried on, play acting the parts as the windmill churned, a memorium playhouse or ghost hotel:

(T Lawrence Shannon, shit canned by the Anglicans, holding his crucifix spatially in the face of demons, busted on a tequila bender, guileless, working as a guide for  a cheap ass tour company, breaking down, living between heaven and hell, bringing puritan church ladies to a blah blah's dumpy banana leaf and coconut tree resort, with gay pimp marimba beach boys, a opium smoking chinaman cook, wasted, lying on a Parrot fishbone, a white haired 90 year old Brit poet, not unlike Frost reciting Orpheus's Exit, left over drunken Argentinian Nazis nudist saluting 'hail Hitler', cocks at attention, enjoying gay sex and tequila orgies in the jungle AS SEEN THROUGH THE PIERCING NIGHT EYES OF A LONLEY IQUANA ---PATHOS PAUCITY---- TIED UP ON A PIECE OF TWINE…….)

One day, oh about, the middle of May in 1983, it was still cold in Milwaukee. Lucowski began to sense that something was breaking inside him, and that all the beer and pussy in the city couldn't warm him up. A few days earlier, platinum Pearl gave Figaro a VCD for his birthday. Pearl thought he was behaving weirdly; mishegas-shlimazel-messiah-savanthood disorder she called it. The VCD  starring FL's idol Richard Burton and Richard's inamorata immortal Elizabeth Taylor was 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolfe?" by the great Edward Albee. Figaro dropped some mescaline to tune into the screenplay. The dialogue was brilliant, but astrally damaging on mescaline. He had to drink a bottle of cognac to shake it off. Like a bent green twig, bent too far, Lucowski snapped towards the middle of the fourth act as Martha said to George "you make me puke", George replies, "Martha, in my mind you're buried in cement right up to the neck. No, up to the nose, it's much quieter". The sixth act propelled Lucowski into the stratosphere, somewhere between proper mental hygiene and "talkin to the Devil",  George's soliloquy did him in---"You take the trouble to construct a civilization, to build a society based on the principles of... of principle. You make government and art and realize that they are, must be, both the same. You bring things to the saddest of all points, to the point where there is something to lose. Then, all at once, through all the music, through all the sensible sounds of men building, attempting, comes the Dies Irae (Latin: mass for the dead). And what is it? What does the trumpet sound? Up yours !--- George's existential, academically astute cynicism didn't mix well with Lucowski's mescaline trip.  ~FL~  Monday, May 24, 2010

No comments: