rebecca l. eisenberg on Mon, 16 Feb 1998 08:10:28 +0100 (MET)

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36 Hours at 306 MHz

by r.l. eisenberg


The first line barely made a difference.

"You must not have snorted it in hard enough, Gwen." It was 2 P.M. and 85
degrees in sunny Marina del Rey, a wealthy beach-and-boat community just
west of Los Angeles.

Gwen removed the rolled up single-dollar bill from her nose, pulled her
teased-and-sprayed yellow hair back from her face, and looked up. What was
she doing? When the Las Vegas-based investment bank for whom she just
started working sent her to Los Angeles to conduct due diligence on a new
internet start-up that was going public, she had no idea it would amount to
this. Four surf-haired skatepunks stared in her direction. If her boss
found out, she'd be fired. Which was so hypocritical because she knew those
assholes were coking it up at every opportunity.

Gwen gazed back down at the three lines laid out on the Minor Threat CD.
The scene faded.

Bikers. Kitchen labs in desert trailer parks. Stomach ulcers. Violent
assault. This is what crank, or Bathtub Crystal Methamphetamine, meant to
Gwen. A USC grad who lived in Manhattan Beach for five years, she knew the
scene; Gwen had friends on the club trail who were total methheads,
smoking, snorting, and dancing all night long (and the next night, and the
next). But Gwendolyn Ross had never been one to meth out, preferring the
luxury of her lucrative yet somewhat mindless
entry-level-with-promised-promotion job over a week of combating the urge
for recovery sleep that inevitably followed.

Gwen considered herself, for the most part, a Good Girl. Of course, she
would bend the rules every now and then, but she always seemed to need an
excuse to do things that she knew she wanted to do, but that she suspected
she should not do. Sometimes the excuse was that she had too much to drink
and that that young executive was Right There. She had done coke before; it
was glam and sexy. She might have wanted an excuse to do something more
dangerous. But so far, none had appeared.

That day in June, it happened. She had spent the last three nights in Los
Angeles partying with old Greek buddies from SC, and now had two days to
write the report that was going to make or break her job. Most of the
documents she needed were with her in Los Angeles. A few were at home in
Vegas. She was tan; her blue eyes were bloodshot red; her head pounded with
a three-day hangover. She needed to get this done. Fuck it that she was now
trying to snort the drug that has been blamed for so many of society's
problems into and up her whitegirl freckled nose.

She pondered the aesthetic. Crank: the drug of choice for the account rep's
lackey; for the not-quite-yet-fully-disillusioned midwestern white trash
homegirl with a no-voice-no-responsibility sidekick gig trying to make a
name for herself in the Entertainment Industry; for the finance degreed
private university graduate still paying her annual dues to Kappa Kappa
Gamma; for the nice girl people find disarmingly susceptible to all-night

It worked.

And there she was, in a not-quite sunny studio on the beach-side of Marina
del Rey, surrounded by PowerMac computers, hi-8 recorders, punk and metal
CDs, and four obviously-not-young-executive UNIX programmers and CD-ROM
burners. Getting high with the client's lackeys was the ultimate rebellion
against her corporate employer who viewed Gwen as too timid to pull such a
stunt, as well as too stupid to get away with it. But that was just the
image she painted for the public, like the Barbie sundress that hung on her
that day.

But Gwen, in her own mind, was far from floozy. She knew what she was
getting herself into, and even went as far as looking it up on a web search
engine the previous day. Crank was first discovered by Japanese scientists
in 1893, and soon after it caught on in Southeast Asia as a whole, its
popularity spread to the rest of the world. Recognizing its benefits as a
performance-enhancer, many national governments began to "crank up"
soldiers in order to prolong fighting ability. The Axis (Germany, Italy and
Japan) used more crank than the Allies, but, in general, so much crank was
used in WWII that many historians refer to it as the "Speed War." Gwen
visualized Kamikaze pilots racing on Methamphetamine and crank, slamming
into American battleships, high on the artificial courage she was
attempting to snort on up to her brain. She needed that edge.

"Well, you do know that one of my friends lost her sense of smell with this
shit? Taste too." Gwen's trance broke.

"Snorting is burly. It's a good pain."

Gwen tried not to listen. In her mind, she could think of only one good
pain -- having her boyfriend Mole stick his hand up her ass while they were
fucking -- and burning off her olifactories sounded anything but tempting.
Somehow, however, she was compelled.

Gwen picked up the rolled-up dollar, exhaled, covered her left nostril,
bent over the CD, and sniffed in as hard as she could.

Moments after she straightened up it hit her. Her right brain lit on fire.
The burn exploded in her ears. Wasps stung down her throat, burrowed into
her neck, settled in, and slowly disintegrated.

Wordless and grimacing, Gwen left the room and sat behind her laptop in the
foyer. She picked up her pile of papers. She was alert. Her heart pounded
in her chest. She was aware. She started typing.

Crank is made by combining ephedrine -- a common stimulant found in many
cold medicines, ginseng capsules, and diet pills -- with hydrochloric acid
and red lye in a solution. The whole mixture is pressure cooked until ready
for sale. It emerges a crystal powder, with colors ranging from white to
red depending on its origin. Mexico serves up a yellow crank specialty,
like tortilla soup: mixed with urine. Gwen was relieved that this stash was
white, most likely from the United States or Asia.

"I should get this down," she told herself. "There is so much I need to do.
I need a list."

Write report, organize files. Alphabetize. Call Bob. Get back to Vegas. Add
charts. Proofread. Fax. Mail. Send. Laundry, dishes, cat, iguana.
Recycling. Gynecologist appointment. Present for Mole. Mmmmole.

Oh, shit.

This was worth it, she thought, even considering what they had to go
through to cop their quarter bag. The belief that crank is simple to score
in Los Angeles is an urban legend. But one of the guys at this warez joint
was friends with this artsy dyke speed freak, so he and Gwen cruised over
to her house to pick up the stash. The whole event reminded Gwen of an
episode on Beverly Hills 90210 where Kelly Taylor drove over to her coke
dealer's house in what looked like Inglewood, and was captured there for an
extended period of time. Gwen loved Kelly Taylor.

The art lesbo was straight out of "After Hours," a movie Gwen had watched
many times with Mole. She drove a refurbished jalopy, had torn out her
carpet and laid her own hardwood floors; and possessed the largest
collection of lounge music on vinyl, Katherine Hepburn films on VHS, and
vintage movie posters and original wall murals Gwen had ever seen. Although
Gwen had an unusually high capacity for camp, especially considering her
somewhat conventional background, she was not exactly too excited about
shooting the shit with speeddyke, who was talking 100 miles per hour,
questioning her about Vegas and ex-girlfriends who live there, and dragging
them from room to room for a tour of her home, including slides of her
artwork. It felt like hours to Gwen before the transaction was complete and
they were on their way back to Marina del Rey.

And now, the following day, Gwen had a report to write and a day and a half
to get back to Vegas and submit it to her superiors. But she was pumped.
She typed 200 words a minute. She researched and analyzed. Gwen was on fire=

If only Mole were here. Gwen remembered when they worked together at First
California, how they used to sneak off at lunch break and make like weasels
in the high security safe deposit room. Fast and furious, and out in ten
minutes, only marginally ruffled but very sweaty. She wanted a drink.

No, she wanted more crank. Two lines were not enough. But she did not want
to come off as a junkie or anything. She got up and walked outside, lit a
Merit Light, and walked toward her Audi to feed the meter.

"Hey Gwen," one of the programmers said, leaning against the building's
wall and smoking. "How're you holding up?"

Gwen jumped. "Good, good. Just feeding the meter."

"You should move your car to one of the free spaces, over there across the

Gwen squinted. Shit that was far. Could she drive? Sure. "Over there? Oh,
great. Thanks, Clint."

She shot him a wide grin, skimmed over to her Audi, hopped into the
driver's seat and turned the ignition. She twitched. Her car twitched. She
slid out of the parking lot, onto the street and into a non-metered space
right there. Phew, I'm cool, she told herself.

After looking both ways a dozen times, she crossed the street, stepped into
the elevator, and returned to her laptop. She wanted more. She rose and
returned to the studio.

The guys were doing something with camcorders and computers. Gwen fixated
on the cameras, their tripods, the lenses.  Gwen was almost a model, once.
But then her father talked some sense into her. Hence the finance degree
and the multimedia investment bank.

"Hey Gwen, how you doing?"

"You know. Status quo."

It was 4 PM.

"You know, we have a bunch left if you need more."

"Well, I dunno." She eyed the inventory. "Sure."

She laid out two more lines. Hey, I'm getting good at this, she thought. A
natural. She snorted one and looked up. The burn slowly subsided. She
snorted the second, whisked off to the restroom, and pissed.

Pain. Oh damn, the report.

Seated back at the laptop, Gwen returned to furious typing. Facts and
figures. Assessments. The rest of the office paled to white. Once in a
while a wind whisked in her periphery.

Wow, I never noticed how loud this keyboard echoes, she thought. I love
this computer. Shit I'm thirsty.

"Hey Gwen, how're you holding up?" She did not even notice Ben approaching.
He was carrying a 40 ounce.

"Cool, Ben. You?" Her legs twitched in rhythm.

"Well, I'm a little whigged out. You want a sip?"

"Yeah, awesome, thanks." She gulped and handed back the bottle. It was ligh=

"So we're going to check out Dose Rot at an in-store at 6:30 if you wanna
come with."

"That's OK, thanks. Gotta jam on the report." Hardcore band? Unlikely. And
Gwen did not feel the slightest bit social, which was relieving to her,
since she heard guys in Vegas complain about how annoying their girlfriends
were when speeding. These computer dudes were nice enough to get her wired
and let her use their office; she did not want to annoy them.

"OK, cool. Feel free to use my computer when we're gone. You can stay as
long as Jan is here. She's working late tonight."

"Great, perfect, awesome. Thanks." Was she talking as fast as Ben was?

Ben walked off.

People in the office skittered by. Wow, some folks are really hyped up by
this stuff, she thought. Cool.

What was she doing? Duh. the report. But people kept coming by, distracting
her. "Hey, you wanna see the turntable?"


"So what kind of music are you into?"

"You know, Jazz, Blues. I used to play Flute for a while, too." Next thing
she knew she was spouting off to Curt the story of her life, as if she were
never paranoid that she sounded even more annoying than the speed psychos
that you sometimes get to see on TV or in movies, or that keep you too long
in their house as you are trying to cop some cheap drugs.

It was 6 PM.

Shit, the report.

Ben poked his head into the room. "Hey, we should get ready to take off.
Want to do a couple more lines?"

"Yeah." Curt got up. Gwen followed.

Back in the studio. "So what's up with this show?"

The guys laid out six more lines. Curt and Clint rolled joints. Gwen's back
itched. Must be the sunburn. Jan poked her head in.

"Hey Jan, you want another line?"

"Sure." Gwen watched Jan suck up half a line, then the other half. She
wanted more too.

Clint and Curt both did a line, and rolled up some of the powder in another
joint. Ben did a line. Gwen eyed the white crystally powder.

"Am I a fool if I do one more?" Not really waiting for an answer, she
snorted both remaining lines, and returned the remaining powder to the
small clear packet. There was a lot left. The room smelled like dope.
Gwen's head exploded. She had to pee. But it was such a hassle. She had so
much to get done.

"Hell, I should head back to Vegas tonight."

"Nah, you'll crash hard midway. Stay and work; leave in the morning."

Fucking head rush. Gwen steadied herself and scurried to the restroom. When
she returned, all the guys were tossing their stuff together. She saved her
file on floppy and sat down at Curt's machine, next to the turntable. Blues
Explosion, the Clash, Thelonius Monk, ooh, Count Basie. Something moved
behind her.  She heard the doors open and close.

Curt's computer was connected to the Internet. She opened a telnet session
and checked her mail. About 50 mailing list fluff letters. Two from Bob,
her supervisor. Three from Mole. He's online at She joined
him. She'll pee later.

<*gwendel*> hey hon
<*mole*>  still in la i see?
<*gwendel*> yeah.  stressed and loopy.  report due tomorrow.
<*gwendel*> so i snorted meth today
<*mole*> ha ha thats the loopy factor
<*mole*> and?
<*gwendel*> it is weird
<*gwendel*> taking it generally just made me want to take more and more
<*gwendel*> i am only now getting a bit jumpy
<*gwendel*> but i am like so pumped
<*mole*> ha ha yes it does have the "more will be fun" effect
<*gwendel*> that is how most things are with me though
<*gwendel*> but damn it hurt when i snorted it
<*mole*> thats the fun part
<*mole*> i um i really like that hurt
<*mole*> heh
<*gwendel*> hee
<*gwendel*> i am not too much a fan of pain.  well you know

Footsteps in the hall. Hell, was Jan leaving? Gwen peeked into the hall.
No, still there.

<*gwendel*> yeah i guess i dig this
<*mole*> right on
<*mole*> its fun for up all night
<*mole*> good thing ya dont have a *deadline* or anything ;)
<*gwendel*> i really need to be back by tomorrow. i wonder if it would be
dangerous if i drove back tonite
<*mole*> no.  it will be fun and safe
<*gwendel*> i need to finish what i am working on and then head out
<*mole*> see the bad thing about that stuff is... it really *does* make
you superior to your normal state. Improved clarity and memory and
attention.  great for students. much better than coffee
<*mole*> thrashes your schedule and all later, but hey.
<*gwendel*> i feel just so hyper .. i feel like i gotta do a zillion things
<*mole*> yes
<*gwendel*> okay, later.  i'll call you tomorrow
<*mole*> peace out

Gwen stared back at the report. She drank up facts and spilled them onto
the screen. She could not get herself to get up and use the bathroom. The
world was a 17 inch monitor, a stack of papers, the keyboard and mouse. The
turntable whirled and stopped. Voice noises drifted in from the direction
of Jan's office.  She was still here. Thank goodness. Gwen was grinding
this out and did not want to leave.

It was 10:30.

Wind drifted in from somewhere. It was getting cold. Gwen remembered she
had not eaten all day. She was not the least bit hungry or tired. She got
up and checked in on Jan. They chatted.

It was 11:00.

Gwen trotted to the studio and noticed the hard candy. She took a handful.
She noticed the crank. She drew a tiny line and snorted it. She took a
plastic wrapper from one of the candies, poured a line-or-two-size portion
of the remaining powder into it, and sealed it with scotch tape. "Just in
case I start to crash on the freeway," she told herself. "I am so
responsible." There was a ton left.

She sat back down at her computer, and did not move for two hours. Every
now and then a light would flicker and fade in her periphery. She heard
steps from the hall. She lit a cigarette. The turntable sounded slow. Then
Curt returned.

"You're still here!"

It was 1:00 a.m.

"Um, yeah." Gwen blushed. Where did the time go?

"We're picking up Jan."

"Okay, I am outta here." Gwen searched around for everything. Her glasses,
her shades, her gum, her wallet, her filofax, her notepad.

"When are you heading back?"

"Maybe now. It depends if I can sleep or not." Her laptop, her legal pad,
her file of documents, her hardcopy, her floppies.

"Cool. Good luck."

"Kay. How was the show?" Her briefcase, her coin purse, her cellular, her
cigarettes, her lighter, her car keys. She scanned the floor, the
tabletops, the walls, the ceilings.

"It was cool."

"Got everything. Ready."

Jan was waiting, and they skipped out the door.

Downstairs, Clint was at the wheel. "Where's your car, Gwen?"

"Right there," she pointed across the street. "That white Audi." She shook
her keys. They struck each other and echoed metallically into the dark

"Great. Drive safely."

"Will do. Thanks guys. I'll be in touch."

"Night Gwen."

"Night!" Her eyes felt cartoonishly wide. She shivered. She squeezed her
car alarm, and followed the sound and the blinking lights to the Audi by
the curb kitty-corner to the office where she had spent her whole day.
Shit, she forgot to pee.

The road felt funny at first, but she got used to it. She entered the
Marina Freeway, turned onto the 10, and headed towards Hollywood, where she
had been staying with a close friend the past week. Was that a cop?  A
streetlight flickered and flashed.

Exit Fairfax. North to Sunset, East to Orange Grove, North. It was so
quiet. Los Angeles is strange.

She suspected she was speeding far more than she thought she was.

Carol's roommate was awake, but Carol had already gone to sleep. "She's
feeling ill," he told her. She told him about her day. He listened. He
asked if she was driving back that night. She said she had to clean up
first and load her car. She was not sure.

Gwen looked at Carol's study, where she had been sleeping. Papers and
clothes were strewn everywhere.  Dirty laundry sat in a pile. The trash
cans were full. Methodically, she packed and stacked, emptied and carried,
folded and straightened. An hour later, the guesthouse was spotless, her
bags in the car. Gwen's eyes ached. The cats were awake.

Maybe I should try to sleep. She changed into a t-shirt and Mole's plaid
boxers, and laid down on the bed.  The sky was starting to get light. She
pondered her day, and what she had to do tomorrow. She visualized naked
Mole, pounding her in that camping tent at Joshua Tree when they first
started going out. This was always a problem. Uppers made her uncomfortably
horny. She had to get back.

It was 5 am.

It was a straight shot from LA to Vegas, across the 10 and up the 15. She
put Luscious Jackson in her CD player and played it over and over. About
midway home, a cop pulled her over.

It was 8 am.

"Do you have any idea how fast you were going?"

"Um, 80 the fastest, when I was passing that truck?" Gwen gave him her most
cheery grin.

"I clocked you at 95, but since you admit 80, I'll write you up for that."

Shit. The cop handed her the ticket and sent her on her way. Switch to
Patsy Cline. Too slow. Tuscadero.  She ached to be home. The road looked
the same. No end in sight.

At 11 am, she reached Las Vegas. At 11:30 she entered her driveway. She was
back. Her cat was healthy.  The iguana looked safe. She played the 10
minute tape from her answering machine, tossing her clothes into the hamper=

A note from Mole. She called him. "No, really, I was fine. Come over tonigh=

Gwen plugged in her laptop, and booted up Excel and WordPerfect. She
connected her modem and called into work. They did not know that she was
back yet, and she was not about to tell them. As long as the report was in
by midnight, she was in the clear.

12 hours. 200 emails. God, what the hell is this? These people suck. She
read, piece by piece, on her businesswomen list, and her finance list, and
her Entertainment Info list, stupid remarks being made by other list

Wow, these people grew minddead in my absence. She flamed back. How
empty-headed. "You fuckheads!" What the hell. This flame war was not her
fault. She defended herself. Christ. She hated them all.

It was 2 PM. She turned off the modem. This was wrong. She fed the cat.
What was that sound? She was still pissed.

She guzzled Tab. It was cold in Vegas. She missed LA. She typed. Her eyes

It was 5 PM.

Her throat ached. She remembered that plastic wrapper in her purse and
pondered it. Nah, she didn't need it yet. Mole called. He can't make it
until 2 am. She typed. He promised her head. She turned on the stereo.  She
turned on the TV. Nothing was on. She typed.

It was 8:30. Why wasn't she hungry? Her cat leapt from the couch to the
table. Or did it?

She printed out the report and proofed it. She needed some air. She sat on
her porch and lit a Merit. The flame from the cigarette weaved and
encircled her. It was starting to get dark. She walked around the block.
The tree branches reached out to her. She ducked and moved around them. She
returned home.

She looked in her cabinet and found a Powerbar. Mocha.

Only the graphs left. This was good. Her windowshades quivered. The hall
light vibrated. Her eyes stung.

It was 10:30 PM. What was she forgetting?

She checked her email. More nasty letters. Gwen started to get depressed.

But she was almost done. Footnotes.

Something shimmery moved behind her. Gwen ignored it. She was starting to
get tired. Objects moved.  But this was good. This was 25 pages. This was
done. Gwen pulled it off.

It was 11:30 PM.

Three clones of her striped cat leapt from her suitcase on the floor by the
couch, landed on her lazyboy and vanished. She printed the report, put it
in the fax machine, and pressed send. A light flickered to her left and
behind her. She cut and pasted it to an email and whisked it off to her

She turned back on the television. 120 minutes on MTV. She started a long
overdue letter to her grandmother.  The plants swayed and straightened.

It was 2 am.

"Where is my Gang of Four CD?" Gwen walked into her bedroom, forgot what
she was looking for, and noticed the bed, still unmade and dirty from a
week ago.

"Gwendolyn, we received the report. It needs some polishing, but will do.
We'll send it to word processing."

But Gwen did not hear the message coming through her answering machine. In
fact, she did not hear the phone ring, even when Mole called. She lay on
her bed, her arms crossed on her chest, her sundress wrinkled, her brown
mascara slightly smeared. Three translucent iguanas danced back and forth
in the air above her.

The check was in the mail.


copyright =A9 1998 r.l.eisenberg. all rights reserved.

you may go undercover or hide in disguised                          =09
but at safeway a person is that which she buys.

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