Monday began with me arriving home from my security shift to wake Johnny up with a beer. Since we couldn’t drink last night, I figured, we might as well drink in the morning. Within an hour when the roommates left for work, we were sitting on the roof drinking ‘40’s. What else are you going to do on a Monday morning at 8:30?
Monday night, I felt kind of bad leaving Johnny to his own devices to go to work for a second day in a row. But I have to make the ends/get paid for writing and sleeping. Besides, if there’s one sure way to get an adventure out of Johnny Green, it’s leaving him to his own devices.
What happened Monday night probably ranks as one of the top ten Johnny Green Stories of all time. And there are a lot of them. Unfortunately, for various reasons, I’ve decided not to reprint it here. When the biography I’m writing about Johnny comes out, undoubtedly you will be able to read about it there. Now is simply not the time nor place.
I will, however, make it up to you with another Johnny story. Perhaps you’ll forgive me and continue reading the site.
Currently, Johnny does not have a car. He doesn’t need one, since he lives in Chicago. Chicago, unlike LA, has an adequate mass transit system.
This was not always the case. During junior year of college, Johnny drove the Sketch-mobile. I don’t have the space to give the Sketch-mobile adequate tribute here, but let’s just say that it was a thirty-foot-long gray 1986 Lincoln Towncar, and leave it at that. Johnny no longer drives the Sketch-mobile, because the Sketch-mobile is now a toaster-sized metal cube in a wreck-yard on the Southside. But once it was a magnificent craft indeed, gloriously cruising the streets of Evanston with mighty Johnny as the helm.
One day the Sketch-mobile got towed. It had a accrued several (or perhaps many) parking tickets which Johnny diligently ignored, until the Township of Evanston lost its patience and had the Sketch-mobile hauled to a local impound lot. But apparently Johnny’s car was not the only automobile with which Evanston had lost patience, because the impound lot was full, and extra cars were being stored outside the security fence in the Walgreen’s parking lot next door. Thus was the situation when the Sketch-mobile joined them on September afternoon.
It took Johnny a few days to figure out that his car was missing, and a few more to find his way down to Walgreen’s. By this time, significant storage fees has compounded on his car, and Johnny didn’t have the money to pay them. But he needed his car back – a friend wantedto borrow it. So Johnny did the only logical thing he could think of - he hopped into the Sketch-mobile, started it up, and stole his car back.
When Johnny got home, he noticed that his gas tank was nearly empty. Strange, he thought, since he’d just filled it up before it was towed. Johnny got out and inspected, and discovered that gas was leaking out of the underside of the Sketch-mobile. Apparently the gas pan had been damaged during the towing, and was now spilling Shell Unleaded all over the pavement outside 576 Lincoln. Unfortunately, Johnny was in a bit of a bind for recourse. He couldn’t exactly take the car back and confront the towing company, what with all the tow and storage fees he had skipped out on, not to mention the grand theft auto charges. But his car wasn’t drivable and he didn’t have the money to pay a mechanic. So he did what anyone would do – he tried to fix it himself with duct tape.
It was around this time that Gabe and I came outside to find Johnny having little success using duct tape to seal his leaking gas pan. Apparently gasoline and tape adhesive don’t work well together. He stood up, frustrated and soaked in gasoline. Then he pulled out a cigarette and a lighter. And proceeded to try and light it.
I believe it was Gabe who first reacted, slapping the lighter out of his hand. I grabbed the cigarette away from him and we both yelled at him.
“What the hell are you doing!?”
But Johnny only saw his cigarette, and saw us as obstacles between him and his much-deserved smokey-treat. He snatched up his lighter, pulled out another cigarette, and I had to chase him around the SPAC parking lot as he futilely tried to get a flame going at a full sprint, all the while dripping gasoline and squealing and running back and forth like a squirrel loose in a gymnasium. Finally he ran onto some grass and I did what I had to do – I kicked his legs out from under him and he collapsed in a heap near a bush. I jumped on top of him and wrestled his the lighter way from him, as Gabe arrived and helped me pin him down.
“What are you doing! You’re going to set yourself on fire!”
“Aaaagh!" Johnny replied. "I want my smokey-treat!” His logic was unassailable.
Finally we made a deal with him that he could have a cigarette if he first took a soap shower for not less than 20 minutes, and allowed Gabe to rub him with steel wool to get the gas out. He agreed, and we led him away to a good skin scrubbing. Though not without at least one or two attempted break-aways.
Johnny is not an uncontrollable smoker. Sometimes he quits entirely for months. Nor does he lack an understanding of fire. He just gets really focused on something sometimes, occasionally to the point where he forgets everything else, even self-preservation. Like the time he didn’t eat or sleep for three days because he was busy learning a techno music program on his computer.
In the various recounting of old Johnny tales during his visit this week, we came to the realization that all Johnny Stories share certain common elements. Granted, many share other things as well; for example, some of them involve encounters with random people that develop into unusual situations. Others involve Johnny setting out on a quest with a specific goal in mind, though this goal is typically not accomplished. Some of them involve the police. But there are at least two key things that are present in every Johnny story, without exception, and perhaps are a reason behind their unique twists and general fascinating-ness.
There’s a point where Johnny makes a decision that most people wouldn’t make. Don’t get me wrong, most of the things Johnny does in his stories are perfectly reasonable. But there's always a point where he makes some choice that falls outside the realm of most people’s decision making process. Like deciding to steal his car back in the above story, or the choice to climb down the giant construction hole in the sewer/mine-cart story.
There’s a point where you stop and think to yourself “Wait. This story started out normally enough... how the fuck did we get here?”. Every Johnny Green story winds up with him in some strange place or situation that you wouldn’t think it humanly possible to wind up in. Like being soaked in gasoline and sprinting around a parking lot with a lighter. Or trying to operate a water-filled mine-cart deep in the sewer system under downtown Evanston. Or waking up in Wisconsin under a bed with no recollection of how he had gotten there.
The story about Monday night involves both of these. Unfortunately, as mentioned, I can’t reprint it here, for various reasons. But you can ask Johnny about it sometime. Or you can buy the book when it comes out.