The Worst Hangover
by Adam Kluger
So bad that he was burping into a glass of water. He hadn’t noticed the waitress right away. She must have been new. It was wintertime. The morning after the Smart-TV Christmas Party.
Booger had secured the location for the station and he put together a very bad Christmas reel. The bureau chief cornered Booger at one point and asked what happened with the reel… why was it so lame? Booger was mortified and the only thing to do at that point was drink heavily. He ordered a shot of whiskey with a beer chaser and kept hitting the same number until the embarrassment gave way to stupor. He got home, smoked a bone, whacked off and went to sleep. When he woke up in the morning his mouth was full of cotton and his stomach was doing somersaults. He threw on a coat and went across the street to “My Most Terrific Dessert Company.” It was expensive but he could sit there order a soda and a croissant and feel a little better. The waitress moved across the floor like a ballerina. She was friendly too.
Very friendly, Booger thought.
“What’s your name?”
“Are you a dancer?”
“Why yes…how did you know?”
“Well, for one thing, you are standing en Pointe.” It was a trick Booger had picked up from dating dancers in the past. Like boxers they would stick their feet sideways instead of out front. Once a soldier always a soldier. Once a dancer always a dancer. He left her a $20 tip. The biggest tip in his life. He said goodbye and he bowed to her as he headed back home. Hit the can from both ends. Flushed and crashed on his bed. When he woke up it was dark outside his window.
Gotta love Saturdays.
The next day he got stoned and listened to The Doors and the Dead and made a pact with himself to forget the lame Christmas reel and focus on the future. The future to Booger, right now, was dancing across a restaurant floor across the street.
Monday morning. Booger dressed in a suit and long black coat with scarf. Walked into the restaurant and quickly sat down. He put his briefcase and another item on the chair next to him. Clara came by and quickly recognized Booger. Her delight when he said hello to her seemed genuine.
“Feeling better?” she asked him.
“Like a million bucks…you look great”
“Thank you…what can I get you?”
“Just coffee please”
“One coffee coming right up.”
Booger went into his briefcase and studied his work notes. He had an early edit scheduled with his favorite editor Drew to turn a package on a British novelty music act that had scored a hit song on MusicTV with a silly tune about shaking your little tush on the catwalk. The week was looking up and Booger asked for the check by looking up and nodding at Clara. She danced over with a smile on her face.
“By the way, thank you for that really generous tip the other day. No one’s ever left me a twenty dollar tip before”
“It was my pleasure. You helped me survive the worst hangover of my life.”
Booger laid a fiver down and then reached underneath the table. He took the single red rose and handed it to Clara.
“This is for you…I hope it’s ok for me to give you this.”
Clara seemed stunned and then a huge smile broke out across her delicate face. She had black hair in a cute page-boy style and she smelled like patchouli. Booger was smitten.
“What perfume are you wearing??? It has left me completely defenseless?”
Actually, Booger felt pretty strong at that moment.
“It’s patchouli oil…I’m glad you like it…some people can’t stand it…”
“I don’t think I’ll be able to think of anything else for the rest of the day”
“That’s very sweet”
“So Clara… time for the 64 million dollar question… do you have a boyfriend?”
“Actually, yes I do.”
Booger’s heart sank.
“But we just recently broke up… it’s kind of weird right now… and you seem pretty nice…”
She handed Booger her phone number on a blank green receipt. CLARA and a phone number underneath. Even her handwriting was charming. Booger took it, nodded, stuck it in his pocket and said: “Thanks, are you free for dinner tonight?”
“Sure…I get off of work at six…if you want to meet me here.”
“I’ll see you then…”
He looked her in the eyes. He liked what he saw.
The older lady who owned the restaurant looked on. Booger grabbed his briefcase and walked out the door with the scent of patchouli oil and Clara’s angelic smile on his mind.
Bus, subway, office.
Morning meeting, edit session, shoot for News with a political expert discussing the latest oval office indiscretions, some phone calls, a bull session or two with Chick about the weekend show. And then it was time, finally, to head back to pick up Clara at the restaurant.
Booger was funny and charming and he took her to a romantic, cozy little French bistro a short walk away. Booger couldn’t take his eyes off her. Clara’s positive energy was electrifying. Booger sat in his chair tingling all over. After dinner they took a short walk. Booger resisted the urge to kiss her. “Don’t do it” he told himself… hold back…let her be the one to initiate it…she already knows how much you like her…hold back…she must know you find her adorable the way you look at her and she must pick up the exquisite yearning feeling that is wracking your body like you were in high school all over again.
“Please let me pay for your cab.”
“Oh, you don’t have to do that.”
It was coming. She spun around and put her hands on both sides of Booger’s face and then kissed him so beautifully on the lips that Booger was speechless.
They smiled at each other and then Booger went toward her for another kiss. This time, she opened her mouth and slowly, languorously, and with a total sense of presence in the moment, passionately French-kissed Booger.
They stood there making out for about a minute.
Thankfully, the cab driver saw what was going on and didn’t honk or do anything obnoxious to ruin the moment. Booger reached into his pocket peeled off another $20 and handed it through the front window to the driver.
“Please take very good care of this passenger and please get her home safe.”
Booger was the gentleman. Clara smiled and seemed to appreciate the gesture. Booger didn’t care that she was a waitress. He was a worker ant at a different factory.
She twinkled at him and thanked him for a wonderful night.
“I feel the same way… I’ll call you tomorrow.”
The next day he called and there was no return call.
The following day he walked by the restaurant and looked through the window.
He walked in.
“Excuse me, is Clara here this morning?”
“The attractive waitress with the short black hair and beautiful smile?”
“Oh…no…she doesn’t work here on Wednesdays…she works at this bar near Penn Station.”
Booger knew the place. It was an Irish bar near Smart TV. Later that day on his lunch break, Booger decided to surprise Clara at the Irish Bar. When he met her there she smiled brightly and asked him how he knew to find her there.
“Around these parts a mere scrap of information can mean a man’s life.”
“I’m sorry but I can’t really talk right now they are pretty strict here, and the bartender is a friend of my old boyfriend so it would be kind of awkward if he sees us talking.”
Booger felt relieved to hear her say “old” boyfriend.
“Sorry to pop in on you…I work a few blocks away and I was on my lunch hour.”
Booger actually never had a lunch hour. He just grabbed a bite whenever his hectic schedule permitted.
“I just wanted you to know how much I enjoyed our date the other night particularly the end of it outside the cab.”
“I know what you mean Craig, I’ve been thinking about you all day.”
Maybe after all the messed up one night stands and short lived relationships he had found a girl that would be the one. She made him feel so utterly alive…maybe he was in love…maybe it was the patchouli oil and her smile maybe it was that kiss.
“Thanks for visiting me…I’ve got to get back to my tables.”
Booger smiled and nodded and walked out the door testing the sidewalk outside to make sure his legs would carry him all the way back to work. When he called her answering machine later that night, he got a strange message.
“Hi this is Ilene…I’m not home.”
What? Why did she tell me her name was Clara? And now her answering machine said: “Hi this is Ilene…I’m not home.”
Ilene? What the fuck was that? He didn’t leave a message. She wasn’t at work the next day. Booger started to feel desperate and confused. What did it mean? Was Clara her stage name? Why did she seem a bit uncomfortable at the Irish bar? Was she still seeing the old boyfriend…was he still seeing ILENE? It all started to make sense and it was a horrible feeling. Booger felt like he had been punched in the stomach. The perfect romance story was starting to feel like a psychological thriller with a weird and unhappy ending. When he saw her the following week he had walked by the restaurant as he had done every day until then, peeking in to see her. She waved. He was looking good. Inside he felt torn up…tortured and confused…such drama and mystery.
Booger imagined a tattooed Irish hoodlum watching his every move from across the street…like in the movies…Seamus Muldooney…ready to show this fancy boy in the suit and tie how we do things in Hell’s Kitchen when you try to steal a feller’s girl…
“Hey Ilene. What’s up?”
Clara’s face froze.
“I guess I should explain.”
Booger was heartbroken.
“No need to…I pretty much figured it out.”
“No, it’s not what you think.”
Booger was pretty sure it was exactly what he thought it was. She was still seeing the “old” boyfriend and she had given Booger a fake name. Booger had to appreciate the drama, mystery and imagination this girl possessed.
“My real name is Ilene…but I sometimes also go by Clara.”
“Why? Are you wanted for murder in three states?”
Booger looked in her eyes…he saw embarrassment.
“So, you’re still seeing your old boyfriend.”
“Yeah…I guess we are still…”
Booger felt his heart drop once again like a boulder in the ocean.
“But I really like you Craig…it’s just kind of messy right now.”
“I understand Clara…my good friends call me Shaka Zulu instead of Craig…”
“Actually, no they call me ‘Booger.’”
“Really? …that’s a funny nickname… how’d you get it?”
“In college… my last name is Bugowski… one day a friend called me Booger and it just kind of stuck.”
”…wasn’t that a character in Revenge of the Dorks, the guy who picked his nose…”
“Oh yeah that’s another thing …I like to pick my nose all the time.”
“I don’t believe you …you’re just being silly.”
“I guess so…so…uh…where does this leave…us?”
“Well, I’m working a double if you want you can pick me up after work and we can get a drink.”
“Are you sure that’s ok?”
“Yeah …I’m sure.”
She started to twinkle again.
“By the way do you want me to call you Clara or Irene?”
“Whatever you like.”
“Ok, I’ll think about it.”
He left the restaurant.
Bus, subway, work.
Asked Chick what he thought of the whole mystery and drama and Chick laughed and told him; “Looks like you picked a real winner there Romeo”
Booger didn’t feel like a winner. He felt like he had a ticket for the second place prize, a lifetime supply of, “I’m still fucking my old boyfriend, asshole, but thanks for the 20 bucks and the rose” When he picked her up they went back across the street to Booger’s bachelor pad. They made out passionately and one more time Booger felt that amazing tingle of mystery and danger mixed with patchouli oil and lies. He would leave messages on her answering machine for a week until she finally called him back.
“Sorry, I’ve been really busy…but I’d love to see you tonight…why you don’t come to my place I have a surprise for you”
It could have been a severed head on a stick or a home cooked meal, Booger had no clue, he just knew that he wanted her more than he had ever wanted a girl. All the cat and mouse had aroused and startled him.
When he got to her apartment it was a dingy walk-up.
He rang the bell half expecting to see a gun pointed at his face. What he saw was a candle lit room. Clara or Irene, whatever her name was, came out wearing a black fishnet body suit. It was sexy as hell and Booger or Craig or whatever she felt like calling him didn’t need an engraved invitation.
He savored fucking her and kissing her and smelling that patchouli oil as he fucked her from behind and marveled at her beautiful, pale, heart-shaped ass. He was stoned so he lasted a while.
He couldn’t sleep over though because he had to be at work very early the next day.
It was a “happy ending” to a rocky relationship.
When she didn’t return his calls for the next week and a half, He knew she had gone back to her other boyfriend for good.
That’s ok, Booger told himself. At least there was that one night. She had helped him recover from the worst hangover in his life and she woke him up to the fact that telling the truth is important or some such other lesson or moral. Whatever.
He would trade away all that valuable knowledge just to be able to kiss her again and again.
Some years later he would find her name and number on that old green receipt. She would pick up phone and say “Hello?” in that same sweet, melodic voice. After an awkward silence, Booger heard a baby crying in the background. He quickly hung up. Walked over to his window and looked out at New York City in the dark orange haze. He could make out homeless squatters perched on public property and a garbage truck gliding down glittery garbage stained asphalt.
… by Adam Kluger (c) 2016
Adam Kluger is a New York City born street artist & writer. A direct descendant of famed British sculptor Jacob Epstein and a past art student of renowned artist, Ion Theodore. Kluger went to the same high school as Jack Kerouac, and spent some time studying the great artists throughout Europe before settling back in New York. Kluger draws his inspiration from diverse sources that include Jean Dubuffet, Marc Chagall, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Bob Ross, Eric Payson and Pablo Picasso. Kluger is one of the leaders of New York City’s growing Anti-Art movement.Q & A with Street Artist Adam Kluger, January 2016 in NYCQ: Happy New Year!A: Yes hopefully, it will be one. With life the glass is either half full or half empty. The art I created from 2015 has been very well received by various art and literary magazines and for that I am very grateful. Yet, when I write or sketch or paint it is not with the thought of acceptance or with hopes of any sort of acclaim that I pursue such activities. I do it because it has to be done. The spark, the muse is there and while it favors me I must respond to its siren call. I know that I am not the most talented painter or the most skilled writer–but I do these things because I must. So, yes, to have dozens of pieces of my art and over a dozen of my short stories enthusiastically accepted for publication by various art magazines over the span of a few months does feel like a miracle of sorts. It’s very humbling.Q: What are some of the names of these Art & Literature Magazines?A: Well it’s not the New Yorker or the Kenyon Review yet, but I’ve been extremely honored to see my stories and artwork published in Story Shack, a cool art-lit outlet in Munich, Outsider based in Chicago,Meat for Tea outside of Boston, Some terrific British-based outlets like Literally Stories, Jotters Unitedas well as fantastic magazines like Turk’s Head Review, Empty Sink Publishing, Smokebox, Winamop, Spelk, No Extra Words, Former People, Flash Frontier, Third Wednesday, Zombie Logic, and Literary Juice; which was kind enough to feature my painting, Drowning In Flame: A Tribute to Charles Bukowski, as their November cover. Quite an honor. These editors have really honored me with their words and support and what they are doing is so important for society. We must have free artistic voices that are allowed to flourish in a forum without fear of censorship or reprisal. Art and literature are so essential if we are to survive. Our souls and spirits must be able to find communion with art, literature and music if we are ever to find our better angels. We must embrace our collective humanity and value love and commitment to all cultures to survive the forces of modernity and the constant challenges facing our world.Q: Your oil painting of Charles Bukowski has been published by a number of magazines. What is it about Bukowski?A: Great American writer. He deserves the attention he gets because his prose is clean like Hemingway even though his subject matter is considered dirty by some. I never get tired of reading Bukowski, Fante, Hemingway, Salinger, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Melville.Q: Why do you feel that the Art-Lit Magazines have suddenly taken notice of your work?A: Great question. I’d like to think that I am providing the Art-Lit Magazines with something of value. Something that is unique but that resonates with something quite familiar. Regardless of why they seem to like it, from a utilitarian perspective, I am providing them with diverse content that fits their needs as editors. I’m just really glad they seem to get it. The internet has changed the dynamic in the art-world and in the world of publishing. While the galleries and brick and mortar spaces will always provide a function in the selling and showing of art… the internet has provided artists and writers with new options beyond kow-towing to literary agents or gallery owners. Self publishing is becoming much more common-place and accepted as individuals are embracing a more entrepreneurial view of the world. People have been given new freedom because of the change in the economy. There is a greater sense of independence and inter-dependence out there. It’s a millennial revolution of sorts. Tech-savvy young people have embraced mobile technology and social media and appropriated the means to communicate, market and sell their own creativity. It’s really something amazing to see. We can’t all be Mark Zuckerberg or Marissa Mayer but each of us can now create and promote our own businesses, our own art and literature, and we can develop our brands while do it. Each person is essentially their own brand. They are no longer faceless cogs in a machine or corporation. In order to survive, Americans have embraced technology. It is why you see people looking in their smart-phones as they walk down the street, eat in restaurants or travel on subways. I saw a clever painting by Mark Kostabi, on Facebook of course, where a couple is having sex while looking at their IPhones. Brilliant.Q: Is modern technology part of the reason for this growing anti-art movement in the art-world?A: Without doubt, technology, economic uncertainty and independent spirit all are at play in this growing anti-art movement that seems to have gripped the NYC art-world.Q: What does anti-art mean to you?A: As you know, the term anti-art can be traced as far back as to Marcel Duchamp and to the various artists who are described as Dadaists. It’s really a rejection of societal tropes and the bogus subculture that surrounds artists that exists purely for the pursuit of profit. We see it in music and fashion as well. In order to turn art into a sale-able commodity you need to be able to affix to it a value. Why is an artist like Cy Twombly able to get millions of dollars for three colored splotches and some writing on a canvas? Well, that is all about the creating of brand value for an artist. It sells for that amount because it can be re-sold eventually for ten times that. And that is all about branding. There is nothing intrinsic within those splotches worth millions of dollars but with some fancy marketing and financial projections, the dream becomes reality. That is, if the dream is about making profit. Same with autographs that sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Ultimately what is being sold and marketed is a sense of immortality. Inspiration…and profit, of course. Anti-art, to me, is about stripping away the artifice surrounding art objects and the disingenuous subculture that seeks to exploit the work simply for the sake of profit and return art to it’s place as a way to inspire individuals directly. That primary aesthetic interaction. One that creates a sense of joy or catharsis. Regardless of an art object’s supposed value. It’s why I refer to myself as a “street” artist. I reject the elitist gallery system because I want my art to be enjoyed by everybody. Art, as philosopher Immanuel Kant once posited, should not be regulated by any sort of objective standard of beauty or value. Art by it’s nature is subjective. Almost Jungian in it’s ability to impact individuals differently. That, to me is the essence of the anti-art argument. If people in the art-world want to label me as one of the leaders of a growing Anti-Art movement, that’s fine. I don’t go in for labels- that’s why I don’t sign my artwork on the front like other artists do. Again, to me, it’s all about the sacred importance of art and about respecting it’strue value to society and individuals.Q: you seem to be inspired and influenced by an eclectic mix of artists.A: Quite true but who isn’t, really. Picasso, Dubuffet, Van Gogh, Chagall, Seurat… it’s such a long list really–It’s hard not to feel a sense of awe. From a very early age we were constantly exposed to New York’s great museums and cultural offerings. As a teenager, I studied art with Ion Theodore who was a sculptor and philosopher. I learned to appreciate the creative process and the beauty of the female form at his art cottage. Later on, I backpacked through Europe and came face to face with unbelievable art and that left an indelible impression on me. I’m a big supporter of New York artists too. Hugh MacLeod, Howie Keck, Peter Zonis are just a few artists I like. Eric Payson, while almost legendary in New York underground art circles for his brilliant photography and cult of personality, still operates under the establishment radar–creating some of the edgiest photography around. When people discover what he’s been up to–he’s going to blow up. I met Bob Ross (The Host of The Joy Of Painting), years ago and he took the time to chat with me and show me his painting technique up close. That was instructive. Super-nice guy but he was all business too. Those happy little trees he was painting did some decent business for him. I liked the freedom and confidence he had with his artwork. There was a lot of joy in his work and if Julia Child is to be canonized in cooking circles–Bob Ross deserves a little love and respect too for empowering his viewers to discover the magic that can be found –at any age– in making art.Q: What about Jacob Epstein, the famed British sculptor? How are you two related.A: Through my mom’s side of the family. On my dad’s side we have all the writers. Yeah, it’s pretty cool to be related by blood to such a well-known artist like Jacob Epstein who was so popular in his day that he was commissioned to create a marble tribute to Oscar Wilde at his gravesite in Pere LaChaise Cemetery in Paris. Same place where Jim Morrison is buried.Q: What should we expect to see from Adam Kluger in 2016?A: I imagine that I will be getting out and about a bit more to mingle with other artists to enjoy NYC and it’s amazing energy and to re-channel that into the work. I love to write and create new art that celebrates this amazing city. The Muse is all around us and she needs to be embraced often with appreciation, love and our hearts. I hope to publish a collection of short stories, a children’s picture-book, that I created with my son, featuring some of my artwork and also continue to submit new works to art-lit magazines. My wonderful art publicist Bernadette Marciniak —bernadette.marciniak@gmail.
com handles all the business and commission request stuff. I focus on family, friends, working hard and being creative and thankful every day. Being an “anti-artist” frees me up to experiment with mixed media and a variety of mediums and not to worry whatsoever about anything more than embracing my instincts while I endeavor to create new work that resonates.