The San Francisco Reading with Chuck Palahniuk Round-Up: Pics, Recap, and a Story About a Cold Sore

10.21.2014: I fly to San Francisco to read with Chuck Palahniuk at DNA Lounge as part of his Beautiful You tour.

The club starts out completely empty:

IMG_7604They set the mood with the lights and Chuck starts arranging logistical stuff for the reading:

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And the line starts to form outside:

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Eventually, the doors open and people start to come in:

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“Oh hai, McKay…can you take some photos for me?”

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And then this gentleman surprised me with a copy of Out of Touch for me to sign:

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After a while, the place got super packed:

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Chuck and I took a selfie in the green room:

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Finally, we were called to the stage and did our opening Halloween bit:

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Candy was tossed:

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And then we had a little beach ball rave:

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Then Chuck had the audience beg me, “Please read us a fucking story!!!”

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Then Chuck read a couple stories:

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And it was pretty much the best night of my life:

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And after the show, Chuck gave me a copy of his new book with pretty much the best inscription ever:

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For a recap with more words, you can read the column I wrote for LitReactor about the night HERE.

And here is the story I read…it’s called “Carl” (re-written for the San Fran audience):

Doug is a pilot.

Doug flies to New York to Las Vegas to Kansas City.

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

Except herpes.

The co-pilot notices the cold sore on Doug’s upper lip and asks him about it, the big red bump glistening with oil, and then the cold sore whispers, “Tell that prick it’s none of his business.”

He says, “Tell him to keep his eyes on the gauges.”

Doug excuses himself to the restroom where he drinks two miniature bottles of vodka with two Xanax. On the toilet. Hyperventilating.

He stands up and looks in the mirror. Leans in close.

The cold sore waves. He introduces himself as Carl.

“Yeah, so I just flew in from some girl’s snatch in Vegas and boy are my arms tired.”

Carl flaps his juicy little arms.

And smiles.

But Doug is not smiling because the cold sore is talking and he thinks he might be going insane.

“You’re not crazy,” he says. Then he pulls out an iPhone and starts typing on it with his stumpy cold sore thumbs.

Carl doesn’t have unlimited texting or calling.

“And my Internet isn’t working,” the cold sore says. “How am I supposed to do my social networking with no Internet?”

Carl has a Twitter account and a Facebook fan page.

He has a Tinder profile where he goes trolling for hot young cold sores that are DTF.

“I swipe right on the skanks because those are the ones that put out,” he tells Doug.

“So I’ll be needing that Internet,” the cold sore says. “And a Red Lobster to take my dates to. Yep…nothing gets these little Tinder whores wet like a $4 glass of mare-lot and some cheddar biscuits.”

Doug refuses to acknowledge the cold sore or his mispronunciation of the word “merlot”.

Doug is not going to tell him the employee-only wi-fi password for the plane because the cold sore might order a hooker. Or worse.

Doug lands at MCI airport in Kansas City.

He goes back to his apartment and takes enough Lunesta to knock out a rhino.

Doug wakes up. He examines his lip again in the bathroom mirror.

“Still waitin’ on that Internet,” Carl says, tapping his foot.

Doug decides to grow a moustache. He doesn’t want to chance trying to shave over or around it.

And the cold sore complains.

He says he needs his lawnmower to get rid of all the hairs cropping up around him. Carl says the moustache is going to make his tan uneven and the Tinder hoochies won’t find him sexy anymore.

“This thing is a total cockblock,” he says.

There’s a hunk of bagel in the moustache that he sees dangling from a low hanging whisker. He plucks it. Like fruit. Carl takes a bite, chewing only twice before spitting it out.

“Cinnamon raisin? You pussy!”

Kansas City is boring. And too cold.

“I was just fine in Vegas until your stupid ass came along,” Carl says. “How do you deal with this shit? All you people do is get fat on BBQ and watch the Chiefs not win Super Bowls.”

The cold sore won’t shut up about Vegas. He won’t stop talking about his Tinder whores and social networking.

“Each day I’m not online, I’m losing precious Twitter followers,” the cold sore says. “Amanda Bynes could be saying some crazy shit right now and I’m not there to retweet it.”

“Who’s Amanda Bynes?” Doug asks.

“Oh,” Carl says smugly. “Finally speaking to me?”

Then Doug wonders what would happen if he used a nail clipper to decapitate the cold sore. Just pinch the little bastard until he pops.

“I’d grow another head,” Carl says. “And then I’d cut you.”

The cold sore can read Doug’s thoughts.

The cold sore can read Hustler Magazine.

“It’s my favorite periodical,” Carl says. “And it’s being mailed to my old apartment.”

The cold sore isn’t happy with his living situation or the restaurants in Kansas City. He isn’t happy with Google Fiber’s channel line-up because they don’t carry AMC.

“Which means no Mad Men and no Breaking Bad,” Carl says.

“What do you want me to do?” Doug asks.

“You either shave this rat off your lip and get me the stuff that I ask you for—or…you take me to Vegas and put me back where you found me.”

Doug questions his sanity again.

He doesn’t understand why the cold sore talks and keeps asking him to do things like standing by a window to get better reception on his cell phone.

He thinks he should see a doctor. Not a medical doctor. A shrink.

“Bad idea,” the cold sore says. “You can’t Tinder from a padded room, dummy.”

“Vegas,” he presses. “Let’s go to Vegas. It’ll be just like that movie Swingers only completely different.”

Doug says that he’ll take him back to Vegas under one condition.

“You have to go away,” he says. “Forever.”

And Carl agrees to the terms.

So Doug picks up a flight to Vegas with a layover in Dallas.

Carl says he doesn’t like riding in the cockpit because it makes him airsick. He says he can’t wait to get off this “godforsaken lip.”

The co-pilot asks about the “ingrown hair” in Doug’s moustache.

“Man, that looks painful,” he says with a Texas accent. “Never seen one that big.”

The cold sore sleeps during the flight. And snores.

He has a bank account with Washington Mutual. He has a futon sofa from Crate & Barrel on nine-month 0% interest financing. He has normal everyday things and an ugly little face that contorts with embarrassment because he’s living with Doug in Kansas City.

Carl has made it quite clear that Vegas is the place to be.

And that he’s ashamed to be seen in “this fucking cow town,” as he puts it.

The wheels of the landing gear hit the runway and Carl startles.

“Vegas?” he asks with a yawn.

“Vegas,” Doug answers.

They hail a cab outside McCarran Airport. The driver asks Doug where he wants to go.

“My friend just texted me,” Carl says. “My old place is dancing at the Crazy Horse.”

The Crazy Horse is a strip club.

It’s the kind of strip club that serves oysters and buffalo wings and the occasional STD.

For a nominal amount of money, the girls will let you break the “no touching” rule. Doug already knows this firsthand. It’s how Carl came to live with him.

“You really must be into some skanks. Not even the B-squad dances at three in the afternoon on the Tuesday,” Carl says with a laugh.

And so their mission begins:

One pilot. One cold sore. Tracking down a dirty stripper together in the desert.

Doug walks into the Crazy Horse, pilot’s uniform and all.

He’s nervous. He feels sick. And he still thinks he might be insane.

“I tell you what’s insane,” Carl says. “The amount ‘likes’ I’m going to get when I post about this on Facebook.”

Doug scans the room until he sees a girl that looks familiar, the girl that used his face as a saddle in one of the back rooms.

He paid her $200.

$200 for a cold sore that won’t shut up about how he can’t watch Orange is the New Black because his Netflix streaming account isn’t working.

“And I’m worth every penny,” Carl says. “Now get over there and seduce her, you Village People reject fuck!”

The stripper is at the bar drinking a screwdriver.

The stripper has some fake stripper-y name that Doug can’t remember.

“What are you waiting for?” Carl asks. “Go seduce. I need Internet and cable TV and stuff. Twitter followers are being lost here, Doug.”

The pilot mumbles under the rock music, “What should I do?”

“You will give her money, and if that doesn’t work…more money.”

Carl says he needs to get back so he can vote and go over his finances. He says Ann Coulter’s blog isn’t going to troll itself.

“Ask her for a bed dance,” Carl advises. “That’ll get you the necessary face-to-twat contact so I can jump off—but don’t tell her I’m here, okay? She might freak out and sick a bouncer on your candy ass. Then you’ll be stuck with me.”

Doug nods.

He walks up to the stripper.

Their eyes meet and she doesn’t remember him.

“Jayla,” she introduces herself with a clammy hand.

She asks what the uniform is about.

Doug is a pilot.

Doug flies to New York to Las Vegas to Kansas City.

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

Except herpes.

So Doug has flown back to return them to their rightful place.

Right on this girl’s whiskerbiscuit.

Doug doesn’t say any of this though. Instead, he pulls out a wad of cash and asks for a bed dance.

Jayla’s eyes light up. She smiles and leads Doug to a back room where he’s pushed onto a skanky old mattress.

Jayla has scabs on her knees. She has ratty blonde hair.

She has the gift that keeps on giving, and she starts riding Doug off-rhythm to the music because she’s drunk and whacked-out on Oxy. It’s not arousing.

“Pay to eat her out so I can catch Love and Hip Hop Atlanta on my own couch tonight,” the cold sore says.

Doug takes $200 out of his jacket pocket.

Jayla sees it.

Doug says he wants to go down on her even though she smells like pee and dumpster water.

“Just a little,” he says.

And Jayla takes the money. She takes off two pairs of underwear and mounts Doug’s face.

“Oh my God!!” Carl says. “They built a football stadium while I was gone!”

Jayla has a mole or wart or growth on her. Something infected.

And he’s thinking, leave Carl, go, just fucking get out of here before I get sick.

He wills him away. With his thoughts.

Doug wonders how long he has to do this, how long he has to endure the sour stink.

He thinks, Carl, are you gone?

Doug hears rock music. Doug hears moaning and creaking and skin sliding.

He hears whispering and scheming.

He hears Carl.

Carl says, “Houston, we have a problem.”

He says, “A gang of genital warts moved into the neighborhood and burned down our Fazoli’s and my apartment complex.”

Doug thinks, You’ve got to be shitting me.

“Yeah,” Carl says. “They’re holding my brother hostage until I come up with the ransom money. I rounded up some guys and brought them back here so we can think of a plan.”

And now Doug hears different voices. Two voices. Then four. Five voices in his head.

One of them says, “Hey, where the fuck is the Internet?”

Another says, “Where’s the IKEA, Carl?”

The cold sores say, “This place is fuckin’ stupid. I’d almost rather take my chances with the warts.”

Doug loses it.

Doug throws Jayla off of him and says, “But you promised to leave!!”

He says, “Goddamnit, Carl, you fucking lied to me!”

And Jayla, mouth gaping and eyes wide and sober, she tugs on Doug’s pilot uniform. She asks, “You know Carl?” pointing to Doug’s bee sting, ingrown hair, cold sore, herpes blister hiding under the moustache. The crusty eyesore.

Doug nods.

Doug’s too upset to be embarrassed about it anyone.

And Jayla sighs, “Thank God.”

She smiles and says, “For the longest time I thought I was going crazy.”