The Legend of Toby Wong (a cactus)

Toby Wong II

This may be one of the sillier posts of the year.

When I was twenty three I took a big beer truck all over the country that opened up into a dance club. Without going into too many details, it was a fun gig and we partied seven days a week across most of the  continental  U.S. Living out of hotels getting blasted every day was definitely a surreal experience. By the end of two years I had no understanding of accountability or normalcy. I never knew anyone for more than a week. The only relationship I had was with a woman named Mia and it was for a five days in Buffalo.

I’m not sure why this memory stands out and I wish I could recall the exact details, but here’s one of my favorite (albeit stupidest) stories. It’s really not much of a story, just an event that happened within a few seconds. Twice.

For some reason I bought my partner and I a cactus for our truck. Yes, a real honest-to-goodness cactus. And not one of those kindly ones with soft bristles. A jagged, cruel old codger of a succulent. With the razor sharp teeth to keep the lizards away. I thought it would look cool in the bed of our truck. I was right.

Our truck was a ten year old International six speed. No automatic anything, including the windows. It was a piece of shit. But it was all dressed up on the outside. The inside, however, sucked. One of the best/worst features were the air-ride seats.

Imagine that your office chair, which is pressure loaded didn’t have a lock and when you got off of it it rose all the way to the top. Then when you sat down, it fell to the ground and popped back up to the middle. Those were our seats. It’s a way to reduce shock to the body when you hit bumps.

Not sure if I’m explaining this correctly. Actually, it’s really sort of like a merry go round. When you hit a bump in the road you go slamming down the ground where you bottom out. It sort of hurts. Then you pop back up a second later. If you get motion sickness it’s curtains for you.

Well, because we were hauling ten thousand pounds of party equipment when we hit something minor in the road, the whole cab shook and we went flying. You had to use your seatbelt. You’d catch air for a second, even if you did. It was very hard to pass out in the cab for that very reason. Achieving weightlessness from a pothole will sort of jar you awake.

This brings us back to Toby Wong. I’m sure I traded some beer t-shirts away for the cactus. The beer we were promoting was Tequiza -going head to head with Coronoa. Tequiza also included real blue agave nectar so the cactus part made sense. I was proud of the purchase. My partner Scott thought it was dumb. Ultimately he was right.

I want that cactus out of here.

No way – it’s boss!

It’s really not. Plus, it’s going to go flying around in the cab.

It’s not a problem until it’s a problem.

Scott and I wore Tequiza t-shirts and shorts every day of that year. Oh, I should mention, that in order to keep Toby Wong secure, I found some  Velcro  and attached it to the dash of our car and the bottom of Toby’s plastic pot. Seemed secure to drunken D.J.

Toby caught air that next day. Scott must have hit something in the road – probably a pothole. We both slammed to the floor of the cab in our seats and both watched Toby above our heads. He had hit the top of his arc and then turned downward. As we were coming back up he was coming down. Down right into Scott’s thigh. Where it stuck.

Goddammit what did I tell you about that cactus! Get it the fuck out of here!

No way – it’s boss!

I told Scott I just needed to secure Toby a little better. As he attended to the bleeding of his leg, I reapplied the  Velcro  and added a second strip along the side. We were back in business. Scott made me promise that if  that cactus bit either one of us again I would have to get rid of it. “No problemo!” I said, confidently in my my best Spanish accent.

That sonofabith Toby Wong got me the next day.

The story was the same except I was driving. It hurt like a bastard. The plant stuck straight into my leg. It wasn’t just the immediate pain – cactuses have something in the needles that make you itch for a full day after.  Well, a promise was a promise. We were in downtown Phoenix and staying at a LaQuinta Inn. I took Toby to the cactus garden they had on site and submitted him to the rock-mulch.

I never brought another plant into the truck. Today in my condo next to my television is a four-foot high cactus that I’ve had since 2001. It got my cat the other day as she attempted to jump through it. Even though she ran away for a minute and was probably in pain, it was hilarious to witness. Toby Wong is still alive and well.

Toby Wong II

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