Thursday, January 12, 2023

Dirt


It comes back to me almost like a dream, or like an explosion happening in slow motion, time slows down to a trickle, so that each detail is in sharp glittering relief.
A balloon of memory that expands and envelopes me.

    My dad and I were on a camping trip, or maybe coming home from one, I don't remember those specifics. We had ridden about a hundred miles so far, and we were stopped on the side of the road.
A "Leak stop" as we called it.
My dad had walked off the side of the road and down the dirt shoulder into a ravine, while I busied myself picking at the debris in the dirt on the side of the road. Examining bottle caps, pull tabs, chips of glass, garbage, Assorted bits that had been tossed or lost by passing cars over the years. 
  My little mental diversion was interrupted by my dads voice as he called up from the ravine.
"Hey," He yelled, his voice slightly muffled by the bushes, "you gotta see this!"

I straitened up and stretched, and then walked down to where he was, which was in a sort of tunnel made of blackberry bushes. My mind raced with ideas of what he might of found. An animal skeleton, or an old wrecked car, maybe a cache of antique bottles. "What is it?" I asked excitedly.  
He made a sweeping gesture with his arms, "Check it out."

That was years ago, and I had pretty much forgotten about it, until this day. 
This day was September 5th, 1981, and I was out with my best friend Linda, and her boyfriend, who was also my good friend, Eric.
We had been picnicking out in a field by UCSC, and as we were packing up, Eric said that he knew of some caves nearby, and we decided to go and check them out.
    The first one that we went to was pretty easy. It had a big entrance, and sort of natural steps leading down into it. The main room was big, and had a mostly level floor. We wandered around in that first one for a while, looking at what others had left behind on their visits, which, since it was close to the college, was mostly beer cans and graffiti. After about a half an hour, Eric suggested that we go to another cave that he knew of further down the valley. We agreed and climbed our way back out in to the daylight. We walked down the hill, and picked up a trail down by the creek. After about a half a mile, Eric stopped and pointed up the hillside.
"It's up there," He said, "Not many people know about this one, it's a little harder to find, and not as easy to get into."
Linda and I nodded, and followed Eric up the hill to a grove of redwoods.
"This is it." Eric said. I looked down to where he was pointing and saw a slightly oval hole at the base of one of the trees. The hole was at best two feet in diameter, and descended almost straight down into darkness.  I looked first at Linda, and then to Eric. "It's easier than it looks." Eric assured us.  Linda put her backpack on the ground and sat next to it. "I think I'll wait out here." She said.
I looked again at the hole.  "All right," said, "Let's do it." 
We climbed down. deep into the earth. twisting our way down, spiriling deeper and deeper. It was tricky in spots, but we went and explored for a good hour or so. Sometimes crawing, sometimes slithering, sometimes walking. We were on our way back out when things went wrong. Eric went first. He climbed up and out, then called down to me. 
"I'm out," He said, "Come on up!" I started the climb. I got about half way up when I found that somehow the shaft seemed gotten smaller, and my hips were pinned against the walls. I pulled, but my hips wouldn't budge. Panic sparked in the pit of my stomach and exploded into my chest. I started to feel like it was getting hard to breath. "Shit," I yelled, "SHIT!" I pulled at the walls, but I couldn't move. "Help!" I yelled up the shaft, "I'm stuck!"
"Hold on!" Eric yelled back, “I’ll come down."
I tried to relax, but had a hard time. There wasn't really any light, but I closed my eyes anyway, and concentrated on breathing. After a minute, Eric made it down to where I was and shined the light in my face.
"Dude," He said, "You gotta turn around."
Then my mind replayed the climb down when we had first come in.  
I was at "the keyhole". a spot where you had to twist in a sort of circle as you passed through...
I lowered myself back down a bit and found the shelf with my foot, then turned around, and I was free. I climbed up a few feet and looked up at Eric. "Thanks." I said, "I..." But I couldn't finish.  The yellow beam from Eric’s pen light revealed a scene I had somehow missed on the way in.  
It was like the ravine, so many years ago with my Dad.

"Check it out." My Dad had said, making a sweeping gesture with his arms.
They were everywhere.  Spinning, climbing, hanging.
That time in the ravine they were shiny black and yellow.
Here, deep in the earth, they were dull and gray.  
Spiders.  Hundreds of them. Maybe thousands.  
Here in the cave, the wall was a vibrating grey carpet.
 I screamed
That was the last of the caves that day.

I got home that evening just as the day was fading to dusk. I walked up the path to the front door, and as I looked in the window, time began to slow. I could see my mother was at the kitchen table with her head in her hands, My moms friend Lou looked out the window and met my gaze. Her face so blank, it seemed to be pulling the expression from mine.
Something wasn't right.
I went into the house and my mother was on the phone now. Lou began to speak, but it was disjointed, rambling...
“Your father” she said, “there was an accident. The hospital called, your mom is talking to them. They have to…She’s talking to them now…we’re not sure”
It made no sense.
An accident? Why would the hospital call? Why wouldn’t my dad just be here calling the insurance company?
My mom hung up the phone, and was sobbing hysterically.
“They want to know if he has a mustache” she wailed. “They asked if he had a mustache…they said his license,.. He doesn’t…oh god…they can’t tell…” she looked at me. ” We, we might have to go to the hospital, they wouldn’t tell me how he is, will you come to the hospital with me?”
I tried to console her.
“I think he’s clean shaven on his license. Maybe they think…Maybe they are not sure it’s him?”
I shook my head
“He’s fine mom, probably just broke his leg or something.”
I went to my room and changed clothes. I figured on wearing a black suit to visit him in the hospital. I thought it would be ironic.
When I came out my mom was on the phone again, but at least now she wasn’t crying.
Ok, I thought. Good. He’s Ok.
There was a knock at the door, and I answered it.  It was our next door neighbor. We walked out on the deck.  “I’m sorry” he said. “I didn’t… I mean…We were on a ride, all of us, we were riding”
“It’s Ok,” I said.” What happened? How is he?”
He stared at me. It was like he was trying to figure out the question.
“Didn’t they...Didn’t they call you? Someone should have called you…”
“Well, moms talking to someone now. But they just told us he was in an accident. I don’t think it’s that bad, I mean…”
He looked at me shaking his head. ”No...No... He’s dead, He…He died”
His expression made it almost a question.
“No…no” I reassured him, shaking my head “No, no, he’s just…”
Inside the house there was a scream, and then a strange wailing.  I ran inside and watched as my mother sort of slid to the floor and landed in a heap sobbing. The phone dangled by its cord, slowly twisting back and forth. Lou was draped over her and they were rocking slowly.
It might have been a scene from a movie.
But it wasn't.
I went back out on the deck, my neighbor was gone.
I stood there for some time.
I wasn’t really even thinking. Just standing there on the deck, listening to the repetitive sound of my mother crying, and waiting for the next thing to happen.
I tried to grasp that. The next thing?
Was I suppoused to do something?
Do I just wait? What should I do?
I needed to fix it somehow. I asked God to trade us. It made sense. Take me, and bring him back.
I would happiy disolve if he would come riding up the driveway.
I waited.
After a while I saew some lights on the road. A car slowly drove up and parked on the road across from our house. In the dim light I could make out that it was a Sheriffs car.
A figure got out, and I walked up the driveway to meet him.
“Is this the Baron residence?” he asked.
“Yeah” I said, ‘is this about my dad?”
The sheriff looked at the ground. “Maybe we should go inside” he said.
“We already know” I told him, “the hospital called us. I think it was the hospital.” I shrugged “anyway, we already know. He’s dead”
We were both looking towards the house
“Mmm…” he said, patting his leg.
“You don’t need to do anything” I told him.
“Hmm?” he asked.
“You don’t need to do anything. You came to tell us, and we know. You’re done, if you want.”
“Mmm…” he said again.
I don’t think either of us knew exactly what was supposed to happen next.
He patted his leg again.
He had one job this evening, an important message to deliver. He had probably been rehearsing it all the way up here, all along the drive. Saying our names. Repeating the message. He had no doubt been trained on exactly how to deliver it, and deal with the emotions that come with it.
 Now a 17 year old kid taken that from him, and I don’t think he had brought anything else.
“Really,” I said, “We know...You’re done if you want.”
“Mmm…” he said again.  “Well, Ok.” He walked back over to the cruiser. “I’m sorry...” he said.
“I know” I said, “thanks”
I don’t remember much else about that night. At least not details. Lots of phone calls made and received, a lot of crying.
A lot of crying.
At some point it was the next day, and then the next.
Time passed on its own accord. It was out of my hands.
One evening somewhere in there I saw my neighbor again.
“So what happened?” I asked Him, “I mean everything, tell me everything. What...what happened exactly?”
“We were riding up skyline” he began.
I knew the place. Hwy 35. My dad and I had spent a lot of summer afternoons up there, twisting through the mountain roads.
“Your dad was out in front," he said "We were on the big curves up by page mill road. Like I said, he was up front by a ways.  I came around the corner, and it was like an explosion, there were parts everywhere, there was stuff sliding on the road, stuff everywhere. Your dad was lying on the side of the road, I pulled over and ran to where he was, but he died right there”
“Did he say anything? what did he say?”
my neighbor took a deep breath. “ No....he kind of made some sounds, and, and kind of shook, and that was it”
That was it.
That, was it.
My dad was riding a late 60’s Kawasaki 500 two stroke. It was set up as a cafĂ© racer, with drop bars and a small fairing.
It was fast.
Really fast.
Once out on a camping trip, we rode out through Yosemite, over the pass and out to Mono Lake, then got on highway 167. 
15 miles of straight, flat, empty road.
He swatted my leg. “Should we open it up?” he shouted.
“Sure” I shouted back.
He twisted the throttle, and the bike leapt forward. I was crouched in, peaking over his shoulder at the speedometer. 70, 80, 90, 100, 110,
I tucked in and held on. The bike was making a whining howl that I could feel in my teeth
It was as much a feeling as it was a sound. 
To be honest, at some point it stopped being fun, and I just held on and waited for it to be over.
120? I don't really know. Whatever it was, it was fast.
He was probably going fast that day up on skyline.
Then out of the blue comes a Honda 750 touring bike, also going too fast around a blind curve in the wrong lane. They hit head on, and just explode.
And that was that.
I called my job at the summer camp where I was working and told them that my dad had been killed in an accident, and I would not be at work for a few days.
My boss said, “Whatever. Look, if you don’t want to work, why don’t you just quit?”
So I did.
We made funeral arrangements. 
There was a viewing, which I didn't go to, and I talked my mother out of going as well.
Most of us did not want to remember him that way.
 I think his mother and sister went, but I don’t think anyone else did.
I remember before that, when we were making the arrangements, and the “up-selling” began.
When all was said and done, the funeral director probably thought I was a heartless bastard of a son.
We had already bought a cemetery plot, but they wanted to sell us a concrete vault.
“No” I said, “He wanted to be in the ground”
“Ah, yes, I understand." the director said, nodding."But the safety and security offered by a solid concrete liner, is not only peace of mind…”
“No” I repeated, shaking my head “He wanted to be in the ground”
 “Yes, and in many places a vault or liner is required by law, and even if it is not required, the protection it offers from the elements is…”
My mom was doe eyed. 
“Maybe we should think about it…” she said blankly
I held her hand, and shook my head, “We don’t need it, the guys at the cemetery said we don’t”
“Very well.” The director said. It was a resigned sigh. He seemed peeved.
“Have you decided on a Casket?” he asked.
“No,” My mom said. “But I know he wanted something simple”
That was the truth. 
He had said it himself. I would have built his casket if I had the time.
Funny thing is, in fact, he actually built the coffin for my grandfather. 
Simple pine box, stained dark.
“Something simple” I repeated
“Ahh, I am sure we have just the thing. Right this way”
He led us through the door that opened into the show room.
“I’ll let you take a look around,” He said ”…and I’ll be back in a moment. take your time.”
He gestured around the room with his hand, “Please”
Caskets were situated around the room on satin covered risers.
The waist level were the most expensive, sparkling gold, bronze or brushed chrome, glossy polished exotic wood, all spilling out heaps of quilted satin and lace pillows...
Small easels held signs touting the features.
“Beauty and security”
“Weather proof”
“Ultimate protection”
“Strong and durable”
“Lasting peace of mind”
“Luxury”
Knee level were a bit less dramatic.
Floor level looked like fancy painted cardboard
I could not see him in any of them.
Neither did my mom. “I don’t know...” she kept repeating
When the funeral director returned, I asked the dreaded question.
“Don’t you have anything…Simple?”
The director got the peeved look again.
“Well, I suppose…but a man of his social standing deserves quality, take this one for example. I am sure he would have wanted something more like....” He gestured towards a gaudy box that looked like a rosewood Cadillac with no wheels.
No.
My dad did not even own a suit. When he wasn’t on his motorcycle, He drove a 52 ford pick up with more rust than paint.
And he loved it.
I took the director aside, out of my mothers hearing.
I looked him in the eye. “My father is dead." i told him "We are going to bury him. Deep underground. deep in the earth.  He is going to decompose, and the coffin with him. He is going into the dirt, and returning to the earth. What he would want...and what WE want...is something simple”
The director did his best to gain composure, and not show the disgust he was obviously feeling.
He lead us to the back of the room.

I had overlooked it completely in the flash and glitz.
“We do have this…economy model.” He drawled, his expression was board dismissal, and he did his best to make it seem undesirable.
It was a simple pine box. Dark stain, slightly domed lid, nice simple fixtures.
It had no easel, no luxury features.
My mother smiled
“Perfect” I said.

The funeral was on a Wednesday.
I have never seen so many people at a funeral. Friends and family, people he had made art or stained glass for, co-workers, motorcycle friends, local people who just knew him from his many years at Safeway. They spread out in all directions through the cemetery.
My cousin, a Mormon deacon, read the eulogy.
None of us were Mormons, but it didn’t matter
When it was over, they lowered the casket. The caretaker stepped on a lever, and It disappeared slowly into the AstroTurf lined hole.
His mother stood beside the hole and mouthed a silent prayer, and then she picked up a handful of dirt and threw it down onto the coffin.
What the hell? I thought.  I had never seen that before, and wondered about it, but did not know who to ask.
When she left. Everyone followed, back to our house to get drunk.
I stayed behind with my friend Matt. The cemetery workers came, but seemed hesitant to start shoveling with us there, so we wandered down to the gazebo and stayed until the caretakers patted down the last shovel full of fresh earth. 
Then we went to the party.
We made a bit of a stir, because Matt gave me a ride home on his Motorcycle.
Half the family was proud, the other half shocked.
You never know.
You do what you do, but you just never know.


I have gone back to the day he died many times.
As if I can change it, or find something I am missing to make it all make sense.
But it’s always the same.
I close my eyes, and I’m there.
I arrive as the two motorcycles collide.
I am in the road as they both pass through me, meeting in the middle
An explosion happening in slow motion so that each detail is in sharp relief.
A balloon of debris that expands and envelops me.
A swarm of angry bees made of tiny flying motorcycle parts
At first in silent slow motion, then chaos
Then I am walking along the dirt shoulder, over bottle caps and pull-tabs, chips of glass and other assorted bits that had been tossed or lost by passing cars over the years.
He is laying on the side of the road, cradled in my neighbors arms.
No one notices me.
In their point in time I am in a cave about 25 miles south, as the crow flies.
Deep underground.
In the earth.
In the dirt.
But here, now, I drop down on one knee and lean in close enough to feel his breath.
He looks confused
He is the only one who can see me.
I close my eyes and concentrate on blocking out the chaos.
Because this time he will tell me something
This time he will whisper the secret.
This time it will all make sense.
But he just makes a few garbled sounds, shakes, and then is gone.
I open my eyes, and I am back to wherever I started.
No time has really has passed.
A mere blink.
A fraction of a second.
An eternity.
I swallow the shudder, and go back to living.
Because,
There is always next time.


Epilogue:

I still remember the last time we spoke. It is almost as though it were only a moment ago. 

We passed each other in the Laundry Room. He was going to bed to catch a few hours sleep before his ride that day, I was going out to meet friends.

 "Going to Bed?" I asked.

"Yeah," He said.

 It's funny, I can still remember His sleepy Smile. 

"I'll see You later." I said. 

I thought maybe I should have said good night, but it was morning.

He nodded, "Yeah," He said, "I'll see You later."

And that was that.


 Now, I close my eyes, and I’m there.
I arrive in the middle of the road, as do the two motorcycles.
Then I am walking along the dirt shoulder
My father is laying on the side of the road, cradled in my neighbors arms. I drop down on one knee and lean in close enough to feel his breath.
I close my eyes and concentrate on blocking out the chaos.
Then I open my eyes an look at him
He looks confused, like he is the only one who can see me. He make a strange gurgling noise
I shake my head slowly, and hold my finger to my lips
"Shhhhh" I say. I know what I need to do, but I just never want to say good bye
He looks oddley serene
I smile slightly.
"Good night, dad" 
And that is that.
















Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Hellhouse tales #6. Random is as Random does.

 So, you should know that were not troublemakers.

Well, we were involved in trouble from time to time, but not in the sense that we ever set out to hurt anyone. Well, obviously other than ourselves. Well, and of course, willing accomplices. But we did enjoy from time to time making the lives of others just a little more surreal. Weather intentionally, or as an effect of our regular comings and goings. Sometimes people just happened into our path, and were swept up in the madness. I remember at one of our street sales, while we were trying to raise enough to pay the rent, Dave was trying to buy things from people passing by. 

"Hey! how much for your shoes?"

"Dave, we don't need thier shoes"

"But look at 'em, I could could turn those around for double what ever we pay for them"

"Dave, We need rent, we don't need thier shoes"

(to the passerby) "Common, how much for your shoes?"

Klutch chimes in:  "How about a dance? How much would you pay to cut a rug with this handsome gent?"

I suppose I should mention, as a part of full disclosure, that was usually after consuming a box of wine. "The silver bag" we called it

It was a sort of tradition during street sales that, although, as I said, we were trying to raise rent money, sometimes the first profits went to buying some drink. The preferred drink of the street sale was a box of wine. However, we would tear away the cardboard to reveal the mylar bag, which we would throw to each other like a drunken football. When the wine was gone, the bag could be inflated, forming an awesome pillow to pass out on.

Sometimes I wonder. Did someone buy that house, and if so, did they happen upon our old storage area...

"What the hell is all this crap? Whats with all these wine bags? ... Hey, bet I could get a couple bucks for those shoes..."

I can only hope. Those are the questions I must ponder. 

We left our mark, that is certain.

Another passtime was to go to golden gate park and try to get tourists to take pictures with us. Dave was very good at this. It would start with finding a group that was rotating the photographer. Dave would approach very casually and ask: "Hey, do you want me to take the picture so you can all be in it?"

Then after a few snaps, he would say, "Klutch, you get in there. oh, thats beautiful! click, click, click...Tiki, come on, get in!"

People would seem dubious, but would more often than not,  just let it happen. Then we would rotate Dave into the session. But, then came the coup de gras. Dave would get one of them to take pictures of just the three of us. 

Not just one, but as many different poses as we could get before they stopped clicking. 

There was once when we even got another random stranger to snap a few of us with the whole group.

And this was in the days of actual film cameras. They could not simply delete us, We were there for the duration. 

I wonder. Did any of those families put our pictures in thier photo albums?

"Who are these people?"

"I don't know. We met them in San Francisco, they were very persuasive"

Saturday, December 26, 2020

The ghost of drunkards past

 I moved to San Francisco in the winter of 1986. I loaded up my Datsun B-210 with all my worldly possessions, drove the 87 miles up highway one, carried the boxes up two flights of stairs, stuck them in my new room, then the next day got on a plane to New York. When I returned, I unpacked and settled in. I lived with my sister and her boyfriend, and their housemate Mark in a top floor Flat on Ashbury Street, just up the corner from Haight. The room I lived in faced out on Ashbury, and I spent many a coffee time leaning out the window of that room, watching the comings and goings of people down on the street, pondering who they were, and where they were going. My brother in-law got me a job as a bike messenger. My days were spent pedaling the city, my nights were spent at clubs and bars when I could afford it, but more often I was in my room. My room was pretty standard. As I said, the windows looked out on the street, there were French doors that separated it from the "living Room" and it had a small walk in closet. When I say small, it was probably only 4 foot by 4 foot. It was a strange little room in that it had a counter and a sink with a big mirror over it, and on the opposite side an area to hang clothes. I guess it was a sort of dressing room, I was never quite sure.  I decided it was my writing room, and put my old royal deluxe typewriter on the counter over the sink. The sink didn't work anyway, so I figured it was a good place to write.  I had wanted to be a writer for some time. I had written several short stories, but to be honest, my writing was atrocious. But I persevered because I had read that Stephen King once said, the best way to become a writer, is to write. So I did. Sometimes late at night, early in the morning, or whenever the mood struck, I would sit in that little room, smoke cigarettes, sip booze, or coffee, or whatever drink was available, and write. 


I wrote plays and dissertations, short stories and poems. Observations, critiques, and reviews. Paper moved from one side to the other, from blank to filled, as cigarette butts formed a pyramid in the ashtray. 

One piece that I considered my magnum opus was a play about a man who was steadily loosing touch with reality. A man who fears he is going insane, because he cannot reconcile the things that he is experiencing with his expectations of logic. He prays for some sort of a sign, and is sent a guardian angle, who looks to everyone else like a regular fellow, but to our protagonist he looks like a demon. Horns, fangs, bat wings, the works. I thought it was good. It was filled with existential questions, and angst. Fear and joy, and ultimately a spiritual awakening. When I thought it was finished, I made the mistake of showing someone. They  read it, literally laughed out loud,  and told me not to quit my day job. 

Shortly after, I took the typewriter out of the closet and stuck it in the basement storage area. Then I took all my writing out to the back yard, stuck it in a small metal waste paper basket, and burned it. 


I didn't shed a tear, I simply watched the words disappear the way you might watch Drano clear a clog, and when it was done, I went about my business. 


It would be six years before I started writing again. 

But I digress.

Lets rewind a bit...

Say, a year or so before that fiery judgement day...


Late one night, or early one morning, depending on how you look at it, I was working on the demon/guardian play. 

I was also drinking.

I suppose "working on it" is slightly incorrect. I had rolled in a fresh sheet of paper into the typewriter, returned the carriage, but that was as far as I had gotten. I was stuck. I didn't know where to go with the story. I stared at the typewriter keys, my fingers hovering over various letters, but nothing came. 

I took a drag on my cigarette, and my gaze followed the smoke up to the mirror.

I stared into my own eyes.

"You’re the problem,” I said to, well, myself. 

"you... are... the... problem" 

I shook my head, "how am I to get anything done with you staring at me?"

My reflection simply blinked, but didn’t answer. (Which I suppose, was good)

I decided to do something. 

I took the mirror off the wall and put it behind me, leaned against the wall, tucked behind the jackets and suits, where it could no longer judge me, then I sat back at my typewriter.

That was when I saw it. 

There, on the wall where the mirror had been, was a small door about one and a half feet square.  It was outlined in one and a half inch trim that formed a sort of frame, and on the left hand side was a small knob, almost flush with the wall. 

 It was all but painted shut.

My mind raced. What could be in there? What if it were some sort of wall safe? Lost through the years, heaped with gold and jewels. 

Perhaps, but more likely it was some sort of forgotten medicine cabinet.

Sole occupants, a rotting band-aid, discarded razor blade, a degrading aspirin...


I reached up and pulled on the knob. It protested at first, and then popped open with a slight squeak, and a wisp of musty air. To my surprise, there was nothing there. Just a dark hole in the wall.  I climbed up on the counter, and held my Zippo lighter up to the opening. A slight breeze came in and caused the flame to flicker, but in the dim light I could see that the opening went into the air space between my house, and the house next door. The gap was maybe a foot or 16 inches at best. I went and found a flashlight, climbed back up on my makeshift desk and peered into the hole. Directly across the gap was another little framed in square, with a knob on the left hand side. I am not sure what was going through my mind at this point, but for what ever reason, I reached through and grasped the knob and gave it a push. To my great surprise, it gave, and opened into what appeared to be a similar closet/dressing room in the house next door. I could not make out what was in the little closet, but the door was ajar and I could see light, and hear voices.

Now what came next, I really have no explanation for. 

I took a deep breath, leaned through the hole, and then let out a blood-curdling scream into the house across the way.

Then I reached through and shut their little door, shut the door on my side, and although it probably didn't matter, shut off the light in my closet. 

I sat there in the dark. 

I could barely hear it, but there were muffled frantic voices, and what sounded like doors slamming. 

I sat there for a while, pondering. Finally I turned my light back on, and looked at the blank page of my insanity/demon play in the typewriter. 

I lit another cigarette, and began to type:


"I had begun to hear voices. At least I thought I did. They didn't tell me things or give me directions, they were just strange sounds that I could not explain. Although I knew quite well that the mind can create any reality it deems necessary to keep the illusion of sanity, I also knew that the random sounds I would sometimes hear coming from places they could not be coming from, such as say, the closet, had to have some sort of a logical explanation"

 

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

This Old Hiraeth

  I sat up on the roof with my feet dangling over the edge. I cracked a Mickeys big mouth, and took a long sip, lost in my thoughts. 

My dad used to sit up here some times.

 I was never supposed to be up on the roof as a kid, but sometimes I would sneak up here, and now and then I would find an empty Mickeys bottle tucked up under the eve. 

  I sat and sipped the beer, Looking out towards the road, but not really at anything.

I closed my eyes, but the scene was still there. I watched as a family of five drove slowly up what used to be a dirt road in a yellow 1960s Dodge Dart Swinger.

I could almost still see what it looked like the first time I saw it.

My parents bought the house when I was 7. We moved in on Mothers day, 1971. It was brand new when we bought it, we were the first people to live there, but we had all lived somewhere else before.

I was the youngest of three kids.

My family lived there, I lived there, it was rented out for a short time, then my mom moved back in. After she died, my wife, my kid and I moved in.

But it was nobody’s first house.

No one was born there.

No one was carried over the threshold.

There were no first time buyers.

It was my father’s last house. 

He was killed in a motorcycle accident.

Drove away one morning and never came back.

One of the renters had that in common. A falling tree crushed her while she was driving home from work, about a mile down the road 

It was her last house.

My mother took her last breath in the living room.  She had lived many places, but that house was the last.

My family had always owned it. 

My family, my mother, and then me.

The surrounding land holds the bones of at least 5 dogs, some 8 or so cats, a couple of hamsters, a parakeet, and a rat

I always said that once I moved in, I would live there until I took my last breath.

That when I moved out, it would be in a pine box.

But I no longer live there, not for over two years now, and I breath on.

As I write this it is in the process of being sold.

A casualty of divorce.

50 years of memories. 50 years of plans.

50 years of birthdays and holidays, 

50 years of not knowing exactly where I was going, but certain of where I would be.

A 50 year long con.

My Father said it, then my mother, even my sisters.

“This house will be yours someday”

No one argued

Our lives are made of constants, things we believe to be true.

The fibers that make up the thread of our futures.

We may not be able to see the cloth they will become, but we believe that the fibers are real. 

We have to believe, we have to have faith. We have to have constants, or the whole thing falls apart. 

Gravity, the speed of light, E=Mc2.  

Constants, knowns, faith.

That when you put the key in the door lock and turn it, the door will open. 

Until it doesn’t.

Until its not your lock, or your door, or your house.

“This house will be yours someday”

It was presented as a truth.

But, 

It was never mine; I was just allowed to pass through it.

I finished my beer, and tucked the bottle up under the eve.

Then I climbed down off the roof, got in my car and left.

It turns out there is one truth.

To miss-quote Flannery O’Conner:

Where I come from is gone,

And where I thought I was going to, 

Was never there.

 

 

 

Sunday, November 24, 2019

One Eyed King of the Court of Mysteries

My Friend Maggie came to visit one fine Tuesday afternoon.
Well, if were are going to be honest, she came to visit the Thursday before, we all left for the week-end on a gig, we came back Monday evening, and began the Visit on Tuesday.
We got up too early, as I misunderstood the instructions about what time my Kid had to be at school. So I made some strong Coffee, and we chatted about this and that until it was time to take the kid in.
One of those things was "so, what do you want to do or see?"
"it's your town" she said.
We decided to go to the abalone church. It wasn't a church anymore, it was semi abandoned, and now lay mostly in ruins.
It was originally built by a pair of brothers. Controversial contractors who were known for their eccentricities. Aside from the main house, there were out buildings and spires, grand arches and walls, all covered in abalone shells. They called it, "The court of mysteries". It was their house at first, and later, was bought by a local church who adorned all the spires with Coptic crosses. after they left, it sat abandoned.
When I was in my twenties, it was one of many drinking spots for the under age set, and unfortunately suffered from vandalism. I had not been there in many years, but it seemed like a good place to check out.
We pulled the car up in front and got out. Even in its sorry state, it was a thing of beauty.
We had intended on taking some publicity picture there, but as we walked up to the chain link fence across the entrance, there were a few problems. One, several no trespassing signs, which normally wouldn't be much of a deterrent, but then there was #2, a man sitting on the "porch" of the house, keeping his eye on us as we walked up.
We kept a polite distance, busying ourselves with taking pictures of the archway and some of the spires. Then the man got up and walked down the gravel path to the  entry arch.
I knew what was coming. the private property speech. So we took a few steps back towards the road and got ready to leave.
He walked up the the arch a few feet from us. "Hey" he said.
he was wearing a stained tee-shirt and shorts, and flip flops, even though it was winter. But there was something else...
"I know,  sorry," I stared "we'll go..."
He interrupted me. "if you godown to the end there,  to where the fence ends, just down by the corner of the property, you can come inside. Probably get some better pictures"
I did not expect that.
"Thanks" I said, and gave him a nod.
We went in and took some pictures.
He explained that he was the caretaker, and as long as we just wanted to take some pictures, it was OK with him.
There was something not quite right.
He looked a little odd.
Maybe got started on the Thunderbird early, I thought.
We went inside the grounds and took a lot of pictures. He acted as a sort of tour guide, giving us tidbits of trivia as we went from structure to structure.
Then as we were about finished, he asked "do you want to see something cool?"
"Sure" we said, almost in unison.
"Follow me" he said, and led us over to the main house.
That was when I heard the narrators voice: "They then followed the stranger into the abandoned building..."
my daydream was interrupted by a voice. "Look at this"the voice said.
it was the caretaker. "you notice anything?" he asked.
He was pointing at a star made of abalone on the wall near the front door.
I shrugged.
"Five pieces" he said, mater of factly.
He was right. The star was made of five pieces of abalone shell.
I shrugged again.
He went on. "Every other deliberate pattern here has seven pieces. all of them. but not this one..." He tapped the star with his finger. "Why?" he asked.
I shrugged again. It did't mean anything to me, but, for him it seemed to be a thing.
He answered his own question. "No one knows." he said, "but I'll tell you, these guys did nothing by accident. it means something..." He turned towards me, and locked me in his gaze.
That was when I saw it.
By god, he had only one eye.
The other socket was occupied by a murky off color orb that did not follow his gaze, but rather remained fixed on a point only it knew.
"It means something, and I am going to figure it out" he said.
He walked over to a big weathered overstuffed recliner that faced out on the property.
"I am the king of the court of mysteries!" he said. He then fell backwards into the chair, his arms stretched wide. "And this is my kingdom!"
His smile was that of a man whose contentment was a dream to most.
I gave him a slight bow.
"your majesty"




Saturday, October 8, 2016

Hellhouse Tales # 7. The Strange case of Rich Bill

Hellhouse Tales # 7. The Strange case of Rich Bill

I remember the first time I met Rich Bill.
We were, as usual, sitting around the kitchen table wishing we had beer. That was one of the two general states at the Hellhouse, drinking beer, or wishing we had beer. This particular afternoon was a transition state, as we were about to go to the liquor store, and were waiting for Dave to get dressed.
There was a voice in the Hall.
"Knock Knock! ... Yo!"  said the voice
"In here" Klutch said.
The voices' owner appeared, holding a six pack of Anchor Steam, our favorite beer.
"Hey," he said, "I brought my bike in to the hall, I just got it and kinda don't want to leave it outside."
"What kinda bike?" I asked.
I was a bike messenger, and a bike mechanic, so these things genuinely interested me.
"Come check it out." he said, setting the beer on the table.
We walked into the hall, and there leaning against the wall was one of the sleekest looking race bikes I had ever seen. I was struck by the thinness of the frame.
"Carbon fiber" he said, running a finger down the center tube, "the rims are aircraft aluminum, most of the hardware is titanium alloy. Pretty sweet!"
I agreed, "Pretty sweet."
We went back into the kitchen and grabbed a couple beers. Dave came in, and Bill handed him a beer, "Hey man" he said.
"Hey," Dave said, "Thanks"
That was, as far as I know, when I first met Rich Bill.
Bill settled into a chair. "So, party tonight?"
We were in fact, going to a party that evening, and assumed that, was the party in question.
It turned out he was going as well, and said he would come back after his ride and go with us.
His name wasn't really Rich Bill, That was just our nick-name for him because he seemed to be rich.
He would come around, usually bring beer, shoot the breeze, and show off some new super expensive gadget he had recently acquired. I say show off, but it was more sharing. He was a geniunely nice guy, and well, he always brought beer.
I started seeing him at all the parties. Usually with some exotic expensive booze, some cool gadget, and tales of adventure.  Once he showed up to play ultimate, and even had his own custom Frisbee. Seemed everybody was friends with rich bill.
 One afternoon, again he came by, brought beer, shot the breeze, and then left, promising to return to accompany us to another Party that evening.
Clutch, Dave and I sat at the kitchen table finishing the beer.
"So, " I asked Dave, "how do you know Rich Bill?"
Dave stared at me, "What do you mean?"
"I mean, originally, is he one of your Colorado buddies?"
Dave looked at me like I was crazy. "I met him through you, he's your friend.."
That made no sense. "He's not my friend. I never saw him before that day he showed up with his new bike. I assumed he was a friend of yours..."
We both looked at clutch, who just shook his head. "I thought you guys knew him..."
We started going through our interactions with him, trying to figure a common thread.
We couldn't find any.
Like I had said, I never saw him before he showed up on his bike. But, he was carrying our favorite beer, asking about a party we were going to. The assumption was that he must be friends with someone we knew, and we each assumed it was each other.
We started making phone calls, but everywhere, it was the same,
"I thought he was a friend of yours..."
Turned out nobody knew Rich Bill.
We began listing the things we knew about him.
It was a short list.
Once you eliminated all the things that we thought we knew, which turned out to be assumptions,
The only thing we could honestly say about Rich Bill was that he seemed to be able to afford, or at least aquire, expensive things., and that he seemed to know, maybe a bit too much about our comings and goings.
I remember I once asked him what he did for a living, and he started giving me a vague non-answer, only to then direct the conversation to something else.
That seems to be the case with the other guys as well.
The only thing we really knew was that we had some questions for him.
We waited for him to show up at the Hellhouse that evening to go with us to the party.
But he didn't show up.
We went to the party, assuming he would be there.
But, again, he never showed up.
In fact, we never saw him again, and to the best of my knowledge, neither did any of our friends.
He vanished as mysteriously as he arrived.
leaving behind only questions,
and empty beer bottles.







Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Cat, A play in one Act.


The Cat, A play in one Act.
An image of a digital clock is projected in red on the black curtains. The clock reads 6:00 am. The curtains part, and there is darkness. Then we hear a mornfull sound…

“Hello? Hellooo? Hellooooo? Helloooooooooo? Helloooooooooooo?”
( The lights come on suddenly, and you see me getting out of bed) “Jezzus! What? What do you want?”
Cat: “Oh! Hi friend! I’m hungry!”(weaves in and out of my feet)” Hungry! Hungry! Hungry! Hungry! I love you! Hungry! Hungry!”
Me: “Damnit! Out of the way, Yes, I’ll feed you!”
Cat: (stopping every half foot to turn around, causing me to trip over him) “Are you coming? Over here? Hungry! I love you! Hungry! Hungry! I love you! Are you coming?”
(I pick up his bowl and put food into it) There you go!
Cat: "Oh thank you! So Hungry!" (chomp, crunch)
( I get a cup of coffee and just as I sit on the couch, the cat comes walking up)
Cat: "Oh! Hello friend! I’m so hungry! (weaves in and out of my feet) Hungry! so hungry! hungry! hungry! I love you! hungry! hungry!"
Me: “You could not have eaten that fast! “( I go into the kitchen,  and the dog has eaten all the cat food) “Why did you let the dog eat your food?”
Cat: “Well, I started to eat, but then I wandered over there and was licking my butt, and well…”
Me: “Fine!” (I give him more food) “There you go!”
Cat: “Oh thank you! thank you! So hungry!”(chomp, crunch)
 (just as I sit on the couch to drink my coffee, the cat comes walking up)
Cat: "Oh! Hi friend! I sure am hungry!" (again, the dog has eaten his food)
Me: "If you would just fricking eat, the dog would stop stealing your food!"
Cat: "I started to, but then there was my butt, and…"
Me: "Ok, This is the last time…. ( I fill his bowl, and stand there. He takes about three bites, and wanders off, so I put the bowl up where the dog can't get it. I get my coffee, and go to check my email. As soon as I sit down, I hear the cat…)
Cat: “Hello? Hellooo? Hellooooo? Helloooooooooo? Helloooooooooooo? Hellooooooooooooooooo?” ( Each vocalization is lower than the previous. It sounds like he is dying)
Me: “What? What do you want?”
Cat: “Oh! Hi friend! I’m really hungry!”(weaves in and out of my feet)” hungry! hungry! hungry! hungry! I love you! hungry! really hungry!”
( we go into the kitchen, I get down his bowl) “there you go!”
Cat: (he sniffs it) "It’s old! I want good fresh new food!"
( I pick up the bowl and shake it, then put it down again) “there you go!”
Cat: "Yes! Delicious fresh new food! Yum! (chomp, crunch)
( again he eats about two bites, and wanders off, so again I put the bowl up where the dog can't get it, and again go to check my email.
As soon as I sit down, I hear the cat…)
Cat: “Hello? Hellooo? Hellooooo? Helloooooooooo? Helloooooooooooo? Hellooooooooooooooooo?”
Me: “What? What? What do you want?”
Cat: “Oh! Hi friend! I’m hungry!”(weaves in and out of my feet)” Hungry! hungry! hungry! hungry! I love you! hungry! hungry!”
( again we go into the kitchen, again I get down his bowl) “there you go!”
Cat: (he sniffs it) “It’s old...”
Me: “Eat your goddamn food!”
(Again, As soon as I sit down, I hear the cat…)
Cat: “Hello? Hellooo? Hellooooo? Helloooooooooo? Helloooooooooooo? Hellooooooooooooooooo?”
I come into the living room, and just stare at him.
Cat: “Hungry...”
(Of course, the dog has eaten his food)
Me: “Why?”
Cat: “You didn’t shake it”
(Curtains close)