A Forward Looking Boy
I try to take a dip every night in the summer to cool down and improve my flexibility. My joints are seizing up on me and moving around in the water helps a bit. Tonight, I was looking at a planet directly south of me and a light plane flew between me and the planet.
My first thought was that there were people in the plane, and it was way up high in the sky. Then I thought about the planet and how it was really there too, much further out, but there.
My friends and I used to sleep out in the summers, and back then, before the prison was built, there was much less light to obstruct our vision of the Milky Way. It was a spectacular sight back then; we would lay on our backs on spread out blankets, stare at the sky, and talk about the magic of it all.
One night, very early in the morning hours, a huge fireball the size of a basketball roared across sky above us. We could actually hear a sizzling type of sound as it passed. It spooked us all. My little brother got scared and ran through the small bunch of trees that separated our house from the Miranda's backyard and went in the back door of our house. I followed about hour later. It was spooky but also one of the most spectacular things I have ever seen.
It is hard to say when we all got too old to sleep outside. I know it was in the late 60s because on one of those last occasions, a Fresno radio station played Quicksilver Messenger Service's Pride of Man. We lay on our backs looking up at the stars and listened to John Cippolina play that wobbly guitar solo. I love that solo and I loved that dude and was sad for days when he died. It wasn't long after that night that the 60s began for us in earnest and most of the star gazing and sleep outs stopped abruptly.
During the early years of my marriage, we would make a habit of spending a weekend in the mountains a couple times a year with our friends. Up high above the valley there was a hell of a lot less light and night sky would be so filled with diamonds and pieces of diamonds that it would overwhelm a person to see it.
Like most everyone else, nowadays I spend more times looking at small screens than night skies, and it shows.
When my friends and I got old enough to drive, our vision was usually focused straight ahead. We slid through the darkness with eyes transfixed on the sights revealed in our headlights. The headlamps were like an extension of our eyes, constantly searching for something. Sometimes there was actually something out there, but more often, not.
Once, a friend, his girlfriend, and I watched a road northeast of town breathing. He and I got out of the car to try and jump on it like kids in a bounce house. It wasn't as fun as we thought it would be, mainly because the road wasn't really breathing. Our headlights got it wrong that time.
His girlfriend sat in the car and laughed at our silly efforts. We kept trying to get a bounce out of the road and would give each other advice on how to make it happen. Grand Funk Railroad was on the stereo playing their sublime version of the Stone's Gimme Shelter; I remember it well because it was my tape. It was a very interesting night and that's really all we were after.
There was rarely any real destination where we were going. The plan was to find some female companionship and just go and see where the road took us. The only map we had was in our head and cardinal points were here, there, there, and there. The direction we were heading was forward. And the road would let us know where we were going once we got there.
Sometimes there was so much smoke inside the car it was like driving through a fog. We never got anywhere, but it wasn't for a lack of trying. There was always a deeply seated urge to not sit still. Kerouac explained it to us in that book, and we recognized what he was talking about. Sitting still was so nowhere. Moving was where it was at.
One night, we ended up in Delano looking for a friend's brother. We drove all night listening to one song, Tommy James and the Shondell's Crimson and Clover. The next day, we didn't even care to ask each other why that one song lasted the whole fucking night.
On other nights, we would end up drinking on the outskirts of town, parked on ditch bank and fishing out cold beer from a styrofoam ice chest while sitting on the back of the car and discussing the future in vague terms. Occasionally, a song would come on the radio, and it was always the one who was pissing in the ditch who would turn and scream, "Turn that shit up, Man!"
Many people believed that the Sixties died with the murder of the Labiancas at 3301 Waverly Drive by the Manson family and that the nail of the coffin was driven in by the Rolling Stone's disastrous Altamont concert. For me, the era ended when one of my roommate's got busted for selling weed to an undercover officer, and my coffin nail was a girl who I liked a lot telling me she didn't like me nearly as much as she had led me to believe.
I moved back home to my parent's house and parked my car for some reason. One night I was walking home south on Estes looking up at a big full moon and feeling about as sad as a young man could possibly feel; I stopped beneath a streetlight to stare up at the moon for a moment; it really was a glorious sight, but I felt like I was dragging my feet instead of walking, and my poor heart felt like a small sack of cement that I was carrying around for the hell of it.
"I don't know if I could ever poke out my own eyes or not. I like seeing strange shit way too much, even if it's bad for me. "
I don't why people don't notice the heavens as much as we should. We exist right smack in the middle of the infinite sky and a wet spot on a microscope slide. For some strange ass reason we only seem to notice what is directly in front of our faces. It could have something to do with the arrangement of our eyes I guess. It's like the old saying, "I don't know; I don't have eyes in back of my head."
I guess it's a big improvement from our cave man days when our posture was twisted and our eyes always focused on the ground to search out snakes and other disreputable reptiles. In the Bible account, God placed the fruit from the tree of life in the Garden; it might have been just to get Adam to quit staring at his feet so much.
In the great play by Sophocles, Oedipus pokes out his own eyes when he discovers the truth about his existence and after he sees the barrenness and the blight upon the land that his actions had unknowingly caused. In his blindness, he turns his vision inward and thereafter becomes something of a saint.
It's a metaphor for life, and one that warns us humans that we seriously need to get with it when it comes to searching out things. Everything on the outside is never what it seems to be and our insistence on checking it out thoroughly is leading us astray, instead we need get down on our hands and knees in front of our cars at night and let the light from our headlights reveal something about what's really going on inside of us.
I don't know if I could ever poke out my own eyes or not. I like seeing strange shit way too much, even if it's bad for me. For example, I've watched several of Quentin Tarantino movies, and I have no great love for him. His movies, in my eyes, are exactly the problem that we humans have with existence: Life is boring enough without visual effects and introspection is just too damn hard for most of us.
I am going to work on it though. I am going to get off all of my devices one of these nights, go outside, sit in the pool, sip on a scotch and water, and look upward and try to find some real magical shit.