Anyone with the sense enough to know, understands that it would be impossible to fully resurrect someone from the dead without some kind of divine intervention. I had already filed the night with Sylvia away as such an intervention. I didn’t know what to expect next. I would look out of my front window in the morning at the trees in my neighbor’s yard, half expecting to see a wolf in sheep’s clothing, wearing a bowler hat and Buddy Holley glasses peering at my front door from behind one of the elms.
I didn’t have to wait long because my second divine visitor arrived soon afterwards with all the subtlety of a major hurricane. It was the sudden reappearance of Remington Bowden. Remi was a childhood friend and fellow traveler back in the days when me and my boys were exploring the new found territories of our subconscious.
The summer between our tenth and eleventh grade year of school, one of our friends, Randy Goodman, brought his cousin over to Remi’s house. Remi, the son of the most successful car dealer in the great Central Valley of California, lived in the biggest house in the nicest part of Concord, and his parent’s were never home.
(In comparison, the Remi on my front step owned the clothes on his back, a rusted, multicolored Camaro that he driven since high school, and a box full of stuffed notepads where he wrote down all the twisted thoughts that ran through his tormented brain. I would have loved to gotten my hands on those notepads, but Remi guarded them like a bouncer at the gates of hell.)
Randy Goodman’s cousin was an ex-con who just got out of prison. He was looking for some weed, and we had weed. He traded Remi four hits of white sunshine acid for a half a bag of dope. This was a pivotal moment in all of our lives, Remi especially. He never recovered his taste for reality after that day.
It was me, Remi, Randy, and a neighborhood girl named Sandy Colton. In our own personal histories, it was just as momentous an occasion as when Thomas Jefferson told Louis and Clark to go explore the Louisiana Purchase. We were sitting around the pool drinking beer about ten in the morning on a Saturday when this scary looking guy holds out his palm containing four little white dots. He was mumbling something about being “far out shit” and other stuff I didn’t understand. I have since reconstructed the conversation from memory.
What I think he said was, “They have just discovered this new uncharted territory. It was discovered in the back of a closet in San Francisco. It is so totally fucking amazing, a hidden world of forests and jungles, of planets, and fantasy. Very few people have ever seen it, but word is getting out quickly. You want to see it?” Of course we did, we were bored, dumb-ass kids.
It wasn’t till about nine years later that Randy and I stumbled out of a forest and knelt in the sand by the edge of a big blue lake. We had picked up few stragglers from other expeditions, but had lost Sandy along the way, and Remi was still somewhere back in the forest. We could still hear his yell and haunted laughter from time to time.
After several minutes laying there and regrouping, Randy raised up on one arm and looked at me. His hair was matted, he was covered with grime and had scratches on his face, and arms, “ We going to go back and get him?”
I knew I looked as worn and beat-up as Randy. I finally spoke in a dry, husky whisper, “Do what you want. I ain’t going back in there. I’m going to clean up in this lake and then go find me a warm fire. We go back in, and Remi would try and make us stay.”
And that was that. I found my fire, and Randy found Jesus a little later in the day. He had told me that he had talked to him in the forest, but he never told me what about.
And then here I am, years later, being awaken by the sound of someone beating on my door and shouting, “Open the fucking door, Laz!”
I went to answer it while muttering to myself, "I have a doorbell for God’s sake. It is there so I can pretend that I am a civilized human being worthy of living in a civilized neighborhood."
Fearful and not knowing what to expect, I opened the door holding a .38 automatic behind my back. There was Remi, smiling like a demon that had just escaped incarceration. Even in his mid twenties, Remi looked liked Keith Richard without the benefit of having several million dollars and a stylist to mitigate the ravages of drugs and time. He wore, always wore, I should say, the same outfit that he wore as the last time I had seen him, Levis, boots, embroidered work shirt, a stained leather vest, and a big skull belt buckle.
Beside him, were two skinny blondes wearing way too much make-up and not enough clothes. The legendary Camaro of Many Colors was parked in my driveway beside my nervous looking Mazda. If a piece of machinery could ever talk, my poor little Mazda would have been shaking its head and muttering, “What the fuck is going on here, Laz?”
“Goddamn it, Lazarus, can’t a brother get a fucking hug? I ain’t seen your ugly ass in twenty years!” He grabbed me and damn near suffocated me in his embrace.
“Hell, I thought you were dead, Remi. I even wrote you up an obituary in case I needed to print it.”
He stepped back like he was hurt, but then grinned and said, “ I know, Laz. The story got around I died of heart attack in Vegas. I was working as a late night black jack dealer at Whiskey Pete’s. Never, ever slept. Always speeding, man. Them fuckers finally fired me for fucking every fucking female in the place. Probably, save my life though.” He roared with laughter and pointed to the ladies, “ Dean told me your Jennie left you. Sorry, man. But life’s too short for grieving. Let’s get this party started.”
I started to answer that I wasn’t exactly grieving, but only got half way through the lie before Remi and the blondes had barged right by me into the house. Next thing I knew, we had mixed up all the contents of my liquor cabinet, smoked dope out of a magical bong that seemed to come out of nowhere, got naked, and were dancing in the middle of my living room, in the middle of quiet middle class neighborhood, in the middle of California, in middle of Concord, a small town masquerading as the sphincter muscle of the universe. It was just like old times.
Remi’s parents divorced when he was in junior high. When we got to high school, his mom was long gone, and his dad was too busy running a business and chasing tail to ever care about what Remi was doing.
We would ditch school and head over to Remi’s and hang out all afternoon. I was put in charge of the record player and would stack Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Savoy Brown, Santana, and my favorite, Quicksilver Messenger Service, so that the music would play without interruption.
It was all testosterone-laced rock, the rock of guitar gods and their electric phalluses. That was an era known for the Pill and sexual freedom. Everywhere the pundits of the time trumpeted the news of the new society with its free sex. It was on the cover of the family magazines in full colored pictures that titillated but stopped just short of ever revealing anything too salacious.
Americans were always so hypocritical back then. They were all dying to see the tits, and the ass, all the forbidden parts, and even the deed itself, but would avert their eyes and say how disgusting it all was the moment someone caught them with their mouth hanging open.
And the idea that it was free sex, that was something so preposterous that it is a wonder that anybody fell for it. It should be taught in schools that the number one law of nature, more important than gravity, thermodynamics, or anything that ever came out of Newton’s mouth is that, “Nothing is Ever Free. There is always a catch somewhere, dumbass.”
Back then, all of us boys were all little guitar gods in training. We had gone all through childhood with our little acoustic penises and then, suddenly, Bob Dylan gave us permission to plug them bitches into some electricity, and what a difference! We went from denying Darla membership into the official neighborhood Woman Hater’s Club to trying to get every girl in sight to become initiated into our local chapter of the Wham Bam, Thank You Ma’am Club.
Everyone else says that it was the time of a great leap forward in terms of freeing women, but I got news. That pill didn’t free up woman; it freed up men. It freed up boys. We didn’t have to worry about girls getting pregnant. Then when you added in the idea of disposable babies to mix, hell boys became supermen; boys were unstoppable.
The blonde I was with fell asleep with her head in my lap. In repose, she looked much younger. I looked over at Remi. He was sitting in my wife’s favorite new blue recliner. We had just bought it before she left. I still owed three hundred dollars for it, so she had left it. He was in his boxers with the other blonde sitting mostly naked on his lap talking a mile a minute. Every now an then, Remi would let loose with a roar of laughter as if one of that facts that she revealed about her life as stripper was the most hilarious thing he had ever heard.
It made me remember the afternoon and the party nights at his house so many years ago. We had a steady supply of young girls going and coming, most of them the daughters of working class Concord. We would get a lot of girls from Remi’s own neighborhood too, bored, reckless rich girls suffering from the neglect of business minded fathers and alcoholic mothers, girls looking for a simple taste of human connection.
I used to wonder why they would appear at Remi’s door as if he had a giant speaker broadcasting the latest Pied Piper album, but I don’t anymore. Their parents, like my parents, had lied to them and the whole scene at Remi’s was the reaction to that lie.
These sweet young girls were starting to grow up. God, for whatever reason, had designed teenagers so that we each got a huge dose of electric juice to kick off our teen-aged years. I have to believe that part of the design originally included us getting a corresponding upgrade to our mental and emotional systems, but for some reason those plans got lost in the shuffle.
So there we were, emerging like baby butterflies after years in the cocoon of childhood, very scared of what we were seeing and hearing at first, but later starting to notice the difference between what we saw and heard, and what our parents were telling us was out there.
Put yourself in the place of one of those girls. Her dad would come home tired at night covered with grease from the garage, mud from the field, metal shavings from the machine shop, or with the waxy glaze from a factory shift. The family would eat supper, watch a couple hours of television, and then go to bed. Day after day this was the routine. On Saturday, they might picnic, and on Sunday they would go to church.
This girl would be standing in the parking lot of her school one day when Remi came roaring in with a vapor trail of pot smoke pouring out the windows of the Camaro, and the Rolling Stones Sympathy for the Devil blaring from the speakers. Every inch of this demonic apparition screamed, “Fuck what your parent’s say. Live a little!”
It seems that back then that none of our parent’s ever told us the truth. In their defense, their parents had lied to them too, and their great-grandparents to their grandparents. The modern age hasn’t been particularly known for grown-ups telling kids the truth.
It wasn’t like ancient times when if a kid asked his mom and dad about the meaning of life, he would get back handed and told, “ Fuck that! Keep fucking running. The Mongols are coming!”
Ever since the human race has acquired a bit of polish, parents are usually far too busy and caught up in trying to imitate a community of ants in their denunciation of the fiddle playing, pot smoking grasshoppers. They reach the end of the fable and flash us a big toothy smile when they spit out the moral.
Kids just sit there, nodding in agreement but thinking, “Sure, the grasshopper didn’t have anything stored away to eat when winter came, but at least he wasn’t living life like a fucking ant.”
You would think our parents, at some point, would have sat us down and explained the way life really was. You’d think one of them would have the decency to say that there was a big hole in ground waiting for us at the end, and that we might want to think about what that meant before we picked our career path.
“ Son, I got something to tell you, and I don’t know quite how to go about it. It’s ..a…a.. . . . . little bit hard. You see, life is …ah.. life is.. well, life is kind of like a alien creature with a big fucking proboscis, you know a long nosed thing kind of like an anteater, and it has a long, skinny tongue that could reach from here and wrap around Eddie’s tree over there. Sometimes this anteater, it likes to slip that tongue up past your eyeballs and use it to suck out your brains.”
“That’s not all, son. It has these pincher like things that it uses to strip away your skin inch by inch.”
“I’m not done yet, son. It will also eat every muscle and sinew off of your bones,” he was getting worked up and had a glazed-over look with little beads of sweat forming on his forehead, the lamp light beside him bathed his face in a eerie, yellow glow, and his eyes stared toward the closed front door but clearly saw things well beyond it. “Then it will crush your bones into a very fine powder, you know like that talcum stuff mom has in the bathroom. Finally, it will use that to powder to powder its ass after shitting you back into the universe.”
“Oh, Daddy, I’m so scared, what do I do?”
“ Stand up, son, and I’ll show you. You stand up see? Then you take one hand and use it to cup your balls with, then take your other hand and hold it up like this,” he held his middle finger upright.
“Like this, Daddy?”
“Exactly. Good job, son.”
“Then you scream at the top of your lungs, Bite me, Bitch! Either that or Kiss It! Depends on the situation.”
“What does this do, Daddy?”
“It tells the monster that you are not afraid. So it will leave you alone, son.”
“But I’m scared, Daddy?”
“We all are, son. Don’t let that monster hear you say it. It gobbles up fear. You can be so scared you want to shit your pants, but never let the monster know it. When you’re so afraid you can’t handle it anymore, throw something at it and laugh.”
The bullshit lie of total domestic bliss was one thing, but when you added in the residual effect of the lie being passed down from generation to generation, there was a lot of crazy shit going on behind the walls of many of those houses.
Daddy would be snoring in his in easy chair in front of the television and dream of killing antelopes with his bare hands while Mama sewed and wished that she could take the shears she was using to cut the cloth for Lisa’s dress and plunge them deep and hard into her husband’s throat. Little brother Billy, meanwhile, played with his trucks in the corner while secretly wishing he could get his hands on a stick or two of dynamite. And Lisa, pretty little Lisa, sat by the window and squirmed in the chair while listening to the faint sound of Led Zeppelin and some occasional demonic laughter coming from Remi’s house down the street.
It wasn’t any wonder that half the young girls in town came to Remi’s house, or even that that crazy assed Charles Manson had so many female followers. It was a wonder he didn’t have more. Dionysus usually had more.
After an intense afternoon of partying, I went with Remi to drop the blondes off at the Greyhound bus station five blocks from my house. I knew the danger of getting into a car with Remi but wanted one last cruise in the Camaro of Many Colors. Afterwards, we got a big bottle of red wine and went and sat out by Cohn Lake in a secluded place in the very back corner of St. John’s Park. The sun was just barely in the sky and bathed the lake in glorious shades of pink and gold.
I found out that Remi had three kids, a boy in Seattle, a daughter in Las Vegas, and another boy in Dallas.
“Them’s only the ones I know about. I’m like fucking Johnny Appleseed, man. I’m dropping seeds ever where I go,” he grinned and I noticed he was missing a couple of teeth on top the left side of his mouth.
I got around to asking, “What’re you going to do with all them notebooks?”
“ Why? Why you always so curious about them damn notebooks, Laz?”
“Just interested. That’s part my life, too. I know what I saw, I know what I did, and I know what I thought about it all. Remi, you paid attention to it all. I know you saw meaning in the little details, shit Randy and I never paid attention too. You always went one step further than me. I always turned back at the edge of the volcano. I've always wanted to know what you saw down in those flames."
Remi laughed, grinned, and took a long swig on the bottle then he laughed again, “ I can’t tell you man. You had to pass through them flames to understand it; you had to burn away everything about you that wasn’t pure. If I die, and you are anywhere around, I want you to burn all that shit. Keep it out of the hands of the enemy. Hell, burn the Camaro too. Promise me that, Laz.”
I promised. What else could I do?
Remi was telling me about this magic boomerang he had. He said that you tape something on it, and throw it, and when it returned it guaranteed that whatever you wanted to come back to you, came back. I expressed my skepticism, and he said, “ I swear to you, man, it works. I done tried it on a lot of things.”
I had told him earlier about the red headed angel and how I had taken her panties. So, we taped a small piece of the leopard-skinned silk to one wing the boomerang. We held a small ceremony with Sly and the Family Stone providing the musical background. He held the boomerang aloft but waited, “ Gotta wait for the chorus, Laz, or it won’t work!”
Then there it was, “Boom shocka locka, boom shocka locka!” He tossed the boomerang with all of his might. We watched in helpless wonder as it flew far out over the forest that ringed the lake and fell into the trees. He looked at me sadly, “Guess she ain’t coming back, Laz.”
I didn’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me to see if Jenny was.
I woke up the next morning surrounded by the debris of the night before. I was lying on the sofa and raised my head to survey the scene. Remi was gone. I knew he would be, he created chaos everywhere he went but had little taste for ruin.
He left a note. Rather, he had written a note in my own journal. I wrote my thoughts down daily as penance for my misspent youth. I had just started writing in a new blue composition book right before Remi appeared on my doorstep. I sat it down on the dining room table before answering the door.
I knew deep inside me that Remi had not randomly picked up the book being nosey. He saw it and knew what it was. He wrote in the exact middle of the journal understanding that his comments would be embedded in the center as I filled in the words before and after. Don't ask me how I knew this, I just did.
He had left the journal splayed open on the table with a heavy, half-full black ceramic ashtray holding the pages apart.
I can't tell you how much I've missed you, buddy. I admit I was a little angry when I looked over my shoulder and saw you and Randy heading back. Not so much Randy, but you. The anger passed quickly when I understood you were responding to the calls of your mom and dad, and those were the words for which I was searching, words I would never hear. I actually smiled before I started back downward, knowing that someone, someone sooted and singed, would one day tell the truth about it all in way that made it worthy of remembering.
I laid the journal back down, went to the fridge, and got out the last beer. Then I went outside and sat down on the steps. My bald-assed, bespectacled neighbor Bill, the deacon of my mom's church, was taking out his trash. He made a show of it, jamming the black plastic bag into the receptacle, and slamming the lid; I waved with the beer bottle. He shook his head and reluctantly waved back after checking to see who was watching.
I remembered a time when I had spent the night at Remi's house. We were both probably sixteen at the time. He had spent the night locked in his mother's bedroom with a lovely brown haired girl named Ellen, a pretty doe-eyed hippie chick who had left Los Angeles on her way to Frisco. We had crossed her path at a convenience store near the highway. Remi and I had emerged from the store yelling epithets and cursing at the pimpled face clerk for refusing to sell us beer. Remi actually stumbled into Ellen as she was being dropped off by someone who had picked her up in Valencia and ushered her to her appointed rendezvous with Remi.
He was only wearing white pajama bottoms and was lighting a cigarette. When he saw I was awake, he stopped, walked closer, leaned towards me and whispered, "If the present world go astray, the cause is in you, in you it is to be sought." Then he went into the bathroom and shut the door behind him. It was only years later as I was sitting in World Lit class that I heard those words again. Sixteen year old boys in Concord did not usually go around quoting Dante.
I imagined for a moment that Pepe, my beloved childhood pet, was sitting beside me on the steps, and I sat there patiently on the offhand chance that Jenny would drive by. Three and a half hours and forty cars later, I gave up and went back in the house to clean up after Remi.