This morning I walked out of El Capitan after having breakfast with my brother and the homeless woman who sleeps on a little strip of grass by the parking lot dropped her pants down to her ankles. She not only mooned the cafe's regulars, but the people at the drive-in across the street got to view the Full Monty. The speakers on the lamp posts were playing, "A little ditty about Jack and Diane," which gave the whole situation something of a surreal feeling as it were taking place in darkened, smokey New Orleans' strip club. Not one of the fancy ones right off Bourbon Street, but further back in one of those dives where the strippers' stomachs are all ripply as a washboard and their sagging breasts lie flat against their chests as they awkwardly undulate to a two-piece jazz ensemble while chewing gum.
A young guy was walking down mainstreet with a German shepard on a leash and even the dog seemed to be disgusted by the sight of the woman. The young guy was triggered, and he yelled at the woman, "Pull yo damn pants up, Bitch. That's nasty!" She paid him no never mind and just pulled a crumpled joint out of somewhere and lit it up. Me and Steve just stood there transfixed and more than a little bit nauseous. It's hard to acknowledge that we were too jaded to be properly outraged by such a sight, but, in truth, we have become more than a little bit inured to such strange occurrences. Once you've had to change your mother's diapers while watching her slowly wither away, nothing much that life offers up seems to penetrate down to the level where it might register as being too painful to endure.
Besides, it wasn't the craziest thing we've seen since we've been sharing breakfast at El Capitan. That could be the time the crazy girl with the half shaved head and one red shoe who dropped her pants and stuck her ass in some bushes and did her business right there in full view of anyone who had the misfortune to see it. Or, it could have been watching the one legged meth-head pushing himself down main street in the broken wheel-chair that he had stolen from my mom's house the night before. Fact is ever since our crazy governor and his goofball minions have designated our downtown park as New Amsterdam, there's way too much crazy stuff going on around there to take much notice.
I've been having an internal war since those tents starting popping up in the park like mushrooms after a rain. I'm outraged, but at the same time, I'm torn by a desire to feel something akin to empathy. When it all started out, I was bouncing back and forth between the two polarities of feeling empathetic and feeling anger, with the two little angels on my shoulders bickering and calling each other names. Now, it's a full-on wrestling match with brass knuckles and steel toed boots. I don't feel the need or the urge to punish the woman, but damn if I don't believe that if something about the situation is not done pretty soon, shit is going to get real freaking real as the meth continues to do a number on all their brains. Someone is bound to get hurt; people have already been hurt. People don't seem to be taking notice of all of the weird shit; maybe because of the even weirder stuff going on in the world at large.
I love this crazy little town, but damn if she don't break my heart every time I turn around. She don't look anything like she did when we were younger. Back then, she got all dolled up every now and then and, "Every time I looked at her, I couldn't speak because, I couldn't get my mouth to move, that's how beautiful she was." Now, her one faux silk dress is grease stained and has a threadbare patch on her ass, her bleached blonde hair never gets brushed, her teeth are nicotine stained and her breath smells like a glass of two day old Modelo with a bunch of cigarette butts swimming around in it.
The eminent psychologist James Hillman once said that when we get old its not so much that we lose our strength and energy as much as we lose our illusions. I don't have any illusions anymore, ran completely fucking out, so now I'm starting to look at life as if I'm stuck right smack dab in the middle an episode of The Twilight Zone written by Rod Serling after he suffered a bad case of hemorrhoids caused by month long cocaine binge. Carl Jung wrote in one of his books about how the things we hate the most about other people are often the reflections of our repressed selves that we see in their actions and words. I used to write about this little weed I saw one time at stop-sign on the outskirts of Shafter. The wind kept blowing it over, but it kept popping back up every time. That little weed's zest for life inspired me at a time that I most needed some inspiration. My wife had left me after thirty-one years of marriage and my father had lost his mind and died on his bathroom floor after stepping out of the shower. I had to feel around to check for his pulse. It wasn't where it usually was. The sight of that naked homeless lady wasn't anything compared to the sight of my father lying lifeless on that cold bathroom floor.
My beloved mother died last April all alone in a hospital bed in her TV room while I worked on a crossword puzzle in the living room. I had to close her eyes and wipe the drool from the side of her mouth. An hour later, I watched as my daughter helped carry her body out wrapped in a sheet because the gurney couldn't handle the front steps. I have arthritis in my right shoulder, so I couldn't help much, besides I have would have probably dropped her because of the state that I was in. Illusions are luxurious things when you think about it, they help soften the hard corners and jagged edges of life. You can't sustain a smile without them. I wish I'd had the sense to have kept a few of them around, or that there was some way of manufacturing them out of stuff you have on hand like old memories, photographs, a good Scotch, or a favorite song or book. Sadly, life don't work that way. I know that one of the reasons that woman this morning upset me so much, was that she reminded me that eventually, if the wind kept blowing long and hard enough that the tiny weed would have to succumb to the gravity of the situation. I see some of myself in her desire to just pull a blanket over her head and sleep. It's the kind of thing that most of us will have to to fight against at some point in our life. Her giving up the fight for verticallity is troubling, as is the willingness of those other denizens of the park doing the same.
I hope and pray that someday soon my brother Steve and I will be able to come out of El Capitan in the morning and see some kiddos laughing and playing in the park and hear the speakers on the lampposts playing some Miles Davis from the Kind of Blue album, you the know the one with Bill Evans on the piano. And then, a white dove will fly down with an olive leaf in his beak and lay it on the hood of my car. I'll pick it up, examine it, and know that solid land is out there somewhere not too far away. We'll both look at the dove and whisper in unison, "Thank you."
Then the dove will cock his head to one side and answer by cooing, "Da nada." I least that's what I think it will mean. I don't speak dove talk very well.