Chapter 24 - Almost Crazy
I needed more time to think, and I thought I had found the perfect place to do it. It was perfect for about three hours before I saw the lights of Dean's car stirring up dust coming down a dirt road on the other side of some tall oak trees. I was sitting in lawn chair at our favorite fishing spot by the side of the river, drinking cold beer and watching my fishing line. Mainly, I was just thinking about life.
It was on the dark side of twilight, and I couldn't really make out that it was Danny's car for sure, but I knew for certain it was him. For one thing, I could hear the faint sound of Deep Purple's Highway Star when he turned off the ditch bank about a quarter mile away. When he was driving alone, he turned his stereo to ear bleeding levels.
It was only about two minutes from when I first heard the music that his car cleared the last of the oaks and his headlights came shining through the trees and bushes down by the river's edge, blinding me and illuminating everything around me. I turned away, and when I did, I could see the two blurry dots of his headlights form a triangle with the reflected with the crescent moon on the dark flowing water of the river.
Then the lights of the car vanished, the music stopped, and I heard his car door open and slam. Dean came blindly stumbling through the brush and stubbing his toe on the stump of a small tree that we had cut down to improve our ability to see the road. He was high, or else he would have made it through the brush like a ballerina.
He was wearing a white Stetson hat and his dad's fancy dress boots. I had my astronaut thing when I wanted to escape; Dean had his cowboy moods when he would pretend that he was living in the Old West. It alarmed me somewhat because I knew he had his dad's pearl handled, silver plated .32 Colt in his glove compartment. I understood the cowboy act besides I couldn't judge him while I was pretending to be an astronaut. I had once asked him about the necessity of the gun. He grinned and said, "You can't be a cowboy without a fuckin gun, Danny. Duh! I thought you knew that."
I remember staring at him for a moment before replying, " Oh, yeah. I just forgot."
He was carrying a half empty fifth of Four Roses in his right hand, his cowboy drink. We had once gotten into a big drunken argument over whether Wyatt Earp had drank Four Roses or some other whiskey before he had ambled over to the OK Corral. Just to argue, I said, contrary to the movies, Wyatt and Doc had probably sipped on some first class Scotch prior to the gunfight. Dean near came unglued. "Fuck you, Danny. You know for a fact that there weren't any first class Scotch anywhere near Tombstone, Arizona back in them days. They drank whisky made from rattlesnake piss and muddy water." For good measure, he held up a pint of Four Roses and shook it in my face.
I conceded the argument, "I like that. Rattlesnake piss and mud water. That would be appropriate for a gunfight in Arizona." The complement calmed him down as quickly as the comment about Scotch had riled him up.
"I thought I'd find ya sorry ass down here. I looked everywhere else. I went by your house; Glen said you was gone. Then I went by your Ma's place and saw your dad's truck was gone. Figured you was still out exploring the universe. Then I was finally able to figure out that you would need a blast off....a launch pad, and from there it was easy to figure that this was the closest place, either here or the parking lot behind the Drug Store."
I toasted him with my beer. "Can't get nothing by you, Deano. You are a regular Sherlock Fucking Holmes, my man. And in a cowboy hat no less, a six shooting, saddlesore, sleuth of the Saguaro Plains." I was kind of drunk too.
He came over by me, turned over a white bucket and sat down on it. "Well just who the fuck sits out in the dark by hisself on a Friday night?"
He just shook his head and looked at me like he was still figuring shit out. "Are you going fucking crazy." He took a drink from the bottle and handed it to me. "People want to know."
"Who the fuck wants to know? Nobody even pays attention to what I do." I took a drink.
"Randy Meisner said you and him got into a drag race on main street at three in the morning."
"You on one sidewalk and him on the the other?"
I shrugged. "It seemed like a thing to do at the time."
"He also said that he first ran into you when you were digging out on Jill Booth's front yard." I didn't reply, so he continued, "Said you guys were playing bumper tag, and he lost you when you took off across the park."
He looked at me like he expected an answer, so I gave him one.
"The previous statement still applies." I could tell he wasn't satisfied, so I tried to clarify things up a bit, "Him and Mark Thomas were working together. They thought they had me boxed in on the alley by the park, but they didn't figure I would cut out across the park....It was the only choice."
"You had to knock over one of them poles?"
"Lorenzo Larriaga told me that later you and Mark pushed a big tractor tire out into the middle of main street and set it on fire."
I chuckled, "That damn Mark is fucking crazy." Dean kept eyeing me suspiciously. "I thought the darkness was closing in, and we needed some more light. Second Law of Thermodynamics kind of shit."
"What in our history would ever make you think I would know anything about the Second Law of Thermodynamics or the First Law, or the Third?" He looked at me like he was looking at a stranger. It made me thirsty,
I pulled my line out of the water and went and got a beer out of the ice chest in back of my dad's truck. Dean thought he saw something and rose up off the bucket. He scurried where I stacked my pole and squinted at the end of my line."
"You ain't even got no hook on here, fool! You are fucking crazy!"
I opened up my beer, took a swig and answered, "It might be crazy if I was trying to catch a fish, otherwise not so much."
He stared at me open mouth then stared at the pole then back at me, "Catching a fish is the whole point of fishing, Danny."
"Maybe, maybe not. Maybe I was trying to catch something else completely."
"Sumpin else? Like what?"
I didn't hesitate, "Like a clue, Hopalong. Maybe I just needed a clue."
Now he looked at me, then the pole, then the water. "And it's out there in the river somewhere?"
I drained the rest of the beer in one big gulp and burped loudly. "Fuck if I know. I figured it was a good a place as any to start looking. Last few days, I been sleeping in the back of this here pick-up. It's starting to worry my parents."
"And no fucking wonder. Grown ass man pretending he's driving around in a spaceship."
I laughed, " That's really funny coming from you Cowboy Bob. Rustled any cattle lately?"
He looked down at his Dad's fancy boots, looked at me and burst out laughing.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
With the pleasantries exchanged, we settled down into an effort of getting seriously muddled. Dean got my other lawn chair and fishing pole out of my trunk. I told him I had bait in the ice chest.
"I don't know, man. I'll think I'll try out some of this Space fishing. Might learn sumpin new."
We talked about a lot of things but the the conversation wound it's way back to Jill Booth. "I knew from the start that things would probably end bad, but I went for it anyway. The only regret is that I cried in front of her the other night."
"Yep, I lost it just for a second. I was thinking there had to be way, a perfect way for sure, but a way to pull it off. And I thought I was up to the challenge but I was way over my head, Dean."
He picked up a rock by his feet and tossed it in the river. When it splashed the bull frogs got louder and the reflection of the moon got blurrier. "At least you got her in the sack. I know a lot of dudes who would made the same trade, " he thought about it a second, "including me. Thing was I was rooting for you. Me and Stoop were talking about it the other day with BaBa, and we all wanted you to pull it off for the Southside, man. We wanted you to rub Mickey's face in it."
"You weren't jealous?"
"If you're asking if I wanted to fuck her, I ain't going to lie to you. But that don't mean I didn't want you to prove it could be done."
"Even if it meant I would start spending all my time with her?"
He got serious as a heart attack, "Even so. Dude, you are already gone from here in a lot of ways."
"Fuck yeah. The rest of us going to be our daddy's legacies. We'll get their jobs or sumthin similar and end up living the rest of our life reliving their lives. Hell, more than a few of us will end up living in the same houses we grew up in."
"What, you don't think, I'll end up in Concord too?"
"Maybe Concord, but I doubt it. At least, you'll be living on the other side of Baily."
"You are fucking crazy, Dean. I hate that place."
"Place ain't bad. It's the people that are fucked up."
" That's what I'm saying, man. Them fools fucked up."
"Some of them is and some of them ain't. It's just like the Southside."
"What the hell you talking about, man? Surely, you ain't saying them people are better than our people."
"Like I said, some is, some ain't. A lot of them stuck up Northside bitches have forgotten where they've come from, and a lot of these beat down broke ass fuckers on the Southside have forgotten what their dreams were."
I thought a second about what he said, and it made some sense. " Hell, I'm just like them. Besides, Jill just crushed my dreams."
Dean gulped his beer and crushed his empty can beneath his boot. "Danny, there's a reason you go to space when you want to get away from all this shit. It's higher, and let's you get above it all and see over all the obstacles and shit. You are looking for the future. And there's a reason why I put on my daddy's fancy boots when that crap starts getting deep. It reminds me of better days, but the Wild West is dead; it is a dead muthafucker, and the Southside of Concord ain’t nuthin but a Boot Hill for the dreams of all our people who came out here chasing their dreams. Nowadays, it's either escape or die, dude. It might take years to before they throw the dirt in your face, but you ain't really living if you ain't trying find a way out of there."
I felt a wave of energy rush over me from the head down. God damn, this damn fool was getting deep, and it made some sense too, hell, it made a lot of fucking sense. "Damn it, Dean. That shit was good. For a minute, you sounded just like that dude we were talking about a while back."
He didn't know if I was pulling his leg, or not, so he asked hesitantly, "Who dat?"
"Cyrano. The dude in the play we were discussing back when this shit started happening."
"That long nosed dude?"
"Yeah. I know his nose wasn't near fucked up as yours, but that shit you said was pretty deep."
He didn't know what to do at first. He still didn't know whether I was kidding or not. Finally, he grinned and reached over and gave me a high five. "Damn right that shit was deep. Come from the heart too." He settled back into his chair. A little while later, he slurred," Remember that shit for me, Danny, and remind me what I said when I sober up."
He looked over at me and grinned again, and I fucking lost it. I laughed so hard, I completely forgot about the reason I was out there fishing with no hook.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
We were still there when the sun began to yellow the eastern sky. Dean was asleep and snoring, but I was still awake. Then some long assed white bird flew over us squawking and woke him up too.
He turned in my direction with squinty eyes and messed up hair. His boots were off and his white cowboy hat lay in the grass behind his chair.
"You know what I was dreaming bout?"
"How the fuck would I know that?"
"I dreamt that I was on the space ship with you and these alien smart-asses were giving us a whole mess of trouble. You was pretending to act crazy trying to scare them off without us having to use our nuclear weapons on them."
"Oh, I'm the one pretending to be crazy?"
He looked at me disappointed. "Danny, you set a tractor tire on fire on main-street." I nodded. "Then I woke up from a dream just like this one and told you something to the effect that if they ain't afraid of you acting crazy it's because they ain't seen real crazy yet."
"And what did I say?"
"It's the only choice. Them fuckers think they got us boxed in."
I found out his wife had died about two months after her funeral. I rushed out and bought a condolence card. I never got a chance to send it. He dropped by one day, so I gave to him. He opened it and read what I had written in big letters across the top, "Fuck You, Coop!"
I guess that most people would think that it was a heinous thing to do. But it wasn't. Rather, it was just how we greeted each other during our fifty plus years of friendship. Cooper laughed his ass off and replied the same way that he had for hundreds of other times, "Fuck you, Dougie."
He always called me Dougie and was one of only four people that I didn't mind doing it.
He was OG member of the Brotherhood of Blood and Bone, an unofficial organization of the kids who grew up in the 60s and 70s on the south side of Corcoran, an area bound by Bainum to the North, Dairy to the West, 5 1/4 Avenue to the East and Alpaugh to the South.
He is a member of the Mark Twain League Touch Football Hall of Fame. A great pass rusher and tight end, he also played a passable game of basketball but lost over five hundred games of Twenty-One to either me or Frankie Renteria.
Much of his early outlook on life was formulated while looking out on the world through the screen windows of Pop's Candy Store. He studied philosophy there and also learned to cuss and put peanuts in his sodas. Cooper matriculated at Mark Twain Elementary School, considered at that time, as being the finest educational institution between Bainum and Oregon Avenue.
I got the news of his death while at basketball practice in Visalia. I didn't cry, but I later drove the length of Mooney Blvd without paying much attention to what I was doing. That night, I spent most of the night trying to justify why we didn't see each other more often when we grew up. I couldn't come up with a single valid reason.
I never had a conversation with Cooper where he didn't make me smile and laugh, even the last one when he told me how his wife had passed while everyone thought he was going to die. It was only time I ever saw him cry, yet it only lasted for a moment before he was back making my ribs hurt.
We made plans to take in a Rawhide game, and then maybe since we were both free from domestic constraints, take in a Giant game or two. We went for a long ride on the West Side of the valley the next day and talked nonstop the whole time we were gone. When he got out of my car, he bumped his head on the ceiling of the car and told me I needed to get a bigger vehicle. I told him he needed to lose some of that noggin. It was the last time I ever saw him.
If I ever make it heaven, I'm going to look him up. I'll walk up to where he's sitting and tell him something like, "Coop, you remember that time I saw your dog licking my dog's butt?"
He'll look at me, shake his head, grin with those big sad eyes, and look over his shoulder to make sure St. Peter ain't listening and reply, "Fuck you, Dougie."
Edipus Archer was one strange mother fucker. For one thing. he wore his hair slicked back and divided down the middle. It made him look like Alfalfa, the freckled face kid on the Little Rascals. Eddie also wore coke bottle lenses in his black rimmed glasses. He projected the image of appearing to be legally blind, yet moved around his little corner of the universe with all the dexterity of Rudolf Nureyev.
He also read voraciously and this might have accounted somewhat for the thickness of the lenses. Three of the four walls of second story bedroom were made up of floor to ceiling book cases crammed full of books, and not just any books like the ones that filled his mom's bookcase in her bedroom one floor below his. She was obsessed with Catherine Cookson's novels. He preferred reading serious books by serious people like Carl Jung, Rollo May, Victor Frankl, Nietzsche, Tolstoy, and Kierkegaard. And he really read them too. Every book in his bookcases was high lighted and underlined so that he could quickly find his favorite passages
He kept his current favorites on a coffee table by his big blue reading chair. He also kept his pet fish Lazarus in a fish bowl placed in the middle of the table. The reading chair sat facing the window that looked out over the tree lined street in front of his mother's house.
The window was the size of two normal sized windows and was located in the one wall of the room that did not contain a bookshelf. The window also overlooked the Cyrano de Bergerac Middle School across the street. Eddie had taught Eight grade Language Arts there for fifteen years.
He felt that he would have still been teaching her if it hadn't been for the complaints from one Thelema Newhouse Crowley, the grossly overweight and fatally over-opinionated, single mother of Aliyah Newhouse. Eddy liked Aliyah, but hated her mother.
She had complained to the school board about one of his lessons. After the class finished reading the young adult novel Old Yeller every year, Edipus would focus on the final chapter of the book having his kids draw the scene in which the 14 year old main character Travis Coates shot the heroic dog which had contracted a fatal case of hydrophobia.
They would post the pictures on the wall and then break down into groups and reenact the funeral scene from the book where the dog is buried and Travis's absent father, just returned from a cattle drive, explains to his son about the meaning of life and death.
Mr. Coates said something about how life kicks your repeatedly in the nuts and when you bow down to clutch your testicles, it would then kick you in the teeth for good measure. The father went on to explain that it wasn't right to dwell on the nut kicking when you weren't being kicked because that would make Life all about the nut kicking and not let you enjoy the good parts of life like sex and the results of hard work. The book actually didn't say anything about sex, but Travis's scrawny blonde girl friend was there, and he had just given her an arrowhead that he had found, so the readers were free to draw their own assumptions.
Thelema Newhouse Crowley didn't think the lesson was very appropriate for the age group and felt that Edipus was, like I said at the beginning, one strange motherfucker. In which case, she was certainly correct. She was however absolutely wrong about the lesson in question. Eddie was strange, most of us are if you really think about it, but he was absolutely brilliant when it came to reducing the most important lessons of Western literature into language that junior high kids could understand. He felt that the lesson at the graveside reduced the great question of life down to a manageable sound bite. It was a simple but effective way of projecting the central idea of an existentialist view point.
Eddie did not believe in God, or so he said, but that didn't keep God from making him feel guilty.
Even the weirdness of his lessons worked to his advantage in this regard. They were so strange that the kids could not help but pay attention, and by the time they figured out that they'd been snookered into paying attention, they had already learned what he'd set out to teach them.
The school board didn't fire him, but they tried to tie his hands and make him teach lessons from a book "of nothingness". He could not take the restrictions and melted down in the middle of a Wednesday meeting, screaming at the administrators of the school telling them that none of them knew shit about education but were too dumb to know it.
He accused them all of being blatherers, or people who never said anything worth saying. Which was, for all intensive purposes, very true, but he shouldn't have said it out loud in front of people trying to hold on to their jobs. He saved them the job of firing him by going on sick leave. He told the few friends that he had that he was really sick, sick of working for blathering idiots.
The strangest thing about Edipus Archer was that he believed he could pick out serial killers by observing them in their natural habitat, which as we all know, is stalking their prey out in the smack dab middle of society.
I shit you not. You can't make this stuff up. I believe that God has some seriously flawed individuals creating these little scenarios on his payroll. They snort of a lot of cocaine, trade shots of blended liquor, then pick somebody's name out of a phone book, spin a roulette wheel that point to crazy actions, and then they pull cards that indicate where the action should take place.
Then they run it by a target audience. If the audience laughs or smiles, or just acts like they get it, the story is written up nice and fancy in form of a script and then it goes to the directors who set the whole thing in motion. When Shakespeare said that all the world's a stage and everybody on earth is a player, well, I think he was in on the secret.
Eddie, like I said, seriously believed that he could sniff out serial killers just by observing them unnoticed. He got this unusual idea by watching mystery movies and television crime shows. It never took him more than a few minutes of watching a story before he could figure out who the culprit of the story was. Eddie never had a father around to tell him different, so he naturally assumed that this talent could be transferred from the big or small screen to reel, I mean real life. Sorry.
He would take care of his mom's needs in the morning, but then would go out wandering the city looking for serial killers after the caretaker/cleaning lady came to relieve him at precisely 12:01 Monday through Friday. The caretaker, a middle aged Filipina named Carla, annoyed him. She mispronounced the names of all the authors of his favorite books. It made it hard for him to talk to her.
Just the night before, he sat at a bar in a well known place in Fresno and listened to an elderly man tell his story to a pretty brunette bartender. The guy looked retired but apparently had gotten a gig pouring drinks at university functions. This made Eddie suspicious right away. Serial killers like to get right up close to people, to be able to observe them and see how they act in certain situations. The man told the bar tender that he had watched a drunk young woman fighting with her drunk young boy friend. Eddie placed another checkmark by an item in the mental list that he was keeping.
The elderly man poured his story out for several minutes never giving the bartender lady the ability to get a word in edgewise. She finally walked away to place his meal order and fix his drink.
"In the first place, she's way too young for you."
"What?" the man replied surprised.
"The bartender, she's way too young for you."
"Gina? Hold on; it's nothing like that. I used to work here. We're friends. Not that it is any of your business."
Eddie didn't really listen to the man's reply. He just barged on. "And then you talked nonstop for over twenty minutes. Young ladies like that don't want to listen to an old man's problems. What they want is for someone to listen to theirs." As he finished, he held up a finger to order another Scotch and water.
This made the man angry, but there was just enough truth in what Eddie had said that it also embarrassed him somewhat, so he felt the need to explain himself. " I usually listen a lot more. With Gina, we take turns. I think I helped her more with her problems than her own therapist. At least, that's what she told me."
He looked at Eddie to see if any of it got through. Eddie just gave him an all knowing look and raised his drink. "Whatever floats your boat, Motherfucker."
The old man flew out off the bar stool enraged, his outstretched hands reaching for Eddie's neck. Eddie just stepped aside and watched as the old man went flying by ending up in a sprawl on the barroom floor. Everybody was stunned by the would-be fracas, and they quit talking and put down their drinks to take it in. When it was apparent that there wasn't going to be a fight, they began talking again and picked up their drinks.
The old man was getting to his feet, dusting himself off, and trying to get back some dignity. He kept muttering to himself about Eddie being several kinds of a motherfucker. Eddie didn't care because he wasn't there. Soon as the old man had missed and hit the floor, Eddie tossed down the Scotch, put twenty-five dollars on the bar and casually walked out of the bar.
He didn't leave the bar area just the barroom. He wasn't done with the old man yet. He ducked down outside in the darkness near the parking lot. What was kind of strange was that Eddie really knew deep down in his heart that there were at least two other men in the bar who projected more of a serial killer vibe than the old man. They were both younger and stronger, and he knew that that fact would present problems.
An hour later, the man walked out of the bar and stopped and lit a cigarette. Eddie patiently waited until the man came into the shadowy area between the bar and the parking lot before pouncing.
Eddie kicked the old man hard in the testicles before the man even knew Eddie was there. The old man crumbled over into a ball on the sidewalk, and Eddie kept kicking him. "You are a real killer, aren't you? I could tell by the way that you were eyeing that girl searching for a weakness. Well, she'll be one victim you never touch!"
The man was mumbling something in his confusion, but Eddie kept kicking him hard. "You are a sorry waste of humanity aren't you. I've seen a piles of dog shit with more value than your sorry old ass."
And he kept on kicking. Finally, he reached down and grabbed the man by the hair and pulled his bloodied face towards him, "You are the Fresno Flash Killer aren't you? Admit it before I kick your ass to death." Eddie knew the man couldn't be the Fresno Flash Killer because he just made the name up on the spur of the moment.
The door to the bar suddenly opened and Eddie could hear a woman's laughter. He quickly dropped the man's head and sprinted toward his car which was parked in the parking lot of a restaurant next door. However, he didn't see the speed bump in the road; he fell so hard he didn't have time to fully use his hands to break the fall. He slowly crawled back up and noticed that his knee was scraped and bleeding, and there was a big hole in the knee of his brand new blue suit. He then felt his front teeth and one was very loose. The gravel had scraped the palms of both his hands bloody.
He barged into the doorway of his mom's house and hour later. The lights in the living room were still on. His mother called out something from behind her bedroom door, but Eddie totally ignored it and stumbled upstairs.
He went into his bathroom and turned on the bright lights that surrounded his large bathroom mirror. He stared at his reflection for several seconds then held his open palms aloft and weirdly smiled at the abrasions. Next, he bared his teeth and jiggled the loose one, once again flashing a strange smile.
Then he got undressed, dropped his pants to the floor and hung the newly purchased dark blue dress shirt, now wrinkled and stained with drops of blood, from the doorknob of the door. He got completely naked and then posed again with arms outstretched and palms exposed.
Finally, he reached up and pulled the blonde wig from off his head and tossed it on the counter by the sink. He then stripped off the fake mustache and the bushy blonde eyebrows pulling them off slowly one at a time.
He posed again. This time asking the reflection. "Nasty boy, you are a real killer aren't you?"
His reflection waited a few seconds before asking a question of its own, "How in the world did you know?"
They stared at each other for several more seconds before his reflection added, "At least, I'm not the one being kicked in the nuts, Daddy-O. My testicles are totally unscathed."
"Is that so?" A voice called down from the attic.
Chapter 23 - The Beckoning Stars
Everything in my life really started going wrong. Losing Jill was bad enough. It kept me in a deep funk for quite a while. I had walked into the relationship with both eyes wide open and with the full knowledge of how she had been treating other guys to make Mickey jealous. Somehow I had convinced myself that I was different and that things could work out between us.
I was forced to acknowledge that there was nothing special about me, at least nothing that would attract a girl like Jill. Still, we had slept together, and I guess that that was something, and we had had a lot of really fun times. I had made her laugh, and she for a while she had made me feel very special. Now, that was all gone.
If that wasn't bad enough, my brother Glen got arrested on a drug charge. We had gone over to the house of a friend of his named Joey Dioballo. Joey had been our roommate once but had recently moved out because he was concentrating on expanding his pot dealing and didn't want to get us in trouble.
Joey was a Vietnam vet, and all of his close friends called him Devil. When he was angry, he had a devilish look that was very scary, but, in reality, he never got all that angry. He was loyal to his friends and generous to fault. He was tall and thin with long dark hair and really expressive brown eyes. He had a big smile and big booming laugh. His only serious flaws were a fatalistic outlook about life, and that he was easily bored and couldn't sit still for over a minute.
I felt that he didn't get into dealing dope because of the money or the power. He did it because it was only thing he could do in Concord that could somewhat match the excitement of dodging bullets in Nam. He was engaged in a lot of fire fights over there and saw a lot of his close friends die.
Once, he told me a story about how one of his buddies, an Irish kid with bright red hair and freckles was sitting in a jeep with him when a bullet took out his left eye. Joey said that he had to wipe his friend's brain matter out of his own eyes in order to see where he was driving. He said that later he had to clean out the thick blood mixed with with dirt on the Jeep's floorboard.
Glen told me that Joey was never the same after Nam. They had been good friends in high school before Joey got drafted, and he said that back then Joey was always very laid back and laughing. Every now and then, I would catch him staring out the window and looking intently at something that happened in a different space and time. He introduced us to a lot of Vietnam vets who hung around our house a lot and were always a bit on the crazy side and ready to party at the drop of a hat.
We had gone over to his house to get high and listen to a new Santana record that he had just bought. I really didn't much feel like going but Steve kept pushing it because I had been sitting around and moping over Jill for a pretty long time. He wouldn't take no for an answer. He thought it would good for me to get out.
We were sitting there laughing, smoking a joint, and drinking beer while listening to Santana's Song of the Wind from the Caravanserai album when, all of the sudden, the cops bashed their way through the door with guns drawn like we were Bonnie and Clyde or something. Joe had a suspicion that something was up and had cleaned the product out of his house. That is all except for the lid that was lying there in the middle of the red checkered table cloth. They caught Glen with the joint in his hands. The fool took a long hit before raising his hands.
All they did to me was toss me around some and try to browbeat some answers out of me. The cop talking to me was nervous and overly talkative, and let it be known that the bust was over an informant ratting out Joe for selling weed. The informant was a guy we all knew, Randy Rodriguez. Randy was a junkie who got busted dealing heroin. He had set Joey up in exchange for immunity. I quickly grasped that he knew better than to turn in his heroin connections and gave up Joey instead.
The cop who was browbeating me tried to make me feel guilty about selling weed. He was a short, somewhat chubby, young dark-skinned Mexican dude with beautiful white teeth and a porn star mustache. The name on his badge said Martinez.
"I don't sell weed, dude."
He looked around and waved his hands, "But you're here, sitting in the house of a known drug dealer."
I feigned surprise, "Joey's a drug dealer? I didn't know that."
This only made him angry, " Don't lie to me, son. It will only make things worse. Besides, you should be ashamed of yourself for hanging out with people like these two."
"Well, that one's my brother and my roommate, and the other dude is a heavily decorated combat vet having a bit of a hard time readjusting to civilian life as we know it. It could be worse, I could be hanging around with a bunch of moron's who'd let a big time heroin dealer who is also responsible for half the burglaries in this town go so that they could catch a small timer dealing a little weed."
He pulled me up out of the chair where I was sitting and thrust me toward another officer, "Well, have it your way then!" I ended up outside squatting on the lawn. After about thirty minutes, they led Joey out in handcuffs followed by Glen also in handcuffs. The cops talked for several minutes then came over and uncuffed me and told me I could go.
I had driven over by myself, so I wasn't stranded. I waited until all the cops had left and locked the door to Joey's house. I also locked my brother's truck up. Then I climbed into my car and sat there in the driveway for a second. The neighbors were being nosey and kept checking me out. I looked down at my ashtray and saw a a joint sticking out of it. They hadn't even searched my car!
I took a deep breath to settle my nerves, put on some Tower of Power, started up the car, and pulled out of the driveway slowly.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
It was too early to go home. Besides, I didn't want to be there when dad called to lecture about how stupid Glen was. So, I decided to go visit my friend Rudy Solis who lived across town. It was on the Northside but lay to the west of Daily Avenue in a run down neighborhood called Woodie Heights. Micky and his goons wouldn't be caught dead out there, so I didn't have to worry about them catching me by surprise.
Rudy was a friend from elementary school. We were best friends for a while until we got into junior high and he started hanging with his neighborhood boys, but we always kept in touch. He was one of the few people who I knew who loved reading as much as I did, and our tastes were similar. We both loved mythology, but I loved reading history more while he favored science fiction.
We could talk all night once we got together. I pulled up in his driveway and saw him and his big fro sitting in front of the big picture window reading a book. He saw me, smiled, and beckoned me to come in.
He met me at the door and gave me a hug. "What the fuck, Dude? Where the hell have you been? I read these two great science fiction books and been needing someone to discuss them with. I'd tell Reyna everyday I hope Danny comes over tonight."
I shrugged, " Aw, man, I been laying low. I got some Northside dudes after me and got to watch my step."
"No shit? What's all that about?" He peered at intently through his round, John Lennon glasses perched on the end of his nose.
"A girl. I'll tell you all about it later, But now I need to drink a beer." I took a tall Budweiser out the brown sack I had and handed him the bag. When he went and put in the fridge, I kept talking. " Yeah Glen and Devil got popped tonight. I was there but they let me go."
We went and sat down two big red easy chairs. "Damn, shit is happening all around you. You got some bad Karma to work off."
"Yeah, whatever, where's Reyna and Little Bit?" I looked all around.
"She took Lily to her grandma's house and then was going to pick up a friend. They'll be back in a minute."
Reyna was a rich girl; her father designed stores. She was thin Swedish looking beauty with long ass blonde hair. I thought she was coolest chick in Concord. Her dad was pretty cool too. Rudy had knocked her up when she was a junior in high school, and her dad welcomed Rudy into the family like it was nothing. Rudy and Reyna had beautiful two year old name Lily Ann. I was her honorary God father. I always brought her picture books when I came over keeping three or four in the trunk of my car just in case.
I listened to him tell me about a book that he liked called the Lathe of Heaven by one of his favorite writers, Ursula K. Le Guin. It was about a character whose dreams could alter the past and current reality. The premise sounded cool, so I told him I would read it later.
I, in turn, told him about things I had learned reading Carlos Castaneda's A Separate Reality. I had come across a great quote by the author that said, “The aim is to balance the terror of being alive with the wonder of being alive.” I loved the quote and was in the process of making a poster of it. Rudy liked it too and thought it could be turned into a great premise for a science fiction novel.
When we got done talking about books, I started telling him about my girl troubles. I told him how Mickey Porcine and his friends were looking for me.
"You mean Mickey, the dude that was messing with Jill Booth?"
" Yeah. Jill was the girl who played me for a fool, gets me beat up then leaves me and went back to that stupid ass."
Rudy was incredulous and grinned widely. "Wow, man. You were kicking it with Jill Booth? That chick is seriously hot. I'm impressed, Danny."
"Well, don't be. She ditched me; dropped me like a hot rock."
"Still though, dude, that's something to be proud of. I guess it would be a good time to let you know that that friend that Reyna's picking up is Jill Booth. Girl was our baby sitter when Lily was little."
I didn't even have time to say "Fuck me" under my breath before Reyna pulled up outside in the driveway. I could see the look of concern cross Jill's face when she got out of the car and saw my car parked there.
She had the same concerned look on her face when she entered the door. Reyna came in and ran over and hugged me and then turned to introduce me to Jill. I stopped her.
"We know each other. Hey, Jill." There was a bit of pause in the conversation before I shrugged and said, "I didn't know."
Rudy was grinning like a demented leprechaun but Reyna was still clueless. She turned to Jill and said, "I always thought that you two should get to know each other; I'm glad you've already met."
For Reyna's sake none of us let on that anything was out of the ordinary. It was awkward as hell, but we managed to hold a polite conversation. Rudy told Reyna and Jill about the Castaneda quote, and it became the topic of our conversation.
Reyna wore rose colored glasses. I mean figuratively as well as actually wearing pair of gold rim rosed colored glasses. She was more of an optimist than anybody that I knew, " I think that to constantly be amazed is the trick, and to do that you can't think of life as being terrifying. Don't you think so, Jill?
Jill avoided looking at me when she said, "Yeah. I guess it's something like that. I think that looking at life as being wondrous helps you to deal with all the terrifying things." She blushed when she finished.
Rudy jumped on it. "I think that's all well and good if what you're trying to do is hide from the fact that life can be ridiculously gruesome. I like the idea of the balance. I don't think its possible to truly appreciate life without understanding what makes it terrifying. Ain't that right, Danny?"
I didn't want to talk. I just wanted to sneak out of the house without offending two of my best friends. I finally spoke, "Life is totally terrifying. We all grow up the moment we realize that we're going to die sometime, and we can deal with it in two ways. One, we can run from the knowledge and try to throw enough dirt on it that we can't see it. Two, we can accept it and handle it by then understanding just how amazing life truly is."
Reyna laughed, "Danny how can you be that gloomy. You have a great life. You are usually the most understanding person I know. I always thought of you as having the world by the horns."
I chuckled sadly, "I don't think it's that gloomy. You'd be surprised though. Usually the person with the calmest demeanor is masking the deepest emotions."
After that we just talked for a while. I could tell that Reyna was starting to get suspicious that something was wrong because Jill and I weren't making eye contact. It was at this point that Jill said that she had to get home and asked me if I would give her a ride. I told her I would.
As I started the car, I could see Reyna looking out the window with a sad look on her face. Rudy must have told her about the situation. She waved as we pulled out, and we both waved back.
"She's worried." I muttered.
"Does she have reason to be?"
I ignored the question, "Look, Jill, I'm sorry. I had no idea that you and Reyna were friends. I came over because I wanted to talk to Rudy. He is one of my oldest friends."
"Did you tell him about us?"
"We were talking about it when you walked in. I didn't say anything bad; I just told him that you went back to Mickey."
She didn't say anything the rest of the way, but when we got close to her house, she motioned for me to park on the side street around the corner from her house. It was where I usually let her off when she didn't want her step-dad to see me.
There was a moment of awkward silence before Jill spoke. "It's my turn to say I'm sorry, Danny, Please believe me when I say that I really didn't want it to be like this. I thought I was finally over Mickey." She paused again and then said, "You are such a sweet, intelligent person. You caught me by surprise."
I didn't answer. I couldn't. The words were all jammed up tight in my throat. So she went on, " My parents hated you from the very start. My step-dad loves the idea of Mickey and me together. They kept making things increasingly hard on me. My mom even called my Dad in Texas to get him to tell me to stay away from you. My sister and my brother too, they kept telling me that I was shaming the family by being seen with you."
I looked at her puzzled, "Why? Am I that loathsome? Some creature from the swamp?"
"It's not like that. Well, a little bit. They look down on you because you're from the wrong side of town. But it's your reputation that they objected to the most. My parents have heard a lot of stories about the things that you and Dean have been doing."
"I didn't care about what people thought about me. I got branded as a South-sider the moment I entered junior high. Everybody looked down on us then, so to show our disdain for what they thought, we acted out and did a lot of stupid stuff. It's only recently, since I've known you really, that I even cared what people thought of me."
"I know it's not right, but they don't regard Mickey the same way. If he does something crazy, he's just sowing his wild oats before he settles down and takes over his dad's business."
"Mickey's a selfish prick and you know it. He doesn't deserve you."
She didn't say anything but just looked at me with pity and sadness in her eyes. You never want to see pity in the eyes of the girl that you love.
"Jill......." I didn't finish the question. I just looked at her and she knew what I wanted to say, but her face was frozen, and she said nothing.
I almost made it through the night, but when I knew that nothing I could say was ever going to change her mind, a single tear rolled down my right cheek. I cried. It was worse fucking mistake I could have ever had made. I don't care what other people say. Girls don't want to see their guys cry. They might pretend to like the James Dean type, but deep down they really want John Wayne, the mythic hero, guys who aren't afraid to make the hard decisions and brave the future no matter what the cost.
That single tear justified her decision. She opened the car door and got out. She whispered that she was sorry again before the closing the door and walking out of my life.
I sat there in numb silence watching as she rounded the corner. I sat there at least fifteen minutes staring at the bugs surrounding the street light and watching cars pass by on her street. Then when I finally snapped out of it and reached to turn the key in the ignition, nothing happened. I swear to God, my fucking battery was dead.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
I had to walk all the way across town. It was a strange night bathed in the light of a big full yellow moon. It looked like one of the Halloween nights in the movies, night that anything no matter how strange could happen. The streets were empty and a light breeze was blowing jostling the branches of the trees that lined both sides of the street. I was totally lost in cocoon of gloomy thoughts, so the trip went by pretty quickly even though I was barely moving and walking pretty much like a zombie.
I got down to intersection of Bailey and Eustace. I had two blocks to go. Crossing Bailey put me back into the Southside. There were two streetlights at the intersection. It was clearly delineated that one side of the street meant one thing and the other meant something else. It was like a border. To the kids on the south side of the street, it was the border.
South of Bailey we could be who we really were without worrying about what anybody thought. North of Bailey we only facades which projected only what we allowed others to see. I stood in the middle for a while, placing one foot on either side of the white line. When I crossed to the other side, I could feel the transformation take place, yet the anxiety I felt leave me was replace by a feeling of unworthiness knowing that I would never be whole until I could be the real Danny Wilson on the other side of the street.
Eustace Avenue, the street I had grown up on, was lined with work trucks, cars and the houses of the working class of Concord. Being late, the lights were off in most of the houses but in a few you could see the blue glare of a television set or hear the sound of Mexican music coming out of an partially opened window. The dogs all knew me on this street, so they didn't come running out barking like they normally would.
I trudged down to the next intersection. It was the corner of Eustace and Lemon. It was the smallest most unassuming intersection in the whole town. The huge full moon hung brightly over the single forlorn lamp post that stood on the left side of the intersection. It felt like I was dragging concrete boots along. I stopped for a second time in the middle of an intersection, and I looked up hopefully at the moon. I didn't even want to walk anymore and would have been perfectly happy just to stand there gawking at the big old moon forever, disappearing into its light.
When I finally summoned the will to move on, to walk down that final block, it wasn't in the direction of home. I decided to go to my parent's house instead.
My dad had an old 1962 blue and white Chevy pick-up with a big boxy white camper shell. My brother Scott and I always used to play and sleep out in it. We pretended it was a space ship, and we would travel through the galaxy fighting aliens and exploring lost planets. Those nights were my favorite childhood memories.
We kept two Army Surplus sleeping bags with pillows, an green and white metal ice chest, and a transistor radio in the camper shell. The radio was kept in a old wooden milk crate along with some comic books, a Superman cape, a Batman mask, and a water pistol that doubled as a laser gun.
I just did not want to go home that night. I didn't want to sleep in my own bed. I didn't want to face down the Kahlil Gibran poster with a bullet hole in its forehead. I was making a bee line for the USS Starship Dakota. For just this one night, I wanted to be an astronaut.
There are many people in my life who I care about very much who seriously run from life. I mean run away like life is just a track meet. There is no fight or flight response involved. It's all "See ya later, Alligator."
Chapter 22 - The Tapestry
Dean stood there watching the couple. He was partially hidden by a colorful potato chip display. There was no doubt that something was going on. Micky would say something to her, and Jill would laugh and lean into his shoulder.
After a few minutes, Mickey got up and went toward the restrooms at the rear of the store. Dean made his way out of the store and walked along the side of the building facing the gas pumps. When he got to the place where Jill was sitting, she was looking away from where he was. He rapped on the window to get her attention. The music blasting from the outside speakers was Liar, Liar by the Castaways.
Ask me, baby, why I'm sad
You've been out all night, know you've been bad
Don't tell me different, know it's a lie
Come kill me, honey, see how I cry
"How totally fucking appropriate, " Dean muttered to himself. Danny had told him earlier that Jill wasn't going to watch his little brother play in the baseball game because she had some family thing that her dad was making her attend. The music was weird though. Danny had told him many times about how often shit happened like that where the background sights and sounds of important situations would jibe together as if the universe was in on the joke.
Jill turned and faced him. At first, her eyes widened with fear, but she quickly regained her composure and a defiant fire entered her eyes. They both just stood there staring at each other. Her look spoke loudly and said, "So what. You caught me. Big fucking deal."This attitude pissed him off royally.
Dean acted instinctively. He undid his belt, unbuttoned his pants and dropped them, and pressed his butt cheeks against the window. It was gross, and he knew it, but it was also an effective way of showing his disdain for her. He looked over his shoulder. It was a strange vision as he could see a partial reflection in the glass of someone who just like him mooning him. The expression on Jill's face was priceless however. It destroyed the facade of indifference that she was trying to project. She placed both hands to her face and looked down. Then he saw Micky coming out of the bathroom.
Dean quickly pulled his pants up and buttoned them then started running for his car buckling his belt as he ran. His intention was to get in the car and go, but, by the time he got there, he changed his mind. Instead, he popped open the trunk and sat down.
Micky came running out of the store like an enraged bull being goaded by a matador. He was cussing up a storm.
"You pencil neck little pervert, I been waiting a long time to break you into pieces! When I get done with you, your own dad want be to recognize you!" He waited a few seconds then cruelly stated, "Oh. I forgot he's dead!"
Danny reached into the trunk and jerked out the machete out of a white bucket. He straightened up defiantly and answered, "Well, fuck head, we'll just see how much luck your joke of dad has in putting your ass back together!"
Micky kept coming, "Fuck you, punk. You ain't got the balls to use that thing!"
"Come on and find out then, Bitch!" Dean swung the around in front of him and took a few steps forward. Micky slowed down. It might have been those forward steps that spooked him. Or, it might have been Jill's voice telling them that the cops were on their way. It might have been the sounds of the sirens. It might been all three.
Jill ran out and grabbed Mickey by the arm and started leading him away. He turned back over his shoulder and yelled.
"Dean, I will get you. You can bet your sorry ass on it. One of these days I'm going to break you into pieces. Then I'm going to piss all over the pieces and set them aflame."
Dean laughed, "I don't know Mickey, sounds like you got kidney problems. You really ought to go see a doctor."
Dean's laughter made Mickey stop in his tracks. He made a show of coming back, but not too hard. Jill's tug on his arm too easily moved him away from the scene.
After he put the machete back in the truck, Dean saw Droov standing at the half opened door gesturing a question. Dean just raised his hands as if to say, "I don't know." He thought about it then yelled, "Sorry, Man! I'm sorry Droov! Tell your dad, I'm' sorry!" before getting into his car.
As he drove out of the parking lot, he looked in his rear view. He saw Micky and Jill arguing at the side of a blue Cadillac, and he also saw the imprint that his ass and made on the plate glass window.
* * * * * * * * * * * * ** ** **
I sat in the big blue easy chair in my bedroom and stared at Kahlil Gibran poster on the wall behind my bed. It had a picture of Gibran and the quote, “Love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.” I was drinking like a heathen hillbilly from a big green bottle of cheap red wine that we kept in the fridge for emergencies. My favorite t-shirt was stained red from the wine.
I held the bottle in one hand and my pistol in the other. I was waiting for a call from Danny. Jill had just hung up the phone, and what she had said knocked me for a loop. Danny didn't call; he came over instead.
As he knocked on the door, I put a bullet in between the eyes of the face on the poster. I didn't go to answer the door either, and Dean climbed in through the side window. I actually heard him fall when he entered. I smiled to myself. I don't know why, but it struck me as funny.
He rushed into the room, expecting, well, I can only surmise what he expected to find.
"What the fuck are you doing, Man. Have you lost your damn mind?"
I didn't say nothing, just stared at the poster.
Dean followed my eyes and continued talking, "What you got against that dude." He walked over and put his finger in the hole in the poster."
"Nothing, I guess. Just felt like putting a hole in something, and he obliged by being there."
Dean was thinking more than usual, usually he blurted things out. "Why not shoot Bob Dylan over there, or that one with Miles Davis?"
"Now you're talking crazy. Who'd want shoot Bob Dylan?"
Dean looked back and forth at all the posters in the room and studied them closely, " Oh, I get it. You just got something about someone who talks about love."
I perked up a bit, "You don't think Dylan ever tackled the subject of love? Or, Miles?"
"That fucker right there is the only one in this room who mentions anything about love on the poster itself. The poster that is hanging from your wall." He waited for me to respond, and when I didn't, he kept going, "I take you heard about Jill then. I was on my way over to tell you."
"I heard. She just hung up. She said that her Mom had sent her to the store to buy some sanitary napkins and the Rub A Dub was the only one that the one's her mom uses." Dean almost laughed but caught himself, " She also said when you saw he in there you walked up to the window and exposed yourself, grabbed yourself, rubbed yourself off at the Rub A Dub."
"What did you tell her?"
I didn't answer right away. Tears were intruding on my thought processes. The words I wanted to tell him were choking me instead.
" I need to know; what did you tell her?"
I stood up, put the bottle down on the table, and walked over to where he stood. I saw his eyes quickly glance down at the gun in my hand. " I told her you wouldn't do that."
He breathed a sigh of relief. "You're damn right I wouldn't do that." He thought about what he was saying and quickly amended it, " I mean I could see myself doing something like that, but not to her. I mean I could see myself doing something like that to her, but not to you, if you know what I mean."
"I know. That was the answer I knew you'd say. Now, what's the real story?" Dean explained what had happened right down to the imprint of the butt cheeks on the window. His eyes glistened when he talked about how close he had come to swinging for the fences with Micky.
"I swear I was ready to chop that motherfucker's head clean off his shoulders. I was already thinking about putting it on the stick and putting it thee corner of Lotus and Barnum as a warning to them other assholes he hangs out with."
"You swear you were going to put his head on stick?"
"Well, maybe not that part, but the rest is true. I swear on my old man's grave. I can get witnesses if you need me too."
"No need. Droov called me five minutes after you did it."
The news made Dean go quiet. His face became as serious as it was on the day we buried his father. Finally, he spoke, "Danny, I want to know what you have told Jill if Droov hadn't of called you. I need to know."
I looked straight in the eyes, "I don't know, man. I can't really say."
His eyes went from serious to sad, "So, it's like that?"
"Don't get all butt hurt on me. Answer me a question, all things being equal, would you like to screw Jill?"
"He started to answer then stopped and thought what he wanted to say next. "I ain't going to lie; you know I would. But..."
"Ain't no buts involved. It's my turned to ask you 'so it's like that?'"
"Wait just a fucking minute. The thing at the store was about nothing like that. It was about her and Micky sneaking around behind your back, and me not liking it." His eyes blazed with anger, and his body tensed.
We stood face to face like that for about two minutes before I spoke," Really, dude. The only place that she could find sanitary napkins to fit her mom was at the Rub A Dub?"
It took a second for it to hit him. When it did, he pushed my shoulder, stepped back and started laughing, "You are a cocksucker."
I laughed too, "I know. I couldn't help it though."
We both laughed then, and when we finished Dean asked in total seriousness, "I came to tell you what I saw. It took me a few minutes to work up the nerve, but I knew I had to tell you. Are you okay?"
I said that I was, but I lied.
The Tulare Cinema runs a series of flash back movies every Sunday and Wednesday. It's a wonderful thing. I've already seen Big Trouble in Little China and Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
This last Sunday, my brother and I watched The Big Lebowski. On the big screen. While sitting in recliners. Munching on a bucket of very expensive pop corn. I haven't enjoyed a movie so much since I watched Harvey Lembeck play Eric Von Zipper in Beach Blanket Bingo. I will admit that Annette Funicello's going from being a Mouseketeer to rocking a two piece swim suit had something to do with my enjoyment on that afternoon.
Annette's swimming attire was certainly demure by today's standards. but she also had more sexual appeal than a whole theatre full of the dental floss wearing, butt cheek revealing, vacuous, store bought women with plastic body parts who appear in movies nowadays.
Anyway, I noticed right away a certain similarity between the Big Lebowski and one of the last movies I had seen, Once Upon A Time in Hollywood.
Both movies were visually striking and both were of an absurdist
bent. They both made a lot more sense than Samuel Beckett's play Waiting for Godot but so did the first Democratic debate of 2019, so that's actually a pretty low bar.
Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time a Time in Hollywood started with a better premise. I mean who is not fascinated by the Manson Family's shenanigans? The Cohen brothers, however, did more, much more, with the material that they had.
Tarantino is famous for his use of antiheroes. I don't usually like the protagonists in his movies and have on occasion walked out of the theater because I didn't care one flying fuck about any of his characters, so when he's killing them off by the hundreds, I thinking they all deserved their fate and I don't need to wait around to see it. This pretty much also the reason I quit watching The Game of Thrones.
In Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, it is not as bad as some of the other films that he has made, but as protagonists, both Brad Pitt's and Leonardo DiCaprio's characters lacked some appeal. Check that. They had some appeal but enough but not enough for me to commit to them or to care about what happened to them. Either one of them could have ended the movie burnt to the crisp, and it would have been all the same to me.
The dog food scene with Pitt's character marked him as someone I totally could do without. That scene was somewhat balanced out by the scene where he punched out the Manson family member who had flattened his tire, but not quite.
DiCaprio's character was a bit more likable but not by that much. He was seriously narcissistic, and narcissists are not generally real fun to be around. There were a couple of scenes where I felt some empathy for his character: 1) when he was chastising himself for flubbing his lines 2) at the very end of the movie when he goes next door to meet his neighbors.
Of course, this perspective could have totally changed if the ending had been different. I believe the ending reveals a lot about Tarantino's twisted psyche. I think it reveals that he needs some serious therapy to help him gain some much needed maturity. If I had known beforehand how the movie would end, I would have walked out because it felt more like a temper tantrum than a real ending.
Tarantino also used the alternative history bit before and not to good effect. Everybody in the world would have loved for the events at Sharon Tate's to have turned out differently. Thing is, they didn't, and movies that try to exploit that type of wishful thinking after the fact are built on a foundation of never to be realized desire.
Even movies about hopelessly grim events do offer audiences some hope in that they are cathartic and let us feel grateful that the events are not our own, and we can also leave the theatre having some idea of how avoid the fate that befell the characters in the movie. This is not true of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood because the events the movie depicts really happened, and there's no amount of wishful thinking that is ever going to change that.
The Cohen brothers are not above grinding someone up in a wood chipper either, but in Lebowski they don't. It is a weird tale they give us with very strange characters cast into absurd situations. The protagonists are strange and have some serious character flaws, but for some reason that befuddles me, we like them anyway; and we like them because of these flaws. They are somewhat lovable misfits.
I want to know more about Jesus Quintana and Walter Sobchak. I don't really understand why, but I like knowing that there are people like them inhabiting the underbelly of America, drinking and arguing in the thousands of bars and bowling alleys across this country. They remind of people I know, and like the real people, I want to know what makes them tick.
I don't need to know anything else about Cliff Booth, at least until the fool learns how to buy dry dog food and actually put it in the bowl without spilling it across the floor. Opening both ends of a can of dog food and plopping it down so that most of it gets on the floor, offends my sensibilities. I don't even want to know the story behind it because I am sure it is just as hideous.
And then there are the endings? Lebowski's ending, strange as it is, seem to make perfect sense, even the Sam Elliot character in the bar. That character lends the story some transcendence and makes it bigger than a story about a bunch of losers. The biggest problem with all of Tarantino's movies is they lack anything that would make them something other than a comic book stories translated to the screen. And yes, I do understand the comic books can offer transcendence too, but not apparently not in Tarantino's world.
If he had had the car containing the Manson members just drive off into the night and then have Rick Dalton meet Sharon Tate and her friends as they all pour out into the street to investigate the car's backfire, it would have been a much more satisfying movie.
Instead, he makes the audience feel pity for the demon possessed monsters who butchered Sharon Tate and her friends. That's a pretty fucked up thing to do. I do hope someday that Tarantino quits being such a arrogant piece of shit, grows up and finally realizes his true potential.
But, that's just wishful thinking.
Chapter 22 - The River and the Moonlight
The next night, Dean didn't go to the baseball game. Almost everybody else in Concord did though. There was something inside of him that made him want to avoid contact with people, so he bought a six pack of Miller and went and sat by himself at the side of the river.
It was a perfect night for river sitting. The full moon hung in the sky like a big neon sign, silvering the water and everything else it touched. Dean had borrowed one of the lawn chairs from Danny's house. He slouched in the chair and tossed his empties into a white painter's bucket. He also fired up a joint. In less than a minute his mind was flowing as silvered as the passing water.
"Oh God, why?" It was one of those types of evenings, one of those rare nights where he felt like questioning the whose and whys of a life he knew for certain he was surely misspending. Moments like this for Dean were very rare, and because of their rarity he played them to the bone, sometimes becoming as melodramatic as a Silent Movie Era ingenue.
He wasn't feeling anywhere close to being in the neighborhood of his normal insouciant self. The battle at the bowling alley the night before had knocked something loose on the inside.
He had gone home after the celebration and upon entering into the house, sat down at the table where his father had always tossed his keys, wallet, cigarettes, and poker winnings and just started crying. He didn't know why and couldn't even explain what was happening to himself but knew it had something to do with swinging a bat hard into the side of Randy Ellis. Randy had once been his friend in elementary school but now sided with Mickey, Moose and the boys on the Northside.
Once, he had peed himself in Mrs. Olson's first grade class, and it had been Randy who made sure that nobody laughed, and it was Randy who had walked him to the office talking and laughing like it was no big deal. Yet, it was also Randy who dropped like a rock unto the paved alleyway behind the bowling alley, and that picture just didn't sit right and made Dean feel like clutching his own ribs.
There was picture on the wall behind the table where he sat of him and his once happy family. His father had never taken it down after his mother left. Dean would catch him dusting it every now and then and often saw him staring at it while he smoked a cigarette and thought no one else was looking.
The picture always made Dean sad. It would catch at his heart whenever he entered the house. He remembered clearly the day that it was taken. It was at a picture stall at the county fair in Hartford. He had had to wipe the lipstick off his cheek from one of his mom's spontaneous kisses, and as they posed, his father tousled his hair. There was so much joy and love that night, and it had all disappeared so quickly. One night, his dad lost half his pay check in a card game, and there was never any peace or love inside their house after that night.
The river always gave him peace. He liked it when Danny was there with him because he could always ask his friend's advice and not have to worry if it was the truth or not. Sometimes, he and Danny would sit silently for hours each wrapped in the cocoon of their own thinking. But, when they got tired of sitting, they would jump back in the car and talk like a couple of middle school girls all the way back to town.
"What were you thinking about, Danny. You were a lot quieter than usual tonight," Dean asked.
" I don't know really, it was kind of stream of conscious thinking ,and it went sort of went every which way. I was thinking about that time my mom spanked me for a mistake that Glen made, and the next thing you know I'd be thinking about a dead horse floating feet up in the water."
"Shit, I don't know for sure if that's even possible."
"A dead horse floating feet up in the water."
"Possibility ain't even the fucking point, Dean. I was thinking about the unfairness of life and suddenly I'm thinking about a back stroking dead horse."
" Well which one is it, a floating dead horse, or a backstroking dead horse? I figure that'd make a difference and just how quickly did you get from your mom whipping you to the dead horse?"
Danny just stared at him. " Damn, I swear Dean, if I didn't know that Billy Ames picked his nose and salted his boogers before eating them, I'd be willing to swear that you were the dumbest sumbitch between Stockton and Tehachapi."
They rode in silence for time before Danny added, "It took awhile though."
Dean was confused, "Huh?"
"I didn't just go from my mom whacking me to the dead horse. I didn't just go from point A to point B; I went the scenic route. I thought about a lot of other stuff on the way."
"Now that makes sense. I mean going from a undeserved whipping to dead horse kind of threw me." Dean had answered before he rolled down the the driver's side window and spit into the wind rushing by.
When Dean got back into Concord about 10:00 PM. The lights on the baseball diamond were off, so the game was over. He was out of Miller, so he decided to stop at the Rub a Dub and grab a six pack. Technically, the store was on the north side of town, But it was far enough out North of town that the rich folks didn't frequent the place. It was out by the highway, and it's usual cliental was truck drivers and people passing by Concord on the highway.
The Rub a Dub had truck stop ambience to spare and then some. It was so well lit with green, yellow, blue, and red neon that you could probably see it from outer space. The owner was a balding, bespectacled, middle age Punjabi named Amis Kapoor. Dean liked him a lot. Amis was cool as the underside of the pillow. His son Druva was even cooler. Droov had played baseball with Dean in high school and often snuck beer out of his father's store for after game celebrations.
The speakers by the gas tank were blasting Humble Pie's Hot and Nasty from speakers by the gas pumps when Dean stepped out of the car, slammed the door, and sauntered through the door.
"Amis, my man! What's up, Dude!"
"Mister Deano! What for are you doing out this late in the evening?"
"It's only ten, Buddy. I was out fishing and I ran completely out of beer."
Droov came shuffling out of the inside of the beer cooler when Dean spoke. Dean nodded to him, but something was strange. Droov didn't say anything, but his eyes pointed toward the dining tables at the rear of the store.
The couple sitting there at one of the red topped tables had their back turned to the counter, but Dean could see their faces reflected in the plate glass window to their left. It was Mickey Porcine sitting side by side with Jill Booth, and they were both laughing.
"It don't matter how woke you think you are; if you are
living in a clown circus, you are probably one of the clowns."
The stuff that is going on it our society keeps me awake at night. I grew up in the Sixties, and that was really a crooked piece of time, I spent most of it getting high, partying, and chasing around the ghosts of unformed desires. Yet, it was like living in Disneyland compared to now.
There are many factors involved. I was watching the old movie Anatomy of a Murder, and I went to learn more about the cast and crew. I discovered that they were all dead. This sent a shudder down my spine and made me realize what a short sojourn we have on this planet. Far too short to get caught up in the mean spirited anger and wrath of modern society.
The movie featured the likes of Jimmy Stewart, Ben Gazzara, George C. Scott, Lee Remick, Duke Ellington, and Eve Arden. The judge was played by Joseph Welch, the real judge who shamed Joseph McCarthy during the McCarthy hearings. The movie reminded me that once we pass on, all we really leave behind us is the narrative of our life, and in many cases, the narrative is as essentially unreal as a Hollywood production.
For a movie to stand the test of time, it needs to align itself with the truth, and not just any truth, but the real truth, the one that exists deep inside us all. The one that reminds us when we act falsely. This applies to life also. Far too many of our personal and group narratives are as fake as a CNN newscast. The sad thing is, more often than not, we know it too.
The thing that troubles me most about modern culture is how willing we all are to bury the truth down in the sewers of our soul and then build false structures on top of the thick, iron, manhole covers (Yes, I said fucking manhole) that we have placed on the gateways where the truth enters in the material world.
We now believe in movie stars, sports figures, politicians, social movements, and pretty much anything that serves to obstruct our vision of reality. We have stood aside and let false image after false image be erected in the temple of the holy. The Jews took on the whole Roman Empire when the Romans erected an image of the emperor in their temples. Yet now, we let our children worship pixels in their bedrooms and our spouses and friends worship rock gods, reality stars, lying politicians, or sports heroes, and only very rarely do we look for the truth that lies within us all.
I saw a movie once about the Odyssey wherein a seer named Cassandra tried to warn the Trojans not to take the giant wooden horse into the walls of Troy. She was immediately swallowed by a sea serpent apparently called forth by the collective desires of the Trojans to drink, party, and dance around the wooden horse. Cassandra's warning (what happened to her and not her original warning) keeps far too many knowing people silent nowadays for who wants to end their days in the belly of a giant snake?
People want to revel in their ignorance and digging for truth in subterranean tunnels is hard work. It's much easier to give yourself over to the flatulent language of the talking heads who blather out nonsense day and night.
The ancient Egyptians placed a scale with a feather on one end to signify the judgement of the soul. If at the end of your life, your KA could move that feather one degree to the positive side, your soul was good to go.
Jesus only said that purpose of life was to reject falseness and to do your best in embracing the truth and aligning your life to its dictates. The crazy people who squeezed all of the joy out of that message came later.
I'll tell you what, if, like most religions say, there is a final judgement on how we lived our lives, I'd much rather present some evidence that I tried to live truthfully even though I often failed than to walk before the judges quoting Eminem lyrics, talking about Elizabeth Warren's latest rant, or giving them my opinion as to who should start at quarterback for the Washington Redskins.
I'd want them to know that I tried sometime and that I got down in the sewers and didn't depend on the mainstream media to provide me with a store bought truth sponsored by those people who sold me my insurance policy.
There are two modes of thought on the purpose of life, one that it has purpose, and two, that it doesn't. If you go to your death believing that your life meant something, and you at least tried to do your feeble best to live in accordance to that dictum, and you're wrong, well... you'd still be better off than those who believe that life has no purpose.
Your narrative would at least have the makings of a good movie, and those other fellows, they all had a bit roles in Pee Wee's Big Adventure.
The song Imagine by John Lennon has been hitting me in the face an awful lot lately. Every time I turn around, it's there looking at me with a mad dog stare and daring me to do something about it.
It is a very popular song with its ethereal melody and lyrics which suggest that if we all use our creative, collective imagination we might just be able to envision a more perfect world, a world imbued with perfect amounts of love, peace, and justice. I would think that it is this vision that everybody loves about the song.
Problem is, they're wrong. Right from opening lyric, the song tells us to imagine a world without purpose or meaning. The very first line states explicitly that it is about existentialism, a creed that says essentially that there is no real reason for humans to exist on this planet. Yet, we do.
"Imagine there's no heaven,
it's easy if you try
no hell below us
above us only sky"
I do not see a visionary when I read this; I see an immature, narcissistic person who suffered major trauma. I see a kid who never grew up, a materialist who was so conflicted with his own mother issues he was willing to confine the entire human race to a world devoid of meaning.
The big problem is the misunderstanding of the concept of heaven.
Atheists who deny meaning to life often use arguments that are based on the actions or mental constructs of other men. The idea of heaven as a place with white picket fences and golden streets is such a creation.
If you think of living in a physical place that is perfect and unblemished for an eternity, you would probably be bored out your mind in less than an hour and perfectly justified in writing insipid lyrics about the place. This is not anywhere close to what the Bible or Jesus says about heaven, so people who attack the idea of this fairy-tale version of heaven, are attacking their own ignorance.
The Garden of Eden was another place of perfection, yet it also contained the elements of randomness that got us evicted from the place. Finding heaven is all about a return to the Garden after having faced the pain and suffering of mortal life and learning how to reconcile our need to leave with our need to return.
Heaven is found at the end of most novels and usually stationed right after the moment of transformation that ensures the success of the conflicted hero so that he can return to his community and serve as a role model. It is a state of being achieved by aligning our active participation in the material world with the divine nature of our subconscious motivations.
It requires a middle ground in order to find it. The Greeks called the middle state Metaxy, a word that refers to the "in between" nature of a human race that occupies a space between the infinity above and the infinity below, or the place between the material world and the subconscious.
The political philosopher Erick Voegelin correctly states that only art that references the importance of this middle position and its relationship to the heavens will stand up against the ravishes of time. Lennon's opening lyric does refer to the middle, but also deprives the setting of the two polarities that would place it in proper context. In Lennon's vision there is no heaven, there is no hell; there's only the middle ground, and it is a place that represents nothingness.
It's clear that Lennon, like a great many people, had absolutely no clue in the true meaning of the concept of heaven and hell. Heaven being the reconciled existence of the human capability of inhabiting the material plane while also being at peace with residence in an infinite universe, finding the perfect balance between the sacred and the profane.
Hell is an absence of such awareness or failure to acknowledge the spiritual dimension of human life. Lennon's perfect world of harmony and peace is actually a world of hellish traits, something he might have recognized had he adopted regular eyewear over the rose colored glasses he preferred.
It is also much like the world we inhabit today. Secular humanism is not a heavenly state; it has quite mistakenly removed the idea of a spiritual dimension to being and has placed man at the top of a mountain looking down on all of his achievements in the material world, yet lacking the upward glance toward heaven that would place them in their proper perspective.
While the argument about gun control rages on after one mass shooting after another, the idea of living in a culture lacking a spiritual grounding is usually rudely dismissed by those pundits who think (too strong of a verb?) that the sins of man untethered are also the sins of God. Existentialism, on the other hand, which is being taught in public schools under the macabre guise of freedom of religion, offers no substantial reason whatsoever for mankind to commit to or engage in moral behavior.
Sophocles equated the focus on the material world without a compensatory acknowledgement of the necessity of an inward search with blight, destruction, and drought.
Thousands of years later, psychologist Ian McGilchrist writes in a study of the relationship of the two hemispheres of the human brain that left brain dominated thinking will inevitably lead to a drying up of man's creative vision to the point that it will result in the restoration of both the big picture right brain to its rightful place and the proper functioning of the corpus callosum (middle ground?) as the place that makes both hemispheres work together for the benefit of the whole.
The missing middle in American politics is more than what it seems. It is a cultural reflection of our inability to recognize the true purpose of human life. If you want to prevent mass shootings, quit lamenting and commenting about the lack of the middle ground and restore it. We need a spiritual guidance here not another know-it-all without knowing anything whining politician.
"Imagine all the people
Living for today"
This lyric is childish to the extreme. Children before they become adults, have no concept of delayed gratification. It is one of mankind's greatest gifts, the ability to plan and to sacrifice for greater benefit in the future.
This lyric smacks of the influence of Aliester Crowley's famous dictum, "Do What Thy Wilt" which was engraved on Led Zeppelin records. Crowley's message actually referred to finding out what you are supposed to do and then doing it which actually kind of makes sense. However, it was usually understood, or misunderstood, to reference following hedonistic impulses. Lennon's reference to living for today seems to indicate that he was talking about the second definition.
"You may say that I'm a dreamer
but I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
and the world will be as one"
Yes, Mr. Lennon you were a dreamer, and not a particularly good one at that. The idea of the world being as one is one of the most dangerous ideas of the last century and is gaining greater traction even as we speak. If we were meant to be one thing, we would not be created with differences. This is common sense and is where the dishonest thinking of existentialists loses its bearings. They want the world to be as one, yet there is nothing in human history that remotely suggests that A) we are capable of doing it B) that it is even a necessity C) that it would be beneficial to human existence.
I realize that a proper sense of community can be a good thing and can produce positive outcomes. However, the insistence that we all think, act, speak or even imagine things the same way could also produce the entropy that freezes our forward progress without any hope of the renewal that was represented in the Garden by the elements of randomness contained therein.
Carl Jung noted the following after contemplating the misery and suffering of World War II when he became aware that there is a direct linkage between what took place in the individual and in society at large.
"The only solution to the seemingly catastrophic
developments in the world lay in turning in and
resolving the individual aspects of the collective
conflict. The spirit of the depths wants this struggle
to be understood as a conflict in every man's own
And he is not the only one who believes this. Many of the greatest thinkers of history have written about the importance of the development of the individual. Sophocles wrote about it in Oedipus Rex, Tolkien includes the idea in The Hobbit. It is the essence of Nietzsche's philosophy.
Christ's message to the world is essentially about how to acquire psychic wholeness via right action, belief and thought. It is also the hidden secret contained in the great works of literature which are in reality mythological works cleverly disguised to escape the ignorance and wrath of the judges of empiricism. Lennon's failure to acknowledge this truth indicates that he probably was not only not a part of the club, but also reveals that his writing lacked both depth and wisdom.
It is impossible to individuate as member of a group. The human race might as well become a hive of worker bees or a gigantic ant colony. Nature created us all differently, our DNA explicitly states this, and maybe, just maybe there's a good reason for that. Our DNA is hardwired for us to be the best that we can be. Instead of promoting collective reasoning that would cut us off from true knowledge of our authentic self, it would seem we would be better off trying to solve the riddle of why many of us fall short of being the best that we can be, and that answer lies on the inside of us all and not in the political arena where rage and frustration more often rules the day.
If nature needed humans to act in total concert and be as one, there is a pretty damn good chance that we would already be as one. God, or if you prefer Nature, has created a world of contradiction and conflict. Maybe we should assume that there is a reason for this.
In literature, overcoming conflict is an absolute necessity for the development of the hero. If we are all as one, and there is no longer any conflict to overcome, who's going to save us from that frozen nightmare, who's going to be the savior? And don't even tell me that we won't need one.