Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Chapter 19. Modigliani Eyes

Either Confident or arrogant 
Casey and Anna were cozy at the helm  where they'd been watching the action when I came out of the cabin. Her eyes were riveted on me while I walked back to the stern to sit and air out what had transpired. The Blatva… it was something I’d heard of but hadn’t paid much attention to. The LSD affects were at that stage where my brains felt fried and my eyes burned from the light reflecting off the seas.

“We’re goin’ to the Bay now, the Boss wants us there,” Casey’s voice interrupted the thought.

“What?” I had begun to wonder what Ryan was doing ashore. I knew he would have something planned but I had been in the dark up to then. It would be easy to get Casey to tell me everything he knew of it. I probed, “I know Ryan wants us in San Rafael but you must know more than me.”

Casey was bubbling with joy to be part of a big plan… that he knew more than me, “I have a good friend, Jimbo. He has an old boat I heard he’s been workin’ on. New canvass and paint. Other than that I gots no fuckin’ idea what Ryan’s up to.”

Anna interrupted, “Speaking of fuckin’ ideas, I want to know what the fuck’s going on with Doc, huh? What’s the plan with him?”

“He’s still tripping pretty heavy. I sent him below to chase the bats from his belfry, I suppose. I’m done with him though… got what I wanted.”

Anna entered the cabin and went straight below towards the berths where Doc was quietly sitting on the bunk.

“I gotta use the head and change clothes.”

I wasn’t sure what she would do so I called out, “Wait, Anna. I’m done with him but we need to pow-wow,” and followed close inside.

The Dinky Dao had a layout similar to the Sherlock’s except that the Casey’s tub was an unmodified working lobster boat. The Sherlock had the same cabin and berthing configuration. Converted to a popular yacht design, it’s stern wasn’t open for hauling in lobster traps. The cabin was a step up from the deck to the galley and cabin table and then three steps dropped down to a level accommodating a small shower and head. Forward of that space and through a hatch were four bunks… two on each side. The helm was outside in the weather on the starboard side but under the same canopy as the cabin.

Everything about the Dinky Dao was the same except it was in dire need of a paint-job and the clutter everywhere. Empty plastic water bottles, empty beer cans and gallon wine jugs, newspapers, doubled plastic bags stuffed with laundry, and junk… fishing line and flasher lures etc. covered every counter and table top. However, a stack of skin magazines was a conspicuous exception. They were kept, covered in cellophane in a neat bundle in a plastic milk crate under the table I’d cleared for our breakfast.

It was noon by the time I was done with Doc but I was anxious to keep him out of reach of Anna. Once paranoia slips into one’s psychedelicized consciousness it is difficult to sort out which fears are justified and which ones are not. I knew a few Lurps (an affectionate name adopted from the initials for Long Range Recon Patrol) that liked to go into the bush on acid to enhance their environmental awareness. This worked well for real reasons to be safe, “left of the bang”, but it might also account for some of the Geneva Accord violations against innocent villagers. My paranoia told me that Anna had a motive to take out Doc beyond mere revenge. He might expose more than she wished of how she fit-in. I had to keep those suspicions in check, however, because they might just as well be chemically induced fears.

Anna was already stripped down and stepping into the shower. I could see why Ryan was in love with her. Her nudity, while my mind was sucked into a cosmic chemical reality, didn’t evoke any desire at all to possess her sexually. I was completely enrapt at the sight of her innocent beauty. My mind raced from big questions to wondering whether women got the same depth of sensual arousal at the sight of a man’s naked body. They might but I suspect not because I don’t see women keeping a neat and bundled stack of old skin mags. I million and one such ruminations passed through that transcendent Bardo as she slipped out of sight into the shower. I went from paranoia to awe in less than a flash… the time it takes for a match head to flare upon striking.

Her shout from below snapped me out of that Bardo of reflection, “Hey! There’s no fucking water!”

She came out and up to the table wearing a weather jacket and nothing more. She knew she was going to be grilled and was prepping herself to craft the best defense she had leaving the jacket open enough to expose the partial curve of her breasts. Just enough to keep me distracted. There is a line from the Bible… hell, I don’t know where to find it. I just heard Thumpers quote it in jail. It says the eyes are the windows to the soul. Anna had been trained by someone on more than that Mac-10. Her eyes suddenly became hard to read and that’s a skill known by only a few amateurs that are unwelcome at poker tables or by specialists in trade craft. I knew full well when the subject’s eyes became opaque and unbreakable.

I broke the ice, “We aren’t playing the school-girl now, are we?”
She wasn’t playing alright. She had become robotic and my task was to remind her that she was human; that I was human, and hardest of all, that Doc was human. Her jacket opened to expose more Modigliani flesh but I was transfixed on the opaque eyes. The painter studied eyes. Each portrait displayed a fascination with the deception of eyes. It was as though the painter never quite figured them out. He painted what he saw. There is one painting of a teen with the pupils blurred… there could be a three ring circus behind them but there was no way to get past that matte glaze. No wonder he drank himself to death with absinthe and wine.

Her hands lay flat on the table with her fingers spread as though on display. They were another work of art; long, thin and graceful, a Gothic saint that had just blown away a man with a Mac-10 a few days ago.

I finally saw in them. Her eyes turned sad… full of regret, "Look Crash, I've got nothing more. This tub needs swamping out if we're staying on it for any amount of time. Let's not play cat and mouse for a while and get to work."

"You might be right. But we have to talk."

Friday, September 16, 2016

Chapter 2. Piled Higher & Deeper

   It was the beginning of the end of an era for me the day my cab license was yanked by the City. I couldn’t remember why I was in jail that night and I don’t know how I got out. But I do know I walked all the way back to the hotel and slipped past the watchful eyes of the desk clerk to my room.

   Cab driving always gave me the independence and pocket cash I needed to keep my bar tab paid and enough extra for a room at The Virginia Hotel. Driving at night, I could also stay invisible to a daylight world I wanted nothing to do with. I had been at a stand-still for several years anyway and hardly cared but for the easy money.

   But now that was gone.

   I didn’t necessarily want a drink but I most certainly did need one to calm my nerves. I saw that my knuckles were red and the mirror showed a slight bruise on my cheek. I dumped my coin jar on the dresser and, with a shaking hand, separated the pennies from the dimes and quarters. There was enough silver for a pack of generic smokes and a pint of Popov’s as soon as Jerry’s opened in five minutes at o-six-hundred.

   I tried to slip back out through the lobby while Lucas sat on his ass behind the check-in counter reading a skin mag. He was like a spider waiting for its prey all day without moving, the lobby was his web. When anyone touched the carpet at the bottom of the stairs he must have sensed the vibration at the counter. He let me get all the way to the door before he put down his magazine and called out, “Crash!”

   I froze, “Yeh, I know.”

   “I’ve let you go a week already. The boss…”

   “C’mon Lucas, I’ve always been good. I’m waiting for a shift to open up,” I lied. It wasn’t a big lie because there was always a chance the Professor would change his mind.

   “You ever hear from the VA on that appeal?” he asked, rubbing the stub of what was left of his arm under his shirt.

   “Not yet, but any time now. It’s been three years,” I felt embarrassed. He’d lost an arm and a leg in Nam and I’d only lost my mind. I went back to the counter, “How come you never wear your prosthetic, Lucas?”

   “Not unless I have too. I like to air it. Irritates the skin, you know.”

   “I’ll take you to Vegas when my ship comes in,” I promised. I meant it too but three years back-pay on my VA claim was but a dream. I had a better chance of winning the lottery.

   “Don’t try to grease my butt Crazhinski.”

   “Think of it, Lucas. The Chicken Ranch and...”

   “Okay, okay, enough Crash. But I want good news from you by tomorrow or you’re out.”

   Spiderman was actually a good guy. He was just doing his job. We were like brothers over the years. He’d covered me several times in the past but he had to answer to the boss. I apologized, “Lucas, you know how humiliating it is to beg another week’s reprieve.”

   “Humiliating? Look at me. I sit here at a dead-end job putting the squeeze on losers like you. And you whine about humiliation? I probably have only a year or two left on this pile of shit.”

   “Never looked at it that way, Spiderman. I’ll pay up soon enough, okay?”

   “It’s Lucas, not Spiderman. Friday… no later than five, Clash,” he shook his head, “and that’s final.”

   I was out the door before he finished. I got my smokes and pint. It occurred to me I ought to save it ‘til later... After being put on hold every time I’d called the past week, I knew what to expect. Okay, just one toke before I face the music. I needed a bit of liquid courage... enough to make the Professor squirm, mano y mano.

   The company’s offices were over on East Yananoli and South Salsipuedes, now Cesar Chavez, and not too far a walk if I took the tracks. I could see from a block away that Doc was in. His blood red Jaguar was parked in its reserved spot front of the building. I rehearsed what I would say as I crossed the lot. I’d be humble… ever so humble… kiss-up… agree to anything and admit everything I couldn’t remember anyhow… and, if that didn’t work, call on the good old times. I took a swig off the pint before opening the door.

   It’s an uneasy feeling to enter a place where you’re no longer a part of the business. For several years it was like we were family but overnight I had become persona non grata. Bob sat in the dispatch office situated behind a crosshatched wire glass window where anyone entering the lobby could be seen. He swiveled around in his chair to check-out who’d come in. He lifted a hand hesitating with a brief parade wave. Next to the dispatch office, the door to the inner sanctum was open. It was an oversight. Dispatch would normally have to buzz me in and, as I passed through it, Bob stood as though I had breached the barricades. The speaker above the door crackled, “Hey, Crash, you can’t go...”

   Once inside I took a seat across from Jenny’s reception desk guarding Professor’s office. While she was on the phone I could see why all the drivers used to stop by the receptionist desk just to be in the presence of her Dolly Parton’s. She was a freak of nature for sure. When Jenny became Professor’s plaything he installed the buzzer lock at the door and moved the drop-safe into dispatch office instead of behind her desk.

   I already knew Dr. Lawrence Spawn was in and, besides, I could see his door ajar. The professor was one of us; an old cabby that hooked into a widow ten years before. He was once called driver #75, or Larry, but now he insists we use his formal name; title and all. He was a now PHD after all and we all knew that in his case it stood for Piled Higher and Deeper.

   There are four basic characters who drive cab. Number one: There are innocent students, for whom cabbing is just another job to pay the rent while getting a sheepskin.
   Number two: There are others holding down a shift to make ends meet until they get that big break... a screenplay/novel that gets accepted or a real acting job.
   And Number Three: There were realists ...fishermen that can haul groceries and church ladies all day without losing sight that they are casting to reel in the big tuna... a widow with enough inheritance to put ‘em on easy street. 

   Then there is Number Four. We are graveyard drivers whose ambitions are limited to simply getting through another shift. We try to pass through the dark night of the soul without the haunts of nightmares and sweats… and especially without getting noticed by, or dealing with, the front office.

   Rachelle was in her late fifties when the Professor sank a hook in her. He was in his thirties and movie star handsome when she took his bait... empty promises of eternal love. He gave her a free ride to Vegas where they got hitched by an Elvis impersonator, and that was the last time he did anything for her that came from his own pocket.
   Jenny pretended to be on the phone ignoring me. I got out of the chair and stood for several lifelong minutes before she acknowledged my presence.

   “Hi, Crash, what can I do for you?” She was warmer towards me the last time I saw her.
   It was everything I could do to keep my eyes focused on that silver cross hanging from her neck, “I need to talk to the Professor.”

   “I’m sorry, Crash, Dr. Spawn’s not in…” Jenny held the phone receiver covering that silver cross between her ample breasts. She kept her dual assets locked up under a heavy duty bra and a puritan white, long-sleeved blouse. I wasn’t distracted enough to miss the door gently shutting.

   “Don’t tell me he’s not in. Did a ghost just close his door?”

   “You can come back when Dr. Spawn isn’t busy, Crash,” her tone sealed the conversation. “Or, I can tell Rachelle you were here when she comes in.”

   I knew the Professor wasn’t busy. He didn’t run the company. Rachelle and Bob did that. Doc only owned it. He owned it along with Rachelle’s house in Montecito, a fast cigarette boat like on Miami Vice named A Doctor’s Dream, and the blood red Jaguar, all bought with the money we dropped in the safe guarded behind the locked door of the dispatch office and Rachelle’s inheritance.

   Doc was in charge of PR, the hiring and firing, and that was about all. You just knew he loved hamming it up for spots on late night TV. He wore stripes behind bars for his pitch... “Leavin’ the bar? Don’t drive your car. Take a cab.” He followed these with Dr. Spawn’s Bail Bondsman ads, “Drop a dime and I’ll save you time.” Jenny would bounce in on cue, “You’ll be out before you can shout, Dr. Spawn Bail Bonds!”

   Professor’s wife knew about Jenny but looked the other way. Divorce was not an option for other than religious reasons. Professor had a grip on the bank account she’d signed away when the romance was hot.

   I’m really not a breast man but my eyes couldn’t help themselves. I alternatively gave Jenny the once-over before nailing her eye to eye. I planted both hands on her desk and demanded, “Jenny, don’t give me any shit.”

   Bob came out of dispatch with one of those 18-inch cop flashlights in his hands.

   “Get back in there, Bob.” I turned to face him, “The phone’s ringing.”

   Bob stood a minute and considered whether there was anything he could do. We went back a few years. There was a time when he could have mopped the floor with me but he’d grown soft in the office and wasn’t about to take me on now.

   I passed Jenny’s desk and opened Professor’s door. Doc was standing a few feet back. He reached out to shake hands. His gesture wasn’t reciprocated.

   “Crash, good to see you. I was just going to tell Jenny to let you in,” Professor backed behind his desk and sat, “Have a seat, Crazhinski.”

   “Cut the shit, Professor,” I was brief with him. Behind Doc, on the wall above his head, hung a certificate nicely framed. It was his Doctorate of Philosophy diploma. A few of us knew about how the Professor got his degree. It was a con like everything else in his life. He had somehow incorporated, formed his own college, and turned in a thesis. It was filed where doctorates are filed and amounted to little more than a list of stats about cab drivers: their gender, education, marital status, military service, race, and so on. He had a no more than a dozen drivers to fill out a survey form from which he expanded the numbers to hundreds for the sake of a thorough sampling.

   “Doc, I need a break. I know you always need a graveyard dispatch.”

   “Crash, you know I can’t re-hire you so soon after.”

   “And you know damned well I wasn’t busted on the job...” my protest was weak and I knew it.

   “It just doesn’t look right, Crash,” Doc pulled out a green sheet of a carbon copied police report from a folder, “Possession for sales.”

   “Yeh, like I’m a big drug king-pin living in the flea-bag hotel.”

   “The city still pulled your license and sent me this report: Drunk in public; creating a nuisance; possession of a controlled substance; assaulting a police officer...” Doc read from the list, checking off each item. When he finished he flipped a pencil in the air, missed the catch, it bounced off the desk and rolled to the floor.

   “They dropped all the charges ‘cept drunk in public and misdemeanor possession,” I picked up the pencil and handed it to him, “Besides, I wasn’t in my cab!”

   The professor started chewing on the pencil. I couldn’t take my eyes off it hoping he would choke on the eraser. The pencil caused him to talk through his teeth, “I can’t do anything right away. The town’s changing. You’re becoming a relic... things of the past. We can’t be cowboys out there now.”

   “That’s an excuse Doc and you know it.” I approached his desk, “I’m not asking to be out there. Dispatch has always been where drivers go that get their licenses yanked. Who else would want the job?”

   That was the truth too. Dispatchers get paid minimum wage. They supplement their income by milking tips and a taste of cola from drivers. No tip... no good fares.... all’s fair on the streets where money is concerned. Some, like Bob, make out real well that way. It isn’t a job for anyone with some humanity, principles, or dignity left. Years of driving cab does that to some of us.

   “Look Crash, all the cab businesses have to clean up now. Times are changing and Sergeant Lopez is getting on all our asses. The City’s leaning on him too. Go to Schick/Shadel… to a rehab… or AA. Let ‘em know you got sober... get it on paper when you graduate... get your license reinstated and maybe we can get you back on...”

   “A rehab, you’ll help me with that?”

   “Our insurance doesn’t cover…”

   “It’s all bullshit, Professor. You and I know damned well you ain’t so clean yourself,” I was so pissed I lost everything I’d rehearsed on the way over.

   “That was my past, David. But since I found the Lord...”

   “Don’t give me that Lord BS, Doc,” pointing to the wall I threw his crap back at him, “You found the Lord up Rachelle’s vagina. You can get widows and schoolgirls to wipe your ass with that paper but it won’t work with me!”

   I was on a roll and knew I got his goat but had no idea the implications went beyond the obvious. Doc’s face turned from pasty white to beacon red. He screeched, “Crazhinski, if you don’t leave now I’m calling nine-one-one!”

   I’d never heard the smooth talkin’ con-man yell like that. Professor stood from his chair holding the receiver away from his ear with his fingers on the keys of the phone.

   Bob must have had his ear to the door with the flashlight in hand. He opened the door, “You need help Professor?” He lifted the flashlight as though he was ready to use it.

   I slammed my body against Bob and shoved him out the door so hard he landed on Jenny’s lap with one of her bullet breasts inches from his mouth. I was out of the building and never did see him rise from Jenny’s lap. I suppose I did him a favor landing him there.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Chapter 12. Juan Carlos' Revenge

The chapter is based
on this story. I used
the name, Max Bear.

There’s a time when the darkest hour gets darker and when nothing so bad as the worst gets worse. I didn’t what it was that was happening; but, in looking back, it seems that I was being towed along by a thread towards something indefinable. Call it destiny if you like, but, at the time it was happening: from Celeste to Ariel’s birth, Vacaville and the concussion, Myra in Santa Monica, Kuka in Nicaragua, Nadya and the miasma of Santa Barbara, and now this. It felt more like I was being pulled along by serendipity rather than by any pre-ordained noose. I was offered choices where each choice led to a series of consequences ever evolving into a strange progression. Is that destiny?
A few days after that ride, about a month after the bloody Tien an Men square massacre, around July 4th of ’89, I flipped. Those kids in China camping out under Mao’s nose: … the liberty statue… the hope against a murderous oppression…, it was all a sore reminder of the emptiness of my life after Nicaragua. The superficial posturing of rebellion by our clubbing generation on State Street became an obscene display of privilege. In lieu of cries for freedom their cries were, “Where’s the party!” Rioting in Isla Vista for more beer! Just that one lone protester, standing off a line of tanks, waving his shirt…! I could almost hear that thin thread his sanity dangled from…snap!

It was a typical Saturday morning for me and, as I had Saturday nights off. I spent the first half of the day in Pal’s after his shift ended at six-thirty A.M. Claire was the barkeep on Saturdays and her shift started at ten so I already had a good load going by then. It was the first of the month, I had his VA check, the week’s earnings, and a few bindles of cocaine (cocaine was the common graveyard tip for some drivers back in the eighties) and I had Saturday nights off. I was in that place where alcohol oblivion was staved off by a line here and there of coke and stepping out back for a few tokes of pot. Next thing I knew it was getting dark and my best intentions were to head home and perhaps stop off for chorizo con huevos at the old Casa Blanca down on the four-hundred block of State Street.
Across the street from Pal’s, in the middle of De La Guerra Plaza, a statue of the 18th century king of Spain, Juan Carlos, was mounted over a fountain pedestal turned open-air public urinal. The bronze figure of the ole-bewigged-huge-schnozzled monarch presided daily into the night over a rag-tag assortment of vagrants, street level dealers, and pan-handlers. The statue became a tribute to improvised-assemblage-folk-art as people took advantage of the absurdity of the poor king’s foppish posture to adorn it with such things as underwear or a toilet plunger for a crown and white-faced make-up, et al: all of which changed daily. The city crews removed the work the next morning, making way for a whole new display to be improvised the next night.
I was tanked up and when I was tanked up I never knew what was going to happen next. Sometimes he merely wove my way home down State Street and crashed. Other times it was as though I’d developed Tourette’s syndrome as I made my way to the Virginia Hotel. I let out whatever peeve was bugging me at that moment to shocked, and frightened, tourists. This particular time it was the panhandlers that became the focus of his ire. I crossed the street to where we were hanging out. One scruffy character demanded spare change as I approached.
“What? You tell me what spare change is and I’ll think about it.”
I was counter-challenged with the usual panhandler nonsense, “You got plenty, part with some of it,” the wimpy creep demanded.
“It just so happens that I do have plenty…” I pulled out a wad of c-notes and peeled one off, dangling it in front the overly aggressive panhandler. The guy’s eyes lit up as he grabbed for it. Fooling with him at first I deftly snatched it away and surprised myself by tossing it to the hangers-on sitting on a bench at the side of the square. Now everyone was paying attention. I had an audience now and began a rant.
“What is a statue of a murderous monarch doing in a prominent place on a street called State?” I shouted, needing no megaphone. The onlookers were puzzled. I was no longer impotent Max that sat in the Judge’s chamber; I was The Max. A chord… the delicate chord that bound my sanity… that chord that reined in the wild beast and kept me pinned to a peg… the tamed elephant had gone rogue… I had begun what I would finish… I tried all my adult life to live right but that chord had been stretched to the breaking point!
This noise raised a few jeers and a crowd started to gather hoping I’d either heave a few more c-notes or an opportunity would arise to take from me the wad I’d displayed.
“Why do you panhandle and play games begging spare change and dealing street drugs?” I continued, “This town is wealthy enough… why don’t you just take some it from those who have more than they need?” I became transformed into an old fashioned rebel, haranguing the unwashed masses. I was imbued with the spirit of Jesus serving up a revolutionary version of the Sermon on the Mount. I was an anointed Thomas Paine spittin’ on the Brits, Saint Paul the Rabble Rouser at the Areopagus on Mars Hill. I was on fire with the not so holy spirit of Joe Hill, rallying the Wobblies: “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth… six feet of it!” and this was my soapbox.
“That king,” I pointed at the statue, “was ordained by a Christian Pope to reign over and rip-off the lands of a thousand-year old civilization … yes, Chumash slave labor built the Santa Barbara Mission,” I harangued, “and you sit here on stolen ground pleading for that, which by the grace of a Christian God you are granted, a nickel or two! I say, ‘Fuck Jesus and fuck his bloody king too!’”
I was insane with virtue. I tossed the rest of his wad… about five-hundred bucks into the crowd… shouting out as loud as I could; “Jesus Christ did not die for my sins. He died because pigs like Juan Carlos could not abide him. Adding insult to injury, they use Christ’s name to bestow regal powers on a fop like this usurper! If you had any balls at all you wouldn’t be sitting here! You would be burglarizing those houses up there in the hills above us.”
One of the late coming bystanders, who’d missed out on the cash bonanza, called out from the crowd, “Why don’t you shut the fuck up and throw us some more money!”
The crowd laughed as the guy came at me swinging but I wasn’t going to back down. Shit… I recognized it was the Fedora Jerk! Did the prick’s trust-fund run out? What was a Montecito boy doing here? Or was he just there as a tourist buying drugs? I was untouched by him and, in spite of my boozed up state, I landed a few good blows before we were interrupted by pepper-spray.
A bicycle cop had pulled up and saw what was happening. Clearly it was a disturbance that could not be tolerated on State Street. The cop had seen the fists fly… he called for back-up and cuffed both of us.
I came to his senses as soon as my arms were pinned behind and the handcuffs clicked on my wrist. I had two bindles of coke in my shirt pocket. How in the Hell am I going to get rid of this cocaine? Longingly, looking down into my shirt pocket, I felt frustration at my powerlessness when the hammer came down. My last hope was that the cop would somehow miss the two bindles. But, in spite of my wishes, the coke in the aforementioned shirt pocket were found when I was given a thorough pat-down and before being gently tucked into the newly arrived and waiting squad car.
“Now, what have we here?” says the bike cop.
“Wha…? I don’t know. It wasn’t there before. Someone must’ve slipped it in my pocket when I wasn’t looking. Hey, maybe that ‘A-hole’ planted it on me!” I nodded towards the Fedora. I was thinking fast but knew it wasn’t even a good lie. I’d seen enough on the new reality show, Cops, to know a good excuse from a bad one and this one was very weak. But hell, I tried nonetheless to convince the cop that the Fedora had somehow planted the dope in my pocket while we scuffled. I had no shame at this point. I’d considered myself before then to be honest to a fault…. And never a snitch. One time I’d done three months because I wouldn’t turn state’s evidence. It was astonishing how hard and futilely I tried to push that lie.
My last thoughts were bleak: I’m no different than the toothless trailer-trash trying to lie their way out of a bust on those damned TV shows. Adding insult to injury I swore ole Juan Carlos was grinning down at me from my pedestal like the Cheshire Cat as they pulled away from the curb.
“Okay, you win.” I said under my breath from the cold plastic back seat of the squad car.

While getting booked into County jail the sergeant asked twice; “Do you consider yourself a danger to yourself or others tonight, Mr. McGee?”
Thinking I would get another cell other than that damned stinking drunk-tank and prevent further confrontation with the Fedora, who had gone in cuffs before me, I answered, “Yeh, I am.”
“Let me ask you one more time,” the Sergeant impatiently asked again, “and answer so that I can hear you. Do you present a danger to yourself, or others, Mr. McGee?”
“Sir, Yes, Sir!” I answered boot camp style.
Three officers appeared out of the vapor: one behind me and one on each side. Next thing I knew I was being damned near carried to the Rubber-Room by my escorts.
Once in the cell I was ordered to drop to my knees. This was not so easy to do in cuffs; but, before I’d even bent a knee in compliance, my feet were kicked out from under by an officer from behind. I was driven face down to the concrete floor by the officers on each side, holding my arms as my pants were yanked off with very few deft moves on the part of the corrections officers. I had to admire the efficiency of the choreography. I hadn’t seen that move on Cops who were exceptionally polite in front of cameras.
The Rubber-Room had a bench, no toilet and the temperature was set so that only the most insane would want to stay in that room in underwear for more than ten minutes no matter how drunk. I passed time shivering that way.
The main thing was to get through the night. I was still insanely drunk but the antifreeze of Jack Daniel’s began to wear off and did no good. I tried exercising, doing jumping jacks, push-ups and pretending I was Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now flying around the cell in an imitation of drunk kung-fu. Sweat did nothing to keep me warm but reactivated the pepper spray. My eyes burned. When the nurse came by to check on me I got some water on my face and some valium to take the edge off the anticipated hang-over. After I got the valium, I accused the nurse of being a low-level Dr. Mengele’s: as though I was an innocent, persecuted by fascist oppression.
The night passed… the day began. I didn’t know how long I’d been in the cell. I was finally given some Jail-House pajamas and led to another cell where a bullet-proof-window with one of those grilled speaker holes separated me from a young woman whose decision would determine whether I would be let out on my own recognizance (O.R.) or rot in jail until a the day of my arraignment hearing. They had to reduce the felony drug possession charges down to a misdemeanor if I was going to get out that day.
The belligerence I came into the jail with had evaporated by the time I was photographed and finger-printed on the way out. I felt contrite to the female officer that led me through the process. “Oh man,” I said to her. Memories of the night before percolated up through the layers of booze and coke towards a bubble of consciousness and admitted, “What a mess I made of things.”
The officer was sympathetic and she assured me it would turn out alright.
Even though I’d been processed for release in the afternoon, I wasn’t let out until after three AM. No buses run at that time and I didn’t have a quarter to call Jimbo to get me downtown from the jail. I had to hike the five miles home.
The city automatically pulled cab licenses after any drug bust. Now I no longer had a job. I’d tossed out all my cash to Juan Carlos and, being unable to pay rent, I was going to be homeless too. I stayed at the hotel as long as I could sneak past Lucas, the desk clerk, or make up excuses if he caught me. Lucas was like a spider that caught almost anyone that touched his invisible web. When I finally got to my arraignment hearing I just plead guilty and was sentenced to time served, ordered to attend Zona Seca drug abuse classes that he had no money to pay for now that he was unemployed, and given three years’ probation.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Walk About Drive

Always with me...
07/17/16 Sun’s Day (10:20):
   Big brands… lube… ready to go-o-o-o-o! Trunk is packed to the lid… shouldn’t be long. ETD was planned for 11:00 and I think we’ll be going before that... car’s on the rack.
   Reading group yesterday went well enough. I like where the story is going… ready to interrogate Doc on acid. Should be good. Fort Huachuca next.
   (21:37) Arrived at Red Bluff M-6 at 20:04. Pretty good. Sleepy now. This M-6 room is small and bare… like a jail cell and not much bigger. I was going to stay in a better motel but decided I wanted no hassles.
(23:54) Reserved room at Baymont Inn Kennewick for tomorrow. Going to have to get goin’ early. Nighty-night.

07/18/16 Moon’s Day (06:19):
   Feel exceptionally good. I like this bare-bones M-6… luxury compared to a Jail cell. Cramped compared to a luxury room. Gotta make it to Kennewick today… let’s GO!
   (21:18): Kennewick… had pizza in my room. It’s an upgrade but not as much of one I thought… no elevator but the room is okay.
Talked w/Joy and Vic. Too bad Bonnie missed this one with all the kids.

07/19/16 Twi’s Day (06:08):
   The longest part of the trip is over. I’ve become such a wusss. I mean, I used to drive straight through when I travelled alone… nap at rest stops and plow on through. I couldn’t do it now. Yesterday was about as long as I can bear it… This leg from here to Coolin will be much easier. According to Google maps, it’s a 4 hour drive. I always add an hour to their estimates if they are over a couple hours… just in case… 5 hours. So, leave here at 9am and be there by 2pm?
   Big question…. Should I stop to see Mom on the way up or should I on the way back? I’m thinking, on the way back. That way I can spend more time with her. It could very well be the last time. Vic says she has a tumor on her liver that’s quite big but she is doing well in spite of it… eating and even gaining weight. She comes from hardy Newfoundland stock.
   Joy was upset because there’s no room to stay inside at her place. I have to insist on camping. She thinks it’s a horror at my age and seems not to believe me when I say I prefer it to indoors. Indoors, I’m likely to be glued to the TV after dark but, by the fireside, I love being out there.

07/20/16 Woden’s Day (05:06):
   Campfire at Priest… slept a bit but started to get paranoid… some outdoorsman I turned out to be…. Thinking about the box of incense I kept in the tent and how that might smell like something good to a bear so I tossed it outside…. Lit the Coleman to warm up the tent. Lay there for a while and once the thought of a bear enters the mind it doesn’t let go. I know from long experience that the black bears up here are not so dangerous that they’ve been known to maul campers… I know that but the seed of paranoia is planted and is quite tenacious. I finally went to the car and dozed for a couple hours. I went back to the tent before sunrise… ego… didn’t want anyone to know I wussed out.
   (14:40): Have the day to myself. It is good because I don’t feel like dealing w/people that much. So much goes unsaid. I have an honest family. Anything can be said, for sure. Bonnie is on my mind all the time. I am reminded of her always in all of the small things. It’s painful and I don’t want to go there but I can’t stop myself.

07/22/16 Freya’s Day (06:28):
   Deer at the salt lick. Woke up to a sprinkle of rain. 
   Good day at the beach on the island. Kids tubed most of the time. Adults that weren’t driving the boats… were on the beach drinking beer and telling stories… catching up on each other’s’ lives.

07/24/16 Sun’s Day (07:55):
   Yesterday at Don’s. Fond memories of Bonnie there. How I miss her…
   Back went out this morning. I was walking from my camp to Joy’s house for coffee when, “Click”… I felt it… could hardly move... back went out. Not doing anything special… just walking normal. This is what I wish the VA could see in their evaluations… never knowing when it will happen.

7/25/16 Moon’s day (6:29)
   Preparing for Canada trip. All packed up and ready to go.

07/26/16 Twi’s Day (06:26):
Canada… cross one border… to Merritt. 

   The town and the Coldwater Hotel are exactly like I expected. It has some development beyond but the downtown is as it was except for the paved roads. If you stand long enough you can almost see old ranch hands tying up their horses outside the hotel and coming in for a drink. It would also be miners and lumberjacks.

07/27/16 Woden’s Day (08:20):
Huckleberry jam and toast. Last morning at Priest Lake. Getting ready to call mom. I don’t know why it is so hard to call her. Booked a room at the Ramada nearby so I can spend a day or two with her before heading out on the big adventure part of the trip. Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico… Taos!!!! Then Arizona and California.
   Staying at the Ramada near where mom’s place is on Evergreen and the Ramada check-in time is at three so I have time to do lunch w/mom. I feel like some sort of sociopath because I don’t want to deal with anyone. Not so sure what a sociopath is but I are one for sure.
   I just can’t feel any empathy for anything beyond my dearest Bonnie. I feel like I didn’t even care enough for her until she was gone. It hurts to be this way. My heart breaks when I think of all the little pleasures I denied her… like when we pass by a fruit stand or take time to lay in bed a few more minutes or make love. Damn, she was good too. Unbelievably good. Her face glowed and smile radiated when we made love. How can a man deny that? What was wrong with me? I am so sorry, Honey.

07/30/16 Saturn’s Day (0641):
I’m at the gate of the Little Big Horn Cemetery and monument. Seems strange to be parked in a car punching a keyboard in the same place the tribes were gathered taking potshots at ole Yellow Hair.

08/01/16 Moon’s Day (07:23):
   Stayed at the Kachina Lodge last night and love the place and I extended my stay another day. Though it hasn’t been updated from the outside since I used to pass by it on the way into town back during the winter and fall of 1970, it maintains the charm of another era. From the looks of the insides it hasn’t changed that much either (unless you count the TV [1990s], microwave and fridge). The room I’m in is huge with double full sized beds. I can see this place is one whose glory days probably came to an end in the seventies but has been holding on. If I owned it I would upgrade the rooms with minor improvements to fit its architecture; like paving stones on the driveways and walk ways. It has ample electrical outlets and doesn’t need much on the interior. Perhaps a designer would know more about how to give the rooms a fresher feel without compromising the integrity of the buildings. The lobby is good as it is… I wouldn’t change a thing about it.
   I loved the trip from southern Colorado after turning off to Fort Garland from the main artery, (I-25) at Walsenburg (I swear the highway sign read Waisenburg). From Fort Collins to Colorado Springs, it was freeway driving… not as bad as the 405 but it was equal to rush hour on any other freeway.
   After passing through Walsenburg (which had a charm of its own) the highway’s two-lane ribbon wrapped itself through a scenic landscape that was a precursor to the glory I knew awaited me in Northern New Mexico. I wasn’t disappointed. Sure, it has changed but so has everywhere else. However, this place ain’t ruined yet. It might have another ten years before the hordes discover it. I feel guilty posting about this town for that reason… knowing only a few people read my posts gives me some respite from any such notion.
   I also did a touristy thing at Fort Garland (population 433). I checked out the museum there. It was well done. I love these small towns with history. The Fort is restored and the presence of Kit Carson was everywhere but there was so much more than that. A bloody history at that… of rounding up the Cheyanne’s using Apaches (who were later rounded up) of one tribe after another subdued after the Civil War was over… I knew of Kit Carson’s role in the hanging of the leaders ( I believe it was eleven or so) of the Mexican revolt of the Arroyo Hondo land grant area but there was no mention of his role in that.
   Tried texting our friend, Mary Lampe. Lost connection and couldn't send... retry... retry... retry.... No... No... No!
   Then on down through the high chaparral flanked by the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to my left of Southern Colorado and Norther New Mexico. Crossing the border I gassed up at Costilla New Mexico where I was treated in an especially kind manner by the lady behind the counter. Through Cerra, Questa, Lama, and Arroyo Hondo… I love these small towns that are barely corrupted from the time I was here.
   Now I am at the Kachina Lodge in Taos. I once passed by this place (forty-six years ago) dozens of times hitching a ride back to Arroyo Hondo… downtown Taos... streets are swarming with tour-bus tourists. The Kachina is the same as it was in 1970. I mean... dated, but nice. The rooms speak of a time when the town was more innocent. This town was always a tourist mecca but sssshhhheeeezzzzeee!!!! Everywhere I go. But there is a part of the town in which real people live.... lots of empty buildings going to seed once away from the center of town.

   I’m staying another night at the Kachina to check out the mesa in Arroyo Hondo. I might have to make contact with the Butler family and see if I need permission to enter the property. Or, I might just go and find out that way.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Bonnie Anne Rapkin

Eyes for Your Heart
I first noticed Bonnie at the Thursday Meditation Meeting held at the Saint Mary’s Retreat House next to the Mission.
She sat near the entrance to the room on the armchair where her feet dangled like a child's several inches from the rug, it hadn’t occurred to me that she was kind of short.
What attracted me to her was a mystifying… ever so slight quirky smile that had a mischievous nuance forewarning me that I best be on my toes if I wanted to get to know her better.

Several months went by while I admired her from afar… well, a few feet from where I usually sat.
I saw a few of her assemblages at the annual Buddha Abides art show and I liked her sense of humor and jewelers eye in her pieces. Most others in those shows displayed work that was reverent and serious but Bonnie’s had a wry quality that was respectful but down to earth.

At that time, I volunteered at Central Office. I’d been sober about 8 or 9 years. Tim W. was the manager then and what I liked about volunteering there with Tim was that it was quiet time for me. We spoke shortly, getting to know each other, and in those days, Central Office was a serene place in which an alcoholic could come in a chat without it being too public. On one particular occasion Bonnie came in to get a card or something. Tim planted the seed after she left saying, George, Bonnie never comes in here.”
“Really? What are you saying, Tim?”
“I’m just saying she never comes to Central Office, that’s all.”

One of my fellow dispatchers at Yellow Cab, Robin W., had been a friend of Bonnie’s too. They had been pals in Casa Serena. I told her I was interested in Bonnie. Robin paid no attention to my probe and it really got under my skin when she hooked up Bonnie on a date with one of our drivers. He was a nice, normal, and stable, guy but I could tell he wasn’t a good match for Bonnie. One has to appreciate Bonnie's non-linear ways. This part of her can’t be explained… you have to see her art work to catch that or hear one of the wildly revealing open-ended honesty of hers shares in AA. I just knew I would never be bored in a million years if I could just get close to her.

It wasn’t until I got a motorcycle that she began warming up to me. Fellas, there’s nothing like a motorcycle as an aphrodisiac for a woman like Bonnie.
She began asking me to come over to her pace to replace light-bulbs. She was too short to do it on her two-step ladder. Those damned thing burned out on a regular basis. After performing my manly duties her body language said, okay, thanks but see ya. I’d kind of insisted on a hug and she obliged with one of those pat-pat hugs.

Okay, nothing was happening there. This went on for a year.

Finally, one March Sunday, after the service at the Vedanta Temple, our friend Judy J. asked, “Are you and Bonnie an Item?”
“No, I’d like that but she doesn’t give me much feedback. Besides, I’m concerned, she seems to have a lot of health problems and I’m not sure if I want to get involved.”

I had to work that night so, after the Vedanta I went home to be. I was dozing off when I got the call… Bonnie was crying. She’d been told she couldn’t be admitted to 5 East without a Dr.’s okay. Could I please come and get her.

Now, I’m no knight in shining armor… at least not for anyone else. Without thinking about it at all, I was there in a few minutes at the ER. We got to her house… I tucked her in I asked her to tell me where all her drugs were and dumped all the Soma in the toilet. She asked me not to leave… I stayed.

March 18th 2007 was the beginning of an unbelievable and never boring relationship. The bond was so strong that nothing could break it.

I wouldn’t be telling this story if I didn’t feel honored to tell it. For all the lonely hearts in the rooms of AA I can say that at 9 years of sobriety I had resigned at the age of 60 to the idea that I would be alone the rest of my life and that any chance for meaningful love had passed me by. It took 9 years of preparation to be able to love. The remarkable thing was that Bonnie reciprocated and doubled down on it. No matter what we went through it was easy for me because we cared deeply for the best to come for us both. And my feeling now is that I have experienced a love I would not have believed existed except for that "Ever After" BS from fairy tales. I now know that I am one of the few happy ones that can say I found love that was "Ever After" and I need no more proof of it.

Besides, Bonnie sometimes wore a Ramones T-shirt and she loved the Blues and Reggae. My feeling has always been that any woman that could love the Blues, Reggae, and the Ramones was okay with me even though I could never get her into Country it was okay… three out of four was pretty good. I didn’t want a Stepford wife that likes EVERYTHING I do.

Bonnie loved Northern Idaho and my family at Priest Lake in spite of the pain she suffered to get there via the long road trip with me. They loved her too. She fit right in and was so comfortable there. I rarely saw her that happy anywhere else.

I might add that, though Bonnie was loved by so many, she suffered from depression. Depression is a cruel disease that tricks the mind into thinking we are all alone. This happens no matter how thoroughly one works the steps, gathers a gaggle of sponsees, or becomes a paradigm of service to others. Drinking and drugs aren’t the solution and the program of recovery in AA doesn’t claim to be the cure for everything. We yield all we can to the Heart of Compassion no matter whether we call it God or a Higher Power. It is compassion that saves us all and compassion sometimes says, get professional help. Bonnie did that but still felt isolated and fought the disease with her whole heart and soul.

 Her heart was so big that it just gave out. So, Sweet Bonnie, our friends are here to bid you farewell and to express our shared gratitude for the love you gave us all.