Tiny Green Frogs Vs The B-52s

bombardier_b-52

The great and the small. That’s what I recall when I think about Orlando, Florida, winter, ’73. Walt Disney World was just getting started and hadn’t caught on yet at all. Mostly a joke to all the locals. While the SAC air force base was something to be taken seriously, still flying those colossal B-52s to keep us all safe from the Commies. Acres of orange groves, grapefruit trees and Reed avocados—the huge, round, heavy ones, golden on the inside, that are more oily than their green skinned friends: Fuerte, Zutano and Bacon.
      I don’t know there’s really much of a story to tell about Orlando unless I made one up about the Box turtles loping through the orange groves—white sand with orange trees sticking out of it. And of course, the tiniest, babiest green frogs borne in a puddle…because it rained and the sun came out hot as any winter sun could be, and breathed fiery life into those eggs…became legs jumping and singing with joy. Which does a frog do first? Jump or sing. Or both at the same time. It’s hard for humans to jump and sing at the same time. Even when that human is only 20, with jack rabbit thighs, getting well rested, that could jump over the moon…reflects off a puddle primordial with life. No swamps here in the high ground. Hell, Orlando is 100 feet above sea level.
      At night, I slept on the couch of some rednecks from Alabama who liked my stories. By day, I followed my breath in their back yard, teaching myself to juggle with fallen grapefruits weighing a pound a piece. I’d take a break and pop a yoga pose that Stanley taught me back in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. He may have ripped me off for seven pounds, but he taught me meditation, yoga, and took me to see and celebrate the teenage guru Maharaji up in Ottawa, Canada.
      Good hippies, bad hippies, you know I’ve had my share. Wasn’t I sort of a bad hippie? So I had found my rightful company. Them Bama boys were racist rednecks. And if there was one thing my mama taught me back in the Burgh, it was NOT to be a racist…like her father, my grandfather. But I was a very bad hippie boy in so many other ways. And didn’t I leave a girl in Kingston Town, as Harry Belafonte sang, not once, but twice. Didn’t I fill her with hope she would leave the island, and break her heart so bad she wanted to cut me open with two broken beer bottles.
      Hell was still not too far behind me, trying to reassemble my soul up in Orlando. And what a long strange trip across the state of Florida to get there: Miami, Miami Beach, Florida Keys, Daytona Beach, Flagler Beach.
     The motorcycle racer from Canada taught me the technique for teaching yourself how to juggle. Which I accomplished right there in the redneck backyard, tossing all those heavy, sweet, laden-with-juice grapefruits up in the air. If you can juggle grapefruits, my friend, you can juggle anything—jobs, girlfriends, drug dealers, aliases.
      I can still juggle today. Just your basic three items, any three items. A book, a bowling ball, and a can of beans? Sure. Why not. For ten whole seconds.
      The orange groves were really my favorite place to meditate when it wasn’t so hot you could fry an egg on your forehead. I’d take my blanket and a book. Rednecks don’t read, so I had to sneak off to do that. And if I stayed around the house, one of their girlfriends would just want to ball while they were off at the rock quarry, or construction site, or wherever they worked. And that would not be good for my health or housing. Though the thought of sleeping in the orange groves and living on citrus and avocados did not bother me. I was going clean. No pot, cigs, booze, women, Yikes!, and definitely not any psychedelics…like crazy women.
     One afternoon, reading a trashy Ross McDonald novel in the groves, I was startled when the first big box turtle came lumbering by. I could almost hear the circus pipe organ music following on his heels. Big fella, had to weigh in over ten pounds, his back gleamed in the sun, shouting a pattern like the eye of God—rectangular, triangular and crazy diamonds in green, lighter green, blue, brown, red and black. I learned later from the rednecks that each turtle has a completely unique pattern on its back. I had seen one that was not even close to one of the really big ones. And, of course, they make good soup.
      Well, I had been vegetarian ever since Ottawa, except when in Rome, if you know what I mean. But trying to keep all meat out of my mouth. I have always flipped-flopped between purity and gross carnal excess.
      But as this turtle—my first turtle, but not my last—came along and looked over at me, stopped, pulled his head in so I could go over and examine him closely, then decided I was not a threat, stuck his neck out, and walked along more earnestly, I felt like I had been visited by a divine, wise being from another planet or dimension and blessed with its longevity and wisdom to navigate the perilous pathways of life with all of life’s predators. I knew I better not breathe a word of that nonsense back at the fort with the rednecks. They’d evict me tomorrow. They were already a little suspicious that I would not partake with them. But, eventually, it came down to more weed for them, so…the great Ganja importer can stay here till he figures a way home.
     Most days, I’d be standing out in the backyard, grabbing up grapefruits and throwing them up into a white cloud sky. The way you teach yourself to juggle has two simple steps, one following the other. If you don’t master the first, you’ll never take the second. Holding a grapefruit, or a ball, an orange, a toaster in either hand you carefully toss one object into the air, learning a cascade pattern, directing its ascension to arc across, bi-laterally, to the either hand.
      When the first grapefruit reaches the zenith of its track, I toss the second grapefruit into the air, aiming it in a simple crossover flight for the hand that just released its first fruit. All damn day long, save for time in the orchards, tossing one grapefruit to the opposite hand, back and forth, time and the body, breath and death, fear and desire.
      Suddenly, oddly it grows quiet in here. Only the observer is left.
      Whose hands are these? Who is juggling?
      After days into weeks mastering the simple two object cascade, I was ready . . . to change the world, and add a third grapefruit. For this madness, I had to hold two fruits in my right hand and one in my left. Suddenly, I was very concerned with finding only the smallest, roundest, firmest fruits fallen on the ground.
      My hands felt bigger back then, like I wanted and was able to grab more and hold onto more of this world. In the University of Colorado piano practice rooms, back when I was a dope addict, dope dealing, homeless college student sleeping in people’s cars, I could span an octave plus one, a ninth!, on the keyboard. I didn’t know how to play, but I would pound the keys anyway . . . Imagining I was Dave Brubeck, “Rondo Ala Turk.”
      I couldn’t juggle, but I was going to juggle anyway . . . with these hands, these long slender fingers unbent or bruised by the world.
      Now the first grapefruit is tossed up into the white cloud sky, and as it reaches its zenith, the second is thrown up from my left, just as before. But now the rhythm is exactly doubled, and as the grapefruit leaves my left hand, I release the second grapefruit from my right hand. My hands toss and catch, focused on the middle, the holy space in between, so I don’t crash the fruits in-air-collision, not watching, not knowing when and where, exactly, each fruit will fall into my palms. Faith. I have already done this for endless hours, like a young carny who wants to come out from the cotton candy shadows—putting it up, tearing it down, running the rides—and step out into the ring.
      Behold. That’s me, I see myself from above.
      Look! He’s juggling.
      Just then, one of the rednecks’ old ladies comes bouncing out in the sunny backyard.
      I’m shirtless, wearing the only tan I’ve ever had after some serious time under Jamaican sun, mon.
      “Wow!” she says.
      “Wow is right,” I continue. I can see she’s barefoot, wearing Daisy Dukes and a red checkered tie top like a flag at Daytona, covering her mosquito bite breasts.
      I catch all the fruits and cradle them in a sort of hand basket next to my stomach.
      “You finally did it!” she says.
      “It was bound to happen someday, I guess.” trying to stay humble.
      She bumps her hip into me. “Got some real, ice-cold lemonade inside if you’re interested.”
      Am I ever. But her old man from Alabama has shotguns and Bowie knives and ways of dealing with me, slowly, that I can’t even begin to imagine. Nonetheless, I was about to take her up on her offer. I’ve always been the one to say, fuck it, and do what I want.
      Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead.
      Which is how and why I became a writer.
      But then it happened, just as it had countless times before in Orlando. A B-52 descended, falling out of the sky, coming in for a landing at the McCoy Air Force Base. Part of the old Strategic Air Command, they always kept some up in the air, around the clock, just in case the Commies launched a sneak attack, first strike, we would have the planes loaded with hydrogen bombs up in the air . . . to strike. To retaliate! To kill!
      You may think you have heard a loud jet take off or land near some airport, flying close overhead. But I assure you, you have not. The B-52 had four monster twin-engines generating enough thrust to catapult the largest jet plane with the biggest payload to ever fall from the sky. They don’t call it the Stratofortress for nothing, capable of carrying and delivering a 70,000 pound payload to the sleeping enemy below its 50,000 foot ceiling.
      Standing next to her in the backyard, she is screaming in my ear, but I cannot hear her, as the white clouds are blotted out by America’s last line of D E F E N S E.
      My mind stopped in its tracks, I swallowed my desire.
      It’s all the same and connected—the B-52 above, the tiny green frog, borne yesterday, below. Each allows for and creates the other. When it becomes this extreme and too far out of balance, then each one turns into the destruction of the other. The world can’t juggle B-52s above and tiny frogs below, keep them both hopping through the air.
      I know McCoy closed and the B-52s that were once there are gone. The SAC airbase became a regular commercial airport to fly folks in and out of Walt Disney World. Did the green frogs win that one, or are they gone too? I vowed never to return to Florida, so, I can’t say.
      Next day, I called mom and told her I wanted to come home. Mom had moved back to Chicago to live with her mother, both widowed. I would sleep on the couch in their small apartment on West Cullom Avenue, oddly enough, the same street my parents lived on when I was born. But like a Ulysses, one can never go home. And what was home? Pittsburgh? Penn State? Boulder? Chicago?
      Mom wired money to Orlando for a one-way ticket from Miami International to O’Hare.
      A couple days later, the rednecks drove me to Miami and even stuck around to see me off.
      There was nothing left for me to do. I had pushed it all the way to the end and had nothing but my weird stories and a crazy, peeling tan to show for it.
      When I landed in Chicago at the end of March, it was still winter. Filthy snow hung around on the ground, matching the drawn, chalk-white faces.
      My grandmother looked on me with quizzical contempt. The Swedish Matriarch was not pleased.
      I took a job distributing leaflets, hanging them on people’s doors, or sticking them under their car’s wipers. Christ, I was depressed, lower than a tiny green frog trampled underfoot of the giant.
      One miserable, cold afternoon, I was trudging across the Dan Ryan Expressway overpass, lugging my twenty-five pounds of door-to-door leaflets.
      Fuck it.
      I lifted up my satchel and dumped a thousand 5 X 8 leaflets down on the rush hour traffic—eight lanes backed up to the Loop—the new reality we would march into. I dropped the A-bomb on it all, y’all.
      A few days later, I took my first and last leafletting check and bought a one-way ticket to Denver.
      I told mom it would be okay. I would get a job, a room to rent. I wouldn’t be living on the streets..
      Mom was worried and scared, so she gave me about a hundred bucks, all she could spare, to pad my bankroll.
      Gram was relieved. “You going back to school?” was the only way she could figure it.
      “Maybe, I don’t know, “ I shrugged.
      I bought an Army surplus backpack and stuffed my handful of clothes inside. I had landed in Chicago wearing just my Jamaican shirt, blue corduroys, and favorite flip-flops. I’d been wearing these same clothes for over a month.
      But mom had taken me shopping for shoes, socks, underwear, tee shirts, a few shirts, pants and a jacket!
      I still had some stuff in storage back at the cowboy hotel on Pearl Street, I hoped, I prayed. And now I had enough to pay for a room for a month and buy some food—rice and beans, follow my breath—till I landed a job.
     I think maybe the sky loved me a little more, or I asked for more love from its clouds and colors back then. And it complied. Why? I still don’t know. I’ve never felt so small and great at the same time like did in those strange days.

The Great Vagina Showdown of 1975

She was a Buddhist—chop wood, carry water and ride horses—who put the word strapping into woman. In a pair of jean cut-offs and cowboy boots—her muscular but shapely tanned legs, her biceps and breasts threatening to pop the snap buttons on her plaid, fitted cowboy shirt, blonde mane a blowin’ in the wind—whole nations stopped squawking when she sauntered by. She had a raspy voice like hot summer straw out in the barn though she never smoked, and blue eyes like an Alpine lake. Dive in if you dare. Cynthia was her name, but she only went by Cyn, as in the original in the original curved bottle. Pop the cap and drink her down.

Yeah, right. What about the sheathed knife on her hand-hewn belt, buddy.

Um, that’s for your little baby balls should you step across her line.

I met Cyn—the original in the original bottle—when I worked at the Carnival Café on Broadway in Boulder. I cooked there. She set the place on fire and told us all what to do…nicely. It was a collective, so, there were no chiefs, only Indians. Still, Cyn was the unofficial Queen Mother of our clan. The wizened, long-white-bearded-Gandalf, Jeremiah, was our Lord Father.

Do you want wok fried or steamed veggies with your rice? Miso-tahini sauce? Cyn popping your head like a watermelon, crushed between her powerful thighs? Yes, I’ll take it all.

In addition to being a mountain woman living in a rustic cabin—electricity, no, running well water, yes—she gardened, danced the jig, and was the silversmith jeweler who made the wedding bands for Karla and I. You see, I was—and this is actually the story of my life here—and still very much am allergic to gold touching my skin. And since my wife to be was a gold-digger disguised as an hippie chick bike mechanic, well, I really should have gone left and left her at the altar when I had the chance…with the original in that original bottle.

But I didn’t, damn it, because…of the Great Vagina Showdown of 1975…when I saw with my very own drunk, but still single-vision, tear-stained eyes, their vaginas displayed for me side by side. And I had to admit that Karla’s vagina, the one I had already knocked up and was slated to marry on top of old Flagstaff Mountain at the amphitheater there in a few wee hours at dawn, was indeed more beautiful than Cyn’s dark, tough, leathery-looking labia and coarsest brown hair like sage brush in September. But oh Lord, Karla’s was wispy and blonde kissing her lips trembled soft with morning dew I had walked out upon with a glad head held high, if you know what I mean.

But I am getting ahead of myself, because this story does indeed have a beginning that’s worth jumping back to.

Our wedding planner was us, so we decided upon an Hindu ceremony performed by an Hindu priest at dawn in the aforementioned amphitheater on Flagstaff, overlooking Boulder, Colorado below, and the plains stretching to the east. Our wedding was to be on August 10th, about three months after I knocked up Karla, so, we were hoping, praying she could still squeeze into her bright blue wedding dress. Of course, first we had to make it through my birthday bash, bachelor party blowout the night before, August 9th, my 23rd birthday. And that was not going to be easy…thanks to me and Cyn, the original in that original curvy bottle.

The night started out simply. Terry, our housemate along with her man, Michael—a couple of chain-smoking Rinpoche devotees—made killer lasagna, leaving the pot out this time. We knew everyone in Boulder, so everyone and my mother came and stuffed themselves into our duplex living room/dining room.

My mother and grandmother flew in from Chicago for the baby-of-the-family’s wedding. Karla’s parents, living much closer in Grande Junction, Co, avoided her wedding and me like the plague-of-locusts-upon-their-land they thought I was.

Most of us sat cross-legged on the floor, hippie style, with our plates heavy with homemade lasagna—Terry was a serious chef by trade—balanced in our bony laps.

There were a lot of, “Um, wow. This is incredible, Terry,” as we munched away till sundown.

My mom and her mom—the proud matriarchal lineage that spat this frog out—sat upon their respective chairs and did a good job of fitting in with everyone else half to one third their age.

As the meal was winding down, two women sitting on the floor a few feet from my mother and grandmother, suddenly got a strange look in their eyes.

Casting her plate aside, the more stout Brunette said to the willowy blonde, “I have always been just sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo into you.”

‘Me too,” the waif gurgled like a tiny mountain spring borne yesterday.

Oh no, you are not going to…in my home, on my birthday, the night before my wedding, in front of my mom, no biggie, but my stern Swedish grandmother. Too late.

Casting their plates overboard, the brunette lip-locked the blonde in an endless kiss of primal passion. A few hours it seemed later, she took her down for the count on my carpet, then dry-humped all the straight ideas out of that pretty little muffin head. All this in front of the two generation matriarch just arrived on United from Chicago.

My mom spoke first. “Terry, it was delicious, but we really should get back to the motel,” looking over the bodies blurring together on the floor. “Six a.m. is going to be here before you know it.”

On that note, they both abruptly stood up. The women did not move, so my grandmother had to lightly step over them. I thought she was going to fall down on top of them and break her hip. But old Alice was surprisingly supple for someone in her 70s! Must have been all those years of gardening. She did scant little to hide her silent scorn. Alice was, after all, once a millionaire’s wife, married to my late, great grandfather, the real estate and building tycoon of southern Wisconsin. She was used to riding shotgun in Gramp’s custom, loaded Cadillac—leather, teak wood, surround sound before anyone even knew what it was—so Alice was not amused by these shenanigans.

“Try to get some rest,” mom said to me kindly, as they were running out the front door to their rental.

I nodded sheepishly, as hands were now thrusting down inside tight, hot jeans, and if I wasn’t careful, I was going to get a rise out of this in front of my own mother and grandmother, who had great, nylon stockinged legs even in her 70s. Then I’d get arrested for the ultimate sin—popping wood before two generations of matriarch.

Balls? What balls. Cyn would probably carve them off slowly, laughing like a magpie in August, who found the peaches and made off with all their juicy, fat, ripe sweetness.

“Gary, how could you do that!? Get an erection in front of your own mother and grandmother, standing right there before you, just because two gorgeous women, one dark, Italian and robustly lesbian, the other petite, blonde and used-to-be straight, are going at it like it’s the end of the world,” she said in her deep whisky voice, unsheathing her six inch blade. “You dirty, filthy man and your filthy sperm that impregnated that poor woman in the prime of her youth, embarrassing her into a too-tight wedding dress on what’s supposed to be the day-of-her-life, why don’t I just relieve you of those things that have and will cause this world nothing but endless suffering,” licking her dry lips and taking a swig of deep, red wine selected by Michael for this my wedding dinner, birthday bash, bachelor party blowout rolled up into one mighty turd.

I swallowed. The door closed behind the matriarchy. And now, thank God, I could get a fucking hard on and fuck anything that moves!

Thank you Cyn, the original, in my mind, as she had not arrived yet—Queen of the Grand Entrance—for keeping it nailed down just long enough to get the matriarchy out the door, so I could… Fuck. Drink.

Someone was going to fuck me tonight, I might have said out loud, stepping over the steaming, humping pile on the floor. And it wasn’t going to be my wife to be, so…

Let’s Fuck!

I heard an acoustic blues guitar wafting over the labyrinth of bodies reclining in carbo’ coma’s Roman Bacchus repose.

Nice. Guy could play.

I was going to whip out my harps when Terry took to swirling and twirling her delightful body around his slow, nasty, 12 bar blues.

I did not know; that girl could get down.

“In honor of your bachelor Birthday Party, Gary . . .” she said, undoing the button on her jeans.

Oh my. The beast stirred

An instant later, her top came up over her head. What bra. Wicked smile as she tossed her little tank top at my face.

I caught it, and closed my mouth.

I never realized Terry had perfect little handfuls with pink nipples like twitching white rabbit ears. So taut, they looked like ornamental ski slopes.

Yes. I launched off her little ski jumps and gave into this new carnal knowledge…of my roommate!

Love it. Need it. Want it.

Her pants were trickier to get off. But, it would seem she had rehearsed her performance—it was not impromptu after all—as the crowd circled in around her and clapped out the rhythm section.

As she shimmy-shaked and stepped out of her jeans, I could suddenly see she was all bare under there too. No underwear. Then I saw her beautiful strawberry patch coiffed in the shape of an heart.

Yes. I heart Terry.

Men and women swooned. The dog barked. Cat scratched her fever awakened.

“For you and Karla,” Terry smiled, proudly grinding her heart shaped delight in my direction. “For your birthday, your bachelor party,” she twirled and smiled over her white shoulders.

Karla was off in the kitchen, putting things away, doing something practical, and had accidentally on purpose missed the greatest show on earth.

Oh, I’ve seen strippers and exotic dancers in my day before and since. But this transcended the art form itself. I mean, there she was—the chef of our wedding dinner and unbelievable layered carrot cake, what else, to be served after our ceremony atop Flagstaff mountain—thrusting it out, all nude inside the blues back beat taken down to the sound ground of our sweaty, thirsty young hippie beings.

Meanwhile, folks were starting to come together if you know what I mean. Boys and girls, boys and boys, girls and girls, dog and cat, all getting next to each other and peeling off into nooks, crannies, closets, and rooms by twos and threes.

Terry, I want to make it with you so bad.

And that is exactly when Cyn walked in. “Howdy folks. What you all got goin’ on here? Hope I am not too late to join the fun,” her eyes finding and seizing on me like a noose around my neck. And you know what happens to a man when you hang him by the rope of his own desire, don’t you.

Shit. She just walked right up to me. Looking down,” Um, I’m glad you’re glad to see me…or is that for Terry? Either way, anyway,” putting her hand on the front of my pants and giving a squeeze. “My, oh my…”

“Cyn, I, uh, we…”

“I’ve got something for you and Karla. Where is she?” releasing my desire.

“Um, try the kitchen. What is it?”

“Well, you can’t get married without them, dummy. Remember.”

“Huh,” shitfaced with dumb desire.

“I’ve got your rings!”

“Ohhhhh. Our rings. Thank you. Just in time, too, as we’re getting hitched in about nine hours.”

“I had to fix a radiator hose on my pick up on the way into town. Hot day! She got all overheated. But I fixed her…at least till I can get a new hose.”

“How did you do that,” picturing her old Chevy short bed pick up with the 302 short block V8.

“I just cut the hose at the break with my knife, here, and wrapped it back together with my tee shirt, a roll of twine and some baling wire. Presto, magic, chango. It worked. And here I am…ready to do business.”

“Well, try the kitchen.”

“You coming,” over her shoulder.

“Yeah,” reluctantly tearing myself away from Terry and the spontaneous orgy breaking out all over my duplex shared with Terry and Michael.

“You want to see them, try them on before the big day, don’t you?” unbuttoning her jean jacket to reveal the fact she had no tee shirt on underneath, just her rippling, I-fix-broken-radiator-hoses-with-a-tee-shirt-and-twine bosom heaving underneath her faded, worn soft jean jacket, tattered but true as every honest man who can say, why in God’s good name would I want to get married the day after my 23rd birthday.

That is just not a rational choice, given the alternative, staring back at me in the shape of her ass you could bounce honest silver quarters off all night.

“Yeah, sure I want to see them,” faking it till I make it back to the action.

Sure enough, Karla was actually doing all the damn dishes with help from Jolene, her best friend, thank God.

Jolene had a yellow rubber Playtex glove on one hand, and a cigarette going in the other. She was drying and putting away.

“Just to get a good grip on things,” Jolene said, holding up her gloved hand. “I’ve already had a few bottles of Michael’s good wine myself.”

Jolene was a bit of a lush, but I think that was possibly her only flaw, other than her brutal sarcasm when she was drunk, which I thought was sexy. But I am more than a little bit off, so..

Cyn nudged Karla and said, “I’ve got your rings, wanna see?”

“Sure. Let me put down this lasagna pan and then we can sit over in the breakfast nook.”

“Hey, I’ll take a glass of wine if you got any left,” Cyn said, eyeing Jolene’s half-full wine glass on the kitchen counter.

“No problemo,” I will go and fetch her Highness her glass of wine, good servant that I am,” Jolene half slurred, half snarled. Her sarcasm was right on schedule.

Jolene and Cyn didn’t exactly get along.

You see, Cynthia was called Cyn for a reason. She like to steal other women’s men. The more attached a guy was, the more attractive he was too her. It was sort of like a game to her. Jolene probably figured Cyn was going to go after me, seeing as I was getting married practically any minute now. Not to mention, Cyn had swooped in and stolen a guy out from under Jolene’s clutches. Saying that Jolene bore a grudge against Cyn for that would be like reckoning the lightning brings thunder rumbling over the foothills in August.

Jolene skipped out.

Karla and I sat down at the breakfast table with Cyn.

Cyn opened her hand made, hand-beaded leather pouch and pulled out our rings. She handed them to Karla.

Karla inspected them but did not smile. “I can see the place where they are joined together.”

“Me too,” I said, a little alarmed at Cyn’s lack of craftsmanship.

“I know. It was a rush job. These are just to get over your fingers, and to make sure they are exactly the right size. The real final solder has yet to happen. I just didn’t have enough time to do it right. But, in the long run this is best. Because I can still make a small adjustment, too tight, too loose, you dig,” putting her usual sunny spin on everything.

Her hands were rough like a man’s hands from rope and metal, chopping wood, carrying water, not at all soft like Karla’s.

Who needs her hands when you’ve got everything else she has to offer.

“Well, okay then,” Karla said. “But how about we wait to pay you the rest till after it’s all done?”

“Well, I sort of need that money now,” Cyn stepped up.

“We gave you money for the silver and stuff…”

“And I live by the seat of my pants. Every dollar is counted out in advance to make it down here from Ward and give you your rings. No one will be able to see they are not perfect. And I will make them perfect as soon as you return them to me for the final adjustments, if any. There will not be a line, a crease, nothin’. Just completely smooth as it should be. Perfect. But this is how they are right now…and I need my money so I can buy gas and a radiator hose on Monday, before I go back up to my cabin.”

“All right,” Karla said. “I’ll go up to our room and get your money.”

“Thanks,” Cyn smiled like a rattler. “I really do appreciate.”

“We’ll give you back the rings right after the ceremony,” Karla didn’t smile back.

“How do they feel?” Cyn asked.

“Well, mine fits a little tight,” Karla said.

“Not a problem. I can fix that. Probably two centimeters ought to do it. And you?” looking at me.

“Well, mine is actually a little bit loose.”

“And I will tighten that up so it’s perfect. You’ll see. You know, buying rings forged from raw sterling silver formed into a band is actually not an easy thing to do. But it’s something that will remind you of how…”

“Just fix them…without the speech,” Karla said. She jumped up from her chair and pounded up the stairs to our room.

“What did I say?” Karla looked at me.

“Look, I think she had different expectations, like, they would be completely finished and fit just right,” I defended the wife-to-be almost reluctantly.

“And that is a reasonable expectation…after this the second fitting. I guess I should have explained that all to you. This is what it’s like when you make a band from raw silver…but I thought that’s what you guys wanted.”

“It is. Don’t mind her. Christ, she’s three months pregnant. Who knows what it is? Her parents aren’t going to be here, but my mom and grandmother are. We have to close our juice bar for a week to go on our honeymoon, which we can’t really afford. She always worries about money.”

“Well, everything is going to work out for you guys. And your rings are going to look fantastic…and last for a century, so…”

“Thanks,” touching the back of her hand.”

“Don’t mention it. You paid me to do it, so.”

Karla walked in and handed Cyn the money, forty dollars.

“Thanks. This will get me home.”

“I’m going to go back upstairs and lie down. I need to rest, feeling light headed and a little bit nauseous again,” Karla said, turning for the doorway.

“Sure,” I nodded. “Want me to come up? Rub your back?”

“No. You should enjoy your party. I mean you’re the man of the hour and all that.”

“Well, thanks. Feel better.”

With that she was, thankfully, gone—what a thought—leaving me alone, at last, with Cyn.

“You’re so patient,” she said, touching the back of my hand again.

She was a hands on person.

“Thanks,” I looked at her bottomless blues. Karla had blue eyes too, but hers were a cooler, lighter, icier color. Cyn’s were an hot blue. “She deserves it, my patience. I mean, she does the books and does half the work plus carrying our child and everything else.”

“You do a lot too, though,” squeezing my hand.

Her palms felt hotter than the Flatirons on an August afternoon. And I was digging their rough feel and the thought of her hands making our rings, fixing radiator hoses, and woman-handling my body. She was the same height as me but probably outweighed me. Most women did back then as I only managed 125 pounds soaking wet on a good day. But not a day in August. If I turned sideways, all you could see was hair, lips, and a penis, about all a woman really needs from a guy, right?

Jolene never returned with Cyn’s wine. What a surprise. Instead, I heard a tidal wave shift inside the hollering and clapping The guitarist had slipped into an East Indian Raga kind of riff, using open tuning, no doubt.

I got up and headed out into the living room. Cocking my head to Cyn, “Let’s check it out.”

Ordinarily, I would be taking, not giving orders to her. But hey, it’s my bachelor party, birthday party blow out, so she followed.

“You go little Jo.”

Well, I wasn’t surprised to see Jolene swirling around, trying not to spill a half-full glass of red wine, while dangling a cig from her lips.

I was amazed she could keep her balance, performing a step that looked half Greek belly dance and half Indian folk dance. Hey, I was a trained dancer, so…Maybe dancing was sobering her up. It has that effect on some people. Take me, for example..

Guitarist was just as adept at this Ravi Shankar thing as he was handling slow blues.

I belched up some Lasagna and pressed in closer to the action, no longer thinking about Cyn as I had been every second since she walked in.

Jolene saw me and smiled, did a twirl in my direction, her wine glass held aloft without spilling. She looked me in the eye as she handed me her wine and cigarette. “Here. Drink the wine. Hold the cig’ for me. I’ll need it in just a minute.”

And with that, she skip-stepped across the carpet. “Make some room,” she bellowed in her full, sexy voice.

A beat later, she was stepping out of her bright yellow harem pants.

Oh lord, what have I done to deserve all this and heaven too. Tanned and toned to a perfect T, Jolene practiced yoga back when only an handful of hippies in Boulder and Berkeley even really knew what that was.

I could pop a few postures, like shoulder stand, head stand, plus a plough. But what shocked me most wasn’t Jolene’s flat, adolescent-looking girl’s chest, or her even tan all over, but her love patch was completely gone!, and about the only part of her body not tanned, so it sort of shouted it’s white nakedness, “I’m here.”

I took a deep gulp of her red wine, as Jolene sat down in full lotus., leaned over, clasped hands behind her head, put her elbows down on the brown, low-shag carpet, and using her amazing belly and back muscles, pulled her legs in full lotus up off the rug till she poised in a full lotus head stand, her body forming a perfect right angle. And this meant we could all look directly down upon her lovely lips, full and brown like Cyn’s, but more subtly so.

“Give me my cigarette,” her other lips said, upside down, from down near the floor.

I started to reach down to place her good ol’ Marlborough Red hard pack cig’—75 cents a box—
into her mouth, when she snapped, “No. My other lips!”

“Oh?!”

Well, I must confess this is something I had never actually done before—insert the filter of a lit cigarette into the vagina of an American woman posed in full lotus head stand. Nonetheless, I did not hesitate or flinch. After all, this was still my birthday party bachelor party bash getting better by the minute. Joyfully, I gently twisted the filter of her burning cigarette into her slightly moistened, thank God, labia lips.

An instant later, her vagina contracted, coiling up inwardly. The crowd groaned, then gasped, then squealed as she exhaled from her vagina a small but respectable poof of smoke.

I downed the rest of her wine in one gulp.

Her vagina retreated and inhaled again. Yeah. A second, then a third exhale of smoke greeted our awe struck eyes. Jo had stolen the show. “Take the cigarette out please,” she said with her upside down lips inches from the floor.

Her vagina gave a little push as I carefully pulled the filter, half inch deep, from her brave trick pony.

Everyone applauded.

Oh my. The filter glistened with her wetness.

Seconds later, Jo’ was standing beside me, naked as a Jaybird in July. “Go ahead, take a drag,” she smirked, chest heaving from her yoga circus act.

I wrapped my lips around the moistened filter and took a deep, hot pull into my long distance runner lungs. I exhaled…the future.

The crowd cheered for more.

It was the best damn cigarette I have ever smoked in my life. Slightly acrid with a flavor and aroma like burnt poppies and urine on an hot summer day, I swooned.

Jolene got dressed, reversing her strip tease—tank top, harem pants, dressed. Did anyone wear underwear? Grannies and squares, I guess.

“Bravo,” Cyn said to Jolene, genuinely impressed. How could she not be.

“Look,” Jolene was emboldened by the wine and her trick pony taking over the crowd’s mind. “I know what you’re up to.”

“Huh. What is your problem?” Cyn pushed back hard and fast. “Why can’t you just go with the flow. Not everyone lives by your morals…or drinks and smokes as much as you do, sooo.”

“Karla is my friend. You hurt her, it hurts me. But if you two must, for Chris ‘sakes, at least find somewhere to do it other than right here under her roof. Okay. At least try to be a little bit cool about it.”

With that, Jo’ just walked away.

Cyn and I were both dumbstruck by Jolene’s speech. Was it really written that loud and clear all over our faces that we had to have each other before the night was through. Furthermore, Jolene’s performance had the opposite effect of cooling things down. Instead, it was like she had thrown gasoline on our fire.

I could see in Cyn’s eyes just as crystal clear as she could see in mine, we had to get down.

“Look, they’re having a huge party next door, too. Right?” Cyn offered. “Why don’t we just sneak over there and find somewhere to get into each other.”

I nodded, drunk on and obedient to our lust.

“That, I think, would be very cooperating and considerate…of Karla,” she rationalized.

“Oh yeah. Completely cooperating and considerate, I think. I mean what else can we do?”

A second later we were sliding into the wall-to-wall party next door. These were college squares with short hair and lots of beer, no pot, and nothing much interesting to say. Who cared. We found a place in the corner and started to make out. Fuck, it was hot. Forbidden. Nasty. I reached inside her jean jacket and caressed her breast, found her nipple, rolled it between my thumb and finger.

She moaned, stabbed her tongue down to my tonsils, rubbed the insane hard on taking up all the room I had left in my jeans, and crawling down my leg half way to Mexico.

“You’re so lonnngggggg.”

Yeah, and so long marriage ceremony. I wanted to run way to Mexico with Cyn. I wanted to run away and hide, forever, from the rest of my life and all the days of fatherhood and bills and taxes and playing by the rules.

She knew that. Got in my lap. She was rocking my cock like the queen of the rodeo. I swear, it was one of the top five dry humps of my life. She opened the metal buttons. Breasts in my face. Grabbed my hot ears. Pulled my head into her breasts.

I sucked and sucked like I hadn’t eaten anything in years, when in fact, I had probably been feasting on Karla’s swollen, pregnant breasts, sensitivity permitting, on a regular basis.

It was at this moment, that the truth of universal waters came splashing down upon us.
“Hey!” An angry looking collegiate dweeb yelled at us, his hand on Cyn’s shoulder. “This isn’t your party!”

Um, what was your first clue. My hair down to the middle of my back? Her unbelievable body and face like Ursula Andress? The fact we were both cool and not a couple of keg-drunk idiots in plaid shirts and square brown shoes?

“You guys have to go back to that stupid hippie party next door where you belong…and get out of my house.”

What could I say. Hard on in hand—and that was the other thing, I could barely walk and was clearly tripping over it on the way out the door, you pencil dicked loser—we stumbled out onto the front porch.

“Well, now what are we supposed to do,” Cyn buttoned up her breasts against the gathering chill.

It was pushing midnight and beyond. I had not a clue what to do.

Reality was starting to encroach on my dream of running away and joining the circus with Cyn.

“What about the cemetery,” I said, thinking of the old cemetery just a few clocks way. “No one’s going to be there. I could get a blanket, and…”

“Are you nuts?! I’m not going to go balling in a cemetery. That’s sick…even for me.”

“Well, um, I was just trying to come up with someplace.”

“What about your backyard?”

“Well, “ I scuffed, “it’s really all ripped up with my half assed garden.”

“Let’s just give it a little look, anyway.”

So, we pushed around the side of our house into the backyard. There were some people out there making out, smoking, drinking, laughing. We joined them.

I think we talked and kissed for three hours. My lips were numb. My balls were bluer than Lord Shiva’s throat, from holding in my poisonous semen.

Finally, when it became gravely apparent we weren’t going to screw, we surrendered to the inevitable tides of our separate futures and went back in.

Entering through the kitchen, where we had first sat down with Karla, and Cyn had showed her our rings, we shuffled on into the living room.

Karla was sitting there, a lot drunker than anyone ought to be in her condition, but, alas, it was only red wine, so.

“Well,” Karla slurred. “Did you fuck her?”

I simply shook my head.

Cyn collapsed on the burgundy velour sofa next to Karla.

“Thanks,” Karla said, turning her head to Cyn, “for not fucking him or taking him away from me on the night before our wedding.

“Sure,” Cyn said, a bit sarcastically. “But I have to say something. I mean, shouldn’t we just let him decide.”

“You’re right,” Karla said, tears turning to steely resolve in an icy instant. “Let’s just show him, right now, side by side. You pull your pants down, I lift my skirt.”

“Okay, why not, girl. I like your style,” Cyn said, gladly accepting the challenge.

“After all, “Karla said, “it’s the vagina he will be spending the rest of his life with, soo…”

“So right, again, lady. Wow,” Cyn smiled, undoing her belt, unbuttoning, unzipping, and quickly pushing her pants over her ankles.

Wow. No underwear on that girl either.

Cyn sat closed legged on the couch waiting for Karla’s signal.

Like two gunslingers waiting for the sign, I took the cue. “On my count of three, you will both open your legs wide as can be and show me what you got! One, two, three…”

And the gates parted for me. I drew myself closer, sitting on the floor, creeping in for a good look on my hands and knees, so that I could also get a little whiff of these vagina slinging ladies and their sharp shooting pistolas.

First, I have to say, Cyn’s legs were like a religious experience, especially her thighs. And her ass was also holier than fuck. But we were solely focused on the jewel between their thighs.

And I had to admit that the vagina I had already known countless times and impregnated with my seed only three months ago, on May 10th, according to Karla’s gyno’, yes, with her tantalizing fine blonde hair and delicate pouty little lips weeping a clear glistening, greeting my glad face, hers was of a superior appearance and aroma, compared to Cyn’s leather brown labia like an old saddle built for a bucking horse, and coarsest, darker brown pubic hair stiff as dry straw. And I detected a bit of that same slightly bitter, sort of like urine and burnt flowers odor that greeted me from Jolene’s wetness on her cigarette filter. And though I was not offended by this odor, I also did not find it attractive.

It was then I simply nodded in the direction of Karla.

“Well, of course you’re going to pick hers; you almost have to,” Cyn shrugged, got up, got dressed, and headed back outside, maybe to find someone else she could hunt down.

“Do you really mean it,” Karla said, a tear staining her cheeks rosy with wine, heat, desire, and the hormones of pregnancy. She really had a good, firm, pleasing round cheek. And one of the more delightful vaginas I have ever known.

the wedding 8-10-75

I jumped up on the sofa and threw my arm around her. She lay her head on my shoulder.

It’s all about choice—that one word. Later, a writer would compose a long passage in a book not yet published all about the word CHOICE—the single word on the side of a non-filter Camel cigarette pack, which I smoked back then.

You choose to love or be afraid. You choose this and it takes you there; you choose something else and it takes you somewhere else…and on and on…till your children and their children have grown and you face your final choice—to leave this movie, this dream. And you are barely remembered more than a sentence in a book inside of many turned pages.

After awhile, you hear that voice say, The dream is over. Do you want another?

All that and more in a drunken moment more sober than I’ve ever been, their vaginas whispered to me, their shimmering tongues issuing forth the universal waters of all mankind.

The First Night Of The World

The skeletal moon clings to its last vestiges, falling into the days-end clouds, wearing their arcane purple skirts.

We walk into the forest together, banging our deerskin drums.

We belong to the night. We are its light.

Nothing could sound freer than our steps in unison, our hands slapping soft, stretched skins on the off-beat in between. When you are a part of a whole, voluntary and useful, and the whole believes as one forest, one moon, one round earth, one starry night above, then there is nothing more or less. True strength in number, whether it’s three, three hundred, three thousand or more.

I don’t count out my years on a calendar. There are no birthdays. Age is not a question. I don’t count my wealth—pebbles in my pockets—or how many rows of crops or containers of dry grain I have today. I am worth one of me as part of one of us—a part of a greater whole expanding outward forever. What is personal wealth. Why would that matter?

I am not man or woman. I am attracted to the ones opposite of me. My kind are softer and can make life grow. There are some who make homes with their own kind. We don’t have a word for this or judgment because it has never harmed anyone.

There’s nothing I’m supposed to do or cannot do because of my kind as life creator. Each according to their own plan made in the hollow of an old one’s knee in the month when its leaves are small, tender and pale as a newborn.

It is that time, that moon as we push into the dark without any fear. We are the light. Our hearts form an iridescent web of sticky green vapor, that same color as new leaves on an old tree that we can see as well as feel with our other eye deep within. We are sharing this thought—energy. There is also a greater vision from our people and the earth itself humming through us together and individually. One of us may hear it louder, clearer, and thought-speak that voice-plan-intention to the rest of us tonight. It is a good night of clouds opening and clearing after strong rains when the moon is giving glimpse of its next fattening.

This is the time of awakenings to the strange and powerful birthings of the deeper energy all around us. With the power of the group, we step into it, as our hands slap the skins on the off-beat, walking into the darkness we own and illuminate.

Our collective thought creates the structures around us. There is no fear of a trip, a fall, or a hole, a rock, a branch, a log, or anything that could cause stumbling pain or discomfort. We see-feel and shift the reality together with melded energy of one belief, one sky, one moon, one of us, one life, one journey, all connected but each one its own.

After we have gone as deep into the forest as we have been instructed by our shared energy-vision, we emerge sometime later. A few will spend the night with their tree, their log, their animal, or whatever has shared its wisdom with them.

In the meadow we will light the great fire, soaked in oils and fat, built up gradually over the course of the previous days. Some will dance and sing their freshly divine instruction. Others will lie near the fire and follow dreams in the flames dancing higher, touching the stars. Others will make warm together and a new life will be created under these new stars. But those are all just some possibilities. There are more that have rarely happened or never happened before.

We call it the first night of the world. We belong to the night. It is our release of the half-year journey under, when night is longer than day. Now comes the long, warm and fragrant days. Of course we welcome them. But we do not forget or condemn the dark, the cold, the stars and what they have taught us. We celebrate this passing from under into over, dark into light that never ceases, but goes round and round, each one giving birth to the other. We too are made that way. Light/Dark.

There’s stuff from the stars in our veins, bones, and hair. Our pupils are black, but they open and close to receive the light. Our senses beyond the five have learned to see what they see in the dark, and are blinded by the strong, insistent light of the moons to come.

I see music better with my eyes closed. I am seeing that music now. It started on our walk and is getting louder, fanned by the fire.

I will jump up and begin singing it. I have a good voice made to sing. I have not created life on my walk, so I have more of me left over to make songs and give them words. Play them with my many flutes. I take the plants at this time to keep life outside me, not building anew within me. This is my way. To each their own as part of what is needed by the whole, spoken to us all, one at a time on the first night of the world.

I would love to get up and sing it now for you as the flames reach their highest and hungrily eat the stars.

On Any Day Of The Universe

Epilogue One

an excerpt From The Case Of The Black Pearl Necklace

Picking tea, just the tips release this fragrance. Some too ripe, some too green, my fingers fly over these crowns–bowing before them in the sweet morning sun–like bees. Busy, I am, and insistent, serving a queen. Heat is rising, sticking to me and the sarong. Fresh white I wear each day, clinging under my arms, this hinders work, dropping tea into a burlap sack. My Monk’s bag, I call it, though I can never be that, working off my sentence, serving my time. But that was the way I saw things the first two months, or so, I was treading well-worn rows on a steep hillside. Now in majestic August, I’m simply here. Awake. Awakening, I pick tea.

There’s no getting off an island—Sri Lanka—without a boat or a plane. I have neither and no money. No future or past, I cashed it all in. Today she’s getting married. Not about love or passion, this has been arranged. But love and passion must also serve God. Used sparingly. A spice, hot curry, not the everyday flavor, lest one forget . . . Passion is a path to God, the same and completely different from any other.

How can I judge her or a culture that declines passion in favor of practical. Less wars are fought this way. But there’s still suffering.

She is pleased to support her family’s and his family’s honor and fortune, and for her marriage to add to both. Against this backdrop, passion isn’t forbidden, but one shouldn’t handle the cobra unless one is willing to die from its bite. Passion is an elixir of God few can assimilate, allowing transcendent emotion to pour through the body conduit, replenishing and commanding every sense, nerve, cell towards God. Instead, the passionate one projects this ecstasy onto the other, holds them responsible, retreating together to their island of paradisaical love. Or, seeing this folly, the passionate one uses the power to glorify and exalt their vanity and pride, justifying every act of killing, taking, destroying.

I forget, mostly, what I was passionate about, and pursued in her name, destroying you or me. My last passionate act was finding and delivering the necklace here where she belongs. And so, there’s a wedding tomorrow at sunrise. The date is also my birthday, August 18th. I will stand behind and between them holding the necklace in a piece of white silk. He will take it from me, put it around her throat in re-enactment of Lord Shiva marrying Parvati….the wedding always divined for this date. It wasn’t changed to honor the one who returned the necklace, holding the Vedic science code for peace—transcending suffering. I was merely doing my duty, from start to finish. And the hardest part was to abandon all fear and desire for the result. The fruit is this….I am here. This is my reward. Or, I can reverse it and call this my punishment. I can stay here for as long or as little as I like.

I cook. I pick tea. I write in notebooks. They brought me a saxophone in Hong Kong, and I play it to the amusement of all. Master has barely begun to show me ways to transcend in posture and breath. I learn to skip over myself, too young and too old to be picked. Both and neither…black nor white, rich nor poor, day or night, past or future.

There is a sound she makes when the sun strikes her on the throat of silent generations, doing their part, passing along their piece and her peace to the next one. A million flutes playing the same note in a million octaves, I was crying before I realized her tears were dripping into my mouth.

And then

Nectar

It is that

Sudden

Falling from a million
worlds above and beyond
this

one

bead

of sugar

that all sweet tastes come from

returns to

annihilating every thought

each cell succored

AWAKE

reborn

Was this payment enough. No. Overpaid. My debt runs into millions.

But I have quick, adept fingers, from playing my flute.

And many mornings remain to fill the bottomless sack.

The Case of the Black Pearl Necklace

Chapter 18 A/B

post auction, leaving for Hong Kong (Up In The Air)

There’s more pigs in China than the rest of the world combined. But there’s only one I’m after—Mr. Skin in Hong Kong—the King Pig of the China skin trade.

After Cartwright corralled me and bored me to tears with his tough guy interrogation, I found out from Laura that her former employer won back the Black Pearl Necklace. Hiding her slender form behind some security goons, she carefully observed the proceedings, and described Big Ben’s auction as fixed.

I am so surprised.

Meanwhile, Brent’s deader than a day-old donut (my favorites ‘cause they’re free!), yet we didn’t blink twice. We were headed back to Hong Kong to re-steal the Black Pearl Necklace. Under Laura’s spell, or serving the secret design of the centuries-old necklace? Either way, everything was unfolding like a dream. If the going got too rough, all I had to do was wake up. Right?!

Brent’s dad was a retired Marine colonel. Laura had spoken to him before—as her alter, Gabriella—and formed a delicate toehold she now exploited. She told, Gary, Brent’s bull dog dad that I had witnessed the ninja-like agents, probably sent in by Mr. Skin to secure the necklace, or tell them where it was. Furthermore, it was north of likely that Brent immediately fought back, former Army Ranger Delta Force that he was, as there was no way the kidnap/hit squad would have killed him quicker than a cat.

“We’re hot on the Hong Kong crime lord’s tail,” Laura, as Gabriella, poured her delectable self into the phone. “I’ve got help—a top flight detective who specializes in these kinds of things, and has experience in Hong Kong.”

I practically blushed. Aww.

Gary told her he would help finance our mission. He had a contact in Singapore who did off-book work for the company. We had to agree to work with him and sign off on Gary’s terms. His guy, John, would be the equivalent of Gary being on the ground there. John would handle wet work. We would recover the necklace. Using John’s connections, not ours, the necklace would be fenced and split right down the middle. My share came out of Gabriella’s half. We were already into Gary for about five grand for the Cathay Pacific first class tickets, all that we could get last minute. Mr. Skin had his own jet, so…

Of course, she agreed to all of it. We couldn’t get to Hong Kong on her looks alone. I knew the girl was really out for herself. She could manipulate any guy—even the father of the now-deceased guy she was sort of dating, or using to steal a priceless necklace form a crime lord. Chance are, Old John had never seen a piece of work like Laura. Furthermore, her intimate knowledge of Mr. Skin and the booming skin trade in Hong Kong was, in all likelihood, greater than Gary’s man, John.

All of this suited me fine. I was accustomed to being the one you grossly underestimated. The only thing that bothered me was I would be missing out on Bond’s pursuit of The Record in my own backyard.

Oh well. Duty called.

Once we reacquired the necklace, we would play along with Gary’s plan. And head for the hills. I would pretend to be on Laura’s side for the sake of my own greed or the love of her smoldering brown eyes.

She had no idea I was commanded by the object she most coveted itself.

We’d have passports, disposable phones, surveillance equipment, accommodations and more once we were on the ground in Hong Kong.

We were flying commercial—Gary was too far gone from service to arrange any kind of military transport—so Laura got to work on our disguises. We would use one identity to fly into China, and another once we hooked up with the retired Secret Service Agent, John.

It was all too exciting for words. The safe sane choice of quitting while I was still in one piece never occurred to me.

As we boarded Cathay Pacific, and snuggled into our first class seats, I relished our new roles, even though we would abandon them shortly after we touched down well into tomorrow in Hong Kong. I was a serious American engineer and builder, specializing in high rise, of course, Allen Wright. I wore an Armani, conservative gray, to match my salt and pepper wig and even saltier goatee pressed around my mouth like a bird’s nest.

Laura, who had aspired to the Beverly Acting Academy, made all the right phone calls to make it happen. Using the cash Gary wired us, over two bricks-worth!, she had hair and wardrobe people running in circles for us. Laura was acting as my personal secretary, using her leftover identity she had first sprung on me—Laura Nicholl. The first name was real, I had found out from Brent before he punched his ticket to the Big Mystery, and the last one, well, who knows. Point was, Mr. Skin knew her as Gabriella, so . . .

We settled into our seat, Laura blowing my mind with her blonde, flowing wig, thick as a mop head, caramel skin, and spidery, frameless designer glasses. Her charcoal gray suit was all business—except in the places where it was not.

It seemed like we hadn’t really talked in ages. When was there time! Now we’d have nothing but time. For the next fourteen hours we’d be up in the air. But who wanted to talk, as I slid my hand over her nude pantyhose thigh and tried to get high.

“Al! You’re supposed to be my boss,” pushing my hand away.

“So, I’m abusing my power.”

“Really,” looking out her window to the right.

“I mean, who are you going to report me to? My own company?”

“I’m your only company, buddy,” she smiled, “and the only one who would even want your sorry company,” she laughed.

“I’ll say,” looking back down the aisle towards the service and bathroom area. “You just like me as another body to stop bullets meant for you.”

“You’re to skinny to stop any bullets, but too slow to get out of the way,” she nudged me.

“I’m a trained martial artist. Aikido, courtesy of Jimmy Chu, the teacher, not the shoe.”

“And I’ve been nominated for an Academy Award,” she dripped sarcastically.

“I believe that—best performance by a femme fatale taking advantage of a broken-down detective.”

“You let me take advantage. Should have seen me coming for miles,” she nudged again.

“I was too desperate.”

“You want to go back to your hotel office, look at skin mags, drink Greek coffee, and eat day-old donuts? “ she went for the kill.

“Those were the days.”

Stewardess leaned in. “Please fasten your seatbelts.” Her name tag, Kirsten, sort of clashed with her Eurasian looks. Maybe half Japanese, but all American in her speech and demeanor.

We buckled up.

Laura continued throwing raw meat at her toothless Lion. “You know that was counterfeit I was feeding you?”

“Um, yeah. I am a private detective, you know. Licensed in the State of California and everything,” I quipped, as the plane started to taxi towards its queue on the runway.

“But you don’t have a gun, do you?” she said, suddenly grabbing me right where it counted the most.

“No,” nonchalant. “But I used to have a Conn.”

“Huh?”

“’64 Conn alto sax. Didn’t make it to the Silvergate pawn shop to keep her in on account of I was getting screwed by you for the very first time, “ I lied for some strange reason.

“Hey, don’t blame me for your heroin habit,” hot in my ear as she pulled her hand out of my lap.

The sudden draft of cool air on my privates made me shiver. She brings the heat all right. “All right. I won’t.”

“Speaking of which, I hope you didn’t spend the bad cash on anything but H?”

“I didn’t, except for some Nat’s, food cart Gyros, and bus fare.”

“Good boy,” squeezing my thigh. “Are you high now?”

“Just on you.”

As we reached the runway, we could hear the tower clearing our captain, as the cockpit door on the stylish 777 was popped open. “Cathay Pacific, you are clear for take off. Have a nice day.”

The twin engines growled to life, forcing the huge tires to gobble up runway faster and faster, while the extra Gs made me heavy out. The weight felt like heaven. I’d been floating around, looking for somewhere to land ever since Laura walked though my door.

A second later, we lifted off the runway and my fate jumped up in my throat. I’ve always liked the raw power of take off. Not this time. I didn’t know what the Black Pearl Necklace had planned. But I had a strong suspicion its fate really didn’t care if I lived or died.

*

Somewhere over the Pacific, about halfway to China, my mind really caught up with me. All this time it never occurred to me I was a criminal wanna-be just waiting for my set-up man. A Boss. You know, a real honest to god criminal to use me proper, tell me what to do, giving me just enough pieces of the Big Picture to keep me going. I suspected this all along, but dared not unwrap this package because of what was inside. No Big Boss man would ever have anything to do with a loser like me. They would have to look beneath the surface of my obvious failures, and peer into my glorious potential.

“Why, he’s not hapless and inept after all,” they would conclude. “He’s just unlucky. Goes left when he ought to go right. He has talent. It just needs to be directed.”

Yeah. That is what they might see in me. And then, finally, I would have a Big Boss, a set-up man to use me and all my cleverness, lying fallow, to achieve their lofty criminal goal—stealing back the Black Pearl Necklace from one of the nastiest crime lords in Hong Kong.

At long last my set-up man had found me. And he was a she. Laura. She could send out sex signals like a TV broadcast. But that wasn’t why I was with her. It was a question of control and all my denial about that.

You see, we all start out thinking we can control it. The H. And Laura’s hold on me was no different than any other drug.

With H., I started off slow, like any addict, chipping away at my soul like a rat gnawing through an old rubber natural gas line. Little by little, though, the Black Pearl Necklace was taking the place of H. and performing its noble duties, like, how I needed it to get out of bed before noon, and to even bother with shaving. Let alone eating.

At first I tricked myself into thinking, Laura was my new high. Right? I’m chasing after the necklace for her. I knew that was nothing but a pant load. Still, I kept that story going in my head untill half way across the Pacific to Hong Kong, with no soft, bosomy pillow of H. in my veins for nearly 48 hours. And there was no withdrawal. Now, it could have been I was still chippy. But a long-term user like me always goes through some withdrawal after a few good spoonfuls. I was way over that line.

I had to consider with the utmost caution, fear, gratitude and awe—The Black Pearl Necklace was the fix and the cure. And I was her man who would do anything to lay hands on her.

Of course, unlike H., she would never ask me to do anything against nature, mine or hers. I would have to overcome myself and transcend my pathetic tragedy.

She assured me I was made for this job…

There was a bar down in the Tenderloin where I used to get filthy drunk called The Angle. Later, they changed its name to the Roxy Grill. No remodel, just a new sign done in Pepto dismal pink hanging out front. The place attracted a few gays looking for rough trade, but mostly it was the same lot who clutched their sad change like it’s the only thing they got left in the world. Guys like Bart Train Josh, whose name just got abbreviated to Train, who was actually a little guy who did his hustle under the bay on the Bart—picking wallets and picking up girls. He was good at both. Train and I would wonder out loud how the bartenders ever made any tips—for a half a second.

I was mostly there to sell, or to trade cash or drugs for cash or drugs.

Same as Train. I guess we figured the bartenders got tipped in drugs, or got their drugs at wholesale, and that sustained them at the Roxy Grill.

Of course, there’s no grill there and no food save the usual chips and pretzels, peanuts and pickled eggs, so why they added the word Grill is beyond me. Maybe they planned a remodel when they changed the name. But when they saw the same sad lot line up and down the bar like cows waiting to be slaughtered, they decided what’s the point.

Yeah. It was like that—a place for people who wore the question, What’s the point?, on their faces every damn day of their lives. People like me and Train.

And why would a priceless heirloom necklace want someone like that to get her back?

So, a lot of us non-gay types still called it The Angle because that’s what it was. Bar was built just after the Big One on an angle corner where the diagonal intersected the regular parallel streets, so it had a distorted but discernable tri-angle shape to it. Hence the name. Not going to tell exactly where because it was sort of my hide-out, and getaway for lot of others like Train. So, those of you who know the city can probably figure it out.

I liked to get drunk early on in the evening, when I wasn’t getting high, then stumble over to Ronnie’s after midnight to sober up on black coffee and eggs. Musicians would start dropping by after one a.m., or so. Hey, gigging is hard work .

Even though my band only got a handful of gigs in its six-months-long hey day, I still had a toe hold with some of these guys. Yeah. I blew alto with a garage rock band. We even had an E.P. out on vinyl, no less.

“Hey, man, you still got that sweet Conn?”

“Hell yeah,” I’d lie. Even though I was just driving cab, or a lousy bouncer at a strip club, or very occasionally a working P.I., I had some small standing with real musicians at Ronnie’s.

Maybe that’s what she saw in me? That ability to blend in and make a go of it, play a hand, push a hand, holding nothing but rags.

“James,” she assured me, “You were made for this job.”

“Really?”

“I’ve had my eye on you, grooming you. I knew this day would come. . . again. So, how are you going to get me back once we land in my favorite city in all of the far East?”

“Well, that’s easy peasy Japaneasy. First, Laura’s got to lure Mr. Skin out to a very public place. Then I go in and pretend to myself that I’m trying to make him for his stash, you know, like I’m jonesing and I’m trying to find his junk. Meanwhile, Laura’s playing the bad girl who wanted to come back and prove her worth to him. Of course, he’s planning on decapitating her with his favorite sword as soon as he gets her alone. No matter, me and the secret agent, John, will connive our way in and fight our way out with Mr. Skin’s prized stash—The Black Pearl Necklace.”

“Excellent, James. You see now why I’ve been taking away the things and people you have loved so you would love only me. And get me back to the rightful stewards of my secret beauty…”

“Yes, but—“

“James, I have to tell you, because you look a little sideways green, and you’ve been drinking Irish whiskey like a fish . . . so your stewardess has not bothered to inform you . . .”

“What!”

“They have French Pastry on this non-stop flight.”

“No!”

“Yes. That’s why I picked it for you. And they have…”

“No, they couldn’t.”

“Oh they do. They have–”

“Éclairs!”

“Profiteroles.”

“Chocolate éclairs!”

“Oui, oui.”

“I have actually died and gone to heaven?”

“Maybe, but when you wake up, go ahead and ask the stewardess. You’ll see . . . that they have plain croissant with French strawberry preserves, and almond croissant with real Marzipan filling, not some cheap custard . . .”

“I actually have died and gone to heaven.”

“”Well, James, we’re working on the heaven part. Kidding. And, last but not least, they have ham and Gruyere croissants.”

“No way.”

“With some strong black coffee . . .”

“I’ve got wood.”

“Down boy.”

“You’re just leading me on.”

“Of course I am. I want you to find me and return me to the family that has been my caretakers for over ten generations.”

“All that pastry is right here on this flight?”

“Yes. Oh, and John’s here, too. Colonel got him onboard last minute.”

“Thought he said John was already there in Singapore.”

“Well, gee, uh, he lied, James. Do not tell John about me, or Laura either, for that matter. Eventually, you can persuade John to help you get me back to my home. His job is mostly to bring swift and terrible justice to Mr. Skin.”

“So, he is like Arjuna?”

“Yes, James. You are really getting good at this!”

“And me. What about me? Who am I!
“Who am I”

“Al?”

I woke up to the beautiful face I followed no more, calling me by the wrong name . . . always a bad omen.

“You must have been having a dream,” Laura said, glancing around for the unseen audience. “You’ve been mumbling in your sleep something fierce for the last hour.”

Stewardess leaned in. “Sir, can I interest you in some coffee?”

“Yes. Please,” I practically begged.

“Straight away.”

As she turned to walk back to her station, I stopped her. “I heard tell you have French Pastry on this flight,” I almost demanded, like I was accusing her of something.

She smiled. “You heard right. Baked special for this non-stop flight by the finest French Bakery in San Francisco.”

“No way.”

“Oh, very much way.”

“Do you have ham and Gruyere croissants?”

“Of course. La special de la maison. I think we might even have one or two left. It’s only for first, and, as you can see, we didn’t’ sell out first today, so . . .”

“I’ll start with those. Then, what about almond croissant?”

“Absolutely positive we have some of those left, made with real Marzipan. And plain or chocolate croissant, plus—“

“No. You don’t have—“

“Éclairs?”

“Yes,” I shouted.

“We do,” she shouted back.

“I swear, I was practically dreaming about it,” I salivated

“Well, let me get your coffee right away. We’ll go from there,” she finally turned down the aisle to her station in between first and coach.

“Such an appetite for my big strong architect,” Laura cooed

Ignoring her overture, “So, I have figured some things out.”

“Do tell,” leaning in.

“You’ve got to get Mr. Skin out into a bright, sunny public place, using your charm, feigning a thousand apologies routine, i.e., Brent forced you into it, etc. Then, using your map, so to speak, John and I will sneak in, Ninja-like, re-acquire the necklace—”

“You mean my necklace,” she cut in.

“And then fight our way out, while you keep Mr. Skin and his top man very pre-occupied.”

“Like a Trojan Horse thing,” she smiled.

“Exactly.”

“And I’m the Trojan.”

“You got it. And one more thing,” as Kirsten set my coffee down. I refused the cream and sugar on her tray, smiled, “Thank you,” and continued. “My gut says your dad’s Arjuna is on this plane.”

“Huh,” her eyebrow arched in that adorable way that made me want to do almost anything for her.

“John, your dad’s man, he’s on this plane with us.”

“When did you get all detectivey,” she beamed.

“Since I kicked 49 hours ago,” glancing at my Danish watch my mother gave me for my fortieth birthday. It was the only thing ofany value I had never pawned.

“And you’re okay?” She was genuinely concerned. Probably for her sake more than mine, but who cared.

“I was only chipping.”

She cocked her eyebrow again.

“Honestly, I feel like I could fly us to the moon, or Hong Kong, on my energy alone.”

Kirsten set a small plate covered by an ham and Gruyere croissant down in front of me. She had just barely heated it up.

Nice touch, I thought to myself. The drool practically dripped from my lips as I looked up. “Thank you.”

A bit of the paper-thin, salty sliced ham was oozing its way out of the puff pastry.

I swear it looked just like the river Pearl by night.my mona lisa nero gray scale

Indiana Here I Come

young pioneers 002 nero FXIn a dream, the local aliens came a calling on an early summer eve at dusk. There was a golden light in the air, or it could have been the glow emanating from its giant bulb head. The light-bulb-being had to be eight feet tall. I was going to invite him and his little alien buddy inside —he had a companion who was as short as he was tall and looked like a regular alien you would see in a Spielberg movie, or at an X-Files convention—when the giant alien simply turned his back and stood that way before my quivering screen door. (This, I realized later, was a decidedly Spielberg, or his disciple, J J Abrams, type of effect.)

He then began communicating with me without speaking. His back was turned to display his gross displeasure with me over some insubordinate behavior of mine, I gathered from his alien telepathy. And, as a result, I was not going to enjoy any further contact with him.

Wow. I was so not hurt and over his superior attitude it was not even funny, I thought sarcastically. He was not able to think sarcastically, so, I knew this would get under his weird, luminous skin. I had an alien device on top of my ranch home roof which simply looked like one of those satellite TV antennas (I just spelled both satellite and antenna on the first try, so, who needs your alien advantage anyway).

I thought back at him. “Go ahead, take my rooftop alien technology. I couldn’t care less.”

An instant later, he and his five foot friend jumped off my front porch.

I thought hard at him. “No, I am not going to get you my ladder out of my garage, so…”

Actually, before I could finish my transmission, he bent a bush over till it was inclining into the side of the house, and began walking up the bush and on to the roof like the supreme being that he was.

I heard him up there stomping around, and then removing my alien technology.

He then jumped off the roof, and was gone faster than a flying saucer.

Later, I was explaining to my dance instructor that I had to travel to Indiana to get an endorsement from a collegiate athlete who was guaranteed to turn pro. This would (somehow) offset the loss of my alien rooftop technology. She seemed completely unfazed by my remarks.

I told her I had never stepped foot in the state of Indiana. She agreed that neither had she.

In waking life, I know for a fact that this is completely untrue. Both she and I have ventured into Indiana before, though not in a very long time for myself.

So upon waking, the state of Indiana must actually refer to some state of being, or consciousness, or awareness that I was going to travel into for the first time.

Back to my dream, once I had the amateur athlete’s endorsement, I would be able to access all the cable TV shows that I could no longer get as a result of losing my rooftop alien technology.

It was a small progression, and only a beginning, but I was confident I would recover everything I had lost. I felt like I no longer needed the little boost from the alien device to access the satellites and beyond. I was going to download their message with my own mind as soon as I got the athlete’s endorsement.

Indiana here I come

JFK Died For Your Sins

(50 Years after the dream ended in Dallas…)

Keep the starving poor away from us. Don’t let us see them. Don’t fund the schools for their children. Don’t give them our insurance—the kind that will actually care for their medical needs.

Put them on an island in the middle of the United States—an island of denial where TV and Internet eyes are forbidden to report. We don’t want to see them at all.

Fund the police more to drive them into submission, camps, corrals, silent stupor, where we can smugly label them: drug addicts, drunks, crazy, lazy—they brought it on themselves—and tune them out.

Give me the safety of, “The Hunger Games,” not the reality of their hunger. They get blankets, soup kitchens, and tooth brushes trickled down upon them by the overwhelming care of concerned citizens everywhere.

Now leave me alone. I’ve got a little squeak in my Maserati’s brakes. Are the Caymans where my friends are going this winter? Should I get my eyelift this year, or wait?

Why are we so afraid of and fascinated by zombies? Well, quite frankly, the dead outnumber the living by over 15 to 1. Hmm, pretty scary odds.

Similarly, why are the rich so afraid of yet fascinated with (controlling) the poor? Um, see above ratio . . . and then some.

How can so many be hidden away from view? . . . like millions of poor prisoners in the concentration camps of America, it’s easy to deny anything unpleasant. How else could Joseph Stalin have sent 20 million Russians to their deaths during World War Two. Hey, life is cheap . . . vote for happiness 003on sale at Wal-Mart, made in China, only $2.99.

So you see why our corporations, Hollywood, media, schools, insurance companies, medical providers, and even organized religions all blatantly or secretly worship the time honored concept that only the rich deserve to live. Ask the slaves who built the Pyramids, or the poor boys buried deep in the fields of Flanders. From Hiroshima to Fukushima, only the poor will pay for the sins of their emperors.

We want to see no, hear no, speak no evil. And we don’t want you to see it either.

There are no poets among the politicians or generals. At least, not anymore. So, go out and celebrate the golden anniversary of this national CIA Coup d’état Day. You’ve earned it. JFK died for your sins.