Down the Hall on Your Left

This site is a blog about what has been coasting through my consciousness lately. The things I post will be reflections that I see of the world around me. You may not agree with me or like what I say. In either case – you’ll get over it and I can live with it if it makes you unhappy. Please feel free to leave comments if you wish . All postings are: copyright 2014 – 2019

Archive for the month “July, 2018”

It’s In The Bag

 

LET’S SEE – SOCKS: TWO PER DAY. Nicey-Niceys: One per day barring unforeseen circumstances. Hawaiian shirts: One per day with extras for any formal occasions that might pop up. Pants. That should cover it. Boots and metal-free cheap airport friendly travel shoes are a given.

I travel light. If I do it right my suitcase will weigh about six pounds. My Carry-on might come in at seventy pounds, but the main bag will be like a feather.

Point of Order! Point of Order!

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In The Good Old Summertime

 

IT MAY BE MID-SUMMER AND WE ARE MORE THAN HALFWAY THROUGH THE YEAR. But it’s no big deal. It just makes things a little herky-jerky for the world. Not the whole world.

Actually, it’s only me.

The midpoint of summer comes around the end of July, early August. But the real midpoint, astronomically, is at the start of summer – since then the hours of sunlight get shorter by a few minutes each day. That is not a good sign.

In Baseball, the All Star Game is considered the halfway point of the season. It’s not. That came with Game #81 which was played a couple of weeks ago.

It’s like telling a person who is 55 years old that they are “Middle Aged.” Sure they are – if they have plans of making it to 110 candles on their cake.

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Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” Part Twenty – Eight

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” Part Twenty – Eight

At least the sun was shining and the winds were warm, out of the East, down from the Sierras. The fog was pushed out to sea hiding the offshore Farralon Islands from view. It made San Francisco seem like it was a part of the popular image of a Sunny California.

Luco wasn’t scheduled for release from the hospital for another three days, but he was raising such Holy Hell and threatening to crawl out of the place on his hands and knees that the medical staff voted to give him an early trip home.

“Mr. Reyes, as your doctor I must advise you to give us a couple more days to make sure that your internal injuries are on a healing track. But… as a member of the human race and someone who has to be around you all day I’d just as soon kick you down the stairs. Of course, I’d have to take a number and wait in line for the privilege.”

“Doc, I don’t mean to be trouble, but I hate it here. I’m feeling OK and I want to go home.”

The young doctor, who looked like he was there earning a merit badge, drummed his fingers on the side rail of Luco’s bed.

“Mr. Reyes, you may feel alright, but you’re not. Frankly, you’re lucky to be alive. If I sent you home alone you might end up dead on your bathroom floor before sundown. Of course, if I don’t let you leave, you might succumb to the night nursing staff.”

“I’ve been that much of a pain?” said Luco. He winced as he shifted his weight trying to get comfortable. Looking in the doctor’s eyes, Luco saw a mixture of professional concern and a weighing of the odds with a jury of his peers.

“Pain?”said the young man in the white lab coat. “Mr. Reyes, there was talk of starting a pool to predict which shift would report your sudden and unfortunate death. I’ve been here six years and I’ve never seen a grown man behave in such an immature and irritating manner.”

Luco blushed. He had never been a “good patient.” Even as a child being home sick from school could drive his mother to tears.

“Doc, I’m really sorry if I’ve been difficult. Do you think I should go and apologize to everyone?”

“No, Mr. Reyes, I couldn’t guarantee your safety. I think it best if I just sign your release and get you out of here. Who can tend to you when you get home?”

“I’ll take care of him, Doctor.”

Both men turned their gaze toward the doorway. There stood Marlee, dressed in tan shorts and a striped tank top. A large straw hat and matching bag completed the look.

***

“Oh, Jesus God, why didn’t you just leave me there to die?”

“I told you those steps would be rough, Luco.”

Marlee helped Luco ease himself down onto the sofa.

“Rough I could handle, but those last few steps…. I thought I was going to split open like a ripe watermelon.”

That’s why the doctors wanted to keep you a few more days.” Marlee spread a light throw over his legs. He had his head back, with his arm crossed over his eyes. “Inside, you’re still hamburger according to one of the Interns.”

“I feel like hamburger.” His eyes were closed.

The short ride home and the climb up the 18 steps from Stanyan Street had exhausted Luco’s body and drained his reserve of mental toughness. He fell asleep within seconds.

Luco had maintained that the vehicle that cracked and crushed his body had been steered with malicious intent. There had been no eyewitnesses. The people in the coffeehouse had nothing helpful to add.

The official police report concluded that it could come to no conclusion. There were no unusual skidmarks on the pavement. The intersection of Cole and Waller was busy during the day with diesel buses and tourist’s rental cars. Collisions and skidmarks were not uncommon. When the investigators looked at the scene they just shook their heads. The intersection looked like every other intersection in the city, except for the broken glass and the blood.

Marlee sat down at Luco’s desk and stared out the window. The grassy slopes of Golden Gate Park were still damp from the morning fog as it retreated offshore. The sunlight sparkled off the grass and made the world look clean and inviting.

She turned away from the window and looked at Luco’s sleeping form on the old hotel sofa. With his short hair and relaxed features he looked like a small boy napping. One part of her wanted to take him in her arms and rock him, nurturing, caring, protecting. Another part was coming to accept that she wanted to be held in his arms.

***

Marlee walked down Haight Street after getting Luco settled in and safe. The bright morning sun was shadowed by conflicting emotions. She and Pete from the cafe had arranged for a home healthcare staff to tend to Luco until he was farther along in his recovery.

She was comforted just knowing that he was alive and going to survive his injuries, but she was still scared for him. Luco was so sure that the driver of the van had hit him intentionally. The blend of relief and fear was exhausting. She hadn’t been able to sleep the night before. It was catching up with her now. A good solid week’s worth of deep, comforting, sleep would be good, but she needed to be back at Luco’s apartment. Five hours would have to do.

She made a short detour into the Haight-Central Market to get a couple of onions, some canned tomatoes and a green pepper. Tonight Luco was going to eat her Swiss Steak, whether he was hungry or not. He needed some red meat.

Standing at the counter, Mike, the young Lebanese owner rang up her purchases. He liked Marlee. She never gave him any grief and she never asked for credit.

“Hi, Marlee. How you doing? Don’t take this wrong, but you look terrible. Can’t sleep? Haight Street can get noisy at night.”

“It’s not the noise, Mike. I just haven’t had the chance to get any rest. Hopefully I can grab some this morning.”

As he listened, Mike let his eyes dart up to the large parabolic mirror in the corner. Shoplifting was an ongoing problem on the street and the mirror let him see clearly down both aisles of his small market.

Anyone who tried shoplifting from Mike had to be incredibly stupid. There was only one way out of the store and that was right past Mike and the 9mm pistol he kept tucked in his waistband. It was usually covered by his shirt, but not always. His eyes quickly scanned the store.

“I heard about Luco. Too bad.”

“It was horrible, Mike. He is a very lucky man, just to be alive.”

“A real shame. My brother got killed crossing Stanyan Street a few years ago. They never caught the guy who hit him. My Mother still cries about that.”

“My sympathies, Mike. At least Luco will survive.” She saw Mike’s eyes move up to the mirror. “He was released from the hospital yesterday afternoon. He’s not getting around too well yet. He needs time to recuperate.”

“Good thing he has a friend like you to help him out.” His gaze was fixed on the mirror. “Son of a bitch.”

“What?” Marlee turned and looked up at the mirror.

Crouched down in front of the beer cooler was Dennis Thayer. Marlee and Mike watched him slipping cans of beer into the pockets of his coat.

“Look at that. I finally let him back in here and the first thing he does is try to rip me off again. Marlee, here, take your groceries and get home. Me and this clown are going to have a talk and I don’t want you to be in the middle.”

“Oh, good Lord, Mike, be careful. Do you want me to call the police?”

“No. You go home and get some rest.” He smiled at Marlee, but his eyes stayed glued on the image of Dennis in the mirror. “It’ll be fine. Don’t worry.”

He unfastened the bottom two buttons of his shirt. Marlee could see the textured black grip on the pistol and the polished chrome of the barrel as Mike shifted it and flipped the safety to “off.”

“Marlee, please leave. Now.”

She picked up her plastic carrier bag and, taking one last peek at the mirror, left the store.

“Please be careful, Mike.”

Mike could see that Dennis was heading toward the front of the store.

Marlee hurried across the intersection, her keys out. Opening the front gate to the building, she glanced back and saw the front door at the market swinging shut.

There was little doubt that Mike could take care of himself, but it still made her uneasy. She knew, all too well, how quickly things could go sour and become deadly. Heartbeats are fragile.

“Sleep, girl. Get some rest,” she said out loud as she opened her front door.

Within three minutes the groceries were on the kitchen counter, the blinds were closed, alarm set and Marlee was underneath the soft blankets. Her breathing was slowing and sleep was only seconds in coming. Fives hours would come soon.

“Just a loaf of bread today, Mike.”

“Sure, Dennis. That’ll be $8.87.”

“$8.87? For a loaf of bread?”

“For the bread and for the three beers you have in your pockets.”

“What beer?”

Dennis smiled. He knew that Mike had seen him hide the cans. This was the fun part, the sport of it all. He saw that the front door was closed. It was just the two of them, alone in the store.

“Mike, I’m not trying to rip you off.”

“Thayer, I’ve had it with you. I take pity on you and let you back in my store and you thank me by trying to steal from me again.” He let his hand rest on the butt of the pistol so Dennis would get the message. “Either put the beers on the counter or pay for them. Either way, I don’t want you in here anymore.”

Dennis grinned and fondled the butterfly knife in his left pants pocket. He was enjoying this. The sight of Mike’s 9mm was an added treat.

“Are you threatening me, Mike?”

“Yes, I am you stupid junkie. You think this is a game show we’re playing here?”

Dennis’ smile vanished. Name-calling was out of line. This was just a game. There was no need to get personally nasty.

He pulled the cans of beer from his pockets and, one by one, slammed them down on the counter. They would be undrinkable for hours.

“Don’t call me names, Mike…ever. I don’t like being insulted. You understand me, you stinking camel jockey? There’s your beer. Why don’t you pop one open, Osama?”

“Get out of my store. Don’t come back. No more games with you. Go!”

Dennis pushed open the door. A bright orange Municipal Railway bus was stopped at the corner. He looked back at Mike.

“You’re right about one thing, Mike. No more games.”

Dennis quickly crossed Haight Street and headed down Central toward the Panhandle. He looked up at the 1298 Haight building. He saw the blinds snap shut in the windows of apartment number six.

“So, Miss Marlee, your macho stud is still alive. Don’t get too into playing nursemaid for him. It’s going to be a temporary job.”

It was a dry cleaner, working off $750 in traffic fines by picking up trash in the Park, who found the body of the sixteen-year-old runaway, stuffed into the trash bin behind the playground in the Panhandle.

Life Is Full Of Dusty Buttons

SOME THINGS ARE BETTER LEFT ALONE. That’s another way of saying my personal motto: “Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean that you should.”

Would you pick up a stick of Dynamite with a short lit fuse? You could I suppose, but it wouldn’t be a good idea. Would you go up to every stray dog on the street and try to pet it? You could, but again – not a good idea.

“Oh, look, Harvey, he has foam all around his mouth. He must have been getting a shave.”

Yeah, right.

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Throwback Thursday From July 2015 – “18 For Lunch”

Throwback Thursday From July 2015 – “18 For Lunch”

18 For Lunch

phone booth crowdedIT IS VERY DIFFICULT TO CARRY ON A CONVERSATION over lunch when there are 18 people huddled around the table. It can be hard enough when there are only two people, but the additional sixteen can really throw a monkey wrench into the process.

It ends up sounding something like this:

“So, how have you…seen my green beans, they…flew in last Thursday on…your Aunt Martha just before she…slid into third base.”

Eighteen was the headcount at our Family lunch down in Texas last week. Six orders of Catfish, Four Chicken Fried Steaks, Two Fried Shrimp, Five Fried chicken and one Salad Bar.

Somebody had to keep the cholesterol count down.

When you get together with the family it can be a real crowd and, while they are a lovely bunch, I grew up in a different set of familial circumstances.

My father was an only child and his father was an only child as well. That fact right there seriously cut into my count of cousins, aunts and uncles. I was one of two children and my brother had two daughters.

The Norman Rockwell picture around the Thanksgiving table is turning into a snapshot at the lunch counter.

On my mother’s side of the family they were more fertile. She had three sisters and one brother who made it to adulthood. My Uncle Tony was a great guy who was never married except to his job selling cold cuts at the Central Market and golf. Aunt Nellie was married to Uncle Paul and I think one of the conditions of the Potsdam Conference was that they never have children.

For a next generation on that side of the family we must turn to Aunt Annette and Aunt Anne. They both had two kids each. Of those four only one – Cousin Florence got into the baby production game. She had, if I recall, five or six kids. The other three cousins had a grand of one and even that is more or less an apocryphal child. Nobody has seen that cousin for thirty years, so there is no concrete proof like fingerprints, wanted posters or an appearance on “America’s Most Wanted.

You put all of this together, and the knowledge that those kids are scattered from California, to Ohio, to the Outer Banks of North Carolina and you can see that getting 18 around the table for lunch would necessitate hiring some extras to sit in for dessert.

So, you can see why I relish the blessing of squeezing around the table with them. I have married into this family that has accepted me and welcomed me – even though I see them sneak a peek at me every so often with that look that whispers, “There’s something funny about that boy”

By marrying into the family I have become a Texan-in-law and I think that has some kind of real legal status. It’s not on my Driver’s License or anything, but I know that it does entitle me to swagger on certain holidays. Of course, with my limp and galumphing stride, any swagger I have could easily be mistaken for an attempt to walk while under the influence.

 

Patent # 3, 387, 396

 

SOME PEOPLE LABOR ON IN OBSCURITY while others bask in the spotlight of eternal glory. And then there is the guy who mixed both into a legendary invisibility: Edward Walker – The Inventor of the Lava Lamp.

The Official History of Eddie and the Lava Lamp goes back to the mid-1960s. When else could it be, eh?

The other night we were out with some friends having a burger when, out of the blue, someone asked if anyone still had a Lava Lamp at home. What gave birth to that question I don’t know and I don’t want to know.

To end the suspense – none of our group fessed up to still having a Lava Lamp in their pad.

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In The Soft Orange Glow

 

WHAT CAN I TELL YOU? I love rooting for my team. If the San Francisco Giants Baseball team is playing I’m going to be tuned in. My passion is like the fans of the FIFA World Cup and the way they feel about their teams – (Go Upper Volta!!). And if you think I’m a fan you should meet my wife. She makes me look like an Atheist in the Vatican.

My wife, the lovely and True Believer, Dawn, was not born a Giants fan. I infected her with Giants Fever. She has always been a Baseball fan. She grew up watching and listening with her Grandfather as he tuned to KMOX broadcasts of St. Louis Cardinal games. She recalls that he sat in a darkened room with the only light being the orange glow from his old console radio and the glow from the tip of his cigarette. His imagination brought him the play-by-play of the game as clearly as any HD television would today. Dawn was made into a fan like so many of us were – in our mind’s eye.

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Rolling Away

 

OH, GOD, IS THIS ANOTHER MONDAY?

I’m retired and I don’t have to get up and go to work anywhere, but my body and soul are reacting like I do. It’s not fair.

I should relate to Mondays like I do to Wednesdays or Saturdays – I think I’ll just roll over and catch a few more winks.

What’s the point of being retired if I respond to Monday mornings by having my stomach clench up like a fist and my brain trying to come up with some good excuses to stay home? Something needs to be done about this – something short of going out, getting a job, and then quitting the job all over again.

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Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” Part Twenty – Seven

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” Part Twenty – Seven

The fifth floor of St. Mary’s hospital was indistinguishable from the fourth or the sixth. All of them had the same aqua and “seafoam green” colored walls, recessed lighting and the smell of disinfectant.

Using the hint offered by the helpful nurse in the Emergency Room, Marlee learned that Luco had been moved from “post-op” to room 534. With her heart in her throat Marlee took the large and spotless elevator up to the fifth floor.

Forcing herself not to run madly down the corridor Marlee walked along the painted line on the floor, gazing into each room as she passed the open doors. It was a slide show of semi-private tragedy. She was ashamed of herself for peeking into other people’s lives. Looking ahead she saw several empty gurneys parked along the walls and a large laundry cart filling up half of the hallway.

A man came out of the room just beyond the cart, and as he walked past her, Marlee could see that he was a priest. Doing some quick counting, she guessed that he had come from room 534. She picked up her pace. To Hell with decorum.

“Oh, dear God. Oh, dear God. Please, not Luco, not Luco.”

Another flicker of shame burned her cheeks as she realized that she was wishing the Last Rites onto someone else.

The door to 534 was partially closed. From inside Marlee could hear the sound of someone crying. Slowly, she opened the door, fighting back tears, and entered into the room. All of the lights were off, putting the room into shadowy darkness. The curtain was drawn around bed. Behind the thin green fabric there was sobbing and praying in Spanish. Marlee felt her knees buckle and she had to grab the back of a chair to keep from falling to the floor. A nurse, wearing a stethoscope, pushed the curtain back and saw the reeling Marlee. Over the nurse’s shoulder Marlee saw a gray-haired man on the bed, his eyes and mouth open in death. Gently stroking his papery cheek was the sobbing woman, a look of despair and unbelieving sorrow on her face.

The nurse pulled the curtain closed behind her and looked at Marlee.

“Can I help you? Are you all right?”

“Luco Reyes? I was told he was in this room. I’m his wife.” Marlee moved her left hand behind her back.

“Let’s go out in the hall for a moment,” she said and, taking Marlee by the elbow, led her into the corridor. Once there, she told Marlee the details of what had happened and about the treatment he had received so far. Marlee blanched, hearing how they had cut Luco open to repair his torn lung. His condition was still listed as “Serious”, but barring unforeseen complications, he would survive. Marlee shed tears of joy at this news and asked if she could see him.

“Of course, Mrs. Reyes.”

Silently the nurse took Marlee by the arm again and led her to a second bed sitting by the far window.

There was Luco. Marlee stood and looked at him. He was unconscious with a sheet pulled up high on his chest. He had an intravenous drip line going into his right arm. “He looks so small,” was her first thought.

Marlee took a side chair and sat down next to the bed. The rails were up and he looked like he was sleeping in an aluminum crib.

For the next ten minutes she just sat and looked at Luco. His face was scraped and there were small bandages on his chin and forehead. He was still under the lingering effects of the anesthesia. Lowering the rail, Marlee reached out and smoothed his hair.

“Oh, Luco. My poor, sweet Luco.”

Thoughts of their talk at Martin Macks the previous evening went through her head. “Was that only last night?” She remembered how they had both cried as they told each other the stories of their lives. She recalled the feel of his hand in hers as they walked down Haight Street and how very much she wanted to hold him, but didn’t.

Marlee looked at him and wondered about “unforeseen complications.” Was she going to lose this man from her life? Unconsciously she took his hand. His skin was warm and soft, just like last night.

“Marlee?”

She looked at his battered face. His eyes were slits. “Luco.” Her voice leapt from her throat. She lifted his hand and kissed it.

“Where am I? What happened?” His voice was hoarse. He struggled to focus his eyes, with only marginal success.

Even though his vision was blurred, he could feel her hand on his and turned his palm up, closing his fingers around hers. “Where am I?” She squeezed his hand gently and he squeezed back with a strength that surprised her.

“You’re in the hospital, Luco. You were hit by a car.”

“It must have been a tank.”

“You had surgery last night to fix some damage to your lungs, but you’re going to be fine.” Luco just nodded as he began to lose consciousness again. As the anesthesia wore off the pain medication mixed into his glucose drip would smooth the rough edges, but he would sleep for most of the day.

Marlee got up to lower the blind to keep the glare off of Luco’s serene and regal face. He looked like a king in Marlee’s eyes. Somewhere lost in his lineage, generations ago, there must have been royalty in his family. Even now the bearing and grace shone through.

It wasn’t long before hospital protocol geared up and a tall man in a crisp white linen coat escorted the new widow from her station at her husband’s bedside. As soon as she left the room two muscular men tenderly, respectfully, moved the lifeless body onto a gurney. They covered him with a fresh white sheet and took him away. Marlee could hear the squeaking wheels on the gurney as it rolled slowly down the hallway.

While Luco slept Marlee stayed by his side, watching him, willing him protection from “unseen complications.” Occasionally Luco would stir or moan softly and she would sit up straight and take his hand until he quieted again.

Seeing Luco so helpless and seemingly small in that large metal bed, with tubes running into and out of his limp and injured body, sent her back in time. Back to the night when she cradled the body of her husband in her arms, feeling his life escape, a modern Pieta.

Marlee wanted to crawl into the hospital bed next to Luco and hold him, to come between him and any harm. In her heart she had failed to save Phillip, but she would not fail again. Not this time, not today. Not with this beautiful, scarred soul.

The night before they had laid bare their deepest wounds to each other. It was then that she learned about the real Luco Reyes. It didn’t matter if no one else ever saw past the facade of the flirting, glib barista who traded unanswered invitations with the women who drank in his special brews. Marlee Owens would know the real Luco.

She saw that that cavalier behavior was Luco’s way of staying alive. Get close enough to smell the perfume, but not so close as to inhale the explosive aroma of the woman herself. That he would not, could not, allow himself to do.

Luco was stopped by the idea that to caress too gently, to hold too closely, to care too deeply, would be a betrayal to a Love who was gone and beyond return. All that he had left was the memory and if he let that go he would be lost. That memory was his anchor and he was afraid to search for another.

Marlee knew that she was battling a similar enemy. Despite her dreams of Phillip releasing her, she still held a tangible guilt about her feelings for Luco. In the years since Phillip there had been no one else in her mind or her heart. Now, however, this frail looking man the hospital bed had gently invaded both.

Luco moved his head and Marlee leaned forward. “Luco?” His eyes fluttered and opened. He looked into Marlee’s eyes.

“Te amo,” he whispered. Marlee understood the phrase and searched for the right words with which to answer. She found them deep in her heart. “I love you too, Luco.” She laid her cheek on his hand. He reached over and stroked her hair.

“Te amo, Alicia. Te amo.”

Marlee couldn’t move. Luco continued to run his fingers across her pale blond hair as he spoke in slurred Spanish to his deceased wife. Marlee’s knowledge of Spanish did not allow her to follow all of his words, but he said Alicia’s name several times. As he spoke silent tears spilled from her eyes. Each touch of his hand tore at her heart. How could she ever hope to find love with a man so married to a memory?

When Luco fell silent, Marlee moved his hand and sat back in the chair, looking at him as he slept once again.

Marlee wondered about what was going to happen now. In her mind it was clear that Luco was not ready to love her, or anyone. But she had spoken out loud the words “I love you” to him, even though he had not heard them, she had.

Deep within the hemispheres and ridges of his brain, Luco Reyes was moving from dreamless unconsciousness into a dream-hungry sleep. A mad projector in his brain was flashing images, sounds and people before his mind’s eye. Events raced by at an incoherent rate. Nothing made sense, but he understood that he was subconsciously reviewing and evaluating his life, judging himself in preparation for…for what he did not know.

He was seeing every moment of his marriage and as, in his haunting memory, he sat again at the horrible funerals in the chapel at Mission Dolores. He heard someone call his name.

“Luco?”

He knew the voice.

“Te amo.”

“I love you too, Luco.”

“Te amo, Alicia. Te amo.”

Not knowing how long he would have, he poured out his thoughts to his wife.

“Alicia, I need to tell you that I realize you told me the truth. I have been wrong to cling to you the way I have. It’s been unhealthy and unfair to your memory.

“Alicia, I have met a woman, a beautiful and good woman. She makes me feel like I did when I first saw you. We have talked and she has suffered a great loss in her life too. She understands even though I can’t explain it all to her.

“Alicia, I love this woman. I need this woman. I hunger for this woman.

“Know that I will always love you and Regalito, but this woman makes me want to live again.”

An unheard voice spoke to Luco from the depths of his life.

“Go to her, Luco. Love her.”

In the silence and dim light of the hospital room Marlee sat with her head in her hands, feeling lost in her California exile and thinking that she had lost again to Death. First it was Phillip’s life and now it was her own, to the memory of a dead woman.

She had come almost 3000 miles to get away from a lost love only to have it happen again, but this time it was far more cruel. The man with whom she loved and could not have, was in love with a ghost.

Her thoughts drifted to her cello and she wondered if it was to be her only source of loving sounds in her ear, responsive and giving in her arms and solid and sinuous against her skin.

“Mane And Tail” Is Not An Intersection

 

I’LL BE THE FIRST TO ADMIT IT – I am a person who is easily amused. I laugh at “Knock, Knock” jokes. “Animal House” is one of my favorite movies. I can be heard laughing out loud as I walk up and down the aisles in one of those huge Mega-Stores like Wal-Mart and Meijer’s. I find them very entertaining.

Last week my wife, the lovely and much more commercially sophisticated, Dawn, and I were pushing our shopping cart through our nearby Meijer store in search of…all sorts of stuff. Dawn is shopping while I am browsing. She is looking for a good price on Pork Chops while I am wondering how many of those “Happy 100th Birthday!” cards they sell.

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Throwback Thursday from July 2015 – “But Wait! There’s More!”

 

Throwback Thursday from July 2015 – “But Wait! There’s More

But Wait! There’s More!

infomercialI WAS SITTING AT THE KITCHEN TABLE the other morning, minding my own business and eating some grapes, when I turned on the TV and came in halfway through an Infomercial.

The format is always the same – one guy and one gal acting as if their conversation is completely ad libbed. Sure it is. These mini-dramas are scripted out by a team of advertising copy writers who try so hard to be creative. They fail every time. Most of the time these actors sound like they are just coming out from under heavy anesthesia.

I immediately recognized the guy part of the infomercial pair. That is his picture up top. I’m sure he came to Hollywood with the dream of being the next Spencer Tracy or Vin Diesel. Instead he has landed the plum role of “The Guy” in about 47 different infomercials over the years.

So much for Art.

In most of his infomercial gigs he portrays a guy who is mildly stupid and needs to be enlightened by “The Gal” about the earthshaking benefits of whatever trashy product they are selling. I can’t believe he is really that dense. If he was that thick between the ears he would never have survived so long. He would have been distracted by a shiny object and wandered out into traffic or died horribly in his own apartment because he ignored the warning to, “Don’t try this at home!”

He must be a better actor than I’m giving him credit for – or he has an off-screen helper who keeps him fed and away from potentially dangerous home appliances. I’m not sure.

My point being –

This poorly acted and written infomercial that I chanced to bump into while eating grapes, on July 16, 2015, was showcasing the ease, importance and beauty of Outdoor Christmas Lighting so I could turn our home from simply being a boring “baby poop yellow” into a neighborhood shocking light show that would scare the neighbor’s dogs and probably be visible from space.

This infomercial went a bit farther than most by having “unpaid testimonials from satisfied customers.”

They showed the exterior of a house that looked as if it was being invaded by Smallpox pustules that could crawl around over your siding at will. It was spooky.

When they interviewed a woman who claimed to be the home owner she seemed not only overjoyed, but seriously overdosed. Lord knows what she was seeing. She sang the praises of the lighting gizmo that did this to her house, exclaiming how much she enjoyed having strangers come down her street and drive slowly past her home. In most neighborhoods that kind of activity would generate phone calls to the Police.

To me it all looked like a prelude to a drive-by shooting.

OK, so this was just another infomercial for yet another product that I neither want, need or would take as a gift. I didn’t stop eating my grapes and I didn’t dial the toll free number at the bottom of my screen.

But wait! There’s more!

As I sat there watching this thing, that only needed Tap Dancing Zombies to make it worse, the one and only pertinent fact finally wormed its way to the surface of my consciousness:

It was July 16th for cryin’ out loud!

Why were these Morons of Marketing running this infomercial in the middle of Summer? It is 86 degrees outside, I’m wearing a Hawaiian Shirt and the dog next door is trying not to die from heat prostration.

Who in their right mind would be buying Christmas lights on July 16th?

Maybe the actor playing “The Guy?” He seems to be downright enthusiastic about the whole idea of turning his home into an eyesore. But, then again, he is getting paid to do this gig.

Now, this may seem callous, but here goes.

I hope that this actor’s parents are deceased. I say that because I hate to think that they would be watching this infomercial and have to endure the anguish of realizing that they paid a bloody fortune to send their boy to the Yale Drama School for four years and this infomercial is, very likely, the peak of his career. If they weren’t already deceased, seeing this infomercial might be enough to warrant the removal of any sharp objects from their home.

Their home – the one WITHOUT the friggin’ ugly Christmas lights infecting the neighborhood.

It’s Festival Time !

 

I LIKE ANIMALS. Some of my favorite people are real animals. And some of my favorite animals I tend to treat like people. It can get confusing at times I’ll admit that. Take a squirrel to lunch and people tend to look at you like you’re nuts.

There are, of course, some animals that I don’t care for and don’t want to socialize with – on any level.

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A “Green” Solution

 

THE SOUND OF CRASHING AND YELLING has taken over at the neighborhood Chapel of St. Arbucks. It must be Summer and the Annual Sport of Fly Swatting while having coffee.

The way the Chapel is constructed with doors on opposite sides of the store there is a constant flow of air and flies passing through. With a setup like that and an endless supply of retired geezers hanging out with nothing productive to do you have the perfect ambiance for “The Killing Machine.”

Give those geezers a copy of the local newspaper and the flies don’t have a chance. Just the other day our resident Pickle Ball Champion bagged 14 flies in less than fifteen minutes.  It was like watching the legendary 300 Greek Spartan Warriors slicing up those pesky Persians – without all the leather skirts, and in English.

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Special Reblog from “The Bluebird Of Bitterness”

Today’s Special Post is from “The Bluebird of Bitterness.”

Whenever I need something from a unique world perspective I know I can count on

“The Bluebird of Bitterness.”

 

 

I can’t brain today, I have the dumb

by bluebird of bitterness

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” Part Twenty – Six

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” Part Twenty – Six

 

 

Dennis heard Marlee close her front door and a quick peek out of his window confirmed it. He pushed aside the stalks of his large red and white hibiscus to follow her with his eyes as she crossed the street and headed up Haight Street. He needed a few minutes. As he watched her pass the corner market he idly plucked a leaf from the hibiscus and stuffed it into his pants pocket.

Grabbing his keys, Dennis went down the steps two at a time. He stopped outside of number six. Using the key that he had stolen from the previous tenant he silently let himself into Marlee’s apartment.

J.P. Cat was sound asleep inside his cardboard box bed. He never stirred when Dennis walked past him and into the bedroom.

Knowing that he was wasting time and risking discovery, Dennis opted to push his luck. “This is what makes it fun,” he said out loud.

He opened the closet and looked at the clothes. He took the sleeve of a white cotton blouse and put it next to his face, inhaling deeply. He closed his eyes, imagining Marlee in the blouse and then bit off the button from the cuff, swallowing it.

Dennis took a step back from the closet and appraised what he saw. “Cheap, frumpy, knockoff, knockoff, Gap, for God’s sake. My mother had one of these. Oh, Miss Marlee, you need a fashion consultant.”

He took a quick trip through her dresser drawers, running his fingers across the fabric and noting her preference for red.

A glance at her clock radio warned him to curtail his pleasure trip and get down to business.

Dennis walked into the kitchen and pulled a four-inch butterfly knife from his back pocket and the hibiscus leaf from the front. He grabbed Marlee’s cutting board from the shelf over the sink as he flipped open the scalpel sharp knife.

He worked rapidly, cutting the leaf into pieces, chopping and dicing the bits smaller and smaller. Using the flat blade he scraped the wooden board clean of every atom of green. He dropped the green slivers on top of the mound of cat food in the blue plastic bowl. He mixed them into the chicken and tuna until they disappeared.

“Let’s see whose door she knocks on when little ‘Just Plain Cat’ starts to vomit his cute yellow head off tonight. ‘Help me, Dennis. Oh, help me’.”

While Marlee was hearing about Luco being hit by a mysterious “hit and run” driver, Dennis was cleaning up after himself. He replaced the cutting board, walked past the still sleeping cat and plucked a CD of Yo Yo Ma playing the cello from the top of the stack. “Now, where did I set that CD?”

Still laughing, he quickly relocked Marlee’s front door and walked slowly back up the steps to the third floor. The morning sun was streaming through the large window on the landing. Dennis could see the Buena Vista Park steps. There was a drug deal going down. He turned around and ran down the stairs and out of the front door.

Dodging a bus and a motor scooter, Dennis ran across Haight Street.

“Hey, you two animals! What do you think you’re doing?”

“Get out of here mister, unless you want hurt. Do you?” The dealer lifted his shirttail to show Dennis the hilt of a large knife.

“Is that supposed to scare me, you subhuman filth?” The teenaged buyer started to back away, wanting no part of what looked about to erupt. Dennis glared at the boy. “Get out of my neighborhood and don’t come back or your ass is mine.” The kid took off running up the hill, scared and anxious to get back to his suburban home.

Just the two angry men were left, facing each other. The dealer pushed his floppy hat back on his head. He stroked his straggly beard as he took the measure of the blonde haired do-gooder.

“You just cost me a hundred bucks, partner. I think you should reimburse me.” He smiled a gap toothed smile at Dennis and casually reached for his knife.

Dennis whipped his butterfly knife from his pocket and had the blade pointed at the dealer before the buck knife had cleared its leather sheath. Dennis stepped closer, backing the longhaired drug pusher up the steps.

“You know what, you damned piece of garbage?”

“What’s that, Batman?”

“I could kill you right here and probably get a medal from the Mayor.”

“Yeah? If you think you’re such a John Wayne, try me. Right here, right now.” He lifted the silvery knife and waved it at Dennis. Before the street dealer could react, Dennis’ hand flew out and sliced his left nostril.

The dealer let out a soft scream and lashed out with his own knife. Dennis sidestepped it and punched the dealer on the side of his head, knocking him to the ground. A small audience of pedestrians, other would-be drug customers and the passengers on a bus parked in the stop zone twenty-five feet away, watched the lopsided fight. The bus driver picked up his radio and summoned the police.

Dennis stood over the prone, bleeding and frightened dealer. The butterfly knife was digging into the eyelid of the man on the ground. Dennis tossed the buck knife into the bank of zinnias and pansies that lined the sidewalk.

“Pay attention to me. I’m only going to say this once. I could kill you right now, but I won’t. It wouldn’t be any fun and if it’s not fun, why do it. Right? Right, Idiot?”

“Right. Fun.”

“So…I’m letting you go…for now.”

He lifted the bloody faced criminal to his feet and, careful to not get any blood on himself, ran the razor sharp edge of his knife in a swift race down the bridge of the dealer’s nose, peeling the flesh away, down to the cartilage. Another scream and more blood were released onto the stone steps. “Now, run for your life.”

The wounded and humiliated drug merchant ran up the grassy hill, into the Park, disappearing and leaving a red trail on the lawn.

Dennis turned around and saw the small assembly that had witnessed it all. His face was red from the anger and the stress of the encounter. He had a headache and an erection.

“What? What are you looking at? Get out of here and don’t come back.” He waved the knife in the air and started down the steps. The people moved out of his way. Nobody wanted anything to do with him.

The police squad car arrived ten minutes later and found nothing but a smear of red on the steps and a trail of more red on the grass leading up “Hippie Hill” deeper into Buena Vista Park.

Dennis stared at his door. He looked around the hallway and rechecked the brass numbers. “This is number eight? She lives in number six.”

He looked at his wristwatch. Twenty minutes had passed, but he had no memory of going into Marlee’s apartment, no memory of going through her clothes, no memory of poisoning the cat food. Dennis sniffed at his fingers. He could smell the hibiscus leaf. “Why am I sweating?”

There was only one beer left in the refrigerator. Dennis took it and plopped down on his sofa. It was hard to tell if the garish ruby lips were spitting him out or about to swallow him whole. He knew the beer was a mistake in light of the Percodan he had just taken dry. He pulled the tab and heard the welcoming rush of air into the can. He wanted it. He needed it and there was a third reason, but it was too faded to make out.

As he drank and the painkiller roared through his bloodstream, the present was disappearing behind a resurgent past. Morning was being painted over by Midnight and San Francisco was becoming the Boston of seven years previous.

 His desire had always been to be a man of Science, but, as a 21 year-old, middle of his class graduate in chemistry, his superiors at the University Hospital kept demanding that he stick to his duties as a lab technician. He hated doing the same tests, over and over again, day after day.

“Let somebody else do this. I’m a researcher. I’m out on that cutting edge of discovery. Or I would be if you’d stop demanding that I waste my time doing tox screens on rent-a-cops. Give me the tools and I can cure the world.”

Dennis moved from job to job, sliding from the prestigious and endowed to the threadbare and under-funded, downward to the fraud-ridden Medicare mills. He always had the same complaints and always ended up on the sidewalk ranting at a closed and locked door.

It’s a small world and it didn’t take long for him to gain a reputation as a troublemaker and an all-around pain in the ass. Even the pet hospitals turned him away.

Dennis was a good-sized young man and he was never late for work. That was a ringing endorsement for the Manager at Novicky Moving and Storage.

It wasn’t science, but it paid enough to cover his expenses and there were the unofficial perks: almost unlimited opportunities for petty theft from the customers and very limited dealings with bosses.

Dennis refurnished his apartment with items “lost in transit” from the moving van. The customers had little recourse. They rarely bought the overpriced and worthless insurance coverage.

His prize piece of booty was the sofa stolen from another recent Harvard grad. Somehow, the sofa, shaped like a pair of bright red lips was “lost” during the short drive from Cambridge, across the Charles River, into Boston and to a new condo near the Massachusetts General Hospital complex.

Even though it wasn’t his dream job and there were no likely cures to be discovered in the back of a truck, Dennis did the work and was surprised to find that he enjoyed the companionship of the men in the crew.

Some were ex-cons and drifters who stayed only long enough to get rearrested or scrape up a stake to get to the West Coast. There were others who came from failed academic backgrounds, either alcoholic professors on the skids or men like Dennis – perpetual square pegs.

It was during a job on Gainesborough Street, near Symphony Hall, that Dennis’ life was changed. They were moving a stereo cabinet from a fourth-floor walkup. Coming down off a narrow landing, Dennis slipped. He felt and heard something tear in his back.

Rest didn’t help much. When he tried to lift anything over 25 pounds it felt like someone was driving white hot nails into his lower back.

The other men in the crew liked Dennis. He pulled his weight and bought a round now and then. They decided to help him.

One of the guys, a wiry man known as “Zigzag”, fresh out of Walpole State Prison, gave Dennis a handful of pills. “It’s called ‘O.C’ and it’ll fix you up good, Dude.”

Dennis had been in enough labs to know that “O.C.” was an opium derivative called “Oxycontin”, and addictive as hell, but the pain was keeping him from working. No work, no money…no money, and he’d end up working for guys like Zigzag. He took the pills and kept working.

Dennis thought he could deal with the danger of addiction, but he couldn’t get around the side effects. His growing paranoia made him hard to work with. He thought that the other men were dumping the heavy loads on him, slacking off while he did their work.

Things got worse when Zigzag was arrested for setting up a drug lab in the basement of his apartment building. Dennis had to get his pills off the street and his brain told him that Zigzag was going to implicate him in the lab fiasco. Dennis ran. He left Boston and headed west

It took two years of day labor and five doomed attempts at kicking his addiction before Dennis rode a bus across the Golden Gate Bridge. It was as far as he could run without getting wet.

Still paranoid about Zigzag, he avoided going back to work as a mover. He was living in the sordid “Fogtown Hotel” in the Tenderloin when he saw the ad for “Manly Maids.”

After a year of working 60 hour weeks, saving every spare penny and being mugged six times on the street, Dennis found an apartment in The Haight. Far from being an improvement as he had hoped, the move to 1298 Haight punched his ticket on the express train to Insanity.

The first time…Dennis laid his head down on the sofa as he tried to recall the first time, the first murder. He remembered doing it, but not in any reproducible imagery. It was the feel of his fists hitting soft flesh. It was the sound of his own heavy breathing and the final gasps and silence from the other person. It was the sweaty stench of the man’s crusty jacket and the sweet piquancy of the blood. It was the roaring headache beforehand and the soft tones of restful sleep afterward.

The man Dennis beat to death that first night in the Panhandle was a street dealer who had sold him placebos instead of actual Vicodin. When the pain didn’t go away his rage was triggered and ignited a headache that threatened to “split me open and let the universe see my degradation.” 

Dennis went hunting.

After the first, it became easier, and more importantly to Dennis, it became a mission. He was a drug user, yet he saw the path to his salvation lined with dead drug dealers. Save the soul of the user by eliminating the occasion of sin.

When the pain was not relieved and the rage was too much to bear, Dennis would cruise through the streets looking for the young, vulnerable and dealing. He was known to the people on the street as a regular customer, so going into the shadows with him was not considered a risk.

Dennis would lull his targets into the Panhandle, a driveway or a hidden spot in the bushes. When the drugs were presented his knife would appear and, with the surety of the saved, he would plunge the blade into the throat of his prey. Swift, sure and fatal, but not enough to make his message understood. There had to be something more, a warning to the other dealers.

That is why Dennis started his mutilations. To make his point, his final cut was a paring down the bridge of the nose. Destroy the face, he reasoned, and make the world see them as all alike, creating the agony that would drive a decent man like himself to such necessary extremes.

Dennis was sure that, if it were not for the drugs, his life would be pain free and filled with joy and the love of a faithful woman. But the drugs did exist and his life wasn’t pain free and filled with joy and the women weren’t faithful, even Marlee. Didn’t he see her first? Didn’t he bring her gifts? Didn’t he show her that he found her desirable? She, however, had shown her favor for that lowlife coffee puller who thought of her as just another notch on his bedpost. Well, as of last night, Luco Reyes was out of the picture and now he could get back on track to woo and take Marlee for his own.

Unlimited Possibilities?

 

TELEVISION. IT’S A MIRACLE. IT’S A CURSE. I love it. I hate it. But one thing I don’t do is hook up all of the equipment and cables.

My wife, the lovely and electronically wizardlike, Dawn, does all of that.

That’s OK by me. She is good at it, enjoys deciphering the gobbledegook instructions, and she doesn’t burst into flames like I do in situations like that.

Our Cable TV System – They call themselves “Spectrum” now, which doesn’t mean or accomplish anything other than help people forget that they used to be “Time-Warner,” decided to upgrade their system to “All Digital.” To be honest – I thought they did that several years ago, but what do I know?

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Throwback Thursday from July 2015 – “Randall The Candle”

Throwback Thursday from July 2015 – “Randall The Candle”

 

 

Randall The Candle

candleIN 1997 THERE WAS AN EPISODE of “Law And Order” (An American Cops and Robbers TV show set in New York City) that had a character, an arsonist, who went by the moniker of “Randall the Candle.”

Cut to 2015 in Terre Haute (That’s French for “Change the battery in your smoke alarm.”) and a conversation with one of the “Usual Suspects” during services at the Chapel of St. Arbucks.

The “Suspect” – a former resident of New York City and the son of an NYPD Detective and I were discussing the recent fire at a café across the street from St. Arbucks that destroyed the place within 24 hours of their “Grand Opening.” He hinted that it looked a little suspicious and that maybe “Randall the Candle” was in town.

Egads!

Further interrogation uncovered one of those “Art imitating Life” things. According to the Usual Suspect seated in the chair across from me – Randall the Candle was a real person, and an arsonist, and an off-the-books consultant for the NYPD about fires of a “suspicious nature.”

I do not find this to be at all beyond belief because every writer I know borrows from real life in every paragraph and a character called “Randall the Candle” is too good to pass up. If he didn’t exist you would have to create him.

Given the timeline of the TV show and the youthful remembrances of my cohort in coffee, I would guess that “Randall” is long gone to that Great Tinder Box in the Sky.” He isn’t still alive to file any lawsuits over using his colorful nickname. Even if he was around to make a play for some cash – any court action would almost certainly result in him admitting to a long career in crime and that would then open up a whole new set of fertilizer hitting the fan issues.

It seems that in real life, rather than “reel life,” Randall the Candle was a man who worked on both sides of the Law. For the right price he would light up your life and/or your warehouse in such a manner that your insurance company would have to pay off. He was a Capital P Professional.

But as active as he was, Randall wasn’t the only game in town and he did not like competition – especially “small p” professional arsonists who did sloppy work. It was sort of like a dishonest politician smearing the reputation of an honest —  wait, bad analogy there. There are no honest politicians. But you get my drift.

Randall the Candle would work with the police on cases of arson – helping them to identify how the job was done and often by whom. Arsonists, like most people, are creatures of habit and tend to repeat themselves – left sock, right sock, left shoe, right shoe, left incendiary device, right incendiary device.

In my own perverted literary way I am glad to learn that Randall the Candle actually existed. His whole story has a Damon Runyon-esque flavor to it. With a name like his, and a decent voice and sense of rhythm, he could easily have been a character in “Guys and Dolls.”

I can’t say that “they don’t make ‘em like Randall the Candle anymore.” I don’t know.   But I’ll bet you’d be hard pressed to find some jamoke with the moxie to play with the bacon and still run with his torch like Randall the Candle.

This Has Not Been Fun

 

WE ARE BACK FROM CALIFORNIA where everything was sunny, bright, and cold. Every day it was mostly in the 60s where we were and I was toddling about in a Hawaiian Shirt designed for the 70s and 80s. Naturally the souvenir I brought back was a head cold.

Summer colds are the worst. While the outside temperatures might bump into the 70s or higher I am already running a fever and battling the best of Corporate America’s Air Conditioning.

We are in Indiana and it is Summertime. I am still feeling chills and fever so I am wearing a sweatshirt and drinking iced tea. It’s just not making any sense.

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I’m Not Making Any Accusations

I’M GOING TO BE PICKY TODAY. Actually, I’m picky on a fair number of days, so this will be just one more.

My wife, the lovely and intensely selective, Dawn, and I have just returned from San Diego where we attended the annual meeting and conference of the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches. Don’t waste too much time trying to figure out what all of that is – just think “The Pilgrims” and “Plymouth Rock” and you’ll be fine.

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“Word By Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries”

 

TODAY’S POSTING IS A BIT OF A DETOUR from the usual stretch of pavement that is this blog. On most days I just write about the speed bumps in my life and my encounters with people who either fascinate, entertain, or appall me. Today I am going to talk about a book I am reading. How exciting, No? A book that really doesn’t rely on pictures, Super heroes, or the secret to quick elimination of Belly Fat. It is a book filled with and about Words. I love it.

To oversimplify it “Word By Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries” by Kory Stamper is about how Dictionaries are written and it is not as simple as one would think. I would classify this book as a Love Letter to Language.

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