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 tag “Life”

What Kind Of Class Is This

 

UH OH, HERE IT COMES AGAIN. It seems like it was just last week or maybe five years ago. I’m starting to get ticklers about another High School Class Reunion. Aren’t these people satisfied that I show up once every fifty years?

I do admit that I sort of skipped over the first forty nine years worth of reunions, but I had a good excuse: I didn’t want to go. I broke down when it came to number fifty and I admit that it was a pleasure seeing some of the kids (now Geezers) that I went through grade school with. The thing is that I don’t remember them from High School all that well. Either I was in a fog or they were. They looked a lot different than I remembered them from 1952-1960.

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At Least You’re Getting Paid

“LADIES AND GENTLEMEN START YOUR ENGINES!”

Today is that day when we really start the New Year. It is time to put away the Aspirin bottle and the Ice Pack. Get dressed in something other than your Snuggie and Hospital Footies. It’s time to get back to work – like it or not.

For me today is just a Wednesday. The only thing that could be considered “work” for me today is that I will have to take the trash down to the curb tonight. Whew! I’m exhausted just thinking about that. For just two people we sure do generate a lot of trash.

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I Refuse To Accept Just Any Old Reality

THERE IS ONLY ONE THING THAT I DON’T LIKE about this time of year: The Cold; The Snow; The Icy Roads; The Crowded stores; The Nonstop Ads on TV; The Crowds at the Airport; and The Cold again.

Not that I’m complaining mind you.

I stepped out of the back door this morning and was greeted by a blast of cold air and sixty-two million snowflakes coming by at a 90° angle. That was not in my plans for the day. I was all set for it to be 85° and sunny. The fact that it was Mid-December in Indiana notwithstanding.

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There Will Be A Tomorrow

I HAVE BEEN MOST FORTUNATE. I lived in California for 25 years and never had to directly deal with the tragedy of wildfires. The closest I ever came was the horrible Oakland hills Fire in the early 1990s. That fire was across the Bay from me, but I did have coworkers who lost everything – escaping with their lives and the clothes on their backs.

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Steps Must Be Taken

I’M GENERALLY PRETTY AGREEABLE. It’s easy to get along with me and I try not to be too grumpy. Unfortunately the world does not always cooperate.

For example: Stairs.

Stairs and I do not agree. I want them to not be there, but stairs demand that I go up or down. I end up just trying to avoid the situation altogether. I would prefer a one level world.

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All You Really Have…

 

“All you really have, in the end, are your stories.”

– – Burt Reynolds on the TV drama “Burn Notice” 2010

We are born; we live our lives, and as we see the final curtain beginning to come down our material things become meaningless. Most of the people we have in our life become exasperating as they can’t understand where we are and where we are going.

What is left?

We have our memories and even those begin to fade away. What can we do? We take our memories and we speak them aloud or write them down. We tell our stories. We move them from the fragile causeways of our brain to a place outside ourselves.

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The Light Of A Thousand Suns

 

THIS MORNING WE GOT WORD THAT A FRIEND OF OURS HAD AN ACCIDENT while visiting England. She is fine, just a cut finger that netted her two stitches and a visit to a British ER. She was lucky. Very lucky compared to Anatoli Bugorski.

Anatoli Bugorski, now retired, was a high powered Russian Scientist who, in 1978, had an accident of his own. For him two stitches in his thumb weren’t going to make it “all better.”

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Watching On An Afternoon

AH, YOUNG LOVE, WELL, MAYBE CLOSER TO MIDDLEAGE LOVE. The two people had to be in their forties, maybe a bit more. But looking at their eyes and body language they could have been teenagers

If there is one thing St. Arbucks is good for, other than filling up that empty lot on the corner, and the odd cup of coffee, it is that it is a good spot for People Watching. And that’s what I did yesterday afternoon.

I was out and about taking care of some errands and I stopped in at the Chapel on 25th Street for a nice iced tea. I sat over in my usual corner, the better to watch the world.

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Fiction Saturday – “A Conversation By The River” – Conclusion

Fiction Saturday – “A Conversation By The River” – Conclusion

Conclusion

“Some Monks pray while farming, some while cooking, or writing. I walk. I walk without a physical destination. Today I am here. I think I am here to talk with you.”

“And with the fish?”

“Yes – And with the fish. Walking is my way of praying. Each step is a prayer – a prayer for understanding and for thanks.”

I was getting confused with all of this.

“’Thanks? For what?” The Monk smiled at me and I relaxed.

“I give thanks for each step because I know that a time will come when I can no longer walk and the steps will have to be taken by someone else. Aren’t you thankful for something – your life? For your mother and father, for your home, your friends, and for this lovely spot by the river?”

“I guess so. I never thought about it before. Now that you put it all that way though I guess I do have a bunch of stuff to be thankful for.”

“Good. Now let’s be quiet so this fish and I can talk things out.”

The Monk and the fish might have been talking, but I didn’t hear anything. I stayed quiet because I know that you are supposed to be quiet while fishing and I didn’t want to scare the Monk’s fish.

It seemed to me like we were going to be there all day when the Monk broke the silence.

“That fish,” he said, “Makes a very good case for himself. Much better than me. Tonight I go hungry. My young friend I might as well be on my way.”

“You’re leaving? Where are you going to go?”

“Like I said earlier, I m going nowhere and everywhere as well, but I think I will start by going through your village. How far is it from here?

“The village is around that bend in the path and then an hour – less for you – you take bigger steps than me.” While I spoke he gathered together his things. He pulled his empty hook from the river, dried it and the twine on his red sash before carefully folding it and wrapping it around his body and over his shoulder. I wondered how many times he had done this before when a fish out talked him. When everything was in its place he stood up and bowed to me.

“It has been a pleasure to have spent this time with you and I wish you wisdom and happiness as you grow.”

He started across the grass toward the path. I hurried after him.

“Mr. Monk, can I walk with you awhile? My house is that way too, around the bend.”

“Of course, my friend. Let us both pray with each step we take.”

He was taller than me and I had to take more steps to keep up with him. He saw me trying to keep up and he slowed down to make it easier for me.

“What will you do when you get to the village?”

“I will beg. I am sure that some kind person will feed me and give me a place to sleep tonight. There is almost always someone in each village I visit. People are good.”

We walked on.

“This path goes on all the way to The Great Ocean they say. What will you do when you get to the end of the path?”

“I will turn around and walk back to the Monastery high up in the mountains. It is my home.”

“How long have you been walking?” He looked down at me.

“I began my prayer when I was no bigger than you. It is my entire life, my prayer.”

I was amazed. I could not imagine leaving everything behind and walking for such a long time. He was an old man compared to me – older than my father.

“I’m sorry that I ask you so many questions, but I’ve never really talked with a Monk before.”

“There is no need to apologize. How else can you learn? I ask questions all the time.”

We rounded the bend in the path and up ahead I could see where the path split. One part went on to the village. The other led to our farm.

“This looks like where we part ways. I go on to the village and you to your home. Again, I thank you for our time together.”

I had an idea. I had one more question.

“Do you have to go to the village tonight, a rule or something? I’m asking because my mother and father are kind people and I’m sure that they would be happy to give you something to eat and a warm and dry place to sleep. Would you come with me? I’m sure they won’t be upset.”

“Even your father who thinks we Monks are all wealthy?”

“Yes, I’m sure. He likes to go fishing too. You two could talk about that. But I don’t think he talks with the fish. He uses bits of bread as bait. Please come there with me.” The Monk paused. He looked at me and at the path into the village.

“Young man, every road that I walk splits, and I have often wondered where my life would be if I chose to take that other pathway. My prayer is in my step, not in the road beneath my feet. All roads go somewhere. This road,” he said, pointing off down the path, “It goes to your village and eventually to The Great Ocean. But this other path would take us to your farm and your family. The village and the ocean will be there tomorrow, but if I go that way today I will miss the gift of seeing your family. That chance is only mine for today, never to return.”

He sat down in the dust and looked at both paths.

“I need to think and pray. Give me a moment.”

I watched him close his eyes. He folded his legs like I had seen him do when he first came and sat by the riverbank. I said a prayer of my own that he would come with me.

After a couple of minutes the Monk opened his eyes. He smiled at me.

“My young friend, you prayed. I could feel it. It was a very good prayer. You prayed and I listened for the Wisdom to tell me what to do.”

“What did you hear?” I could feel my heart pounding in my chest.

I heard that you are an honest and truthful boy and that I am blessed by having this time with you today. Today is not done and there is more time to share.”

“Does that mean you’ll come back to my home with me?”

The Monk held out his hand to me.

“It does. Now help me up and let me get this dust off my robe. I don’t want your father to think that I am there to beg.”

And so we walked together to my home and with each step I learned more of the power of prayer.

Reblog From The Koolkosherkitchen “Immersion Pie”

 

 

 

 

 

Today’s blog is originally from the Koolkosherkitchen: A blog that is about both Food and Life. I am sure that you will enjoy it – even if you don’t take the recipe into your kitchen.

Enjoy!

https://koolkosherkitchen.wordpress.com/

Immersion Pie Featuring Freud, Elephants, Polar Bears, and Noah’s Ark

This story was shared by Rabbi Y.Y. Jacobson, a fantastic public speaker with a great sense of humor. A renowned psychologist was giving a lecture on his theory of the flood. According to him, a myth about the flood of catastrophic magnitude has been present in every culture and religion in the world. He postulated that it was primitive people’s way of expressing their insecurities and fears for the future. He unequivocally stated that there has never been an actual flood. One of his listeners asked permission to comment.

“And what if there really was a flood? What if it isn’t a myth?” he asked.

A stunned silence enshrined the audience of professional, highly educated men. After a prolonged pause, the lecturer replied, “My teacher Zigmund Freud would ask who is stronger, elephants or polar bears. He would then answer that it is impossible to judge as they never meet; they exist in different climates. You and I, sir, are an elephant and a polar bear; we exist in different climates: you allow that the flood might have happened, and I don’t. We will never meet.”

Mount Ararat and the Yerevan skyline in spring (50mm).jpg

There are several different locations where Noah, a righteous man in his time, supposedly parked the Ark when flood waters receded. Amateur archaeologist Ron Wyatt, among others, claimed that he found the remains of the Ark and some artifacts to prove the veracity of his findings. His discovery has been highly disputed, but the location is spot on: Mount Ararat, as it is identified in ParshasNoah (the view is from Armenian capital Yerevan). The following video is shot by a drone flying over Wyatt’s discovery.

Take it with a grain of salt, if you will, but today hardly anybody disputes the flood itself. “Now the earth was corrupt in G-d’s sight and was full of violence” (Genesis 6:11), He got outraged, and set out to obliterate everything. It was a total immersion: “The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth… and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered” (Genesis 7:18 and 7:19). We can’t help but reflect upon the Biblical flood as thousands of people in (sic) Huston are trying to cope with a disaster of the same nature, torrential rain that flooded the city, leaving its inhabitants, human and animal alike, homeless and in need of help.

 

 

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Among many photographs of immersed buildings and drowned cars, there are quite a few of “modern Noahs,” righteous among the people of our times, boating four-legged friends to safety. As the waters are receding now in Huston, and relief is pouring in, this Immersion Pie might serve as a reminder to love and care for each other and all His creatures.

Blu Imm Pie 1.jpg

The idea is to imitate earth boiling under torrential water, so there is no crust. You mix spelt or gluten free flour with soy or almond milk,  add some brown sugar and cinnamon, a little baking powder, and a pinch of salt.

Blu Imm Pie 2.jpg

You can immerse any berries or diced fruit, but blueberries are still in season, huge and juicy, so first I immersed them into a mix of vanilla extract and brown sugar. They should sit and contemplate their fate, while you are mixing the rest of the stuff. After all, Noah spent 120 years building the Ark, to give people a chance to abandon their corrupt ways and make corrections, so give your blueberries a chance for 10 – 15 minutes.

Blu Imm Pie 3.jpg

Since my first rule of dessert clearly states that it’s not a dessert if it doesn’t have chocolate, I also mix in unsweetened cocoa powder. It looks like mud already!

Blu Imm Pie 4.jpg

The process of immersion is about to start! Melt Smart Balance or any butter substitute of your choice and pour it into a pie baking form. Pour your mud – batter, that is! – into it and spread it evenly. Empty your blueberries, juice and all, on top of batter and also spread them evenly.

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Let it bake at 350 F for an hour or so, and the immersion will occur naturally while you are not even looking – the batter will rise and cover most of the berries. There is another, much more positive meaning of the term total immersion. It is one of the most effective methods of language acquisition: drop a person into target language environment where nobody speaks his native language or any other language he knows, and, according to S. Krashen’s Natural Language Acquisition theory, he’ll start communicating in target language. It’s a sink-or-swim method, and Krashen is right: in about three months, give or take, they start swimming, i,e, talking. By the same token, I choose to believe that dropping a person into a loving environment full of kindness will force him to acquire the same behaviors. From there – Existence Precedes Essence! – is only one step from behaviors to attitudes, and from attitudes to values!

Blu Imm Pie 6

So sprinkle some more cocoa powder on top – the more chocolate, the better! – add some crushed walnuts, if you like, and cut yourself a nice juicy piece of the Immersion Pie – total immersion in love and kindness!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup fresh berries or any fruit cut into small chunks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup spelt or gluten free flour
  • ½ cup brown sugar plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • A pinch of cinnamon
  • ½ cup soy or almond milk
  • ¼ cup Smart Balance or other butter substitute
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder plus more to sprinkle
  • Optional crushed walnuts

PROCEDURE

  • Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C).
  • Mix berries with 1 tablespoon brown sugar and vanilla extract, put aside for 10 – 15 minutes.
  • Mix flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cocoa powder, salt, and cinnamon,  add soy or almond milk. Do not over-mix.
  • Melt Smart Balance, pour into the bottom of baking pie form. Pour batter over melted Smart Balance, spread evenly. Spread berries, including juice, on top of batter, spread evenly.
  • Bake for 1 hour or until golden brown and crisp around the edge.
  • Remove, sprinkle with cocoa powder and crushed walnuts. May be served warm or cold.

Enjoy!

 

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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Tomorrow Is Only A Day Away…Or So

AT LEAST IT DIDN’T HAPPEN TO ME. I’m sure it will someday so I’ve been taking mental notes on what to do.

Dawn’s phone died. Dead. Cold – instant paperweight status. One moment it was there, chirping along as happy as could be passing on those twisted brain spasms from complete strangers, recipes and pictures of whatever they are eating for lunch. One nanosecond later it was nothing more than a speedbump on the desktop.

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Life In An Orange Plastic Bottle

I KNOW THAT THERE IS NOT A LOT I CAN DO ABOUT IT, but I get really tired of taking my daily fistful of meds. Counting Vitamins, and other Supplements I down eight pills with my morning coffee, three with lunch, and six more with dinner. I feel like I am a bulwark of the American Pharmaceutical Industry.

Don’t get me wrong – I know that there are a multitude of people who have to ingest more medications than I do, but I can only live within my own frame of reference. I understand that all these meds that I take serve a purpose – two purposes actually – 1. To keep me from having a neurological blowout at freeway speeds, and 2. To keep my local Pharmacist employed. Both are noble causes indeed.

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A Man, A Plan, A T-Shirt

THEY SAY THAT IT PAYS TO ADVERTISE. If you are selling cars or pizzas I can certainly agree. However, I’m not sure that this fellow has approached this in the right way.

He is obviously looking to find a young lady to spend some time with. He is lonely. He feels that advertising is a good way to answer his needs. His choice of media might be lacking in mass appeal, but he is trying.

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It’s Uphill Both Ways

I SHOULDN’T HAVE DONE IT. I’m paying for it now and it may take some time for me to catch up. Why did I do that?

Yesterday, for some reason, I ended up really tired. I certainly didn’t overwork myself at anything. I’ll just blame it on the curvature of the Earth that made me spend the whole day going uphill. The end result was that this morning I slept in an extra 90 minutes. That means that the whole world has a 90 minute headstart on me this morning.

When my toes hit the ground I was immediately playing catch-up. I’m not good at that.

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Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” -Continued – Part Nine

 

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” -Continued

 

 

Haight Street

by

John Kraft

 

 

 

After showering and putting on her makeup Marlee stood in front of her open closet door.

“What does one wear to a midnight party hosted by someone named ‘Spider’?”

The answer was obvious and she lifted the hanger holding the cream colored silk top. It had a scoop neckline that accented her slender neck. At the cuffs were silk covered buttons; each showing a small black stitched F-Clef.

Marlee picked up a short gold chain and held it up to the silk. “No, more color.” Picking through her modest jewelry box she found the perfect pieces: a turquoise teardrop pendant and matching earrings. The turquoise glowed against her skin. “That’s the look.” Black slingbacks completed the outfit.

With the creamy silk over simple black slacks and Marlee was satisfied with what she saw in the mirror.

The night was chilly and the fog was down to the ground. Marlee tossed on her turquoise blazer. It looked good and it would keep her warm enough for the short walk to the cafe.

A few minutes before midnight Marlee was making sure that the building front gate was latched.

“Miss? Excuse me.” The voice from behind startled her. She turned and saw two San Francisco Police officers straddling mountain bikes.

“Good evening. Is something wrong?”

“Not at all, but are you walking very far to your car? It is rather late and the streets can get rough at night.”

“I’m just walking up to the People’s Cafe and then on to a party.”

“At Spider’s? You’ll have a lot of fun. Still, let us walk with you.”

Together the three of them ambled through the fog past the glowing neon sign at the Head Shop and sending a pair of street predators slinking off to find some deeper shadows.

Both officers were in their 30’s and incredibly fit. Patrolling the hilly streets of The City on bicycles gave them superb cardiovascular systems, incredible stamina and muscular thighs that put power to the pedals and steamy fantasies in the minds of a large number of the women on their beat.

The officer who walked on Marlee’s left weighed his chances with the slender blonde. “Ever been to one of Spider’s parties before?” He had lively eyes.

“No, my first time tonight. Everybody seems to know about her parties. They must be something. What’s her secret?”

“She knows how to invite just the right mix of people. Interesting, outgoing and a few who are downright freaky.” Even in the fog his eyes twinkled.

“Oh, my,” said Marlee. “I wonder which quota I’m there to fill?”

“We’ll see. I’m sure I’ll bump into you there.”

“You’re coming to the party? Both of you?”

“No, just me. My partner here has to get home to the wife and kids. Right, Sherlock?”

The other officer who had been silent up to this point finally spoke. He had a slight New England tang to his voice. “That’s true, Miss. Gloria and I have six little fingerlings in the pond, so I don’t get to too many of Spider’s parties. Not off-duty anyway.”

When they approached the brightly lit exterior of the People’s Cafe Marlee turned to her guardians.

“Gentlemen, thank you for the escort. I feel very safe knowing you are around.”

“Our pleasure, Miss,” said Sherlock. The officer with the glint in his eye leaned across his handlebars and extended his hand. “My name is Mike and I’ll see you at the party.”

Marlee shook his hand. “My name is Marlee and maybe we’ll get a chance to chat. Bye now.”

The policemen silently pedaled off into the fog.

The cafe was almost empty. A young couple was leaving just as Marlee reached the door. She saw that some of the early morning regulars were engaged in an animated debate, probably over some arcane point of San Francisco history.

Behind the counter, Marlee saw Pete, the owner; Zephyr, her hair a vibrant orange tonight instead of pink, Spider was dressed all in black, as usual, and Luco. Marlee was used to seeing Luco dressed in a confidently casual black T-shirt and black denim pants. Tonight he had on a light blue chambray shirt and chinos. The light colored shirt made his complexion take on a coppery tone. The sterling silver and lapis choker on his neck emphasized this even more. Marlee thought that he looked like an ancient Aztec chief vacationing in modern day San Francisco.

“Marlee,” Luco called out. “You’re right on time.” He smiled and came out from behind the counter to welcome her.

“I just finished cleaning up and we’ll be…you look beautiful, if I may be allowed an observation.” He moved closer to her. “That turquoise is just perfect.” He reached out and lifted the blue teardrop from the pale skin just below her clavicle. Marlee felt the roughness of his fingertips, but was surprised by the gentleness of his touch.

Luco studied the pendant for a moment and, just as delicately, laid it back above Marlee’s heart. “It’s Mexican, I think. Very pretty, Marlee.” He turned toward the counter. “Hey, Zephyr, look at Marlee.”

Zephyr lifted her orange head from her accounting task at the register. Her eyes took the scenic route around Marlee’s body and then, lifting two fingers to her mouth, trilled an enthusiastic wolf whistle.

“That settles it, Marlee,” said Luco. “If Zephyr whistles, you are officially the best looking woman in the room.”

Marlee looked around and saw that she was one of only three women in the cafe. There was herself, Zephyr with her Magic Marker orange hair and Spider who looked like Darth Vader in drag. It wasn’t much, but she’d take it. “Thank you, Zephyr.”

In the kitchen the overhead lights were switched off and Pete, the owner of the People’s Cafe, turned off the neon window signs. Luco went into the office and returned in seconds, slipping into a chocolate brown soft leather coat.

Everyone was headed for the door.

Spider counted heads. “OK. Everybody who can cram into my van, get in. Leftovers: go with Pete. And just like always there is one ground rule for a party at my place: If you don’t dance, don’t take up space. Let’s go.”

They all piled into Spider’s shiny black van. The van had only one seat. The rest of the space was covered in thick, black carpeting. Zephyr scooted up next to Spider, a place of honor, while Marlee and everyone else found a bit of black space to claim.

Luckily, it was only a 15-minute drive from the cafe to Spider’s “Web” as she called it. During the ride, conversation was impossible. Spider had installed a stereo system that screamed out sound that could loosen your fillings and muss your hair. The music blasted out of 12 hidden speakers from the moment she turned the ignition key.

Marlee sat up straight against the wall, feeling the music in her spine as much as hearing it with her ears.

After a few blocks Marlee leaned over, tapping Zephyr on the shoulder. “What is this song? It sounds familiar.”

An electronic roar traveled from speaker to speaker. When it hit the one behind Marlee she laughed out loud. “That tickles!” No one heard her.

Zephyr moved over next to Marlee. “What did you say?” she asked, bouncing her head to the machine gun beat.

Marlee tried again. “I said, what in the world is this music? I feel like I’ve heard it before, but I can’t place it.”

Her head still chattering to the music, Zephyr put her mouth next to Marlee’s ear. “It’s the theme from the Flintstones. Great, ain’t it?” She gave Marlee a quick peck on the cheek before sliding back up to her spot next to Spider.

Luco crawled over next to Marlee. He was laughing. She was not. “Welcome to San Francisco” he shouted. Think nothing of it. She just thinks you’re cute.” Marlee’s head was picking up the beat. “And she’s right,” added Luco.

“What did you say? I just love this music,” she yelled to him. Luco looked at her, blinked and said, “’Cartoon Music.’ It’s called ‘Cartoon Music’.”

“Yeah, I’m catching on.” She pointed to the roof speakers as a bouncy riff made her giggle. “Speed Racer! I love it!” Luco nodded and went back to the other side of the van. He could feel a headache starting.

Spiders “Web” was a large flat in a three-plex near 25th Avenue, across from Golden Gate Park. She lived on the top floor with Zephyr and two other young women: “Bullet”, a militant vegetarian who worked in a fast food restaurant at Fisherman’s Wharf and “Patrice” who was a legal secretary by day and an exotic dancer by night.

The party was already in full swing as Spider pulled her van into the driveway. This was a major event. All three floors were partying.

Spider turned to her passengers. “Listen up, especially any first-timers we have with us tonight.” She winked at Marlee. “This is my home. I live here. I have only one rule.” Her voice dropped half an octave. “Take no prisoners!”

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” -Continued – Part Eight

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” -Continued

Haight Street

by

John Kraft

Luco put his head down on the book, kissed it and closed his eyes. Outside his window he missed the flashes of pointed movement across the street. The growl of a turning diesel-powered bus covered the gargled scream of a 20-year-old addict from Apple Valley, New York.

***

The sound of Steve Perry’s soaring voice from the clock radio shook Marlee from a warm and dream-filled sleep.

When the lights go down in the City, and the sun shines on the Bay. I want to be there in my City.”

It was a love song to San Francisco and after only a short time in the City, Marlee understood the infatuation.

San Francisco is a small city, only 49 square miles. As a result, the people living there strive to cram everything into and get everything out of the limited space. Any piece of vacant land will turn, overnight, into a garden or neighborhood farm. Rows of vegetables and flowers appear as if by magic.

The Victorian houses that line so many shady streets look like the work of finger painters run riot. Playful color combinations make the homes leap out to meet your eyes halfway. Yellow with magenta trim. Azure blue and fire engine red. Primary colors and subtle hues that come from a tropical plant’s dreams appear around every corner.

In this shirt pocket size city everything and everyone seems to be competing for attention. The peaks rise to outdo each other to get more sunlight. Hillsides, filled with narrow houses built on slivers of land, have steps instead of sidewalks. Streets twist and turn, inviting analogies that are doomed to fall short.

San Francisco is a city where, every May, 100,000 people dress up as buildings, bridges and sea serpents and run through the streets. They race from the busy shore of San Francisco Bay across the outlandish terrain to the Pacific Ocean at the western edge of the continent.

Hundreds of people race in the nude, braving the cold winds and the critical scrutiny of half a million eyes. They run knowing that in San Francisco their exhibitionism will be viewed with mild amusement rather than reproach.

The only thing about San Francisco that avoids excess is the climate. When the weather is warm and bright with skies too blue to imagine, the residents rush outside to take it in as fast as possible. They know that after 3 or 4 days of sunshine “The Fog” will come roaring in like a runaway train and cover everything with a speeding wall of salty white. It was this fog that greeted Marlee as she peeked outside her bedroom window.

When the clock radio roused her with Journey’s theme song for “The City”, Marlee sat on the edge of the bed, getting her bearings, preparing to start another day. She felt a misplaced chill. The floor was cold. The air had a familiar iciness, but for Cleveland in late autumn, not San Francisco in the spring.

Stumbling over to the window she poked two fingers through the white slats expecting to see the flowerbeds in Buena Vista Park. Instead of salvia and Golden California Poppies her eyes were met by solid gray. She pulled up the blind and wiped her hand across the glass. The fog was in and the world had disappeared.

The sun was struggling to make its presence known by the time Marlee had pulled herself together and headed up Haight Street. The fog was low over the tops of the buildings. The spires of the church up on the hill were invisible. So was the hill. Marlee felt like she was living inside a glass ball wrapped in a gray silk curtain. The horizon was a five minute walk away. It all made her a little depressed. Not quite a case of the blues, but just a bit out of balance.

Inside the People’s Cafe, however, the mood was almost like Christmas morning. Everyone was laughing and smiling, even the usually crabby customers. The bearded writer was grinning like a fool. He was normally quite morose this early in the day. Marlee wondered if today was some kind of local holiday.

“Marlee,” called Luco when he saw her standing there looking confused. “Good morning to you.”

The waitress called “Spider,” with her red dreadlocks, and young “Zephyr,” with a short, pink Pixie haircut and pierced eyebrows and even Armando the busboy, as if on cue, all called out, “Marlee!” The cook ran out from the kitchen waving his metal grill brush. “Marlee,” he yelled, turned around and hurried back to his duties.

Now totally lost, Marlee looked behind herself to see if another Marlee had walked in after her. It was confusing, but the boisterous greetings lifted her spirits and put a smile on her face.

Luco’s warm eyes welcomed Marlee as she walked up to the counter. “Are all you people psychics?” she said. “Did you know I was feeling kind of down? But all of you shouting my name sure took care of that.”

“Marlee, you may be new to Haight Street, but you’ve quickly become a member of our family.” His smile was genuine.

“Thank you, Luco, all of you. You sure know how to make a girl feel welcome.”

“We don’t let just anybody into our family, right John?”

The writer in the corner held up his bagel in salute. “Luco tells you true, Marlee. It took two years for them to even acknowledge my existence.”

“Spider” peeked over the glass pastry case. “Eat your bagel, John or I’ll withdraw my invitation to the party.”

“You need me there, Spider. Without me it’s just a party, but with me there it’s a celebration of life, a bacchanal.” Again, as if someone was giving cues, the entire crew shouted out, “Eat your bagel, John.”

The pink Pixie cut came up behind Luco, her hands on his hips. She weighed no more than ninety-five pounds. Looking around his tanned and muscular arm, Zephyr said, “Marlee, Spider is tossing a party and you have to come, as my guest.”

“Me? Why thank you.”

“I figured I better ask you because it looked like Ricky Ricardo here was too shy.” Zephyr slapped Luco on the rear and walked back into the kitchen to pick up an order.

Marlee looked at Luco and she could have sworn that he was blushing, just a little. Teasing him would have been fun, but she decided to let it pass. She was still too much a newcomer to get into that.

Luco was blushing. He didn’t like being teased in front of anyone, most of all a customer, and a pretty one at that.

“The party is this Saturday night at Spider’s place over on Fulton, near the Park.”

“Luco,” Marlee leaned close, “I’ve been meaning to ask you – “’Spider’? ‘Zephyr’? What’s with the crazy names?”

Luco leaned closer to Marlee. “Spider: her name is really Martha, but she prefers Spider. It has to do with the tattoo on her….” Marlee held up her hand, cutting him off.

“Spare me, Luco. I’m still too green for all the details of life in San Francisco.” It was her turn to blush.

“Fair enough, Marlee. We don’t want to scare you away. And Zephyr? That’s her real name. Her folks were a couple of old hippies. Go figure.

“Anyway, my dear, Spider’s bashes are the best. Not too weird, I promise. You’ll come to the party?”

“I’d love to, Luco. It’ll be good for me to get out and kick up my heels a bit.”

“That it will, Marlee. Be here at the cafe at midnight.”

Marlee wasn’t used to parties that started at midnight. Classical musicians aren’t known as party animals. Even in college, most of their parties were over by midnight. Tonight at Spider’s would be different and “different” was one reason Marlee was in San Francisco.

Thinking To Tomorrow

I AM A BIG FAN OF CREATIVITY. It comes in all sorts of flavors. Some people are creative with words, others paint, while others create the things that make the world operate on a daily basis. Then there are those whose creativity is manifested by seeing tomorrow in new and amazing ways. Me? I crack jokes and hope to make each day a little more palatable.

That’s OK by me.

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Throwback Thursday From Feb. 2015 – “And The Award Goes To…”

darwin_awards

Throwback Thursday From Feb. 2015 – “And The Award Goes To…”

I WAS JUST RANDOMLY TIPTOEING through the Internet the other day when I came across a news item that made me stop.

Police say a 55-year-old southwestern Michigan woman who died after accidentally shooting herself in the head in January was adjusting a handgun in her bra holster at the time.”

I’m familiar with the practice of carrying a concealed weapon, but I would think that you would want the gun to be easily accessible. But, then again, I wasn’t there to see just how accessible things were with her. I’m glad I wasn’t there. I would have called the 911 emergency line, but I think I might have had trouble explaining what happened.

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We Can Rebuild Him…

I KNOW THAT I’VE BEEN WRITING a lot about my cataract surgery lately. Some people tell me that they have found it somewhat interesting. Others have called it all rather “yucky.”

And they are both correct.

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