The universe keeps trying to convince me that I’m mediocre, but I refuse to give in. All the greats have had to fight that urge to shrink and fit into normalcy.
Crazy is better than normalcy, going mad is better than normalcy. Do something, do anything to prove that you’re still alive—-that you’re a worthy opponent. Release your bullshit on the world like a tiger ripping into a fallen gazelle.
Kill or be killed—–most are already dead and feeding on table scraps. The true holy ones aren’t afraid to climb free solo—they know that no one is tethered to security.
Make fear your best-friend and nothing will ever scare you again.
The sky remains cold and damp as I fiddle with my windshield wipers intermittent timer. Too fast, then too slow and constantly falling out of time with the songs on the radio. Even though it’s late afternoon the gray skies and drifting fog gives this dreary day a sleepy morning feeling. I pull into the parking lot of an ancient looking motel and double check my GPS to confirm if this indeed is the Ocean Spray motel. I begin to have second thoughts about saving fifty bucks by making reservations at a place that only has three out of five stars. Never trust the glowing comments made about an establishment on the internet. No one, or nothing is what it appears to be on the internet. Anyone who’s tried their luck on one of those internet dating sights can attest to this. I figured that after I downed three beers my motel arrangements wouldn’t appear so shabby. Beer makes life’s intolerable events bearable.
The old gal behind the registration counter stares out at me through thick eyeglasses that gave her the look of a bulging eyed goldfish. From the back room, which I surmised is her living quarters, I can hear the familiar voice of Pat Sayjak blathering on about someone buying a vowel. She tilted her head back and looked down her nose at me. “Is it just you mister, or do you have a lady friend along for the ride?” There was a bit of sarcasm in her enunciation of the words, “lady friend”. I stared into her exaggerated bulging fisheyes and responded, “No, just me ma’am, just me.” She offered up a suspicious nod, “Okay, no partying or hell raising allowed, quiet time starts at 10:00 pm and check out no later than 10:00 am. Here’s your key, room number 12.” She turned and shuffled back into the blue hue of her TV room.
I open the door to room 12 and I’m greeted by the odor of mildew and the lingering hint of Fraabreeze. It’s a poor attempt at giving this joint an air of respectability. I’m more than sure that these four walls have seen and heard their share of dirty things——(maybe I’ll sleep in my clothes). I crack the window, pop a beer and lean back against the squeaky headboard. In the distance I hear the comforting sound of waves breaking against the rocky shore. The occasional lonely sound of a foghorn gently lulls me into slumber. It calls out a warning to those lost sailers who may be drifting too close to the rocks. These waters with their tricky currents and hidden reefs have pushed many a vessel into the teeth of its rocky shoreline.
I’ve made my share of memories traveling up and down the northern coast of California, but my favorite memories go back to when I was a kid seeing the Pacific Ocean for the first time. My lifelong buddy’s name is Patrick and his mother’s name is Jeanne. Jeanne had a big influence on my young life. She’d pile Pat, his sister Erin and me into her 1970 Bonneville and we’d drive westward out of the flat Sacramento Valley. We’d travel through the green lush coastal range making our way to a place on a map where the land gives way to an emerald sea with its endless gray horizon. My god, I remember how those enormous vistas made me feel small. Highway 1 meanders its way along the rugged cliffs and through the stands of mighty old growth sequoias. We’d eventually reach that sea weathered town known as Fort Bragg. Even though fifty years has passed since I first pulled into this town, it appears to have changed very little. It’s a landscape of moss covered picket fences, overgrown berry-bushes and a misty coastline that time seems to have forgotten. Home isn’t where you’re necessarily from, it’s more about being at a place where you feel that you’ve always belonged. I finish off my beers and fall asleep to the sound of breakers crashing on the shore and that sweet song of a foghorn calling out into the darkness.
The next morning I wake early and take my shower in a yellow tile stained stall. I stop at a cafe and grab a hot coffee to go. I’m headed to MacKerricher State park where my tide table guide indicates low tide is at its peak at 5:50 am. I look at my watch and see that I’m on schedule to get to the tide pools on time. Out on the horizon I spy a fishing trawler chugging its way north. If I weren’t prone to seasickness, I’d love to be at the helm of that boat. I imagine myself being addressed as captain Sabino by the bartender as I enter the local tavern. After being out to sea for weeks, I envision myself saddling up to the bar and buying a round of drinks for the entire bar. Lost in my fantasy causes me to absentmindedly drive slower than the speed limit, the car behind me impatiently honks, rousing me from my daydream. I think to myself, “Fucking jerk”.
I pull up into the parking lot of the state park and roll my window down. Man, the smell of the ocean does something to me that makes me involuntarily smile. In the past fifty years there’s been a lot of changes, but this place remains frozen in time. The damp weather is the great equalizer making everything look permanently worn and tired, yet it’s comfortable and unexplainably familiar, like the face of an old friend. Thinking back, I remember Jeanne with her fiery red hair and her strong willed personality. She had an independent streak that fostered a fearlessness in her eyes. If inadvertently provoked she could have a bit of a temper——you didn’t fuck with Jeanne! She was a feminist before that word had become into vogue. With just her tenacity and a love for nature, she’d haul us kids into her car and we’d head out on spontaneous adventures. We were like a bunch of carefree gypsies rolling down the highway together, playing twenty one questions, singing along with the radio and laughing with a spontaneity that only comes with that rare feeling of being young and free.
Before the intrusion of smartphones, social networking and 24/7 news cycles, we’d spend an entire day exploring beaches and the woods. I suppose this is gonna make me sound like an old fart, but I do believe life was simpler back in the “olden days”. Kids these days would probably shake their heads and laugh at the notion of being unplugged from the internet for a twenty four hour stretch.That twelve year old boy inside of me is still amazed at the beauty and danger that comes with climbing down the slippery cliffs to the wave sprayed rocks. It’s a funny thing how beauty and danger seem to go hand in hand. I clamor from one green mossy rock to the next. I peer into the tide pools observing their tiny worlds within. Each tide-pool is a community of sea urchin’s, sea anemones, starfish and skittering rock craps. I stick my finger in the middle of a sea anemone and watch as it closes around me. I lick my dry lips and taste that organic flavor of sea-salt. The ocean is mother-nature’s womb, the place where life first quivered into existence, evolving from nothingness into everything-ness——what a beautiful mystery to behold. I’m not sure why it is, but the ocean with it rolling waves and windy cliffs draws us all back to its holy vastness. I watch folks standing silently at the edge of this continent staring introspectively into the hypnotic waves. Couples hold hands as the whistling winds mess their damp hair. I suppose there’s still pieces of us all in those thundering waves. I stroll the beach and see the litter of driftwood and seaweed left behind from where high-tide left its mark. These tides are tied to the pull of the moon phases—-all things supernaturally connected. Nature is my cathedral, my church.
I climb back in my car and head to the harbor where I’ll have lunch at one of the open air grottos’s. The fishmongers are busy cleaning and laying out the days fresh catch. I smell the fresh fish, deep fried calamari and steaming clam chowder in sourdough bread bowls. The glass refrigerated case is filled with squids, abalone and a multitude of different types of fish neatly laid out atop white crushed ice. Behind the counter with its decorative fishing nets and colorful buoys is an old 19 inch TV hanging from the ceiling. It’s hard to believe, but fifty years ago at this very grotto I watched Neil Armstrong on a snowy TV screen utter the words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” My god, how many grains of sand have passed through my hour glass since that memorable day? I wish I could turn that hour glass over again and allow me another fifty years.
When I visit a place from the past that changed me, I become engulfed by a tremendous ache deep inside my chest. I’m keenly aware of the impermanence of all things. This life is chaotic and messy, people come and go, people change, memories become irretrievable and the continuum of time splinters and disappears into thin air. There’s no way of going back from what was, to what is, time only moves in one direction——-forward. Time is like the waves that break on the shore and then recede back into eternity.
I hand my motel key to the googly eyed women at the front desk. She in-quizzically inquires, “Did ya enjoy your stay? Ya find everything you came for?” I responded in a pensive tone,“I came here to remember something——or maybe more importantly, to once again believe in something.” She leans forward and in a hushed voice asks,“And, what do you believe in?” I pause for a moment as I consider her question, “That each and every day is truly extraordinary. And, if this enormous ocean is possible and real, and if it can be imagined like god can be imagined, then anything and all things are possible. That’s what I believe.”
Letter writing is a lost art. In the olden days receiving a letter was a momentous occasion. It may be the only link to a loved one who’s now many miles away. It might be a soldier who’s off to war, or a prospector who’s gone out west to a gold rush in search of his fortune, or maybe someone who’d left everything behind to seek freedom and opportunity in the new world, or maybe a letter from mom and dad after they’ve shipped you off to summer camp. To the homesick, a letter is like a life preserver tossed from home.
Somehow, written words are more intimate and heartfelt than texts, zooms, emails or face-timeing. There’s a formality of ink meeting paper, there’s something unique about thoughts laid out in black and white—–it’s like letting someone peer into the corners of your mind, to hear your voice, the timber, the rhythm and the flow of words being enunciated—-It’s like being given wings when standing on a collapsing bridge.
Written letters are saved in old shoeboxes or under well worn mattresses. It would be a foolish thing to throw away someones words and thoughts. Letters are snapshots of moments in time. They can be pulled out and reread and given life again. It’s like placing the needle of a phonograph on a favorite song. You can pick the letter up and smell its scent, imagining the hand that sealed the envelope. I once had a girlfriend who’d put on lipstick and then leave an imprint of her kiss on the letters she’d send me. She’d spray perfume on the stationary and leave “X’s” and “O’s” next to her name. It was a virtual hug and kiss.
I’d always carefully put my letters back in their envelopes and then place them in a box I dedicated to these precious communications. Most folks won’t let you into their world the way a letter can. A well written letter requires time and attention to create a composition that expresses what is laying dormant beneath ones tongue.
We’re all adrift on a vast ocean of loneliness and a letter is like a bright red flair against an ebony sky. It begs the questions—- Can you see me? Do you hear me?—Please don’t forget me?
The breath of early June is in the air, so sweet, so warm——-laced with the scent of lilacs.The evening breeze ruffled through my hair, for me, this is the fairest time of day.Thinking back, her face resembled someone with a hybrid pedigree, part French, part gypsy——-a precocious child of the Greek God Hedone.She hid unspoken promises and dirty secrets behind her waning smile.She must of thought I was a pervert because when she noticed me staring at her, she gave me the stink eye.
I liked the way she stroked a pool cue and the way her cleavage was exposed when bending over the perfectly lit pool table.She took her shot with blue cigarette smoke hallowed around her. She spoke softly with an exotic accent from an unknown foreign land. It didn’t even matter what she had to say, I just liked listening to her hypnotic voice.Then she screeched, “What are you looking at weird-o?” I knew right then and there, this was not going to have a 1940’s happily-ever after movie ending.But I was already in way too deep to back down now. The shot of tequila burned the back of my throat. I knew I wasn’t going home until either I made her, or she made a fool out of me.
She was like an old fashion vinyl record, something that needed to be treated with reverence and handled with sensitively——-to hurry and fumble with her would only leave an indelible scare on something of such perfection. She’s a song I’d never grow tired of.Pretty girls grow old, but good songs never do.She had me humming “Girl From The North Country”.
Her rose colored lipstick clung to an empty shot glass. She wasn’t one of those chardonnay sipping bores easily impressed with stock-market babel, she craved the excitement that came with jazz musicians, black magic dealers and men who knew what they wanted and how to get it. My palms were sweaty, my heart pounding as my libido pushed me forward.I prowled about in a circle at the edges of her perimeter.I threw back another shot and walked on over to her and with a pandering voice asked her to dance. She shook her head no.Shaken and perplexed I blurted out, “Okay, how bout an an arm wrestle?”She didn’t answer, she just spit on her palms, rubbed her hands together and then stretched out her small manicured fingers——-at least I was touching her flesh, even if it were in a contest of strength and courage. She dipped her head down and then locked her eyes on mine in an intimate manner. Neither one of us allowed ourselves to blink.
Her hand felt soft and warm.I applied pressure and she responded with a quiver in her grip.I felt the momentum moving in my favor as her forearm began to falter. From under the cocktail table she allowed her soft warm inner thigh to rub up against my knee. That poor cotton summer dress didn’t stand a chance, inching up closer and closer, slowly giving way.She looked up at me with those fucking eyes——she wasn’t playing fair, she played dirty——Goddamn, losing never felt so good. From the jukebox the song “Bitter Sweet Surrender” blared—–her leg began to mercilessly move in rhythm with the song. For God’s sake, she was taking advantage of me, breaking me down.
My forehead glistened with sweat, my bicep began to tremble——my trousers grew even tighter. She had me, she knew it——-She teased me——moving in a little——moving out a little—there was a wave of tension leading to a singe point of no return.She was unexpectedly much stronger than she first appeared to be—–isn’t that the way of all woman.
They tore down that old bar where we use to hangout. It was a place where we spent many a night laughing and getting drunk. I have a memory of us dancing beneath a streetlamp at two in the morning. She had the power to turn a dark dank alley into a place where broken glass, dumpsters and the sound of screeching car tires became a stage for danger and romance.—— Yes, I said romance, minus the stench of stale piss.
Why do they call it therapy. Why not call it emotional prostitution? All it really is, is paying someone to be still and listen, handing you Kleenexes while you’re sitting there shamelessly sobbing.Ya see, you can pay someone to have sex, but you can’t buy intimacy—–or the algorithm to true love.
Figuratively——I sat there, bare-ass naked on the therapy couch, exposed, vulnerable with no small talk or false bravado to hide behind——its’s just me paying a stranger to listen———to help me make sense of the tangled knots that make up the shitty things that occur in life. Isn’t it odd, we find it easier to talk about our deepest fears and heartaches to a total stranger rather than a lover or a friend.(The following voice coming from somewhere inside my head) “If everyone knew how fucked up you are, they wouldn’t like you anymore.”(An opposing voice from inside my head responds) “Here’s some free therapy kid, stop giving a shit about what others may think of you———being who you are is nobody business but your own.This world is full of copies, posers and phonies. Be your inexcusable weird self——-those that break-trail must be stronger than those who follow, but they’re the first to plant their flag at the top of the mountain.”
I can pay someone to listen to me spill my guts, but I can’t buy their companionship, someone to like me, to care about me———to be my friend. There are things money can’t buy. I think the best therapy is fellowship, someone to walk beside me, at a common pace, to not just hear me, but to quietly listen, to share the breath of difficult words———-someone who won’t make me feel awkward when my faults and flaws are exposed. We all need someone to share life’s private jokes, to smile when we smile, to cry when we cry, somebody to carry us through the darkness when the days become too heavy.I could be that for you, if you’d let me——cause in spite ofall the changes we’ve been through,——I’ll aways be your friend.
I have a photo of you and I on the mantle above the fireplace. We’re posed arm and arm——it’s strange to see how young we looked back then. We carved our initials in the trunk of that big old walnut tree in my parents backyard, we were gonna build a rocket ship and fly far away, we made up secret handshakes and pledged to always be brothers, the world smelled like rain in late June, the summers lasted an eternity——-my therapy back then was playing make believe and pretending to be a cowboy or a pirate. Maybe we’re all pretending to be something or someone we’re not?
My therapy now, is no longer pretending to be normal, cause I’m not. I’ve embraced my weirdness. There are certain memories, people and things I’ll never be able to let go of———and you my friend are one of those things. I’m old fashioned and sentimental that way.
The therapist nonchalantly looks at her wristwatch and clears her throat “I think we’ve made some good progress today.I’ll see you next week, right?”I respond, “No, I don’t think so——-I’m fine with keeping it weird.”
Soundtrack “Son Of A Highway Daughter” by Ruston Kelly.
I messed up again, got drunk and pissed everyone off, let myself down with a thousand discarded and broken pledges, I’m wanting morning light at this 3:03 am, its the darkest of corners to turn in the middle of the night, the sheets have become untucked and tangled, the room is stuffy and hot, I’m mad at the likes of me for being a poor version of what I might have been, I’m pleading with the dark shadows and demons to stop coming round and convicting me with a movie reel on repeat, revealing me and all the stupid shit I’ve ever done, my sanity meter is starved for another quarter, for a shard of clarity——the walls are closing in=====Oh my god, where are you now, my holy ghost has gone MIA
I’m nervous all the time, my breath stale beer and bitter nicotine, people can see through me, I never learned how to be coy or clever, my bravado has caved in, I’m teetering on being too far gone to come back again, I no longer belong anywhere or to anyone, everywhere I go I feel out of place, people stare at me like I’m a two headed monster in a nickel and dime freak show——can’t you see, that under all this ugliness it’s still me
I’d call you, but at this hour it would be a selfish thing for me to do——-I wish I’d never worn you out with my rants and ramblings, I’m afraid I’m gonna drag you down with me—— a drowning man with arms flailing, we played hide and seek one too many times with our emotions, and what was once found is now lost. it’s Amazing Grace in reverse——-I’m sorry I painted you into my landscape, you’re far too pretty to be sketched within the same canvas with the likes of someone like me
People want to choose relationships the same way that they pick out corn on the cob. They secretly peel back a small portion of the husk and take a quick peek to see what’s on the inside. They take a hurried look around to see if anyone is watching and then hastily decide if it’s a keeper or a throw back.
I wonder what becomes of the cobs that have been discarded and left behind, their husk pulled down exposing all their flaws, for all the world to see. Maybe some are fed to the pigs while others are sent to the popcorn factory.