ADVENTURES ON THE ROAD INSIDE AND OUT


I’m watching the double yellow line between coming and going on interstate 25 from Santa Fe past Albuquerque.   In the rear view mirror I see scaffolding, an airless sprayer, paint tubs, tools, a wardrobe box, and suitcases. It is the same VW Van I used to refuse to ride in because it smelled of wet drywall. Now cushioned in the front seat, the wide windshield to the world saturates the bullet holes of a wrong-way love. It mattered before, the van thing, now it doesn’t. I’m grasping for the road, to burn out the memories, on the other side of the double yellow line.

“ Are you glad you came with me?”

“ So far, but we’re still in New Mexico. Try not to drive me over the edge, okay? I mean with the speaker phone talking Taiwanese to B of A, or.. would you hold the steering wheel with two hands please…see, there’s an accident.”

“ Wow, the car flipped over.”

“ Yea, that kind of thing.”

“ I’m a safe driver.”

“ I know, but only about half of you is here.”

“ Whatta you mean?”

“The other half is glaring into the distance, the mountains, the clouds, the crows, imagining yourself a dinosaur.”

“Not no more.”

“Why? Did she make an adult out of you? I hate her for that. John did the same to me.”

Scenery whizzes by; snow capped mountains, speeding patrol cars, highway signs; it’s barely absorbed before it is gone. Make it like this, easy to forget, like the scenery.  I fell asleep, a dreamless nap, the kind that wakes you displaced but without alarm. Rudy was leaning away from the sun-splashed window, one loose hand on the steering wheel.

“Where are we now?”

“Gallup”

“Someone told me it is the drug capital of the United States. Where is everyone? Maybe they hide indoors so as not get shot.”

“Gallup is also the largest Indian center in the Southwest and the ceremonial capital of Native America. There are many American peoples in the Gallup/Four Corners region. By far the most numerous are the Navajo, who are today widely regarded for their achievements in wool, with original Navajo rugs and blankets (both new and antique) sought by private collectors and museums throughout the world. “Wikipedia

  Five hours later we are sitting by the window of Pesto, in Flagstaff and talking alternately, not in conversation, but in spite of, John, Match.com and the billboard irony of our circumstances. Even though we hadn’t checked into the motel yet, or even knew where it was, the adventure of livingness struck, and I climbed out of myself.

“It’s like it never happened, you know?” I said.

“Oh yea, I know.”

In the middle of the night I woke up screaming at John.  Rudy was in the next bed, and didn’t hear me, so I opened the drapes and stared out the window at the brightest star and listened to the voice of reason that visits me sometimes. What love scars bring to the world is poetry, literature, art, music, theater, gospel, and dance! So where will this take me? I thought about the documentary on Nicholas Ray, and his remark,    “ Without content all you have is composition.”

I wish morning would come.

Starting in 1999, every road trip between NM and CA includes a morning at Macy’s Coffee House. I entered this time without the explosion of zest in previous trips, when my heart was in one piece, and found enough distractions to pull me further out of wrong-way love.

A group of middle-aged men, retired cops or civil servants were my first source of entertainment. At a wooden table, conversing microphone loud about city ordinances was the leader. One Fry boot perched on a chair, and the other on the floor, his belly protruded way beyond a few beers here and there. His pals, all looking up to him, waiting for an injection of his wry humor, and dirty jokes. Rudy is talking about how much he loves Flagstaff, but what I hear is a tide of elation rising up, just resurfacing now, after a good nights rest in the Hampton Inn.

Somewhere between Flagstaff and San Diego, we stopped for Snickers and gas, and I walked around a neglected weed field, kicked rocks, and asked myself when was the last time, I just fell into the moment without that incessant poke of reality; unpublished stories, bills, missing folders, clutter, grocery lists, mail, websites, photo sharing, John’s lunch, John’s phone calls, the news of the world.

“I feel better Rudy, I haven’t cried all day.”

“It’s still early, he chuckled.  I have an idea, let’s take the off roads.”

“How off we talking?”

“Check your map, see if Interstate 8 runs into 10?”

I reached for the Droid, and fussed with the tricky touch pad.

“No, it doesn’t.”

“It does.”

“So why bother with maps.”

“I know–we’ll take 78, through the countryside. It will be pretty. Look, see the sheep?”

The pasture was yellow as corn, hay stacked with sheep, hundreds of them.

“Let’s stop.” I said.

“Even sheep make money. LouLou, there has to be a way for you to capitalize on your writing, and not wait for some jackass to hire you. There has to be. Even I know people pay to click on website ads.”

“It’s pennies.”

“You said you had 165 clicks the other day.”

“That was once! Mostly between 10-50 a day.”

“So! It adds up.”

“Look, the sheep are watching us.”

The sheep rose as soon as the car door opened, but they just strolled along, the babies following the mother’s, and one with a limp, dragging himself behind. Every one slightly different, but all part of a community, a gang, with primitive ancestral traditions and routines.

The highway now was split with white lines, and we were sandwiched between limitless textured scenery; Manzanita trees, orchards, big boulders, a dry creek, and then we were driving along one stretch, my legs curled up under me, and I am grazing on unhurried thoughts, just ripples of ideas and dreams.

“Did you see that?” Rudy blurted out.

“See what?”

“That guy! I just saw a guy walking alongside a weary  looking burro dragging a miniature red covered wagon. I gotta turn around.”

“ Hi folks, how you doing?” He extended a hoof like hand, weathered as paws, “I’m Howard West.” Howard was outdoor fit; sunglasses, hat, boots, and evenly tanned skin.

“Hi, I’m Rudy, and that’s LouLou.”

“Hi LouLou,” he shook like a city man with hardened hard-labor hands.

“ Hi. This is some way of traveling. What are you doing?”

“ I’m on a book tour, The Quicksilver Key Book Tour.

I caught my laughter when I noticed his educated aura; that veil of disguise we think fools everyone.

“It’s about the history, the lost history–the West in particular and how the government accrues the investment of the rancher, and the universe. If you read my books you’ll see….”

I was petting the dog, a friendly furry mixed breed, and Howard was now blending Rudy in his claw, with this rockabilly wisdom that I didn’t understand.

“How far are you going today Howard?” Rudy asked.

“I do about 10 or 12 miles a day. Whenever I feel like stopping, I just pull over. You been down to the Dunes yet?”

“ Where’s that?” Rudy was keenly addressing the wagon, it’s wheels, and accessories, but only I knew that.

“ Down the road. Now, those kids have money. They ride doon-buggies-sell for anywhere from five thousand to seventy five thousand dollars! They took me on a ride.”

“ Wow! Hey do you have any power source?”

“ Sure do. See this–jets up the whole works, laptop,

lights, even my stove.  Let me show you.”

I tinkered with the bell around the donkey, I came to find out was named Blue Pegasus, and watched Howard lead Rudy to the watering hold.

“I have books and disks; the books are $12 and a disk is $5, which one will it be?”

“We’ll take a disk Howard.”

“All righty… and the distinct differentiation of

the classes…..

I was about to interrupt when another car passed by, and Howard was distracted by the prospect of a purchase.

“Howard, you’re the coolest! I love what your doing man–I wish I could do it.” Rudy shook his hand.

“Everyone has a book.”

We drove past the sand dunes, and all that bleached rolling sand smooth as pressed sheets, jolted my mind like a wrench.

“ Howard West probably went to Harvard and has a degree in History.”

“You may be right. Why can’t you do that?”

“I would if I was a man.”

“No, not the road part, just get your writing on a disk and sell it. If you sell them for 10 bucks, and you sell…..

“You mean my columns?”

“Whatever! You’ve been writing since I met you for Christ’s sake.”

“Yea I could do a collection of columns, or even a book.  Why didn’t I think of that?”

“You’ve been too preoccupied with other stuff.”’

“Look, they’re having Superbowl Sunday party’s right here in Brawley.” On either side of highway 78 a campfire gathering of trailers were wedged in a circle, boom boxes blaring, American flags blowing, and a dog tied to a post.

“I took out my phone and scrolled through the numbers until I got to John, and then I deleted it. Maybe it was the dead cats in the road, or the poor teenager back in Anza without any future ahead of her but the donuts, or Howard, or the clarity of a cobalt blue evening sky staring down at me, that got me to move over to the other side of the double yellow line, and let John go.

“ I’m starving, why didn’t I bring any snacks? “

“ We’ll stop up here in Anza.”

“ How do you know Anza.”

“ I just do. You don’t want to know.

“Oh I do… please.. Rudy, I really don’t care.”

“ Can I tell you anyway? She knew antiques, once we saw …

“ Oh Gawd.” I threw my head back and laughed without actually any noise.

“ Stop, there’s the store.”

“ You know what else?”

“ What?”

“ She couldn’t understand why I cared about you so much.”

“That’s a good ending.”

My phone rang, an unknown number, never pick those ones up, could be the guy who said his father killed Ben Siegel.

“Rudy, stop!”

“I can’t stop now. We’re on the freeway nutcase.  Who called?”

“The daughter.”

“Whose daughter?”

“My father’s.”

To be continued.

I REMEMBER


Frank Costello, American mobster, testifying b...
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I was a child of the fifties; when raising kids was easily defined. Mommy stayed home and made sure the kids didn’t burn the house down. Daddy went to an office to make money to pay for the house, and children waited until they were grown up to find out anything really useful. It was before the generation-gap was coined, or children knew how to be witty and sharp. In our air-tight neighborhood of Bel Air, Los Angeles, we were naïve, privileged, kids; bogged down with falling off bicycles, not being chosen for the school play, and bringing home the most candy at Halloween.

I believed in Santa Clause, the Easter bunny, and if I was good, Mommy would let me stay up and watch the Sunday night Variety Show.

America was threatened by the Russian Communists and Organized crime. Public enemy Number One was New York Mafia Boss, Frank Costello. Frank became super famous when he refused to testify on national television for Senator Estes Kefauver. The Kefauver Committee delivered explosive headlines between 1950 and 1951, as the government unveiled the hidden hand of the Mafia in the United States.

WITHOUT A CLICK OF COMMON SENSE


ON THE 8ft dining room table there are now eight stacks of start and stop memoir versions, going back to 2003, and I am still digging through folders INSIDE folders.
Without a click of common sense; how will I structure the book for publication? I wish someone would just follow me around and record, this process. Creative canons shoot me to the end!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

ROAD RHYMES


Just back from a road trip, stops in Flagstaff, Anza, San Diego, stay in Del Mar, visit Jimmy in Palm Springs, Palm Desert, unstructured impulses guiding

me. And now I have to format things, I’m not good at, but I have the content. I’ll draw a double yellow, double yellow line,  between the pages, and try to make them all line up. WROTE A LOT OF DOUBLE YELLOW LINE PAGES.

MY KENNY


Glaspalast München 1900 060
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The Summer of 1973. Los Angeles.

 

Ken drove a rusty VW hippie van that configured around his restless and unpredictable patterns.  He was known to drive, stop, and stay in the same spot three days. Our adventures began on Pacific Coast Highway driving along without any direction or plan.  Ken would be singing the blues, and I’d be sitting in the back, stretched out, watching him in the rear view mirror. He had cloudy blue eyes that perpetuated the intensity of his tortured soul. The only time they didn’t appear preoccupied was when he was playing the piano. I’d noticed that the first time he took me home to meet his parents, Bernie and Anna Marie.

 

They lived in hillside split level home. The first level belonged to Ken.  As soon as we crossed the threshold he darted into a dimly lit carpeted room and sat down at the piano.

“Hi, I’m here!  I have Louellen with me.”

“What! I can’t hear you Ken,” his father shouted back.  It was apparent they were a family that communicated in various tones of yelling; the kinds of people who never consider finding the person they are talking to, they just yell from one level of the house to the other.

“Bernie, I’ brought Louellen– put on a pair of pants!”

“SuEllen did you say?”

“Come on Lou, you gotta meet Bernie.  I told him about you. But he takes so many pills he can’t remember anything.”

“Okay.”

We climbed the stairs to the living room and Ken shook his head as we reached the last step. “The television is always blasting.He thinks he’s deaf.”

 

As soon as I laid eyes on Bernie I could tell he lived his retirement in front of the television, clutching the remote as one does a cigarette. His form had molded the sofa into an abstraction of his physique.

“Bernie, you look great. Can you at least get up to meet her.” Bernie rose reluctantly, rubbed his lower back, and shook my hand. He smiled as if he was happy about meeting me, but I knew he was irritated because I was standing in front of the television set.

“Anna Marie, Louellen’s here.” Ken yelled.

I stood there feeling like a new chair they were inspecting. Ken sensed my predicament; he read people before they even opened their mouth.  Anna Marie came out with a pot holder in her hand.

“Okay Lou–this is the family. Now everyone back to their places.”  I was the only one that laughed.

“Your cooking smells so good.” I said to Anna.

”It’s nothing, just dinner for us.”

“Mom‘s the best cook in the world. Did you make my potatoes?”

“Yes Ken, I made your potatoes, brisket, coleslaw, blueberry blintzes…
“Mom, there’s four of us—you’re not cooking for the German army.”

 

Anna Marie grew up in Austria during the occupation; the Germans took her family home and everything with it.

Bernie was back on the sofa, and Ken seated next to him in a leather club chair. He was bantering his Dad about watching CNN all day. Bernie talked back to the news reporters, scolded the football players, and grudgingly laughed at the comedies. It appeared Anna Marie wasn’t worth talking to any longer. She masked her sadness poorly; it was written so everyone could read her.

“What college are you going to Louellen?” Bernie asked.     “ Sonoma State.”

“Somoa what? Never heard of it. Ken’s in law school– aren’t you Ken?”
“What? Did someone say something to me?” Ken winked at me.

“You wouldn’t know if someone clubbed you on the head for Christ’s sake. Why don’t you straighten up and start taking things seriously. All you do is drive around in that heap of junk in the driveway, that leaks oil by the way, and you need a bloody haircut!”

“What was the question?”

They went on like that and I recognized the mental match between father and son. I walked through the white carpeted living room feeling it’s history; safe and predictable, like coming home would always be the same. I noticed Anna Marie’s garden;, tiny rows of perfectly nurtured flowers set inside a large freshly mowed yard that looked untouched  since Ken was a teenager.

 

I found Anna Marie in the kitchen stirring and juggling pots.

“Would you like something to drink Louellen?”

“No, I’m fine. What a feast you’ve made.  Do you always cook like this?”

“Well, it never goes to waste. I got used to cooking for all the boys–Ken has three brothers you know.”

Just then Ken came in, kissed his mother on the ear and opened all the lids of the pots.

“Kenny,don’t you dare,” she said. Ken took a bite out of a potato and she yelped as if she was surprised. It was their playful match that had been going on for years.

 

Through out dinner I watched Ken; how he deferred their questions and manipulated the conversation so it remained directionless like his driving. After dinner we went downstairs to the piano room. Ken slammed his hands on the keyboard, and starting playing some Dixieland jazz. He looked over at me and smiled triumphantly.

“ Bernie hates it, he’s always hated it. I do this to drive him nuts. He can’t stand my playing the piano-the poor bastard doesn’t have a creative cell in his body. He used to break into my classical lessons and start yelling his head off. ”

“Kenny! I can’t hear a thing! Shut the door!” Bernie hollered.  Ken let out a thunderous roll of laughter and kept right on playing.  Each time we returned to have dinner with Bernie and Anna Marie, the routine slackened,  and I felt more at home. I grew to like Bernie, and the feeling was mutual. Anna Marie would not allow herself to feel something for me, in case I had any ideas of taking Ken away. I spent the rest of that summer trying to help Ken figure out what to do, while he unknowingly was teaching me about my essence.

One day towards the end of the summer my father called me.   “Ken’s father called asking if I knew where his son was.”

“Ken’s gone?” I answered.

“Apparently that’s the situation. What the hell kind of family is you mixed up in? What a thing to ask me. Ken told his father he was driving you back to Sonoma in September. Is that right?”

“Yes, he offered to.”

“Well, you can forget about that. If the bum does come back, I don’t want you going out any longer. His father isn’t all there.”

“That’s funny.” I said.
“What’s so funny about it?”

“That’s what Ken says about him.”

“Well in any case–forget the bum–he’s not going anywhere. His father went on for half an hour and I heard everything I need to hear. He had the audacity to tell me he read about me in the newspapers.”

“What about?”

“That’s irrelevant. The point is you don’t reveal what you know about someone.”

“Why not?”

“Because you have the upper hand.”

That fall I returned to Sonoma, Ken dropped out of law school, and my father was arrested again.  Bernie and Anna Marie remained together until Bernie passed away. Ken moved to the southern tip of Baja and plays piano in a resort. Every few years he drops me a line, and we talk about Bernie and my dad.

 

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