I’m Just a Regular Guy. Part Two.


          “Did you want to be like the people in Rancho Santa Fe?”

          He laughed out loud and said, “I don’t want to be what I’m not. I am the happiest man alive.”

          “Tell me again why you are so happy?”

          “I told you about when I was stuck in Buna– I made a vow to God that if I got out of there alive, I’d never complain about life again

          “You kept your promise.”

          “ Yes, and I have the most wonderful friends in the world—and you’re one of them.”  I gave him a hug and a kiss and asked him to tell me more about his life in Solana Beach.

          “ Was your wife happy too?”

          “ Oh yes.”

          “ How long were you married?”  I asked.

          “ My wife and I were married fifty years, nineteen forty-one until she passed away.

 She was so good to me when I come back from the war. I used to get up in the middle of the night and wander around, didn’t know where I was and she always got up with me. I had bad dreams and got lost, didn’t know where I was, and would hide in the closet. She was so careful with me. I just didn’t know what I was doing like spilling things at the table, and not remembering things she told me. It went on for a long while, but she never got angry or lost her temper. She was so good, and after I got better, we started having fun again, and we were doing good. I was at the dairy and they bought me the house on  Barbara Street.”

          “ The dairy bought it for you?”  I interrupted.

          “Yeah, 208  Barbara, that was it. We lived in that little house while I worked at the dairy– I worked seven days a week, from midnight until noon, then I’d have my lunch and rest awhile. Then we might go out and we’d party. “

          “ Before you went to work?”

          “ Oh yeah, it was the only time we had together.” 

          “ I feel like a wimp,”  I mumbled.  

          “ Well, you work hard, and I don’t know it just seems people need more sleep today or something, I don’t know what it is.”

We haven’t been in a war.”           

         ” Maybe so.  I think people seem to marry for different reasons these days.  Janet and I had the same background, we both knew what hard work was about. She didn’t complain, she was very good with money, she wrote down everything we spent. I guess we were lucky.”

          “ I think it’s more than luck, you appreciate life every day,” I said.

          “ I do, like you too, I am so glad you are my friends, and we can sit here and talk and have such good times.”

 Then Rudy took my hand, and apologized for shouting at me earlier about not turning the hose off all the way. He said he wanted to take me out for dinner because he felt so bad. Maurice grinned, and I gave him a hug and a kiss.  He went into the back and came back with a little bouquet of sweet peas for me.

          “ These are for you,”  he said. 

          “ Oh Maurice, you’re making me feel terrible,” Rudy said in jest.

          “ I don’t mean to, it’s just that I love women so much. I told my wife every day, every morning she woke up I told her I loved her. We never went to bed angry.” 

 The house Maurice lives in and has lived in since 1950, is a tidy two-bedroom farmhouse. The house is painted white, with black shutters framing the front windows.  MAURICE AND I

 Tucked in the front entrance on one side are a twisted juniper and the other side a bush of poinsettia.  He planted roses and hollyhocks and a few more varieties that were always postcard perfect. The porch out front changes with the season. The first year we met Maurice placed a sofa on the porch and two chairs. When Rudy and I stopped at the end of the day, Maurice would be outside sitting in the rocking chair, his hair still wet from his shower, and in his hand a jigger of Jack Daniel’s. In the front room, Maurice covered the walls with mementos and pictures of his friends. He didn’t hang any paintings of any kind, so when you sat on the couch and looked around you were looking at his life. He has a television and watches the news, old westerns, and the country music station. He especially likes the rodeo shows. He has remarked on occasion that he thinks television is very bad for you. His old sofa so worn from visitors when I sit down next to Maurice I sort of fall into his lap. We sit so close,  unlike we do now in these large stiff hi-tech furnishings. In front of the sofa is a long glass coffee table, one of Rudy’s favorite stops as he walks in the door. He dives for the peanuts and the chocolates.  There are always treats on the table, and you will not wait long before Maurice goes into the kitchen and brings back a plate of home-made pickles.  

The first time Rudy ate his pickles, he yelled out, “ Damn Maurice, these are incredible I could eat a whole jar!” So Maurice went in the back and brought out a jar of his homegrown pickles.  The kitchen is small and in the corner is a antique table where he keeps his baking utensils and one chair. He has a collection of antique jars and cooking tools on a shelf that whines around the kitchen ceiling. His refrigerator is an adventure in itself, shelves are packed with wrapped leftovers, sauces, meats, cheeses, and vegetables, so packed that on several occasions when I tried to put something back in I couldn’t find an empty place for it.  Naturally, he uses a gas stove but growing up in Iowa all they had was a wood-burning stove. In the hallway, the walls are framed with more friends and family. There is one beautiful girl, that seems to be in every room.  When I asked who she was Maurice replied, “ That’s Linda. She’s my sweetheart.”  

From the photographs we learned all about Maurice’s life; his mother and father, brother and sister, his wife, Janet, his grandpa and grandma, and the hundreds of people in between.  His home is a storybook, all you need to know about Maurice is revealed unaltered.

His bedroom is at the end of the hallway by the back door. His bed is covered with a handmade quilt and about twenty decorative pillows. The bathroom is very colorful with green and red towels, and more photographs of Linda. Then he opens the screen door to the backyard.

” This is my garden,” he said smiling ear to ear.

It reminded me of Fantasia. To be continued    

 

    

 

ADVENTURES UNKNOWN


Del Mar, California

I’m sitting in a squeaky clean room, sanitized by professionals,  feeling self- consciously un-scrubbed. Rooms like this are serious; medical sitting rooms, where surgeons come in after you’ve met all the cheerful and optimistic staff members.

Just a few days before, on a pillow size slice of beach, Rudy and I

crouched up on two boulders. “It’s better up here; I don’t want to sit a foot away from a couple kissing.”  He was right; we had mezzanine seats, and were at least twenty feet from the sleep over party down below.  It reminded me of a fold out beach photo;  guys and dolls on their stomachs, leaving their bronzed backs to glow in the sunshine.  The girls legs dangled in the air, rising up and down with each giggle.

“You don’t look happy.”  I said after watching the corners of Rudy’s  mouth tighten and drop.  He stared out to the ocean for a long two minutes.

“ I get nothing from a beach swarming with people.  I go for the closeness to nature, the silence beyond the roar of the ocean. When we were at Kelly’s there wasn’t anyone else but us. ” (Kelly’s Cove, San Francisco)

I thought about it, and how the crowd was entertaining me, and how I’d dismissed the bold and demanding essence of the oceans power.

“You’re right, it’s different. I don’t ever remember Del Mar so crowded on the 4th of July.    I was here in 1986, with Hannah Head, and a crowd. It was overcast, and we ended up at one of the crowd’s house in Encinitas, in a hot tub. I still have the photo.”

“ Where was I?”

“ Remember? You didn’t like her. Or we’d broken up, I can’t remember.”

“ Why don’t you go in the ocean?”  He asked.

“ I don’t want to go in if you can’t”

“ No way!  I want you to enjoy yourself.  I’ve not been in the water in three years, but I’d go today, except I have to wait another week. The stitches look all healed.  See the scars. ”   He  raised his shirt, and pointed,  “I look like Carlito;  ‘ no big deal, in and out, boom boom.’   The scars were still purplish red from a hernia operation then an appendectomy, and then cancer in one month.  That’s why he was on the boulder; wearing a cowboy hat and cowboy boots.

“I must look like a Hillbilly from West Virginia.”

“You look like Clint Eastwood! All right, I’m going in.”

My skin was warm and damp and I walked through the aisles of legs, blankets, chairs, toys, and cabanas to the water’s edge.  Prissily sensitive to anything cold,

I layered my body down slowly under water, and got lost riding waves.  Everyone had a boogey board or surfboard; and one kid swiped me as he passed.  Rudy was right, not the same, but under water the thrill was not gone.  Beneath the surface, I surrounded to the sea as if he was a lover.

Maybe it was that night we ate outdoors on the terrace and watched the sunset slip like an eye lid.  We didn’t talk too much about the medical meeting, or what was said, in such long-winded sentences with words out of medical journals. They were preparing us for the next surgery.  Rudy wanted to talk about old times; in Del Mar, and old times in Taos, and New York, and all the other places we’ve experienced together.  One day we went up to San Juan Cap to browse the antiques stores. Rudy spends hours picking through shop collections. He walks slow as molasses while I am aisles ahead, and miss all the good stuff.  That’s one of collisions we have adapted to.  I go fast, and he goes slow, I turn right and he turns left.  I say, ‘did you get the for rent sign?’ And he says we have one, and we discover we’re talking about different properties.

We didn’t see anyone we knew when we were in Del Mar, except those same Starbuck sippers, now with less formality and an air of comfort in retirement.

“Wonder what happened to Blondie?”

“Which one?”  I answered.

Afterwards, while we were waiting for the talking pedestrian traffic light to shout out; WAIT, WAIT, WAIT,  Rudy started imitating it really loud. The family behind us joined in and the kids got wild in the middle of the street.

“Remember when Whitey threw the keys to his new Jag to you and said take a ride?”

“Yea, that was the first day we met him.” Rudy said.

“No it wasn’t.”

“Yes it was, or maybe the second day, but it was right in the beginning.”

“David empowered our breakfast café salon.  He looked like God’s disciple; a crown of pearl white hair and teeth to match, bronzed skin and he wore white gaberdine pants.  We were all intrigued because he was so at peace.

“ Let’s ask David out to dinner.” Rudy said.

” Yes, lets. But I wonder if he is tied to the Mafia like an informant. I’m writing all these posts about my Dad and he’s so mysterious, like James Bond.”

” You’re crazy, you know that.”

I wasn’t before.”

“Before what?”

“I became writer.”

Rudy leaped into his encouragement serum, knowing I’m at the end of the tight rope, and also knowing I won’t look for a safety net.  One time I threw out a few boxes of manuscripts and he rescued them from the dumpster. In another home, he picked up pages I’d let drift out the window and taped them back together.  We’ve lived in at least a dozen homes, casitas, or apartments since we met.

This morning back in Santa Fe, NM I walked through the Plaza, still waking up from last night’s festivities, and summer preparation is everywhere. Big storewide sales, street vendors, hobos, dogs on leashes, old men searching for a memory, and crews setting up the sound stage in the Plaza. All of us are thrown out of our homes to either collect or spend money. Beyond the money, there’s the circumstance of meeting someone you haven’t seen lately, or a movie in production, or a blazingly poetic sunset.

The air is perfumed with grilled chilies and sizzling greasy meat from push carts, bringing flies and children, like they do in Spain or Mexico.  I walked into a Jewerlry shop and asked about a Navajo cross on a string of pearls. The saleswoman was a girl, with a laughing smile, and birch-brown eyes.  She told me the cross can work for anyone, and that they pray four times a day, once in each direction.  I thought it wouldn’t hurt to start the same practice, because who can remember to pray but the tribes.

Then she told me a secret.  “All the pueblos are preparing for the big dances, and they are secretly praying for rain.”

“ Really? You mean all this rain we have had…

She tilted her head to one side and smiled.  “ You can come in anytime and I’ll tell you stories.”

I walked out, with that singular enraptured sense of climbing off my boulder, and into the waiting discovery.  Late at night I sat outdoors listening to the song of the crickets and thought how a hundred years ago this house was here.  This was Ed Barker’s home and his relatives come by often to tell me stories. He was a very prominent wildlife and game protector, and the first Commissioner of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.  It was Ed who suggested the little black bear cub who was caught in the 1950 Capitan Gap Fire, a wildfire that burned 17, 0000 acres  in the Capitan Mountains of New Mexico, become the mascot for fire safety.  One moment you’re safe, the next you’re not; but you can’t live on a boulder, anymore than a cub should live in a Zoo.  To be continued.

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.