REPORT A PROBLEM
This could start off with, "Forgive me father for I have sinned, it has been twenty years since I last wrote." And a challenge it has been. Just today, muddling through a short two-part class assignment and I'm exhausted. Writing about me is punishing, sapping any mental and emotional strength from me. My body feels it - if pain is weakness leaving the body like the jarheads down the street like to say, then I've been applying a lot of weakness to paper. I like what I ended up with though, a very personal definition of freedom: anything, anytime, anywhere.
In the latest installment of the now eight-month long run of bad luck and misery my truck was stolen while on a day trip to Baja. Left on the beach without money, phone or ID, I must admit things were looking dismal. Within minutes a local couple from the beach came to our assistance, offering a ride and anything else they could do. Another man literally gave me the shirt off his back. Less than five hours later we were lying on my own bed recounting just how bad it would have been without the assistance of these total strangers.
Seems like every summer day begins gray, the overcast sky leaning heavily into the dark Pacific. Gulls fight over trash strewn around fallen cans. The sand is damp on top - my feet break through the moist crust as I carry my board to the water's edge. While itís true the ocean has warmed substantially since the long past days of May, it sends a chill up my legs as I step in and start the paddle out. In about six hours these waves will become crowded with tourists under clearing noontime skies. But for now the break is mine.
For a guy whoís life is pretty much filled with free time Iíve got issues with getting things done. There are bankruptcy forms around here that the lawyer gave me more than two months ago. Itís not like those foreclosures are going to go away by themselves. And this writing exerciseÖ just canít seem to comfortably fit it in what with the necessary late night viewing of Reno 911! and all. About two years ago I wanted some time off and Iíve pretty much been a man of leisure since then, but I still canít seem to get anything accomplished.
It's been just under two years since I camped at this spot, El Socorro, about two hundred miles south of the border. I've surfed here plenty of times during those years, but I either stay at the Old Mill on the bay or up on the hill here at friendís place. Iíve surfed this spot in good times and bad, but tonight Iím remembering that week two years ago. It is easy to forget the reasons I was here alone then. Even easier though to remember that I still had a wife and a home and investments to return to.
And those were paying investments - didnít even need to work and there was still income as if I was. That income and the invested cash are now both gone, some of it lining the offshore accounts of a woman I considered a friend. My wife and home disappeared simultaneously - they were really one in the same. Of all the possible outcomes for our thirteen year marriage, she leaving for another man was the last thing I expected. I still have a place to live, but itís hardly a home. A dog waiting is my only reason to return.
Moonlight glancing off the ocean. How often do you actually see it? I live four blocks from the shores of the Pacific and I rarely do. When I do catch an evening at the local beach the moonís light feels overwhelmed by the halides lighting the parking lots. Tonight though, standing on a cobblestone beach miles from the nearest streetlight, the scene is different. It allows me to imagine sailing across the ocean, experiencing this reflection of the sunís own reflected light every night as just part of the journey. Sad that I used to be able to say ďsomeday.Ē
The long drive north from San Quintin never seems easy - even when it is. Noticing the little things today - how some of Mexicoís small churches look like mosques without minarets and how early the harvest takes place in Santo Tomas. And I like the informational signage for fishing - a profile view of a fish going after a bare hook. Fishingís so good here you donít even need bait. I am also remembering the last time I was making this drive. In love and wanted and waited for. Hard to believe that was me. I miss us Allie.
Exhausted and limp but I need to get some words down. I can hear the program people telling me to write a ďgratitude list.Ē My usual response is ďwhatever.Ē But today held many good things: a check from the insurance company for the theft of exactly a month ago - except for the truck, a productive day writing and an assignment turned in on time, at the bus stop with minutes to spare and a chill ride home from downtown. I even got a short nap in. The loneliness is thick and the sadness overwhelming. I want to give in.
Days roll without regard to the toil performed by those without a profession. Invisible we are really, barely worth noting except that our car might take up space in the lane you wanted to merge into. Or maybe we live in a house near the beach that you'd like to have and could much more easily afford. It could be that's one of us with up front pressed against the stage at the show you wanted so much to see but couldn't because work begins early the next day. We do work but not for the same reason you do.
ďAny day without using is a good day,Ē yeah right. Thereís also the ever popular ďmy worst day sober is still better than my best day drinking.Ē They obviously werenít doing it right. From the outside looking in the past twenty-four were pretty good, but from the inside looking out the view is dismal. The oppressive darkness of unchanging loneliness brings only despair. Upon waking I can only hope for something different, something new, something happy. I watch my oldest dog have days of rapid degeneration towards death and wish my own passage moved faster. Night, day doesnít mean shit.
A flight from Stockholm to Gothenburg; last flight in as a storm closes the airport. A ferry to Denmark and a train through Copenhagen to Rodbyhaven; another ferry to Puttgarden and then hitchhike to Hamburg. My ride translates the news on the radio; thereís been a horrible earthquake in Mexico City. Too exhausted to hitch to Munich I take a train the rest of the way. The next day, the first of Octoberfest, Iím on my fourth liter when I meet a traveler from Acapulco. I relate the news, at first he doesnít believe. Then, his face falling, he does.
I consider it a blessing, a stroke of good luck, to look at the time, wishing the hour of sleep was near, and it is less than two hours off. Not a blessing that there has been no writing done. I guess tomorrow or never is the deal. I hate it when this sounds like a journal, but I've got nothing. ďI have fallen in love with you all over again these past monthsĒ is what the letter says, but itís from the wrong woman. If only she could be the one for me. Maybe Iíll join a
I was once taught to evaluate a strangerís economic standing by looking at a their shoes. That was really supposed to be a restaurant thing - you know, when you had to decide whether or not to seat a walk-in or give them a preferred table. I canít believe I am doing it now as I wander through a Wal-Mart as part of a writing assignment. Itís late summer in San Diego, so flip flops are to be expected, but thereís still a brand hierarchy. Rather than collecting insights for the assignment I slip into an analysis of my class consciousness.
I've spent way too much time thinking about Wal-Mart these past two days, but my hours are short compared to those of the employees. Itís just research and writing, not a daily grind. I have to be grateful for my life; I may be on a long jobless run, but I havenít had to apply there yet. I think of Ehrenreichís on-the-job research at Wal-Mart and have to admire her. I found the spiritual void inside those walls oppressive.
Amanda popped back into neighborhood life today. I forgot how charming she is. And sheís moving one house closer to mine.
Fall shows up in unique ways in Southern California. I think you have to be a native to sense it. Something about the feel of that morning air on your bare feet just doesn't seem like summer anymore. Beaches are deserted on weekdays and one variety of heirloom tomatoes has disappeared from the co-op's shelves. Ok, at least part of that was sarcasm, which is easier to deal with than the reality of my shitty life (MSL) which generally nose dives from now until May. Really looking forward to it. Tune in next month to see if Iím still here.
Creativity, Lisa has a book on how to be creative. Could really use that. As if I would follow through. Wonder if not trying to write or shoot when you are completely exhausted is one of the suggestions.
Plants get watered and dogs go walking.
Night falls and turns interminable.
Now I look pretty old.
Julie says Allie is a fantasy.
Iíve got pictures to prove I was there.
The morning of 13 July was the last time I could move without the neck pain. It was the twenty-sixth of May when I could last think without this other pain.
I personally am avoiding tracking her down because I'm still at the shoot her in the face stage and that wouldn't be good.
Thatís copied from an earlier email to someone else jacked by the same bitch I was. I could think of better ways to be wasting my time.
Wedding Present tonight at the Casbah; ears ringing and if I wasnít alone it would feel like old times. Sixteen years since I first saw them play. fIREHOSE opened and ripped into Superchunkís ďSlack Mother FuckerĒ to begin the set. Some nights it is only memories that keep me breathing.
Which intersection would be the worst on which to live?
1.An intersection with two bus lines that run twenty-four hours.
2.An intersection located between two tavern-lined streets where drunken accidents occur on a regular basis, but mostly around two a.m.
3.An intersection in a town where there are an inordinate number of Harley riders who make up for lack of penis size with the noise created upon acceleration from a stop sign.
If you chose all of the above then perhaps you live on my corner. You should stop by and say hello sometime; my house is the blue one.
I awake at four a.m. totally consumed with thoughts of her. I can feel her lips on mine, the way her silver hoop cuts my lip. Sometimes I chew on that wound just to keep it from healing. I like having that constant reminder of our entanglements. I know I canít call; her ringerís probably on and she has roommates. But she must know about my obsession. I send her a text. Two minutes later she replies, happy that she is not alone in sleeplessness. I am completely enamored. I have never felt like this. I am forty-six years old.
I pull into the parking lot behind the cafe; there's one spot left. I am already half way to the back door when I see her car parked opposite mine. Itís been almost three months since I last saw her, last felt her touch, last felt so intensely alive.
Our first moments alone together were spent at an outdoor table here, me ordering Pellegrino because my mouth was so dry from nervousness.
Later, then an item, we were ambushed here by her two best friends.
Now, wondering if I am visible from inside, I stand paralyzed on the sun-baked gravel.
And then she shows up at the darkroom, both of us nervous, caught off-guard, but the conversation ultimately flows and ends up at place where I have little to say that wonít end up gushing like a flooded river. She asks what Iím working on, difficult to respond when all I can think is ďa project for class, you know the one your fucking girlfriend teaches?Ē Itís not really like that or maybe it is. I want her to know how much she means and how I still pine for her, but I have neither the words nor the courage.
Thereís a self portrait by Richard Avedon with the artist perched over his Rollieflex intently looking down through the viewfinder at his subject, himself. Eyeglasses hang from his left hand as he uses his thumb and two fingers to focus the image. Heís shooting into a mirror this time. In the lens one can see the leaves of the shutter open to a fairly large aperture and there is a slight blur at the tip of his right index finger as it makes contact with the shutter release. In the background Sophia Loren, oblivious to the camera, teases a curl.
In the early nineties I was waiting tables while attending grad school at UCLA. The place was on PCH at the border of Santa Monica and the Palisades. The owners were somehow mob connected and the clientele was an eclectic mix of industry people, coke dealers, bookies and tourists. There were very few celebrities I cared about and I served a lot of famous types that I had never heard of. Television personalities were pretty much invisible to me; I hadnít had a TV for years.
Emilio Estevez was different in my eyes; we had an unusual experience in common.
Writing a brief memoir reminds me of a recent Sun's readers write topic; now or never. I guess more than the topic per se is one writerís essay. From the first person the story is told of a woman being offered to shoot cocaine. Thereís an internal struggle then you really never know what she decided.
That particular decision was a no-brainer for me. Once syringes were readily available it became the only way I did the stuff.
But that feeling of making a life changing decision brings me back to Santiago, Chile and a late morning in early fall.
I've made it to the Santiago airport and hours ahead of my flight back to LA. It has been three months since I came through here in a haze, stumbling through customs and onto a bus downtown. My arrival was an early morning one and although the time change was minimal I was exhausted. Too much Valium or too much cocaine? Regardless, next thing I knew I was being shaken awake by the bus driver at the end of his route. Somehow I was able to ascertain my location in this Chilean metropolis and shuffle to my windowless hotel room.
Three months later the trip back was a whole new journey. No secret service or bags of coke this time, but a couple chances to miss the flight. In Santiago the immigration officer initially will not let me board the plane because my entry visa shows that I arrived in Chile by car. He suspects me of taking the rented car from Argentina and selling it here. A good idea, but one I hadn't thought of. Later, after a layover of heavy drinking in Buenos Aires, a guard changes his mind and allows me onboard - with a security escort.
The journey overland to Buenos Aires started from a small town in southern Chile. It began with a boat across the lake, then a bus, then another bus and finally a train through Argentina. I had some time to kill so I spent a few days hanging out in Necochea and its ritzy neighbor Mar de Plata. I was taken with the refillable seltzer bottles of sparkling water that were served with the local white wine. I channeled Larry, Moe and Curly as I artfully shot water into my wine. The distance from spout to glass increased with each bottle.
As a devotee of fermented beverages, chicha had been a sort of Holy Grail for him. Although still brewed traditionally throughout the Bolivian highlands, it generally wasnít something that was produced for sale. So when he and Hallie happened upon an outdoor festival one evening in Cochabamba where chicha was being sold in a setting similar to a German biergarten it seemed near miraculous. There were a bunch of tables set up around a central stand; they found one available and quickly had two glasses in front of them. It was probably the milk-like cloudiness wasnít exactly inviting at first.
One decision made almost twenty years ago and I still ponder the alternative outcomes. Itís like the opening scene in Slacker where Richard Linklater riffs on the alternative realities that are unfolding in another dimension, a dimension in which he didnít take a cab from the bus station.
My alternative reality wouldnít have me alone at my age taking classes at a junior college. Or maybe it would, the journey taken via different roads. A call from a Chilean phone booth made because I said I would. An offer extended for all the wrong reasons and made on a whim.
The Tip Jar