Wonderland

Wonderland

“The other night I had a dream; it was not the first. I dreamed of an alternative universe” – The Pencilnecks
I ambled down the driveway at dawn; dew drops balanced like diamonds on the tips of God’s velvety emerald-green hair and spread across the gently sloping lawn. The scrub maple seed pods put out their dark red dollhouse chandeliers and the forsythia along the way, Chartreuse and ready to blossom into yellow fronds, made the foliage, moving in the breeze under the bright sun bursting over the horizon, a golden fountain.
I walked through the gray-blue haze that hung mystical. The chill in the air made my breath hang in front of me like cigarette smoke until it mingled lost in the fog. A ruby crowned Cardinal resting on a small swamp maple, green now, held a curious look on its face; as if it wanted to ask me a question. I spoke to her in pantomime and she hung on my every word. After the night I’d just had I wouldn’t have been surprised if she’d spoke; not really certain in the surreal setting if I were awake or still astral projecting an out-of-body experience.
The gray weathered dock reached about 15 feet out into the water. Moored to the end was an old heavy planked flat-bottomed rowboat sheltered from the wind in the early morning Indian summer sun. My shore waters were calm but the rest of the lake was alive with small, sun-dappled waves. It was the kind of morning I knew would evolve into the quiet dignity of a sparkling autumn afternoon. I sat there for a while and allowed my thought to simmer; meditating on last night’s magical and mysterious gonzo dream.
Maybe it was just wishful thinking held subterranean and aroused from my subconscious. But the beauty of the dream was it’s what I wished were true; that everyone, once in the hereafter, sit through a rewind of their entire life
It’s not correct to say it was a dream since as soon as my head hit the pillow I drifted into twilight; that place just before REM sleep; the state sleep scientists say we need to dump all the waste our brains pick up in a day from stimuli that comes at us so fast and in such high volume we can’t process it to any logical conclusion so it just bounces around in there. Without the twilight waste disposal period just before deep sleep, that space we think of as an inability to fall asleep, our brains age prematurely; increasing by more than 50%, the potential for onset of Alzheimer’s.
I lay there on my back floating; suspended half in sleep half in wakefulness; empty; quiet. It came upon me raw and unexpected like an avalanche. The bottom of my world fell out from under me. I felt my insides twist which was more than strange since I no longer had any insides. I was ephemeral; formless; only consciousness. But the sense memory of my decades alive still remained; similar to the experience of losing a limb and still being able to feel it. I had the feeling of being forced into a tight corner.
I felt a tilt-a-whirl centrifugal surface tension sensation that held me down, invisible, untouchable, nowhere but everywhere, fragile but all-imprisoning; like an infantry company before an attack, the witnesses before an execution, a courtroom before a verdict, a family before the moment of death. I heard a shuffling distant and low before a bright flash of rainbow liquid light covered the movie screen in my head; like the damn planet had just exploded into Armageddon.
Walt Disney appeared on my Technicolor video screen smiling an introduction to Fantasia as music from the Beatles echoed. “Picture yourself in a boat on a river, with tangerine trees and marmalade skies. Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly; the girl with kaleidoscope eyes. Cellophane flowers of yellow and green towering over your head. Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes and she’s gone.”
A chorus line of dancing hippopotamus and elephants appeared wearing lace tutu’s backed by a line of enormous Japanese sumo wrestlers in ceremonial belts with long braided hair tied high in traditional topknot; they danced on tiptoes. Images sped past me; an infinity line of identical Dick Cheney’s dressed as The Joker wearing suicide vests. Each one motioned to me with an outstretched red crab-claw hand holding a diabetic syringe with a dissolving zombie toothed snicker mouthing the words “here; have some Ebola.” An endless parade of these undead creepy head of the Mason family of American geopolitics filing past made me certain I was headed for hell. And then, just like in life, he’s smoke; there, then not.
I saw an Andy Warhol portrait series retrospective of the eerie vacant faces of mass shooters. Rapid MTV style flash cuts of images; like cops firing fatal bullets into young black men played in a high rotation infinity loop. The CNN style scroll at the bottom of my screen announced late breaking news. “33 A.D.; Judas Iscariot betrays his buddy Jesus for 30 pieces of silver then hangs himself.” Suicide video at 10 pm.”
I thought I’d died when, rising through the clouds, appeared a majestic figure. He carried the air of a god-man wizard prankster. He gave me a look I couldn’t classify. His hands are not merely without callous, they look larval, as if they have never been exposed to light. They are as white as paint and his fingers are long and thin and so are his fingernails which are the color of pearls. He is jovial, portly and sporting a full white beard; looking every bit Phillip Seymour Hoffman. His welcome had the air of being honorific; as if I had accomplished a great achievement and was being awarded a grand honor.
He wore a perfectly tailored futuristic looking organdie tunic of fine translucent silk and a perpetual smile that was somewhat subdued by his eyes that burned Paul Newman aqua-marine. He was a bulging forehead vein of a man seeming of great purpose, visible in the way he walked and in his wizened smile but mostly you could hear it in his voice which spoke of tough love and bitter wisdom. He said his name was Peter, a patent leather name delivered with a soft snap that was rapid but cool. He pronounced in a strange echo “I’ll bet about now you’re trying to find the pony in all this horse shit; trying to make sense of all this madness, right?. This will help” he said. Then a smokey waterfall parted and every friend I had ever known from cradle to coffin walked toward me with a hail-fellow-well-met smile. .
Being in their presence created a pleasant feeling as I would later learn would be true of everyone there. It was something, I was later told, that had to do with being without guile; having pure honesty and no hidden agenda; a result of exiting the physical world. “Wait, wait, hang on Pete, give me a minute man; this shit is nervous. Before we get started I’ve got a few thousand questions. What the hell happened; so what, I’m gone now?” I said. “Yea, physically the vessel that was you is gone but the thing you always were and still are remains and the people who were tuned in still feel you” he said. “What’s that” I asked. “Your frequency” he said.
“Memory, love, connection, these are compatible frequencies. When someone you love crosses your mind and you feel the sense memory of them you’re tuning into their frequency; their essence. When you experience the memory of someone whose crossed over to the other side; that is you tuning-in their frequency. Shrouded in the clouded mysteries of a living being frequency remains. We are all what we always were; Star Children in the ether; passing on knowledge, experiences and forgiveness. The universe is one big radio transmitter/receiver and all self-aware beings have a unique frequency; that is what you knew as identity” he said.
“Star Child; I like that. So, again, what the hell happened?” I said. “Bear; he said; big sucker too. It was an epic struggle but your number was up; you never had a chance. It was your time.” “I don’t remember that. How did it go?” I said. “ Well, let’s just say for now you don’t want to become part of the 20,000 calories a day a Bear needs as it prepares for hibernation. Humans, give or take for size and density, are about 80,000 calories. So you passed on four days worth of life for that Bear. You always said you wanted to come to your end fighting a bear and if you’d have stayed in Oakland we would not have been able to oblige. But, since you moved to where the Bears are, we thought why not, and anyway, we aim to please when we can. It all just sorta worked out. Yea, got you at the garbage can. It was cinematic. You can watch the thing later” he said.
“I’ll answer some of your questions” he said; and began to speak. “Wait; I haven’t asked them yet” I said. “I can understand them without you telling me. Its one of the psychic abilities that comes with our superhuman intelligence coupled with our inherent childlike naiveté. It’s similar to the Martian ability to GROK that Heinlein wrote about in his novel Stranger in a Strange Land. You’ll catch on. It’s actually the same power we all had on earth; a power all there still have. You see; the things we think, the things we want, we can do them or not; but we can’t hide them. Our desires are naked and illuminated.
“We go through life thinking we can perform actions while hiding a competing narrative in our heads; but this garbles the frequency transmissions. There’s so much chatter in life that fact gets lost but we truly know another by knowing what they want and that power is available to anyone who can look past the noise. That problem does not exist here. These are the quiet days loud with implications in this thinnish unseen film of oneness waiting to burst the chrysalis in a molecular movement. If it makes you more comfortable you can ask” he said.
Now I appeared to be in a screening room worthy of Francis Ford Coppola with about 100 over-sized reclining leather seats, a private luxury theater you find in very wealthy homes. My angel-headed hipster guide handed me a huge box set of DVD and a remote control. “This, he said with a wry smile; is your life. You and some of the rest of us including those in the film who are with us will review the thing with you. You can hit pause anytime and explain yourself should you so wish. Witnesses can also interrupt at any time and have a Q&A. It’s just like Shakespeare said: “all the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts” he said.
“So, what was all that bizarre shit I saw just before the rainbow flash” I said. That was the epicenter of your delusions extinguishing“ he said. ““About that movie of my life; there are a few things I might like to re-shoot” I said. “Life is not a movie where you can re-shoot every scene until you get it just the way you want it; but rather a Play, where each moment is about truth, real and spontaneous and can not be altered. The world where you seek to undo the mistakes that you made is different from the world where the mistakes were made. You are now at the crossing and you want to choose. But there is no choosing there; there’s only accepting. The choosing was done a long time ago.” he said. I was cool in the pocket but the hardest thing to do is control excitement without killing it so I just grabbed my soul psyche and hung on.
“Here you and your friends and anyone else who would like to sit in and watch your life spend about four hours a day just watching. You can stop, fast forward or go back and repeat each scene over and over if you like and you may explain your motivations; everything you ever did or said will be exposed, revealed and tested. It’s the boxing ring of life” he said. “This; is perfect” I said. “You are the hero of our own movie.. We are all referred to here as hero’s. We say that knowing we have all fought an epic battle and all of us wishes to be heroic” he said.
“So, I watch others lives once I’m through with mine?” I said. “You may choose from a catalog of every person who ever lived, Michelangelo, Aristotle, Muhammad Ali, Castro, Alexander, Genghis Khan; anyone. A lot of guys are waiting for Hugh Hefner. Also ancestors are big requests, or even better some say; your future progeny. Here is where we see into the future; it’s all been fated”. he said.
“You know we sent prophets with the message but you kept killing them so we stopped. We sent John Lennon back with the song “Imagine” trying to hip you to the fact that there is no heaven or hell but, well you know the rest” he said. “Lennon, huh” I said. “Yea, we reincarnated him. He used to be an African Lion and we reanimated him as a Beetle and sent him back. It’s a perk very few indulge but he was rather special” he said.
“Here is something you may enjoy. We have synthesized the DNA of over a trillion hero’s and cloned them, so to speak, on a tab of Owsley” he said. “You mean Orange Sunshine?” I said. “Yes, he’s here; dying to meet you” he said. “You mean Augustus Owsley Stanley III, the first underground chemist to mass produce high-quality LSD in the 1960s?” I said. “Yes, his orange sunshine LSD combined with the spliced DNA of the hero you choose will allow you to do, be and experience the real feelings of anyone; live their life for a time and any moment in their life that you choose. We call it star fucking. For reasons we’ve yet to fully understand many folks want to experience the suffering of Jesus and Mandela” he said.
“Come along; let me introduce you to the equipment. Watching one’s life can be very disconcerting for some. So, we have a MASH unit on hand along with grief counselors and Sisyphus; a drug we can inject intravenously to treat major freak-outs” he said. “Why Sisyphus” I said. “In Greek mythology Sisyphus was a king punished for chronic deceitfulness by being compelled to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat this action forever. We think its àpropos for the experience we call life” he said.
She was a weirdly beautiful woman machine, looking somewhat like R2D2 from Star Wars, and reacted like a Terry Gilliam contraption in a Monty Python skit; a maze network of gears and wires. She had knobs on her chest, the kind you tune in like a radio, with a large red button in the middle of her perfect breasts. Her eyes upon activation became the movie screens through which one watched their movie. “You just plug-in here” he said. “What is this thing?” I said. “This is the switchboard of the universe” he said. “What’s the red button for” I said. “That’s our default rescue clip. If the hero gets overwhelmed by self-loathing from some particularly dicey section of their video; wherein they’ve done something really awful and begin to cry or moan, we instruct them to hit the red button and the current default rescue clip plays” he said.
“What plays are real-time images seen through the eyes of a child in the worst place in the world where people are doing the worst things to each other; a place that has come as close as a human being could get to abandoning his humanity. By viewing this, by seeing real caused suffering, relative to ones own, it elevates the suffering of the hero. The rescue tape changes from time to time depending on where in the world the most awful shit is going down but we’ve yet to find anything worse than the Congo. Five million people have died there in 15 years. One in 6 kids doesn’t live to see the age of five. The so-called Democratic republic of the Congo has almost no functioning state security apparatus. There are regions in the country where two out of three women have been raped. It’s an incredibly broken, needy part of the world and there almost no international relief agencies with balls enough to work there. This is the world some see everyday” he said.
“Say, sorry bout the bad language earlier. I was a bit freaked out” I said. “No worries; we believe that a word in and of itself is not good or bad” he said. “Really; even cunt” I said. “Yes; even cunt. It’s the intention that matters. We got that from Emmanuel Kant; would you like to do a hit of Kant” he said. “So, 4 hours a day. What about the other twenty hours” I said. “There really isn’t any time; it’s all an illusion. We use 4 hours to give some context to the new arrivals since they are freaked out already and we want to give them something they can relate to. As to the rest of your infinite time you may do whatever you please with whoever you choose for as long as you like. There are no compulsory directives, no needs, no commands and no being may tell another what to do. You’ll never age or get sick and you’ll never die. We’ve set you into your imagined body at its prime, not that the vessel matters, but again; just trying to help you adjust” he said.
“Each one of us is endowed with our own complex psycho-emotional constitution with the spiritual wisdom of a philosopher. Yet you may or may not be surprised how few lives are worth a look. The math of life boils down to answering the question; am I going to be the commodity people want me to be or am I going to do the things that interest me. The former has a real riptide to it and so is compelling but all the music, all the magic and all the mystery; is in the later. The revelation that genius giving birth to ideas and ambition, crystallizing into action, just scared some folks. The best of us chose right livelihood; finding in the end that the ordered life just didn’t contain enough magic in it. What was also one of the important similarities of an interesting life was holding the belief that not one drop of self-worth depended on any other beings acceptance of them” he said.
“What about the truly evil fuck’s; the irredeemable; like mass shooters” I said. “They are inverted star fuckers. They study everyone from Columbine on, try to top it in body count and or showmanship. From suicidal idealization grows the delusion of grandeur; from the wish to kill yourself grows the wish to kill as many people as possible. With immortality on the line it doesn’t matter if they’re complete strangers; the goal is to expire in a chaos of their own creation with them selves the only one in control, their everlasting infamy insured by the videos, the “legacy tokens”; the coded public farewells they leave behind. Mass shooters want release, transport, escape. It’s not a desire for death. They go elsewhere” he said.
“What about ISIS; the head hackers” I said. “They are our version of cancer. None ever make it here; they dissolve en route; vanish into the ash can of infinity. Some slip through on a technicality but explode en route. We wipe up the goo from the portal module and then break for a drink and a smoke; the mess they leave smells awful” he said. “What about Hitler; suicides” I said. “They never make it here either. They disappear on the ephemeral plane after they do the deed and never evolve to the hereafter. They essentially, upon expiration by their own hand, resign from the human race and hero status” he said.
“So what’s the deal with religion” I said. “We create our own realities. Those fantasies, like religion, are all two-dollar smokescreens that distract us; preventing us from asking the really important questions and we agree because the reality we create is too hard..Religion like most ideologies is a delivery system to get your money and stop you from free thought by using fear. Fear of the unknown mostly; the worst and most effective kind of fear. All the prepackaged belief systems that tell you to suspend reason and buy-in on faith are bullshit. Brother Bill Mar was right on that one. there is no heaven, no hell; only purgatory” he said. “So, what about JFK; who killed him and why?” I said. “That, we get that one a lot; Oliver Stone had that one nailed in his film JFK.” he said.
As I settled in to watch my movie one thing unspoken became implicit; that there was no right or wrong good or bad; everything was good since what was considered bad directed our attention to some error in our thinking system that needed fixing; ergo; it’s all good. What became clear as we watched my movie was it wasn’t the big things that mattered since many outside forces took part in and influenced my decisions. It was the little things that mattered. How I reacted in times of moral dilemma; conundrums like the acute stress of the fight or flee response. These were character defining moments that everyone seemed to be interested in. Did you freeze, cower and hide, run in fear or fake a “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up act” or did you spread your wings and soar like a hawk.
Most important of all, what everyone zeroed in on, was how did you act when you had power. Peter said Abe Lincoln had it just right when he said “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” So, to test someone quickly the audience would ask to fast forward the video through the executive summary and watch how the person reacted when power was handed to them.
After a while I asked Peter; “So what’s the point of all this” I said. “There is no point; he said. This is the culmination, the redemption or repudiation of your life. At our noblest, we announce to the darkness that we will not be diminished by the brevity of our lives. And to know that if you ransacked the archives of the redeemed you would uncover tales of moral squalor quite beyond the merely appalling. Reviewing your life will have a twofold effect. One, to make you more compassionate and sympathetic of yourself and increase your empathy toward and for others. Empathy is really important. Only when our clever brain and our human heart work together in harmony can we achieve our true potential. And two; this will inform how you go forward from here. Remember the only judge here is you. It’s your self you have to be proud of in, and after, life” he said.
“So, if I could send a message back to my beloved brothers and sisters still in the game what would be most helpful” I said. “We can arrange that but we can’t assure you anyone will listen. It’s the understanding that life is not going to take you back. You are the world you have created. And when you cease to exist, this world that you have created will also cease to exist. But for those with the understanding that they’re living the last days of the world, death acquires a different meaning. The extinction of all reality is a concept no resignation can encompass. And then, all the grand designs and all the grand plans will be finally exposed and revealed for what they are. The hardest thing is to transition into the realization that life will not take you back” he said.
“Anything else” I said. “I mean what’s the secret Pete”. “Couple o’ things. If you listen to yourself when at your most vulnerable you’ll hear the truth. When you first wake in the morning after being comatose for hours your brain pushes what’s necessary to know to the front and its right there if you listen and most importantly act on it. If you’ve done something wrong; fix it. A good person is not defined by never doing wrong but by feeling bad when they do something wrong. That and always ask yourself; is what I say and believe about myself consistent with my actions “ he said. “That’s it” I said. “Pretty much, that, and you could also add; watch your diet” he said.

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Marathon Man

“It takes the night to clear all this mess away; the obligation, the burden and the light of day. It takes the night to fall between the world I obey, and a world where I hear angels play”. – The Night Inside Me – Jackson Browne

The kid looks like he’s twelve and too polite to say “with your eyes, in a couple years; you just might need a German Shepard, a white cane and a tin cup” – but it’s my interpretation of his medical diagnosis. I make a mental note to add it to my nightmare shit list, along with being hooked to a dialysis machine, having no cash and all the other boogie-man things I worry about whenever I slip up and forget to stay in the now. Maybe none of it happens, maybe all of it; but not today.

Those coveted magical hours asleep have passed me by now. Even though I’ve been twenty-five thousand one hundred and eighty-five days alive today, sixty-nine winters, sixty-nine summers; the merciless sunlight will not grant me safe sanctuary from its garish glare. So I acquiesce, leave our cherished dream world and open my eyes; embracing the many-colored beast and wonder. What fresh hell is this?

I woke up in pieces in this cardboard town; conscious and aware for fleeting moments, then disappearing again and again, insentient; struggling to ebb, evaporate, vanish; hanging on to this tender night a while longer. It’s tough to make it in a world stirring when the heart is naked. We just can’t get enough of the night.

The daylight world outside is tugging like a hobo at my sleeve. I hear fragments of music carried down the wind from some distant radio; like listening to your telephone voice whispering echo’s soft and low. While California’s shaking like your fond memories in my brain, you’re the whispering and sighing of my tires in the rain.

I’ll wait for the setting sun; lying incognito under the Milky Way, holding, lingering for night to set me free and receive my birthday gift; the famous Perseid meteor shower that inexplicably peaks on my birthday. It will award me fifty to one hundred meteors per hour in my treasured midnight full moon sky. I don’t know what to make of that enchanting supernatural happenstance.

Tracking my memories from that first day to this, that first victory; the winning sperm from Dad’s joyous moment, beating out five hundred million of his others by the whimsical nature of fortune; through all the other victories and defeats, that despite my mad path still finds me mostly winning; yearning for just one more adventure, one more kiss from your perfect fairy-tale lips.

I should have been dead five or six times that I know about, or damaged at the least. Yet now I’m strongest at the broken places, at the top of my game. Maybe this is heaven; the women loved. It’s to those gentle ones my memory runs. Or maybe, more likely, somewhere in-between, a Purgatory, wrapped in a Roman Carnival, with Barker’s on the Midway.

Noise

“For the most sensitive among us, sometimes the noise can just be too much.” – Jim Carrey – upon hearing of the death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

The cross city bus clamors out a murderous seasick solo backed by an orchestral scrum of whizzing internal combustion engines in uproarious brawl spewing invisible air and ear pollution death while begging for second gear; both instruments of audio-olfactory destruction, an offense to the ear and nose from landlocked personal space-ships bumper to bumper on the narrow streets of San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood; all, along with the antique streetcars sing out a cacophony of noise so disturbing I had to hold the phone, physically 1,500 miles away from the action, six inches from my ear.

Our story’s hero Jeff is laboring, careening up and down intensely inclined ski sloop streets chasing said bus while he screams into his cell phone at me “Man, the first thing you’d notice if you came back is the noise”. I tell him he’s preaching to the choir. The air in my environs of northern Wisconsin is so calm I can hear the sound of autumn leaves rustling along the well-kept lawns and iridescent blue birds singing their daily arias.

Writers flood into big cities, whether they know it or not, to be uncomfortable; since like the late, great Charles Bukowski opined “no one comfortable ever wrote anything worth a damn”. The city is life on steroids; it’s intensity keeping us all tense. The boulevard is a raging river of humanity and sometimes inhumanity. There is rarely a shortage of stimuli upon which to opine. Here the writers cup runneth over.

Our hero confides he’s been reaching back into his past to make that connection that sooner or later, sooner I think for some of us given recent societal developments, we all eventually make; that DNA linked memory to our roots. Jeff is currently covered by a warm blanket; surrounded by like-minded west coast social justice warriors – yet when looking back over his shoulder in contemplation of revisiting comrades from his mid-western past; he is floored, repulsed and catatonic over the addiction he sees in his childhood pals adherence to the new ersatz fascism; the redneck noise that is Trumpism.

In the same way it’s nearly impossible to escape the noise coming at us all like a Chinese parade, from eight different directions all at once; it’s the same for our natural inclination to decipher the content and arrange it in some assemblage of bite-size order. Is it as it seems? Is the new avalanche of information overwhelming our capacity to upload, sort-out and categorize it’s meaning and importance so we might get a handle on our collective future?

It can’t only be me and our hero who, overwhelmed by the noise, wish solace in heeding the wise voices from our past. Timothy Leary’s advise was “tune-in, turn-on and drop out.” Or the angelic voices of groovy guru of the day who suggest wandering in an open field for mindfulness training. Or the Birkenstocks environmentalist who insist we head back to nature and hug a tree; or the mental spiritualist that whisper meditation is the key. Maybe the best of them are the Tantra yogi’s who claim sexual pleasure is the way in and out; that the answer is a bit more of the old in and out. Being a hedonist myself I tend to flow in this direction.

Yet, with escape valves in place in case of overload and prayers to the universe for guidance, I can’t help myself wanting to sort through the noise and discover, like a pathfinder, which direction to point; for myself and others. The Stoics posited that the philosopher left the cave, examined the outside world and returned to tell the others of the joys and dangers outside the cave.

Now they’re be a noble and heroic cause; to be a fearless scout in the face of unknown dangers; to be a trailblazer for the greater good in a quest to report, interpret and transmit the findings. The conundrum seems to be we can’t translate through the noise to know what’s coming if we disengage from it.

In the end I’m left perplexed. Shall we try to make a path through the noise though we fear not knowing the answers and fear worse not even understanding the questions? Are we all just like our hero; wishing to be heroes; but succumbing to the dictates of surviving the day and reach for the safety and sanity of just catching that bus? #rednecknoise #Stoics #Trumpism #CharlesBukowski

A Drum is A Woman

“Give me the beat boys and free my soul; I wanna get lost in your rock n’ roll – and drift away”. Drift Away – Written by Mentor Williams – popularized by Dobie Gray.

Big Pauli and me skip-tracing a venue he’d told about somewhere in the bowls of downtown Oakland late that evening; clicking our Italian heels across the concrete sidewalk on a warm, damp, narcotic American inner-city night, glided under a bruised autumn sky crackling with atmosphere; the energy sending lighting bolts scurrying above our heads and sparks beneath our feet. We rambled serpentine passed rundown warehouses in Oaktown Cripps territory; Asian kids; hip-hop rappers with one foot in their graves and beefing mightily with the premiere Black gang, the 11 Five Mob; kept our heads on a swivel.

The music seeping from the storefront styled rat trap building cascaded; enveloping us in the rapture of a celestial choir; a sense impression causing me to imagine what it sounded like in heaven. The ecstasy to my ear lifted me nearly off my feet. I’d never felt an auditory sensation so all-encompassing, so movingly beautiful. We ducked inside to find a beatnik/hippie style flop, a homeless squat overrun with piles of personal effects from beings either dead or dying. It smelled like your grandmothers closet.

There was a stage of sorts at the end upon which rested a full size standing Harp behind which stood a beautiful angelic looking black girl dressed in an elaborate costume that made me conclude, from the quality of her play, she had just left a gig and was here to jam. Beside her rested her protegé; probably her boyfriend. I couldn’t tell. He had a fine-looking axe which confirmed for me they were probably professional musicians.

His guitar sang a twang perfectly accompanying her Harp. There was a microphone, an amp, speakers, a drum set and the like and sitting in front of it all a magnificent conga drum that’s hide stood just a bit above crotch high on me. I’d always wanted one long as I could remember since for reasons unbeknownst to me I was a born percussionist. Whatever it took to be that I was. I could always play. Somehow my inner workings had a mainline that tapped right into the beat; that first sound man communicated with; the drum; that primal reggae beat.

Pauli, Oakland’s answer to Harry Connick Jr., harbored fantastical visions of being the next Bobbie Darin modern jazz singer and truth be told wasnt half bad, grabbed the mic. I settled behind the Conga drum. The angel played, the guitar blended in and once I got a taste of what they were up to let my drum sing. Paulie launch into some Billy Holliday standard. Man, we waggled and dangled for what seemed an hour or more and once we grokked each other the angel Harpist asked me to open up and for the rest of the band to follow.

A few minutes in I guess it was I vanished into some space, some sanctum santorum. I was gone. The drum played itself or so it seemed. I couldnt hear a thing but I could feel it; the beat, the rhythm, the pulsing of some invisible cyclical that emanated from the earths center; a secret rhythm of the saints, the sacred beat of the universe flowed through me.

To this day I can’t tell you how long that Jam lasted but when we stopped like on cue I was saturated, soaked in sweat and the pain in my swollen fingers threatening to burst into a bloody mess consumed. I stripped off my shirt and undershirt and slopped them down on a chair. Our impresario, the angelic harpist, began to introduce the band, beginning with herself, the guitar player, a drummer who’d stepped in while I was trance-simpled out and then Big Pauli. All received what I thought to be above average applause.

I was getting a bit nervous while also completely exhausted and calmed out which took off the edge when she asked my name and I gave it. I didn’t know what I’d played so I kinda hung my head a bit a shuffled about like I’d dropped something when I heard “And Nick on Conga”. Just as quick the beast sprung as one, the assembled multitudes, numbering maybe 25 souls, erupted in applause. I can’t tell you what their faces looked like at that moment since being so flabbergasted I couldn’t manage the courage to look at them. The appreciative noise went on for a while. I’m pretty sure they were standing. It’s maybe the only time I’ve ever felt embarrassed. Anyway; that was my musical moment.

I said all that to say this. Yesterday the UPS man delivered to my door the spitting image of that Conga drum; a gift from my brother Big Pauli. Wow! I set it up carefully and ever since I’ve walked by it, positioned center most in my den, and with each pass I caress her buffalo skin top; treating her like a wild animal – letting her know she is safe and soon will be set free; to sing, to play, to release.

A drum is a woman.

Harvest Moon 2016

 “Autumn is the year’s last, loveliest smile.” ― William Cullen Bryant

Surfing ever-deepening grooves carved in this country road by repetitious smoothing from my extremely low-frequency sounding spaceship tires, I zone into my own private symphonic opera. A humongous full moon meets myhigh beams and swallows the horizon. Pitch dark street light free ribbons of black asphalt snake along narrow paths to home and back separating the wild from the man-made world. By their grace I live in this dirt and courage wilderness.

I wave, as is the custom here, to the other spacemen travelers inhabiting our lifeline corridor as we whiz past each other with that all too familiar catatonic stare that monotony turns all commuters faces into; a kind of crazy, irrational drunkard swoon that seems to us all too rational. We are compatible complaints; dutifully fulfilling our social contract and coloring safely inside the lines.

Our axis rotating planet is orderly and slowly releasing its summer soul; producing more dark each day than light. In the murmuring twilight the gloaming summer is lifting her skirt. Summers death rattle beckons the underbrush and she begins to whisper as seductive and dangerous as a woman’s breath in the throes of passion. The sun begins to fall faster and everything seems to take on the sighing autumnal ember colors of all the sadness there ever was.

The pumpkins appear overnight, lined up and stacked in pyramids of orange and white like harmless cannon shells strategically set along highway shoulders for some impending artillery battle. Battalions of corn stalks surround them and us and everything for more miles than eyes can see. They are zombies, stoically awaiting the farmer’s murderous front row cultivators, threshers that mutilate then bury the detritus that once winter ferments will resurrect. A crisp cool Canadian breeze foretells fortune tales of fall.

Flowers fade, fruits flourish and fresh vegetable Bodega glisten with a luster from the sky. You can feel the baby’s breath of winter. Harvest moon is the fullness of life. Leaves turn red on their last days full of life and color them beautiful in death as they abandon the twigs that sympathize with their decay. Albert Camus opined that autumn is a second spring. But the migrating geese and me agree; we put distance between ourselves and funerals.

It’s a Paul Bunyan land of ballgames and barbecues here; a feast of Walden Pond and Lake Woebegone. The thousand little compromises we make every day that eventually add up to the loss of ourselves, that decayed stench of hollowness, disappears. This life to death with beauty dance is the real thing. Welcome to Pleasantville, USA.