Eartheart

I found an old church van for sale in the ads and they gave it to me for 300 dollars cash. I threw a futon in the back, built a shrine for my Buddha, and painted a red Kamakzee sun on each front door, and flew the extended cab Econoline Chevy through the Shawnee National Forest, across the Ohio River and into the rolling hills of Kentucky. My Siberian Husky Sequoia always got car sick, and was vomiting everywhere. Through Mammoth Cave National Park and then the horse breeding plantations of Lexington and into the Appalachian Mountains of Eastern Kentucky. I drove up a steep range that divides Kentucky and Virgina.

Then I turned off on a dirt road and the huge V8 engine roared as it switch backed to the top of the ridge. The breaks squeaked as we went down the other side deep into a forested ravine, where at the bottom the road ran right through a flowing river. I floored it and plunged the giant whale of a van into the rushing water, steam exploded from the hot engine as it hit the cold water. Then the tires clawed at the bank of the other side of the river, and I made it out.

A hand-painted sign with a carving of a heart read "Eartheart" and "Welcome Home". I drove slowly up the long driveway atop a bald hill with crops growing on each side, and views of mountains in the distance for miles. The sun was starting to set and a large barn was aglow. Dogs ran out to greet, and Sequoia starting going nuts, as soon as I opened the door he jetted out to meet his new friends. Then a few people came out of the barn with hugs, and an invitation to dinner, which was just being served.

Just inside the door was a kitchen pantry stocked full of jarred fruits and vegetables and endless racks of herbs and spices. In the kitchen, a huge wok steamed. Long wooden tables were full of people waiting for their meals. There was a wood stove in the middle of the large open room, with lofts up above, where most of the transients slept. In the back of the barn were private spaces sectioned off with bookshelves full of books.

Dinner was ready and a few more people came down from the lofts above. There were babies, children, teenagers, people of all ages, even really old people. I wondered where they all had come from and why, was it out of philosophy, poverty, adventure? We ate sauteed vegetables of many varieties and drank water or tea. One guy named Charlie, early twenties drank about six cups of coffee with dirty brown hair hanging in front of his eyes.

At the head of the table, sat Jahway. Jahway was soft-spoken, but towering figure, who everyone revered. He had a Roman nose, sunken in checks, dark brown eyes, and long brown hair, well maintained. He was always barefoot and controlled the whole scene silently. Eartheart was a feral place, yet a functioning community, in reality, the place was pretty tightly wound around the finger of Jahway. He was omnipresence to the point if the place was more religious he would greatly resemble a cult leader, but Jahway was more Rainbow Mafia. He kept everyone in check and this is the important part, working, by doling marijuana provisions.

In spite of his serious undertone, Jahway kept a smile on everyone's face, most of the time. But, sometimes he would ween everyone off for a few days, and I was never sure if it was a way to shake everyone off his leg. Jahway had a private house up the mountain in the woods, just out of sight of the barn and his motley crew.

The hillside was his perch, where he could do yoga and smoke opium in peace. The rest of us huddled in the barn around the woodstove, drinking cup of tea after cup of tea trying to simply satisfy the endless stream of personal need. The meals were made from some veggies grown here, and milk collected from the sheep, but most of the food and produce was collected from dumpsters whenever anyone would make the two hours long trek into town. In the six months I was at Eartheart I went to town only once, but it was enough to get a good view of the way the townspeople viewed us rug rats. But for the most part, from what I experienced, the community worked with the farm, occasionally trading for goods and services. We often make trades for horse manure with the neighbors.

We spent a lot of time shoveling shit. I remember the two short squatty red hair twins with freckles and overalls running out of a neighbor's trailer to help at their fathers command, probably 12 years old each, and they out shoveled the shit out of the shit, while most of us were taking a safety break, to make sure we were safe, and high all the time. Being high is what made the place what it was. Safety breaks were especially important while using chainsaws. We were cutting wood in the forest one day, and Jahway brought his baby boy Phoenix along with us. He was cute with his wavy yellow hair, fat dirty cheeks, and red lips, and saggy diaper. Jahway let him crawl around freely, and off into the forest, he went to go on his own little adventure. After we finished loading the wood, we spent a half hour searching for him.

I spent most of my time hanging out with Dan. Dan was an old man with long scraggly grey hair, he looked like a retired trucker. Dan lived in an old broke down van up on the hillside. He called me Geronimo and Sequoia my spirit wolf dog. We didn't talk about much, we just smoked joints, Dan, through his nose, and we would sit in the trees and listen to the birds. Sometimes I would go up the hillside alone to the Woodhenge, a Stonehenge type structure made out of logs. One time I could swear I heard tiny giggling coming from the bushes, but I felt crazy believing in fairies and nomes, but I know many here did. One day Jayway took us all on a hike up to the top of the mountain where on the peak, he had carved out a huge heart in the stone. It was in honor of his late father who had built this community.

One day the Blue monkey group arrived. They were a traveling gypsy band of guerilla thespians, magicians, jugglers, and tricksters. Their leader was Bart Simpson, "If you're ever in Indianapolis look me up in the phone book, you'll never forget my name," He would say. Bart purchased a small piece of land from Jahway on the mountainside and they had come to build a monkey village of tree houses where everything is connected with ropes.

Then a few days later a VW bus with a few people showed up, Max was the driver, he was in his mid-fifties, and he had a 20 something-year-old girlfriend with him who wore a tiny ballerina dress and leggings, and ugly dirty sweater, and pigtails, a nose ring and dirty bare feet, but very attractive. Max and Charlie were good friends, but they were fighting over Max's girlfriend.

There was also Mike, Mike was very nice, he was an ex-con in the late stages of AIDS, he was dying, but he still looked strong, he was a big guy. He told me he was a Merry Prankster with Ken Casey in the 60's. He said they used to dose cops with rainbow acid at dead shows, sometimes using water guns.

Max, Charlie, and their girlfriend were taking a two-day trip down south and they asked if I wanted to come. So I did. I was curious what that would be like. We rode in the VW bus, Max screamed and Charlie cried over who would drive and who would get a chance to lie in the back and make out with the girl until we ran out of gas.

When we ran out of gas, they had the girl stand with a sign asking for help, I hid. Then we found a Denny's. As it turns out, Denny's has a policy to never turn a person away who askes for a free meal. But Charley wanted to set a good example, so he offered to clean the bathrooms. They gave us each a plate of eggs, bacon and toast, a side of biscuits and gravy, and a glass of orange juice, or in Charlie's case, coffee, coffee, coffee. Then we spent the night in someone's backyard Max knew somewhere in North Carolina I think. I was never quite sure what the point of the trip was but when we returned to Eartheart a day later, Jahway was gone, somewhere, maybe Mexico, and there was a massive weed shortage.

Things were in Chaos, everyone was grouchy, and there wasn't much food, there had not been a car to go to town, and a goat had Mastitis. And, Charlie was having a meltdown about running out of coffee when he wasn't fighting with Max over the girl. The Blue Monkeys had escaped to their mountain village, and Mike and I sat by the wood stove and drank what was left of the chai. Outside Sequoia had gotten into the habit of chasing the goats, only now the goats had gotten into the habit of headbutting Sequoia and knocking him unconscious. Soon Jahway returned and everything would have casually fallen back into place under his green thumb, but he wasn't happy to see someone had raided his stash while he was gone. 

Eventually, I got itchy feet and decided to leave Eartheart, and on my way up the mountain after plunging my van back across the river, I felt nostalgic and I remembered my first night at Eartheart. Jahway built a fire down by the river where I had parked my van. Everyone gathered around and some told tidbits of there stories, but mostly we sat quietly and passed joints, gazing back and forth between the blaze and the milky way above, until one by one, everyone went off to bed. Jahway was the last to leave, welcoming me one last time to the farm, before disappearing into the dark making his way up the hill. Sequoia and I crawled into the back of the van and fell asleep to the sound of the river.

A few hours later I woke up and barely made it out of the van before I vomited everywhere. Sequoia even vomited everywhere. And I spent the next couple hours walking back and forth in a torrential rainstorm from the van to the outhouse up the hill. I finally fell asleep just before sunrise. I slept late, and crawled out of the back of the van around noon, stepping into knee deep water. The river had flooded and everything I had left outside the van was washing down stream. I pulled my van up by the barn before it was washed away as well, and I went inside to dry off and warm up. It was a cold foggy day and everyone was sitting around the wood stove drinking coffee, rolling cigarettes, so I joined them. Someone brought me a bowl of oatmeal and then passed me a bowl of marijuana.  

Charley crawled down the ladder from the loft above, saying with his eyes squinted and his hair disheveled, while announcing to the group that no one was allowed speak to him before he had his coffee.  I looked around and wondered if we were all settling in life. I realized yes, in this moment we were settling, and it was not all that bad, it was actually kind of nice. And I decided to pretend we were not all here out of mere survival, but out of a desire to live in a new way, to live in the way of love and community, and that was beautiful, at least for now, I thought. Because there ain't nothing like a little love and a warm cup of chai on a cold day.  

 

 

Skinwalker

 

Act I

 

FADE IN

 

INT. HINDU TEMPLE - MIDNIGHT

 

A couple hundred people of ALL ETHNICITIES, most dressed in Indian garb CELEBRATE a Hindu festival, and most sit legs crossed CHANTING and SINGING kirtan, some in MEDITATION. KIDS run around. A man with DREADLOCKS plays the hand drum, while an INDIAN GUY with a red streak down the middle of his forehead plays the harmonium and sings the LOUDEST. An endless stream of INDIAN FAMILIES and the occasional HIPPIE crawl up on their knees to the shrine to touch the deities foot, HANUMAN, the monkey god. Marigolds strung everywhere. Around the edges people drink chai and eat naan.

 

EXT. HINDU TEMPLE - MIDNIGHT

 

GROUP OF SIX smoking marijuana out of a wooden chalice from India called a chillum near a small stream 50 yeards from the TEMPLE. It's a cold but clear and starry night, with lightning in the distance. The sound of BELLS and SINGING can be heard coming out the windows of the TEMPLE, and coughing from the marijuana as THE GROUP OF SIX pass the chillum around, exhaling huge PLUMES of smoke that mixes with the STEAM of their hot breath into the cold air.

ROXANNE (40s) head shaved, sassy, wearing a snowsuit and chain-smoking her last cigarette decides to go get more.

 

ROXANNE

(walking away)

I'm going to get cigarettes, you guys better

                                   not see a UFO will I am gone.

 

A few moments later KEVIN (30s) a thin, long dreadlocked HIPPY, wearing flip-flops in the subzero temperatures HANDS the chillum to Cory (30s) the shaggy blonde haired author of this story, and he INHALES deeply and turns his head to my left and EXHALES the smoke into the sky. A large GLOWING ORB hovers just in the above, no more than 50 feet above the temple. 

 

CORY

(pointing to the sky)

What the fuck is that? Look at that, it's

                                       just hovering over the temple.

 

EVERYONE looks up at the GLOWING ORB and it slowly begins to FLOAT toward them and then directly OVER their heads.

 

KEVIN

(with a stoner chuckle)

        What the fuck, haha, it's a UFO. Awesome! 

 

Then it continues to move out over the field, with TAOS MOUNTAIN as a backdrop.

TAOS TRADER CHUCK, (60s) a scruffy but lean and muscular old man RUNS out into the filed full of enthusiasm.

 

TAOS TRADER CHUCK

(with enthusiasm) 

                                        Would you look at that!

 

ALL FIVE follow THE GLOWING ORB and EACH OTHER out into the field, but it SPEEDS OFF at an enormous speed, not in a straight line, but in a ZIGZAG pattern directly toward the mountain.

MIRAGE (30s) an AFGANI, dressed as a HINDU PUJARI, kneels down and takes a BIG HIT off the chillum.

 

MIRAGE

(huge smile, exhaling a huge plume of smoke)

             Its baba, baba came to the festival to see us.

 

KEVIN

                                        Om Namah Shiva

 

MIRAGE

                                        Jia guru dai

 

The then GLOWING ORB comes to an immediate HALT just above the snowy peak of TAOS MOUNTAIN. Slowly, it LOWERS down onto the side of the mountain, DISAPPEARING behind the trees.  

 

TAOS TRADER CHUCK

              Look at that, it landed right on Taos Mountain

 

LARRY (70s) a scruffy grey-haired man in his early 70's looks over at me and SMILES.

 

LARRY

                                        That was sure something.

 

JESSE (20s) and HALEY (20s) his girlfriend, stood next to Larry, Jesse glossy eyed, Haley SMILING and GIGGLING while SHIVERING in the cold. 

 

JESSE

I am going to get my video camera,

       that son a bitch has to take back off the

         mountain eventually, I'm going wait for it,

                                         all night if it takes.

 

JESSE and HALEY walk away to get his camera. ROXANNE walks back up LIGHTING up a smoke.

 

CORY

                                                  We just saw a UFO!

 

ROXANNE

                                                  Of course, you did!

 

FADE OUT

 

ACT IIa

 

FADE IN

 

INT. CORY"S HOUSE - 5 am

 

Someone wakes CORY up KNOCKING on the door. CORY answers the door and it's JESSE. He is OUT OF BREATH with excitiment.

 

JESSE

 I waited for it all night and about an

          hour ago it lifted back from the mountain.

         We followed it in the car with the camera, 

        it floated right over Taos, but this time it

      wasn't a glowing ball, it was a disk with

         four different colored lights on each side.

 

JESSE comes in the house and REMOVES the memory card out of his video camera and HANDS it to CORY.

 

JESSE

                                         Let's play it on your computer.

 

The VIDEO is a BIT SHAKEY, but they play it OVER AND OVER, PAUSING and ZOOMING in. CLEARLY you can see the SILVER DISK ROTATING with FOUR different colored lights on each side.

 

CORY

                  That's amazing. It has such a strange energy

even though the video I can feel

        that strange feeling it gave us before.

 

 

Then Cory's computer makes a STRANGE SOUND and you can hear the hard drive come to a GRINDING halt and with a little puff of SMOKE, the computer is dead.

 

CORY

        It just fucking killed my computer man.

 

ACT IIb

 

FADE IN

 

EXT. CAMPGROUND - NIGHT

 

Later that night JESSE and HALEY are camping in a TENT next to a mountain river. Suddenly the CRYING of a COYOTE wakes them from their sleep.

 

JESSE

(sitting up) 

They are just looking for food,

                                           don't worry.

 

Now the COYOTE sounds more SINISTER, and ANGRIER.

 

JESSE

                                           Let's get to the car.

 

JESSE quickly UNZIPS the TENT door and pulls Haley out and they RUN for the CAR. From the safety of the CAR, they peak through the window for any sign of the COYOTE. 

Then the CAR begins to SHAKE violently. 

SCREECH: Haley covers her ears to the HORRIFIC sound of a BEAST and JESSE rolls DOWN the window an inch and SCREAMS back at the top of his lungs.

 

JESSE

                                          AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!! 

 

And then there is SILENCE, as they HOLD on tight to one another.

 

FADE OUT

 

ACT III

 

FADE IN

 

EXT. CAMPGROUND - EARLY MORNING

JESSE POKES the coals under the bacon he is cooking for breakfast when a NATIVE AMERICAN guy (30s) in a black leather coat, long black hair, WALKS up out of NOWHERE.

 

NATIVE AMERICAN

                                        Good morning.

 

JESSE

                                        Good morning.

 

The NATIVE AMERICAN guy STROLLS over to the fire.

 

NATIVE AMERICAN

        Did you hear anything unusual last night?

 

JESSE

You mean like a rabid satanic coyote

                                       that can shake cars?

 

NATIVE

Yes, only it was no coyote, it was a

 shapeshifter, we call him Skinwalker.

 

JESSE shifts his stare from the NATIVE AMERICAN guy back to the fire and POKES the coals with a stick.

 

FADE OUT

 

 

Puerto Rico - Part I

 

Suddenly, I found myself standing alone, luggage belt stopped and empty, everyone else had collected there luggage and walked away. So I walked over to the customer service desk, and after a bit of research they informed me that my bag had been held in Miami for additional screening and that it should arrive on the next flight in thirty minutes or so. I decided to go wait outside, I wanted to check out the scenery, I had finally made it to the Carribean, I was ecstatic and ready to bask in paradise. 

The automatic doors opened wide and the hot tropical air slammed into my face. To the left, a huge sign read Bienvenidos! All around in the distance, rolling mountains, though slightly obscured by a smog of dense humidity. But I could still make out the jagged palms and I was infused with the dank essence of the tropics. The sensation gave me goosebumps just as I was lifted off the ground, a huge surge of adrenaline overcame me and I flung my head back and forth in a shock trying to see the man under each arm, carrying me backward, my heels sliding on the pavement.

I yelled the choice words, "What the fuck?" Not once, but more like twenty times.

The tight grip under each arm sent chills up my spine, I had no idea what was going on, and then I had the delayed realization I was being kidnapped. That's when I really freaked out and tried to fight back, screaming and flailing trying to break free. I had been twenty steps into Puerto Rico, and already I was being kidnapped.

But, in there oversized starched grey suits, thick mustaches, and mirrored aviators, they held on, pulling me in through a grey metal door. That's when I saw her. The lady with the super long beautiful legs sitting on top of a grey metal desk in a tiny candy apple red miniskirt just inside the door to the right. I was silenced by awe and confusion.

"Wait a minute," I thought, as they turned me around straight and let me walk on my own two feet through a maze of fluorescent hallways, and then out of a grey metal door into an alleyway damp with the condensation of dozens of violently humming air conditioning units, where they pushed me towards another grey metal door. They opened it with a key and without a word, they shoved me and shut it behind me. The room was small, windowless, only a couple of grey metal folding chairs, a grey metal desk, and a ticking clock that read 2:23 pm. 

I slammed my fists into the door and yelled "Let me the fuck out of here" until one of the men came into the room and said “You’re under arrest for smuggling drugs into our country.” as he took off his mirrored aviators tossing them on the desk. "Have a seat"

I did.

After a moment of him staring me into the eyes, he said, "You are going away for a long time my friend.” 

That's when I felt lost to the world. I see fee the damp dark cage and smell the dank prison stank, I could hear the leaking pipe of desolation drop by drop, and the squeaky mice, and I could feel them chewing on my soles, and I could feel the torture, 3rd world torture.

Then he told me they knew who I was and that they had been anticipating my capture. He accused me of being a dealer who ran an infamous San Juan crack house. I felt slightly obliged. 

Non the less, I responded “Lucky for me, I am not a drug dealer, nor am I a smuggler, I am not that stupid. And you can't just lock me up without any proof of your accusations, I am an American citizen and I have rights...this is bullshit, let me out of here! I just fucking got here! Fuck are you kidding me?”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

In a thickening accent, he leaned in close to spit on me as he said, “You are guilty, and if you do not confess, we will prove you’re guilty anyway, so do not waste your time. I assure you that you will go to jail…a long time, along time my...”

“But I just got here ten fucking...”

Interrupting me he continued “You left and came back with marijuana, we watched you, and then we saw you make a deal, drug deal, right in front of us…TRUST me…for a long time my friend, a long time, and you go to Puerto Rican jail. 

His frown turned into a grin.

I don't know what you are talking about" I responded.

Then he kindly patted me on the shoulder. “Then why do you look this way? Huh? Why do you look like a drug dealer?" 

I was speechless.

Then the other guy came in and together like happy partners they dumped my carry on bag out and scattered my things out on the grey metal desk.

"Come on give it up, the dogs are coming anyway."

I snapped back saying, “Even if I do smoke pot, it is none of your damn business, I am not a drug dealer, and I'm not stupid enough to bring it across a border with me” when to my surprise the long-legged woman in candy apple walked in through the grey metal door. My rage, all I had left to my name, was taken from me again, and the void within me filled with untimely lust. I was happy to see her, but, she carried in her candy apple painted claws a large zip-locked baggie of what appeared to be full of marijuana. Still, I could not hate her, so I directed my hate at the two mustaches that sat upon there smiles, proud of their selves for pulling a bag of weed out of their asses and saying, “This here is your marijuana, my friend."

“That's not mine, you just brought it in from outside, you didn't find that in my things.” 

"We found it in your luggage!" He said now swabbing the inside of my canteen. He was a dick. A lying dick. The other guy was quiet and relaxed, but this guy was a dick. He kept fucking waving the baggy around in my face, and in my now fucked up mind, everything began to slow down, and that baggie began to look like a flag symbolizing his personal conquest into my life and the complete annihilation of my freedom and free will as a human being. I was a prisoner already and it was fucked. 

"That's bullshit," I said, about to start yelling, but I didn't want to act a fool in front of the lady. I tried to catch her eye and just as I caught her eye for a split second, with a half smile she left me behind gently shutting the grey metal door behind her, but the latch had a severe "CLICK", a click that pruned all hope by the root.  

 “You are going away for a long time, you are going away for a long time", someone said over and over, either me or the voice in my head, I wasn't sure anymore, it had been hours of them coming in and out, touching and testing my stuff, touching me, searching me over and over, i began to think all they wanted was me against the wall, hands on my thighs. And the buzzing fluorescent lights and ticking clock didn't help.

“This is your marijuana!” The mustache said as he poked the finger of his right hand into the table, baggy sway between the thumb and finger of his left, making the head that held my wide open eyes bobble slightly back and forth. I began to slightly consider my guilt and thought what if…what if I am in deep denial.

"Yes it was my marijuana, yes I would be locked up in a cage, yes for a long-long time, yes my friend, far-far away from home." I began to believe.

The clock now struck 2 am, and we were all still here. Still playing this game.

"The dogs will be here soon", a mustache said, again and again. 

The dogs never did show up. But a third man did arrive, in a police uniform. He opened up a bag he carried and pulled out a chemistry kit. Then he opened the baggie and dropped a piece of marijuana and dropped it into a vial with some sort of solution.

"If it is marijuana it will turn blue," He said as he shook it vigorously. 

All four of us stared at the vial anxiously, the cop held between his fingers. My heart raced and I flew through my mind suddenly seeing the entire day flash before my eyes. Back at the Miami International Airport, early this morning, I had been sitting in the food court just after I checked my backpack before getting in the security line. I was eating a taco, as a small squad of five or six men in black swat team type gear surrounded me and questioned me about who I was, where I was going, why, and so on. Then the lead dude told me I should check out the southwest side of the island, that the sea glows at night or some shit, it was hard to pay attention. Then after a few more security delays, I had to run to catch my plane.

During the two-hour flight to the island, I dreamt about the paradise I would find in Puerto Rico. I planned to hitchhike and camp out in the El Yunque National Forest, I had long dreamed of climbing its peak. El Yunque was a rainforested mountain and I didn't know what I was getting myself into, but I was thrilled, as I looked out the window at the tops of the clouds.

A shot of adrenaline and the sense of doom on the horizon brought me back to the present, as the cop gave the vial one more last good shake. I knew I was fucked. I knew I was going to jail, they had caught me red handed. I was their fucking fish, and they were not about to throw me back, after all, I could be great bargaining material or a lucky gringo they can poke and prod like a fucking voodoo doll to manipulate the United States. And then I got a good clear vision of what it was going to be like in jail here and then I thought of rape, "Jesus Christ, what the fuck, what the fuck was I doing here?" I thought. "What the fuck was I thinking smuggling drugs? How did my life get to this point?

"Negative, It is not marijuana." the cop said. 

We all four looked at each other silently, puzzled and awkward, then I snapped out of it and said, “Let me the fuck out of here, NOW!”

“Collect your things.” the defeated and muffled mustache muttered. 

Without hesitation I shoved my things back into my carry on bag, then he led me out of the grey metal door back into the damp alley with all the humming airconditioning units. He took me down the alley away, to another grey metal door. As he opened it the air conditioning slammed me in the face, a jolting return to civilization, and a fresh sense of freedom. In the middle of the floor of the empty luggage claim under what seemed a spotlight, alone sat my backpack. I heard a familiar "CLICK", and I turned around to see no one. I was free.

I walked over to my wayward bag and threw it on my back and waltzed toward the automatic doors. I spot a payphone and drop in a few coins.

"Hello baby, I'm sorry to wake you," I said.

"It's ok, I was worried, you never called. Did you make it? Everything is ok?"

"Yes I made it," I answered her.

"I hope you have a good time and please be safe, and please call me every chance you get."

"I will," I said.

"Oh, and did you get the bag of herbs you stuck in my backpack? If you burn them at night they will keep the mosquitos away." She asked.

"I did. Thank you, baby." I said.

"I love you" She said.

"I love you just too" I said and then I hung up the phone as the operator was asking for another coin.

Then the automatic doors opened wide, and I walked out of the San Juan International Airport and into the dark rainy Puerto Rican night. The hot tropical air lit up with thunder before my eyes. The hair on the back of my neck stood up, electrified and I climbed onto a bus that read Old San Juan. I had finally arrived.

 

Jesse

    

The car began to shake as we drove up the mountain and it didn't take long for the engine to lock up. 

    I tried to tell Jesse, "pullover before your car is fucked", but it was too late. We jumped out and pushed it off the side of the road avoiding letting it roll down the side of the mountain.  

    I looked over at Jesse and I could see something very locked up in his eyes. This car was the backbone of his newly reformed life. He had finally pulled everything together, was back in school, had a job delivering newspapers with his car, and then this shit happened.

    I knew the car was completely fucked and it would take forever for someone to stop for us so I grab one of the beers we were going drink in the Red River, from the back with the fishing gear, and I went and sat up on the hillside and popped the top. Jesse looked despondent as he stared into the baked engine. I felt so bad for him. He was a great friend to me and I cared deeply for him. I knew things were tough for him but he was fighting, and I hated to see this kind of set back.

    Jesse was a great soul, he was always more comfortable in nature, and did his best to drag me out to the rivers to fish as often as he could. He knew it was good for me, and he seemed to be truly invested in my health and well being. He knew there was light in the river, he knew it was medicine, and I loved to see him in his element, full of life, in awe of life.  

    Eventually, we caught a ride back to Taos, abandoning his car. As we get dropped off at my place, the neighbor lady hearing the bad news gifts Jesse a bottle of whiskey to ease his sorrows. So we decided to have a few drinks and fire up the BBQ. I told him to invite over his girlfriend Haley to keep my girlfriend Christine company.

    The four of us stood out front next to the grill and drank in the driveway. The sun had gone down and the stars were out. Jesse stared up at the sky looking for UFO’s as he usually does when he sees something strange, but it turns out to just be a medical helicopter on its way to the hospital to pick up some unfortunate soul who needs to be flown to a proper Santa Fe Hospital. We ate steak, and it was amazing, we mastered the grill, and were on our way to manhood. 

    Jesse was getting pretty glossy eyed off the whiskey. He squatted near the ground like he always did, smoking a cigarette looking up at the stars and then down at the dirt and pebbles. Then he suddenly, but not surprisingly, brought up Kim. Haley was used to him talking about his ex by now. We all knew Jesse really missed her. We all did. 

    “I'm going to drive out to California and find those guys who killed her.” He says.

    Kim had been living in Northern California with a few guys who popped a few date rape pills into her drink one night, she passed out and vomited and asphyxiating in her sleep.  Jesse had been deeply depressed and disturbed by her death and had become quite obsessed with the thought of seeking vengeance for Kim. We all knew Kim was Jesse's first true love, and, I secretly also wondered if she was mine. There was a night during a blizzard one winter years after they broke up, when I fell for her hummingbird eyes, eyes that would vibrate, eyelashes that fluttered. She was magic, but she was inevitably Jesses’ girl. 

    It was getting chilly, but we were drunk. 

    “Do you remember that night?” Jesse broke the silence catching me off guard. I tried to not understand the question, but I knew what he was asking, I had been waiting years for him to ask, and he knew I knew what he was asking me.

    I panicked and for a minute was a little bit afraid of Jesse with his glazed over eyes, but to me, Jesse was the guy who made me stop after hitting a chipmunk on the forest road so he could harvest it's meat with his pocket night, because it would be disrespectful not to honor its life by not harvesting the meat. I'm not sure why, but the thought that he made me stop the car so he could get out and gut it, wrap it up in his handkerchief and throw it up on the dashboard, to take home for the freezer, made me feel a bit safer.

    I knew Jesse respected me, but suddenly I wondered if I had respected him? So when he asked me again, do you remember that night?", shamefully, I said 'no'. After a few silent moments, he stood up trying to maintain his balance.

    “Goodnight Mr. Zimmerman”. 

    “Goodnight man.” I said giving him a hug.

    Jesse and Haley left, and Christine and I went to bed. Not long after I passed out, I wake to Christine yelling “Wake up! Jesse just shot himself, they are flying him to Santa Fe. Haley needs a ride down to the hospital. She is on her way over, can you take her?” 

    “What?” I asked. "What, are you fucking serious?"

    I sat up on the edge of the bed frozen and thought to myself "the son of a bitch did it, he went after Kim, what fucking nerve, what fucking love" and I felt deep shame and guilt. I could hear the helicopter overhead so I walked out the front door to the driveway and I looked up at Jesse and said, “I will never forget that night, nor will I ever get over of this night for the rest of my life. Goodbye Jesse, I love you.” Then I dropped to my knees and cried. Jesse had put a 9mm to his temple and pulled the trigger, it was obvious that they were just flying him to Santa Fe to harvest the meat. 

    Soon someone dropped Haley off, she was covered in blood, Jesse's brains were still in her hair, she obviously wasn't ready to let him go. She was deeply in shock. We drove her down the canyon road along the river toward Santa Fe. The rapids of the Rio Grande shimmered in the crisp late fall moonlight. Everyone was silent and cold, too cold to cry.  

   All I could think about during the ride was how Jesse always wanted to catch a Trout with his bare hands, and how the last time he went fishing, he stood in the middle of the river bent down to the water palms placed just above the surface, when suddenly he grasped into the water with both hands, and pulled up a beautiful rainbow trout and looked it in the eyes with disbelief, then he kissed it on the forehead and threw it back in the water. He looked up with electricity in his eyes, as though god was peering through him, he was fully alive and he knew it.     

    Although brain dead, they kept Jesse on artificial life support for almost a week while they waited for someone to finally come harvest his organs, Haley sat with Jesse until the end in honor of his life. A week later I unenrolled myself as an organ donor. 

The Drag

 

After dropping out of art school for the second time, I worked in Yellowstone National Park for a summer as a cook at Lake Lodge. I had driven through the badlands to get there, I remember walking out in the rock formations, getting high, and being chased by a thunderstorm back to my car. I drove through a torrential downpour before stopping at a bar in nearby Wall Drug to wait it out with a beer next to the jukebox. 

    Not long after starting my job, I met a girl named was Case, she was Italian looking, and was working in the Park as some kind of administrator, out of my league. Regardless I pursued her without restraint, and we made love one "Yellowstone Whiskey" afternoon, after going from cabin to cabin in nothing but a white sheet looking for a condom. We spent the next few weeks hiking and camping when we could with the man-eating bears of the Yellowstone backwoods reading zen poetry, drinking whiskey and falling in love. One night we saw a buffalo get hit by a car, killing it and destroying the car. I remember looking down at its onyx black eye glistening but lifeless. Then I told Case that we should quit and take off, hit the road for San Fransisco and be free. 

    I had only been here a little over a month, and the open road was calling my name and my heart asked her to join me. Of course, I would miss the vast wilderness and the mighty dreadlocked buffalo. One night a friend of mine was walking back to his cabin from the pub when he spotted a buffalo in the dark a few dozens of yards away. He began singing to it and slowly approached it, then he gently petted it on the snout.     

    Late the next night, Case and I made our way west. We drove all night through the Idaho wilderness, and the next day swam in lakes and took turns sitting out the sunroof absorbing the sun, the hot dry air of Nevada, and the sense of freedom and essence of flying. We stopped in Reno and sat along the river with the homeless on the Fourth of July and drank Jagermeister. 

    The next morning we made our way around Lake Tahoe, and down the long slope to San Francisco, where we wore flowers in our hair and walked Height Ashbury with the homeless and their shopping carts swerving around the addicts passed out on the street. After the flowers wilted, we went down the coast to Big Sur where Case got high for the first time and we meditated into the setting sun, beside a campfire, on the edge of a 500 foot cliff, huge crashing waves below. 

    Next, LA, where we walked the Walk of Stars barefoot, before heading for Tijuana, where we met a hooker from Peoria, who showed us the way to a dumpy strip bar in the red light district for a beer. It was around noon in the dark bar, and the music was awkwardly loud for just the three of us and the chubby Mexican girl who spun on the pole, thighs squeaking on the brass, just barely inaudible, as the early 90’s hip-hop vibrated the speakers in an unpleasant way. 

    A few shady looking guys occasionally peaked out from a door in the back, once in a while they would sneak in and out, dissolving into the blinding light outside. They looked at the gringos curiously, but there is no doubt they recognized the hooker from Peoria. She asked if she could smuggle drugs across the border for us, I said "no thanks", and she left us to finish our luke-warm Tecates. 

    Then we headed east along the border and stopped at the Cochise Stronghold for a failed attempt to find Peyote. We slept by the railroad tracks and tied the tent to the car during a sandstorm that shut down the interstate for a day just outside Lordsburg, New Mexico. We drove through monsoons to Roswell, and then down to El Paso. We found an old church in a small village called Guadalupe, just outside of Juarez, beautifully whitewashed against the turquoise Mexican sky. 

    We ate eggs and toast in New Orleans, as a toast to surviving the four days we spent in Texas, braving our way across the state you don't mess with, with only three cops messing with us. The first for swimming in a river without a permit, the second for having sex in the driver seat of the car at a gas station, and the third for the infamous "you crossed a little too far over the white line and your licenses plate is obstructed" routine. We ate fried food in small-town restaurants with walls covered from floor to ceiling in framed photographs of varsity players on one knee, grinning from behind a face mask, embracing a football under the arm. Each frame had a little plaque, and almost everyone had the same last name.

    After eggs in the french quarter, we followed the Mississippi north toward Chicago, then across to DC where we visited Lincoln and laid in the grass. A day later I took her home to her parent's house in Baltimore. We had dinner with her parents and then we went up to her bedroom where we had sex for the last time before I would head up to Maine and her on a family vacation. 

  While we were having sex I could hear her father in the room next door playing the aucustic guitar and singing to Case's mother, and Case was louder than usual as though she got off on her parents hearing us in the room next door. Or maybe she just wanted to let them know that she had just returned from a great voyage, and she had returned a woman, and she would from now making her own decisions, even if that decision is to fuck the freak she met out west in the bedroom next door.

    The next day we all went out for ice-cream after breakfast and then a nice hike through the woods, they did a good job of pretending to like me, and then I bid them farewell, and I made my way to a sailors pub a day's drive north in Bar Harbor, Maine. I sat in the fog on a deck overlooking the bay and drank dark beer off the tap. I dreamed of the future and realized that trying to look through the fog into a dark bay was a lot like trying to see into the future, so I ordered another beer to drown my sorrows. I missed her, but I knew our adventure was over. She was on her way into a world I had just fizzled out of.

    I woke up the next morning in a few inches of water to the sound of two women's voices. I was in my tent and I peaked out the zipper to see them walking by in rain parkas with a couple dogs on leashes. They made no mention of the fact I was sleeping in a tent in the middle of their driveway. 

    Their house was beautiful, it was a large Victorian with a wrap-around porch, everything freshly painted white, and the surrounding forest lush and glowing green with moisture and vitality. I took down the tent and threw all my sobbing wet things into the back of my car, and dreamy winded around the coast of Desert Island, imagining the peculiar lives of all the writers who lived in this mysterious fog and then I hit the mainland to Bangor, where I hung out with a few hobos by the tracks, and then I headed reluctantly back to the midwest, front left tire wobbling as one lug nut snapped off after the other all the way to Illinois.

    I ended up at a rainbow gathering in the Shawnee National Forest just south of Carbondale. That was the first place, the first time I saw her eyes. I was walking down a wooded path and I saw her sitting in the dirt at the bottom of a small hill near a smoldering fire, her large brown eyes peering out from underneath a faded orange hand knitted stocking cap too large for her head of hair. She grinned at me and did not look away. Young naked nymphs danced around playing the flute, but I paid no notice, I had eyes for only this girl with the eyes, the eyes I always search for. Large brown almonds, a little slant, and she told me her name was Brit. 

    We laid around in the sticks and leaves for days making love, eating Dahl, bathing in the lake, walking out on the rock bridge at night to see Orion. It was almost paradise, but this rainbow with a missing front tooth kept insisting Brit let him give her a butt massage, and that kind of shit was getting old, so I persuaded her to leave with me, to go on the road, to leave the forest and head for the thrill of the city, not San Fran, but Chicago, and all its wonderments.

     As we left another guy who was in love with Brit wept while hugging a tree, falling to his knees, in my rearview mirror. We drove out of the forest, hours upon hours across great stretches of cornfield, until the lights of the city reflected off the gloss of our glazed eyes. I put my arm around Brit and she took a drag of her cigarette with that far away gaze of hope and despair that she peered into the horizon, the wind sucking the smoke out of the window. We both knew this road was ours to squander, and squander we did, like professionals, wayward and adrift, yet privileged with the knowledge that our bliss was our ignorance, and our freedom was our time.

Hurricane Dave

   

The weather guy said the tropical storm will probably be a hurricane before it made landfall at midnight. It was only seven, so I walked a few doors down to the expat bar. As I went up the stairs, my pace slowed with guilt, but I managed to raise my head with a false sense of pride as I placed one sober foot before the next toward the barstool. Dave was already there. It had been hard to avoid him lately. I thought about ignoring him, but I could see him sliding around on his stool trying to think of a way to break the ice.

    He settled for, “Hows it going Cory?”

    “All right,” I said, searching for a way to crawl back inside myself, but with a jerk reaction I found myself blurting out his name, “Dave!”

    Dave looked at me with a grin and asked, “Did you have to go through the alphabet?”

    “No” I responded defensivly. “I just all of a sudden remembered I told you I’d let you know if I remembered your name the next time I saw you, and I just realized I hadn't said your name when you said hello, so I wanted to let you know I remembered it, in case you thought I hadn’t, I did, I just forgot to say it, but I remembered.”

    Dave said, “Ok”. 

    "Why did he torment me so?" I asked myself as I peeled the label off my beer bottle and looked forward to the hurricane. 

    What I didn't tell Dave was how I managed to remember his name. I used this associative trick where you associate a name with someone you could never forget. There was this cop back in my hometown in Illinois named Dave. Dave and my Dad were rival cops. Finally, Dave got busted screwing one of his teenaged daughters best friends in the back of his cop car, that was it for Dave. 

    This Dave was from Ohio, and he loved to tell over and over the story about his motorcycle trip he took from Ohio to Florida when he hit the open road and left his old computer processing job in the dust. Upward and onward in search of freedom. Somehow Dave ended up hiding out here in Playa del Carme, Mexico, sitting across the bar from me, giving me a ton of things to think about without even trying. Dave lived in the bar's hotel, or maybe it was the hotel's bar...?

    But the thing is, I don't even like Dave. Dave annoys me, he annoys all the expats, he even annoys the Mexican bartender who has no idea what he’s saying. Honestly, he has that look. And Dave proudly voted for Trump and loves to let us know it until the bartender pulls out a wooden paddle and threatens, "No Politics in my bar!" in broken English as she wacks her hand. Dave usually gets a big grin. I guess he's alright, he smokes pot at least, and he actually lent me a few buds a couple weeks ago, and I feel like I could in the least remember his name.  

    I looked up from my pile of beer wrappers as Dave once again began to show off how he can guess the name of the next song that comes on the radio within the first two or three notes. I kind of admire him for this novelty skill few else have. I’ve always been drawn to people who have worthless talents. 

    My best friend growing up used to memorize the most mundane shit, and spew it out verbatim, such as this ancient Sally Struthers commercial for example, “Choose from any one of these programs, High School, TV/VCR Repair, Computer Programming, Electrician, Animal Care Specialist, Auto Mechanics, PC Repair, Bookkeeping, Legal Assistant, Medical Office Assistant, Hotel/Restaurant Management, Learning the Personal Computer, Electronics, or get your Specialized Associate Degree in Business Management and Accounting. ICS gives you everything you need, so call right now!”

I managed to forget about Dave for a minute until he crumpled up a napkin into a ball and threw it down the bartender's blouse. Dave offered to help as she reached down into her cleavage with one hand, a shot of tequila splashing around in the other. Dave obviously didn't get the memo and she gulped down what was left of the shot and gave Dave the death stare. Dave giggled and asked her with a high pitch, "whaaaat?"

    I looked in my pockets for more pesos but found nothing but lent. I considered the virtues of sobriety for a moment, then asked for the check, looked over at Dave, wondered about his goatee, handed the bartender my pesos and then nodded at Dave, “See ya later,” we both said simultaneously, as I questioned myself whether I am buzzed enough for a hurricane, then I walked down the stairs to the street below. 

    The cargo bikes were out in full gale selling quesadillas and tamales. I took a big whif as the charcoal smoke billowed up through the still palms, and wondered if I was the only one taking notice of the calm before the storm. I walked a few doors back down the block and up the stairs to my flat. I pulled a chair over to the window, opened the hurricane shutters, listened to the bird's sing, and rolled a joint as it slowly began to rain, and I thought about Dave.