Opia. Noun. The ambiguous intensity of looking into someone's eyes, which can fell simultaneously invasive and vulnerable.
As you lie in my arms, watching the television, you don't notice that my undivided attention is focused on you. Something I've been dreaming of for weeks, and it's finally come true. Even better, from your angle, you can't see me staring into your eyes, so I don't feel the nervous compulsion to turn away. Whether directly or not, I could drink in your eyes with mine, for hours, and they would be among the best hours of my life.
Then there's the other hand, held tightly by trepidation. I love the prospect of your eyes staring into mine, but it's not without its fears. I'm afraid you'll see all the pain and fears that I've spent the past seven years working to overcome. I'm afraid you'll see all the insecurity and doubts I have about myself. I'm afraid you'll see all the words that I long to whisper in your ear, but can't, because I'm terrified of scaring you away. I'm afraid you won't like the fact that, behind these eyes lies only pictures and thoughts of you. But most of all, I'm afraid that, unlike me, who loves every detail, and lives for moments like these, you won't love the things you see. I long for the day when you stare happily into my eyes, but I'm frightened that you won't enjoy the secrets they reveal.
I know that insecurity isn't pretty,
which is how I also know that I'm not beautiful
Oh, woman, dear, don’t be so insecure;
You’re only hurting yourself when you are insecure.
Look at the mirror and see how beautiful you are,
You don’t need to feel bad and to be insecure.
When you see others smile and happy in their lives,
Can’t you just smile for them and not feel insecure?
When someone deserves a prize, an award for his deed,
Would you aim to claim it because you’re insecure?
When someone stands now in a place where you dream,
Would you pull him down there when you feel insure?
When someone’s being praised for an excellent work,
Would you make some sour grapes- deeds of an insecure?
Yes, you are stealing a moment of your own joy,
Every moment that you’re jealous and you feel insecure.
forever like they say
something that never fades away
all the lies and the deceit
just what goes on between the sheets
where you expect that it will be
something new to you or me
dependent on being rich or being poor
something I remember anymore
insecurity and doubt
something I want to be without
always happiness and laughter
sadly, happy ever after.
All of you were my whole existence
My life line – my sanity
You didn't know my inner world
I may have spoken of dancing
Wanting to stand on mountain tops
You put me high on a golden pedestal
“You can do anything!” you said with admiration
I wasn't the one you believed me to be
I wasn't your savior or your superhero
Inside my fears were magnifying
Like a bubble that would burst
A ticking time bomb
Nothing to hold on to
Rolling down hill
Faster and faster
Scratches, cuts and bruises
Black and blue
Inside and out
I was never coming back
but I am still here
...terrified you won’t like me anymore...
all these pretty people
with fucking flawless skin
to contain their confident
i look in the mirror
and i cry
i can't take what looks back at me
its agonizing imperfections
and taunting discontentment
tonight i want to die
but i won't tomorrow
so i hold on
despite hating myself entirely
Ask me now daddy.
What I want to do when I grow up.
I want to be happy.
No, not happy
I want to be happiness.
I want to be joy and cheer and admiration
Confidence and peace and optimism
I don’t want to be like others, no, I want to be love.
The smile that comes across your face when they say your name,
The look that makes your heart skip a beat,
The song that makes you rethink every second you spent together.
I don’t wanna be the poem, I wanna be the emotion behind it,
Not the first kiss, let me be the nerves,
Not the dance, let me be the excitement,
Not the Officiant, let me be the vows.
When I grow up, I don’t wanna be a doctor mommy.
I want to be the feeling when someone’s told there’s a cure,
Or when a parent finds out their child will live to be a teenager,
Or maybe I want to be 3 in the morning when a mother holds her child for the first time.
I want to be affection and adoration and passion
Oh, I want to be passion.
Let me be passion.
So that you cannot do without me, because nothing without me has meaning.
So that when you are playing the final strain or scoring the winning goal,
Or writing the last chapter or finishing the last paint stroke,
You will think of me.
Maybe I’ll be allegiance or devotion or respect.
I won’t be the soldier, I’ll be the loyalty.
Or the surprise in a child's heart when their dad comes home early,
Maybe I’ll be the feeling when a father meets his baby for the first time,
And the child already knows his name.
I want to be piety and faith and worship.
I don’t want to be the pastor, I’ll be the lesson.
Maybe I’ll be the obligation behind the first baptism or first communion.
Maybe I’ll be the words when someone so low is told someone loves them.
I’ll be the salvation of the gospel,
The redemption to the guilty,
The forgiveness to the sinners.
When I grow up,
I want to be the opposite of sorrow,
The antonym of misery,
The reverse of fear,
The contradiction of rejection,
The antithesis of disappointment,
The inverse of insecurity,
I want to be the alleviation of anxiety,
The ease of pain,
When I grow up,
I want to be happy.
The stomach pain is horrendous
The taste of dessert coming back
The look of disaster
stab me, choke me, kill me
The disapproval upon the faces
The miserable sounds in the background
The insecurity peaking out
save me, help me, rescue me
The choke before the gag
The spit before the rest
The death in my stomach
take me, be me, please
The blood in my gums
The ache in my throat
I'm alright again.
“Children Attacking Stray Dogs with Tire Irons”
‘Reaching out her hand, she smiles. “I can’t help you. But can you help me?” Realizing there is virtue in giving what is needed, not in giving what you have, you walk. There, then, do the dreams begin. And they are beautiful dreams…’
“Tizita” in Ethiopian means ‘Memory’, and refers to a genre of music culturally synonymous with the American Blues. ‘Tizita’s’ temperament strongly resembles a specific real-life person, as most people in her narrative do; and indeed, all ‘street-names’ as well as their actual ones are shrouded in secrecy—to protect the innocent, the guilty, and anyone in-between. Most of these characters existed in a brief chronological context, but their memories live. These people had definite opinions, outlooks, thoughts, emotions, personalities, curves in their lives. Unfortunately, I must confess, the narrative here only provides snapshots; and aptly, the main character’s name refers not only to herself, but to all those along the way—memory being fragile, a singular moment in time, and in that way, somewhat empowering. But enough about the word “Tizita”— her real ‘street’-name (and her actual one) were more authentic and more poignant. It fit her.
Interpretations of Two Birth Charts, both in Leo
(*It’s wise to preface these conversations with a warning—contradictions are a part of life, and the contradictory things said in this conversation are intended to reflect the inner and outer contradictions of ourselves.)
E: It’s interesting because your ascendant is also in Leo, but rather than being the Leo of the individual concerned with the public persona, it’s on the verge of Virgo, which is very communicative, it’s this border between the individual creating and narrating his own life and communication as a sort of communion, a personal religion. I see this balance and this jovialness, but the jovialness is disconnected from the rest of the chart. The jovialness comes from possessions, and with possessions comes physical materials, physical creations. And I would say that your unconscious perceptions of the world fence in the dreamer—these unconscious perceptions of reality. There’s a fluid balance between sending something into reality and reinterpreting it creatively, and you’re sending it from perhaps an ethereal place, but it takes time, and it takes practice. It comes from the soul level. It’s almost medicinal. A daily dose of something. Your moon is in Pisces. It makes me think of how you describe your mother. The moon is your mother. And Pisces is drunk in a way. Not literally drunk per-se, but more of an emotionally drunk; and interested in mysticism. There’s a coat around the mother. I look at my mom’s mom. My mom has the coat around the mother too, and I look at my mom’s mom and she was depressed and ended up dying of cancer. It’s not related to everybody, but it’s a spirituality. There’s a communication that’s paired with Pluto. Normally, I don’t think this is a focal point for people. It’s an understanding—Pluto is like Mars, but on a higher octave. Pluto can be used where you’re able to interpret multiple generations at once. It can also be used to interpret domestic violence or personal violence. And you have Pluto in a protected spot. It’s connected to your (IC?) and your IC is the soul. It is the opposite of the public image. Sometimes people have an overwhelming IC, and that’s interpreting the world through your ascendant with a focal point of the IC of your soul-level going outward and it’s almost an inverse. In other words, the outside going inward. And you have Pisces and Scorpio on the soul-level in a precise pattern. Oh, that’s funny. Mars is in Mercury’s sign, and Mercury is in the 11th house, in Cancer. And Cancer is nurturing, Cancer is home. It’s the father who’s super-soft, and it’s all the power of this super-soft father who cares for the big ideas in the people he meets. But it’s powered by Pluto. It’s a constant story—whatever Mercury times Pluto is—where Pluto, when it comes into Scorpio in twenty years, it’s what’s concerned with other peoples’ resources, what we make one-on-one, what we make as a society. It’s a paradox to me where the soft father is mixed with Pluto which is complete intensity. Any questions?
A: Not at the moment…what do you mean by super-soft?
E: Softness and malleable creativity is the same thing to me. A constant reinterpretation rather than grounded idealism. It’s more about nurturing and communication. But at the same time, a firmness in the way you speak. You have a soft outer shell in your interactions with others—I see that a lot in our generation, where we take the inverse of our hard fathers. I believe I’m firm, but I’m also--
A: It’s nice to meet another crazy person. I mean that.
E: I can see that she’s like a tidal wave, and the tidal wave is her public image, it’s the surface of the water, and as she moves forward it rips her soul apart. But that’s her face, that’s the experiences—it’s an introverted process. She’s constantly calculating something that nobody else can quite see, but they reap the experience that’s on her front, her voyage. And that shoots straight into her insecurity. It’s like ripping her pants—everyone can see it, and you know it’s there, but you just have to keep going until the end of the day when you can go home and sew your pants. And it’s finding that nurturing spirit in the experience, and that can be the experience itself as god in sex, but it can also be sex itself, which is an insecurity, pointing at one side of the triangle when the triangle needs complete balance; disregarding the actual adventure, the actual spirit, the mutual sacrifice, the mutual learning, because when you tie into that learning, that sacrifice, it becomes a realization that there isn’t a division between the natural and the human worlds, but that these are a singular thing. And you use this knowledge and these relationships that are in the human world, but are actually in the natural world as well. You can’t let go of it and say ‘I don’t want to do this’ because it’s still going to exist. That, I think, is the trouble with a lot of people. The passage in her life is about accepting that, and the transition becomes moving from other people, and that other partner, and being abused by that other partner, into a quest for the self, and realizing that she exists in everybody else; the networks and maps that you make collectively--you can’t focus on a singular other person, because when that happens, the map is still going to fly forward.
This is the story of everything happening and you only paying attention to one thing at a time.
She has a really interesting aspect—her chart forms a Star of David. It’s in all these water and earth signs, and that is mud. It can hold you down in a really grounding way if you’re willing to accept it, but otherwise it can be tedious and a pain. It can be wading through something, never enjoying that something. That wading through something is a form of sexuality.
A: It’s an earthiness.
E: Less of an intellectual earthiness and more of an emotional earthiness.
I see a lot of people have a correlation where the mother in their lives represent a spirituality, where the mother is losing but losing as a child—these experiences happen to them and they don’t fall apart or break, they take them as a child and it’s a nice lesson passed on to the person who has this aspect in their chart. It’s a strength in the connection to the spirit, where you’re able to make your way through it all. She has these generational aspects, and in her history, she’s lost a lot, where her mother had a psychological issue and the father was tormenting. She learned a lot of cultural values, street-smarts, and that’s part of a larger picture. That’s knowledge the way anything else is knowledge. It’s tormenting to the sense of self to be strictly surrounded by street; with no sense of inner knowledge. And I see the way she creates, this philosophy of trudging through the mud (earth and spirit), and I see how that corresponds to Austin Boston the poet; the way you try and put yourself into the world. It’s her whole creating essence—in her sun sign—and the sun is a focal point, and if you’re connected to somebody’s sun, you’re connected to their soul’s purpose; and your ascendant is on the cusp of Leo and Virgo, just as hers. So you’re able to absorb it. You act as shoes through the portal.
Huh. Lilith. Do you know the story of Lilith?
A: Tell it again.
E: Well Lilith is Adam’s original wife, and when God’s law came into play, she was replaced by Eve. And Lilith became the snake in the famous story, and you can see that as biting back. The Lilith in her, though she’s been given all these tools and perspectives, the Lilith in her embodies her past life. Imagine looking at a flame, beckoning you forward; she has this snake charmer’s way of letting these events and the mud that’s floating around beckon you—it’s her way of coaxing the illusion. But we all coax the illusion. You know, I read these astrology charts and I hide behind the shell of me, and you write stories and hide behind the shell of you. It’s coaxing the illusion—
A: For yourself and everyone else, so you start to believe that mask you wear is real.
E: Her chart is really beautiful.
“If there is no love in the world, we will make a new world, and we will give it walls, and we will furnish it with soft, red interiors, from the inside out, and give it a knocker that resonates like a diamond falling to a jeweller's felt so that we should never hear it. Love me, because love doesn't exist, and I have tried everything that does.”
--Jonathan Safran Foer
So as you sat waiting for a tire iron on the I-5 between Tacoma and Seattle, you had the nagging feeling that all life is is a bunch of flat tires in hard and unusual places, and you guess then was the time to thank whoever was running this train-wreck-piece’a-shit-magnificent.
Got a spare tire on your car two hours later, with help from a buddy of yours Logan AKA MacGyver, and right about then you knew you don't know what you’re doing at all, just trying to make it, try things out, challenge yourself over and over to only come up a bill short.
At least the weather's nice, you joked to MacGyver. He thought that was funny enough. Then, like anything else, the battery wouldn't start. MacGyver meanwhile went home and got drunk and you found someone to give you a jump-start, only to find your spare tire flat from dry rot. You swung the Chevy off the freeway, almost got hit more than once, prayed, heard the rims hitting the pavement, found a gas station, attempted to fill the spare with air, ran into a lonely/ desperate/ potentially violent crank-smoker, got MacGyver to come back across Tacoma at 11 at night, drunk, the tow truck driver Tim, you talked to him about the tow truck business, unemployment checks, trimming marijuana north of Berkeley, how he used to do it, and how you were gonna do it before everything went so bad with your last relationship or friendship or whatever the fuck she/you called it.
The next day gave another headache or two, this time driving out of a Pepboys onto a four lane road, traffic meaner than a muthafucker, only to have your driver's side tire pop from the front of the car into the street, leaving you to drive on the brake rotor for fifty yards, the whole time just wanting to crawl back in bed and sleep the day away.
In any case, maybe this story should start back in Vegas four months earlier, a Saturday night cruising with a fifth of vodka on the Strip bouncing from casino to casino, taking the view in with all the tourists, the Strip itself a microcosm with the Stratosphere on one end taller than the Space Needle and designed in the late 80s to be astronaut-themed, but was mismanaged and now towers above Naked City like a torch to the dispossessed, on the other end Mandalay Bay which, like most everything on the Strip, cries out a classist chant of “Money can buy you happiness, look at our shark tanks and buffed marble floors and golden sinks”, the world falling off after it, symbolized by the airport and car rental return and miles of freeway through the suburb of Henderson.
You and some kids were just passing the time when on a bridge you dropped a Hare Krsna card in the hat of a Head, dreads and a purple handkerchief tied over his head and his voice was angelic and he was bearded and sang folk songs, and he casually offered if you wanted any acid.
You had twenty bucks on you, so you said, “Yeah I'll take a couple hits” and took one and gave one to your dear friend at the time, Samwise. Now Samwise's a character himself, coming from Mexico when he was a kid and can't work legally and smokes pot (sometimes meth) and plays video games and listens to the Smiths and underground hiphop and punk and ska and is really into street-art, filling notebook after notebook with tags and sketches, as well as more recently poetry. Sam’s quite childlike, seeing life as a video game, and you suppose that's how you got along and you both love and despise that whole little kid air about him, and next thing you know you’re both tripping balls, driving around town like a dream, laughing at nothing and after awhile you started seeing colors and on a journey so disconnected from reality it was incredible that you only took one.
You got the Head's number. There were two of them there that night, Howard and Sean, and they’re brothers, hitchhiked their way from Minnesota to Vegas just trying to make money and get by, playing music and selling drugs and
following the Grateful Dead's Bob Weir around like most other Heads, Howard being twenty-five and Sean nineteen, and they're living the dream you want so bad to live, only to realize you’re either not cut out for it or you’re just not there yet. Maybe you have more growing up to do.
A couple Saturdays later you ended up at their rent-a-shack third-floor motel a few miles east of the Flamingo, seven or eight or nine kids there drinking and laughing and being loud through all hours of the day and night, you drinking champagne and taking a line of speed and having a ball just being your obnoxious drunk loud self with a kid named Blondie, a twenty six year old painter/carpenter/rancher Tennessee James, another named Mitchell, this kid Jonah, more men than women and faces you remember but no more names, and y’all are talking Fleet Foxes and Modest Mouse and one of 'em has a tattoo: “The Good Times Are Killing Me” (from Isaac Brock, the front-man of Modest Mouse) and you’re singing along to the song 3rd Planet--
(“and the universe is shaped exactly like the earth,
if you go straight long enough you'll end up where you were”)
--But eventually you meet a hippie couple, both dreaded up pale-skinned train-hoppers, one named Adam (he's about 30), the other Lily (she's only 22 by comparison) and she has a three year old son Tracks (after the trains they hop) who's a genius and sociable and loves everyone and everything, and it's fun to play with the kid but it's becoming dawn and you have a couple more hits of acid and they have a boatload of marijuana from Northern California, so you bring up an idea that you've had since you've met this beautiful group of people, and that's to take a bunch of your acrylic paint and some of these hippies and go to the only thing in Vegas worth sticking around for, a state park by the name of Red Rock Canyon.
So at their place which was downstairs from Howard and Sean and Tennessee James', waiting for Adam and Lily to get ready at 6am you met a man Rob who's misplaced among all the kids shuffling around, a man they picked up in Hemet, California, not too far from your boarding school town, with kids and a wife who cheated on him and kicked him out of their house, did jail-time for some bureaucratic mistake (working, driving paint cans to a drop-site), so his story goes, Rob in his forties hopeless at the time, he decided to stick around with Tracks and sleep with him while you all went on your little excursion.
And then out of the blue comes a girl with eyes so powerful they'll shake you, she's broken too but she called herself Tizita, real name Alexis, she kisses Lily full on and these girls make out for awhile, afterglow from a love affair you had just missed; but y’all end up on the road soon enough, making a quick pit stop for gas.
6am, you’re getting gas and you are approached by a kid mid to late twenties down on his luck, decide to take him with you to Red Rock on a tad bit of acid to paint. Haitian Mike. Tizita pushed to sit in the front seat, and you’re all on the freeway, tabs in your mouths, jamming to psych-pop and George Harrison’s Tomorrow Never Knows.
You get to the park, gather your supplies, and start a mild hike inward, down a trail through flat brush lands, about 70 degrees at the beginning of March and the wind howling like crazy, enough for you kids to keep your jackets on, and you find a circle of mesquite trees a mile inward, a nice little sitting circle of rocks inside made specifically for shade. You paint little rocks for awhile, designs here and there, and you jump on an idea to take a rock from the sitting circle, paint a little circle A for anarchy , and turn the rock over, as if to symbolically say, “true freedom is hidden: one has to find it,” though you don't think anyone besides yourself really appreciated it beyond simple fun, and you might totally be wrong but that moment, with people (even though you didn't know who they were/are) that you, at the time, felt like family with, that was defining.
And next thing you know you’re putting face paint on Tizita, little orange and yellow and green war dots over her forehead and eyes and cheeks and you stare at each other a long time, you trying not to fumble but you do a little bit and it's cute and you talk softly and it was all so perfect, nothing mattered but that moment then-- looking back on it now that trip to Red Rock made the rest of the journey, so full of tripping over yourself, your words, your actions, worth it all.
She knew it too at the time. And you all hiked upward a bit before the group got tired, the wind blowing like some awful big vacuum cleaner monster, you traveled up the hillside s'more before tiring yourself out, building a little rock sculpture at the end to signify where you left off, just a stack of rocks simple about four or five high, and you're in the car going home everyone ready to pass out.
So you and Tizita exchanged numbers and you dropped her home, across town from Red Rock but only a ten minute freeway ride from you.
The next day she wanted to go job-hunting, so you do, filling out all kinds of applications in dead-end parking lot strip malls, coming across an older hippie outside a Wal-Mart, she asked for a little bit of food and you both obliged, buying it on Tizita's food-stamps.
You, at one point, decided to stop by the 3rd floor with all the Heads, bringing with you a library in the trunk of your car. “Thank you’s” were being passed around like pipe-hits. Noam Chomsky’s On Anarchism, PD Ouspensky’s The Fourth Way, a book on Christ as a nonviolent populist revolutionary, some Hemingway, Chuck Palahniuk, Ginsberg, Kerouac, etc. You gave ‘em away there, and continue to wonder where they ended up—in addition to a couple paintings you freely gave.
The first time you kissed her, it was on one of the pedestrian bridges on the Strip, if you can recall correctly it was between the brand-spanking new Aria, designed for young professionals out clubbing, and another casino called City Center, also brand-new, and this kiss was among street guitarists and you were both sober and it was beautiful.
Tizita was from Washington State and was born a military brat. She fell in with some bad people, ran away from home, got into ecstasy. Tizita kept strong and learned how to survive with a pack of juggalos--(WHAT IS A JUGGALO? FUCK IF I KNOW, BUT I’M DOWN WITH THE CLOWN AND I’M DOWN FOR LIFE, YO), one of them you would meet in Berkeley later on named Zander, and one day she decided Seattle wasn't cutting it like she thought and fled south. In Portland she got into heroin, got off heroin. Fled further south. In San Francisco got into drinking and ended up in Seattle again after some trouble with police--
(There's so much to like love idolize glorify or hate, or distrust about, or to judge, but who knows better than god and if god is us all then we're capable of seeing.)
She has slept/pissed in/ate out of/made love to girls in dumpsters, she's met Tim Armstrong of Rancid (though who hasn’t in the Berkeley world?), she's had Thanksgiving dinners at communes, she's met contacts that do things like tree-sit, she's gotten scabies then got rid of them, she's been train-hopping, she's found her way to a Rainbow Gathering (hippie festival involving a week taking drugs having orgies digging shitters gathering firewood finding family in the dark pervading shuffle of life), she's dealt weed in Berkeley, constantly uses phrases like, DOG OUT, KICK ROCKS, SHUT THAT BABY UP! and in the end like all of you, perfectly deserving of inner peace. Tizita is also one year younger than yourself. One year and two weeks. Tizita, in laymen’s terms, is batshit nuts. But then, so are you.
You’re a hippie boy with a fondness for the seagulls.
You fell in love with her for a little while. A goddamn heroine. Or maybe selfish and self-involved (but then so are you), or maybe a lost cause, or maybe a beacon of hope, or maybe you’re on different levels, or maybe you’re a coward, or maybe, just maybe, you’re both instruments in a much bigger scheme, one built by those who see what those in the present cannot, or maybe even still, and probably much more likely but a lot less fun, you’re both just young. And stupid. And kids make mistakes. People make mistakes. Still to this day you can't help but wonder-- and that's just 'cus you felt like you hardly knew her. As with anything in relationships, it all depends on how you look at it.
Tizita also was a dog-person, her own being Sammy Davis Jr , or Sammy D, a beautiful black lab big like ninety pounds and floppy-eared and a graceful flap in his step, the soul of all mankind condensed in his eyes. Sammy D got Tizita through some tough times train-hopping hitchhiking by herself, and there must be angels on this rock because she got through everything O.K. somehow.
The three weeks after that kiss involved you going to your community college classes, picking her up, hanging out, smoking weed or drinking, all of it being a total blur. In that time you gave a talk in your Speech 101 class about meditation, you found work (she didn’t) doing social media applications for a musician, went to a Pagan ritual on the north edge of Vegas dedicated to mother goddesses, got swindled by a con-artist with a Nevada teaching license “recruiting” for teaching English in a Chinese city called Suzhou, (twenty minutes from Shanghai by speed-train, so he said) babysat baby Tracks and had wild animal-style sex to, of all things, the movie Juno and a soundtrack of Kimya Dawson, you locked your keys in your car, painted your father's shed (it took two days, well two and a half), got an oil change, hung out with some party-practicing-Buddhist cats, wrote a closure-type letter to your ex of six months (to try and make the nightmares stop), etc etc, met up with an older gay couple you were family friends with, one of 'em who worked at an airline company and wanted to give you a job at 10/hr plus free airfare to wherever you wanted to go on weekends, flirted with a drug-addled girl named Melody while in Tizita's presence (Tizita lived free love so you thought it was OK (this'll be important later) but she straight out said to you one time-- “I'm the jealous type and you better stop doing that”) (and if you were ALPHA AS FUCK, you’d do it anyway, but you guess you’re not—cover all the bases here?), went to a free ska show featuring a band called the English Beat (who kicked ass live twenty years after their prime) and a local opener called the Remedies (who came from the same high school as some of your friends/your first girlfriend), got kicked out by a PTSD security guard, during which the diplomacy stages between you and him you ended up growling at him and blowing your cigarette smoke in his face and saying, “You were in the army, weren't you?”, smiling all the while, too angry to be diplomatic to someone who judged you so quick/judging him as a reaction, among other things.
Here’s a poem you wrote from these couple weeks:
The world opens like a flower
If you yourself become a flower,
change imminent and incan-
descent and if you refuse like
a rock in the riverbed then you
stay a rock.
Being a rock has perks but damn
it's just not for me. I'd rather
float down the cascading river
and follow it down to the sea.
After all, we're all being swept
away into the sea anyway, no
matter if we're rocks or flowers
or anything in-between.
One of those blurry nights you found yourselves outside Lily and Adam's place at about midnight or so, baby Tracks fast asleep, Adam trying to walk away but Lily dragging on to him, screaming, “You don't have to do this!” Adam adamant and he eventually left, leaving you and Tizita to console Lily on the apartment steps.
“Heroin, man! It ruins everything!” She sobbed.
You don't know what to say.
Tizita says, holding up her American Spirit, “Team Tracks.”
“Oh, I'm not too worried.” She said. “He'll come back.”
You didn't want to say it because you don't know but you have the feeling (maybe just based on stereotypes but feelings all the same), and she did too, that one of these days he wasn't going to.
You all go for a little drive in your car, listening to music and smoking a bit of pot and not talking much, and after about half an hour, you come back and Adam comes back and everything is kinda sorta normal. He acknowledges all of you before going inside to his little piece-of-shit world, can't blame the guy at least not then and not even now, they're all just byproducts of a terribly broken image, and you swear to god you wish it wasn't so broken. Lily then says while ashing her rollie, “Well, he's back. Gotta go make some love, man. Bring us together again. We're so cool when we're together.”
And you and Tizita wished her good night before going to bed yourselves.
Tizita's living situation involved a close family friend and her daughter, but while the mother-type was quite understanding of Tizita's lifestyle and ethics, her daughter wasn't-- this caused a bit of melodrama which, after some passive aggressive fighting, left Tizita homeless. She decided then that instead of getting her life together in Vegas she wanted to go back to Berkeley and try to clear brush trails for a pseudo-military organization made by California governor Jerry Brown back in the 70s called the California Conservation Corps. And she wanted you to come with her.
(“Be free with your tempo,
be free, be free,
surrender your ego,
be free, be free,
You were sold by her act. But that’s because she could cater to you. You’ve talked about William S Burroughs, the Tao te Ching, SLC Punk, Riot Grrls, how the Dead wasn’t that great and how you both weren’t exactly on board with Dead shows and shit (also her father a Phish fan), the road itself, her past, your past, blah fucking blah. You knew it could be bullshit but she talked Berkeley, tree-sitting, trimming weed, all kinds of hippie activities so awesome your eyes were bulging. You knew from the start things could end up being shit, or end up being incredible, probably both, and that was enough.
Long story short you spent the next week planning it all, your path through California, making sure your 2003 Chevy Cavalier (“the SS Blueberry”) could make it there, 90,000 miles on it when you got the car second-hand from your father, 100k by the time everything settled. You packed and had one last weekend, involving hanging out with a man Patches who had a kid in Santa Barbara but Patches was aiming for Denver, you gave him a pair of jeans and dropped him off at a truck-stop at the north end of town; that weekend was also when Lily was arrested for selling weed on the Strip. Child Protective Services decided to stop by, with lots of warning, making Adam and Tizita and some other cats to be all protective and not answer the door when they did come, one of 'em asking you (who was smoking outside) who was who and you lying through your goddamn teeth.
“I spot a little bullshit on your chin,” the CPS Agent countered, to which you wiped. He was on his shit, and you weren’t. Lost, lost, you decided to pick up and go.
And a couple days later, after making sure Lily got out of jail O.K. and baby Tracks was O.K. and after an interview for a job you knew you wouldn't start, you both left town.
By chance, thirty miles into it all, Bob Dylan's “LIKE A ROLLING STONE” came on the radio and you just had to sing along, so certainly knowing or coming to know what Bobby really meant by “no direction home” and boy, was Tizita groovy then.
The first stop in your journey was at her family's place, a small little three-bedroom house outside of Riverside. Two moms, three kids, a dog, a kitchen with smells like your own family back in Texas, the older mom Denise who's about thirty, her kid Kirsten the other mom in the household, with two kids herself and Denise with a child about ten years younger than Kirsten. Denise had a drug habit (that she gave up, hard life) which made her second child slow, not meaning to be rude because God bless 'em all, but there was a certain darkness shown by their constant impatience with life.
You got there around 8-9 at night, after leaving Vegas around 3-4 in the afternoon. You crashed early that evening, tired from all the ganje (a pattern here), leaving Tizita and Kirsten (who's your age) to have girl-talk (which never ended in that household) and these trapped angry people felt like home, a home you'd never want to be apart of, but a home still the same.
You, Tizita, and Denise, as well as Kirsten's little four year old, you made your way to the lake the next day, its blue waters lapping up little waves, the walk there full of wildflowers and dreams, you and the cute little hyped up four year old playing in the sprinklers on the mowed grass up from the shoreline, for a moment or two, you all drawing things in the sand with sticks, so simple—
Anyway, you said your goodbyes to her family, meanwhile Tizita's brother in trouble with his girlfriend for domestic violence, weird long phone calls trying to figure out where he went, him on the run for a few days from the cops as well as some people out to get him, packing heat 'cus he wanted so wanted to be hard (Tizita said) (and he is already, this hard world full of hard people makes you soft sometimes but you believe in the power of the word so fuck it all ), it made you paranoid to hear the play-by-play, many motherfuckers in Bremerton lookin' to kick his ass, swear to god, paranoia feeling up and down this whole cumdumpster life.
And his girlfriend took pictures and put them on her Facebook profile, bruises up and down her pregnant body, from her back to her legs and arms, but his story is something along the lines of her latching on to him as he was trying to remove himself and leave after him pushing her into a coffee table; and everything's fishy because Tizita was telling you how her brother's girlfriend was all kinds of freakin' out over Facebook to her, not only from her profile but a profile she made for their kid, who wasn't even born yet. Kirsten was also spewing some drama over her cell phone, calling her family all kinds of bad names. The whole thing was mad ridiculous.
You drove from Riverside to the beautiful secluded Idyllwild, but decided to pack up and leave after fucking that morning (your favorite time to get down) in front of Sammy Dog in the tent, with a choir of coyotes in the distance, in the midst of a rumble or some weird crazy free-for-all, you and her terrified for Sammy so packing up camp mighty quick, the coyotes calling some weird omen. Dogs know things you could only fathom.
You stayed that night around UCSB at your friend’s co-op. He opened the garage for you and you stayed there, an event space by day, underground railroad by night. Crimethinc lined the walls with books and zines; there were a incredible number of other DIY'ed printer runoffs, straight outta the 90s, female health liberation to queer struggle to stop smoking pamphlets to How to Develop Consensus brochures; a library of liberal arts textbooks; various Zinn and Chomsky; How To’s about gardening, carpentry. The space you stayed in was in the garage, and he let you alone and you fucked before a dreamless sleep on a mattress in the corner.
The morning was misty and you and Tizita walked around, getting dark roast caphee from a crazy yellow-green splattered coffee-stop, making jokes like cough-ee or caphee while walking to the shoreline and seeing the Pacific Ocean cold and deep horizon blue, coming back to a note and some breakfast. Some bananas, some oatmeal, trail-mix. You caught up with him, had a conversation about ayahuasca, how he has some and was going to Columbia to visit a girlfriend and do some community service/activism as he put it; in the end, though, you 'n Tizita decided to head north, the destination being a state park called Montana de Oro, above San Luis Obispo.
The Highway goes on forever. Life may go round and round but the highway is straight and sometimes curvy and there are exit ramps and Carpool Lanes but you eventually wind up back on the road anyway, and up through Buellton and Pismo and toward Big Sur it felt like a novel or a movie or a fantasy-- guess that's why you take conscious effort to remember it all, this Folk Life some kind of dream made for giants or moonchildren named Christine or Camille or Flower, or sungods named Howard or Martin, sunshine leaking from the holes in their skulls, ready for the next party-adventure always smelling like they climbed out of a pig sty but shit son, it's all in the eyes anyway.
Tizita's eyes were out of this world, it's what ya first notice when you meet her, and for chrissakes have you spent so much time staring at them, how yellow they are around the pupils, but fading to green toward the edges of her irises.
You stopped in San Luis Obispo and found some street-kids to smoke a bowl, but they were overrun with loud tweaker-types so after awhile she hooked one of 'em into buying you both a three-dollar six-pack of a brand Simpler Times IPA from Trader Joes, left SLO, and headed to your state park campsite.
Along the way you gas-chugged, collecting six or so gallons from various passers-by at a Chevron, the whole process taking a couple hours holding a sign OUT OF GAS and looking disheveled. You found some groceries before the little thirty minute drive through the state park, and stopped at a hike-into camp-site to be yourselves, then you made fire, ate some grilled steak and vegetables, smoked and drank your Simpler Times beer before sleeping.
In some circles, eating meat is as bad as murder, and there all kinds of rationalizations on both sides of the fight—you believing bacon tastes amazing and can do amazing things for morale. Whatever makes you sleep well at night. You haven't found the courage to eat all vegan, all the time, though you might be, in a mild way, vegetarian. But you’re noncommittal. Labels are for squares. You’ll give up meat someday. Tizita had a similar rationalization. Diet is something that's versatile to you. Food is food. Hunger is hunger. You've been realizing that the hungrier you got the less you cared what you put in your body.
The conversations you had at this point were small plans kind of conversations, miniscule. No more back-story or philosophy or interests. You’re not one for paranoia but fuck the girl made it easy so easy to think bad thoughts.
Under the guise of, “Hey, let it go--”
Fuck that. Sore, you fucked in the tent again and slept. Your back felt worse in the morning, stiff as shit and you made some cowboy coffee over the fire, fried some bacon, and listened to the birds through the ocean fog that swept through the trees.
(“Silence, like a cancer, grows.”)
Meanwhile Tizita took some time and wrote a letter to a dear friend of hers, nicknamed Pip, an American Indian that liked to pick wildflowers but he fell in with some bad people, and on an amphetamine trip while camping one of his friends attempted to rape him. Next thing you know, that friend was dead. Supposedly it was someone else’s crime, how some little kid 5’4” named Pip could kill someone Tizita didn’t believe, darkness pervades everything, and she showed you a picture of the storm drain on the reservation they found the body in, and the haunting dream of living on the edge showed itself finally. How good things could ultimately end up terrible. Poor Pip.
You left the Morro Bay area and took the 101 up toward Monterey, past Atascadero and spanged off the interstate in Paso Robles, taking claim to a sandwich, some Cliff bars, a cigarette, seven bucks, all in about half an hour. Tizita also showed you a train-hopping spot underneath the onramp where scrawled on the walls were hundreds of messages from traveling kids, speaking hate, love, and memory to one another. Tizita picked out a few and showed them to you, a little story attached to every scrawl—
‘TRASHCAN’S A OOGLE’
“OOGLE WENDY DONT TRUST HER’
‘OLD MAN SAMSON’
‘Yo itz Casper Howz Tracks? 1/13’
Amazing how such a living breathing artifact exists! How many stories are written on the walls, how the memories of individuals are left to be decoded, but mostly ignored, much like all of us to each other anyway. Funny, huh? You got back to the car and drove through King City, passing Big Sur but promising to go back to it. Eventually, the car made it all the way to Monterey. You were impressed that your baby would get that far.
The breeze was airy like a psych-pop record, seagulls making passes at hermit crabs, the temperature mild and it smelled like rain. You got there at about five or six in the afternoon, and parked the car before finding some more street-kids to jam with. You found a couple dudes that weren’t exactly distinguishable except for the dogs—so many street-kids have dogs, it’s definitely the most obvious part of the culture, and most of these dogs are pit bulls mistreated like redheaded step-children (though, to be fair, pit bulls need a bit of aggression to keep them in line, or so the excuse rings out.) KRS One was actually playing a show a block away, and the time was perfect for you to belt out WHOOP WHOOP THAT’S THE SOUND OF DA POLICE before checking out for the evening.
As the rain came pouring down, the trunk to your car wouldn’t close. You spent the next forty-five minutes unpacking the car and tying bungee cords to keep it shut and from then on only access your things by putting down the seats, something that Tizita took great pains to do herself ‘cus you were so rough with everything--
And then you drove up Seventeen Mile Drive through all the cypress trees and prime golf territory Monterey had to offer, you pulled off into a lot overlooking a small valley, everything shadowed by dark. You were expecting security to show up at some point ‘cus you drove through a gate complete with guard but the lady on duty just smiled and waved you through. THANKS LADY Tizita laughed. You had sex, getting to be routine by now, her always on bottom, well not always always but you were getting sick of it all then. You instead were looking forward to that cigarette afterward more than the sex itself, which was funny ‘cus she quite enjoyed herself that night.
The next morning you flew a sign in downtown Monterey—HUNGRY LIKE THE WOLF—but didn’t catch much. Too early and ended up meeting a bunch of funny street kiddos, a hippie or two, a tweaker, an oogle. There was streetkid Hero (shady Mexican on a bicycle), a kid named Fartface (with sunglasses, a crooked smile, a baseball cap), a hippie girl Ali who made ‘Karma bracelets’ to sell to tourists, an angry Malcolm X type with hair straight outta that movie Do the Right Thing , and a white fifteen year old oogle named Ben, not really an oogle just socially awkward like your fine self, you oogles gotta stick together in a way, SOLIDARITY MUTHAFUCKAS! wish you woulda said that to him but pride kept you from saying a word. You sat around most of the morning near the boardwalk, getting stoned and staying silent.
You busied yourself while Tizita made Karma bracelets with Ali, you building a rock sculpture scavenger hunt from one end of the Monterey Boardwalk to the other, only to find that the goddamn tourists paid no attention and ruined practically every little step you made until the prize at the end (a bag of Gobstoppers hidden behind a telephone pole).
Then there’s the Monterey Drop-In Center. A two story house across the street from the high school lived in by a father with a heroin habit he got rid of years before, his mother, his family, and a large amount of kids in and out of the facility. It’s open in the daytime to a stocked kitchen, a computer with a DSL hookup, though there’s not enough room for the twenty-thirty-odd streetkids that make appearances at the weekly breakfast.
You first appeared at that weekly breakfast the day after Easter. Speaking of which, your Easter was spent sitting on the sand writing poems, stacking rocks, drinking a little and sparking a lot of hash-dipped joints, bringing silence to the world of noise. Salty waves crashed around you, speaking hymnals, the cold almost bearable.
The weekly breakfast was warm and inviting and streetkids watched each others’ dogs outside while smoking cigarettes, some lost and befuddled, some short and ill-tempered, some cool and contained, some with girls, some without, some girls by themselves, most of ‘em with packs and mats and sleeping bags and respect was given to the family who lived in the home they were in. Eggs were fried, toast was made, pancakes flipped, sausage grilled, dishes done, under delegation by the family. There were so many people doing things you were able to stand and watch.
(Pigeons coo in attic,
mice chew wires
in chest beats
so you keep,
Tizita’s spent some time at this drop-in center, on good terms with the man in charge, Bill, and she knows the ins and outs of the place. You gathered food bank locations, condoms, an extra pan to cook stuff in, some clothes. Then she gave Bill a hug and you left.
Outside of the Drop in Center was a streetkid without his old lady, weeping and bleeding with a swollen ankle. You didn’t ask any questions, just loaded a pipe and handed it to him. He looked up, whispered, “Thanks,” and smoked it. You stood there for a few minutes passing the pipe back and forth. The quiet air brought a stench of empathy.
Somewhere along the way you found a man named Beau, a man Tizita’s had a mysterious history with, he looks about thirty but you never asked, and there were some trimming kids he was with, dark and all that, and he’s a bonafide hitchhiker himself, you feeling like he’s competition so you never said nothing to him personally, and you found him inland and drank some beer on the street and got high off hash oil before you drove all of ‘em back to the coast, his first words to you being, “So you finally freed yourself, is that what I hear?” And you didn’t answer, too faded to say shit, just feeling like shit yourself, and you’re driving bad on the freeway (no condition to drive, but you did it anyway), you lighting bowls along the way, them screaming “SIX-UP” when cops passed by, you not getting what SIX-UP meant until it was too late, but the cop didn’t care. You got to the beach around dark and they were gonna have a bonfire, but you ditched them to pass the fuck out in the car.
(“It’s gonna rock you like a hurricane,
It’s gonna rock you ‘til you lose sleep,
It’s gonna rock you ‘til you’re out of a job,
It’s gonna rock you ‘til you’re out on the street,
It’s gonna have you down on your knees,
It’s gonna have you beggin’ pretty please.”)
Life goes on and you spent the next day or so sleeping in your car around Monterey. You also met a gingered street couple who wanted to go to Big Sur with you, per the plan, and this was around the third of the month, when food stamps came in, but at six in the morning you woke to Tizita screaming about them not arriving. You left straight away, making it to Berkeley in a few hours when it was all said and done, squeezing past Santa Cruz and up.
It was a real disappointment you didn’t get to Big Sur. But that wasn’t the worst of your problems by far, or so you’d soon find out.
Berkeley when you first arrived was full of green, bright, the sun shining and you felt wonderful for the whole trip, getting someone like Tizita all the way here, believing for once in the power of glassy-eyed love affairs, and within minutes someone was offering you some more LSD.
You bought four hits for twenty bucks but for the rest of the day, a feeling you could never ever shake off in your time at Peoples’ Park, you felt like you were back in high-school, out of place, not in the know, disposable.
Berkeley, as you knew it, had one road. Telegraph. There were a host of businesses aimed at the fashionable 20something market lining either side of the street, from the UC Berkeley Campus down, and a few of these businesses you came to know—there were two smoke shops between a salon, and these guys were always competing. One tries to sell you papers at a price you don’t want to commit to? Complain to the other and get ‘em half off. There was also the Med, a bakery/bistro that sold cheap coffee. Oh and Peat’s, a Bay area coffee shop, sold cheap drip too. There was Amoeba Records, there was a sandwich place with their selections named after famous writers (The Jack London, the Hemingway, etc), a cupcake place, a yogurt shop, but you knew that it was all so trendy and fraudulent.
People’s park though. People’s Park has a history. A really damn good history at that. A plot of land originally intended for student housing for UC Berkeley, the lot ended up decrepit through the winter of 1967. Then some local residents decided to build a park. The University retaliated with a fence. On the 15th of May, 1969, 6,000 people descended upon Peoples’ Park to maintain its special privilege as a public space. A real one. Not a park controlled by the local government or a private contractor (as we see so often), but a space built and maintained by the public and for the public, municipalities be damned. Ronald Reagan, governor of California at the time, he had a grudge against it, claiming the protestors to be ‘communist sympathizers’, and so the University of California Police Department suited up in riot gear and ran through the crowd, nightsticks swinging. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Department used shotguns from the buildings above the park, and a few government salaried men fired upon the governed, killing nine and injuring many more.
After that day in 1969, 30,000 Berkeley citizens barricaded the park to protest Reagan’s occupation of their city, and in an iconic moment, girls put flowers in the muzzles of bayoneted National Guard rifles.
Eventually, over years of court proceedings, the park shifted into a vacant lot again, then basketball courts were developed, then the people attempted to start building a community garden, and there Peoples’ Park stayed. Food Not Bombs serves everyday, and so the park became a refuge for the homeless and protestors alike. Along came the Catholic Worker Movement who also served meals, and over time Peoples’ Park became a spot for frequent drug use, freedom, ‘anarchy.’
But community space has its problems, as ideal as everything sounds, sometimes you’re overrun with the body politic or some kind of Watering Hole Mentality. Lots of things were discussed here, lots of schemes, lots of confusion, anxiety, betrayal, untrustworthiness, lots of petty crime. Drugs. Tizita always joked about that—“No one in Peoples’ Park is sober.”
You had your run of the mill users, your tweakers, your hippies and maybe your HIPPIES, your artists and maybe your ARTISTS, your average social outcasts, the basic stoner, dealers who moved product, animalistic predators, some homosexuals, pansexuals, transsexuals, asexuals, heterosexuals, grunge-caked souls running, running, streetkids, anarchists and maybe ANARCHISTS, folk singers, dropouts, bohemian lethargists, vampires, juggalos, a writer or two, oh and drunks; also there were undercover agents, the FBI, cops on bicycles, a cop on a horse every once in awhile, the Illuminati for chrissakes, volunteers, Catholics, Hindus, Buddhists, Hedonists, black, white, Chicano, Aztec, mixed, Puerto Rican, Filipino, Chinese, Persian, skateboarders, punx, meth-mouthed unionizers, a whole lot of Wingnuts. You know, the kind that ramble incoherently, some reading passages from the Bible in foreign (or made up) languages, some speaking to “The Dark Lord” on a regular basis, others screaming “FUCK YOU YOU ASS-MUNCHER YOU’RE WORTHLESS COME SUCK MY COCK” (coming from an old woman), others always, always, always laughing, as if their lives themselves were intricate jokes.
Berkeley was a joke. There were some famous Wingnuts, one named Fred who wore a purple kimono and carried a large bamboo stick that was almost always tucked through his cloth belt. He frequently spoke to some other being that was next to him, a god-type figure imaginary best-friend who gave him missions to carry out upon the innocent store-owners in the city of Berkeley. He would go on missions sometimes, or he’d stick around for marijuana, bum a cigarette, leave. Or sometimes not. He would have entire existential discussions with the Creator, or attempt to shoot energy balls from his hands. Fred had to have been in his forties. Another Wingnut looked remarkably like Anton Le Vey and spoke in tongues, but you stayed away from him. Another slept in bushes and didn’t say anything. You could tell from his eyes he was crazy or tweaked out or what-have-you.
It was enough to want to make playing cards. Another poem--
bow to their
masters; and we, in
turn, bow to ours.
Their masters and
Our masters are
one in the same--
Your first day or two in Berkeley was overwhelming, much like being in any urban center for the first time. (That feeling needs to go fuck itself.) You sat in a circle and you were introduced to a number of denizens, some with homes and some without, some with names, others without. Tizita was good friends with a girl named KitKat and her old man, Boxcar. Then came Zander and his old lady, a ginger named Pebbles. Tizita knew Zander from her Seattle days. He used to be a juggalo, and they had a bit of romance at the time, even though he was nineteen and she was fifteen. They didn’t fuck because of that. Or at least, that’s the story she told you.
You had too much pride for all of this. You didn’t want to meet the people she formerly slept with. It meant you would be one of those people. Does anybody want that? Heaven fucking forbid. It would be the death of you.
A friend of yours from back in your boarding school days, he happened to be around, with an apartment and lots of spare time. So you ended up hanging out with him, his hair long, a beard too, currently engaged in a homosexual romance with a kid from his school but he listened to 50s pop records on his hipster record player, and you cooked food and slept at his place a number of times. Name was Michael. Michael was cool, and even though you didn’t really connect with him, there was respect.
Meanwhile, Tizita set up a business plan with a local kid Lost who sold in ounces (for eighty bucks!), and you/she sat in the park all day selling sacks and making enough money for gas in the car, cigarettes, food.
You were made for awhile. There was also a girl that she wanted you to meet, named Nadine, who grew up in Montreal and spoke French but came out West travelling. She had settled for the moment, with an artist studio and a boyfriend Francis who worked in an autoshop, and both of them were real accommodating and you stayed with them for a few nights in their apartment in Alameda.
Anyway, Alameda was a good time, if a bit forced, you drank beer on the beach and took over a campfire, and the house Nadine and Francis lived in was an older, more aristocratic home, separated into three different apartments. On their living room wall was a poster from Occupy Oakland, and you know that there’s something working here, something bigger than all of us, something just waiting to explode.
In his spare time, between the autoshop and Nadine, Francis played bass in a punk band. Never got a chance to hear them, though, and instead you and Tizita took over the attic for a few nights, a skylight there to smoke weed and stogies. You had some amazing sex in that house, lasting well into the night sky.
Despite this physical intimacy, your romance was slowing down and codependency was beginning to rear its head, but you ignored the signs, kept on and waited in Bezerkeley a couple more days before heading a few hours north to the city of Ukiah, in Mendocino County.
You jammed up there to Macklemore (a sign of the times): I’m gonna pop some tags, only got twenty dollars in my pocket, but also music more representative of your time together—
(“Bless my heart, and bless yours too,
Don’t know where I’m goin’,
Don’t know what I’m gonna do,
There must be somebody, up above,
sayin’ come on with me, you got to come on up,
you got to hold on)
--stopping along the way to take advantage of a free gasoline fill up courtesy of small town USA’s Sherriff’s office, filling out a form and gaining a forty dollar credit to hand to the dude at the 76.
Your first time around in Ukiah was spent wasting time playing a card game known by a bunch of different names but known by you as Egyptian Ratscrew. It consists of evenly splitting the deck and taking turns throwing the first card down without looking. The object is to get all the cards, I mean ALL THE CARDS! and you did that by A) slapping on Doubles (X-X), Sandwiches (X-Y-X), or Sixty-Nines (6-9); or B) playing a face card and watching your opponent throw down a specific number of cards, depending on the face. Aces were four cards, but that also means four chances for your opponent to play a face card on you and turn the tables. (Then you get to turn the tables back hopefully, and done enough times, the stack piles up and everything gets intense.) Kings were three chances, Queens two, and Jacks, the unanimously agreed champion of the whole game, with one chance to fight back.
If you get two people with similar skill-levels to play, you’ll be at it for hours. You had figured out by now that Tizita was most definitely cooler than you, so when she won over and over, you had that nagging feeling of Goddammit I need to be good at something by Jesus! and you lost your cool not for the first time, and certainly not the last. This trip, this relationship, was Tizita-invoked, Tizita-made, Tizita-owned. There was no place for the likes of a cat like you. Not yet.
Ukiah, a small blip of a town in Mendocino County. It’s where she wanted to go. But you couldn’t see it. This small town had her Conservation Corps. It had a Buddhist Center with lots of Peacocks. It had its own radio station. A brewing company. A thrift store. A city hall. A Wal-Mart. A couple parks. But it’s one of those places where you’re local all your life, you grow weed for a living, and you drive a 4x4.
Consequently, where there are secret weed farms there are also street-kid trimmers, kids that pack up and go like the nomads of pre-White-Imperialism, gypsies maybe in another country. At any one time this place was full of ‘em, you just had to know where to look.
As you stood there and narrowed your gaze at the people of Ukiah in their one and only Wal-Mart, you just as easily could have never left the side of Vegas you lived in. Of course, it was Wal-Mart, but there was a level of disappointment that you couldn’t get over.
You didn’t want it. Disappointment. Either side really. You’re sure Tizita felt her own version of disappointment in you. You’re not a fully developed human yet. You suck! But then neither is she, and at least you know you suck. But you got to keep marching. In the words of the Beatles, Ob-la-di Ob-la-da man.
On the way out of Wal-Mart and municipal Ukiah you picked up a half-breed Hopi hitchhiking to nowhere. East, maybe, he laughed. So you brought Hawaiian Russ with you to a campsite Tizita knew about twenty miles or so eastward, and while he didn’t help gather firewood or make food, he didn’t eat food either, and instead drank wine, excitedly went on about being a born-again Pentecostal, and jammed nonstop to Rush in all its epic 80s glory. Later on in the evening, y’all traded bad jokes.
Tizita. “What’s a hippie’s favorite kind of cigarette?”
Hawaiian Russ. “Let me think about this one…hmm. I dunno, what?”
Tizita. “Yours!” HA HA.
Hawaiian Russ laughed that high-pitched Hawaiian surfer laugh. Then he said, “OK, OK, I got one. What’s worse than Indians on TV?”
“Indians watching Indians on TV…HEE HEE HEE HEE!”
Then, after staring into the fire, Hawaiian Russ said, “Hey, dad, I had this dream the other night. You might like it too, sis…awh, actually, nevermind, a dream’s a dream.”
“No, go on.” Tizita’s nudging voice. Or maybe yours.
“Well, usually,” Hawaiian Russ began, “When someone says I had this dream it means the partiers you’re with kinda, suck at partying HEE HEE HEE HEE!” Hawaiian Russ was right, what can you say? Different Strokes for Different Folks. On the flip side, though, he never held down a job for longer than two weeks, only kept his mom in his contact list on a small cell phone, had a failed marriage, lived in Arizona, New Mexico, California, Hawaii, drank a lot of wine, listened to Rush (CATCH THE MIST, CATCH THE MYTH, CATCH THE MYSTERY, CATCH THE DRIFT?). In the end, he slept in a sleeping bag you gave him, outside in the cold as you slept in tent.
You were playing phone tag with the CCC recruiter Chris for quite some time, Tizita doing due diligence to ensure she’s not just remembered, but to persevere, to make a point, her strategically introducing a crack in your relationship with the sentence: “They shouldn’t know we’re together.” It made sense, really, practically speaking, in the context of the CCC, but on another level you could tell she was embarrassed to have you hangin’ around while she was making her big life decisions (which are so big when you’re eighteen any place in life, eighteen is that age, you know?) You had to figure that out when you went to college, and again when you dropped out, and again BIG LIFE DECISION when you went away to New York and again BIG LIFE DECISION when you made the choice to hit the road, jack, but now after all of those decisions, with regrets, sure, you’re starting to realize that possibilities are what you make them to be, that chains aren’t really chains but yarn sometimes, and all it takes is a pair of scissors and a reason.
But fuck her embarrassment. Fuck that. She might be cooler than you in some regards, but fuck that. It showed that you weren’t in it together, something you didn’t get you wanted until this whole mess. A long-haul kinda girl. That’s what you were interested in. Tizita was a use-em-and-dispose-them kinda girl. At least with you.
(Karma’s a funny thing to us all.)
Your man at the CCC could care less whether you were together or not. He just needed bodies to work, and with fire season coming up, you’d have plenty of it.
In any case, you set up a meeting with Chris while sitting at the Ukiah Public Library the next morning, and you explored for awhile before becoming bored and wandering the woods around town. You found a few fishermen and an older tramp on a trail to a river, the whole place stinking of trash and algae and flies.
You failed a test when she tried to jump on your back near the river, screaming PIGGIE BACK RIDE! and you almost fell over. An old man stuck in a weak kid’s body, that’s what you are. Another embarrassing moment, one you can now laugh at, coulda laughed at then, too high to do so. You were just too damn high. You never reconciled over these moments, which built like a blood-clot, and it was a damn shame and further split you apart, even though you spent so much time together, day in and day out--
At any rate you resorted to coloring books and word searches bought at the dollar store and decided to spark an initiation, something she’s done but you haven’t-- sleeping under the freeway overpass. (It’s like Christmas morning your parents without enough money for presents say to your sad sorry Charlie Brown soul: Who needs toys when you have us? or worse yet: I gave you the greatest gift of all, child, I gave you LIFE!) That being said, if you’re looking for adventure, or to be humbled, or a safe place to sleep, the freeway overpass is a good freaking spot, if you find the right kind of overpass and you make sure the fucker’s clean and you’re safe from bogeymen, and you have a buddy, and a dog, and a knife six inches long. And you sleep with one eye open.
(They call you crazy. Maybe.)
So she laid down her tarp and you took a sleeping bag and Sammy D (who’s a quiet beast. He won’t get in the way and he’s there when you need him. In other words, the perfect D-O-G) and you did a quick sweep of a flat spot at the top of a steep incline. The spot shelters you not only from view, but from wind. And with the three of you all huddled, you on the outside against the world in protective warrior fashion (though we all know who the warrior was here), you slept.
But those dreams when you’re not at peace at any point, the whole thing imprinted with a sound of chaos in your ears--
“The problem with most people is that they have a fixed perspective on the world; and that anything that doesn’t fit in with their world is denied. So I ask the question—why can’t we accept? What if we accepted? Accept what?
To say I ACCEPT THIS LIFE is to accept the basics: the roads, the sidewalks, the DMV. But it’s also more. To say I ACCEPT THIS LIFE is to accept that everyone has a story. To say I ACCEPT THIS LIFE is to accept the good, the bad, the evil, the love, the treachery and betrayal imminent in any relationship; and take them equally as useful. To say I ACCEPT THIS is to give consent to war, famine, disease, malnourishment, mental health problems, incarceration, poverty, the forty hour workweek, everything that you love disappearing overnight. To say I ACCEPT THIS LIFE is to accept poison, guns, road rage, hemorrhoids, hospitals, each other.
To scream I ACCEPT THIS LIFE is to submit your Will to what-some-may-call god, those funny words, you screaming I ACCEPT THIS LIFE means the Greyhound ticket; the gasoline; the paper airplane; the sage smudge stick; the water bottle full of urine; the truck-stop; the loneliness; the Hotwheels car; the fire; the diapers; the abortion clinic; the wonder; the cannabis; the lipstick; the baby spinach; the embarrassment; the dirty dishes in the sink; the air conditioning; the black pitch tar underneath our heels as we walk down the street; the history underneath each and every goddamn city; the left over motor oil on top of our rivers; the pit bull who licks its own pussy; the smile of a three year old boy; the rig sticking out of a fourteen year old's arm; another rig sticking out of her twenty-one year old boyfriend; your father at his funeral; to scream I ACCEPT THIS means The coldness; the history in your internet browser; the history of a friendship; the lady who won’t stop shrieking, disturbing and terrifying, in front of everyone on the Friday commuter hour bus; to scream I ACCEPT THIS means to accept these chains to reality, the faces and masks we put on every morning as the pigeons fly overhead; the dog who won’t stop barking at two AM; sociological bullying; group-think; the kid with one too many piercings; those kids that smoke too much pot and don’t do shit, sitting on a park-bench with their mouths open like carp; the drone strikes in Yemen, in Syria, in Libya, on the Gaza Strip; to scream I ACCEPT THIS LIFE means to go to AA, to NA, to GA; the PIN pad at the grocer; your cruxes; the miscommunication between sexes, between races, between classes, between nations, between generations, between cultures, between subcultures, between the lines, man; to scream I ACCEPT THIS LIFE means to accept yourself and the paper you’re holding, the shoes you’re wearing, the soda you’re drinking, the lines you’re crossing, the ground you’re staring at, the bus stop you’re sitting at, the train you’re throwing stones at, the aquarium walls of the little fish-tank you’re trapped in, the waking up at four in the morning crying fetal position pathetic and hopeless, sweat dripping off your eyebrows as you run that extra mile, make that extra point, go that extra distance, make that pass, initiate with that extra stranger, go to that extra meeting, smoke that last damn cigarette, live that extra life, do those extra things to prove to yourself that you’re worth a goddamn more than the piece of shit you woke up as this morning; whoo!
“TO SCREAM I ACCEPT THIS LIFE! means to accept your friends, your enemies, the people you don’t ‘get’. Because underneath it all, accepting this life is to Understand the human race as wretched tortured scared of themselves, and you, you FREAK, you sad FUCK, terrified of yourself, for yourself, doubting every step blind deaf dumb feeling around for what-some-may-call-FREEDOM. No, escapism is not freedom. Running away from your problems, ignoring them away, burning bridges chasing windmills
ACCEPTING WHAT WAS TO BE WHAT IS, AND WHAT IS TO BE WHAT WILL BE-- none of it is freedom.
Freedom is more.
Freedom doesn’t submit to anyone. It doesn’t enslave anyone either. Freedom is an agent provocateur. Freedom doesn’t sleep. Freedom doesn’t gangbang, but Freedom is a gangster. Freedom is comfortable. Freedom is uncomfortable. Freedom is saying to itself when it gets up in the morning YOU’RE A GODDAMN FREAK BABY, SO DO YOURSELF A FAVOR AND LIVE IT!, oh, and it feels so damn good.
(YOU’RE GODDAMN FREAK BABY, SO DO YOURSELF A FAVOR AND LIVE IT!)
“Of course, freedom and acceptance are different, and accepting this life also means to accept the orgasm, the closeness, the warmth, the luck, the quasi-happy-ever-after, the fresh mountain stream, hot groins, the early morning fog, Taco Bell, your three year old cousin, but accepting those things is not so difficult, no. And where’s the fun in easy?”
“WE SHALL SEE WHO KNOWS HOW TO BE,
Blue jay screeches from a pine.”
You and Tizita woke up under the overpass to the sound of her phone alarm, and you had a good two hours to make-shift shave/brush teeth/change clothes/look like not-hobos. It took about an hour and a half, between rinsing with water bottles and taking turns shoving legs into pants. But you’re on time for your interview. Wasn’t even an interview. You made the cut, but Chris was just waiting for some more bodies.
After your small victory at the CCC, Tizita and you went for the beach, forty minutes away, in Mendocino Village.
You arrived a little past town, in a park called the Headlands, to hear the ocean speak in faint seagull lullabies, the afternoon quaint and mysterious. Fearful, you tried your best to maintain peace in yourself. On the ledge between you and the ocean you stopped and got out of the car to see four pigs, one with their knees on a man cuffing him about two hundred yards away on a cliff which jutted out into the Pacific. You wondered about his story but Tizita coaxed you back to the town itself, anxiety brewing all the while.
Mendocino belonged in a coffee table book, its Cape Cod façade ghostlike, its past shrouded in strange Illuminati shadows. On top of the court-house style bank was a statue of what could be Death (?) or Father Time holding onto a woman’s hair, his other hand holding a scythe, but no one you talked to could give me any reason why it towers above the main streets of such a perfect little beach town. You’re not the first to think it but damn, it gave you the creeps.
Soon after ogling this crazy fuckin’ thing, you found a potential ally sitting absentminded on the sidewalk. She’s got the Kimya Dawson look, thunder thighs, hair poofed out, her personality a bit on the tired side, but that’s alright, she was just the person to meet (you wish you could have gotten to actually know her), and she showed you just the beach you were looking for. Behind a church, she showed you a trail.
“Yeah, climbing up and down these steps all the time really does a number…”
“My friend Blackbird can do these steps up and down three times in ten minutes. He never gets tired.”
“In ten minutes, swear. But whoo—I’m so worn out after doing ‘em once. I’ll get down there with you, maybe light a joint.”
“Oh, we got you.”
And that was how friends were made on this beautiful beach. Your Kimya Dawson look-a-like faded way, even after the promise of weed, and the California greenery gave way to a rickety staircase, and beyond that, a half-mile of sand before the ocean. This was one of the only spots in Cali-for-ny where fires were legal, so naturally, it was the only place to be. Among the meandering clans were a group of people you came to know—Jonathan, a white man who wore a beret and played guitar, that masculine five o’clock shadow reachin’; the Dreadneck snaggletooth gossiping crustie old fart Jackie; a young Hispanic oogle from Palo Alto named Willem; Berkeley cohort Blackbird; a couple Brock and Bebe, abalone shell collectors and young; then there were some biker Hulk Hogan look-a-likes, scraggly Shark and his compatriots Jawbone and Pigeon.
There were others, you were too stoned to know, you asshole always too high, but that’s okay you again built little things out of the driftwood around, dug into the sand to make shade and built shelter to make shade, etc while Tizita smoked resin and joked with Jonathan for awhile. Jonathan was quiet, and he lived by a strict code of conduct he judged everyone by. Jackie, meanwhile, had a mouth the size of the fucking Colorado River and talked all kinds of shit. Group dynamics allowed big talking to replace responsible action. Jackie’s ridiculous Dreadnecked opinions circulated around the dozen-or-so partiers and groupthink made them fact. He already ostracized Shark before you arrived, and was working on Willem, who was sixteen and lost as fuck, who slept where others pissed, who was exceptionally unaware. You were empathetic toward Willem but said nothing, only offered the tobacco in your pockets. You knew to beware of Jackie, but like the prey you know deep down you are, you were to fall in and eat shit.
You went to the Headlands at one point with Bebe and Brock, smoked their weed but didn’t offer yours (you let Tizita control the product—to be honest, you never really respected the material world, most see it as a fault or blunder but fuck dude, your reality wasn’t even on this plane), and collected rocks, Brock showing you what was what in the subculture of rock-collecting.
You also built a sculpture out of kelp using a pocketknife and stones, building a shrine of sorts, to whatever deity the ocean is, or will become, in your mythological future.
Mendocino Village lasted about a day and a half before, somewhere around the late afternoon, you wondered what on earth you were doing with the twenty-four-hour party brigade that sat around and talked all kinds of bull. (Let’s give a fine round of applause to the older folks. Congratulations on being such dicks.) You washed up in a skuzzy beach bathroom, and while you’ve had your fair share of murals drawn in feces, the one in Mendocino had a world-famous ecosystem at its disposal. “‘Even at its most sordid, life is a profoundly spiritual affair,’ I once said as I looked up from a gutter in the Tenderloin.”
In the night around your campfire in Mendocino, amidst twenty-odd drinkers and a classic old hobo (“Back in ‘Nam”, where Nam sounds like Ham) your ego was busted yet again by some thirty year old bitch who fussed at you for sagging your pants/a sardonic comment (“You must be Queen of the firewood” you said to Tizita, stroking her as she got back from her third collecting binge, you both smiling).
“Don’t treat your girlfriend like that, or you won’t have her anymore. She’s so beautiful she can have anyone she wants, me included. She’s choosing to be with you.”
“You’re perfectly entitled to your opinion,” You let go, nicely trying to brush her off. She kept at it, not understanding the humor Tizita and you shared (to an extent), and soon you and Tizita both left for the night in steely resignation. You don’t squabble. It’s a rule. Or you try not to. But you forgot your rule and felt shame only because of Tizita’s presence. By yourself, it wouldn’t have been a thing. But the presence of someone else, someone you had to “impress” (your whole relationship was built on impressing one another, you can see it that way), that presence made an otherwise shrug of the shoulders turn into a fast degradation of that nasty ego shit.
A trimmer showed you a spot in the woods to sleep, up the trail some miles from him, and so you pitched tent with her (the trimmer giving her hash oil for the ride), then you slept, walked Sammie Dog around in the morning and looked at a ten foot diameter redwood from its base up into the heavens, marveled for a few seconds, went back to town for coffee.
Jackie was quick to let everyone know the sudden reputation you developed for how you combated the bitch’s foolish cosmic fuckery the night before. You discovered the shit-slinging parade when you both arrived at their morning coffee shop habit to a bunch of hushed silence. An imposter you are! A pussy! You can’t hold your ground! You’re an oogle, a fake, a loser, a scapegoat, a black sheep, an asshole, a pariah! And look who’s next to you! She’s hot, she’s bi, she’s smart, she’s cool, she’s older than she is, she’s got moxie and smarts and—fuck, man, you found yourself a ‘trophy girlfriend’, which in any context other than this one would be grounds for celebration.
Later in the day came the coming of “Tiger Lily,” a college student with four friends, an Escalade, plenty of booze. She was the rich social sensual fun-loving antithesis to your poor anti-social “tired all the time” attitude. From LA, brown-skinned, she talked shit all day and wasn’t street, more just new straight out of the bubble wrap, but smoking hot all the same. It was a shame. More of a shame was this scene’s got even more dreadful with “Tiger Lily’s” entrance, Jonathan making pretend-interest glances, Jackie eating that shit up, Blackbird a friendly type to all, Brock and Bebe a little irked at us about not returning their 420 favor, but important thing was Tizita wasn’t digging this scene either. And neither was the oogle Willem. So you and her and Willem went to the food bank up in Fort Bragg, came back, dropped him off, spent some more hours with the group and watched Jackie, the forty year old slimeball, make obscene gestures (while making moves and about to get laid with cute drunk young teenage Tiger Lily) toward the well-intentioned park rangers and then, like a child, getting hauled off by pigs belligerent, and you and her decide, very abruptly, to leave.
Back to Berkeley. Away from the douchery of Mendo. Away from shame. And so you went, the SS Blueberry your lifeline, becoming more apparent every day.
There were other people in Berkeley you came to meet. Moms selling pot out of their purses; fresh out of high school Book Guy; a stupid kid who got a piercing in the wrong place; another stupid kid who thought it was the most hilarious thing she ever heard (it was!); a forty-year old Jewish painter who didn’t give much to ‘Zerkeley politics, just sold his little four inch-by four inch paintings of marijuana nuggets, each one smiling as they rode in a rocketship, scrubbed themselves in a bathtub, went fishing; a bitch-ass-thirty-something who borrowed money from ex-girlfriends; a mother Erica and her seven year old wild son, ‘Xander; laughing hyena skinhead with face tattoos who lived by EAT OR BE EATEN; a fat crass obnoxious fun drunk and his airy greasy-haired girlfriend, each in their early thirties; a peace-loving hippienik couple; an old seaman who also had face tattoos and spoke mostly gibberish; a ‘rapper’ who sold verses to a UK Hip Hop artist—he read you a poem: THE HEROIN I HAD FOR BREAKFAST WAS A COLD CUP OF COFFEE ; some couple sleeping and fucking in the bushes in broad daylight at the south end of Peoples’ Park; most denizens with dogs.
Dog etiquette is a necessity. DOG OUT a common phrase for all when a dog is all up in your shit, but beyond that—you watch your dog. They’re aggressive, get on that muthafucka. They still have their parts, get on that muthafucka. If they’re cool, then cool, otherwise, keep your dog away. You don’t get after someone else for how they discipline their dog (no matter how cruel), and you don’t discipline someone else’s dog unless they’re fucking your shit up. Then dogs have their own etiquette. Sniff. Hump. Jump. Run. Poop. Etc. And no matter what, don’t kick another kid’s dog unless you gotta reason.
You first met EZMac on his way north after he kicked some dude’s dog and almost duked it out with him. EZMac smoked with you all day, sores on his arms and lips, somebody Tizita knew from Seattle (“Last time I saw you, you were gonna get thrown through a window”)—he’s an insufferable guy, black curls, skinny as shit, baseball cap and skateboard, arrogant as all fuck, likeable.
EZMac had a thing for a girl Chrysanthemum, white blond early twenties broken glasses junkie, and Chrysanthemum had a thing with bitch-ass-thirty-something-who-borrows-money-from-ex-girlfriends, and bitch-ass-thirty-something had a thing for this cute smiley girl Ganj that would make ends meet selling smudge sticks, and the cute smiley girl Ganj had a thing for your street-rigged constipated muthatruckin’ ass. It’s all in the eyes, man.
So Chrysanthemum and bitch-ass had an argument, her trying to figure out where her trust-fund check went, him denying every plausibility, including ones which left him off the hook. “I told you, I don’t have it” – “You had it last night.” – “Yeah but alotta things happened between then and now, shit”—“So where is it?” – “I don’t have it” – blah, blah, blah. Eventually EZMac got into it, taking off his shirt and throwing accusations at Bitch-ass. Bitch-ass threw a punch at EZMac. EZMac took his board and chucked it at Bitch-ass. Bitch-ass ran.
In misogynist glory, EZMac put his arm around Chrysanthemum and asked her, “How much money?”
Not that EZMac had any money. He was on his way to Portland to get back to his baby-mamma and their son. He was twenty. “I’m tryin’ to get to Portland” he kept saying. Later that day, after Chrysanthemum hung with y’all for a bit, EZMac and her went off somewhere.
“To tweak out,” said Tizita. And then she added, “and maybe fuck.” With Tizita it was always about sex—who’s fucking who and why; someone else’s smile easily translated to, “That guy wants a threesome.”
The next morning, around eleven, you were robbed. Tizita’s friend Lost just re-upped you an ounce, and as you sat there eyeing the comings and goings at the park, a group of motherfuckers from Oakland drove up in a flame-decaled SUV. They hung out for a tad, stopping at someone else’s sell-spot and getting turned down before coming in your direction. You weren’t paying attention. You were just stoned and relaxed and evermore tired. So when they played the distraction, “Can I get a two dolla sack?” you didn’t quite notice that one of ‘em came up behind you and took your jar with three quarters of an o inside it. And then the chase began, Tizita running after them screaming “FUCK YOU NIGGERS!” and them laughing as they drove away in their SUV, you just watching like a sheep. It must have been humiliating for Tizita ‘cus this was low—lower than pulling a knife or any other weapon—and no one came to her rescue.
You kept muttering asinine curses under your breath like a mantra, another nail on your coffin, Tizita crying out of shame. She went off to visit Zander and Pebbles who were posted up on Telegraph, meanwhile you cursed and spat and walked in circles, then calling an old friend in a vain attempt to help. You failed her, again. You sat there and watched as your means went to their fucked ends. You didn’t try to help her as she screamed and ran around the park after them, fists pumped in complete fury and rage—which, by the way, was beautiful. The schoolyard grace. The raw anger. It made you remember a time when she told you about getting arrested once. She fucked up drunk one night and as her face was on the concrete, her hands cuffed together she screamed IS THAT THE BEST YOU GOT MOTHERFUCKERS?! with dark angel marks on her wrists, where a small tattoo of a winged heart made its symbolic home.
Everything went back to normal pretty quickly for how dramatic the event seemed to be. The supplier, Lost, forgave the debt right away, Tizita was good to go after a bowl and some time away, you being unsurprised and startled at the same time. A church came later that day, starting with a few ‘good Christians’ out to end poverty interrupting a gigantic circle between the pot-moms, EZMac, miscellaneous individuals, Fred the Wingnut, a newly arrived Beau, the circle eventually dispersing, mumbles of Jesus Freaks! coming from every direction. “No one wants your help here,” said a regular as the crowd of the Christians got bigger. Then the Church’s cheerleading routine started. The song was the straight pop “Call Me Maybe” – Fourteen fifteen sixteen year old girls wagging their asses and A-cup tits at the homeless populations of a (super?)-urban center was sickening, you almost wanted to cry, Jesus. Save us already.
Speaking of saving, Erica’s kid ‘Xander hung out with you and Tizita for a bit, taking a liking to you, playing pretend, making a nest and roosting like a hen. Blond locks, green eyes, gave and received all kinds of gifts. That night you wound up outside a Dead show per Beau’s invite, so you and Tizita smoked and drank on the sidewalk with all the other Heads, trading Magic: The Gathering lessons from ‘Xander for Yu-Gi-Oh! Lessons from you.
This kid was so interested in the differences between demons and angels, and though he really liked some of the devilish characters in these trading card games, he avoided older, drugged-out men in real life like the plague.
He whispered in your ear and gave you chills. “You are an angel.”
(“Open wide the portals.”)
You never experienced anything like it again.
In the middle of the night you were woken up by a BPD officer telling you not to sleep in the car—(where else were you gonna sleep, having out of state plates being the first damn clue)—He was quite nice about it, and so were you, though he started by claiming that you didn’t have current registration on the vehicle. He misread the sticker. Enough for Tizita to call him an idiot. Turned out to be a twist of fate.
You re-parked the car in a different neighborhood and woke up having to take a leak so bad your stomach hurt. So you clamored around and found an ‘alley’ only to interrupt a transgender man’s morning routine.
“Sorry, ma’am!” You cried, making a run for it. You were on his property, after all.
“I’m no woman,” the man said. Oops.
And then something weirder happened. You got back to car, brushed your teeth, started that morning cigarette, and an elderly woman named Phyllis approached you from her home (which you were parked in front of.) She proceeded to sympathize, thinking it was poverty that got you sleeping in the car (it was) and gave you a sand-dollar shell, opening the conversation with, “It’s a beautiful last day isn’t it?” Phyllis went on to tell you bits of her life story, her WWII Navy vet/chemist/oil entrepreneur late husband, her son and his battle for employment, her growing up in Depression-era Connecticut, how it was time. Tizita and you toasted in her honor at your friend Michael’s place that night. It was the night before April 20th, before the holiday. Guess you could say it was ‘Four-Twenty-Eve,’ because weed is religious. It is a ritual. Like breaking bread. Communion. Setting up a Christmas Tree. Love-making. Marihuana is prayer and everyone that smoked it was on a pilgrimage.
The morning of April twentieth held dew in her palm, and as you rose with the birds and watched the sun rise over the apartments and hills and trees in Willard Park, Berkeley, you melted. Tizita practiced what was called Sun-gazing, and so after a morning joint and yoga, you and her gazed into the source of life on this planet. You thought it quite apt.
“I wash my face with baking soda, eschewing the unpronounceable for peace of mind. It has been ingrained in me to floss whenever possible. I’ve got time. Today is an empty day and therefore a telling one. I don’t have work to blame for my lack of contact with Amber. It’s really mostly the pregnancy. She sleeps almost sixteen hours a day. Tomorrow will be better because I know she’ll make the effort to come to the farmer’s market with me, but today the house is quiet, and so is my mind. Don’t let my overly-analytical recollections mislead you. I was happy today. I fried vegetables and baked cupcakes. I washed dishes and made my bed. I read Lolita and watched South Park and I knitted some successful knitting-things. But the house was quiet and I know all-too-well how sweet our little household could sound…”
Afterward you developed a plan to get to the festivities at Golden Gate Park. Leaving Sammy D with Erica, you left the SS Blueberry in Berkeley (forget about parking in downtown San Francisco on a day like this) and hopped on the train at the local BART station, getting to the park around four in the afternoon, right before the big minute (smoking 420 at 4:20 on 4/20 is good luck, so they say). You found a spot a little ways from the entrance to the park and rolled one up.
There were all kinds of people there, but not ones you’d like to chill with. Whole families walked around in costume like it was the Renaissance Faire. Bros, shirtless, some in A-necks, with Buddy Holly glasses, they filled the park with nauseous fumes of Axe and bad pot. Hippie Hill, the center of all the commotion, was a sea of people. You and Tizita posted up on a small patch of grass pretending that it was a day at the beach, complete with a tie-dye sheet to lie on, a hookah, plenty of rolling papers.
That’s when you were approached by a white guy Joseph with ‘fortune-telling’ dice. Of his own making. He told you that it was a cross between Tarot, astrological signs, and street signs—the symbols on the dice are a mix of the three, rather, and that with all four dice you could figure out your immediate future. But he didn’t quite exactly know how. Or even what the symbols meant.
“They have no definite meaning,” Joseph said. “It’s up to the dice-roller’s interpretation.”
“Sounds like bullshit,” you said as you exhaled, smoke billowing over your spot in the park. He shrugged and offered for you to try. Tizita was going crazy over them. Her roll consisted of a lion, a heart, a lock, and what looked like a one-way sign. Tizita was a Leo. You were a Leo. She loved lions. You loved lions. Cool. The second die was alright, but associated with the third die made you uneasy. And then the one-way sign … you knew things were going downhill between you and her, still waiting on that phone call from the CCC to get started working, sick of each other sleeping in the car every night, you wishing you could take a shit in a clean bathroom for once, smelling each other’s farts and hearing each other snore, you not making any money yourself just hanging out with Tizita all day while she took charge selling, but still you wondered what ‘one way’ meant, exactly.
Your roll, on the other hand, was a dog, a cloud with lightning, a deer crossing, and another lock. You saw it as irrelevant.
(Nothing is irrelevant.)
Golden Gate Park was where you met Doverakka and his brother, Pony. Fresh from the freight train-yard, they were traveling kids originally from Texas, and between the two of them have crossed half the globe. They were proud and for a long time talked India, Tibet, China, Morocco, Mexico, France. Doverakka was the older one while Pony was the wiser. Pony often quoted the Tao te Ching, introducing it into casual conversation, making Tizita gush and you a little jealous. But enough about them…
You decided to wander around San Francisco proper the rest of the evening, walking down Haight, window-shopping, taking in the Victorian architecture, looking at the infamous Haight-Ashbury street-sign. Eventually, you wound up back on the BART and then back to the Park, home a block away. It was ten o’clock in the evening, not a soul in sight.
Tizita said, “I don’t really feel like going to sleep. I’m going to go talk to Erica and get Sammy D.”
“Okay,” you said, “Well, I’m going to bed. I’ll leave the car unlocked.” And you did just that, falling asleep to National Public Radio (it was BBC’s World News Hour), waking up to an empty car at six in the morning, your loins missing her small beautiful brown butt in your routine.
TEN (Dick Dale’s Bonsai Washout)
You got yourself a cup of coffee, oddly curious and partly knowing of Tizita’s whereabouts. You yelled in a moment of panic for the first time in six months as you dropped your coffee on the south side of Telegraph. Then you kicked it to the Med and sat there for three hours refilling your cup, smoking cigarettes next to the obscenity-screaming Wingnut (YOU’RE A PIECE OF SHIT BABY FUCKER SITHERING IN YOUR OWN MOTHER’S VOMIT YOU DISGUST ME YOU SLIME-LIZARD-WORM-EATING-SHIT-LORD-CUNT-NUGGET-FACTORY fuckface DICKEATER!)
(ah peace in chaos)
until EZMac came in and asked if you played Magic.
“Nah, man. Chess?”
And you played chess with EZMac, talking nothing, girls, he gave you this whole story of how he got kicked out of his parents’ place and only heard of his son’s birth when he was in LA six months ago. “Been tryin’ to get there ever since, I just wanna see my kid, man—”
Somewhere in your head surf rock began to play. That’s when you saw it. The flame-decaled SUV. Orange. Yellow. Four pricks got out of it and came in the Med. You saw ‘em from your place on the second floor, toward the back. You looked to EZMac. He already knew. But you needed a plan. Two against four, you needed a plan. Fuck with their car. That’s the plan. He grabbed his board and you your backpack and made the move. You tripped down a few stairs but no one noticed and tension built in your heart. Adrenaline came as you slyly slipped past them, but one noticed you and smiled. Shit.
“Hey, buddy! Gotta ‘nother two-dollar sack?”
And EZMac grabbed a patio chair from outside and went to town on the SUV, screaming, “FUCK YOU NIGGERS!”, glass shattering everywhere, making a scene, people staring, and you booked it out the door with all four beefy Oakland motherfuckers chasin’ ya down saying variations of (WE GONNA LYNCH SOME NIGGAS TO-NIGHT!) EZMac splitting ‘em up and jamming the other way, across the street, threatening two of the dudes with his board. But you were quickly outmatched and gotta kick to the head.
“Oh, shit, a train run you over or something!” It was Beau, with flask. Gave some to you. Daylight. Afternoon. Then Beau said, “OK, Come on, we gotta get you out of here.”
“Just out of the way. You don’t want to be around here.”
“How long was I”—
“Five minutes. Okay, let’s go.”
And you hobbled to the park. You said, “You saw”—
“You needa learn how to run faster”—
“I can’t feel my face.”
“Yeah, you’re bleeding.”
You laughed nervously, shaking, and sat in the circle on the south end. A man sat there. He said, “Now you look like you could use a drink,” and he handed you a freshly bought fifth of Wild Turkey. A little expensive for the crowd you’re with but hey. You drank and asked, “What’s your name?”
Beau and Ace laughed like Ace having to introduce himself was the funniest shit and you worked up the energy to go clean your face in the bathroom. Back in the circle was this ghoul-of-a-dude yakking on and on about how meth is better than coffee, that when he wants to smoke crack, he’ll go to the Tenderloin—“Because the cops don’t give a shit in the TL, Am I right?” Yeah. Right in front of this very impressionable fifteen year old fuckin’ kid, and the kid’s getting into it, and the ghoul kept giving her the eyes and the fifteen year old kid kept starin’ at this asshole, making you sick. You wanted to punch the sadness away. You started thinking about it and you felt lost as all hell.
(All us ghosts are lost!)
You called Michael when dark came and you went back to his place and you very drunkenly wondered where Tizita was. Left her a reasonable two texts and two calls spaced conservatively, but got her voicemail the second time. Fucked shit. You fell asleep on Michael’s couch watching, in blatant misery, a terrible British sitcom, Berkeley PD sirens getting louder in your head, barely sleeping and instead imagining scenarios of her disappearance. She had an o and a half on her…and this place’s justice system can go either way when it comes to intent to sell—but there are other options. Michael and you walked around, again talking nothing. Fuck man, she left you.
You sat in the circle by yourself the next morning, watching the regulars eat breakfast provided by the Catholic Worker Movement and felt sick to your stomach. You made small talk with another of Tizita’s friends, Red. You told him you hadn’t seen her and you were worried, with him giving advice like ‘I wouldn’t worry about it too much, I’m sure she’s ok’, blond dreads mushroom stems in his backpack girl troubles of his own nice guy though really, and some time later you noticed Sammy D and his iconic red leash sniffing bushes at the southeast end of Peoples’ Park. Tizita was somewhere close. So you asked the dude who was watching him and he told you some story of a motel room, and how Tizita’s at the Med.
You walked there knowing without anyone saying anything.
The guy she was holding hands with was a little taller than you, long straight black hair, black beard, wore a cap sporting the comic book villain Dr Doom, skinny as fuck, called by most as IS. The way she looked at him, and then the innocent smile when she looked at you, you in disbelief, betrayed, shocked, whatever. That’s how it ended, really. Everything else was just a downhill shitstorm. She gave you a small smile, the smile you fall for every-time but not this time. No.
You and her talked, really it was mostly you, who kept saying things like, “Got anything to say? Anything at all?” She remained silent, on a molly comedown. The story Tizita gave you was something along the lines of: she saw Erika that night, took some molly, and ‘fell in love’ with her ‘soulmate’ IS.
“Oh really?” You asked through a drag. “Soulmate, huh? You’re shitting me.”
“No, I’m not. He’s my soulmate.”
“How do you know that? You just met the guy.”
“I just know.”
“Did you guys talk?”
“Not really. Just stared into each other’s eyes.”
“That’s all you did?”
“We made out a little.”
“Uh-huh. One night, that’s all it took. One night.”
Silence. “Well who are you sleeping with tonight?” The tone was meant to be sympathetic, but it ended up being full of venom. She gave you a shrug.
“Are you going to keep doing this? Jumping from guy to guy, from rock to rock? You coulda called me, coulda texted me. I was worried about you. Thought you were in jail or something”— Michael came by on accident ‘cus his apartment was close by. He knew and left and you were gonna meet up with him later.
Eventually, you guilted her into staying with you, if for the moment. The plan was to ditch Berkeley and stay in Ukiah until the long-awaited phone call from Chris at the CCC. $40 would get you there, so you spent the rest of the day spanging by yourself. Eight bucks in two hours. Tizita made $100 selling meanwhile. But tension was high. You didn’t want to guilt her, you just wish she saw things your way, but you weren’t being very cool about it.
You just couldn’t get over it—you later asking, “Do you even like me or am I just a means to end for you?”
“I like you sometimes.”
You got another $40 from your mother in quick desperation and landed a motel room for the night. You smoked in the room and spent hours saying nothing, watching a fictional movie about a young white boy and his white mother in Africa, how he came down with malaria and her rushing him to the hospital a thousand miles away, minutes too late, him dying and her coping afterward, the whole thing mad depressing. You had some violent sex the next morning, full of rage and fury and her orgiastic face made you want to strangle her.
How dare she enjoy anything! She fucked with you, had her way, and was having her way right then. You wanted to throw a fist at her stupid face, wanted to throw her across the room. “Listen, you caused me lots of fucking trouble and you shafted me and now you’re going to pretend like everything’s okay, no consideration?” Blahblah, you didn’t say it though, it was too destructive you knew; you wished you let out your wrath but instead you just threw her off you and resigned. She felt that. And it was over.
Coloring books again. Listened to local radio station—
“Let me tell you about gun control. It’s ‘cus of those conservative asinine NRA members that we have Sandy Hook, Aurora, Columbine, Virginia Tech. It’s ‘cus of the NRA that we have terrible murder rates across the country, way above any other first world nation. Well we don’t like the NRA up here. We don’t like Sarah Palin. We don’t like guns. Guns are the reason that the republicans want more guns in the first place. Just one man’s opinion but I think we need to outlaw guns in this country, or anywhere. It’s just common sense people.”
Waiting around. Called Chris, said two weeks til orientation. Mother’s Day was coming up. She decided to go home and see her mom for the first time in two years. You decided to follow suit, your mother buying you a Greyhound ticket from Oakland to Flagstaff, AZ. She lived on a reservation on Hopi land. Tizita had a social worker friend who lived in Oakland and could take care of the car, keep it safe for a few weeks. You knew that meant Tizita had leverage so you tried to play nice with her. And pray that nothing stupid was going to happen to the car, the only way out of the chaos in Bezerkeley, the lifestyles of hard-drugged-out-party-cats, the loose morals and misunderstandings and underestimations and dirty looks of all the fuckers you met throughout the ordeal. Tizita gave you a bad feeling in your stomach. Or rather, what she meant—rejection, the duality of hard-assery and niceness, of humanity and animalistic hedonism. You and her were both guilty of it.
(One could talk about agency, empowerment, identity, dependency, attachment, non-attachment, high self-esteem, low self-esteem, independence, interdependence, mutual aid, selfishness, the freedom of choice, ownership, power structures, invalidation, emotion, free will, integrity, self-discipline or knowledge, right and wrong by self or by others, amorality, falling in love too easily, being an asshole, the list goes on. But when one gets down to it, there’s the truth that is said and there is the truth that is unsaid. In Tao-like fashion, all of us shall not breach the integrity of the unsaid truth.)
And trying to keep peace you two made it through, her giving you a final kiss outside the Greyhound station in Oakland. It either meant see you in two weeks or goodbye. You already knew which option you wanted. You became an asshole, she was, is, and will be free.
The Greyhound left at 5 in the afternoon and you were to stay on it all night, arriving in LA in the middle of the night, Phoenix in the morning, Flagstaff at around 1 pm the next day. From there, a three hour drive through the desert. And then to a small little house with the front-porch looking at an elementary school your mother taught at. Safety. Security. No pot. No hassles. No fear of jail or robbery or violence. No drugs. No trust issues. No bad jokes. Just the desert, just music, just your mom. Food. Comfort. A firepit. Solitude.
You met some people on the Greyhound, one a wack kid Jon with a dark air and hood mentality, another street-kiddo from Boston that was thrown through a similar ringer as you. His was more intense. He was on his way cross-country. Then there was thirty-something Jake who reminded you of your seventh grade gym teacher, who sported glasses and tried to sell you molly. You all smoked bowls in Blythe, CA on one of those Greyhound ten minute pit-stops. You took the last leg alone from Phoenix to Flagstaff and sat in the chilly mountain town for an hour before the arrival of your mom. The lessons Jake and the kid from Boston gave were as follows—don’t trust women. Boston’s girl left him for a trimmer over-night, taking his sleeping pack with her. Jake’s wife left him for another man after a seven year marriage and two kids.
In Tizita’s defense, you made too much of a deal about her actions; you confronted her and made her feel like shit. But the opinions of others, of Tizita herself, of what another would do in the situation, made you feel as if you’ve been stepped on, that you were less of a person than she was, that to keep her you had to get mad, to keep her you had to abuse her, to appease yourself you had to take care of yours. “We’re on different levels” Tizita said, toward the end. She lied to you, kept secrets the whole time, didn’t follow up, and developed feelings for somebody else. You didn’t want to be that guy but you were. You weren’t friends like she said; you were lovers, partners. You gave her flowers to put in her hair, she gave you California. You didn’t want to be against your partner. And that’s what it all turned into.
If it was a test she gave you, you didn’t fail. You crumpled it up and threw it away. ‘Cus if you and her mattered, she didn’t need to test it. She didn’t need to see what would happen. No fighting. You didn’t punch the guy even though you said you would; never looked him in the eye either. Never said a word to him. Tizita, the independent girl that she was, she was the one at fault.
You weren’t even angry. Just lost.
You and Tizita discussed seeing other people way back when you first met her.
“What is this?” You asked her.
“This? We’re partners-in-crime.” She said. The insinuations were there. Made sense at the time and you liked that idea, especially with all the new kids you were meeting, and it was re-evaluated when you decided to leave Vegas for California.
You. “I’m not just your friend, dude. I want you to know that.” Eye-contact.
Her. “I’ll take care of you. We’ll be alright. You’re too cool for Vegas, and I want to show you Berkeley!” Touch on the thigh.
You. “I want you to show me Berkeley.” Smile. Make out. You and Tizita never referred back to your status as a couple once on the road, and the partner-in-crime bit was awesome when you had a bed and a job and a car and school and you knew your way around your hometown and you weren’t around her twenty-four seven; not in Berkeley with strangers and people that could flip on a dime. Even EZMac you couldn’t exactly trust, the closest friend you had there, and Michael had his own things to worry about (and he did plenty to help you anyway)—but all that’s beside the point. Polyamory would have been fine if you weren’t so dependent on her. And if the situation was talked about before it happened, where it wasn’t a breach of trust. And then there’s Tizita’s own hypocrisy. Way back when, around the same time as the partner-in-crime-bit, you were flirting with Melody and it should have been OK but Tizita said it wasn’t. You respected her wishes. Oh what a fool you were!
(Let it go.)
Let it go. Let it go.
Let it go. Let it go. Let it go.
It never sounds as good as the first time you say it, does it?
(Hey you know what? Just let her go.)
You pondered all of this in Arizona, keeping minimal contact to make sure nothing would happen to the car, the lifeline. Rain swept through. Keams Canyon, Arizona was split between Hopi and Navajo land. The village itself was one gas-station and restaurant big, a post office around the corner, homes grouped in circles of road, separated from each other by miles of highway. There were stray dogs everywhere, the general consensus being to place food out for them and let them roam free. They had their own hierarchy, with some fighting each other for alpha status, most of them still having their junk. The townie kids would make the dogs fight each other, or do other terrible things which resulted in extensive injury, limping, death. When you were younger all you wanted to do was snuggle up with a pup, not fuck with it—what’s up with that?
There was a trail behind the house that led up a hillside covered in sage-brush and mud, the horizon flat but littered with canyons. At the top of the hillside was a field of wildflowers.
“I stand among the brush staring at the sky, listening to mirror-clear water dribble down from a desert spring, looking at the canyon in front of me, strips of sandstone and red rocks powdered with trees and dust.
The canyon taunts me, saying, “You’ll never be as wise as me, I’ve been sitting here for thousands of years, I’ve watched you people build your towns and kill each other but it doesn’t matter to me, you’ll be gone long before I am, I grow larger with each winter anyway.”
Whereas the brush says, “grow, Grow, GROW!”
and creek water echoes, “This too shall pass,” referring to the inexplicable transience of all things,
and animals hidden in their burrows say nothing, they can’t talk (this is no Disney movie dig?)
and the sky big blue beautiful whines, “I’m hungry, let me just eat you up, my mouth is big enough for all your worlds to fit in sixty times over,”
and an old mesquite a mile away calls out, “Hey nowhere-kid! Come pick my berries and be a child and live like everything is new,”
and the pebbles in the creek bed scream out, “You call yourself balanced but you can’t be so small yet as large as we are,”
and Canyon says, “They have a point, kid,”
and the bushes around me keep chanting, “GROW YOU HUMANOID!”
and Sky, after burping, having already eaten us, contently whispers, “You’re still here, see?”
And all the while I’m standing barefoot in the creek bed, seeing my hand four inches down in the pool, clear and pure and full of energy, energy that makes me feel
“Move,” says the wind. I see my hand four inches down in the pool and forget my past, the only thing that ever mattered is right now, a newborn peaking through past the womb and into the world, and I poked through, if only for a moment, to see beyond this earth, this rock, this planet
and the wind says, “Listen.”
Then the Canyon says, “You’ll see. Or you might never see.”
I take that comment and throw it back. “You’ve always seen, Canyon! How can you know what it’s like not to see?! How can you know what it’s like to doubt it all? To not believe in it?”
--To which the Canyon big heavy brown says “Childe, I’ve been around much longer than you think.”
You saw one on the highway one afternoon while running an errand. She could have been there twelve hours or so, tongue hanging out, flies, cars having to swerve to miss the corpse. You ran home and got a shovel, and with an acquaintance named Andy you buried the pup three feet deep in red Arizona sand. The death of this dog echoed the impermanence of all things. It symbolized the whole. Burying the creature was respecting her. Burying that dog was respecting impermanence.
Andy was a First Mesa local who was going to school in Albuquerque but was home in Arizona on break from school. He was a nice boy, worked hard, wanted to do clerical medicine work, but was emotionally drained. He lived for too many people and not himself.
“Healers blue-green twirl while the tortured
scream all pineapple’d in the streets.
And I have a headache the size of Madison, Wisconsin,
where you’re from, let me sleep.
Holes in your bus pass, older gentleman makes
a pass, the clouds pass, and I pass
too. Healers yellow-orange fill
the kitchens, the sidewalks, the porches--
Have a toast to twisted parachutes,
to hairy fun in the back door,
venom out the front door, children who
attack stray dogs with tire irons.”
THIRTEEN (Antennas to Heaven: Moments of Discernment)
Mother’s Day you watched Raising Arizona at four in the morning. Cleared the table, picked some flowers, cooked, cleaned, and gave mom the best damn breakfast. But it was time to go. Two weeks of introspection and shitty movies. You drove down to Phoenix from the reservation, a four hour drive through Arizona rain. Then the hard part of waiting alone in line for the bus, anxiety like a hornet’s nest. On the Greyhound back to LA you shared cigarettes (and your jacket) with an older toothless lady that had a laugh you still remember and shared some raps with some hood kids a few seats behind. There was a bigger divorced guy that was makin’ moves on this skinny loud-ass Church-going hoodrat chickita, who later gave you a little speech about ‘moments of discernment.’ Like you know, god is real.
God is real, motherfuckers. She he it we is the very reason why we’re all here—the ultimate Creative Force. The Holy.
“Your breath is sweet,
your eyes are like two jewels in the sky,
your back is straight, your hair is smooth, on the pillow
where you lie, but I don’t sense affection,
no gratitude or love, your loyalty is not with me,
but to the stars above.”
Moments of discernment, the lady was saying, are those tingly feelings you get when you know something else is driving us. Discerning the human from the astral, these little impressions and feelings can build to a deeper relationship with God, whether Christian or not. “Word, sister,” you said. That’s all you needed to say.
("And now I see learning like heavy clouds wide spread above you, rich with the promise of life-giving water, their deep shadows foretelling imminent rain and your hopes high for it. Seek, then, the rain which is in these clouds and wait patiently to see where it will fall. And make your plea to God who brings on the rain, who spreads wide the clouds, who removes famine, who gives freedom to the bound.
“And know that God gives life to the dead desert places by a drop of her merciful rain which he causes to fall upon them. Seek out these places which require and receive the life-giving rain and you, too, will be well watered. For surely the first light showers from these clouds will cure your ills and the steady rain which follows will wash away from your innermost being the leaning towards the things of this world. When this rain pours on your body it will wash away from you all your spiritual afflictions and when you taste it its exquisite flavor will kill all passion within your soul.”)
You were stuck in LA at two AM, shared stories with a 17 year old white suburban kid that was awaiting trial for moving pounds of marijuana from Sacramento across state lines into Arizona. He was telling you how he made bank for almost a year, six figures, spending it on cars and hookers for him and his friends—now he’s looking at ten years time in the prison system. An older hippie lady gave you advice on how to develop a relationship with pot instead of abusing it, as well as giving you a name to drop to gain access to a commune in the California desert, near Palm Springs. A small one, where one can make art out of rattlesnake corpses and help feed the chickens and live simply.
Tizita was up in Seattle visiting her mom for Mother’s Day too and was headed down to Oakland the next day, but as you picked up your car and deposited her stuff on her friends’ porch, you knew it wasn’t the end. It was only a statement. You didn’t want her to have her new boy’s hat, or a few of her prized possessions. You wanted her to feel the pain she caused you.
Or was the pain just butt-hurt? Did she even cause any pain? Is this nasty ego shit again? She’s a lover, and you made the mistake of trying to tie her down. But you were respectful at that moment. Or tried to be. You wrote her a note that started with BEAUTIFUL SOUL and you meant it.
Goddamn, the sun in Berkeley couldn’t shake the terror. WHY ARE WE ALL SO AFRAID OF BEING ALONE?
You called to tell her what was what and she was flippant as all hell and hung up on you. You could still smell her in your car, you had memories and abalone shells, and you still wanted to be with her, but no respect was just that. No respect. Had to put the foot down. Had to, in this misogynist world, be a man and give into anger—if you wanted to earn respect for yourself.
“I open you. I mix you. I covet you. I shape you. I keep you. I radicalize you. I tail you. I enumerate you. I condone you. I time you. I clip you. I console you. I paint you. I show you. I pass you. I fish you. I glory you. I commemorate you. I possess you. I reminisce of you. I name you. I snark at you. I withdraw. I predate you. I condense you. I realize you. I release you. I persist. I polarize you. I perform you. I call you. I request you. I confirm you. I cap you. I freeze you. I tell you. I give you. I crown you. I mine you. I fear you. I miss you. I will you. I store you. I shower you. I loan you. I inherit you. I scrap you. I roll you. I pronounce you. I wake you. I slow you. I serve you. I witness you. I demand you. I fold you. I police you. I shrivel you. I have you. I treat you. I dig you. I complete you. I raft you. I spark you. I shadow you. I get you. I close you. I rehydrate you. I prepackage you. I remember you. I raise you. I slash you. I expect you. I sting you. I prepare you. I misplace you. I trash you. I darken you. I consider you. I praise you. I know you. I heat you. I sink you. I swim in you. I direct you. I place you. I head you. I wear you. I swell you. I blanket you. I steer you. I scrub you. I disgust you. I deceive you. I balm you. I chain you. I emaciate you. I dodge you. I batter you. I anticipate you. I mean you. I capitalize you. I tell you. I discuss you. I reconsider you. I demean you. I announce you. I thumb you. I dot you. I wash you. I crowd you. I count you. I persuade you. I debase you. I accompany you. I hook you. I humanize you. I allow you. I applaud you. I owe you. I see you, boy.”
You left Bezerkeley due north up to Seattle, Washington. To start over. Again. You blasted the radio and drove naked up the I-5 corridor, planning to reach Portland by four AM and reach your friend who had a place up there. Tizita, eight months later, would ask, “Did you really drive naked?” Fuck yes, you did.
That night gave some stress—broken phone, low on gas, making it through the night driving straight up through Oregon, first wanting to break clean and never see her again, then wishing you could make things right, then wanting to see her one last time. You asked a gas station clerk in Redding,
“What do you do if your woman doesn’t respect you?”
“Nothing you can do. Move on.” So much anger you couldn’t just let it go. You had your pride to factor in. Around midnight it started to rain. Around two you started to immerse yourself in panicked focus. Around three you made it through Eugene, and at 3:36 in the morning you were attempting to pass a semi-truck that was in the right lane, rain starting to fall, when out of the brush a doe appeared. You braked and swerved into the shoulder, away from the semi but into the deer, and with a THWAP! she fell underneath your driver’s side tire. You didn’t even get out to look at her, nor the damage to the car, until you arrived to the morning sunrise over downtown Portland, and prayed, making a plea—to the thing that is at the center of everything—that everything would end up O.K. You coulda swerved the other way to miss the deer and get squashed under the semi, but you didn’t.
Hah! That doe meant so many things! The death of something and the transition to something else! The line between sacrifice and ‘looking after yours’! Between being human and being a survivalist. One small moment. That’s all it takes. You wondered that if deer had a consciousness, would their whole life flash in the brights of your one-ton Chevy?
But it wasn’t over. You had one more thing to do. One more line to cut.
You waited in the cold morning, buying a dollar cup of coffee and sitting in front of the Greyhound station chain-smoking. People floated this way and that. The car was a wreck. The deer took out a headlight with her, and hairs were stuck to the bumper. You could smell her still, and in your haste you made a friend.
He was in his fifties, a self-proclaimed gear-head, started off by trying to pawn a Seattle Seahawks switchblade for five bucks. You made the trade, shared cigarettes and talked ‘street-girls’—how to deal with ‘em, how to not get emotionally vulnerable or attached, how to just not give a fuck—it’s life, he said. You bought his shit ‘cus you were vulnerable right then as well. Funny how that works. Tizita was better than that, you were too, you wanted to think. He kept missing his train, on Amtrak’s version of stand-by.
“So why are you here?” He asked.
“Trying to figure that out myself, man.”
“Is it a girl?”
“How’d you know?
“You wanna fuck her again.”
“Nah man, not really.”
“Well, then what?”
“Sex would be nice, but no. I just wanna see her again. Give her some of her shit back.”
“She’s not your girl no more.”
“Fuck, man, I know.”
“Make her feel like you’re too good for her.”
“How do I do that?”
“Well, you made your first mistake. You’re here.”
“She doesn’t know I’m here.”
After seeing her in person some hours later, he would say, “You are too good for her.”
But between those stretches, he gave you some car advice. He went and smoked some meth. You found a booklet that started with, “JESUS SAVES” with a little smiley face on it. Waiting in purgatory, you daydreamed of being saved from the damning forces of life. Gearhead came back. A teenage girl on a guitar. Asking how to tune it.
“Fuck if I know,” you said.
Gearhead said, “You got one of those smart phones? There’s an”—
Girl said, “app for that?”
Gearhead said, “Hey, this kid’s pretty cool.”
You said, “I wish I knew how to play.”
Girl said, “Yeah, I don’t know how to tune it and there’s always some boy that says he knows and just screws it all up.”
“I’m not that boy.” But without assuming the role of fixing what was broken.
Gearhead left for a minute, but before that, he tried to make a pass at her for you. She smiled slightly, knowing, and you said something along the lines of, ‘fuck picking up women, dude. It’s like all these guys are a bunch of dogs.’
“Yeah,” she laughed.
You said, “My dad had this fish-tank when I was a kid, and we’d feed them and they’d swim up to the top and scoop up the flakes. Well one time I put the flakes by the little filter waterfall thing, and they kept shooting down and around, the fish not knowing what to do. I thought this was awesome. It was awesome, right? Looking at those flakes running inside the filter and back around and shit. This one fish had the bright idea to stay right at the lowest point where the flakes were going, and he’d just open his mouth and they’d fall right in.”
After a second, she asked. “You’re comparing love to fish flakes?”
“Fuck you.” And she got up and left.
“But I’m also comparing life to fish-flakes!” You shouted, and it was too late. You thought about that one for awhile.
Around noon you saw Tizita, a new haircut, same earthy fingernails. She didn’t see you though. Gearhead made a plan. He said, “Pretend like you’re just going to the bathroom, then I’m going to shout out your name. You turn around and look at me, and she’s going to look at you and wonder what the hell you’re doing here. She’ll get up and come to you.”
So you followed his advice, but there were too many nerves. You ended up looking her straight in the eyes with contempt. She gave you those doe eyes and smiled with a soft, “Hi,” before you shouted back at her, “Do you want your things or not?”
“Can’t you just bring them to me?”
And so it escalated, you ending up making a scene in front of the forty odd travelers. “SLUT!” And you pointed at a boy she was with. “DON’T YOU DARE TOUCH HER—YOU DON’T KNOW WHERE SHE’S BEEN!” It felt so good to release the anger, to stand up for your own, to be mad. You left. Gearhead followed suit, and he asked for a ride to the food-stamp office across the river in Vancouver.
The last words in this argument were to her, with, “Why’d you have to ruin my bus trip?”
So Gearhead talked shit about her and helped you validate yourself—for the first time since the trip began. It was much needed, though selfish at the same time. He called the sign you left for her in Oakland ‘classy.’ You waited with him while he got his food-stamps. Outside in the sunny April afternoon, you smoked and looked at the little JESUS SAVES book you picked up. On the inside cover it asked the fundamental question—Do you ever feel like no one really cares?
So you asked the people coming and going that question. Most kept onward, pretending not to notice, but a mid-twenties metal-head walking by said, “I believe in Satan.” Yeah, okay buddy.
You deleted Tizita’s number, dropped the Gearhead back off in downtown after a meaningful conversation—being street versus being domestic, how in living for yourself you don’t consider others, and then he smoked some more meth while you went to visit your friend, Josh.
You drank champagne that night at Josh’s place, and left for your old college buddies the next day. Two weeks later Tizita decided to fuck around some more, first telling you she was pregnant, then herpes. One of those was a lie. You got on with your life, each day a promise to rise again, into the mystic.
Your father developed cancerous polyps in his colon so your mother flew you down to look after him. They removed five of them and, with chemo, there was a 7% chance of it coming back. Vegas heat swung you into lazy days, long nights. He did well for himself, even drove himself to chemo a few times. You met back up with Adam and Lily (with your friend Samwise just in case) and Tracks, the three year old boy, was the only one to notice you at first. After some awkward peace-talks, Adam threatened to stab you, just as he did to Lily some months before (with Lily laughing, saying, he means business.) Adam was the one that said, when you first met him—“You know how I know we’re family?” He pointed at his belly-button. “That’s our birthmark. Anyone that has this is apart of our family.” You flew back to the Seattle-Tacoma area not long after.
Tizita wanted to apologize and reconnect. So you met her among holiday shoppers in Seattle in a little anarchist bookshop at Pike’s Place, and as you saw her smile you could see it as real, even underneath the wig she wore. Tizita felt bad. She got lice it turned out, and was sent back home from sunny California. You parted ways, this time in peace, and again you got on a plane and went to Vegas for Christmas with nine days off of work. Sammy D, the lovable dog, passed away on Christmas morning. You woke up to Tizita’s sobbing phone-call. As she told you how they had found him, and how it was quite possible he was hit, or had just passed on his own, you couldn’t help but know that we are children, blind and terrified, attacking a few sad stray dogs with tire irons. Her story is still unfolding. Memory, indeed, is the past. But it is also present. And the future.