Tuesday, January 31, 2012

When Mitt Romney Comes To Town

Mitt Romney THE # 1 GOP candidate for president has been touting his record as a job creator. "I spent my whole life in the private sector, 25 years in the private sector. I understand that when government takes more money out of the hands of people, it makes it more difficult for them to buy things. If they can't buy things, the economy doesn't grow. If the economy doesn't grow, we don't put Americans to work." Read more: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/mitt_romney.html#ixzz1l0pc1Kko The following film shows another angle on the Republican front runner. His holding company BAIN destroyed a number of American companies in order to sell off the capital assets. Greed for profits. Please go to this URL to view WHEN ROMNEY COMES TO TOWN The story of when the American Dream wasn't enough. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BLWnB9FGmWE

Jowls of Death

Last Wednesday I crossed the Channel to the UK and for the last several days and nights I have been wandering around London; seeing the film FLANGAGAN'S WAKE at Bafta, visiting the National Art Gallery for a viewing of David Hockney's exhibition, walking in Richmond Park, strolling through Putney and hampstead Heaths, drinking at the Harp Pub outside Waterloo, and a teenage party in Nottinghill Gate. It was good seeing my friends and meeting new people, but the constant craving for attention left little time for writing, so please excuse my absence over the last week. It was well intentioned. Tonight it's back to Luxembourg and then a flight to New York. "Start spreading the news." The Jowls of Death is coming your way.

Submissive Asian Woman

Saturday evening I accompanied a female friend to a party in Nottinghill Gate. Our mutual associate was hosting an 18th birthday bash for his daughter. Youth downstairs with the DJ and adults in the kitchen with the wine and booze. MOre old faces popped up during the evening and I was introduced to a longtime comrade's mistress. I congratulated the long-nosed blonde on their 6 month daughter. The baby was lovely and my comrade was happy to be a father. His mistress had heard about my living in Thailand and my family there, saying within ten seconds of our shaking hands, "Asian women must be nice." "In what sense?" I had a good idea where this comment was heading. "In that they're so submissive." Her smile was slathered by a smirk. "Submissive?" Western women hated the idea of western men with another race and I slashed at the mistress with a hushed viciousness. "I've lived all over the world and been with many women. I've never known one race to be submissive; not niggers, chinks, gooks, or honkies like yourself, but I do know how white people use racism to feel good about themselves." I walked away thinking I had said enough, but realized that I was wrong and reversed my tracks. "Have you ever lived anywhere but England." I knew the answer. "No, you go on vacations and make observations that reinforce your prejudices. The only women I know that are submissive are those who have been beaten by men or society or their family and that can happen anywhere. In the UK one in twenty women have been raped. Is that submission? No, it's subjugation. In the USA that figure jumps to one in four. And what happens afterwards. The women are too shamed to report the assaults. Now that's submission." "I'm a feminist." She offered in her defense. "Only for your own kind and not women of another color, so you're a racist feminist." I had said enough and went for a glass of wine. My old comrade followed and I looked at my feet, thinking about how to apologize. He poured me some white. "You were right. She's just the mother of my baby and nothing more." My comrade's late wife had been my good friend. She was Jamaican. My comrade was white. Racism was not in either of their blood. "Well, something more, because your daughter wasn't born from immaculate conception." "No." He looked over his shoulder at his mistress. She wasn't in the least bit contrite. "She's no Virgin Mary, but she is submissive in bed." "Better you than me." My lovely wife in Thailand was submissive only to her love for me. "Mine is a terror. I'm the one on the bottom in bed and I wouldn't have it any other way." "Lucky man." My comrade clinked my glass and we drank to the liberation of women, for love is as much about taking as giving, and I like to give it all.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Stuck In Heathrow

This unplanned trip to London gave me a chance to connect with friends. The past three days were a whirlwind of old faces combined with new places. Our previous haunts have been upscaled into more lucrative venues. At art galleries, museums, parks, and restaurants we caught up on the years. Everyone was kind enough to say that I hadn't changed physically and my cousin Sara held a mirror to my reality during last night's ride from Brixton, claiming my life is the same as it ever was even with child. "You work, you write, you travel. What's the change?" Longtime friends are ruthless after a few drinks. And we had a few more glasses at her house and I fell asleep on the floor watching a bootleg version of HUGO. In the morning I ignored the cellphone's playing an insipid song, however the caller persisted in attempting to reach me. I finally shrugged off the wraps of a mild hangover and pushed the answer tab on the screen with the intention of telling the person on the other end to call me later. "I'm at the airport waiting for my flight at 3." It was Persian Nick. The TV producer was a busy man. During the week he had less than a half-minute to field my calls. "3?" I checked the time on the cellphone. "That's four hours from now." "There's a reason." "You're incredibly anal and have to be at the airport hours before departure." That was my modus operandi. "No." This was a guessing game. "You flight was cancelled." "Close." "You missed your flight." "Correct." Persian Nick was heading off Istanbul to celebrate his wife's 40th birthday. He had arrived at the airport too late. This was not a good start for a holiday and he knew it.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Shockingly Hockney

Yesterday I ran into my friend Sven in Mayfair. We hadn't seen each other in years. The Swedish art dealer had been living in London for the past three years and judging from his size and paintings of the walls business was booming for his gallery. Over a cup of tea we spoke about old times and cleared up why a deal in Florida had ended in failure. The executors of the estate had hogswaggled us with deception. Sven had lost a major client and two of my good friends don't answer my phone calls. "They'll get over it." Sven had been in the art world for ages. "Yeah." My metier was diamonds. What we say we will do, we will do. "Me too." "Did you lose any money?" He had flown a client from Hong Kong to see a sculpture in Florida. The client had four-star tastes. The hotel room service bill ran into the thousands. "No." "Then it was merely a waste of time." "You got that right." I had a long fuse, but when lit it stayed lit at a low simmer. I changed the subject and mentioned a desire to view the David Hockney's THE BIGGER PICTURE. "Really?" Sven explained that he belonged to Royal Art Academy. It was a five minute walk from his gallery. "Would you care to go?" "Certainly." Several London friends had mentioned that tickets were a hot sell and going with Sven was a freebie. We threw on our coats and walked through the heavy foot traffic on Picadilly. Sven smoked two cigarettes on the way and, as we entered the cobble-stoned courtyard, he said, "I was here for the opening. I counted twelve celebrities. I came out for a cigarette and ran into the artist." "Hockney?" "He was dying for a cigarette. We spoke for several minutes and he said that he didn't trust anyone who didn't smoke." "My grandfather said, "Never trust anyone who puts ketchup on his hot dog."" He came from Maine. People from that state trusted in tradition. "Hot dogs." Sven had lived a long time in America. "They are so evil." "But great at a baseball game with a cold beer." I was a devoted Red Sox fan. Fenway Franks are manna to the faithful, although I would take a bullet to the head before I brought a Bud Lite to my lips. "Disgusting." Sven shivered with disgust and stubbed out his cigarette, as we threaded the spaces between three tightly packed queues of ticket-seekers. Sven flashed his membership card and a security person opened the ropes for the friend's entrance. A young blonde girl handed us two tickets and we strolled into the exhibition with a guide book or headset explaining the works. "You know this won't take long." I explained how in the early 80s that the bartender from the Studio of Rue du Temple and I toured the Louvre in less than fifteen minutes. Tony came up with the idea that the painting should be looking at us. "He thought that we could absorb the art through osmosis like molecules moving through fluids. We kept our heads down and if one of us looked at a painting, then he would have to pay for dinner. We ended our visits at the Mona Lisa." "And you'd looked at her." Sven knew the museums of Europe inside and out. Research was his forte. "No, we'd turn our heads to the left to admire l'Hermaphordite and then caress its cold marble skin." Sven shook his head. Art existed on a higher plane than our mortal lives. A guard punched our tickets and we joined the horde of Hockney admirers. His work surrounded us. Sven said that there were over 150 tableaus dedicated to the change of season in his birthplace. The vibrant colors stolen from a harlequin clown's suit were strangers to Yorkshire, unless its famed pudding was made from Jello. Sven further informed me, "These aren't even paintings. He did them with an iPad. Take a look. There are no brush strokes. These are prints. He can make millions of them." We strode through the exhibition. I stopped at the Grand Canyon works. They looked nothing like the real thing, but captured the breath of the desert chasm. A row of purple logs portrayed a demented judge of color and Woldgate Woods evoked the need to light a fire in autumn. Wefinished the exhibition in less than ten minutes. I could have spent hours. We shucked the crowd inside the academy and stepped outside into the crisp evening air. Sven lit a cigarette and I wondered how he survived trans-oceanic plane flights. I looked back at the thickening lines before the entrance. "Back in the 60s and 70s no one went to museums. That was the only way we could walk through the Louvre that fast." I reflected back on the empty galleries. The dust devils on the wooden floors were the size of rats. The air smelled of the ancien regime. Those days were long gone and I shrugged off the years. The Worseley was across the street. "Let's go get a beer." "I don't drink beer." Sven puffed on his nail. "And I don't put ketchup on hot dogs." Like I said it was a tradition. http://www.royalacademy.org.uk/exhibitions/hockney/

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Cheap Money

The US Federal Reserve announced its plans to hold interest rates at zero to .25% for the next three years, although several board members argued for a rise this year and a near majority of the members suggested an increase for 2013. The Federal Reserve claimed inflation is running at 2% and on which planet are these financial wizards living. Prices on essential have rocketed the past few years without any salvation from wages. A dollar buys less and less, so consumers buy less and manufacturers produce less to guarantee demand will not cheapen their products, thereby cutting into profits. The stock market rallied upon hearing the news. Wall Street loves cheap money, for what is good for Wall Street is good for Wall Street alone. And they are way less than 1%.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Road Trip From Mittel Europa

Leaving Mittel Europa in a Porsche headed to catch the Chunnel train underneath the Channel. Madame L'Ambassador at the wheel. She doesn't trust me to drive. I wonder why. Ready Steady Go.

The Debt Of A Nation

When Madame Ambassador had phoned with the offer to be her 'unofficial writer in residence' at her posting in Mittel Europa, she had asked, "Do you have an evening suit?" "Of course," I replied without hesitation from my apartment in Fort Greene. "Good, because you'll be needing it. There will be plenty of balls and galas," her aristocratic intonations painted a 'pas encore vu' vision of black ties and satin gowns. "I'll be ready." In America tuxedos are dragged out of the closet only for weddings. No one wears them to funerals. After hanging up on Madame Ambassador, I tried on my evening suit and was pleased to discover my waist wedged into the trousers and the jacket was loose on my upper body. I had bought it over 15 years ago. My roommate/landlord entered the top-floor apartment with a bong and asked, "Where are you going?" "To Europe." "Europe?" I explained about my appointment. AP knew Madame Ambassador. He eyed my trousers. "Does that hurt?" "No," I wasn't giving him the pleasure of the truth, but the next day I had the tailor let out the waist an inch. The fit felt much better. A month later I flew to Europe and unpacked my clothing into a closet atop the residence. "Where's the evening suit?" Madame Ambassador was wearing a smart skirt-jacket combo from a well-known design. She smiled upon seeing me in formal wear. "You clean up good. Next week is the military ball. I expect you to look your best." That evening at the gala I was freshly showered, shaved, and shoes shined to a gleam. Madame Ambassador was pleased to have a well-attired escort. She was no longer with her husband. The civilian guests conjectured about our relationship. It has been purely platonic for thirty years. The military were more circumspect with their assumptions and I drank with colonels, captains, and naval commanders. The head general of the host nation was at our table. His glorious dress uniform shamed me, but he was a man used to the admiration of his troops and we spoke about the Civil War and Joshua Chamberlain's bayonet charge at Gettysburg. The gala had a raffle to benefit its charity. I bought several tickets. The general discreetly tapped my shoulder and asked for 20 Euros. I slipped a blue bill under the table and he winked his thanks. Generals like the very wealthy, royalty, and poor people don't carry money. Neither of tickets were winners and later that night at the residence I related to Madame's military attache my loan to the general. "How much was it?" The commander pulled out his wallet. "20 euros." About $27 and I waved my hand in refusal. "But that's fine. I like the idea of a general owing me money. Especially the head of the army." Madame Ambassador and I joked about this debt for the following months and the story became funnier over the next months, for I ran into the general on several occasions without his reaching into his pocket. Most recently at last week's military ball. We spoke for several seconds and he held out his hand. I thought that he might be cuffing 20 euros in secret, but his hand was empty. After he walked away, I scratched my head. I owe money to my friends for a long time. If I have it in my pocket, I pay them. Obviously the military have a different set of rules, then again I never asked for the 20, because I hold the debt of his nation in the palm of my hand. It feels like good luck.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

DOWN THE COAST by Peter Nolan Smith

Skyline Drive crested the steep bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the bright California sun crowned the hills with a golden nimbus. Hundreds of identical houses snaked up the streets of Daly City and trails of smoke floated from countless backyards, as suburban families celebrated Memorial Day with barbecues. A seared hamburger would have tasted good, but I hiked south on the dusty breakdown lane with my thumb out to traffic. No one in those houses knew my name.

To the high school teenagers in the passing cars I was another long-haired hippie leaving San Francisco. The Summer of Love had ended seven years ago and the children of the Silent Majority shouted out, “Get a hair cut.”

I held up the peace sign.

They flipped me the bird.

Walking was getting me nowhere and I put down my canvas bag at junction of Route 35 and the PCH. It seemed a good place to hitchhike.

The curved onramp required vehicles to slow down to 20 mph and the wide merging lane offered motorists a safe place to stop, however over two hundred cars passed me in thirty minutes and other than the raucous teenagers not a single driver looked in my direction. I was stranded on the PCH.

Solo female drivers convicted me of rape and many of the male motorists glared, as if I had betrayed my country. At least no one was throwing beer bottles at me.

The next exit lay a mile ahead.

Walking on the highway was forbidden by state law and I took off my leather jacket. The sun was hot and my canteen was empty. Cars passed me and a few drivers pointed to indicate that they were turning off the road in a short distance. It felt funny to be at the mercy of strangers.

Yesterday my two friends and I had crossed Nevada in a drive-away car. I had racked up over $300 at a rustic casino in Elko. My winning streak at blackjack had run hot all the way to Reno. It had been my 22nd birthday.

Another fifty cars got on the PCH before a late-model Volvo sedan stopped on the shoulder. The young driver pushed open the door.

"Excuse the mess." Thousands of pamphlets were stacked on the rear seat. The overflow spilled onto the front seat and floor.

“No worries.” I sat with my canvas bag on my lap and my sleeping bag crammed between my legs.

“I’m only going to Half Moon Bay.” He fought to find first gear and his feet flopped up and down on the gas and clutch.

“That’s fine.” The beach town was a short ride down the coast and I joked, “I was starting to think that I was a permanent fixture back there."

"Glad to be of help." The driver didn’t laugh, as the Volvo lurched down the PCH. He wasn’t used to driving a stick. "Where you headed, friend?"

"South." My final destination was Encinitas, a beach town north of San Diego.

"My name’s Evan." His austere black suit with the pressed white shirt and black tie was out of place in California as was his papery skin toasted by the sun to a blistered pink and he paused a second before asking, "Are you a believer?"

"In what?" My lack of belief was a private affair.

"The truth. I’m on a mission to bring the word to California" The brochures on the dashboard were blazoned with LDS.

“You’re a Mormon?” It was a good guess.

Young Mormon missionaries in similar suits rode bicycles or the trolleys around Boston promoting their Church. I had never seen one in a car.

“Yes, I am.” The driver admitted with pride, as he narrowly missed the curb.

“How long you been driving?” I buckled my seatbelt.

“About two weeks. Sorry, if I’m scaring you.” His cheeks reddened with embarrassment.

“Drive slow and you’ll be fine.” 30 mph was too fast for him.

“Yes, sir.” He downshifted into 3rd and whistled in appreciation of his accomplishment. The Volvo didn’t have a radio. The LDS regarded love songs as a threat to morality.

“Saving souls in San Francisco must be a challenge.” Drugs were ravaging the Haight-Ashbury, North Beach’s strip clubs and massage parlors offered satisfaction on every levels, and hordes of young homosexuals were transforming distressed neighborhoods in their vision of Sodom.

“There are no souls to save in heaven, plus I’ve been preparing for this mission since I was a boy, so my resolve is steel and my mission is clear.” Evans's eyes shone with an unprotected innocence. Mormon boys were reared without television, radio, or movies and their elders forbad contact of any kind with young girls. Evan even smelled like a virgin. He tapped the pamphlet in my hand and recounted Joseph Smith's meeting his angel in 1823, as if he had been standing next to his prophet. "Morani gave him gold plates inscribed with the true history of the world."

"I know the story." Having resisted the indoctrination of priests and nuns, I wasn’t in the mood to hear the young man’s preaching on chastity and cut short his spiel by saying, "My great-great-great grand uncle was Joseph Smith."

"You're joking?" The driver studied my face to compare my features with his memory of the Founder's portrait.

"I admit that there's not much of a resemblance." Joseph Smith had a long nose, but my ancestor also wore his brown hair over the collar. "His family hailed from Vermont and ours was from Maine. Winters in both state are long."

“What does winter have to do with Joseph Smith?”

“Long winters give a man time to think.” In Joseph Smith’s case too much time, but neither my aunt nor father had bothered to expand on our connection to the distant relative and I detoured off the subject into my family history in Maine, interrupting the tale with frequent warnings about parked cars and oncoming traffic. Evan was a terrible driver.

“My great-grandfather disappeared from Georgia.” My aunt had a single photo of her grandfather. He looked more like Joseph Smith than me. “He might have had gambling debts.”

“Gambling is a sin.” He stamped on the brake with two feet, as we entered Half Moon Bay.

“I know that all too well.” Yesterday I had learned the dangers of gambling the hard way.

“Drinking and fornication are vices of the Devil too.” He flicked on the left turn signal and pulled off the PCH at Route 92. “Tis is as far as I go.”

“Thanks for the ride.” I got out of the Volvo and tossed the pamphlet on the seat. It hadn’t been written for me.

“You really relate to Joseph Smith?” Evan might have been young, but his eyes peered into mine to divine the truth.

“People on the road will tell you anything you want to hear in order to get from point A to point B.” I answered his question with honesty. “As for me being related to Joseph Smith. It’s the truth as far as I know it.”

“You don’t look a thing like him at all.” Evan frowned with distrust and drove off with gears grinding. He had been a good listener and a horrible driver.

I filled up my canteen at a gas station and stood on the side of the road. The hills bordering the sea were covered by sun-blasted scrub brush. They would have been mountains back East. Huge swells spread into the crescent bay and surfers in black wetsuits skated the face of monstrous waves. I could have watched them for hours, but a 1973 Impala sedan stopped within three minutes. The Zenith TV salesman brought me as far as San Gregorio Beach. He asked if I wanted to join him drink at his motel room.

“There are some fun girls there, if you know what I mean.” The chubby thirty year-old slicked back his hair with Vaseline.

“I can guess, but I’ll keep heading south.” My funds had suffered a loss in Reno, but prostitutes were never in my budget.

“Suit yourself.” He pulled over to the curb and revved the engine with impatience, as I got out of the car. No one liked being alone on a holiday.

The Impala crossed the highway and the driver waved good-bye, as he walked into the lounge attached to the hotel.

I walked to a better spot for hitchhiking.

The high bluff offered a unbroken vista of the tumultuous expanse of water. After crossing the Isthmus of Panama the Spanish explorer Balboa had sarcastically called this body of water ‘La Pacifica’. Vengeful waves crashed on the beach without cessation. This was not a kind sea.

I stuck out my thumbs. Traffic on the PCH was less than up north. I was well out of the suburbs

Twenty minutes later a silver Porsche 911 swept onto the shoulder. I jumped out of the way, as the tires sprayed pebbles over my boots. A dust cloud swarmed over the sports coupe and I leaned over to the open window. A jazz song was playing on the stereo.

“Don’t worry, I’m not drunk.” The long-haired blonde driver flicked up the lock and sighed with mocked exasperation, “I just like to drive fast. You have a problem with speed?”

“Not as long as we stay on the road.” James Dean had been killed in a Porsche Spyder the same color. I dropped my bags in the narrow back seat and the driver stepped on the gas. He expertly shifted through the gears, as we sped past a Pomponio State Beach packed with beach-goers. California’s beach culture was impervious to the recession.

"Where you going?" The air smelled of ocean.

"I'm headed to Santa Cruz," A paisley silk scarf was wrapped around his head and blonde strands streamed over his shoulders. The driver glanced over at me, as if she was studying my face. "What about you?"

"South to Encinitas." A sidelong glance confirmed that he was wearing a silky mini-skirt with knee-high boots. For a few seconds I thought that he was someone famous, but there was no way that Peggy Lipton of THE MOD SQUAD was a man. “It’s south of LA.”

"Anything below of Santa Barbara is too square for me." The driver passed me a burning joint. His fingernails were buffed to a sheen. "Too much oil, cars, and military."

"I have a friend waiting for me there." The weed tasted of Oaxaca and candy-flavored lipstick. The tip of the joint was tinted pink. California attracted all kinds.

"A friend sounds so mysterious." The driver sighed with the grace of Tallulah Bankhead. The speedometer was wavering at 75 and he shut off the radio.. "Do tell, my name's Maya."

"Yesterday was my birthday." Jack Kerouac in ON THE ROAD wrote that one of the toughest things about hitchhiking was proving to the driver that they hadn’t made a mistake picking you up and I decided to entertain Maya with my sad tale. “My friends and I were driving across Nevada. I gambled at every town and was up $1000 in Reno. A beautiful waitress in a miniskirt served me a drink. It was the first of many. I remember begging my friend for money, then the next morning I woke next to the Truckee River. My pockets were empty. I thought that Reno had stolen my birthday.”

“Casinos are good at getting your very last dollars.”

“Thankfully my friend had been lying. When we dropped off the drive-away car in Lodi, my friend returned my money.”

“So you weren’t broke?” Maya laughed at my reversal of fortune.

“ Yes.” I hadn’t thought the story was that funny this morning.

"You poor baby." Maya brushed a strand of hair from his face. “But you were right. Your friend is really a friend. He could have told you that he had given you the money and kept it for himself?”

“AK isn’t like that.” I had been friends with the New Yorker for the past two years. Our only fight was about the Beatles. I hated HEY JUDE.

“It’s good having good friends.” Maya's speaking like a woman wasn't an act. Her voice quirked to a contralto, as he asked, "How long were you in San Francisco?"

“Less than an hour.” The Haight had been rough on my first two visits, but this time a gang of muggers had attacked me in Golden Gate Park. They wanted my money as much as the casino in Reno. “It’s changed a lot.”

"More than you can imagine. The city was so hip before the Summer of Love. The hippies, diggers, freaks, and blacks were one big happy family free to do anything we wanted, but the family grew too big in 1967. I was beaten up twice for being who I am. Anyone who could fled the city for the country. I made it as far as Santa Cruz." Maya shifted into top gear on a straightaway south of Pescadero. The Porsche topped a 100, then decelerated to the speed limit coming over a hill. A CHiP's cruiser was parked behind a tree on the other side.

"That officer is looking to ruin some family’s holiday for driving 60.” Maya beeped his horn and on the downward slope flicked his headlights at cars to warn of the speed trap. "Where you crashing tonight?”

“I was going to sleep in the redwoods.” The sun was an hour from setting in the ocean. Santa Cruz was not far away at this speed, but Big Sur was beyond my reach for today.

“You can stay with me. I have a spare room couch, steak in the fridge and wine too.” Maya was slightly older than me and her eyes looked like they had seen too much. “You’re not afraid, are you?”

My nights dancing at the 1270 Club in Boston had cured my fear of queers. The boys at that bar liked straight men. Maya was the same.

“Not at all.” Maya wasn’t an ax murderer, but my mother would pray for my salvation, if I accepted the generosity of a crossdresser. “More curious.”

"Like I AM CURIOUS YELLOW." Maya carved a strand of hair from his face with a long fingernail. “Some people say I look like the actress.”

“They must be blind. You’re much prettier.” The Swedish film had been banned in Boston for scenes of fake intercourse. It was too slow for my tastes. “And I prefer hard-core films."

"You're getting better and better."

We discussed about porno films of the early 70s for the rest of the drive to Santa Cruz. Maya was a fan of MISTY BEETHOVEN, while I preferred BEHIND THE GREEN DOOR. Both of us were critical of the smash hit DEEP THROAT.

"The actors were so hairy." Maya shivered in his bucket seat. "You're not hairy, are you?"

"Only my legs and ass." I wouldn't have had this conversation with any of my friends, but on the road I was a stranger passing through town like an extra in a porno movie.

"Like a satyr." Maya smiled with pleasure. Our barriers were broken by each other's anonymity. We could be anyone to each other, because tomorrow we would be someone else.

Maya's house was located on a forested river outside of Santa Cruz. A grove of redwoods lay at the end of a small lawn. A light breeze tickled the wind chimes on the porch. Maya opened the front door and flicked on the lights. The living room's decor crossbred the West Coast with Asia. Some of the oriental furniture dated back to the last century. Somehow Maya had money. I was polite enough to not ask the source.

"The guest room is in the back." Maya lit candles scented with cinnamon. "Sorry, I have no TV, but I left it behind in San Francisco. Here watch the sky and the wind"

"I'm good with no TV. Mind if I pick out a record?" I put down my bag and eyed her collection of jazz, soul, classical, and rock stacked next to an expensive stereo system.

"As long as it's not WALK ON THE WILD SIDE." Maya's sigh betrayed having heard Lou Reed's tribute to hustlers and queens too many times in too many places. "Or even worse LOLA."

"How about Marvin Gaye?" I picked out WHAT’S GOING ON. It had been huge in 1971.

“I saw him in Oakland this year. My ears rang for a week from the shrieks of his fans.” Maya lay on the Chinese couch like an opium smoker awaiting their pipe. The concert was recorded for a live album. His pose was stolen from a Renaissance painting that I recognized from my Art History 101 class. I think it was a Klimt. "Are you planning to leave soon?”

"No." I cued up the title track and sat by her feet. The polish on his toenails matched his fingernails.

"Then take off your jacket and make yourself comfortable." Maya opened a jar and handed me a pill. It was a Quaalude. He pointed to a hallway. "You can even have a shower. I promise I won't watch."

"Thanks." I washed down the muscle relaxant with wine.

"You've done these before?" Maya screwed back on the lid.

"My high school friend worked at a drug store." Donnie stole pills for our parties. Few of us smoked pot. Weed couldn't compare with downers and uppers.

"High school boys and Quaaludes?"

"All Catholic boys in uniforms." It had been an all-boys school.

"Stop. Go. You're driving me crazy."

I put my bag in the small guest room. A clean white towel lay on the single bed, as if Maya had been expecting company. I stripped off my jeans and tee-shirt and went across the narrow corridor to a bathroom with a shower. Maya had changed the record to SOMETHING ELSE by Mlles Davis.

I took my time wading America from my skin and toweled myself dry before returning to the guest room. My clothes were folded on a chair and a black silk robe hung over the chair. Maya was offering a choice and I entered the living room in the robe. Logs were burning in the fireplace.

"I knew it was your size." Maya stood by the stereo. His high heels lay on the floor. Without them her green eyes met mine. Maya touched my back. It had been months.

"You like some cocaine?" Four white lines were spread on a mirror.

"Why stop now?" I huffed two lines and I sat back on the sofa, expecting Maya to make a move, instead the blonde picked out an album with a familiar cover.

"You like TIME OUT?"

"Dave Brubeck. 1950s. Paul Desmond's TAKE FIVE." There wasn't much better from a white man.

"So you're smarter than you look."

"Only a little."

We drank wine and traded choices of music. I put on John Coltrane's MY FAVORITE THINGS, Maya followed with SOMETHIN’ ELSE. We had steaks and rice for dinner. The second bottle of wine went slower than the first. The couch was big enough for two.

The night filled in the trees and shadows crawled from the corners of the living room. In the glow of the embers she was Peggy Lipton. Maya caressed my chest.

“Thank you for staying.”
“I really didn’;t have anywhere to go.”

“Was that all?”

“Like I said I was curious.” The first kiss was strange. Maya wasn’t neither a man nor a woman. She was something else.

“You said I was pretty before.” Maya’s hand was soft. “Did you mean it?”

“No, I should have said that you were beautiful.” I undid the bra. Maya’s chest was as flat as the girl on the cover of BLIND FAITH’s LP. The skin was smooth as ice.

“It’s not easy being me, because being me depends on being something I’m not.” Maya kept on her silk panties.

“It’s not easy being me either.” I had my share of problems. Maya was not one of them. “But here no one can say anything against you. No one will attack you for being you. Not with me here.”

“I can be anything for you.” Maya smelled of an expensive French perfume.

“Just be you for right now.”

“Can you pretend that I’m a woman?” Maya’s eyes shut, as if he was making a wish.

“I don’t have to pretend.” I pulled Maya close. Neither of us wanted to be anywhere, but here.

In the morning we woke in bed covered by sheets. The sun peeked through the drawn curtains. Maya was naked next to me. His hand was fondling my penis. 1974 was seven years after the Summer of Love. Our side had stopped the War in Vietnam. Sexual freedom was our reward.

I had Maya more than twice that day. We didn’t leave the house for two more days. Our weekend was turning into a honeymoon. Nothing so good lasted forever just like a winning streak at blackjack.

On the fourth morning the telephone rang, as we breakfasted in the living room. Maya answered with a finger raised to his lips. I tried to be discreet, but I heard everything.

The man on the other end was her lover. He was coming to visit this afternoon.

I got off the couch and went to the guest room. I dressed in my clothes for the first time in days and returned to the living room with my bag in hand. I sat on my couch.

“Are you going?” Maya hung up the phone and bit his lip. The silk robe slipped off his right shoulder. His skin was bruised my my hands. We had had a good time. “You’re more than welcome to stay.”

“I know, but your friend might think otherwise, besides my friend is waiting.” AK and I had not specified a date, but if I didn’t go now, there was a danger that I never go.

“Yes, we all have friends.” The sentence was tinged with jealousy. “You’re not angry, are you?”

“Angry for what?” For the last few days we had been man and woman. One phone call had broken the magic. Once more I was straight and Maya was a man. “It was good to meet you.”

“Is that all?” Maya sounded in love and love was a madness not magic.

“Maybe a little more, but it’s time for me to go.”

“Now?” Maya opened the robe.

“Not just yet.” I pulled Maya close.

An hour later we were driving down the PCH. Maya wanted to drop me south of Monterrey. He drove the Porsche 5 mph below the speed limit on the highway south from Santa Cruz.

“I could pay for you to stay in a motel for a few days and pick you up.” Maya was having a hard time letting go. He was wearing a tan suede vest cinched tight by laces and matching suede pants. Mirrored sunglasses covered his eyes.

“I’m heading south.” The California sun was harsh this morning.

“Will you come this way again?” Maya asked, as the Porsche crossed the Moss Landing Bridge.

“I don’t know.” I had no plans for my future. We didn’t speak for several miles, as the PCH coasted along the beach and then swept into the outskirts of Monterrey. “Do you mind, if you drop me by the docks. I read Steinbeck’s CANNERY ROW and SWEET THURSDAY.”

“I loved those books too.” Maya pulled off Route 1 and drove down to the piers. The canneries were deserted and only a few fishing ships were in port. He parked by a wharf converted to a restaurant. Tourists admired the sports car and whispered to each other, as if they thought Maya might be famous.

“I guess this is the end of the road.” Maya sniffed back a tear and hurriedly wrote down a phone number. “You come this way. You call me.”

“It’s a promise.” I stuck the paper in my leather jacket.

“Here’s $20 and two joints. Have lunch on me.”

“You want to have lunch here?”

“No.” Maya shook his head. “These people don’t understand me.”

“I’ll make sure they don’t say anything.”

“It’s not what they say, but I can see what they think in their eyes. This is not my town.”

“I understand.” I put the bill and the joints in the same pocket as Maya’s number.

Supposedly Sonny Barger of the Hells’ Angels said that you weren’t queer as long as money was involved in the sex. No biker had ever defended his quote. I leaned over an kiss Maya good-bye.

“I’ll see you around.” I got out of the car and tapped the hood of the Porsche. The horm beeped once and I stepped away from the car. The tires screeched out of the parking lot and the 911 disappeared into Monterrey.

A fishing boat was putting out to sea. Seagulls glided in its wake. Seals swam in the kelp beds. The perfume on my skin was faint. The smell of the ocean was strong. I hefted my bags over my shoulder and walked along the shore. I was once more alone and alone I was once more myself.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Wanted Man In Georgia

CBS Atlanta has report that a Georgia judge has demanded President Obama's presence at a hearing to answer the charge that the POTOS isn't a natural born US citizen. Birthers have consistently rejected all evidence of Obama's citizenship such as having an American mother and a birth certificate issued from Hawaii. 13% of Americans believe Obama was born in a foreign country. The citizenship theory arose from the Hillary Clinton camp in the 2008 presidential primaries and since then birthers on each side of the political spectrum have researched every facet surrounding the president's birth and early life. The legal counsel of the White House has failed to convince the judge that this case is frivolous and the president must show up in Georgia or else find himself in contempt of court. I search for the judge's history on Google for a half-hour without finding any reference to him other than the announcement of this lawsuit. It's almost as if he doesn't exist on paper and I have to ask, "Where is his driver's license?" so he can prove that he actually exists on paper as well as in judicial robes.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Kodak Gone Too

My first camera was a Kodak Brownie. It took good photos. Eastman-Kodak's sales pitch was simple.

"You push the button, we do the rest."

The word Kodak was synonymous with camera for most of my youth and Eastman-Kodak held a virtual lock on the American market with a 96% share in 1976. Most of my slides were taken on Kodak. The color was warm, whereas Fuji's was cold. None of that quality mattered to consumers. They wanted cheap and yesterday the company filed for bankruptcy after the collapse of print film for cameras and their inability sell digital cameras.

Kodak received its name from an abbreviation of the inventor's home state North Dakota, who decided Kodak was better than Nodak.

Like GM in the 70s Kodak corporate leadership believed that the American consumer would remain loyal to their product and their lack of vision doomed the company to failure and the most recent CEO off-shored production without regaining market share. If it had been for a billion dollar settlement with LG, Kodak would have gone bust in 2010 and Rochester, New York has seen the Kodak workforce shrink from 60,000 to 7000 with most of them in the bloated corporate structure.

"Anyone who's dealt with Kodak ... over the last 20 or 30 years has just seen this lumbering dinosaur with wonderful research, coming up with great ideas, but believing that they have some kind of divine right to be the only company selling the means to take pictures." The electronics journalist Barry Fox told Al Jazeera.com

After over 130 years the Kodak moment passed into extinction along with many other American icons such as Zenith TVs, RCA stereos, and US Steel.

America's new cry.

"We're number nothing."

Then They Were Four

Front-runner Mitt Romney has a fight on his hands in the GOP South Carolina primary. Texas governor Rick Perry decision to drop out of the race has strengthened two of his challenger ie Rick Santorum and Newt Gringich without helping libertarian Ron Paul. With two days left before voting the race is too close to call and the most recent debate's opening question about Newt Gringich's marital past had the former House leader steaming at the moderator. "To take an ex-wife and make it two days before the primary a significant question in a presidential campaign is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine." His attack on the media was greeted with loud applause from the conservative audience, who backed the presidential hopeful's 'open marriage' status with his second wife. Things have changed in the Deep South. "How could he ask me for a divorce on Monday and within 48 hours give a speech on family values and talk about how people treat people?" His ex-wife said during an interview. Gringich claimed that she was lying about the claim. But then men always lie when caught in a lie by their wives, even if they are their ex-wives.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Gra-nam Gra-nam Gra-nam

Last week the Thai police arrested a suspect purportedly planning to bomb the Bangkok Habad center and Khao San restaurants popular with Americans and Israelis. The US embassy issued a heightened alert on its website. January 13, 2012 This message alerts U.S. citizens in Thailand that foreign terrorists may be currently looking to conduct attacks against tourist areas in Bangkok in the near future. U.S. citizens are urged to exercise caution when visiting public areas where large groups of Western tourists gather in Bangkok. U.S. citizens are encouraged to maintain a heightened awareness when out in public; be alert for unattended packages/bags in public/crowded places and report any suspicious behavior to the nearest law enforcement personnel. We also encourage you to keep a low profile in public areas, particularly areas frequented by foreign tourists. and warned that terrorists might be seeking to hit Bangkok in the near-future. Experts quickly discounted the validity of such a threat linking the news to the tensions with Iran and the suspect in this case was arrested, because of a head's up by US and Israeli counter-terrorist agencies. The Israelis announced on their website, that other terrorists "managed to escape by plane from Bangkok or by crossing into Laos and catching a flight there, although other sources believe they are still hiding out in Thailand waiting for another chance to strike". Thai police and government officials, having been stung by the complexities of the Viktor Bout case, are questioning the validity of the US embassy alert, especially after the suspect said that the explosive materials were not his and probably had been planted by the Israelis. "One evening I was taken out of prison, was placed in a car that drove off with me to a house somewhere. In there, I was interrogated by three men who apparently came from the Mossad. I have their first names. They claimed that I lied about various things." Years ago I was at a guest house in northern Thailand. NO ISRAELIS was written on a sign on the wall. I asked the owner, if he was scared of terrorism. "Mai ching. Israel people kee-hio. One man rent room. Ten men sleep in room. Dirty too and fight for be cheap. Mai dee." His testament was proven on more than one occasion on my travels through Asia, so if you really want to avoid terrorism, avoid Israelis. Sorry, but the truth is the truth. Free Palestine.

The Real Budvar aka Budweiser

For the last month in Thailand I drank nothing but Leo Beer, the occasional Singha and Khang beers, and Khong Tong whiskey in Ban-nok and Sri Racha. My taste buds had been ruined after five months of Belgian and Czech beers in Mittel Europa and this afternoon I'm supping on a Budvar, the original Budweiser, which has been brewed since 1785 in České Budějovice. In a classic case of intellectual property theft Anheuser-Busch expropriated the name Budweiser brand in 1876 setting up a copyright dispute, which Budweiser USA resolved with a cash payment to Budvar. A cop would have hold a gun to my head to force me to drink Budweiser USA. To quote Monty Python - "We find your American beer like making love in a canoe. It's fucking close to water." Or even better. "Why is American beer served cold? So you can tell it from urine." - David Moulton Budvar's lager on the other hand backs up what Plato said over 2000 years ago, ""He was a wise man who invented beer." It is so true, if you take Budweiser out of the equation. It sucks. After the Great Britain Beer Festival, in London, all the Presidents of the brewreys decide to go to the pub for a drink. The Coors President said "Can I have the only beer made with Rocky Mountain Spring Water: a Coors, please." The bartender gave him the drink. Then the Budweiser President orders, "The King Of Beers - Budweiser." The bartender proceeds with the order. The Amstel President walks in and orders "The Finest Beer ever." The bartender gives him an Amstel. Then the Guinness President says, "I'll have a coke please." The bartender is taken aback by this but gives the coke to him anyway.All the Presidents looked over at him and said, "Why have you ordered a coke?" He replied, "Well if you all aren't drinking beer, then neither shall I." source: http://www.jokebuddha.com/Budweiser#ixzz1jt54Y8nn

Recall Recall

T
here are 70 people named Scott Walker in Wisconsin and one of them in governor. Last December Governor Walker had ridiculed a petition for a recall election by asserting the 'Mickey Mouse' signatures did not count and neither did multiple signings. He cited a classic GOP mantra of the Silent Majority by saying, “For those who don’t want to sign it, their voice should count as much as anyone else’s." Yesterday opposition groups filed a petition with a million signatures seeking a recall election for the state's highest office, which was well in excess of the requisite of half-million signatures United Wisconsin will have an uphill battle. Recall elections are difficult to bring to ballot, especially with Wisconsin's GOP-controlled government, but close to two-thirds of the voters are in favor of recalling the governor according to local polls and those numbers are hard to fight in a national election year. The only successful recall for governor occurred in California with the ouster of Gray Davis. The Big Bear State got Arnold Schwartzenegger as a result and people liked the Terminator. He was famous. By the way Scott Walker is not related to the singer Scott Walker of the Walker Brothers.

Asshole of the Year 2011

TIME magazine's Person of the Year was the protestor. Governments in Egypt and Tunisia were ousted by people fed up with the status quo of the few rich ruling of the many poor. The western media attempted to portray this change as the seeds of democracy, but were surprised by faceless protestors in America assailing Wall Street and Congress as enemies of the state. Police trained for terrorism by Homeland Security attacked peaceful demonstrations with heavy-handed force and the poster boy for these men in blue was NYPD police lieutenant Joseph Bologna for his pepper-spraying women and punching out anyone in his way. The officer in question has a well-earned reputation for brutality dating back the the GOP convention in 2004 and protests against Iraq War. Bologna was disciplined with the loss of ten vacation days and a transfer to his home borough of Staten Island. He has refused to apologize for the pepper-spraying and said that given the chance he "would do things the same way." For that alone Joseph Bologna is Asshole of 2011. He had a lot of competition and I was one of them.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

SOPA and PIPA Defeat

Yesterday several major internet services blacked out their websites to protest two bills before Congress aimed at stopping online intellectual property theft. Freshman senator from Florida Marco Rubio backed off pushing forward the bills for vote in face of such intense opposition from Wikipedia and blog service WordPress. Hollywood executives backed by former Senate hack Christopher Dodd called the black-out an 'irresponsible stunt', but their opinion was overwhelmed by criticisms that the bills were capable of curbing freedom of speech and knowledge Google did not join the protest, but stated on their site. "There are better ways to address piracy than to ask US companies to censor the internet. The foreign rogue sites are in it for the money, and we believe the best way to shut them down is to cut off their sources of funding." The bills are still before Congress and President Obama has threatened to veto them should they reach his desk. deadline.com declared that Hollywood moguls were pulling their support for the president by quoting Hollywood moguls, another movie mogul, one insider, one studio chief who wished to remain anonymous, although Fox Filmed Entertainment Chairman Jim Gianopulos was willing to record to his opposition to the president's opposition His boss felt the same way and yesterday Rupert Murdoch slammed the protests on Twitter, attacking Google and the president for allowing theft from his intellectual property empire, although his newspapers are in criminal proceeding for the hacking of personal telephones and emails in the UK. There is only one word for the man. Hypocrite. And we can also add in bastard.

No You Don't

Hundreds of demonstrators for the OCCUPY CONGRESS gathered in Washington this week to protest the greed of Congress in sucking up the the corporate interests of America and the world. The organizers had been expected thousands to show up in force, but winter campaigns are renown for desertions from the ranks; see Valley Forge and the 1812 Retreat from Moscow. Wait till Spring to rally the troops is my advice, however the Congress was confronted by Wikipedia and several other internet giants on the matter of two bills before the legislature. And here are the reasons as presented by Wikipedia, everyone's memory of what was. Wikipedia is protesting against SOPA and PIPA by blacking out the English Wikipedia for 24 hours, beginning at midnight January 18, Eastern Time. Readers who come to English Wikipedia during the blackout will not be able to read the encyclopedia: instead, you will see messages intended to raise awareness about SOPA and PIPA, and encouraging you to share your views with your elected representatives, and via social media. What are SOPA and PIPA? SOPA and PIPA represent two bills in the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate respectively. SOPA is short for the "Stop Online Piracy Act," and PIPA is an acronym for the "Protect IP Act." ("IP" stands for "intellectual property.") In short, these bills are efforts to stop copyright infringement committed by foreign web sites, but, in our opinion, they do so in a way that actually infringes free expression while harming the Internet. Detailed information about these bills can be found in the Stop Online Piracy Act and PROTECT IP Act articles on Wikipedia, which are available during the blackout. GovTrack lets you follow both bills through the legislative process: SOPA on this page, and PIPA on this one. The EFF has summarized why these bills are simply unacceptable in a world that values an open, secure, and free Internet. Why is this happening? Wikipedians have chosen to black out the English Wikipedia for the first time ever, because we are concerned that SOPA and PIPA will severely inhibit people's access to online information. This is not a problem that will solely affect people in the United States: it will affect everyone around the world. Why? SOPA and PIPA are badly drafted legislation that won't be effective in their main goal (to stop copyright infringement), and will cause serious damage to the free and open Internet. They put the burden on website owners to police user-contributed material and call for the unnecessary blocking of entire sites. Small sites won't have sufficient resources to defend themselves. Big media companies may seek to cut off funding sources for their foreign competitors, even if copyright isn't being infringed. Foreign sites will be blacklisted, which means they won't show up in major search engines. And, SOPA and PIPA build a framework for future restrictions and suppression. Does this mean that Wikipedia itself is violating copyright laws, or hosting pirated content? No, not at all. Some supporters of SOPA and PIPA characterize everyone who opposes them as cavalier about copyright, but that is not accurate. Wikipedians are knowledgeable about copyright and vigilant in protecting against violations: Wikipedians spend thousands of hours every week reviewing and removing infringing content from the site. We are careful about it because our mission is to share knowledge freely with people all over the world. To that end, all Wikipedians release their contributions under a free license, and all the material we offer is freely licensed. Free licenses are incompatible with copyright infringement, and so infringement is not tolerated. Isn't SOPA dead? Wasn't the bill shelved, and didn't the White House declare that it won't sign anything that resembles the current bill? No, neither SOPA nor PIPA are dead. On January 17th, SOPA's sponsor said the bill will be discussed in early February. There are signs PIPA may be debated on the Senate floor next week. Moreover, SOPA and PIPA are just indicators of a much broader problem. We are already seeing big media calling us names. In many jurisdictions around the world, we're seeing the development of legislation that prioritizes overly-broad copyright enforcement laws, laws promoted by power players, over the preservation of individual civil liberties. We want the Internet to be free and open, everywhere, for everyone. Aren’t SOPA/PIPA as they stand not even really a threat to Wikipedia? Won't the DNS provisions be removed? SOPA and PIPA are still alive, and they’re still a threat to the free and open web, which means they are a threat to Wikipedia. For example, in its current form, SOPA would require U.S. sites to take on the heavy burden of actively policing third-party links for infringing content. And even with the DNS provisions removed, the bill would give the U.S. government extraordinary, ambiguous, and loosely-defined powers to take control over content and information on the free web. Taking one bad provision out doesn't make the bills okay, and regardless, Internet experts agree they won't even be effective in their main goal: halting copyright infringement. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has published a really great post about some of the more dangerous SOPA and PIPA provisions. What can users outside of the U.S. do to support this effort? Readers who don't live in the United States can contact their local State Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or similar branch of government. Tell them that you oppose the draft U.S. SOPA and PIPA legislation, and all similar legislation. SOPA and PIPA will have a global effect - websites outside of the U.S. would be impacted by legislation that hurts the free and open web. And, other jurisdictions are grappling with similar issues, and may choose paths similar to SOPA and PIPA. Is it still possible to access Wikipedia in any way? The Wikipedia community, as part of their request to the Wikimedia Foundation to carry out this protest, asked us to ensure that we make English Wikipedia accessible in some way during an emergency. The English Wikipedia will be accessible on mobile devices and smart phones. You can also view Wikipedia normally by completely disabling JavaScript in your browser, as explained on this Technical FAQ page. I keep hearing that this is a fight between Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Is that true? No. Some people are characterizing it that way, probably in an effort to imply all the participants are motivated by commercial self-interest. But you can know it's not that simple, because Wikipedia has no financial self-interest here: we are not trying to monetize your eyeballs or sell you products. We are protesting to raise awareness about SOPA and PIPA solely because we think they will hurt the Internet, and your ability to access information. We are doing this for you. In carrying out this protest, is Wikipedia abandoning neutrality? We hope you continue to trust Wikipedia to be a neutral informational resource. We are staging this blackout because, although Wikipedia’s articles are neutral, its existence actually is not. For over a decade, Wikipedians have spent millions of hours building the largest encyclopedia in human history. Wikipedia's existence depends on a free, open and uncensored Internet. We are shutting Wikipedia down for you, our readers. We support your right to freedom of thought and freedom of expression. We think everyone should have access to educational material on a wide range of subjects, even if they can’t pay for it. We believe people should be able to share information without impediment. We believe that new proposed laws like SOPA and PIPA (and other similar laws under discussion inside and outside the United States) don’t advance the interests of the general public. That's why we're doing this. This is their message, but I agree with it. Fight the powers that be. Both the House and Senate was regarded by most of the country as complete sell-outs to the special interests of wealth

Sunday, January 15, 2012

HIPPIE BEACH BUMS by Peter Nolan Smith

The night breeze off the Pacific wreathed the coastal towns north of San Diego with a thin mist. The airy moisture clung to the flowers and fruit trees of Encinitas. The June sun seared through the overcast by late morning and the evaporation off the flowers created an intoxicating bouquet of scents unknown to the Eastern Seaboard.

Every morning after AK practiced on his friend’s piano till the sun burnt of the fog, then the two of us walked on a trodden path through acres of flower fields. The farmer was a young man with long hair. He was cool with us using the path as long as we didn’t pluck any of his hidden reefer crop.

We crossed the Pacific Coast Highway and headed to the parking lot atop the bluff. A steep trail zigzagged down the cliff to the beach. The sloping strand was shared by surfers, hippies, seagulls, and seals.

At first AK and I were thrashed by the huge waves, but a month of bodysurfing each days for hours had strengthened our arms and legs. We were tanned and my hair was bleached with blonde streaks. California was seducing us with its charm.

“What you think about staying here?” The wind wafted off the sea and I held out my arms like wings.

“We can’t crash at Dotty’s pad forever.” His friend’s bungalow had two small bedrooms.

“I know that.” I was sleeping on the porch. Encinitas got cold at night. “I was talking about California.”

“You mean not go back to Boston?” The New Yorker started a teaching job in the fall and a faithful girlfriend was waiting for him on the South Shore.

“It’s not like I have a job like you.” Recruiters from the banks and corporations had sneered at my sin laude diploma and regarded my stammer as a disability. I had only gone on the interviews to please my mother.

“But Boston is your home.” AK had left Long Island at the age of 18.

“I’ll always be from Boston no matter what.” Even last year’s Red Sox collapse hadn’t weakened my New England roots, but I wanted to see the world and said, “I like it here.”

“What’s there not to like.” AK admired our surroundings, as if he were the first white man to see this beach. “But we need to make some money

“I know.” My vacation stake was down to $200.

“That means a job.” AK stretched his body, as Dotty had taught him. She was into yoga.

“I know.” I had driven taxi back in Boston. They had to have cabs here. “If something came up, I’d stay.”

“Let’s see what happens.” He dropped his towel and assumed a racing stance with his hands on his knees. “What about another swim?”

“Sounds good.” Neither of us were ready to hit the road and we raced into the ocean for another session with the waves.

Later that afternoon AK plucked a familiar tune on the kalimba, while I was writing in my journal.

“I know that song.”

“Number 1 in America.” He rocked on his hips to ROCK THE BOAT. “C’mon, dance.”

“Not now?” I was trying to complete a poem about seeing the Rockies from the Great Plains.

“Let’s see what you wrote.” AK snatched away my journal and after reading a few lines, he said, “The key to writing is putting the seat of your trousers on the seat of the chair.”

“Who said that?”

“I think Graham Greene.” AK had a degree in English.

“I know who he is.” I had read THE POWER AND THE GLORY and OUR MAN IN HAVANA. Graham Greene was a great writer.

“My poems are nothing.” They didn’t even rhyme.

“Then keep at it.” AK played piano two hours in the morning and two at night. “Maybe one day your books will be next to his.”

“I doubt it.” Graham Greene’s name began with G and mine started with an S, but I lay on my stomach and scratched words describing the gleam of snow on faraway mountains.

High tide at the beach ran to the cliffs. AK and I climbed to the top of the bluff. A long-haired hippie in a flowered sarong was playing a flute. He came here every sunset. This time he nodded to AK.

“He any good?” I asked once we were out of earshot.

“Not bad, but he’s no Herbie Mann.”

“MEMPHIS UNDERGROUND.” I loved that swinging album with Larry Corryll on guitar, but I preferred the breathless pacing of Jeremy Stieg on HOWLING FOR JUDY.

We bought wine and vegetables for dinner and discussed jazz walking through the flower fields. I had argued for buying some meat, but Dorothy was a strict vegetarian. As her guests AK and I respected her wishes and we had eaten nothing but rice, vegetables, and beans for weeks.

My farting was terrible.

We entered her bungalow with the eastern sky turning to night. Dotty sat at the kitchen table sketching an apple by candlelight. Incense was burning next to the sink. The scent was jasmine. Its flower were collected after dark. AK looked over her shoulder.

“A still life.” Dotty was working as the breakfast waitress at an organic restaurant on the PCH and attending private art classes in La Holla. Her teacher was well-known for his seascapes and drinking. The slight brunette scheduled her classes for noon. By that time the artist had recovered from his hang-over.

“Is it any good?” All artists sought approval.

A glance at her journal confirmed that she had captured the rot on the apple with a stroke of a pencil.

“I wished that my poetry was as good as your drawing.”

“I’ve got a long way to go.” She put down her sketch book and helped us unload the groceries. “Victor’s coming this weekend.”

Her boyfriend had studied dance at the same college as AK and Dotty. He was working at a small movie studio as a choreographer. Every night Dotty lit candles in front of his photo on the wall and I swore that her lips moved, as she stared at his picture a semi-naked young man in a toga. The mousy brunette was very much in love.

“You want us to leave?” AK didn’t want to stand in the way of romance.

“No, Victor is looking forward to having a good time with all of us.” Dotty cooed with anticipation and fingered the ancient Byzantine gold chain around her neck. The brunette tried to act like she was broke, but her ethnic dresses were new and none of her shoes had holes in the soles. Her trust fund worth millions according to AK.

“I could make myself scarce.” I was freeloading on AK’s connection.

“No, he wants to meet you.” Dotty opened the bottle of red.

“Me?” Dotty had said maybe ten words to me in two weeks.

“I told him about your fight in the Haight, making love to lesbians in Big Sur, and your ex-girlfriend Jackie.” Dotty smiled with a sly shyness. “You didn’t think I was listening, did you?”

“To be truthful, no.” I had a tendency to tell long stories after a few drinks.

“I said you were a poet. He likes poetry. Maybe you can read him something of yours.”

“Sure.” I glanced at AK in panic.

“I like LUCKY’S RIDE.” It was an ode to broken hearts and country music.

“I’ll work on it a little.” I hadn’t read a poem aloud since high school and for the next three days on the beach I recited the poem until my stammer was gone.

“Listen to this.” I stood over AK. He was reading John Steinbeck’s CANNERY ROW.

“No way.” AK had heard the poem hundreds of times and clapped his hands over his ears. “I hear that fucking poem in my sleep. This isn’t an oral application to grad school. Demosthenes practiced his oration with pebbles in his mouth. Go recite your poem to the waves.”

AK turned his back to me.

“Thanks for the good advice.”

I walked down the beach for an hour and then back. The twenty lines were stuck in my head forever.

When I returned to our blanket, AK was sitting with the scrawny hippie from the bluff. Fragile sunglasses rested on his long nose, as he played guitar with a sturdy blonde banging at a tambourine. AK accompanied them on his African thumb piano.

I would have felt out of place in this musical menage a trois, if I hadn’t been staring at the blonde’s breasts. She wasn’t wearing a top. They stopped playing and AK introduced Rockford and Carol.

“Hi.” Carol wasn’t wearing a top. Her stubby nipples were erect from the wind.

“You seem interested in Carol.” Rockford looked up from his guitar.

“She reminds me of someone. I can’t think of who.” It wasn’t Jayne Mansfield, but Brigitte Bardot was close.

“I just seen a face I can’t remember the place.” Rockford segued into another Beatles song. It was the dreaded HEY JUDE.

“Watch out. He hates the Beatles.” AK warned the thin hippie.

“How can anyone hate the Beatles?” Rockford was visibly hurt by my rejection of his idols.

“It’s a long story.” And I told them about an 7th Grade girl spurning my love, because I didn’t look like any of the Beatles. “BEATLES 65 was the last record I bought.”

“She was right.” Carol lay on the sand. “You don’t look like any of the Beatles.”

“You want to go for a swim?”

Carol nodded yes and I helped the blonde to her feet. Rockford winked at me, as if to say Carol was free. I shrugged to reply that it didn’t matter and followed Carol to the edge of the sea. The shore break was a vicious maze of undertows.

“Is the water always this cold?” She dipped her toe into the spreading fan of a dying wave.

“Humboldt Current.” Geography was my best subject in grammar school and I drew its path in the sky. “Past Japan, Kamchatka, the Bering Sea down the West Coast to here. This coast knows nothing, but cold.”

“I’m from North Dakota. That’s cold.” Carol accepted the finality of the Pacific Ocean and plunged into the sea. She was a good swimmer and I swam after her to where several surfers bopped on their short boards. They greeted her by name. She had been on this beach for two years.

Twenty minutes later AK and Rockford swam out to us. The waves formed tubes of foam. The surfers cut across the face with ease. We rode them straight to the beach.

As a child on the South Shore of Boston my parents had packed the station wagon for a venture to the beach. Wollaston, Nantasket, and Horseneck beaches were nothing like Encinitas.

Exhausted after a half-hour the four of us dragged our bodies from the sea like shipwrecked sailors. Carol dried off, as AK, Rockford, and I smoked a joint of Acapulco Gold and laid back on the sand. I stared at the sky and remembered that I had forgotten about Viet-Nam, Watergate, and much more that was happening in America, for on the beach below Encinitas the world was simply sea, sun, skin, and sand.

The sunset signaled time to leave the beach.

Carol pulled on a macrame top. Her nipples were flattened under the tight net. Rockford pointed to the rising tide.

“We better go. Newcomers get caught against the cliffs all the time.” The solemnity of his voice indicated that not everyone survived the sneaky sea.

“We wouldn’t want that.” AK collected his things and we headed for the cliff path.

A minute later we were reached the bluff and surveyed the ocean with eyes of adoration.

“A fine day.” Rockford stared into the sun, as if it were his creation. “You should come to our house. We can play music and I have some serious LSD. Where better than here?”

The sky prismed red above the rim of the Pacific and Rockford pointed out a low bungalow surrounded by jasmine trees.

“Any time you want.” Rockford hooked his arm with Carol. “Later, brothers.”

AK watched the two enter the house.

“What you thinking?” I had to ask.

“That I wouldn’t mind not leaving here.” AK was in love with where we were at this moment.

“Me too.” We left the bluff with the sunset at our back. Tomorrow was six hours away from today and today was right where it was supposed to be in late June 1974.

California.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Bye Bye Barbara

Yesterday I received an email informing me of Ms. Carolina's demise. I went to the water temple in Sri Racha to pray for my good friend Barbara's safe passage. We had seen the world together. My three year-old son and I bought some fish to release into the sea for good luck. They swam away to a pier to where the monk lured them back to captivity for a repeat performance. As we walked back to the motorcycle, my son is asking why I'm crying. I told him a new star was in the sky. Fenway lifted his head and pointed to a twinkle. "Yes, that's the one. It's called Barbara." "Su-ay." He whispered in my ear. "Yes." For 'su-ay means beautiful in thai. I choked back the tears for a few seconds. A man is not supposed to cry in front of his son. Fenway wrapped his arms around my neck and wiped away the tears. "Barbara still here." His finger picked the same star in the heaven. "Yes, she is." I gave him a kiss and we rode home. The same star will appear tonight and every night throughout eternity. It has a new name.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Writing Tip 101A - Women Writer's Know Their Shit

The key to writing is putting the seat of your trousers to the seat of the chair - Mary Heaton Vorse, American journalist, labor activist, and novelist I wrongly attributed this quote to another author. A man. Graham Greene to be exact. I was wrong. It wasn't the first time and it won't be the last, but I'll trying to be better. Even women can't expect more than that. Wrong again.

10 Years In Gitmo

The September 11 attacks on America changed the rules of warfare for the United States. The nation craved revenge and the first taste was served in Afghanistan with the defeat of the Taliban. Hundreds of prisoners were transferred from the theater of war to the US Naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. These detainees were subjected to the incarceration without any rights to a trial or legal counsel. The Bush administration claimed that these inmates were the worst of the worst and the American public accepted this situation, despite its questionable benefit to the war effort. Torture, abuse, suicide, and murder at the prison shamed America all over the world. Even worse was happening in the CIA retention cells across the world. Both GW Bush and Barack Obama have attempted to close the prison. No one wants them stateside, so the last 171 detainees are stuck in limbo ten years after their capture. The cost per year for each prisoner is $800,000. Convicts in America run the State around $40,000 per year, but there are over two million of those. And the Gitmo prisoners would last in general population about a day. Like Philip Nolan in A MAN WITHOUT A COUNTRY, the Gitmo prisoners have nowhere to go. Certainly not until after the election.

Goodbye Old Tooth

West 4th Street's basketball court on 6th Avenue attracted the best talent in the five boroughs in the late 70s. Passers-by clung to the chain link fence, as the players ran the short distance between the steel backboards. Most streetballers were devoted to offensive, but I was welcomed into games, because of my defense. My teammates depended on my stopping the big man and no one ever dunked on me. One afternoon in 1978 a young baller from the Bronx kept driving to the hoop. I refused to give way to the hole. The contact between us belonged more on a football field than 'The Cage'. I hooked his arm, bumped his shoulders, and slapped his shooting elbow. Each foul was accompanied by an apology. "If you were sorry, you wouldn't do this shit. You're nothing, but a fucking hack." The muscular guard lifted his hands for the hand. His dribble blazed from left to right. He wanted points. "You may be right, but you're not scoring in the paint this game." I was a hack. Scoring was secondary to neutralizing my opponent. My team needed only three points from me to win a game. My adversary shifted to his right. My left hand tipped the ball from his dribble. Our guard dashed to the opposite end of the court. It was an easy basket. "Defense versus offensive. It's all part of the game." I should have kept my mouth shut. Ragging another player only brought out their best or worst. My opponent backed to the hoop. His team cleared out the zone. This was a one-on-one play for the win only this time he wasn't looking for a score. His left elbow winged over my shoulder and contacted with my mouth. Blood spurted from a gash inside my cheek. He wheeled and made a one-handed lay-up. It was a dirty play made dirtier by his trying to hurt me. Both teams had to separate us from going to blows. Everyone suggested that I go home. The other player was a known gang member. Guns were easy to find in Washington Square Park. I accepted their advice and walked to my apartment in the East Village thinking about revenge. It was not a healthy thought and I avoided the Cage in favor of the basketball court in Tompkins Square Park. No one fought there. It was a three-minute walk from my front door. My nickname was 'The Butcher'. I moved to Paris in the early 80s to work the door at several nightclubs. Fights were rare. The food was exceptional, especially the bread. One afternoon I bit into a thick-crusted baguette. A tooth on my lower left jaw cracked into shards. No doubt the molar had been damaged by the guard's elbow. A dentist explained that many people broke teeth on a baguette and the two choice were extraction or a root canal with a cap. I opted for the latter. Only hillbillies and the British didn't care about gaps in their teeth. The gold crown stayed in place, until it came loose during a meal in Kensington with a female painter. She laughed hearing that I had swallowed the cap and said, "It'll show up in the next day or so." She was right and I felt the crown passing out of my body. I rescued it from the toilet and the dentist in Paris reset the cap on my tooth. Another nine years passed before this tooth resumed its troubled existence. I noticed a small blister after getting a # 2 buzz-cut in a Fulham barber shop. My friend, Sam Royalle, suggested a quick visit to the dentist. His sound advice was rejected since my flight to Thailand was leaving Heathrow that evening and I figured that the tooth was safe until I arrived in Bangkok. I was wrong. The blister infected my jar and the left side of my face was swollen by the painful abscess. The customs official grimaced looking at my face. I must have resembled Frankenstein with the skinhead and distorted face, but he stamped my passport with a month's visa. I directed the taxi driver to a dentist on Soi Duplei near the Malaysia Hotel. She had cleaned my teeth a year ago. Once more there were two options; extraction or see the results of an antibiotic injection and treatment. My teeth weren't white, but food was easy to eat with a full set of chompers. Every trip to Thailand included a visit to the dentist on Soi Duplei. My teeth remained intact, despite the increasing frequency of losing a tooth dreams. The various interpretations such as my diminishing looks and strength, my hitting 50, the fear of becoming an old fool One gay friend suggested these dreams were a sign of sexual repression. "You've been straight too long." I remained a reformed straight to the present, but my dentist on Soi Duplei had bad news for me this week. "The tooth has to come out. It has cracked in two." Her business has expanded to three floors and the equipment is state of the art. "What are the other choices?" "This time only one choice." "Extraction." The other options had been eliminated over the years and I agreed to have the tooth pulled this morning. The entire procedure took thirty minutes. Afterward my dentist explained the new set of options. "The gum is too damaged for an implant. A bridge requires putting caps on the teeth on either side of the gap. A denture is easy and cheap and there is always the do nothing option." She further informed me that the gums needed 2-3 months to heal before the next step. "Can I have the old tooth." It had been with me over fifty years. "Sure." My dentist made a face and dropped the shattered tooth into a plastic tube. It was no longer part of me like the hair on the barber's floor, but the old molar deserved a better fate than a waste bin. The silver and gold in the crown had to be worth a good bottle of wine from a gold shop on 47th Street. I put the tube in my pocket and left the dentist. My tooth was going home, unless I lost the tube on the way and with me that possibility was always an option. photo is from the balajo in paris 1985

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

TOO LATE FOR THE HAIGHT by Peter Nolan Smith

The bus from Sacramento crossed the Bay Bridge in light traffic. Most everyone in the Bay Area had off Memorial Day. The uniformed driver took the first exit to the Transbay Terminal and parked in the depot. I grabbed my bag from the storage compartment underneath the bus and entered the station.

Holiday passengers were forming queues for destinations north, south, and east. They were mostly military and college students. Commuters had stayed home for the day.

I walked onto Beale Street into the intense noontime sun. The temperature was much cooler than the Central Valley and I set my canvas travel on a wooden bench to pull a light leather jacket.

"Man, you looking for a place to crash?" a scraggly long hair in dirty denim and a soiled paisley jacket asked, while scratching a sore on his neck.

"No, I'm good." I had been warned about rip-offs by overly friendly hippies and slung my bag over my left shoulder. The muscles and joints of my right were bruised from the security guards in Reno tossing me from a casino.

"Clean and your own bed. You give what you can afford. My name's Omo. Stands for On My Own. We're a cool commune. Lots of chicks too. You into chicks?" Omo followed me at a safe distance.

"Leave me alone." I glared back at him with the promise of a punch.

"Suit yourself. You don't know what you'll be missing." Omo stuck his hands into the jacket and turned back to the station.

The Summer of Love had ended seven years ago.

Now junkies and speed thieves preyed on unsuspecting hippies following the acid trail of 1967. The wide-eyed faithful were easy marks for the vultures haunting the bus station and I crossed the street headed toward Mission Street with the slender spire of the Transamerica Building rising to the north.

Six days ago I had left Boston in a drive-away station wagon bound for Lodi, California. The owner was relieved to have his Ford Torino delivered without mishap. My friend AK had headed south on I-5. I was going to meet him in Encinitas sometime next week. Buses and trolleys traversed the peninsula to the ocean. I intended to cover the short distance by foot. I wasn't in a hurry.

Lunch at a small Mexican diner consisted of enchiladas, rice, and beans. The waitress kept coming with extra tortillas. I paid with a twenty-dollar bill and tipped the young counter girl a dollar on a $2 check. She deserved more.

"Mucho gracias." She smiled with gleaming white teeth.

"Da nada." Jack Keroauc had picked grapes in a migrant camp and fallen in with a girl who probably was related to this one. I could see why.

I veered off Mission at Haight and strolled on the south side of the street to avoid the sun. The Fillmore West had been shut for two years. Quicksilver, Moby Grape, and the Jefferson Airplane had abandoned this city for the country. Empty houses bore fire scars and the hard-faced gangs lingered on the stoops of boarded-up apartment buildings. Heroin and speed had ripped the heart out of Haight-Ashbury. No one was wearing flowers in their hair this year with good reason.

"Yo, man, it's me, Omo." The hippie from the bus station shouted from the grassy slope Buena Vista Park corner. A very thin teenage girl in a filmy dress was holding his hand. She wasn't wearing any underwear. Omo and the girl jumped onto the sidewalk. "Yo, man, this is Floral. She's one of the girls at the commune. She likes young guys like you, don't you, Floral?"

"You have nice eyes." Floral spoke with a dead voice. The pale-skinned redhead was about 15. She sported shooting tracks on the inside of her stick arms. My sister was her age.

"Thanks." I kept walking at a steady pace, having noticed another long-haried junkie on the opposite side of the street. He was watching the three of us with too much interest to be a passer-by. This was a set-up.

"Yo, man, where you going? We live around the corner. Let's go up there and chill." Omo wasn't giving up on me. Opportunities at the bus station were slim on Memorial Day. His voice was on edge. He needed a score. I was it.

"Yeah, man, come with us and we can all get it on." Smack had hit America hard in the early 70s and Floral was one of its many casualties. She pulled on my arm with the strength of a blood-weak vampire. "I'll do anything."

"She really means anything." Omo lifted her dress to the waist. The gap between her legs was wide than a hand. "Anything is Floral's specialty."

"Thanks for the offer, but I got places to go." I shrugged off her weak grasp and broadened my gait.

"$20 will get you an hour of heaven." Omo wasn't giving up so easy.

"So you're her pimp?" I hadn't been with a woman for a long time, but I had never paid for sex.

"That's an uncool word." Omo smirked with unwavering perseverance. "I'm her coach. What about it? You can do a lot of anything in an hour."

"No." I was at the end of my patience and pushed him hard.

"Sorry, to bug you, man. I didn't realize you were queer." Omo shouted in a loud voice and gave me the finger. He was a sore loser.

"Fuck you too." I muttered under my breath to avoid any escalation of this encounter.

Two years ago the hippie scene had been on its last legs. A few head shops lurked in a state of decay along the famed strip, but the long-hairs were outnumbered by openly gay men in plaid shirt, tight jeans, and work boots. They had brothers in New York and Boston. These men openly stared at my crotch and commented lewdly, as if they were sailors on leave. Judging for the shortness of their hair, several might have been stationed on Treasure Island with the Pacific Fleet.

San Francisco had belonged to the Beats in the 1950s. The hippies had inherited the city in the 60s. This decade was owned by men in love with men, even if that love lasted a few minutes. I kept walking west.

I reached Golden Gate Park with Kezar Stadium on my left. I strolled through the empty parking lot. The gates were locked with chains. The 1974 football season was a long way away from the end of May.

Almost a hundred thousand young people flocked to San Francisco in the Spring of 1967. The gathering of the tribes lasted one long summer. The Haight was not big enough to handle that many people at one time and the fall saw an exodus of those disenchanted with the chaos, but it was still a beautiful day.

Mexican families were burning meat on barbecues and a dozen baseball games between Latino squads were in progress on a well-trodden field. A few hippies were tossing frisbees on the edge of the lawn. Marijuana wafted on a cool breeze scented with salt. The ocean was getting close.

Few pedestrians strolled on the paths past Stow Lake. Collarless dogs ran in packs through the underbrush. A wilderness survived at the edge of the city. It was not safe and I was being followed by three men and a woman. Two of them were Omo and Floral. This meeting was not a coincidence.

A fist-sized rock lay in the dirt. I bent over, as if to tie my shoe. The four of them were too far away to notice that I was wearing boots. The rock was smooth in my hand. I stood up and continued in the same direction. There was no place to run.

The confrontation came the other side of a small lake. Omo and Floral stood in my path and the other two approached from behind. I didn't put down my bag. The young girl stood in back of Omo. She was pushing him forward. The other two were a Latino in a leather vest with a bandana around his head and the long-hair from the Haight. A scar bisected his face. It had not come from a duel. He was the first one to speak. Scar had nothing good to say."

"Man, heard you didn't want Floral." Scar spoke slow, as if he wanted me to hear every word.

"I wasn't in the mood."

"That's too bad, because that would have been easy for everyone." Scar whipped out a knife. The blade was four inches long. The Latino balled his fists. Omo smiled with anticipation and Floral said, "Do it. Do it."

They were a team. It was four-on-one on paper. None of them had seen the rock in my hand.

"Give us the bag and your money." The greasy-haired hippie flourished the knife with a shaking hand. He was jonesing big time.

I slipped the bag off my left shoulder and held it out. The four of them seemed pleased with my surrender and Scar reached out with his left hand. Desperation left a big opening and I swung my fist in a wide loop to open-palm his skull with the rock in my hand. I hadn't pulled my punch and Scar dropped the knife. His body hit the ground at the same time. I picked up the knife and turned to Omo.

"Are we done?" I slipped the rock inside my jacket pocket. It had served its purpose.

"Yeah, man, we're cool." Omo lifted his hands in submission. The Latino robber backed away several feet.

"Then have a nice day." I pocketed the knife and kicked the fallen thief in the ribs twice. It was not for show.

I walked away from my disappointed attackers looking over my shoulder several times until I reached the South Drive. Cars sped along the park road. I was safe again.

"Hey, you."

Floral ran up to me.

"Can I go with you?" She was out of breath.

"Where you from?" I didn't expect her to tell the truth. She was a runaway.

"Kansas, same as Dorothy. Where you going?" She bit her lip, hoping I might say Hollywood.

"Nowhere special." In her state Floral couldn't make it much farther than Route 1 before going to the village of Cold Turkey. I pulled $10 out of my pocket. She didn't deserved it, but today was the day after my birthday. "This get you straight."

"A little." She snatched the bill like a banana-hungry monkey in a cage. "Another ten and we can go into the bushes."

"Thanks, Floral, but I really have to be going." There was no telling what she was carrying and I wasn't going to find out. "You take care of yourself."

"I'm tougher than I look." Her smile was missing a tooth. Life was tough on the street.

"I'm sure you are." I was on my summer vacation and Floral wasn't the type of girl to save in a single day.

I left her on the roadside and ten minutes later crossed the Great Highway to stand on a sloping strand of sand. The sun was three hours from setting in the west. The cold from the ocean chilled my flesh. No one was swimming in the surf. I took the rock and knife from my jacket and threw them into a wave. Neither appeared from the surge.

I turned around to San Francisco.

Cars were heading north and south on the coastal road. I walked to the curb and stuck out my thumb. A Tempest convertible stopped within two minutes. The marine on holiday was headed to Daly City. I jumped in the car. Ten minutes later we left the city by the bay and sadly it felt good leaving, but only until the wind swept through my hair.

The hippie was dead.

The road lived on forever.

TO THE DOOR by Peter Nolan Smith

I-5 ran south out of Sacramento. The day was getting hot in the Central Valley and AK cranked up the Torino's AC. I turned around several times to be disappointed that Carol wasn't in the backseat. A whisper of her rose attar fragrance clung to the car. She and her Joni Mitchell tape were on a bus to Mendocino, but the nursing student was not gone.

"Think it will work out with her boyfriend?" AK had liked Carol from the start. She smelled good.

"He's a doctor. The dream husband for every mothers' daughter." I was playing hardball with his hopes. Her girlfriend had left me for someone else a year ago.

Carol was no Jackie.

The blonde was easy to like, even if she thought me a fool after my fiasco in Reno. I rubbed my shoulder, trying to remember, if I had fallen down last night. "I met him once. Sorry to say, but he was cool. Besides you already have a girlfriend."

"On the other side of the country." They had been lovers since college. Annie wanted kids. AK was pursuing a musical career in funk. The New Yorker wasn't close to being black, except when he played the electric piano.

"Meaning?" With my eyes closed I heard a young Herbie Hancock.

"That three thousand miles is a long way from home." He was driving the station wagon a little over 55. The California Highway Patrol had a long history of busting anyone not fitting their notion of a good American whether they be an Okie, a Mexican, a hobo or a hippie like AK and me. He started singing BORN TO BE WILD by Steppenwolf.

"Looking for adventure and whatever comes our way."

I joined him on the chorus. The song was an anthem for the road ever since it was featured in EASY RIDER. AK laughed at my effort.

"What's wrong?" I had a good idea what was so funny.

"Just that you sounded like Tony Bennett."

The comparison was almost a compliment and I segued to I LEFT MY HEART IN SAN FRANCISCO, substituting Carol for heart. Now it was my time to laugh.

"Feeling more human?" AK exited the interstate at Route 12. The fields were rowed with fertile vines weighty with the grapes of 1974. Lodi was wine country.

"Better than this morning." I had woken up along the bank of the Truckee River with no money in my wallet, thinking that I had blown my vacation at a blackjack table in Reno.
"You know not telling me that my money wasn't gone was mean."

"Like I said in Sacramento. It was for your own good." Lodi was laid out in a grid with the railroad determining which side of the tracks was the better part of town. AK held the owner's direction in his left hand.

“Was I that bad?” My hangover answered my question, but AK could fill in the blanks.

“I didn't want to say anything in front of Carol in case she said anything to your old girlfriend. After you lost the day's winning, I gave you another $300 and stashed the rest. You threatened to punch me, if I didn’t. Carole lent you $20 once you blew the three hundred. I paid her back from your money." AK was my good friend. We had lived next to each other in Boston. He didn't have to pull any punches. "After she crashed in the car, but you got ugly."

"How ugly?"

"Make a train take a dirt road ugly." AK flicked up the left turn signal. East Oak Street lay a few blocks to the north. "The security guards tossed you out around midnight and you tried to storm the front door. The bouncers were nice enough not to punch you out, but they did rough you up."

"That explains my shoulder." I hadn't fallen, but been thrown to the ground.

"One more thing." AK looked in the mirror, then turned right. The neighborhood was neat and tidy. " You were yelling that you wanted the police to arrest the casino owners for stealing your birthday.

“Funny?” Humor was a question of delivery.

"More pathetic than funny at the time, but more funny today." AK braked by the curb.

Jake was watering the lawn in pressed khaki trousers and an immaculate white tee-shirt. The white one-story bungalow was topped by a brick-red tiled roof contrasting the soft blue shutters. Two orange trees provided shade and fruit. Everyone else in the neighborhood had cut down theirs.

A buxom blonde in a garden dress was tending to the flowers. His wife was a good-looking woman and Lodi looked like a fine place for an ex-Marine to live.

Jake turned off the hose and waved to us with a smile. Californians loved their automobiles.

"All good things must come to an end." AK shut off the engine and opened the door. The air was thick with warmth. I got out of the car too. It had been a good ride.

"Wasn't expecting you for another day." He walked around the Torino searching for dents or scratches. "Where's Carol?"

"She caught a bus for Mendocino in Sacramento. She wanted us to tell you thanks." Few men forgot Carol.

"If it wasn't for her, I would have never let you two take the car." We existed on other sides of the Generation Gap, even though Jake was ten years younger than my father.

"Nothing personal, but I don't have much use for hippies. What's that lump in your pocket?"

"Quarters."

"From Reno?" There was only one pass over the Sierras. "Have any luck?"

"A little bit of good and the same in bad."

"Ha." The owner of the Torino was pleased by my loss.

I hadn't figured him for mean in Jamaica Plain.

"Jake, leave those two boys alone," his wife snapped with scissors in hand. Her eyes were green and the blonde hair a gift from her genes. "They drove your car all the way cross country. Is it okay?"

He leaned his head into the car. The station wagon smelled brand-new after the deluxe treatment at the car wash.

"Sorry, old habits are hard to kick." The apology was more for his wife's ears than ours. "You made good time."

"I drove 55 most of the way." AK pulled the drive-away company's contract from his wallet. He had rarely pushed the V8 over 70. Carol and I had been the speed demons

"And you?" The forty year-old kicked the tires.

"I opened it up once in Utah." My father examined the tires of his Olds 88 with a shoe. It was something men their age learned from their fathers. I grabbed my bags from the back of the station wagon.

"How fast?" Men from out West understood driving fast. It was Big Country territory.

"121. It might have had ten more miles per hour in it."

"Good man. My personal best was 126," Jake stated with pride. "That 428 pulls its weight."

"
I got out of the car and grabbed my bagIf we had driven 55, I think we'd still be in Colorado." 55 was top speed for a car at the turn of the century.

"It's a stupid law." Jake pulled a pen from his shirt pocket and signed his name on the contract. "Looks like you didn’t hit nothing, so we're good."

"Have any problem from the police?" Jake had better things to do than chase us for a $25 speeding ticker from Iowa.

"None, we were good citizens." I doubted if he smelled the weed on AK. "One small thing."

"How small?" He braced for the bad news.

"A couple of times when we stopped for gas, people thought Carol was Patti Hearst."

"Are they blind? Patti Hearst can't hold a torch to Carol." Jake was in agreement the opinion of every man of our trip. Carol was special.

"You boys care for something to eat?" His wife had forced a truce.

"We're hippies. We love free food." A sandwich would be good. as long as it didn't come from the Hari Krishnas or Salvation Army. Even long-hairs had their limits.

His wife returned to caring for her flowers and Jake took inside the house. The layout of the furniture was sparse and the simple decor was particular to white suburbs throughout America. AK and I felt right at home, if we were living with our parents.

Family photos, medals, and basketball awards were arranged by decades within a tall glass display case. Jake was a handsome groom in his dress whites. His wife was a blonde double for Marilyn Monroe. A young man with short hair held a basketball in his hands.

"Who's the hoopster?" AK asked in earnest. He had been the starting point guard for his high school team on Long Island. Smoking pot had increased his dislike of the authoritarian coach at the cost of playing minutes. On the playgrounds of Boston he drove to the basket with two points on his mind.

"My son, Mark. He was the star forward for the Lodi Flames. 13 points a game and 5 rebounds. I dreamed about him going to college, but he enlisted in the Marines after graduation. I pulled strings to keep him in-country. He wanted to see the Show." Jake's weakening voice forecasted the climax to this story.

"Sorry." I had graduated a year before his son. College students in New England didn't go to the Show.

"I blamed you protestors for his death. That damned Richard Nixon said he was going to bring our troops home in 1968. You didn't protest enough and you cared more about the Vietnamese than your own." Jake touched the glass panel before his son's photo, as if his hand could touch the dead

"We did our best." I had been against the War since 1969. I met Jackie at a demonstration condemning the bombing of Hanoi. We made love the same night. Jake was right. Our chants of 'Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh Ho Chi Minh is going to win' outnumbered our shouts for 'Bring the troops home'.

"I was in the Marines for twenty years. Every marine said that they did their best. I was what was expected." Jake inhaled a deep breath. His exhale whistled a single sibilant note. He was counting to ten. "I was a Marine. My son was a Marine. My grandson will say 'Semper Fi' in his turn."

"He had a son?" Mark was my age. I had never impregnated a woman. He had a life.

"A boy named Jake." The ex-marine shivered with the last silver lining. "Be three this weekend. I was pissed at him for knocking up his girlfriend back then. I'm of a different mind about that now."

"Times change." AK understood that epitaphs are the chorus of reflection.

"That they do." Jake grit his teeth and turned to us. The moment was dammed behind a wall of "Semper Fi. He was a grandfather. I put his hand on my bad shoulder and fought off a grimace. "I hope you hippie boys aren't vegetarians. I cook a mean burger."

"I am an omnivore. As a kid in Maine I ate whale." A clam shack on Portland Harbor sold whale from time to time. "It tasted great."

"Then you're in for a treat."

When I was a boy in Maine, once a week during the short summer my parents packed us into their Ford Station Wagon for a trip to Benson's Grove. The burgers were served with a special relish unknown to the rest of America.

Jake's sauce came close. He opened a bottle of Zinfandel. AK had a glass. I had two. At 22 recovery from a hangover depended on solutions. The burger had saved my life. Jake's wife joined us for the second bottle. AK played his African thumb piano. They were delighted by the magical plinking of flesh on metal resonating in the wooden box.

His wife packed us cold-cut sandwiches and kissed us on the cheek.

Jake's wife must have driven the postman crazy.

"You really going to hitchhike now?" Jake had offered to drive us to I-5.

"I'm going to San Diego." AK had given me his friend's telephone number in Encinitas. I had a pocket filled with quarters.

"I-5 will take you there. What about you?" Jake started the car and gave it the gas. The last tank had been premium.

"I'm thinking about heading over to the coast to take the Pacific Coast Highway south." It felt good to be in the Torino again.

"No way to hitchhike there from here, unless you like the hiking part of hitchhiking." Jake waved to his wife and she blew him a kiss. He wouldn't be gone long. "Better you take a bus into the City. The PCH is right down the end of Golden Gate Park."

Jake gave each of us $20 and another $20 to AK.

"Give that to Carol when you see her. You did a good job."

Jake drove AK to the highway. He got out of the Torino for the last time. I-5 had a lot of traffic heading south. It was a little past noon.

"See you in San Diego." AK took up position a few feet in front of the sign forbidding pedestrian or hitchhikers on the highway.

We waited for him to get a ride. A Cadillac stopped within five minutes. AK threw a power fist in the air and jumped in the big car.

"A good friend?" Jake headed back into town. My bus was in twenty minutes.

"The best." I would be broke without him. Now I was on my own for the next few days. It was a good thing Nevada was in the opposite direction. I knew no one in San Francisco. This was a new world.