Category Archives: divine intervention
I am 28 years old and I sleep with a stuffed animal. Fortunately, I don’t have trouble sleeping without him, like if I am sleeping elsewhere or if there is an actual four year old in the house that needs him. I don’t know if he is restless when I am away, we have never talked about it.
Read the rest of this entry
The feeling of being loved or not being loved is not circumstantial.
I can feel alone anywhere in the world, in any crowd, in any set of eyes or arms.
Most of the love that has been here for me in my life has not been translatable. I haven’t received it, haven’t felt it or believed in it. I am having specific kinds of memories lately, sudden flashes of times when people have been showing me they loved me and I have missed the ball completely.
Read the rest of this entry
For those who are not familiar with the phrase ‘flying a sign’ it is a term used for making money by displaying yourself prominently with a cardboard sign expressing your need. They can be simple like ‘HUNGRY ANYTHING HELPS’ or more intricate like ‘FAMILY KIDNAPPED BY ALIENS SPARE CHANGE FOR ROCKET FUEL’. Read the rest of this entry
Was it the skunk spraying my dog or the dog chasing the skunk that saved my life that night?
The dreams were awful under that bridge.
We had been hitchhiking since dawn out of Portland. We were headed east, headed for Denver, for rivers and inter tubes and 40’s getting warm too fast like they aught to in the summer but never do in Washington. We barely made it 40 miles and I swear we walked most of it.
We were at four corners. Four corners is a place out of place. You can find it in any state, several times some of the time. A place where two freeways cross each other and a truck stop is sitting at each cardinal point. It’s a place made by concrete and named for how square it is. There are other types of four corners but this one is the most commonly known to many a modern american.
It had long since grown dark. We bought a couple of beers with a pile of coins that the cashier didn’t bother counting. That was good for us because it included some Canadian and at least one chucky cheese token, may have also been where my lucky bingo chip ended up.
We walked south down the smallest road leading out of there. We were looking for a nice bush, nothing fancy, just cozy. We saw a string of lights outlining a bridge not to far down the way.
Under it we found nothing too strange. There was a fire pit with the last occupants empties in it. There was a line of bushes where water used to be; the brush was thick past there. We drank and rolled out our beds. My dog, Skrap, was tied to my backpack. It wasn’t heavy enough to stop him but it slowed him to just less then my speed. This was important if a cop was to come down. I agree that it is very rude to wake people up but, in my dogs’ best interest, I still had to be able to catch him before he mauled an officer of the law.
I fell right to sleep.
The sleep was strange; something was strange.
There was something on top of me in my dream, something choking me, my eyes were open but I could not see anything but the bottom of the bridge. I couldn’t breathe. I was panicked.
I woke to Skrap taking off running faster than ever into the bushes. He was hollering loud, the kind that is reserved for real danger. The leash snapped and he was gone. My partner was sitting up, scared. I was aware of this all happening before I sat up because I couldn’t move for a little too long. I was awake but my body wasn’t responding to me telling it to get up.
He turned to me and shook me and with that stimulation my connectors kicked back in. I sat up. He said we should get out of there. I said why. The dream was already fading. He said we should get out of there.
I yelled for Skrap so much. We could hear him tearing through the bushes but he was not listening. My friend was shaken up. I was very groggy. I tried to convince him we should go back to sleep. Skrap would leave whatever it was alone eventually and we could leave at first light.
My friend was pale.
I started to lie down again but Skrap came back. He had been skunked. Fuck. There was no sleeping in that smell. Even under an entire bridge it was suffocating. Not to mention the fact that we would never get a ride farther east with him like that.
We packed it up and walked back to the gas stations. We had to go back to Portland and stick Skrap in a vat of tomato juice or something. There was still something going on with my friend but he was not saying anything to me. He found a guy headed back west willing to put us in the back of his open pick up truck. The sun came up in the gorge as we rode snuggled in our sleeping bags. Bless him; he dropped us right on the doorstep of the Garfield House.
We put Skrap in the tub. There was no tomato juice but there was ten years worth of roommates leaving half full bottles of smelly shampoo. We covered him in everything. By the end of it he still smelled like a skunks ass but more like an elite skunks ass.
We stayed another night. We went to a party with all kinds of cocktails. We drank a glass of water between each of the twelve we both drank. We were pretending that would help us still get an early start.
He told me about the dream his third or fourth drink in. He had a dream that he could not tell was a dream, everything was just like it was when we went to sleep except in this dream he woke up and where I had been was only a small pool of something like water. He said it was the scariest dream he ever didn’t know he was dreaming and that is when Skrap woke him up.
The next day we left, midday and we got a few very smooth, very long rides and we were in Denver in no time.
I don’t want to know what was there besides the three of us.
Thank you Skrap. Thank you skunk. Thank you for every time a person is protected before they know well enough to protect themselves.
It is a story best told by Grandpa, but I will do my best to give the gist of it. Grandpa had been pretty sick ever since we had left the bay. Various symptoms digestive and otherwise had afflicted him. These symptoms were above and beyond what was common for our kind of diet and alcohol consumption. They included tremors, fevers, flashes and all kinds of not funs but none of them in any order or pattern that was familiar to me.
One night, in the bus, as Grandpa and Otay hung out alone, the sickness came worse than ever. Grandpa seriously thought he might die, like he had been poisoned or possessed or something. He was laying there, to sick to get help when Otay crawled onto his chest. Otay proceeded to do an elaborate dance that Grandpa later described but that I believe is best left unpublished. The dance took place down the length of Grandpas body and he said he could feel the sickness moving around, following Otay.
When Otay reached his feet he shook the sickness right out of them. A very tired Otay then came to Grandpas lips and drank drank drank.
That mystery illness never came back after that night.
Born the end of July 2007 all the way, died the beginning of June 2009
Survived by his living roof, Knee-otni McNett
At a rat ranch in rural Oregon, close enough to Eugene that one could meet their quota of self serving hippie bullshit and far enough away that one could still be who one was, where a lot of beautiful people lived off a combination of moonshine, Wal-Mart and giant home grown vegetables, Otay was born.
The rat ranch was the sort of place where rats were born and not so much raised. Rather they were sold as domestic snake food or sold to pet stores. The difference between a pet rat and a food rat was how colorful they were to the human eye.
Funny thing, people paid more for rats to feed to their pet snakes if the rats were already dead. It was like a denial tax. There o the property was a gas chamber built from an old beer cooler. Rats who had the misfortune of being born white with pink eyes were often killed there then shrink-wrapped and shipped.
Otay was born with 5 or 8 siblings, a pink, bald, blind little critter. He was unaware, as he suckled, that the shoebox-sized drawer they lived in would become very small, very fast. Under his mamas comforting weight his skin changed colors. It greyed around his face and tiny neck, an indicator of what color his precious fur would grow and in what patterns.
After he had grown just the first little bit of said fur, armor if you will, his little eyes cracked open for the first time. The box, however dark, dank and crowded, must have seemed huge in that moment. Unbeknownst to Otay, he was not far from discovering just how big this new world was.
Soon he began to wiggle, then to chatter, then to hop. Occasionally a blinding light would wash over him and his family. The food bowl would be wiped out of pee soaked morsels and they were replaced with fresh ones by giant faceless hands. He learned about the water pipe that came through the light crack.
For the hopeful possibility of future breakouts, I will not disclose the precise way that Otay escaped, nor will I give the details of his accomplices. Though you can be sure it was an amazing story he told often when he had a little wine in him.
Instead, we jump like Otay! There he is running for his life on the tiny edge of wood planks that created the structure that supported the little plastic rat filled drawers up along the wall, 8 high and 30 long. Every few feet he was evading a ginormous wall of calloused flesh that smelled like engine grease and 1000 other rats.
Through a series of what life is made of, those crazy turns, friendships, love and a universal sense of humor, I happened to be standing in the middle of the same room at the exact time when Otay was exercising his freedom for the first time.
The man who belonged to the hands that seemed to be every direction our young hero turned, was flailing around like a ballerina on speed, bending over quickly to catch glimpses of the escapee and then shoving an arm that barely fit, in and out between rat boxes. Eventually and all at once his closed fist popped out of the wall. Otay was wrapped and almost smothered in warm and rough.
I had rescued a half starved ferret I lovingly called Jaws earlier that year and as a result had developed a rather healthy fear of being bitten repeatedly by any small mammal. My scarred fingertips avoided holding them all together at that point in time.
It was an inconvenient fear and I was looking to loose it. I asked to hold the little fellow. Perhaps his tinnier, cuter mouth could act as a gateway for my willingness to interact physically again with yet larger small mammals. Thankfully I did not know then that even a rat the size that Otay was in that moment, can bite with 333 pounds of pressure if they get a mind to.
Otay breathed heavily in his hot seat as I was warned that he was in a stage of rat development known as hopper and that he would likely try to make a jump for it if he saw the opportunity. As the sentence ended the hand that held our sweetheart, our captive, this stories sweetheart, was opening. As soon as Otay saw a piece of light his size he leapt for all he was worth into the unknown.
Where he landed was on my shirt just above my left breast. As quick as day he followed his guts up to my collar and down my shirt where he found my right hip, the perfect ledge upon which to rest and collect himself. For the next six hours he stayed on that hip…collecting himself.
As it happens, if one rat escapes from an institution like that and then is returned to the population it is likely that he will teach all of the rats, seemingly by osmosis, how he did it and then…RAT MADNESS.
So as Otay sat n his new flesh couch cleaning his paws and sneezing, I learned that he was doomed for the cooler, or better yet the next pet store run. He did, after all, possess a rather attractive grey hood with little white diamonds that began in the middle of his ears and ran down into the white that was the rest of his body.
I pretended that it was I who decided that day to welcome Otay into the little family that was my world-renowned canine companion, Skrapen Lacken and myself. In reality, Otay called that shot, and it was only the first of many.
When I was 13 my world was changing. I was touched by a divine insight. I knew rather suddenly that the world of my parents and teachers was make believe, that all of my dreams would come true but not if I stayed, barely surviving the daily brutality of lonesome hallways and violent rooms.
Somehow, though I had never seen it done, I knew I could just go. I knew I could just stop everything. I knew I couldn’t say no but I could run from what I would have said no to.
After my first leap of faith, out of clean sheets and into dirty streets, I was handed out of a police station into my Dads car and out of my Dads car onto my sisters’ couch.
The year before, when I had still lived with my mom, my toe had ached every night. It was the big toe on my left foot. Every night it would ache so badly it woke me up.
In the daytime it never hurt.
I knew something magical had to be occurring.
It was the year in the South Puget Sound when it rained for 93 days straight. A constant drip, sometimes a drizzle, sometimes a downpour, but it never quit completely in those months.
I finally figured that my toe was weather predicting. Every night it hurt and every day it was still raining.
When the spring came and the rain stopped, I made my break for it. I was on a lot of adrenaline, a couple of drugs, and a lot of Wow! What was that? Wow! Where am I? Wow! Who is that? I don’t think I noticed my toe hurting, which fit my theory.
No rain? Well than, no aching weather predicting toe.
It was on my sisters’ couch some months later that the pain came back. But it was summer and there was no rain, I did not understand. The pain persisted, now into the days and my toe started to change. It grew and turned purple and green and excreted the foulest smelling liquid any part of my body ever has. It made the couch I lived on reek the same way. One drop of the stuff and you would have to replace the carpet or just set fire to the car.
My brother came over one day as I was being told I would have to go to the doctor. I was still convinced this was a spiritual problem. He sat me down with a cigarette on the front porch and said, “Look kid. This toe of yours is a lot like the punk rock life style. It is smelly. It is pustulent. And sooner or later it is going to need a lot of therapy.”
As it turned out the bone in my toe had got fed up like the rest of me. We were both tired of living in the constraint we were given. I had run off. My toe bone, however, had started to grow. It was growing and growing at an incredible rate, pushing up my toenail and stretching everything around it. It would not have stopped until it made it out of my foot.
Doctors removed a full half-inch of new bone. I was a minor so they didn’t have to listen to me when I told them I wanted to keep it. It is in a jar somewhere getting taken to all kinds of conferences for doctors who specialize in osteochlondromas because no one had ever seen one grow like that, or that fast, or that big. If, in your many travels, you come across my toebone in a jar, please grab it for me.
Still kinda seems like a spiritual problem.
His name was Gwar of all things. Do you know who Gwar is? They are an awful band in giant goblin type costumes with spikes and monster makeup. They throw vomit and blood and piss and semen (or rather accurate fakes) at their audience through out their shows. They have quite a following among some people.
He had GWAR tattooed on his knuckles and he made sure that every person he ever met knew that he had earned that name by having the word Gwar carved into his arm by the lead singer. He claimed this happened when he was 8 years old, but I think the scar seemed fresher.
I had very recently turned 14 and very recently ran away to Portland Oregon. I was using meth, I was tasting what I thought was freedom, I was being hunted by a serial killer whose victims were all street girls between the ages of 12 and 19. My boyfriends name was Rush. Rush was my boyfriend because he was the only person I could find the morning I left Olympia who would take the bus to Portland with me. I was scared to go alone. I was disappointed that it had worked out that way. I would have rather taken his girlfriend.
While I was in Portland I met a lot of people. My name was Flame because my hair was bright red, one shade brighter than my always, even now, red cheeks. Flame and Rush and Gwar are all pretty stupid names and we were pretty stupid kids. We thought very big of ourselves and our place in the world, sometimes you have to, too survive how invisible you really are in a culture of adults who are skirting the responsibility of initiating you into something worth belonging to.
I met a lot of boys and a lot of men. They wanted to get me high, they wanted to sleep with me, they wanted to sell me or show me off to their friends. Some of them wanted to be my Dad and some of them wanted all of these things. Gwar was the only boy I met, the only person I met who was in my corner. He was my friend, and only my friend, from the gate.
He was 16 years old and 6 feet tall. He had a faded green Mohawk. He was covered in scars and track marks. He was the sort of character, in his cut off pants and stick and poke tattoos, that most people would cross the street away from after dark.
I met him and forever after every time I saw him he asked how I was and he meant it. I heard that when I got arrested he got drunk. While he was on that drunk he saw the arresting officer leaving the police station under Pioneer Square. He picked up his skateboard and ran with the intention of beating that man, it took 8 teenage tweekers to knock him over and hold him down. Fortunately the officer was a block up and didn’t notice the commotion. He got in his car and lived to arrest another day.
That was not a side of Gwar I ever saw. I only saw big blue eyes and the only safe friend I had. At punk shows he would put me on his back and spin as fast as he could in the middle of the mosh pit. I would hold around his waist tight with my legs and stick my arms, covered to the elbow in spiked bracelets, straight out and knock over anyone who came close. I would feel powerful and supported.
When I was arrested and sent back to Washington I moved in with my sister. Everyday I planned on leaving but everyday I chickened out. My brother came over once a day and made me a fried egg sandwich. My mom dropped off boxes of Cheese crackers outside the front door.
One day, months later, Gwar showed up in town looking for me. He told me that 6 people had tried to hitchhike north to find me when I had first been sent back. Some how they ended up in a ride that took them East and left them in Yakima. They were too high to know where they were. While they looked for me in a town that was several hours away from where I was, they decided to break into a house and were all arrested.
That’s when Gwar decided he would be the one to come find me. He thought about it everyday for months and one day found himself with the right combination of drugs and gusto to really do it.
I don’t remember much of his visit. I remember what he looked like skateboarding down our hill. I remember he always picked me up when we hugged. I remember him leaving when he realized I could not be convinced to come with him. I made him drink the water here everyday because it is legend that if you drink the water in Olympia, you will always come back.
Three years or so later I ran into some people in Eugene who I had known from that time and I found out why he had never come back, even for the gallons of water I watched him drink.
At 17, shortly after I had seen him, his body had been found by the edge of the freeway.
I heard a tall tale about kidnapping and drugs and important people. I don’t remember that story, it seemed like more of meth helping people make sense of senseless things. It seemed like more of those boys who never grew up finding a way to feel more important than they are.
What is true is his body was found by the side of the road and at least one person remembers his heart and how truly rare a being like that was. In a sea of manipulation and greed and addiction and distrust and violence I remember one of the best hearts I ever met. I remember when it stopped beating. I won’t forget how quiet the world is now without him. I won’t forget how relentless beauty is.
It will sprout from scars.
It will sprout from concrete.
Whatever happens to us, beauty will keep pushing, keep breaking, keep surfacing especially where no one is looking. That’s how beauty survives. That’s how we, the ones of us who did, survived.
Thank you Gwar. I love you.
When I met her I was two years old. She let me know immediately that I had been a mistake. I was made wrong and that the way for her to love me and to protect the world would be for her to train me to be good, in spite of my wicked nature. It was going to be a hard job because even at two years old I was ripe with manipulation and greed and disrespect. She was a hero and certainly God brought us together so that she could help divert the pain that I was already bringing to the world by existing.
It was not easy for her, long hours, wooden spoons, burning water and diligence. She kept a constant watch. Even when I was in the relative safety of my mothers house during the rest of the week I could feel her with me. I could feel her watching, I could cry thinking she might find out that I wore baggy shirts she didn’t like and still rocked back and forth when I was expected to sit still. I listened to rock and roll, I masturbated.
I knew she was going to kill me. I knew it wouldn’t work. She could not get me to stop making mistakes because I WAS the mistake. Eventually she would give up, I wondered if they would find my body and if she would get in trouble or win a Peace prize.
I tried so hard. I memorized every rule she ever made and I followed them to the letter. But the rules would change and I would be in trouble again. A lot of times I was in trouble because other people loved me. Clearly I had manipulated them because they were otherwise reasonable people and I was unlovable.
Every tiny thing I did that was not to her liking was devastating. My stomach would sink when she looked at me, fire in her eyes. When she would flick me in the forehead for being the stupidest person she knew I would feel knives in every inch of my skin.
Where I was raised there was no such thing as an accident.
Where I was raised there was no forgiveness.
Whether I did not finish dinner quickly enough, or cried when shampoo got in my eyes or came inside too early because I was cold or shut the car door the wrong way… I was a criminal. It was all evidence of a larger more dangerous disease: Me.
If the stove broke we moved. If the neighbors were loud we moved. If the walls were flat we moved. If the sun came up again we moved. If her boss said she needed to work longer hours we moved. If the furniture company found us we moved. If she met a man we moved. If she left a man we moved.
If her sister snapped at me for getting finger prints on the microwave door we didn’t speak to her for five years. If her brother got bailed out by her mom again we didn’t see them for five years. If one sister owed another sister money or if one sister was caught sleeping with another woman or if one sister said the wrong thing at the wrong moment we didn’t speak to them anymore. They didn’t exist except as a cold story of how we had been done wrong.
Where I was raised, if you were uncomfortable, you ran and when you got a safe distance away, you only looked back to decide whose fault it was.
My No House
I didn’t run because of anything, I just kept a steady pace. I was the blur you saw sweeping through your living room, I was a hand in your back pocket helping myself on an Austin sidewalk. I was the beer you thought you had left in the fridge but couldn’t find when you got home. I was a warm place you lay down with in every cheap motel on I-80. I was a shadow, a deep feeling, longing, praying, wondering if anything would ever be different, shadow. I was the shine on the back of a rainbow fish that is already disappearing the split second you thought you had seen it.
I could not subject myself to people and I could not be subjected to them. Mistakes were inevitable and fatal to all the good feelings I wanted. Every relationship beginning, friend, lover, sibling, every one began with a timer being started. I was always wondering, who would fall down first? Who would we blame later when we were both alone again? Everyone would always be alone again.
Again and forever and always.
Where I raised myself you never held on and you never let go.
My New Olde House
I am tired.
I am tired of being loneliness. I just want it to be a passing feeling like the rest.
I am tired of the world I was given, where no one loves each other past and for their frailties.
I am tired of holding on so hard to what I think might make people love me.
A seed will not sprout in a freezer.
The soil is damp and warm under the surface.
All that running made a good strong heart. The beat is the sound of all those years of living when it didn’t make sense that I was.
A heart made of running….now meant for what takes more strength.
Strong enough to forgive and to see and to let go and to hold on.
The world is a lonely place when people are not allowed to make mistakes, and I am not alone anymore.
There was a lot leading up to that train. The same could be said for any moment I suppose. Really when we consider the miracle of sentient ash and stardust and water, each moment was pretty profound and had quite a build up. So though it may be silly to say….
There was a lot leading up to that train. There were so many failed attempts to catch a train that I had long since decided that train hopping was a myth or an elaborate hoax put on me by a host of friends. There was a brutal abortion, a forest service raid and a fear of hitchhiking. There was the first period after the abortion, too much anal sex (yes, in some cases, it’s possible) and three months on a bicycle. There was the first of two matching tattoos on the back of my calves, the beginning of a blessing for my home, my coming to accept that home would likely never have a concrete foundation.
We were in Colton. Two newts from the northwest dried up in the dusty train yard. We ate a lot of beans and I was scared to pee too far away in case the train came. We waited a few days, the tops of our ratty heads blending into the tall dry grass. Our bikes were laid down on their sides, sleeping dragons covered in pockets and panniers and milk crates. Mine had baseball cards in the spokes.
Eventually we stood up and road our bikes somewhat east along the tracks to the second bridge that the crew change recommended. That’s where I met George. George was the kind of drunk that would die if he woke up without a drink. Literally he would seize up, he told me that he knew that some morning soon it was bound to happen. He just hoped someone would find and care for his dog when it did.
We drank a lot of malt liquor. I sent my travelling companion to the store six times. He was profoundly irritated by it but I didn’t care. For the first time since I said goodbye to baby, I didn’t feel lonely. George and I sang and told jokes and shot the shit all day long, getting tipsier and then drunker and then blacked outer. We got in a big fight when he told me, “My dog always walks in front of me and I always walk in front of my woman and that’s how it should be. My dog protects me and I protect my woman.”
We got through that fight and kept on being new best friends. I was a 17-year-old tree hugger and he was a 50 going on 80-year-old veteran. Our hearts bumped into each other under that bridge. We knew and cared for one another in the way that two people can do automatically in some certain circumstances.
At one point, rather close to our parting, tears welled up in the shockingly blue eyes that played peek-a-boo from under his thick white eyebrows. His beard was quivering. He was asking me how long I thought I would be able to drink like I did without finding myself with the same consequences he faced everyday. I laughed him off. I wasn’t the same as him. Then he was screaming, his face so close to my face. “You think you can fuck with this ?! YOU THINK YOU CAN FUCK WITH ALCOHOL! Your gonna keep going this way and one day you’ll wake up and you’ll be shaking so bad you spill half of your first beer! You think this is fun?! The day I wake up with nothing saved from the night before is the day I die because I wake up too sick to get out of my sleeping bag without a drink!!!YOUTHINKYOUCANFUCK AROUND LIKETHIS!!!!“
Tears shot out of his eyes, wet bullets all over my face and my 101 ragged scarves. My so- called boy friend figured it was time to leave, he picked me up by my collar and marched me and our bikes further east along the tracks. I was thinking about George. If he was right then my life was over because there was no way that a person like me ever put down a bottle. I figured it was best to stop thinking about this immediately and so I did.
When I woke up 200 yards from the bridge we continued walking east like George was already miles behind us. Eventually we got on our bikes and made it to the 10. We headed out frontage roads for some miles until we came to a historic truck stop that I heard recently has since closed.
Giant dinosaur statues roamed the parking lot of this gas station, diner, bar that had been made famous in the Pee Wee Herman Movie, the one where he looses his bike and can’t see or feel the love all around him because it is not shaped like a cherry red cruiser. I started approaching truckers to try to find us a ride into Tucson, my partner didn’t want to miss the gem show or an opportunity to bang his ex-girlfriend who would only be there three more days.
It was difficult. We were two people, not to easy on the eyes or nose, with two huge bikes and to top it off dude was laying under the brontosaurus, refusing to get up, cussing and moaning about how we would never get a ride. It didn’t work. Night came. We crossed over the freeway and out into the desert. We lay down near a solitary train track that cut through the sagebrush.
I woke and sat up with a start sometime in the middle of the night. The stars shown brightly on a train that was stopped right there. An open boxcar was directly before us. I blinked. I blinked again. Then I started yelling and shaking my friend. He blinked. He blinked again. Then he got up and started yelling.
I tied my sleeping bag around my waste with the inner tube that usually tied it to my bike. We each grabbed a bike and started to run for the train. Somehow our bikes had gotten swapped which would not have been a big deal except that I had spent 3 months knowing only the weight of my own wobbly horse. I was falling all over the place and when I finally got up to the train the weight of the sleeping bag made my pants fall down.
The gentleman I was travelling with grabbed me by the waist and the neck and threw me up into the boxcar. Then he threw both bikes in and then he climbed up. When he had caught his breathe he said, “If I had known you were going to take down your pants in front of the train I never would have agreed to try to catch one with you.”
That was fucking ridiculous. I did not “take down” my pants in front of the train! It was not a poorly timed sexual gesture to steel and rust. It was a simple, and years later hilarious, accident.
I didn’t say that in the moment because my moment was busy being exhilarating. When the train started to move I could barely take a breath. I could not believe what had just happened! I didn’t have to long to not believe before the train came to screeching halt. My pessimistic companion said “Oh great! Figures! Our train must be broken”, as we sat on a stretch that was barely two miles from where we had got on. It was a place with no second track, it didn’t seem like a scheduled stop.
He decided to go to sleep huffing and puffing. I stayed up and watched the engineers climb out of the train and make the trek across the freeway to a casino that was far enough away I almost could not make out the sign for all the lights. Whether they won big or not I will likely never know. Either way they came back a few hours later and we were on our way.
I spent the night smiling. I wrote love letter to the train workers all over the walls. When we went though a mysterious purple patch on the map called Chocolate Mountain, which in retrospect was likely a bomb range, the whole world smelled like olde fashioned donuts.
The train sang. The asshole was unconscious. The world smelled like the happiest memories from my mothers’ family. And as if it could not get better, the sun decided to rise again!
The first few days in the San Francisco International Airport we actually believed we would someday catch a flight. We did not get very comfortable. We went outside a lot to smoke, always rushing back in halfway through our cigarette. We acted like our names would be called at any hour even though no one knew our names and the only flight that we could catch was once a day at 7:30 am.
On Sunday there was no 7:30 flight. We found out about that on Saturday after not getting seats on that mornings’ flight. We took a bus to the city. We went to the Haight, we drank some beers, we got very cold. We realized that we had packed like the beach bums we were aspiring to be. We had two blankets between three of us.
I was the youngest, still a minor, so I went to the shelter off Ashbury where they give you dinner and a bunk and ask casually if you would like any other assistance and leave you alone when you say no. My friends each got one blanket and though they denied it the next day, I had heard the wind on my borrowed window and I was sure they were spooning.
We made it back to the airport by Monday morning. In retrospect this was impressive. I have many stories of popping off my main plan for what I think is a day or two and not making it back for a decade or ever.
Monday there were soldiers waiting for the plane that had standby seniority, so they took the available seats. Tuesday there were people who had purchased standby from a company that held a higher priority with the airline, so they got on.
I tried to be chummy with the ticket guy, after all we were practically family at this point… he was very well dressed with lovely lip gloss but he was not preferring to become any more familiar with us than he had to be.
Tuesday afternoon one of my companions had an allergic reaction to something she ate out of the trashcan that probably had peanut oil hidden in it. She almost asphyxiated as the drugstore in the airport mall insisted that I count pennies for Benadryl.
On Wednesday morning we were given seats! We even got a smile from the ticket guy. It was as I turned away from the counter with my ticket in hand that I saw them, three elderly women who were actually from where we were going. Two of them were in their sixties and the third, their mother, was in her eighties.
I stood back and watched them. My friends were anxious to get to our flight. They were so excited. I grabbed them by their packs and made them wait with me. The women walked up to the counter with an envelope of standby tickets that looked very familiar. It was our same, no priority what-so-ever company.
They were told there was no room for them. On a flight of people who were tourists and bums and businessmen there was no room for the three women in line who belonged on Oahu.
I took the tickets from my two astounded friends and I went back to the nice lip gloss. I told him to give those three our seats. His jaw hit the floor. He asked me why I would do such a thing, he had seen me every morning for a week and he was pretty sure I lived in a blanket fort between two Chinese restaurants in the food court.
I told him I had grown rather fond of the airport and that those three looked like they would be more cozy at home than in a blanket fort. He promised he would get us on the next mornings’ flight and he did.
We tried to sneak away from the counter but the youngest of the three women stopped me. She handed me half a pack of tailor made cigarettes with a twenty-dollar bill stuffed in the cellophane. I told her good luck and she told me it isn’t luck it’s blessings.
7 years old.
Bush senior had begun to bomb Iraq for the first time…that time.
My grandmother, my mom’s mom, spent her days watching television evangelists in her crowded trailer. In the early years of their marriage, she almost bankrupted her and her husband by sending money to Pat and the purple haired woman. Her children hated him for cutting her off from the bank accounts. They did not like having one more person to go through if they needed bail money. They also didn’t like how she got a little edgier when she couldn’t guarantee her place in heaven with a cash donation. She also missed receiving cards from (she imagined) them personally, thanking her for her generosity.
They were the only two people in the world that considered her generous. They were the two whom she gifted and never called later to remind them.
It was from these voices of her God that she learned about the prophecies of the bible. When Papa Bush began a public slaughter of the already devastated Iraqi peoples she had it on good authority that it was a definite sign of the end times.
She immediately set about gathering her 6 children and all their children in her trailer. The trailer sat on a nice wooded hill surrounded by her husbands beautiful tomatoes. Whenever I remember him it is on a little riding tractor lawn mower weaving his way through the trees. His work was never done though I was never quite sure what it was he was working on. He was a kind quiet man. My grandma had never stayed put after leaving my grandpa until that overall wearing potbellied sweetie came along.
She gathered them all; myself included and began a prayer meeting. She talked about the hell that was about to be seen on Earth. It was her intention that we all stay there together to await our certain death. It was her contention that a nuclear holocaust could be expected momentarily.
I learned in my adult life that this was the last time all her children ever did anything together to appease her. It was actually the last time that all 6 at once would be willing to be in a room with each other. No one else believed her idea; they just figured they would stay with her a few days until she settle down.
The trouble for me was that none of the adults present told me that it was Grandma and not Western Washington that was exploding. Everyone was playing along so well that I believed, with what capacity I had, everything I heard her saying. Most of my cousins were playing in the woods, beating each other up or trying to have sex or whatever other brutal shit they were learning at home. I was, however, glued to my Mom’s lap crying and shaking for what was years to a child body.
This is a memory of mine that I didn’t have until I was grown up and told about it by a kid who at the time was old enough to remember how devastated I was.
A 7-year-old child can barely understand why people can’t see through them if they block the television. I was trying to understand the end of everything and wrestling with the magnitude of heaven.
15 years old
I was living in a small room on the top floor of a haunted punk house where knives flew offs counters into walls and mice ran choreographed circles in the living room.
I sat rocking facing a wall for months. I felt everything falling from under me, I jumped at any loud noise, and I drank to quiet my nerves. When planes flew overhead I cried. My feelings were so big that they had the same authority as the purple haired woman had for Grandma. The end was upon me.
If I heard a plane noise while I was out I would search the sky desperately until I discovered which kind of plane it was and decided whether it was likely to drop a bomb. If it was likely I would run to the nearest public restroom, lock myself inside. My eyes and jaw and fists would be clenched shut.
When the noise passed I would slowly open one eye to see if I was still alive.
Most kids my age were worried about what to wear to school or whether they would have to be chaperoned at prom. Maybe they had not heard it was the End of the World or maybe they coped with rhinestones and extracurricular activities.
My Dad just recently found out that things are not going so well in the World of Humans. He started to be very worried about food and energy and water and weather and money. He found out from Facebook, who had the same authority for him as the purple haired lady had for Grandma or my fear had for me, that it is likely that the military will rise against Obama, taking over the government and holding the country hostage in a brutal and indefinite marshal law.
He has begun to collect canned food when it’s on sale and inquire with friends about food preservation. He goes fishing more often.
He started growing squash. The first year they were as big as my head, then from those seed, the next year they were as big as my head and shoulders and this year they are as big as my torso. Also this year, zucchini the size of my thigh surround the torso squash. Everything flavorless and everything gigantic. The larger the vegetable the greater comfort he takes.
I have been making zucchini bread and making zucchini bread.
My sweet brother from a different mother has gallons of water in the basement and the main floor of his home. Both, so that if one part of the house is inaccessible She may be retrieved in the other part.
He feels the little earthquakes. The ones that only science tools usually notice. He feels them and he waits. They are calling something bigger.
He raises his sweet baby and loves his sweetest sweetheart and goes to school to learn how to use all his personal experience as a homeless youth to help homeless youth. He sings and grows the only orange cosmos anyone has ever seen. If, by now, you have seen orange cosmos you can be sure they are a direct descendant of the ones in his yard.
He tends to what needs tending as if everything might have a chance to keep going. He does this even and especially as he feels the plates under his feet make little big shifts. Every couple of years he waters the cosmos with the jugs from the basement and the main floor and refills them with fresh water.
My mom keeps a bible on her bedside table and keeps the world at a distance.
Friends run away to the woods and make houses and grow food and keep the world at a distance.
Kids break windows or carry signs.
Today, it is cold outside. The porch was frosty until mid morning. I pray for more snow, especially in the places where the spring waters depend on it. I hear stories and I see them in everything all around me. On the corner a group of young men are having a good time being pissed off at each other. My dog is having a good time letting them know they should keep moving.
I have eaten today and I have drunk. My hands are cold, my shoulder is sore, my piano is longing to be played.