Honky Tonks, Bordellos And Celery

soiled dove of Cripple Creek

[This soiled dove was from Cripple Creek, CO.]

We watched January turn into February in Silver City, New Mexico.  A former mining town from the 19th Century, was a place where miners, tired and in need of a drink and a little love to purchase, would come up from the valleys and down the mountains…and find paradise amidst the prickly pear cactus.

And, the first person many of these rough and dusty men sought was Madam Millie.  I’ll get back to Miss Millie in a minute.

By association with everything about the Southwest USA and our neighbors to the south, Mexico, our 51st state, the last thing we expected was a winter storm that would freeze our water line, render us helpless in the 13 F weather, keep our inexpensive (read ‘cheap’) Wal-Mart space heater churning full-time, unable to cook (dirty dishes, remember), flush the toilet or even wash our hands, instead we resorted to pouring a noxious (and according to California Law) carcinogenic liquid, RV antifreeze, made from glycol and a few dozen chemicals down into our fragile plastic gray tank (dish water) and black tank (icky-poo stuff from the toilet) to keep them from bursting.  We seemed to be stuck inside Silver City with the Palm Springs blues again.

[That was a long run-on sentence.  Not all my fault.  It’s my inner William Faulkner trying to get out.]

So, what did these American Nomads do to pass the time?  We went to the Silver City Museum.  It was a beautiful Victorian building that was once the home of a restless guy who wanted to make a fortune in Silver.  I naturally gravitated to the shop in search of yet another Ideal Tee Shirt, a coffee mug and a book(s).  The first book I spied was titled: “Madam Millie”.  It was the story of Nellie Clark, who worked her way up from the mattress to running the most successful brothel in town.  (She died as recently as the late ’90’s, I believe).   In another book I found in the local library, “Red Light Women of the Rocky Mountains”, by Jan Mackell, I had a chance to read about the history of the girls who followed the miners, plied their trade, were murdered, died of disease, wandered off to another boom town, married clients and lived in luxury, became school teachers…or simply lived as a widow or spinster in a town that eventually mined all the silver that the hills could produce.

Millie Clark had the proverbial heart of gold…her girls would hide Easter eggs for the poor children of Silver City and Nellie was known to give away lots of money to charity and food to the needy.  I was fascinated by the book because local history, however tawdry, is what I seek to learn about when I travel.  The brothels were, without question, an important aspect of the Old West.  The “Red Light” book was researched and written by a woman historian.  I’d be reading it right now, but the $25.00 ( + tax ) price tag put me off.  I walked out with a tee-shirt, a mug, a guide to the wildflowers of the Southwest, and a mental image of working girls (some slender and beautiful and some plump and plain) and sweaty cowboys and miners drinking whiskey and beer in the saloons and honky-tonks along Bullard Street.  (I should mention at this point that there was a madam in one of towns of the west who weighed over 300 pounds!  She was extremely popular, and to this day, the town celebrates her with a festival in her honor…her name escapes me.)

old-west-brothel-tokens-3

[Brothel tokens.  Source: Google search.]

Thoughts of tight corsets, buckled shoes, flowers in the raven-hair, ribbons, rouge and lipstick and thick perfume filled my mind as I sat in a distressed leather seat of the public library to get warm and to allow Mariam a chance to answer work-related emails using a strong WiFi signal…something that was a bit dicey at our RV park.

jennie-bauters-brothel-242x300

[A popular brothel in Cripple Creek, CO.  The madam stands at the far right with her hands on her hips. Source: Google search.]

The warmth of the library made me sleepy.  I put my head back and let my mind drift into a very delicate state of half-dreaming…

I was sitting in the Buckhorn Saloon.  Sitting on my knee was Ivy…the loveliest example of womanhood one was to find west of the Pecos.  I had a sack of silver nuggets in my pocket, so her affections were assured.  I had a tumbler of whiskey on the table in front of me alongside a glass of cool beer.  It tasted nothing like Bud Lite.  Outside, on Bullard Street, the dust of a hundred horses and half as many wagons rose in the air.  I heard gun shots.  Two miners had stood in the middle of the street and were arguing over the honor of a painted lady.  When the gun smoke cleared, one guy remained standing.  He turned to look for Irene, but she had gone off with the preacher’s son.

BullardSt

[Bullard Street in Silver City, NM]

The gun shot made me jump in the library chair.  Someone had dropped a book on a table nearby.  Mariam was busy  in a quiet cubicle so I told her I was going for a walk.  I needed to clear my head.  I was confused as to what time it was, what day it was, what year it was…and what century it was.  I walked over to Bullard Street.  SUV’s and sensible KIA’s lined the curbside.  I went into the Tiny Toad saloon.  Guys with beards and laptops sat around drinking craft beer.

I went and picked up Mariam and we drove back to the RV park and sat shivering until the space heater had the inside temperature up to the mid 50’s.  We decided we’d rest a bit and, because we had no water, we decided to go listen to some music at Diane’s restaurant and bar and have dinner.

The guitarist, who had a gray beard and wore a harmonica neck brace, was playing a Jefferson Airplane song.  It was followed by Wild Horses by the Stones.  I thought it was time for Dylan, and, like he could read my mind, he played Mr. Tambourine Man.  Our waitress was a young woman who wanted to be a jazz singer.  She wore no rouge on her cheeks.

“…play a song for me.  I’m not sleepy and I have no place I’m going to.”

But, I did have someplace I was going to…back to our camper…the one with no running water.

I was confused by the old and the new in this town that capitalized on the old and the new.

“See our old houses…see our ghosts…feel the sense of history” said the pamphlets.  But, all we found were pottery shops and jewelry counters.

We went back to the Tiny Toad to have a night-cap.  This wasn’t like the saloons in the faded pictures I saw at the museum.  Miners with their boots on the foot rail, the spittoons, the foamy mugs of beer, the pretty girls of the night at the edges of the photo, standing for a moment at the center of the attention, and then off to the fringes of the picture frame.  Like they were in life, on the edges of society, young and beautiful in their youth, but often forgotten when age or disease pushed them from the parlors of velvet to the shack on the hill.

I looked at a pair of celery stalks in a jar on the bar in front of me.  The veggies got me to thinking…

“What’ll it be today, Clem? The usual red-eye whiskey and beer?”

“Naw, Frank, I’m dusty from the trail.  Think I’ll have a Bloody Mary this morning.”

At the other end was a gum-ball machine (did I miss something by not going to Bartenders School?.)  I shrugged and ordered a real man’s drink.  I motioned for the barkeeper to approach.  I cleared my throat and boldly asked for a Hot Toddy.

CeleryOnBar

[In an old-time saloon?]

GumballMachine

[In an old-time saloon?]

As I was trying to sleep that night, I kept thinking of Nellie and her girls.  I read that Nellie was buried only about five miles from our RV park.  Were there flowers on her grave?  I thought about one of the girls who was murdered (details are unclear), but unlike the death of a prostitute (then and now) that usually went unnoticed, the girl’s sister came and claimed her body and took it home for a proper burial.  Most of the girls, I suspect, drifted away when the mines began to close in Silver City.  When they died in another boom and bust town, did anyone shed a tear for them?  I recalled reading about a madam in Cripple Creek, who, when she died, was given the largest funeral the town has ever seen.  But the thousands of others?  Those females who lived by their perfume and charm…?

Did anyone say a prayer for their poor souls?  I feel a deep sorrow for those broken-spirited, homeless, drifting, nomadic restless souls…they usually die alone.  That has to be the worst way to leave this beautiful life and this unique planet.

When we drove out of Silver City the next morning, we crossed the Continental Divide just a mile or so from town, from Nellie’s house, from the museum, from the Tiny Toad Saloon.

The Continental Divide is a geographical line.  But among the lives I had been reading about, there were divides of all kinds.  When it rains, the water flows either to one ocean or to another.  People live lives like that…anything that comes down on your soul, can make you flow one way or another.

ContinentalDivide

But, in the end, we all end up in the same ocean that contains all our collected dreams and all our collected sins and all our collected virtues.

Afterword

When the town decided that one of Nellie’s brothels was to be torn down and replaced by the new Post Office, one old-timer told Nellie: “I don’t need the mail as much as I need you.”

 

I Heard The Secrets Of The Grackle’s Song

grackle

[Image: Google search]

A short time ago, perhaps a week, maybe more, I spent a few days in Austin, Texas.  We were visiting with a gentleman, William, that I had met during a writers workshop in Westport, New York in October, 2012.  He has been a good friend and faithful follower of my blogs since I began posting them.

Austin.  The home of the long-running pbs music show, Austin City Limits, the Skylark Lounge, a great blues club, a statue of Stevie Ray Vaughan that stands on the banks of the Colorado River (not the Colorado River).  Arguably the most famous dance hall in Texas, The Broken Spoke, is in Austin.  It’s where I “learned” to do the Texas 2-step and when my bones and legs couldn’t keep time with the music, I could sit and sip a Lone Star beer and watch the real dudes and drug-store cowboy’s do the dance the way it should be done.  Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys played this city, while virtually inventing Texas Swing music.  A statue of Willie Nelson stands outside the theater where Austin City Limits is recorded.

Austin.  A town where the hills glow violet in the setting sun.  A vermillion hue in the afternoon sky.  And, in that afternoon sky are thousands of birds.  The Grackles of Austin.

The Grackle is considered by many to be a disease-carrying bird that is a genuine pest.  Cannons have been used to keep them from clustering in various city parks.  On my first afternoon, a late afternoon, when the sky had begun to redden, I saw black objects clinging to the power lines near the exit ramp of I-35.  I could make out that they were birds…but the numbers were staggering.  I can say one thing straight away: I have never seen such flocks of these starling-like, black-hued avians roosting on power lines in my life.  When they took flight from the trees, shrubs and high wires, they would fill the air and darken the sky.  When they moved, when they were on the wing, they moved as one.  I described this sudden turn of direction in my first novel, Standing Stone, as “one shared soul.”

GracklesInWaco

[The swarming Grackles in Waco, Texas. Image: Google search]

These are birds of legend.  To a person unfamiliar with large flocks of crow-like creatures, these looked like something that was left on the cutting-room floor after Alfred Hitchcock decided he had gone too far.

Birds of Legend?

I was familiar with the real birds of legend.  The Phoenix, rising from the ashes.  The Ibis of Ancient Egypt.  The Dove of Noah.  The Eagle of American power and might.

But, the Grackle?  What legend?  What was it about this Raven-like bird that inspired such mystery and admiration…and contempt?

It seems that in the ancient days, back in the time when even dust was old, the Grackle did not make a sound…it had no call.  It was mute.  But, birds need a song to sing…to communicate a message of warning, spread the word about where water could be found…or to call to one another, to seek a mate…to make a nest…to pass on a new generation of life.  For nothing lives forever…

The Legend begins:

In Mexico, the bird were called zantes.  In Pre-Columbian times, it has been said, the mute birds began to seek a voice. They found a Sea Turtle and the zantes stole their voice from him.  They stole the archaic song of the Sea Turtle.  That was the mystical Song of the Seven Passions.  They now had their voice…their song.

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[Image: Google search]

For eons, they have sung this most sacred of songs.  But, to the modern ear, it sounds like a common cackle.  The sound and the name stuck…hence, the Grackle.

Annoying and obtrusive to most people these days, I found myself alone in a quiet park one afternoon.  I listened to the cackling.  I listened for the song.  It began to clarify in my head.  I could make out intonation, nuance, emotion and meaning.

I began to hear the Seven Songs of Passion.

I heard LOVE…and I thought of my childhood.  My mother, my father, my brothers, my elders, my girlfriend, my lovers, my wife.  I thought of those I never knew… never knew I really loved them, and those who I never realized, once loved me.

I heard HATE…and I thought of killing in the name of God, killing those who are different, killing those who chose to love those we don’t think they have a right to love.  I thought of those killed by others who believe in another God than the One of our birth.  I thought of the death of the spirit in a child by withholding love, by hurting their tiny hearts and bodies.  I thought of those who hate because…they hate.

I heard FEAR…and I thought of a lonely snow-covered trail in the Northern Forest and the fear that I was losing a dear friend.  I recalled a phone call, and then another, followed by yet another, telling me that a parent or sibling was near death.  I thought of the fear that a woman I loved would simply walk out the door.  I thought of the fear of abandonment and the fear of being unloved.  I thought of the fear of dying, the fear of pain, the fear of being afraid.

I heard COURAGE…and I thought of the brave who have died for their beliefs, not for a flag or a symbol, but for  human dignity and the freedom from being a slave of any kind.

I heard JOY…and I thought of how I felt when my children were born.  How I love and respect my daughter, Erin and how she and her husband, Bob are raising my grandson, Elias, to be an inquisitive and curious and kind child.  I thought of how much fun I have when I sit and have a talk with my son, Brian, who is smart, witty and has the heart as big as Texas (with New Mexico and a good deal of Utah thrown in).

I heard ANGER…and I thought of the misspoken words between a married couple, between a child and a parent, between lovers, between nations, between religions, with oneself for not being able to accomplish something creative and meaningful, lasting and full of beauty.

I heard SADNESS…and I feel a billion tears from a million people crying, at a graveside for the soul of someone they will never see or touch again, at a wedding when a father says farewell to a daughter or a son, in an office when a husband or wife hears of the loss of a spouse or child in a misbegotten war, in the heart of a student when the teacher implies he or she can’t do something, in the doorway of a family home when a parent watches their child walk away into the life of adulthood, never to be a child again.  The sadness of those losses are overwhelming.

MourningFigure

[Source: Pinterest]

I heard all these passions from the beak of that dark bird, the Grackle.  I was overwhelmed by this ability to hear these things.  It’s too much for one person to handle.  If more people just stopped and listened to the zantes, perhaps the burden would be spread out…and lighten the load for the few who stop to listen, not just to this one bird of Austin, but to all life.

WatercolorTears

[Image: Google Search]

 

 

My Grave Nightmare: A Halloween Story

SpookyImage

Was it a day in full blinding sun or a night in deep gloomy shadows?  Was I asleep?  Awake?  I don’t remember.  No, it was both.  I wandered about in my dream with my eyes open, my dream that quickly became a nightmare.

What I looked upon were reflections of my darkest thoughts and fears.  My sub-conscience was trapped in the dreaded landscape of the land of the dead–the churchyard, the cemetery, God’s Little Acre, the lawns and fields of the departed.

AngelOverlookingGraves

The angel stood on the rock and watched over the mute stones.

“O, What has come into this world that these once vital souls, who lived, loved and danced and sang must now repose until the Day of Judgement?”

I stood watching a man mourn the loss of his wife, lover, child, parent or self.  He cannot bear the loneliness of existence.  He pulls at the door.  It is solid and firm in its closure.  The door is thick bronze.  I touch his shoulder to offer solace.  He, too, is bronze.  It’s all metal and stone except for the dust that lies within.  He will remain in this torment until the acids of the rain reduce him to molecules.

BronzeAtDoor

I walk on.  I don’t know why I do this.  I know what awaits me behind the next tree or over the next hill.  I walk into the trees.  Roots have begun to ensnare a gravestone.  The trees will absorb the crystals in another century.  Then, who will remember?  Where will the flowers be placed?  Where will the tears be spilled?

RootedGrave

The only comfort for my eyes are the green and living leaves, mosses and lichens.  Objects with life hold firmly to the ultimate symbol of death.

True irony.

I leave the dark trees and stand to meditate the monument before me.  I read the inscription.  It’s not an epitaph–it’s a promise:

Somewhere in Mexico–when you were hurting and in despair, I sent my angel to comfort you.  You are not alone.  I will be with you even unto the end of the earth. 

ComfortAngelCaption

There is an old house with an open door.  I grew up and passed from childhood into manhood in an old house.  I must enter.  I walk into the foyer and along the hallway.  There she is.  The transparent image of a long-ago lover.  Or is she the sister I never had? Or is she my mother as a beautiful youth?  Or is she someone unknown to me–coming to hold my wrinkled hand and place her young cold lips on my warm cheek.

Instead, she passes through me and ascends the stairs to meet another shade–someone her own age to play with–someone as spectral as she.  I watch her ascend the stairs and experience an overwhelming sense of melancholy.  I wished to know her in life.  I probably would have given her my heart–the heart she would break when she passed away.  My heart breaks as easily as ancient Oriental porcelain.

SpiritGirl

I leave the house to her spirit.  I whisper a prayer for her restless soul.  Does anyone hear my words?  I walk on into a monochromatic world.  There at my feet is the grave of a man who is holding…is it his own face?  The head of someone he is longing for?  The visage of a family member?  I walk by and he continues to stare, without terror or anger into another pair of eyes.

HoldingHead

I have seen too much for a living and mortal mind to comprehend.  I want to be awake.  I don’t care if it’s just past mid-night or if the sky in the east is becoming pale.

Pale!  Enough pale! I want to be amongst the living and the breathing.  I want to mingle with lovers who embrace with a terrible passion for life.  I want to walk along flowered paths rich with bees and insects and birds singing for the company of a mate.  I want to help a lame farmer till his field, an old woman with arthritic joints knead her bread, a teacher tell his students the truth about life, calm a couples angry words, write a song a child will love, write a book that will make a man weep, kiss a wanton woman, drink a dark ruby wine, eat a mushroom in a desert, draw a picture that a blind person could see, dig a grave, speak words at a burial, pour Holy Water on an infant’s forehead, stand on a mountain peak so very sharp and pointed that the highest crystal pierces my thick boot soles and makes my foot bleed so that red stains on the heather will guide a lost soul to the low meadows.

I can feel sleep falling away.  But, I sit up in bed, still in a deep slumber and see my last vision for the night.

It’s the Angel of the Fog.  But is she fading away or growing more real?

FoggyAngel

I rise and boil water for tea.  I wrap myself in flannel.  I rub the Sandman’s leftovers from the corners of my eyes.  I am fully awake and fully alive.  I will use and live this day to its fullest.  I will live with faith and hope.  As I slowly stir a drop of honey into my tea, I begin to wonder…

What will tonight bring me as I put my book down and let the dark envelop me?

Down And Out In Dillon / A Fictional Respite

Only the lonely (dum-dumb-dummy doo-wah)
Know the way I feel tonight (ooh yay, yay, yay, yeah)
Only the lonely (dum-dumb-dummy doo-wah)
Know this feeling ain’t right (dum-dumb-dummy doo-wah)

–Roy Orbison “Only The Lonely”

DillonDinerPowerballSign

The waitress at the Steak and BBQ joint had the eyes of a girl scout.  They were fill with enough innocence to make a biker gang in Fresno call for a mass confession at the local church.  She had the body of a Pilates instructor and wore a shade of nail polish that didn’t have a name or FDA approval yet.  She walked like she was born on the red carpet.

Yeah, those girl scout eyes… It didn’t take a Nobel Prize winner, or a schlep like me to guess what merit badges she had earned during her nineteen years of outdoor activities.  She kept fiddling with the apron strings that were tied in a perfect bow just above her perfect…backside.  I think she was due to get off her shift in about seventy-five seconds.  I looked around for a waiting boyfriend.  Pretty young women like her always had a big, unshaven Palooka waiting for them.  I didn’t see anyone, tattooed or otherwise, spinning a set of Chevy Pick-Up keys around a thick finger.

So, she was leaving alone.  I glanced at the two cars in the employee parking area.  Her wheels must be the ’63 Mustang convertible.  The yellow bug light in the lot made her car look like it needed a paint job.

I was pretty good with a spray can…as good as they get.

“What are you staring at?” said my wife.  “Are you going to get your food or not?”

I snapped out of my 8:00 pm daydream.  I was standing in front of the salad bar.  There was a small pile of white lettuce in my bowl.  I took a spoonful of chick peas, shredded “cheese” and eight cherry tomatoes.  I grabbed a stale roll and headed for our table.  I wasn’t very hungry.

It had been that kind of day on the road.  My wife and I seemed to be searching for excuses to argue.  Maybe she thought I was playing Dwight Yokum too loud.  If it wasn’t that, it was which flavor of gas to put into our tank or whose turn it was to go into the unisex restroom first to wipe the toilet seat dry.

Some men can’t do anything right when they use a public bathroom.  I’d like to say I always lifted the seat, but I stopped doing that about fourteen years ago.  What difference did it make?  What difference did anything make?

Some road trip.  We didn’t even have a final destination.  We just needed to get away from the cold weather.  We were heading for a beach…any beach, as long there was enough sand to put an orange blanket on and enough room to work out a leg cramp and take a nap.  That’s right, any beach and plenty of warm weather.  She wanted to show off her new polyester Wal-Mart bikini.  Me?  I had a red Speedo I pick up for 50 cents at a Salvation Army store just outside of Port Arthur, Texas in 1988.  My gut had grown since then, so I was at a serious risk of being seen as a naked bather by a devout Baptist cop.

Another summons was something I really didn’t need.

I finished my salad and went to get a small bowl of peach Melba.  I was careful to scrape the meringue off the top simply because it didn’t have the color of any meringue that I had ever seen.

“Watch the sweet crap,” said my wife.  “I’m not giving you another dollar for a new swim suit, hear me?”

I was feeling the need to hit the boy’s room to see a man about a horse, when the words of my dear mother echoed in my memory bank.

“Son,” she said, “if you ever get a date, don’t excuse yourself to go to the bathroom ’cause the girl will leave you.  Most woman hate losers.”

I often wondered why my mum would tell me that.  I’ve had plenty of dates when I was younger and I went to the bathroom on a regular basis, as needed.  My date was always waiting for me at the bar.  She never left me…until I gave her the $75.00.  I dunno.  Maybe there’s a connection somewhere.

So, I dumped my tray into the can and walked back to the loo.

Even though it was always in the back of my head that such a thing could happen, it didn’t stop me from turning a vulgar shade of pale when I saw the table empty upon my return.

She’s in the ‘ladies’, I said to myself.  That’s when I saw the waitress looking a bit funny at me and whispering something to the teenage dishwasher.  I walked to the window.  Our car was gone.

She did it.  She left me.  She left me stranded in Dillon, South Carolina.  I looked at my watch and pretended I was waiting for her to make a quick drug store run to stock up on her magenta lip gloss.

I took a seat by the window.  I was the only customer.  A light in the “special events” room went off.  A kitchen light went off.  A minute later, the waitress, you remember, the girl scout, came up and said that it was closing time.

MeAtDinerDillon

I stood out on a cement parking barrier.  I looked up and down the highway for signs of our car.  Four cars went by.  Three of them were police cruisers and the fourth was an empty taxi.  I felt weak in the bowel area.  Neon lights were blinking off.  Even the PowerBall sign went dark, but not before I saw the prize was $100,000,000 bucks.  I fingered the cash in my pocket.  I pulled out three twenty-dollar bills.

A light rain began to fall.  I looked beyond the closed Taco Bell and spotted a VACANCY sign on a motel.  It was the Hi-Ho Motel.  I had seen it earlier when we were driving around looking for a gourmet meal.  I quickly crossed the empty highway and approached the office.  They advertised rooms for the week, day and even the hour.

I hoped they changed the sheets sometime in the last month or so.

I paid the desk manager the $16.00 for the room.  I’m sure I picked up on his Calcutta accent.  I clutched the key to Room 4 tightly in my sweaty palm.

A few minutes later, I was stretched out on a lumpy single bed inhaling mildew spores and after running up and down the dial, I tuned the black and white TV to a rerun of Bewitched.  I pulled my jacket over my chest and several business cards fell out.  I spread them on the sheet.  I would need the services of one of these concerns before the end of tomorrow came…that I knew.

BusinessCards

I slipped into a light slumber.  An hour later, I woke with a start.  The space beside me was empty.  She was really gone.  This wasn’t a bad dream.  But, whatever it was gave me a powerful thirst.  I locked the room and walked along the highway, passing strip malls and used car lots.  Then I saw the light of heaven in front of me: BUD LITE.  That wasn’t what I needed, but it was a start.  I went in just as I heard a train whistle blow from somewhere behind the cement dealer.

As I slid onto a stool, the bartender came over.  I blinked three times in disbelief.  It was the waitress from the BBQ place!

“Hey there Mr. Blue,” she said.  “High and dry, I see.  What happened?  Did she recognize a chiropractor from high school?”

“You’re a riot, Lucy,” I said.  I waited two beats.  “Besides you, what the special here tonight?”

“That would be my new invention.  I just finished Mixology School last week.”

“What would that be,” I inquired, with breathy anticipation.

“It’s called Mindy’s Merit Badge.  That’s me.  I’m Mindy.”

“So very nice to meet you, Mindy,” I said.  “Wanna go camping?”

[Please note: This post is 99% fiction.  The only real thing that happened was eating at a salad bar.  Don’t panic and don’t worry about us.  We’re fine.  Mariam did not leave me stranded in Dillon, SC.  I’ve always been a fan of noir, hard-boiled writing styles ( i.e., Dashiell Hammett) so I though I’d have some fun trying my hand at it.  Dillon is a fine place.  If you did happen to buy into the reality of my story…and you want to send cash (small unmarked bills) to help me catch a Greyhound back to NYC, I can provide a mailing address.  Meanwhile, watch for the really crazy Halloween blog in a day or so.  Thank you, loyal readers…but please click “follow” on my blog page or “like” on the FB page.  I need the numbers like a stand-up comic needs laughs.  If you don’t click on something, I’m going to bring out “Fluffy” and lay a guilt trip on you!]

 

 

This Is Not The Scary Halloween Blog You Were Expecting

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You read the title correctly.  I’m very sorry but I just don’t have the energy, creative or otherwise, to put together a high-quality very scary blog that you have come to expect of me.  I just put the spooky image at the head of this post to grab your attention.  I know I posted something at the start of October that promised a series of totally mind-blowing blogs celebrating my favorite time of year.  But, as I’m sure many of you know, I took sick shortly after attending my 50th High School reunion.  I’m still not well and it’s been a month, three ER visits, a chest x-ray, a hefty dosage of antibiotics, a diagnosis (shown later to be a little inaccurate) of pneumonia, and all capped off by an allergic reaction to one of the drugs I was proscribed.  My flesh looks like a scary Halloween story by itself.  I have red spots on parts of my body that I forgot I had.  I’ve been rubbed with aloe vera and other lotions that you would have to travel to a cheap Bangkok brothel to find.

So, instead of something scary, I thought it would be highly entertaining to tell you about our last-minute preparations for our winter “on the road” in our R-pod RV.  Remember the late part of 2013 when Mariam and I drove across the country to visit my grandson, Elias, in Orting, WA?  I even compiled those travel blogs and published them in book form.  It’s called: “In the Middle of Somewhere”–and did I mention it’s available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle.

Anyway, here is a picture of part of the R-pod.  I tried to get some colorful trees in the frame as well to show you that its peak foliage time up here in the North Country.

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Like I was saying, I am picking out the books I intend to take along.  We’re busy choosing CD’s, books-on-tape and DVD’s.  I also pack all the writing material for future projects (like a few novels, etc).  I even considered bringing along my banjo.  I googled music lessons in Fort Myers and found that I can get private lessons for a reasonable rate.  But, I’m having second thoughts about this.  It will require practice time and I just can’t see myself sitting by the door of the RV and learning chords for the banjo.  People (mostly elderly from what I hear) will think they’re in a scene from “Deliverance”.  I don’t want to frighten old people.

I’m writing this late at night on October 11.  The rain has stopped and it is very dark.  It’s nearly midnight.  I just looked out the front door and noticed a dull light shining at the end of the driveway.  I thought of the moon, but it’s too low to the ground.  Perhaps it’s a reflection of the light in the guest bedroom against the front window of my car.  Maybe someone is out for a late night walk?  Hold on while I check if it’s moved…

Nope.  The dull light is still there.  It’s not our new motion lamp because it would be much brighter.  I wonder…

Well, on second thought, maybe some of you would feel shorted somehow if I didn’t come through with some weird Halloween photos.  I must keep my contract with my readers.  If I say I’m going to do something–I have to do it!

After all, what are the “things that go bump in the night” going to do to me?  Come creeping down my driveway and walk through my dining room wall?  I doubt it.  This isn’t the History Channel.  There are no aliens on my property.  (Although, I have some doubts about our neighbor)–

So, here are a few nutty Halloween customs:

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Pretty scary stuff, huh?

I’m going to check on that light again–don’t go away.

I hope I’m wrong, but I think it has moved just a little–only a little–toward the house.  Let me look again…

OMG, it’s nearly passed the short row of cedar trees…just at the end of the walkway to the porch.  Who could this be at this hour?  It’s just a few seconds before midnight.  I feel that I have to type fast to finish this…what’s that?  I hear something on the front porch floor…sounds like footsteps.

I hear a voice.  It’s almost a mumble and I hear saliva helping to slur the words…”You think messing with the dark is funny?  Do you think we laugh when you pretend there’s nothing out there?”

The power is going out in the house.  Mariam has locked the bedroom door.  She’s having a nightmare.  If she’s having a nightmare…then what’s on the porch…at my door?

I must finish this quickly….I….can’t……..

Do You Really Want To Go There?

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It’s early Autumn.  The air is crisp.  The broad leaves of the oaks and maples are sharp and bright in the sun.  Against the darker conifers, the reds and yellows are more muted–less distinct and less joyful.

There is a lane.  It seems to possess a faint voice calling for you to follow to wherever it leads.  The fair-haired, blue-eyed woman beside you urges you to take a few steps into the forest.  Her white hand suddenly is gripping your right forearm.  Without words she is telling you to not take another step.

“We don’t know where this path leads,” she says with her eyes.  You brush a red leaf from her soft hair.  You look down the lane again.  Something is urging you to explore–to follow the trail to its end.  On your left, a woman with dark eyes and pale flesh takes your hand.

“Come,” she whispers in your ear.  “We can’t keep them waiting.”

You look to your right.  The fair one has a distressed look as she stares down the lane.  Her hand trembles.

Turning your head, you see your car parked miles away.  How can this be?  You’ve only taken a few steps into the woods.  A breeze picks up a few leaves and stirs them at your feet.  The branches of the trees begin to weave and roll and shudder.

There is a tug at your right arm.

“Let’s go back,” the fair one says.  “I don’t like this.”

“Let’s move on,” your pale lover says.  “It’ll be good.  I’ll see to that.”

You are unable to move.  You stare into the distance and wonder where it will end and how far the walk will be.  Will there be a pool of clear water?  A bower of red and scarlet leaves?  An old farmhouse?  Does the backdoor–the screen door, bang in the wind?  Is the spring rusty?  Are the rooms empty?

Is there a house at all?  If not, why the road?  All roads lead to something in this forest.

You’re frozen with indecision.  You want to go forward and you want to run back to the car.

What about your lovers?  You look from left to right.  There is no one there.  Was anyone ever there?  Are you awake?  Is this a dream?

You look back at your car.  It is not in sight–there is no car.  Looking down, you see there is hardly a path.  It’s all overgrown.

A woman’s voice calls to you.  It’s a song–so very sad.  You’ve heard this lament before.  Nothing good can come of this, you’re thinking.  Nothing good.

It’s never good when you’re alone–in the woods when the sun begins to set.

The Great Guano Goldmine of Rainbow Lake

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[WARNING: The subject matter of this post may not be suitable for general readers.  If you are offended by such words as “droppings” or “do-do”, then please move on to another, more appropriate blog about late summer recipes or crocheting cat napping pillows.]

On the afternoon of August 6, 2015, I was sitting quietly in my Adirondack Chair on our back deck.  Beside me, on the little table where we burn our citronella candles, was my new Exterminator.  At first glance, it appears to be a small tennis racket and that’s the point.  It’s not supposed to look like an Exterminator.  Inside the handle are two batteries.  When a black fly or other biting and sucking insect approaches my arm, I pick up the “tennis racket” and zap the bug with 500 volts of electricity.  How one can get 500 volts from two D cell batteries is something that is very hard to explain.  It’s too technical for the lay-person to understand, so I won’t go into it.  Let’s just say it has to do with electrons and leave it at that.

But, I digress.

I was deeply engrossed in Immanuel Kant’s Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, a riveting work of suspense, gratuitous sex, violence and Epistemology.  I was nearing the end and, let me say, it’s a real page-turner.  I won’t be a spoiler, but I expected the end to have a proper climax to the narrative arc complete with fading action and resolution.  I was not disappointed.  As I was nearing the final fifty or so pages, I suddenly felt that I was being microwaved.  I blinked and I raised my eyes to the small patch of sky that is visible from our deck.

The sun was out!

I hate the feeling of Ultraviolet radiation on my skin so I called Mariam to come out and help me.  She promptly pulled apart a velcro band and raised our umbrella.  I pulled my chair into the shade and continued reading–after thanking her, of course.

A few minutes later, Mariam comes out to the deck and settles into her Kindle book.  It was a picture of domestic bliss. Here were two middle-aged people sitting side-by-side, each engaged in our own little world of reading and thinking.  I closed my eyes for a few moments to reflect on what I had just read, and I began to drift into an August Adirondack daydream.

That’s when I heard the movement.  It seemed to be coming from the umbrella.  I slowly raised one eye lid, fully expecting to see a squirrel playfully scampering around on the green canvas.  How wrong I was.  I opened the other eye lid and looked up into the inside peak of the umbrella.

Was it…?

I slowly went into the house to get my Zeiss Wild Bird Spotter Scope and tripod.  I focused the monocular at the inside peak.

There it was.  It stared back at me with the red eyes of Satan himself.  The pointed ears, the claw-like feet and the leather-like wings filled my field-of-view.  I was looking, eye to eye, at a bat.

I crossed myself and hurried to the kitchen to retrieve a clove of garlic.  This was surely a Vampire Bat of legend, making its yearly migration from Ohio to the heart of the Transylvanian Alps in Romania.  I was taking no chances.  I got more cloves for Mariam.  She reminded me that we needed a salad for dinner that night.  I asked about radishes and she said she could pass.

She looked at the cloves of garlic I had strung around her neck.  I told her that they would protect her from the loathsome Vampire Bat of legend that was living in our green umbrella.

She looked up and saw a foot and a pointed ear partly hidden by a fold in the canvas.

“Honey,” she said, “that’s a Small Brown Bat that is native to this part of the country.  It’s an Eptesicus fuscus.  The wingspan is only about eight inches or so.  It’s related to the Big Brown Bat.  I’m glad we have him.  They were nearly killed off a few years ago with a strange disease.  Now they seem to be coming back.”

I looked back at the bat.  It’s didn’t seem so large to me this time.

That’s when I noticed them!

“Look”, I said, “droppings.”

My mind raced through memories of stories of how spelunkers sometimes come down with serious respiratory illnesses after entering a cave filled with guano, or bat droppings.  I asked Mariam where our surgical masks were stored.

“There’s only two or three tiny pieces,” she said, “I don’t think we have to worry.”

As I stared at the tiny pieces of guano, I began to think of the Civil War.  I began to make serious connections with what was on our deck and the fortunes that were made during the War by entrepreneurs who collected, processed and refined guano into gun powder.  I thought of all the hunters in the Adirondacks and I realized that there were quite a few.  A fair number of them, as well as new age frontiersmen and survivalist, still used flintlocks or muskets for hunting.  It didn’t take me long to see that we were sitting beneath a gold mine.  All we needed to do was collect the guano and sell it to gun powder manufacturers.  We’d need a few more deck umbrellas, I knew, but it would be worth it.  Soon, we’d be rolling in guano money and thinking of buying a certain condo I had in mind in Labrador.

I quickly explained my plan to Mariam, knowing she’d be on board when I made it clear to her that there was money in those little black specks on our deck.

She just stared at me for a few minutes and went back to her Kindle.

Me?  I went downstairs and brought back a quart-sized Bell jar that I had used for storing my homemade pickles.  I carefully scraped together the few black grains of what I saw as gold, black gold, that is.

This is how fortunes are made, by far-sighted guys like me.

I went back to Kant, comfortable in the fact that my mail would be forwarded to Labrador within the next ten years, or so.

[WARNING: The image below may not be considered appropriate for general viewing.  Discretion is advised!]

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