The Next Time I See You, Satan, I'm Going to Beat You Up!
Coming down the mountain, moving south, out of Oregon and into the Jefferson valley, I could see the clouds, wrung out by the winds, streaming across the top of Mount Shasta, a white-capped behemoth overlooking the region like a Himalayan monarch. Most mountains do. They have that quality. They are monarchical. They press against the sky and there’s no telling them anything. They are in charge. We wait on them. They are never pleased. Like the wind, they own the land, forcing their will upon all inhabitants. And so on this day, seabirds, white gulls of some kind (I wish I knew what kind), were oddly trouncing around, sifting for food at the road side rest site, placed like a dish of rest at the mountain’s valley table. They seemed lost, as if the wind had blown them there from far away. I asked the rest site attendants, one was clearly retarded and the other one, a Latino) if it was unusual for these birds to be there. The retarded one mumbled something that was lost in the 50 mph winds. The Latino said the white gulls always come in the summer. I thanked them and then walked away, then realized: It was March.
The point of this passage was to get out of the rain. And just this once, the sun burst through the clouds and painted this valley in a way valleys are supposed to be painted by the sun. Great broad clean sweeps of color. At this rest stop along U.S. 5, I got out to take a piss and a picture.
The wind was blowing hard, damn hard. I’d been driving for six hours at least, after leaving Canyonville, Oregon earlier that morning (a nice little place that I eventually found a little disturbing, due to its bible belt undercurrent that packed its more hermetic charms in tight, its health food store, its cyber cafe, its large white masons hall, all tucked in tight in a womb of paternal Jehovah protectionism) and was about ready to go postal about the weather. Really had had enough.
Six miserable months the storms, my sweeties, rendered me into complete unreliable narrator-hood. Now, after facing numerable challenges to my sanity as I have re-traced our steps to this dream of a life at the far end of our continent, I have been reduced to madly running through the Mohave desert in the cold and dark in order to find a fucking telephone so that I could hear her voice and know it’s going to be OK. But such assurances have escaped me. Instead, after facing yet another horrible Olympus on the road up and down the pass in Tehachapi, California, where I determined the most deadly foe to man isn’t the horror of nature, but instead, the nature of the California drivers who hurl through the world on some kind of high-octane hell without a care in the world for who they run off the road, I descended into yet another underworld to find I’m not worthy of this mission.
Now, as I face this cracked mirror in a motel room in Barstow, another place being cold-blasted by the hideous wind, I am tortured by a lingering premonition. A previous night’s dream at Sis’s place in Sacramento included, in the crash of iron and mix of metal, the literal sound of her crying that exists only in my head, the sound of the word “OK,” as I imagined maybe you too were succumbing to the same maddening drought of sunlight as we keep moving south, further south, only to find the sun has seemed to have flown forever from view. I turned on the television only briefly in this pitiful motel room to find the planet beset by volcanoes and cyclones and endless war, as well as a nation preoccupied with meaningless trivial little follies like basketball playoffs and “reality” series carnivals. I tried to call anyone I could but it was too late at night. The loneliness of the road had undone me. I scrambled to find some solution to this emptiness I felt, this gut-wrenching doubt about what, if anything, we were to become.
And worse, a cracked mirror reveals the face of a man reduced to complete narcissism and treachery beyond even what he knew he was capable. It began in Canyonville, I believe, when the cyber cafe lady said my work was too irreligious to even be considered marketable commodity in their town. At first, I rejoiced. At first, I rested in the anarchist artist’s glee that comes from provoking such a strong reaction. Then this obsession of mine to be a bard the whole world. This outright pathetic craving to be heard and understood was bolstered by a positive response in Ashland, land of a bards, a pretty, perfect land of Cathar glee, where poets, playwrights and other bards can be celebrated and congratulated and adored, safe and free to think and blather amongst themselves. I had an audience behind a coffeehouse during a short break from the road where I could be the man I imagine myself to be: The sage, the poet, the mystic, the raky rascal on the road. Oh god, how I get so like this when I'm out there ...
Then I was off again to face more storms. I tried and tried again to find some lightness in me, you know ... the humor in all this ... I have come one thousand miles in two days of driving. During that time, I have seen the sun maybe three times, maybe for an hour or two, tops. Meanwhile, the earth is breaking open. The birds are either sick or lost. Volcanoes across the world are pouring black coal into the sky. This will only increase the greenhouse effect. A cyclone the size of a continent is tormenting the other side of the world, and here, on the Pacific Coast, the big hand of God is slapping America across the face with a cold, wet fist. And I, under this fist, can only marvel but cannot laugh. I cannot find the lightness necessary to carry any reader.
Raja, our dog, is saying nothing. Just like the rest of us, he has no answers. He is sent away with me as some kind of substitute for love, I suppose, and I answered the bell the night before this one by cradling him in a blanket as he shook in the cold on the porch of the white-picket fence home of Sis of Sacramento. He responded by refusing his food and obviously entreating me to find our way back to her. But I have nothing now but the fear all is lost, that something has gone hideously wrong with all of our plans, that it’s all my fault, due to my frailties and pointless yearnings, my hunger, my shame, my ceaseless clutching for some kind of answer to the internal and external system of demise pr entropy of all living things.
I have this bottomless fear that when I last looked at her, the wolf woman goddess in the rear view mirror, I had seen her for the last time. That you would realize, as we began to retrace our steps, too, we have akk faced the rain-swept valleys and snow-capped monarchs, as you searched your memory banks and found new reasons to doubt; reasons to love, to pass the miles ... going forward, but with a big question mark on yer head ...
First, it starts out with her leaning into a storm. Saying something about some ancient mythic devil rising from the sea. She is dancing wildly, in a dervish ... singing some wild name, the wind kicking 50 at least, the storms of America lashing into the shore ... We are still back on the Oregon Coast, then, with her Cappy sister priestess, who is also facing her own demons under these daunting conditions, and we have all come undone and grown tired from the move, come undone together and gone wildly into some other more suitable direction. Like Portland. Or Canada. Or maybe we could have just stayed put and even as I write this have remained hunkered down in our sad empty sleepiness owl’s nest of a house on the Oregon Coast, fighting off the golem and gargoyles of the Chinook winds with bouts of beer and bible beating. With Reiki on the run. With wild-eyed goddess energy that knows better than to find anything decent enough to grasp onto when it comes to the flighty love of a mere mortal man. I imagine two queens who have basically decided to rule the waves and currents of the collapsing world on their own, leaving me to listen to trains in the night, to wait for the daylight to pull myself together in order to carry all of this crap, this boatload of property, this totem dance of overwhelming memories, these dirty clothes and dog-barfed blankets, all of this material scarred earthenware, this skeletal shell of consumable us, to my own private, personal, sex-crazed, ego-driven kingdom hall of hell.
Now, in this black desert of the night, I have this ten by ten cell as a shelter from the chaos outside, but nothing to soothe me from within but the summoning of my own muse. O Gawd, let him be Gabriel rather than the dark dragon himself. May I find some way to soothe all of this pain by myself so that I, before the end of these forty days of fire, forty days of rain, face the very uncoiling of the snaky, imperfect soil from which the whole world is made. May I fight back these ghosts and lusts with the purest love I can muster, maybe for one last time. May I take this silly sword of mine and strike one last blow to the machine mind that has sucked us all down. May I find compassion from someone, somewhere, who will take my call via coin, prayer, Visa or Mastercard ...
It starts with a big bang on a motel room door in Scottsdale, Arizona, where things like this aren’t supposed to happen. Or, at least, they are rare. Or, at least, they have never happened exactly like this before. After you have been in enough cheap motels, after all, if you are real good at pattern recognition, which is really less of a science more like a, well, instinctive thing, you can pretty much trust the bizarre nature of a particular event as worth noting. In this case, the hotel room bursts open, waking you from your sleep at about midnight. Suddenly you are awake, your head is spinning, the door is open, your girl is gone, and so is your dog. So is your weed. Everything that gave you solace during the course of that ridiculous day is missing, in fact, and the noise outside your door is a weird sort of rumbling of bodies flying against each other, rude noises, angry sounds of men in some kind of heat of anger. Some kind of riot is going on outside your door, which has burst open. There is a big dog bark, maybe two big bellowing big dog barks, for just a moment, but then that’s gone, too, and the shouting of men in heat remains as sound waves of thumping and women wimpering cascades around you. Your first thought, O. is missing, she is missing, your girl is missing, and these two things, the absence and the melee, are somehow related. So you venture out your door, and what you see in in the surreal night light, the luxury night light of Scottsdale, in a parking lot with a great big high end department store logo glow in the background of your sight, a pretty place where perfect people shop and corporate America plunders ... in this soft spacious parking lot where many mall-dressed trophy wives have carried their bags in and out of the mall, and where touristas have parked their many cars, too, since it’s officially a Motel 6 parking lot, in Scottsdale of all places, there is a kind of cyclonic motion of men in tuxedos and women in white wedding dresses thumping on someone, apparently a black man with knotty hair. By this time, the contagion of wild violence is rolling away from your door, down the Motel Six sidewalk in front of the rooms, between the parked cars in the door, and they are wailing away on the guy, in the light. Then the cop cars come, and they have dogs, too, and they are barking. Then the cops look at you, with your mouth agape, asking you if you belong here, asking you if you are missing anything, and you say no, lying, of course, because you never tell the strange cop the strange sad inner truth of what you are thinking: Your girlfriend is missing. So is your dog and so is your pot. You deny your very deepest worry because you think, well, hell, they all must be related, right?
I relate this little Kodak moment to you, right now, from another cheap motel room in a place called Bushland, Texas. Really, it’s a place to the west of Amarillo. And these two places, the Motel 6 in Scottsdale, and this anonomoplace in Texas, because they are uniquely related, too. Through me and now, as you read this, through you. You are now being impacted, in some slight way, at least, by the wedding riot outside the door of the Motel 6 and by yes, the fact it has an impact on me.
In the time since the wedding riot, all I have really learned is the insurgents were all from out of town, and they were beating up some guy because some $3,000 wedding gift got broken. There were several arrests. If you wanted to, you could go to the Scottsdale police station and get the facts. There must be a real interesting story there about that riot. You could piece it together and make a movie out of just that. But I won’t, because I’m in a cheap motel room in Texas right now, and that event may have just as well been a hurricane, and I’ll bet all of those Katrina victims never watched much on TV during those one-year anniversary specials because they were probably just trying to deal, all the same, with the impacts of the storm. That’s me, in a nutshell. Just trying to deal with the impact of the storm.
The storm is in my head now. It has cigarrette smoke for clouds. The low pressure reading is in the chest, at the flatland level of worry. Cattle trucks are searing down the highway right now and this is one of those authentic Kerouac-like moments that maybe you wish you could experience, too, but, dear reader, I wouldn’t recommend it. Oh sure, your girl and your dog and your weed eventually returned to that Motel 6, and the riot and the disappearance were, as it turned out, unrelated. Maybe. Maybe. What can you trust anymore, anyway, based on the apparent lack of information. All you know is that Saturday, a week ago, you whole enchilada was thrown into the air, and then you're not sure not sure how or why. We all have been there. We know we have been lied too, by either the dog or the weed or or the girl or the president ... Who knows?
I know I have been lied to in Bushland. I can trust that, at least. But that’s another subject. The straightforward reason for this dissertation is hardly neccessary ... it can be about wnything about lost loves, lost dogs, a little lost doggy story ... it actually launched from a rather impromptu road trip from Scottsdale, Arizona, from a place called Morning Sun, Iowa. That’s about 1,200 miles. It’s got to be that distance, but honestly, I have rarely looked at the map throughout this entire trip. I know this country pretty well, by now, and one thing I’ve noticed that as big as it is, it’s getting smaller all of the time. But, for the sake of the honest novel and the need for plain simple record keeping, let’s just keep this epic tale in the time frame for road trip, and just let every conceivable lesson of life creep in.
Such as: If dog is man’s best friend, there are limits to this friendship, and therefore, a dog’s, um, fidelity. Because in this case the dog remained away for the rest of the night. And when sge comes back from her mysterious journey that night, you spent the next 12 hours trying to explain, how, exactly, the dog got away, and why, exactly, you have so many questions of her whereabouts for the Saturday in question. Eventually, the dog returned to the very same parking lot at about 10 a.m. Arizona time that following Sunday, acting like, hey, I’m back, where are all of the bad guys now?
We are deliriously happy at the return of the dog, but still missing the truth ... But folks, there’s just this plain fact now, whatever happened the night before, if it was enough to send a dog the size of a camel running around Scottsdale in terror, it was certainly enough to send me, the dog, and anyone else, including the wedding party, spinning hurling at high speeds onto the continent in any direction. Usually toward, or in the opposite direction of that point where we are born ...