Sometimes You Simply Need To See Word After Word Go By


It isn’t always about telling a story or making sure that you get your point across to a specific audience. It isn’t perpetually about making you sure you anticipate critique and use it to block the negative carefully. It isn’t even always about letting people read the words that you are writing.

Sometimes you need to write down words as they come into your head with absolutely no destination point in mind, no end to get to, and no saga to continue.

In the summer, blue skies always remind me of laying on my back in the scraggly grass that we had in Lancaster. It wasn’t quite nuked to death by the sun or dehydrated from the sun. It was so comfortable under the fruitless mulberry we had in the front yard. I would look up, and I would see this perfect azure blue to the sky. It wasn’t graduated, it wasn’t layered, it was a solid sheet of the color blue like you were looking at a color swatch in a paint book. When the clouds would come across like little pieces of popcorn, they would always be moving so fast because of the higher elevation that we were in in the desert. They would be there in the shapes that you would turn them into, and before long, they would be speeding away towards the valley to get turned into the movie stars shade and the beach bums weather reports.

The clouds coming over the mountains, coming in from the west, always looked like a giant foam from a wave that would take everything. All that you needed was to wait for just a second. Then there would be a thunderous cataclysm, and the valley would be washed clean of the gang-violence and the broken promises of employers who didn’t need to know your language to offer you a job no one would take for that kind of money. It would erase the pain from the broken families and the terror of the Nightstalker. Even if it had made it down to Millwood Ave, they would have found a way to make the wave wash the truth away and let them hang so desperately onto the alcoholism and deceit that kept the happiest family in the barrio together.

Water is the happiness I have trouble putting into context for someone who has never wanted to disappear in the Pacific and be found like a message in a bottle, thousands of miles away. We would go down to Malibu or Zuma, and they would wait with tapping feet as we tried so hard to get clean in the ocean in the Magellan called the Peaceful Sea. We would dance in the seaweed and the shells and try to keep our eyes open the entire time. We wanted a recording of the moments we got there, of the times when we were truly free. Sooner, always sooner, we would be back in the car driving up the PCH and back to the air that was so dirty you needed to breathe slower on the cloudy days if you would fall over and cough up blood.

We left the ocean, where there is no memory of ill or fault and only raw power and beauty. I fell in love with here, I honestly did. I have sat by the lake with a fifth of Whiskey and a folded over notebook trying to be Dylan Thomas with a heroin problem, or later on, maybe I was Coleridge without the heroin problem. I would write my nonsense prose, my rhyming couplets, my sing-song story poems, and at the end of the day I would walk back down 19 to the shit hole on the corner of 18 and climb into bed and listen to the same five songs I still welcome into my soul every day.

As things must go, days and weeks faded into months and years: death and love, more the latter than the former. I am blessed with beauty in my life that I do not deserve. I look into the eyes of three of the most beautiful creations in existence, and it stops my breath to know I had anything to do with how they have become the wonders they have become.

Sitting here, I never realized how much time had passed, passed with nothing to show for its passage, but scars I cannot heal from and trinkets I would gladly return.

Just In Case, You Know?


If you walked just far enough across the broken rock and rough sand, you felt that you had lost a hundred years and you were back in a time when no one knew what was out in the desert, and even fewer people cared. You knew the bodies under the sand were far more than what you could count and if you walked just the right way, for just the right amount of time, you would never see a single human being again before you inevitably died of exposure, or worse things if you had karma against you that day.

Then, in the barrio, you knew bad people were doing their dark deeds under the arc sodium lights from the ocean to the foothills. Even as a kid you knew that you simply didn’t go outside when you heard the helicopters overhead and, if you stupidly did, you prayed they never pointed those huge spotlights in your backyard for longer than a second or two lest you brace against the door in the warm dark of an abandoned closet that you hoped the bad guy would ignore. Ignore as they ransacked your house for anything that could get them just one more fix, one more fix and then they could stop, they swore that one more is all that it would take to get them on the straight and narrow. They just needed to get the spiders out of their skin, stop the itching, stop the dreams.

The plains aren’t flat like the jokes tell you they are. They are this nearly never-ending undulation that starts in Ohio and never really ends until you slam into the Rockies thirteen hundred miles to the west. The wind never stops, and not a light breeze either, it has had days to get to you and it hits like a truck right before the skies turn that green-tinted gray that only means that you need to find a basement or a really good hole in the ground. The clouds sit just a few dozen feet off the ground sometimes and you swear you can hear the thunder and the lightning resetting like a huge gun being cocked.

Here though, here by this lake that I fell in love and hate with on the same day, this is where the points of my life have brought me to stay. With humidity that makes your clothes stick to you like you just got out of a pool and cold that makes the meteorologists simply tell you that you will die if you go outside without the right clothes on. Simple drives can take you through cities and forests, across rushing rivers and pastoral farmland all in the space of a half an hour. Communities on the edge of the urban sprawl look so comfortable and cozy but they have secrets far darker than you realize. You never look into the windows of certain houses, you never look into the cabbage fields late at night or something just might notice you doing it.

It isn’t the obviously frightening things you are afraid of in these places, it is the narrow streets you don’t see all the way down, the dirt roads that lead to the churches you know have been closed for generations, and yet there are fresh tire tracks leading up there every single Saturday. It is Richard Ramirez and the hauntingly real terror that he brought to an entire generation of children in Los Angeles, even after he got caught. It isn’t tornadoes you are afraid of, it is the looters who storm chase to make sure they get the best stuff right away.

Fear is not a universal constant, what frightens the Bear would hardly touch the Dragon, or the Great White Wolf, or even the Kitten, but there are places that make all of us shiver just a little bit as we go by them and no matter how long it has been since we have been Catholic, maybe we whisper words we don’t believe in, in a language that no one speaks anymore, just in case.

Just in case.