Thursday, December 12, 2019

2 Minutes. Go!

I don’t necessarily want to tell, but it’s too good of a story to keep to myself. This was back in 1997, and your humble narrator was high on mushrooms and standing atop a cliff somewhere in Pennsylvania. This was nothing unusual. I suppose you want to feel like you were there. So. It was maybe eight people. Seven hippies and me. It was a fogged over day. It made me happy. Like I was in San Francisco instead of Pennsylvania. The forest looked like a forest. A pretty one. Many cigarettes were smoked. We toted our butts. There was probably liquor.

None of this matters is the thing. Not when you’re standing on top of a cliff high on mushrooms and running from a bunch of angst-filled, drug-addled years and childhood memories. I could hear my Dad in my ear, and he was saying the things he used to say in those years. A lot of questions. Most of them boiled down to: You are Bad. That’s not a question, I know.

So, this cocktail of anger and drugs and hangover and hippie rage is standing at the top of the cliff, and I decide that I will climb to the bottom. Into a ravine. Maybe about 300 feet down. I know I can do it. I plant my white Chucks into the rock and start going. Hippies are amused. But bored. They don’t understand anything I do, ever, anyway. But they have good drugs and find me entertaining.

So, it’s late afternoon and all is right with the world. I’m making steady progress and I’m LOCKED into what I’m doing. I have FOCUS and I am GOING TO MAKE IT. I am filled with a racing glee at this point. I am king of the world. Suck my dick. I am God.

And then the rock changes. It starts to crumble. Pathways disappear in seconds. The hippies are aware of what is going on. The girl who would become my girlfriend I would cheat on is yelling at me from the top to come back up. Two of the craziest hippies are running through the trees yelling like archetypal savages. It’s weird. And wrong. And right.

And I have to get to the fucking bottom. This will make more sense if you have ever dipped your toes in the psychedelic damp – I had to complete my quest. I was nothing if I backed out. I was a fraud. Pussy. My Dad was right. My idealistic notions were bullshit. But I was stuck. The last rational part of my brain knew it. There was no way I was getting down that cliff alive.

I’d like to give you the exciting conclusion you deserve, but I lived. I eventually decided that I didn’t want to die on a cliff in front of hippies. I didn’t want to die in Pennsylvania. I climbed up and hated myself more and more the closer I got to the top. I remember doing a jump across a gap onto a rock that must have been two feet square. I can still feel that. The terror. Didn’t die though. And didn’t redeem myself either. I sat in the back on the way home and got drunk by myself. Drunk enough to take more mushrooms.

And I don’t remember much after that.


  1. hahaha! it's great. you're there as you read it, with the hippies! lol. the dad, the memories pushing you to do something stupid, and then not being able to cos you realise how crazy it is. But then you do something else just as crazy. Bloody hell. And I have vertigo!

    1. Maaaagnificent... and I'm feeling a little dizzy, and a lot grateful the narrator survived and proved his dad wrong, eventually.

    2. Oh Lordy...dem darned hippies! Love this. And proves my theory there really is a god, especially for teen and 20s somethings...

    3. This is such a great vignette. Giving your inner Alex Honnold full rein... on psychedelics! Love it.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. (reposting with better formatting!)


    Harry never wanted to be normal, do the usual things, the average humdrum walking-through-life-not-seeing-it-really kind of normal. So he did everything in the book to prove he was otherwise. He grew his hair, got some tats, even a facial piercing or two.

    And then he travelled. Everywhere. On a shoestring. And not the usual; the stuff that involved scaling mountains with one hand or hand-gliding in ill-advised weather, giving goofy looking pigeons a run for their money. And money was something he really didn’t have much of, or crave. He didn’t want the wife, Volvo and two-point-three kids, so he bought a guitar and played gigs for a bit, and took up painting houses. But then being skint got boring, so he got the only job that truly scared him: stuntman.

    Ah, relationships. Well, he’d had more than his fair share of those. And fair they were, to be sure. Back in the day, he didn’t have to try too hard, there was always someone; always someone who took a shine to him, and whom he took one to back. It wasn’t that he wasn’t picky, he just loved women, and he fell in love or lust frequently. Of course, it wasn’t his fault that these things never worked out. He just never met the right woman who got him where you’re meant to be got. And when he’d finally given up on that, he met her.

    Bang! Slap in the middle of town, outside the bookies, walking his so-not-normal dog. The one everyone crossed the road to avoid. His grin was like a graveyard of jagged canines, looking to rip your head off. But no, she bent down and stroked him, coo-ed and ahh-ed, and had the soppy old sod eating out of her hands in no time – both of them. One thing led to another and they married (not the dog). But even Martha couldn’t tame him. She came close, but that wandering spirit couldn’t be rested.

    Thirty years of wedded bliss and then came ‘the affair’. It wasn’t even an affair to remember, but she couldn’t forget it. And he could never forget that she left. But he had the most wonderful daughter. She forgave him, still spoke to him. Harry read an article once, claiming people who could never settle, moved a lot, had the wanderlust, had many relationships, carried a special gene. He forgot the name, but some of the world’s greatest explorers had it. How he’d love to get tested for it.

    It was just like him to be a stuntman, Martha always said, and “can’t you get a proper job?”. He’d never meant to make it a career. It just looked fun. A pitstop. A break in the road. But a whale of a time it was. He never meant to get a little bit famous, but that happened too. Some might say that’s almost normal, but he managed to put a crazy spin on it. Until the accident, the one that brought him here, to this bed in this ward, this piss-coloured place. Who chose this damn paint anyway?


    Harry glanced down at the little face staring up at him through a shagpile mop of hair. “Did I drift off again, son?” he asked.

    The boy nodded. “Were you daydreaming? I do that all the time.”

    The old man laughed, knowing that dreaming was the start. “Yes. And I have some advice for you, son. Be normal!”

    The boy screwed up his face.

    “Be normal. Don’t stand out. It’s easier. No one will question anything you do. And everyone will understand you.”

    The boy bit his tongue and shook his head. “But Mum will kill me!”

    Harry turned to the bonnie, red-haired woman holding his hand on the other side of the bed, her eyes creased up in amusement. “He’s a chip off the old block, Dad. It’s too late now! Look at the example he’s had!”

    “Well, I never approved of all your tattoos, Joy. Wait til you’re eighteen before you get one, son. These things stick with you for life.”

    “Uh-mm, okay, granddad. Can I get a ring in my nose like you instead?”

    1. this is just beautiful, and the wanderlust is strong... thank you for sharing it!

    2. Love it! Nature versus nurture? Bah humbug! Both!

    3. Yes, this is so good, such a vivid portrait. This stood out for me: "He just never met the right woman who got him where you’re meant to be got. And when he’d finally given up on that, he met her." It reminds me of that (disputed) John Lennon quote: "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."

  4. There is a can of cranberry sauce he keeps in the pantry. Its expiration date is long past, yet he does not throw it out.

    It is not a name brand. Some generic store stuff he bought many Christmases ago.

    Thing is, he hates cranberry sauce. Especially when it comes in a can. You open it, and it slides out like snot from a cylindrical nose.

    But one Christmas Eve, after a rough year, he had only two things in the house. A bottle of Jack Daniels and the can of cranberry sauce. Oh, and dog food, but he wouldn’t eat that. Not because he had standards but because he wouldn’t steal it from the dogs. They deserved Christmas dinner.

    He stared at the bottle and the can for hours that Christmas, daring himself to open either one.

    But he didn’t. Instead, he found a pen and a scrap of paper and started writing. The next day, he went into town, swallowed his pride, and begged the grocer for enough food, simple food, for a week. The grocer had a soft heart.

    And he found a job. Handyman. Didn’t have a phone, so he went door to door, offering to split wood, change lightbulbs, clean clogged drains.

    And at night, he wrote. By a candle, by a flashlight, sometimes by a full moon.

    And when the book was done, he gave it to someone who said they knew someone who knew someone who knew an agent.

    And the book was published. Sold a few hundred copies. Enough to keep him writing.

    He didn’t get rich. He survived. But rich isn’t always measured in dollars, so he got rich in other ways.

    The bottle of Jack Daniels, he drank that, not all at once, but a sip at a time, but he never opened the cranberry sauce, and every Christmas he holds it in his hand, just to remember how far he’s come.

    1. This is so good. Again, I don't know how you do it, my friend, but you ride that line so well, the one that if you fell off you'd end up in the Swamp of Sentimentality. I always get real emotions from your pieces, none of them ever cheap. I think it's the depth accorded such tales by a real life lived, or something like that.

  5. It’s a wonderful life
    If you can handle the heartache
    And remember just a little of what you’re worth
    When they Yankee Doodle Dandies got their hands out in the square
    And the single Mom is begging for a pair or two of shoes
    And all the shoppers hurry past as if they just don’t care

    It’s a wonderful life
    But it comes with some wrinkles
    When you can’t hear the tinkling of bells on the tree
    And Joy to the world pounds like a migraine
    As a chorus of angels is earning their wings

    It’s a wonderful life but they don’t pull their punches
    Those vandals and thieves with their hands in your pockets
    And the kids can’t get a few hot school lunches
    They try hard to convince us it all comes down, to have and have nots
    And making their profits
    And everything is glittering and bright
    And nobody’s singing Silent Night

    But that ain’t the way the story goes
    To bring the darkness into light
    You gotta remember if we all stand together
    You have to both give and receive
    And open your heart to that message that echoes year after year after year

    Remember to value your life above all
    As a miracle gift from above
    Sure, your lip is still bleeding
    But you go on believing, you just can’t despair
    When you find Zuzu’s petals are still there.
    Still there…

    1. What a beautiful poem for this season. Thank you.

    2. Brava! We haven't come very far since Dickensian times, have we? :(

  6. “For Edie”

    This is a mother’s story. And a daughter’s. It’s also a story about sea monsters and aliens and other types of monster. Let me figure a way to tell it that pleases both you, the listener, and me, the teller. A necessary compromise whenever a tale is told. Mi abuela raised me on the edge of the rainforest in Bolivia. I grew up loving ants and antique cars and ham radio. Boys thought me weird and they were right. What they conveniently forgot, however, are the depths of weirdness each and every one of us harbor. After I moved to America, I fell out of love with ants and into love with crows. All of this happened so much more slowly than I’m telling it. Years. Decades.

    Though America’s my home, the cold and foggy Bay, a cabin by a pasture east of Tacoma, I dream so often of England. I know no one English and nor have I visited. A recurring dream is of the beginning of a war, and the town I live in, perhaps forty or fifty miles north of London, has not yet been bombed. When the bombers finally arrive, droning overhead and delivering thunder, instead of finding shelter the townsfolk gather to watch those dark crosses advance like apostates against a charcoal sky. A distant one releases its eggs of death. One much closer stops its flight, rotors appearing on its wings and fuselage, and the bombs drop slow as fish roe into a darkling stream. It’s a hovering duck, that plane, with its brain-dead helicopter rotors, but we’re unprepared, and nothing comes to challenge it in our sovereign skies. I pick my way between the leaden bombs, all fallen, none detonated. Great dull piles of tumbled ordnance. I know that one explosion will trigger a cataclysm, and I see the others, all avid for the experience of witnessing this inaugural arial assault, and I close my eyes and hold my breath as I step across the dispatched payload and enter the shelter and keep going as far as I can get underground, away from all possible calamity. Before I make it deep enough, I feel the first rumblings…

    So that’s just one of my England dreams. In some the calamity arrives; in others it doesn’t. Though we can’t count on it, usually hell bypasses us. In dreams of England, I speak English in their accent—somewhere between Mancunian and Yorkshire, I’m told. You should hear my bi-curious dreams. And my factory-worker chimney-climbing fantasies. Mm. I’ll get to those, though maybe not today.

    So once I started learning English, I found that honesty’s my kryptonite in some ways, in different ways than you might be thinking. A language changes things in our heads. Here’s a thing I once said on a date, word for word: “You are an attractive man. But you know something? I don’t find you sexually attractive in any way. How strange, right? At the same time, I find you incredibly humanly appealing, and I hope we can be lifelong friends. And before you take offense, try to imagine a man saying the same thing to a woman.”

    No one can imagine that, so it stumped him. Sincerity. So pitiful. So admirable. Yet I’d never have said anything close to that in any other language.

    Thank the crows for parks. Once a conversation goes—how do you say? sideways?—it’s good to walk the streets and find somewhere leafy. Notice how I said somewhere? I’ll always be foreign. Americans would say someplace. The parks, though, back to those. The big red special K in the rain-lashed night. Soft coos of waterbirds, even in darkness. Innocence with hints of depravity. Peeling bark and marching lines of ants. I tell my lovers not to spread themselves like Christ or centuries of whores, and they chuckle quietly, their gentleness exposed and not their weakness, until the evening doves amass beneath the bridges, rough sleepers light their scavenged stoves and boil their teas. Corvids talking politics like Foucault chatting sports. Philosophy and the painful smile of a dog. Yes, we all know what we know, Edie. That the dogs lay at your feet, always. That long past your passing, aching as they are, the streets themselves have always smiled.

    1. This is gorgeous. This especially is gorgeous " and the bombs drop slow as fish roe into a darkling stream" What's even more gorgeous is that I know this guy. When I was a kid I used to dream of the concentration camps in Germany up until I was about 5.

    2. As always, I marvel at your craft and ideation. The images that haunt me are the eggs of death and the dogs. Thank you for sharing this.

    3. Whoa, Teresa. That part, the strange WWII bombers with their helicopter rotors and the slow bombs falling came literally from a dream I had very recently! O_0

      Leland, always with the canines. Mine usually appear in their wild form not their domestic but we do seem to share this, lol.

  7. I read your blog now share great information here.pen tattoo machine


Please leave comments. Good, bad or ugly. Especially ugly.