Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Last Time I Saw Mike West

I had probably the worse job of my fugitive career at the time. I was kitchen manager for a pizza outfit with dancing mechanical apes. They knew three songs. People would put tokens in the jukebox and the apes would perform “Achey Brakey Heart” all day long.

It was probably the worse job of my life.

Ensnared in polyester, I stank of chicken grease. The sourness of the fryers associated with newly popular buffalo wings just ruined the pizza business. The singing apes didn't help much either. Old grease replaced the wholesome, bready aroma pizzerias had hitherto been associated with. The boss, one-fifth owner and a refugee from another singing monkey joint, likewise swathed in old poly blends, never swiveled from his office chair to visit my kitchen. I didn't blame him.

Beside me, was a staff of five young Latinos who let me know right away I wouldn't last if I wasn't part of their street crew. I had no idea what they were talking about. I briefly entertained the notion that they were breakdancers, but dismissed it. I still had too much Indiana Boy on me.

They were punks, and I told them that often. Their villainous exploits tormenting the homeless disgusted me. Likewise, they didn't respect my authority, and I rarely knew where to find them. It mattered little. I could better crank out our standard crap for the little Achey Breaky bastards we served without their assistance. They abandoned me to my fate and hid in the prep room and parking lot. I was well stocked, and the lot was clean. Jabba the manager, lights out with his Salem Slim Lights in his rayon office, didn't want to get involved. I didn't either. I was trying to talk the wife into letting me take a flaky art gig I had been offered, so why rock the boat.

When I saw the state of Dave and Mike's hobo camp, I was sure it was these guys.

I seethed, biding my time until I could quit and worrying about Dave and Mike and the others from the hole in the mountain. Before closing time, this kid Diego had told a story about leaning out of his buddies car and beating bums with a bat as they tried to run away.

When I clocked out, he was nowhere to be seen. I left by the back door and found Diego and pals in the shadows around the corner. Diego was leaning on a broom. I asked to see it, and took him out at the knees, continuing to beat the hell out of him as his friends stood there with their mouths open. I dropped the broom and walked to my car without looking back. I fought the urge to run for fear of acting like prey. I made sure nobody followed me home.

For some reason I went to work the next day. I fully expected to get jumped. Diego was a no show. Everybody stayed in the prep room longer than usual without carrying anything out. My nerves were shot. Finally Diego's best bud came out with trays of dough. I had a knife and bowl of flour nearby and wouldn't hesitate to use them. He smiled at me and said “Man, you really fucked old boy up! He won't be messing with you anymore”.

Just when I thought it was all okay, I got the call to go see the boss. He said he heard I hit one of his employees with a mop handle. I told him it was just a broom. He said he had filed a police report. I told him what I thought of Billy Ray Cyrus. We were on the same page regarding my career in mechanical dancing monkey pizza.

I didn't worry about the cops. I used a throwaway name to get the job. One I hadn't used anywhere else. They wouldn't look for me.

I didn't see Mike again for a year or better to learn how their camp was destroyed. By then, the wife and I, baby in tow, were blowing town in the wee hours of the morning. The Social Security people had sent letters informing us that we had ten days to explain why our names and numbers didn't match their records. Thankful for the warning, we collected our next paychecks and got in the wind to find a new town and new identities. I stopped to pick up a hitch hiker north of the city and it turned out to be Mike.

He said it was the cops who smashed their hobo village. He said a few people had gotten arrested but he and Dave lit out and moved to the Days Inn for a while. Apparently the old man in California died and his heirs weren't as tolerant to squatters. I've never felt bad about beating Diego.

Mike said Dave had gone to stay with neglected daughters in Texas and he had been attracting attention so he was moving on. We let him off in Casa Grande, where he had promise of a job. We got as far as Phoenix and the wife and baby were fussy from the car so we decided we were home.

Cleaning up the car at the motel, I found Mike West's flannel on the back seat floor with his social security card and birth certificate. He was just a little shorter than me, a little darker hair, a little older, but he had the necessary brown eyes. I just happened to be in need of a new identity and the Universe provided one. Mike West. My Quest. It was a sign that everything would be okay and I was right where I needed to be. I wondered how long it would last. I wondered how long I would be Mike. I wondered how long the wife would put up with this shit. A week? A month? A year?

We checked in to The Parkview as Mr. and Mrs. West. Within twenty four hours I was managing a downtown pizzeria. We baked our wings and wore cotton shirts and I thrived a while in the ape free atmosphere.

Friday, July 29, 2016

The Day I Met Mike West

I had been checking out the mountains east of Tucson, just before Big Cat Mountain, and noticed a geological peculiarity. It looked like one of the small mountains had been quarried. The next day, I visited that mountain and met Mike West.

I parked at the bottom of a hill, and hiked up the dirt road that led to the declivity. You couldn't see what was ahead until you crested a hill and I didn't want to drive onto somebodies mine claim.

Once I popped past the incline, I saw a flat area a couple of hundred feet to a side, set at the bottom of a quarry of a black marble looking stone. I later learned the stone was quarried for a large downtown office building.

There was smoke, from the lean remnants of a central camp fire. Dotted around the fire were the coolest huts I had ever seen. They were built of fieldstone, maybe a foot thick. They were about three feet high and then a tarp over saplings made up the roof.

I didn't see any movement and so called "Haloo in camp"! I had never seen any shit so organized before and didn't want to appear the scoundrel. I might like this crew. I wanted to see what it was about.

A wizened older fella came out of the first hooch and squinted at me. The desert sun had eaten a hole in his nose. He had long whiskers and long hair. Some of the original color remained, but you'd be hard pressed to name it. He walked over and I stuck out my hand before I saw him good. "Dave! How the fuck have you been"?

I met Dave in Glenwood Springs Colorado. He was a train tramp. In that town, was a community of travelers. Dave helped show me the ropes. He moved on before I did. People got killed riding the trains back then. Probably a lot more than you know. I had worried about him in the years since we drank good stouts and smoked good ganja while hiding in the tall grass at a siding.

What a small, small, world.

He invited me into his hooch, which was remarkably cool, maybe twenty or thirty degrees, and introduced me to his roomate Mike. Mike had brown hair styled like that of a scarecrow, tufting out from under a flopped down boonie hat. We shook hands and he was just a few inches shorter, a few years older, and a few pounds lighter. He had brown eyes. Of course I wasn't thinking like that at the time
I bought a sack from Mike that day, and we talked at length about the Arizona Sonora Desert. They said they could get me on as a landscaper with their crew, but I told them I had my own gig. I was glad I parked the Mazda down the hill.

They told me the mountain was owned by an elderly guy in Santa Barbara. He was in a nursing home, and nobody watched his land. They said the cops never came, because it was private property.

I visited every payday, with a sack of hambourguesas, and scored a sack of sexy mexy from Mike. Dave got a hat and his nose got better. They invited me to stay. I blamed my wife for needing an indoor home. A fugitive can't take chances like that. I was jealous. I wanted to live there so bad, but eventually I would not be able to stand to the scrutiny. The mountain was too close to town not to bring prying eyes.

This continued for four or five months. Then one week I finally drove the Protege all the way up and found a scene of devastation. The hooches, down to the stone walls, were rubble. Smoke still rose from the lean remnants of a fire. The pantry was levelled. Canned goods lay stomped and squished. Nothing remained.
I left in tears, that something so beautiful had been destroyed. Were my friends safe? There were children. I had an idea who was behind this. They would pay.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Freedom. Tyranny. Reality.

We trade away our freedom daily in a multitude of ways. We elect petty tyrants to oversee our actions, sacrificing liberty.

Employers, governments, families, oil companies, banks; the list is endless. We bargain for our bread, our time, our comfort, with each of these tyrannies and love it. We hate it. The truth is, nobody has any power over us we haven't sold them.

Its unavoidable if we are going to function in this psychological construct that constitutes our society, our reality.

Freedom from these tyrants, this construct, is scary shit. Even realizing that what we call reality is just a social contract can be terrifying. This is why people have bad trips on psychedelics.

An odd thing about tyrants, the big and scary ones like world leaders and such, are much less powerful than the everyday nagging pain in the ass type. Anybody who has been in a bad relationship should recognize this.
The good news is, we are the ones calling the shots. Nobody gets a slice of our freedom unless we allow it. WE make the bargains that enslave us. Individually.

Don't want that nagging spouse? Leave. Don't like getting screwed by the banks? Don't deal with them. Don't like the alternative? Then you're scared of what freedom really is and have chosen your brand of servitude to match your aspirations.

I have a good deal of experience in this field.

Everything is ok. You have nothing to be afraid of but your self. Nobody has any power over you that you have not granted them. We need to remember this. I need to remember this.

It may be necessary to our survival.