Thursday, December 14, 2017

"HIDDEN FORTESS" WORTH FINDING


          He is one of the world's most respected directors, but he made more money suing Sergio Leone for making A Fistful of Dollars (1964), an unauthorized re-make of the samurai picture Yojimbo (1961), than he did with any of his highly influential films. From Akira Kurosawa's masterpiece, Seven Samurai (1954), Hollywood derived the classic Western The Magnificent Seven (1960). Perhaps less well-known, however, is the Kurosawa film which helped inspire George Lucas making Star Wars (1977).
          The Hidden Fortress (1958) concerns two bickering peasants in Feudal Japan trying to cross enemy lines. In the mountains they find a secret cache of gold, and each man's insatiable greed instantly kicks in. But they also meet a mysterious stranger (Mifune) who knows of the gold, and wants to escort an equally mysterious young woman (Uehara) with the gold from a fortress hidden in the mountains across the same enemy lines.
          In some respects, echoes of John Huston's The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948).
          True enough, one could easily watch The Hidden Fortress and never notice any connection with Star Wars. Lucky for us, Lucas freely discusses the film's influence, chiefly in the use of the two lowest characters' point of view. But there are other aspects, as well. To compare the character of Hyo with Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi (1983) is to see influences in terms of story events and visual elements.
          Even the word "Jedi" itself comes from the Japanese word for historical dramas, "jidaigeki". In fact, Lucas tried to get Toshiro Mifune to play Obi-Wan Kenobi, but Mifune turned down the part because he didn't want to undermine samurai honor with space opera frivolity.
          Superlative cinematography, excellent acting, and an engrossing story highlight this film gem regardless of Star Wars. The performance by Minoru Chiaki, the taller of the two peasants, merits particular attention, especially considering how wildly different this character is from Heihachi, the woodchopper, in Seven Samurai.
          Freely available online.


THE HIDDEN FORTRESS
Starring Toshiro Mifune,
Minoru Chiaki,
Kamatari Fujiwara,
Misa Uehara,
Susumu Fujita,
Takashi Shimura
Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Written by Ryuzo Kikushima, Hideo Oguni,
Shinobu Hashimoto, Akira Kurosawa
Runtime 126 minutes

Stewart Kirby writes for





and



Wednesday, December 6, 2017

"FALCON" FLIES

          The benchmark in film noir.
          The Maltese Falcon (1941), directed by John Huston, stars Humphrey Bogart as San Francisco private eye Sam Spade.
          Based on Dashiell Hammett's third novel, published in 1930, the film takes material which crossed the line from pulp writing to great literature and turns what was standard movie fare twice into a film classic.
          Hammett himself was originally from Baltimore, the city where the creator of the detective story, Edgar A. Poe, is buried, so it is fitting that Hammett carried the literary torch. His experiences working as a Pinkerton's detective before joining the Army proved invaluable. Subsequent to an honorable discharge due to the very Poe-ish ailment of tuberculosis, Hammett moved to San Francisco, got married, and supplemented his small pension by writing hard-boiled detective stories for Black Mask.
          Behind Sam Spade's own wry, sardonic mask is a guy twice as jaded but who nonetheless has a moral compass and more or less follows it.
          Huston's screenplay, generally faithful to Hammett's novel, dazzles audiences with a kaleidoscope of dysfunctional criminals seeking a fabled treasure from the days of the Knights Templar.
          Yes, The Maltese Falcon! Starring Mary Astor as the femme fatale who has it all...Peter Lorre as Joel Cairo! Vaguely exotic, alternately simpering and demanding, his watery boiled-egg eyes long to behold...The Maltese Falcon!
          "When you're slapped, you'll take it and like it!"
          Sydney Greenstreet as Kasper Gutman, aka The Fat Man: "By Gad, sir, you are a character! There's never any telling what you'll say or do next, except that it's bound to be something astonishing!"
          Elisha Cook Jr. as Wilmer: "I'm warnin' you..."
          Interestingly, the great character actor Dwight Frye played the role of Wilmer in 1931, the same year he played Renfield in Dracula.
          Gritty and timeless, funny and stylish, packed with danger and intrigue, treachery and romance, The Maltese Falcon is the cinematic treasure to pursue!
          For more film noir, check out The Third Man (1949), Double Indemnity (1944), and The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946).
          "The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter, huh?"


THE MALTESE FALCON
Starring Humphrey Bogart,
Mary Astor,
Sydney Greenstreet,
Peter Lorre,
Elisha Cook Jr.
Written and directed by John Huston
Based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett
Runtime 100 minutes

Stewart Kirby writes for






and



Friday, December 1, 2017

THE TURN ONS



Dig if you will this picture:


The film opens with a hand turning dials on strange machines in a large dark room. Immaculate hands carefully turn back starched white sleeves. As credits appear we see the figure of a well-dressed man. By his appearance and the proximity of huge electrical coils we may correctly surmise the figure is none other than Nikola Tesla. His hand nears an imposing switch. A close-up shot shows a wire wriggling loose due to vibrations on activation of the humming machinery. Before he pulls the switch, the shot pulls back to reveal the scope of the room and the equipment within it. Cut to the wire popping completely free just before Tesla throws down the switch. An ominous popping sound immediately results, and suddenly the surroundings of the room change utterly. Tesla is standing in the same spot on screen, but the laboratory is now gone. A few feet away, looking at Tesla incredulously with a pair of headphones on his head and a bag of Cheetos in his hands, sits a teenager in a chair at a desk with a computer.


The kid is 14 or 15 and has an older sister, a younger brother, and a mom who's been divorced for a couple of years. The year is 1992. The movie I.Q., starring Walter Matthau as Albert Einstein playing matchmaker to Meg Ryan and Tim Robbins, will not exist for two more years.


The kid's name is Albert. His mother's name is, I dunno, Meg. For awhile, the kid tries to hide Tesla. Lots of crashing around, Meg wondering what the hell's going on. Kind of like Harry and the Hendersons, except instead of a Bigfoot, it's Tesla.


Eventually Meg meets Tesla. At first she's scared, but then she sees how sweet and nice he is, and useful with household repairs. Tesla already figured out what must have gone wrong with his experiment. He explains to the kid that he needs a couple of weeks to build a machine that will enable him to return to his own time.


Now, the mom has a boyfriend, and we can see he's a real piece of crap. He wants the credit for being a handyman, but we can see he has no idea what he's doing. He said he'd fix the light fixture. All he really does is say disrespectful things to the mom and stare at the daughter behind her back.


Meanwhile, the high school Science Department is about to lose funding and get slashed as a program because so much of the budget got blown on the music department. And this breaks the kid's heart until Tesla--whom Meg reluctantly increasingly likes--has the shocking idea to throw a music concert to raise money for the Science Department. Forming a band, they call themselves The Turn Ons. In front of everyone, now in charge, Tesla raps "You Light Up My Life" to the mom. The crappy boyfriend tries to get revenge, and instead Tesla conducts an old-time ass-whoopin'. Then the whole family sings AC/DC's "High Voltage" with the school joining in.


However, Meg sees a picture of Tesla in one of the kid's science books. She realizes who he is just before he has to go. More importantly, she realizes that she loves him...


I'm gonna hurt people with this one. This is exactly the awful punishment that people need to suffer for lacking the good sense to buy my great stories. Oh, we like canned spray cheese, do we? Gonna pay hard for that. Because guess what? The machine Tesla finishes the night of the school concert is not a time travel machine, but one which summons aliens. Whom he knows on first-name basis. And as he flies away, the credits come up while we have to hear Debby Boone.






Inventor.


Lover.


Rap star.


THE TURN ONS



Wednesday, November 29, 2017

FOREMOST OF THE MOHICANS





          A quarter-century later, and still definitive.
          Michael Mann had an unlikely skill-set to direct the premiere version of the frontier romance etched on the national character. He had directed an episode of "Police Woman" and Manhunter (1986), the first film to feature that other great American literary hero, Hannibal Lecter. 
          To play Hawk-eye (a character inspired by real-life frontier hero Daniel Boone), Mann enlisted Daniel Day-Lewis, famous at that time for the artistic commitment he demonstrated in My Left Foot (1989). In that film, Day-Lewis convincingly portrayed Christy Brown, a spastic quadriplegic who became a painter, poet, and author. Mann's film required the same level of dedication with an essentially antithetical character.
          Prior to the making of Mann's vision, several other versions of James Fenimore Cooper's most famous tale dotted the cinematic landscape: A version in 1920 with Wallace Beery, one in 1936 with Randolph Scott, a BBC TV series in 1971, a 1977 incarnation with Steve Forrest. 
          For Mann's 1992 masterpiece, painstaking detail girds the film to a degree unique in movie history. The clothing, the weapons, the tools--according to a featurette which preceded the film in original videocassette release, even the canoes used in The Last of the Mohicans were constructed using traditional methods. 
          A Special Forces colonel at a survival training camp in Alabama was tasked with taking Day-Lewis, an English actor and son of a poet who had never fired weapons, and turn him into a person who could convincingly do the things required of his character. Such as load a black powder rifle on the run. 
          For those unfamiliar with the story, Chingachgook (Means), his son Uncas (Schweig), and his adopted son Hawk-eye help rescue the kidnapped daughters of a British colonel during the French and Indian War.
          As the treacherous scout, Magua, Wes Studi is perfectly cast. From the first moments that we see him wrapped quietly in the shadows, we know this guy has his own agenda.
          And he's not the only one. Steven Waddington plays a memorable suitor to the generally uninterested Cora Munro (Stowe), who also captures the attention of Hawk-eye. 
          Featuring unforgettable music and jaw-dropping cinematography, The Last of the Mohicans is a rousing action-packed adventure like no other. 


THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS
Starring Daniel Day-Lewis,
Madeleine Stowe, 
Russell Means,
Eric Schweig,
Jodhi May,
Steven Waddington,
Wes Studi
Directed by Michael Mann
Written by Michael Mann, Christopher Crowe
Based on the novel by James Fenimore Cooper
Runtime 112 minutes
Rated R

Stewart Kirby writes for

Monday, November 27, 2017

"LEAGUE" LIFELESS



          Nope.
          Most of this long-hyped movie's best bits went in the trailer--an awesome trailer made largely so by a Jack White song.
          The biggest problem with Justice League has to be the palpable sense of competition with Marvel. DC studies Marvel too much.
          The villain, Steppenwolf (voice of Ciaran Hinds), was created by Marvel legend Jack Kirby for DC, first appearing in 1972. J.K. Simmons (J. Jonah Jameson in the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man films) plays Commissioner Gordon here, and Batman (Affleck), has already played Marvel's Daredevil. 
          Unfortunately, Ben Affleck wasn't very good as Daredevil and his Batman, chunky suit and all, isn't much different.
          The business of filmmaking has degenerated the art form to new lows of factory-like production attempting to simulate regurgitated successes. For example, Steppenwolf wears a horned helmet and is of Sauron-like height; powerful Arwen-like women on horseback try to keep an object from Steppenwolf, and though that object is not a ring, it may as well be. 
          Justice League is a prime example of a movie which "acts to the mirror" with no feeling, no substance. Arranged like a ransom note with bits from LOTR, Terminator 2, Batman, and Superman--The Movie, Justice League underwhelms in direct proportion to the long marketing build-up. Context counts. If Koko the gorilla made this movie, it would be the most amazing thing ever. But, incredible as it may seem, she didn't.
          Superman's mustache hurts us all. Even though we can't see it clearly, because its cloaking device renders the mustache a distracting blur, still we know it's there. Henry Cavill was contractually obliged to maintain the mustache for another film, and we can't forget it.
          The filmmakers miss the Superman mark by a wide margin for a number of reasons, all of which boil down to Cavill not being the right choice. He's too small, too smug. Christopher Reeve is still the only Superman.
          The best casting decision is Gal Gadot. She makes an incredibly credible Wonder Woman. Further to the good, Aquaman (Momoa) and the Flash (Miller) bring some laughs--the former resembling Father Neptune rather than the blonde dude in the comics, and the latter being portrayed as a calorie-consuming teen.
          However, a film so massively hyped needs an unforgettable villain, yet this one here is mere computer-generated fluff. The movie would have been better off with a black void in lieu of the cheap-looking CG face on a lame character with a name hearkening at all times pointlessly to a.)  the book by Hermann Hesse about a Bohemian loner who rents a room, and b.) the band that named themselves after the book.
          Note: If they had worked Superman's mustache into a story involving time-travel and Friedrich Nietzsche, presenting Nietzschean Superman to the strains of "Born to Be Wild", then they would have had a winner.
          But nope.

JUSTICE LEAGUE
Starring Ben Affleck,
Henry Cavill,
Gal Gadot,
Ezra Miller,
Jason Momoa,
Ray Fisher,
Amy Adams,
Jeremy Irons,
Ciaran Hinds (voice)
Directed by Zack Snyder
Written by Chris Terrio, Joss Whedon, Zack Snyder
Based on DC Comics characters
Runtime 120 minutes
Rated PG-13

NOTE: I will have to remove the {notation} for italics later. No time now.

Stewart Kirby writes for


Monday, November 20, 2017

"STRANGE TRIP" HIGH-QUALITY



          One of the best bands ever formed now has one of the best documentaries ever made.
          Long Strange Trip, the Grateful Dead story, features never-before-seen footage from prime Dead years, new interviews with band members, family, and crew, and fascinating insights on the group's driving force, Jerry Garcia.
          The nearly four-hour experience available online consists of six episodes of varying length and a bonus feature, beginning with Act I - "It's Alive" which starts with Jerry talking about how as a kid the Frankenstein monster used to scare him. For him, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) was a transformative experience because he saw that scary things, weird things, were fun.
          Sometime in his teens Jerry heard the 5-string banjo of Earl Skruggs and it changed his life. He spent all his time practicing "conversational music" where "the instruments kind of talk to each other."
          Around this time Jerry met a fellow singer and musician Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, and then they met another, Bob Weir. Jerry decided that as much as he loved banjo, he needed to unlearn everything and pick up an electric guitar. Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann, and Mickey Hart rounded out a band composed of members fusing diverse styles. And they happened to have a genius lyricist in one Robert Hunter.
          Also at this time Ken Kesey, author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, was tooling around by bus with a bunch of friends calling themselves the Merry Pranksters and experimenting on their own with a strange new drug which the government was investigating as potential for a weapon. So the band made friends with him right away.
          The film manages to present the psychedelic phenomenon wholeheartedly embraced by the Grateful Dead at the time without either glorifying or condemning. We simply see what happened.
          More than any other band, the Dead represent the freewheeling spirit of the '60s. Many people changed their lives from whatever they were doing to follow the Dead and form a psychedelic carnival wherever they go. They are called Deadheads. No Rolling Stonesheads. No Whoheads. Just Deadheads.
          Interestingly, it is a hallmark of the band that they saw no difference between themselves and their fans. Yet somehow, out of all the chaos, they made it big on their own terms. All they really wanted to do was escape mind-numbing conformity and survive by playing music. True, the band also aspired to advance the human race a step by finding joy in the present through the freedom of self-expression and getting loaded. But when the groovy Hippie scene in the Haight-Ashbury area of San Francisco turned into tour buses carting uptight straights pointing with horn-rim glasses, cameras, and brochures, the Hippies glanced aghast and politely headed north.
          Long Strange Trip is a magic carpet ride to that time. A fascinating documentary about more than only one band, it's a trip so well worth taking, it might just change your life.


LONG STRANGE TRIP
Starring Jerry Garcia,
Phil Lesh,
Bob Weir,
Ron McKernan,
Bill Kreutzmann,
Mickey Hart,
Robert Hunter,
Donna Godchaux
Directed by Amir Bar-Lev
Runtime 238 minutes
Rated R




Stewart Kirby writes for



Friday, October 27, 2017

DESTINY BECKONS



1


THE LOYAL READER WILL doubtless recall sometime back I found a US Marines flag someone left in my pickup. Now today I find myself the recipient of a gift nearer to my heart: A lance. An actual lance. I have no idea who left it for me, but I'm keeping it.




With my trusty tape measure I find it is eleven feet long. The width of the wood varies, but it weighs only a few pounds. The only way I could get it into my apartment was through the window. I propped it against the sill, went back inside, and pulled it right on through.




Now I have a lance. I have no idea why.




My cell phone is dead and my charger doesn't work, so I can't take pictures yet. I don't know, maybe it's an olde-time selfie-stick. Sure looks like a lance, though.




It is. Don't worry. Joust you wait and see.


2




Meet yNsaynZy.



He's a superhero.



His power: Insanity.



Once a prominent scientist, Dashiell Kesey helped Big Pharmaceutical--until he saw the terrible potential of a harmful new drug. He tried to stop the insidious plan to control and enslave the vast majority of humanity, but was caught in a blast at the lab that changed him...did not kill him, but made him stronger. Made him...yNsaynZy.



Behold his kingly raiment!





Some say he is the god Dionysus in human form. Others say he is a man who became a god.




Both true? Probably.




But one thing is certain:




He is the greatest military leader to walk the face of the earth.




He's yNsaynZy!




They called Galileo crazy, too.




The artist is always crazy, the visionary always crazy, the prophet always mad. In a world where people are pumped day in and day out with pills, pills, pills, pumped with deadly drugs pushed by TV, the crazy man has no TV and pops no pills at all. His is the strength of the madman, and he quotes from Hamlet and Nietzsche, Captain Ahab and James Joyce,  Vincent Van Gogh and Edgar A. Poe, before delivering justice unto wrongdoers.




I think I'm really onto something here.









3




By golly, somebody keeps leaving me things in my truck. I swear to god, it's bizarre. This morning's Mystery Gift:




A sword.




First a flag. Why? Then a lance. Why? Now a sword. So why not keep them? All carefully placed. Well, not the flag so much. That seems separate. The lance and the sword were placed very specifically in a particular way though, and unlike the flag they both look and feel old. Authentic.


It's a cool old sword. Leather scabbard with either an N on it or a Z, depending how you look, or maybe both. Horse head hilt. Blade even looks like it has ancient blood rusted on it. I love working on my new story while I wear my sword hanging from my belt. Which is a perfectly legal thing for me to do here in Oregon should I so choose to travel out and about with my sword.









4


I cast unaccountable shadows. Not all the time so noticeably. But sometimes, si, muy noticeable. I'll be sitting in a chair in a room and see my silhouette with what looks unmistakably like the lance mysteriously given to me. Many times I spin around seeking the source of the effect. Always nothing there. The actual lance is on my bedroom floor until I get around to setting up a couple of mounts on the wall.


5


Q: Could Stone Age Man emerge from caves and build pyramids around the world oriented with mathematical perfection and celestial bodies?


A: No.


Q: Is this planet the oldest in the universe?


A: No.


Q: Have there ever been older places than this planet where intelligent life existed?


A: Yes.


Q: Could ancient astronauts have ever visited this planet?


A: Yes.


Q: Is there any evidence of ancient astronauts visiting this planet?


A: Yes. For example, the pyramids.


Indeed, we live on the surface of a world of evidence that giants in the metaphorical sense and the literal came from a bigger, older planet and created...us.


These giants stand all around us still.


Amenhotep was the first Pharaoh to honor one god, a sun god, and his wife and son, Nefertiti and Tut, had the same long head as Amenhotep, whose name is still said in worship with the word Amen.


Q: Why does the Pope wear a long-head hat?


A: To resemble the real thing. And the real thing may have worn long-head hats to hide the alarming difference from the masses engineered with smaller skulls and weakened aspects.


According to the world's oldest-known civilization (which by definition could not have referred to any previous culture), giant people came from the stars and created human beings. We are the planet's first robots, created as the worker slaves for Those Who From the Heavens Came.


The Annunaki.


They came from a twin-sun world 3-5 times the size of our own, and they created our world when their home planet of Nibiru slammed on the course of its incredibly long elliptical orbit into a planet called Tiamat, splitting it and merging elements with the halves: One became Earth, and the other Mars. Mars became their station planet. Then they created the Moon to orbit Earth.


They did this because they wanted to rule humanity, which they managed to create after a few unsuccessful attempts, specifically in order to mine gold.


Humanity was created to mine gold for a planet with a diminishing atmosphere in an attempt to deflect the harmful rays of the suns. Bigfeet are examples of unsuccessful attempts at genetic engineering. The Annunaki blended a tiny bit of their DNA with that of Gigantopithecus Blackie, a 14 foot-tall Asian ape on the fossil record. The results were unsuccessful because the product proved too spirited to control. But eventually they got it right.


6


Soon I have to find a new job again. Work is running out once more, goddamit to hell. No more holes to patch with joint compound, no more walls to prime and roll, no more masks and no more fumes, no more pools to paint, no more floors to tile or to pull, no more ants to kill, no more toilets to install, nor hardware to screw back on while the co-worker's mix on blue tooth blares, no more trips around town in a truck with any appliances strapped down in back, no more paycheck, no more food, no more rent, no more gas, no more bills, no more nothing but praying to some benevolent agent way up there in the Black Knight Satellite, or maybe somewhere down in Hollow Earth.


Yes of course I understand that our minds are as electromagnetic as the atmosphere around the planet--to which our minds automatically adjust--so I do find it disturbing that even as I pen these words, drone-like agents following orders spray aluminum sulphide in horizon-spanning grids which, when heated remotely by High-Frequency Active Auroral Research Project (HAARP) radio towers remotely located in Alaska raise a column of the ionosphere, ultimately altering the Jetstream, and thereby manipulating the weather, perhaps as the by-product of an attempt to repair this planet's ozone shield, and if so then thereby falling again into a condition set by people from Planet X who created us to mine gold required to repair their own depleted global shields.


Job-wise around here, I can readily attest to the slimness of the pickings. And so, therefore, now more than ever, to return to the world of Dashiell Kesey, he who became...yNsaynZy. I must concentrate my mental efforts, visualize, visualize. Yes, I am committed.


7


Finally, tangible meditation results!


Supposedly Moses had eyes that glowed. I think we've all got the ability, deep down, to make our eyes glow. I know I did. I meditated in the dark in front of a mirror for almost three hours and saw them glow as though by an interior light for seven full minutes like twin suns.




And I got to thinking. I think gray aliens, traditional almond-eyed aliens with diminutive, sexless bodies, uniform appearance, and hive minds, are actually androids of the Annunaki. They seem to be alive, but are not. They are the remote operatives of their Makers.


The Makers place their operatives in countless locations. Go to any planet you like. If you can visit it, its been visited. And marked. By them. Bet on it. Bet the farm.


Most farmers farm things you probably have never imagined, and yet they all recognize the bulbous head, the lifeless black eyes, the pale little bodies. From the dawn of their own time.


Counting properly from the outer edge toward the sun, we are on the 7th planet, Ki. When Nibiru slammed into Tiamat and created Ki, it left much of itself here. Hence the otherworldly. From a region of shadows the wings of the wind carry a witching influence in the air over the entire world.


Es mi destino compartir la verdad de nuestra herencia alienigena con el mundo.


And today, by the way, I received yet another lovely gift, this time right outside my door: A shield. An ancient shield, stately and sturdy, such as a knight might use. And on the surface of the shield are arranged such figures as resemble those of Sumerian cylinder seals revealing the planets in this galaxy, and the placement of each in relation to the rest. It is a right noble shield, and I shall carry it into battle with lance and sword against all enemies of justice.


8


Bopping around the boondocks in quest of gainful employ I find myself inordinately conscious of the many, many, many, many, many giant windmills spinning on the rolling hills. And even as I am conscious of the great big fat amount of economic nada waiting for me all around, the graphic novel of yNsaynZy furthers in my mind. The origin story for the first issue shall be titled ALL THE RAGE and feature illustrations evocative of German Expressionism. A surreal look, lots of shadows.


(Close shot, low angle.)


yNsaynZy: The night was cold, very cold. I bopped around the boondocks looking for the shiny black limousine with the people inside who had the information. The information I needed. I poured myself a glass of Scotch while I drove and talked to myself out loud, pausing only when other cars went by. Even though the night was dark, very dark, I didn't want to chance anyone seeing my mouth move and thereby betray the disturbing truth of my talking to myself, chattering away all alone as though it were perfectly normal.


The Scotch was good, very good. I enjoyed my liquor very much while I drove. Looking, always looking. Then I saw it. The thing I was looking for. It was the shiny black limousine with the people inside with the information that I needed.


When I reach an intersection I have to double-check the directions, angry at my story being interrupted right when it's getting good. A plume of dust follows my beat-up pickup down a long dirt road flanked by tall walls of old corn stalks. "I hate it! I hate it!" I grit through my teeth with white knuckles on the bouncing wheel as the truck encounters giant rocks. I do not have the tires for this. Dollar signs stream off of the old abused truck. I have no money for this hell, but there's no going back. I have to apply at this hotel.


Finally I reach it. The hotel in the middle of nowhere.


Yet another wild goose chase from the employment department.


"Let me know if there's anything I can help you with," they like to say.


"You could help me get a job," I like to reply.


Giggle giggle, off they go. But I'm never joking.


We can't allow knives here. I've heard those words. You can't go back there. I've heard those words. But I've never heard the words, "We found a job for you."


A scrawny rooster announces the day and hustles off at my approach. It's mid-afternoon. At the squeak of a screen door I turn to see an incredibly hideous woman.


"Hi, I'm here for the interview."


"Jasper! Get over here!"


From behind me, a mangy dog growls and snaps as it slinks by.


"Get your butt over here! Jasper!"


Now I know how young Siddhartha felt on his first visit outside the palace walls when he witnessed really haggard people all over. Bright pink stretch pants poorly hold what appear to be a double-set of shapeless buttocks like to make a body wince at a disastrous glance. We go ahead and interview. Not exactly my first choice of work, minding the front desk at this barren, depressing establishment, but such is life.


"You got a resume?"


"Yes I do, right here."


"Okay then, we'll being doing calls next week."


A little imbecile boy with a banjo on the porch informs me as I leave that the position has already been promised to his cousin's Narcotics Anonymous sponsor.


Visions of yNsaynZy suddenly appearing and dashing Jasper's mangy brains out on the weed-choked concrete patio while quoting King Lear or Captain Ahab.


9


Returning on foot from the service station a few blocks away with my blistering cup of coffee in hand as is my morning habit of late I see loitering about my pickup truck a short round Latino personage of amiable aspect. His are the simple white pants and shirt of a laborer, as are his sandals, serape, and sombrero. I switch the coffee in one hand, too hot to hold for long, to the other. "Mornin'," I say, when I am close enough to be polite. No one else in the leaf-strewn street. No one else alive in sight. Only me, this little round guy, a couple of squirrels on the telephone wires crisscrossing overhead, and a couple of cats crouching by the tires of parked cars still cold with frost at the edges of the windshields.


"Si, senor." The little guy nods and smiles so politely, I feel rude to continue on my way.


"You, ah, you need somethin' there, buddy?"


"Si, senor."


Hm...


Something, call it a voice inside my head heard artificially via chip inserted at base of skull sometime during childhood, tells me to give this guy a bong hit.


"Si, senor."


"Ain't got no fancy sofa, nor no fancy TV, amigo," says I, leading the way upstairs, "and I damn sure ain't got no fancy lamp, nor no fancy re-sealable baggies, neither! Them things is for the spoiled. Why, if I can afford the rare onion, and have to slice it, the other half gets wrapped back in the plastic shopping bag. How's that for authentic poor? Am I right?"


"Si, senor."


"I don't have money for paper towels," I say, turning the key. "Paper towels are for the weak. What I have are a few coffee filters left. Because I don't have enough money for coffee. That's how poor. Have a seat."


"Si, senor."


"Make yourself at home. Oh, and be careful, because of the four chairs that go with my excessively used table, two are broken and one has a rip in the upholstery. Also the lid of the CD player won't stay down, so I have to keep something on top of that. Marijuana?" I offer my little round friend the freshly loaded glass water pipe, packed to perfection with the perfectly legal natural healing agent regularly partaken by Albert Einstein and Jesus Christ. Sometimes together, in pyoint of fyact.


"Si, senor."


The furry manion takes his rip, and my head tilts, yes full tilts oh pun intended right on back a-laughin. He exhales, looking a little worried. Then smiles blithely. Before clearing his bowl.


"You should also know, I turn my socks around. So that the holes in the heels are up. That way I get more life out of my socks. Yeah, I guess you could say at the second-hand store I see a lot of things I used to own."


"Si, senor."


"You want to know why?"


"Si, senor."


"It's because I'm extremely poor! Got nothin' out of the divorce."


"Si...senor..." my little round friend says, coughing.


"Must Pass Drug Screen--prrffft! Yeah, unless it would make sense to take one. They don't make you take a piss test to teach Creative Writing at college, I can tell you that. But to put a sack of concrete in the back of a pickup, suddenly we have to get down to the parts per million. Okay, forklifts, fine. Show me the study that directly attributes pot use to forklift failure. So make the forklift operator automatically liable for damages on condition of hire. Until then, in this state, and many others, like it or not the goddam shit is legal. You can grow it in your back yard, discretely, and use it, discretely. You're allowed a certain number of plants, and a certain amount in possession for personal use. Hey, after all, it fights cancer.


"And yet, in spite of this, or perhaps because of it, there is a system in place to keep people from employment for simply enjoying something that is natural and legal on their own private time. Completely imbecilic. Test for meth or heroin, test for cocaine or prescription drugs shoved in people's faces all day. Those things are all deadly and awful. But don't go lumping pot in with that shit."


"Si, senor."


I put a CD in the player and sit down in the other chair. "I have to get a job," I confess, grabbing the bong. "Si, amigo, I am in quest of gainful employ." With a flick of the lighter I clear the bowl. Exhaling I wistfully muse, "Yes, indeed."


"Si, senor."


"Somehow I knew you'd say that."


"Si, senor."


"Excellent, yes, very good. Let's go. No need to reply, come on. I need to get a job."


"Si, senor."


"Okay, all right."


"Si, senor."


"Okay then, that's fine."


"Si, senor."


Around this time I launch into my spiel about the history of me writing my writing, which means I show my less than loquacious friend the writing on the wall...all of it mine.


"Absorption in my writing cost me my material life. Might say it withered my brain."


"Si, senor."


I show my friend my black broadcloth on the wall. "Doubles as a cape," I said. It being a Saturday, I offer lardy eggs.


10


"All right, my friend," I say inside my truck, still feeling an awesome vibe having listened to Santana upstairs, "time to venture off in quest of gainful employ. So here we go."


"Si, senor."


"Hell yeah, there's the spirit." I turn the starter, but nothing happens. No ignition at all. Nada. The battery appears to be dead. Or it could be the sensors. The alternator, the starter...no. How old is my battery? How old is my truck? How much more can I take?


My little round friend has exited my rusty old pickup during the course of my rant. I look up now. In the tranquil light I see his morbidly obese squat form leading a horse before my truck. Standing in front of me with this insane-looking horse, one with wild horse eyes no matter the angle, he offers me the reigns. Whereupon I exit the truck, hop in the back, mount the horse, and ride around the block.


"Yes, my fine fellow," I pronounce probably out of reach, "good job here, excellent work indeed." I take the mount around the block, frankly never questioning or caring how my friend supplied my need. Whereupon I spy beside my truck two tall chaps wearing dark suits and antiquated hats, perhaps Fedoras. What is more, they seem to be trying to intimidate my friend.


"See here," I call from behind. "There'll be none of that."


As my friend avails himself of the opportunity for flight, I perceive the chaps are identical twins. The hair on their heads lacks authenticity, and seems rather to be part of each gent's hat rather than his head. Neither has eyebrows. Their faces look waxy.


"Amigo," I call, "mi lanza y espada."


"Si, senor!"  he energetically replies.


Whereupon I make unto these chaps such pronouncements as I deem necessary to distract them sufficiently to secure my weaponry from my retainer.


"Now now, you'll have to wait for your proper trouncing, sirs!" Apparently perceiving I hold a sword, the chaps intend toward their car, a shiny black Mercedes parked discretely around the corner, but I hasten the horse to intervene. A few quick strides and upraised hooves suffice to take the tall pasty twins aback, and indeed I find myself surprised, only for a moment, to see both lance and shield in my shadow before I even bear them.


My friend appears with my weapons in his chubby clutches, additional armor included. Score! Not perfect, but good enough.


"Como te llamas?" I ask, adjusting my helmet, such as it is.


"Cece Nayor."


"Your name's Cece? Cece Nayor?"


"Si, senor."


"Alrighty then," I say, raising my voice as I raise my lance, with my mount putting on an impressive display. "You task me! You...HEAP me! Now, COME GET SOME! YEAH! How ya like me now?"


In my battle against the Men in Black I prove utterly victorious because my cause is joust. They have no business trying to lord themselves over my vassal. One's hat falls off when I hit him with the point of my lance from behind as he tries to run back to the car. Sure enough, the fake hair stays with the hat. Knew it!


Sad to say, at this point the horse seems right on the verge of collapsing. Turns out Cece grabbed the neighbor's horse shabbily penned next door, and the unfortunate beast is simply insanely out of shape. But there is no backing off, of course. I chuck my lance back to Cece and whip out my sword again, whooping as I give chase on foot. The helmet doesn't want to stay on. Damn, I think, not now. Better go ahead and tear it off, That's what Amadis of Gaul would do.


These guys are tall, though. So they use their long legs to their advantage at getting away from me and run really fast in their dark dated suits back to their dark shiny car.


"Cece," I say, hustling back down the street toward the wobbly horse, "let's return this veritable Rozinante back where you got it before it dies, Jesus!"


11


Well, it turns out those guys were Jehovah's Witnesses. Or so they claim. For the record, they did seem for all the world like Men in Black. But according to the cop at the door, nope.


There's a whole thing with the neighbor and the horse I don't want to get into now. What's the point of having a horse if no one can even ride it?...














MORE
DESTINY BECKONS
SOON