Sunday, December 18, 2016
Basically, this one's Episode 3.5, because it's about Jyn Erso (Jones), the daughter of the creator of the Death Star, and how she needs to help the Rebellion by passing along the secret information of the Death Star's built-in flaw.
Most of the characters aren't as engaging as most of the ones from the original movies. That said, at least there aren't any Ewoks or Jar Jars. It's not a cutesy movie at all. Far from it. In fact, at times Rogue One is actually kinda Oscar-y. And what the film lacks in terms of characters--Donnie Yen as Chirrut, the blind master swordsman is the coolest--it makes up for in spectacular locales and the overall feel.
What J.J. Abrams did for Star Trek, Gareth Edwards does for Star Wars. He's a fan of the franchise and it shows.
Remaining, as ever, purposefully vague to preserve the experience, suffice to say Rogue One does invite discussion on the merits of including the computer-generated version of an actor who died years ago. On the one hand, there's a moral issue. Is it in bad taste to use an artist's likeness when in fact that artist did not perform the role, and doesn't even have a say? To have to ask the question is not a good sign. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow uses Laurence Olivier's giant head in a way reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz, but the instance here in question goes a good bit further. What's next? Clark Gable in porno? Where does it stop? Moral issues aside, the result simply isn't sufficiently lifelike. It's a good trick, but still stiff and strangely off.
Episode 7, The Force Awakens, the most recent Star Wars movie before this one, is probably the third best in the series, right after Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. However, even without the regular gang--Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Chewbacca and pals--and even with too many people speaking in prestige British dialect (Gareth Edwards is from England, but that doesn't mean everybody else has to be), Rogue One ranks about tied with Episode 7. Yep, it's that good.
May the--ah, you know the rest.
Starring Felicity Jones,
Directed by Gareth Edwards
Written by Chris Weitz, Tony Gilroy, John Knoll, Gary Whitta
Based on characters created by George Lucas
Runtime 134 minutes
Saturday, December 17, 2016
Sunday, December 11, 2016
To the good, Arrival is a movie featuring contact with aliens. To the bad, it's largely depressing and mostly boring.
To say what makes it depressing would give too much away. Remaining deliberately vague, suffice to say there is no enjoyment to be taken from the depressing aspect which girds the entire film. It's just a downer.
Before the boring, let's hit the upshot:
When alien ships reach Earth, the US military recruits a professor of linguistics (Adams) to communicate with them.
Problem number one is the premise itself. A species advanced enough for interstellar or interdimensional travel would not require a linguistics professor. End of story. So when she holds up a sign with her name, points to the word, then points to herself and says, "Louise" for awhile, it's a lot to endure.
Then there's the way the aliens look. Sometimes difference just for the sake of difference doesn't really work. Maybe, possibly, beings from other worlds look like pink giraffes with umbrellas on their backs. Let's hope not, because it's better when aliens look cool. And part of what makes an alien look cool is having a form compatible with operating advanced technology. The visuals have to pass the smell test, so to speak. And it doesn't happen here.
In a sense the film seems most indebted to Christopher Nolan's non-linear Memento. Like that one and 2001: A Space Odyssey, Arrival probably improves with multiple viewings. Also to the good, Amy Adams, always watchable, carries every scene. Neither always depressing nor always boring, much of the film, which turns spaceships literally on end, innovates and entertains.
The worst part of Arrival, however, is how it seems to subtly prepare audiences for a false flag incident. When the ships arrive, so does martial law and the fascist state. Which no one questions. Suddenly, there's a mandatory curfew. Overnight militarization replaces culture. Effectively enslaved masses, terrorized, stare at televisions for further programming. Even more than regular. This is a dumb thing to do with a movie and it's a major turnoff.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind presents an infinitely better vision largely because the communication between the advanced species and humanity completely circumvents all the petty little power structures. Forty years ago, questioning authority was normal. The Richard Dreyfuss character, with his prophet-like experiences, will not be denied. Louise, too, shows similar strength. Which is good. But the overall presentation speaks to audiences less prepared for actively questioning our role in the universe and more conditioned to passively receive the arrival of authoritarian control.
Starring Amy Adams,
Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Written by Eric Heisserer
Based on a story by Ted Chiang
Runtime 116 minutes
Hey, check out my back.
What I like about it--aside from it looking better than much of my front--is that it's the result of actual life. By that I mean it's not the product of vanity gym exercises. It's from work. I got a thick, hard back with deep indents and I must share my back with the world.
Thanks for looking at my back. And my front.
And now, back to the show.
What I like about it--aside from it looking better than much of my front--is that it's the result of actual life. By that I mean it's not the product of vanity gym exercises. It's from work. I got a thick, hard back with deep indents and I must share my back with the world.
Thanks for looking at my back. And my front.
And now, back to the show.
Sunday, December 4, 2016
Pluck we therefore from the vast garden of time a masterpiece from 1946, Jean Cocteau's cinematic rose Beauty and the Beast. Filmed in glorious black and white on nitrate stock that exudes a contrast-popping gleam unavailable in the digital age, it is the story of a man on the brink of ruin who stumbles one night during a storm on a magic castle in the forest. When the master of the castle, a powerful Beast (Marais), angrily appears, the man is required to choose between losing his life, or allowing one of his three daughters to take his place instead.
Two of the daughters are greedy and spoiled. But the third, Belle (Day), shows her worth: "I'd rather be eaten alive by that monster, than die of grief at your loss."
Simple but effective special effects showcase filmmaking at its purest. Just by using slow motion when Belle enters the shadowy castle, white curtains waving along the hall as she advances toward the camera without walking, to the low moans of an otherworldly chorus, tell us everything we need to know.
Because it's a French film, non-French-speaking audiences can enjoy a sense of verisimilitude. (Norse gods in Marvel movies speaking prestige British dialects undermine the atmosphere.) And perhaps best of all, it's not a musical.
Anthony Hopkins said of Hannibal, one of the movie sequels to The Silence of the Lambs, that the popularity of the franchise was basically due to being Beauty and the Beast. Maybe so. The TV show starring Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman had a cult following for years. Upon reflection, Terminator 2 may arguably contain some Beauty and the Beast-like aspects. In 2017, Disney is releasing a live-action re-make of the cartoon musical, starring this time Emma Watson as Belle.
More important than the mere facts of the story, however, wherein a beautiful woman falls in love with a rich guy even though he's fuzzy and has fangs, is the sheer look and sound of the 70 year-old classic. It speaks to us in the language of dream. Watching La Belle et la Bete is a lesson in the art of film, and a potent reminder that movies don't need computer-generated effects, huge explosions, giant budgets, pre-existing merchandising tie-ins, or sequels to resonate effectively and inspire viewers with movie magic.
To watch the best copy freely available online, Google the title of the film and the year followed by Veoh.
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
Starring Jean Marais,
Written and directed by Jean Cocteau
Runtime 93 minutes
Sunday, November 27, 2016
Starring Iggy Pop,
Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch
Runtime 108 minutes
From the director of Dead Man and Year of the Horse comes this love letter to "the world's greatest rock band."
Gimme Danger, Jim Jarmusch's documentary on Iggy and the Stooges, satisfies the tastes of film and music lovers alike. Fans of the Stooges and those new to the band will revel in the adventures of one Jim Osterberg, aka Iggy Pop.
Presenting the Stooges story in a manner which loosely follows the band's eclectic, disparate cues, Jarmusch shows the social and artistic context of the Stooges' arrival in the late-60s and recounts their highs and lows primarily through commentary from Iggy himself.
Sales have never reflected the greatness of the band. But that means nothing, because the same can be said of the poetry of Emily Dickinson, the paintings of Vincent Van Gogh, and the work of almost every other artist who ever lived. In the words of Iggy's friend David Bowie, "No one writes the American 'underbelly' as well as Jim."
On that note, arguably songs from the Doors and the Rolling Stones give the Stooges their best competition. "I Wanna Be Your Dog", "No Fun", "I'm Sick of You", "Sixteen" and the song which inspired the name of the film exemplify the band's raw power. Often called "proto punk", the alternative provided by the Stooges to mainstream Top 40 can be equated with the far-reaching work of Philip K. Dick, whose groundbreaking novels did not outsell Isaac Asimov or Robert A. Heinlein upon release, but have clearly outlasted.
According to Chrissie Hynde, Iggy is "the supreme Rock personality in every way." As Henry Rollins says, "Iggy never pulls back. He is, quite simply, the best."
It's not just because he's famous for dropping his pants during a show. Or the fact that he always performs bare-chested. ("You never see the Pharoah with a shirt on.") With his defiant stance and uncontainable presence, Iggy Pop gives the impression of defining rock n' roll with every molecule of his being. And like Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Jerry Lee Lewis, Iggy has the longevity to prove it. Corporate-packaged darlings often initially exceed him in sales, and then they're forever forgotten. But Iggy's an actual artist. He's indestructible.
It was the band's good fortune that they didn't call themselves the Suave Dudes. Referring to the Three Stooges freed them to be everything they wanted. Wild, funny, totally original. They didn't try to fill the parameters of a pre-existing market. And they still don't to this day.
One for the record books.
Friday, November 25, 2016
by STEWART KIRBY
I remember when they found the bones down in the forest. Two skeletons buried side-by-side near a big redwood. Buried hand-in-hand. One, the bones of a woman, white, about thirty. What made it weird was that the other skeleton wasn't human. Male bones. Eight feet-tall. A Bigfoot, everybody said. I used to stare at the picture I clipped out of the paper. The picture of the two skeletons buried together had to have shaped not just the way I thought about Humbaba in my youth, it shaped the way I thought about myself. All growing up, in the back of my mind, there were those bones buried side-by-side, hand-in-hand.
There's a three-day race in Humbaba every year late in August called Local Motion Days where competitors race in strange contraptions. Hallucimotions, everybody calls them. I don't think that's the official name necessarily. Can't be. Too blatant. That's what we always called them, though. I never thought as a kid I'd ever want to watch a Local Motion Days race, much less actually enter. Now I finished my second race and I'm already planning on my third.
Why? Well . . . .
I race because as kids we used to go to the rec room at the Whispering Woods Motel in Madrani to play pinball, and ping pong, and shuffleboard, and play some tunes on the jukebox. We'd get a Coke and some candy and go down to the field and throw a ball. We'd go to the river, down to the bridge, listen to the cars thump by overhead, reverberations echoing, and climbing back out, past bat crap and poison oak growing in the cracks of the rock littered with little busted bottle bits and graffiti leering down, like as not we'd see some rangy guy sporting a beard and wearing dirty denim. A lot of guys looked years younger years later when they gave in and shaved. But one good trip in a nice hallucimotion makes up for a lot of that. So I race now for old cutoffs, the dialing sound of a rotary phone, for a Wish Book left out on a table with pages folded down and things circled inside, for a world of spinning phonographs, and the feeling that the Beatles really might just get back together, the feeling that everything we knew would unquestionably always last, and that the future was forever distant, the other side of a finish line impossibly far away.
I've got twelve months--eleven and a half, actually--to make my greatest hallucimotion yet.
This blog will be my support group. Everything that happens, from now on, I'm recording it.
There are some pictures on my Facebook page showing me going through the process of making coasters. All of the wood I use in making Lost Coasters comes from redwood branches that have already fallen naturally on people's property. Usually what I do is work out a deal with people I know who have a lot of property. I hike out where they tell me I can and I make a burn pile or two for them, clearing away the branches I don't need while I look for the ones that I do. I had to cut yesterday's entry short, actually, because I could see time was running low for me to go out to the property of a friend of mine and collect some good redwood branches of the proper diameter, which is about four inches. I'll be posting videos here too showing the whole process of everything I do here making Lost Coasters. So, in a way, this blog will be a sort of marriage between my preparation for the big Local Motion Days race on the one hand, and my day job making Lost Coasters on the other.
An odd marriage, see?
"Okay, so here we are in the forest. This property here belongs to my cousin, Eddie. Whose last name is Forrest, actually. I refuse to work with people who aren't appropriately named. You should be able to catch your shadow there, Eddie, on the--that's it. That's Eddie on camera, as you can probably see. Anyway, all of this is Eddie's. We have a deal worked out, Eddie and I. So I can see there's lots here to choose from. I'll just load some good-size ones here. Oh yeah. Nice. And what I'll do here is collect about as much as my pickup can hold, then, after throwing together a couple of burn piles in the vicinity for Eddie here to torch at his convenience, I'll take all of these great redwood branches back to my place and stack them up to dry."
"And now I take my freshly cut pieces, give them the once-over on the edges with the grinder, and hit both sides with the belt sander. Each Lost Coaster comes hand-stamped, as you can see. And lastly, I package up my sets like this, just very simple. And there we have it. Lost Coasters, hand-crafted Humbaba County redwood. I sell these all up and down the coast. That's my day job. Come on over here, now. I'll show you what I do at night."
"Welcome to the Tripper Room. My soon-to-be floating room on wheels. This is what I'll be racing in next Local Motion Days. In upcoming videos for the blog here I want to get into some of the hallucimotions people have come up with over the years, and maybe share some of the history, but right now we've got the Tripper Room, which as you can see has this one window, which is made of a single sheet of a very clear, very durable plastic, actually. What'll happen when I put the Tripper Room in the river and get inside is I'll be able to see both in the water and out. I can't wait. It's so important to me that I do this. I have to be sure I don't cut my fingers off on the band saw, I've been getting so excited. So anyway, we have out little ladder up to the hatch here. And yes that is the only way in or out. It was just a small hole there before. I cut it bigger and fitted the hatch there, and waterproofed it. The whole room here is actually a water tank, or used to be. I put the window in, of course.
"When we climb outside we see up top here there's this handy railing, for safety sake, and stylishness. You can see along the edges all around there's bumper padding. And that seat is actually a box. Mostly that's there for the rope. Three hundred feet in there, actually. What I have to work on next will be my wheel system, which I'll be able to assemble around the entire frame. Although I would like to take the Tripper Room to the river on a test run to see how she floats.
"It's gonna be awesome. I can't wait. I'll just tether it. Once I'm sitting inside--I'll go down at night--bobbing in the river there, checking out the view, wow, yeah. That's gonna be so sweet. I've got this fiber optic light I've got set up in the front down low so it'll be submerged and I'll be able to control it from inside. And I can turn it to different colors. Blue, red, yellow, or just white. It won't be terribly bright down there, that's for sure. It'll be interesting to see how much light it does shed.”
Windy tonight. I probably won't be able to make another entry here for a couple days. I have to cut about four hundred coasters for my distributor to take down to Circadia. I've come to actively despise cutting coasters on the band saw, really. Can't listen to music. Can't zone out at all. I have to be constantly on. As soon as I'm not, as soon as I settle into my thoughts, that's when I cut those fingers off. But at least I don't have to cut every day. And I got to settle into thought a bit right here, thanks to my handy Lost Coaster blog.
Hell-oooo out there.
I researched Local Motion Days. Under the section marked "Hallucimotion History" I found some interesting things. Disputes with the roots, for one. Evidently there's confusion over who actually started it. I always thought it was Paul Damon. But now I see a couple online sources say it was some other guy. So whatever with that. Either way, everybody agrees that the race is run in elaborate carnivalesque contraptions, and that they get powered by costumed people parading around and generally making merry.
Greetings from the Tripper Room. I'll type in whatever I write here later on, because I'm actually writing right now by hand with pen and paper listening to the Stones. It's important I spend as much time in here as humanly possible. Haunting visions of majority unemployment run rampant tonight. People groped at airports, that's normal now. Cops throwing people out of their own homes in service of banks acting illegally is normal now, too. Unions stripped. Treasury looted. Already there's synthetic meat, made from human crap. Dehumanization complete.
Tornadoes ripping across the country . . . polar ice caps disappearing . . . flocks of birds falling from the sky . . . must design best possible entry in race . . . must focus every fiber of very being . . . on Tripper Room . . .
"Morning. Looking for limbs. Ah, there's a likely candidate.
"A rough morning at the office as you can tell. Terrible view, too. It's as hard to imagine there's a world out there as it is the other way around. I'll branch out here. Like how every day, if we're informed, we see stories on celebrity style mishaps matched maybe by a mention of the vanishing middle class and minimum-wage college grads. Ah, another good one! Wait--too punky. College grads . . . college grads . . . right. Every front-page fashion flop gets balanced by a new Supreme Court ruling against Civil Liberty. A recipe for roasted Portobello, and government torture of whistleblowers. For each piece of news about a red carpet fizzle, when there should have been a sizzle, there's a blurb about unmanned planes dropping bombs on towns, or companies spying on customers with cameras hidden in computers, or tap water tainted with some new pollution. It's like walking in two worlds at the same time in this country every day. It's unreal.
"There's a pretty good one right there--except it's swimming in poison oak.
"So, as rising rivers force residents to flee, homelessness increases, and crime goes up, and prison populations jump, and cheap prison labor grows, and bloated corporate profits swell, and skyrocketing carbon output climbs, and the ice caps melt faster, changing the courses of the rivers, causing more residents to flee . . . .
"So many things to think about at work. Passes the time, anyway, as I gather my sticks and try to survive. Well, now you can see we have a pretty good-sized pickup load. Time to head on back."
Hizzah! My first comment! An actual follower! Here's what they wrote: luv ur crazi vids, Zen! keep up th good work!!:)
It's from someone named Rora, evidently. I responded back: Great to know somebody's out there! Thanks for the follow!
I messaged with Bud on Facebook about it.
ME: You there?
BUD: what up
ME: I have a follower.
On my blog.
ME: Someone named Rora.
She posted praise for me.(ZEN’S JOURNAL)
BUD: must be a nut
BUD: must be a nut
Wow, I think I really have a fan. It's like everything I do is all for her. 'Cause she's the only one. And I have to say, really good-looking. I accepted her Friend request on FB. She's got a bunch of pictures up. In every single one she's totally hot. That kind of hot can't be faked, can't be a fluke. Not that such things matter. She's a long-haired brunette with natural henna touches, apparently. Big green doe eyes. Bow-shaped mouth, angelic face, nice curvy figure. Looks real sweet and super sexy.
We have some of the same book likes in common. She digs Poe and Lovecraft, too.
Picked up the tri-stick today and practiced half an hour. First time in ages.
(FACEBOOK MESSAGE EXCHANGE)
RORA: knock knock
RORA: quick questiin
RORA: u liv in hum, right?
ZEN: Yep. You?
RORA: i live near werman
ZEN: Right on! Werman is where Local
Motion Days starts.
Below there, anyway.
RORA: so true : )
we should meet
RORA: i've never met anyone here
ZEN: Me either.
RORA: when do u think the tripperroom wil
ZEN: To float?
ZEN: It can float right now.
RORA: i kno some good spots
RORA: have to sho you
ZEN: I'd like to see.
RORA: howbout 2moro?
ZEN: Sounds fine.
im flexible tho
ZEN: 2 is fine.
Where should we meet?
RORA: darrows bend
park in front of market
I'll be there!
RORA: cant wait! cya! : )
ZEN: Zen out
Dear Tripper Room, thank you for making this magic happen. Thank you thank you thank you.
Rora, my fan, messaged me on Facebook and we met. Have to say, I wasn't in the best of humor that morning. My head was killing me, probably from the repetitive motions required for cutting coasters most of the day. By the end of the day I was too exhausted to even think about putting the wheels up on the Room. That itself is becoming a huge headache for me. But I was kind of wired too, thinking about Rora all day. Got some cleaning done. I kept having to remind myself that it's no big deal, she's not actually a "fan" in any sort of heavy sense at all of course, and our getting together wasn't actually a "date." So I stayed up till three cleaning, and slept in till ten, which is way off the schedule for me, and made me feel sort of disoriented. Probably threw my blood-sugar out of whack. Then before I knew it, it was after one and I had about a half an hour to shower, noticing how badly I need to workout, and feeling poorly toward coffee for staining my teeth.
However, driving down the Avenue with that nice crisp fall air, tunes cranked up and the windows down, having taken care of my headache properly, oh yeah, things started picking up quite well. She was waiting for me in front of the market, checking out the bulletin board. I recognized her from her FB pics immediately. She looks even better in person.
Walking together down to the river I was conscious of feeling at every moment that sense of being in a dream. I saw the redwoods through new eyes. They towered before us, a palpable fog hanging over the river, looking sufficiently tangible to ride, as though Rora and I might have fashioned a grappling hook comprised of vines and branches had we wished, for tossing up over the top, and pulling ourselves aloft to be lost from view at any moment by ducking back and hiding on the fog slowly following Mist River from above.
We saw a wasp's nest fall on a snake. It happened a good ways off from where we were sitting, but it was very easy to see. The nest had to be bigger than a human head. It lay on the ground, busted open. All the little chambers exposed, like a split pomegranate. The snake must have happened to be underneath when the nest fell. Hundreds of wasps came out in a loud cloud and furiously attacked. I don't know what kind of snake it was, but it was big and thrashed around in a electric display gruesome to watch. Really disgusting. Probably it's for the best we didn't get that on camera. But it was just the sick and twisted kind of thing to force a little chuckle, and the truth is we both wound up laughing like lunatics at how gross the whole thing was to watch.
She sure is something.
We walked by parts of Darrow's Bend, still population 215, where I'd never even been before. We did pass by an old house where a friend of mine used to live growing up, Tom Hawk. I remember when he was in his 20s he did a thing where he was strung up suspended with sticks through his pecs for a couple of days before he became officially recognized as a Yupa Indian shaman. Plus he drove a truck. I remember he was already doing that in high school.
One time, when we were both in our 20s, I went to see Tom. I was a college student then, living in Carata. I was just looking for some weed. But I was also going through a whole huge breakup with my girlfriend at the time, unsure of who I was or where I was going. And I really did want his help, and believed--no, knew--he would be able to say something to help me find the way within myself. Even though he was only my own age. He had that quality about him. A true healer. I went to see him at that house. He sat there in a chair in the middle of a room where he had countless little pictures and things on the walls all fluttering around with a fan on. Colorful pictures on the walls rolled up and down like party favors. Everything looked like Clay-mation, hyper-colorful. That was the night he told me how he saw visions of himself in the future appearing disturbingly assimilated, and that he knew he was in a race against time to stay himself and keep in touch. With the powers of the universe, I suppose.
Rora showed me a couple of good spots in the river, deep and wide and still, perfect to test run the Tripper Room. We took my car back to my place to show her the Room. She seemed to get a kick out of being in a Pinto.
We went down together. Inside the Room. I can still see those big doe eyes looking so interested and sweet while I told her all about hallucimotions and showed her how mine worked. It made me feel so alive. Still does.
I asked if she was religious, and she told me she was a witch. She asked if I'd ever heard of Anthropos. I told her no.
"Anthropos is Lord Bacchus," she said. "He is the God Dionysus, here in Humbaba, in his most natural, powerful form, living in these ancient forests.”
"Really?" I said, sensing I should be polite, but unsure if she was serious.
"Really," she affirmed. "You would probably call Anthropos by the more common name of Bigfoot."
She has a group that gets together, evidently. We kissed and felt around awhile, right there in the Room. Ah, sheer magic. I'll never be able to hear Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" again without thinking of it.
If you're interested in entering the race, first of all, you're at the wrong place. My Lost Coaster blog right here is by no means the Local Motion Days headquarters at all. All I can do is to help you, if that's what you're looking for, help you to understand what to expect, and give you my own impressions based on my experiences participating twice already.
To begin, it's a three-day race. The first leg starts out on the old road down in the forest below Werman, which is about forty minutes south of Egeria. You want to get there an hour early, minimum. You start out at nine a.m. on the Avenue of the Giants, in Humbaba County, of course, with most people stopping for drinks at Darrow's Bend. Usually games go on there in town, a tiny town surrounded by giant coast redwood. Bigfoot is everywhere. Chainsaw-carvings abound. There are games such as the Burl Hurl, plaid-clad contests for plain, bearded folk. Folk of long hair . . . and cesspool stare . . . always booths all over with the tie-dye and the selling and the necklaces and things. There might be any number of pitstops the bulk of the way down the Avenue, but by the time the hallucimotions reach the bottom of the hill up into Madrani, the stragglers catch up, and that marks the Promenade of the Odd, where all the costumed, sloshed participants are greeted like heroes. The field across from the school will be filled up with food carts and sundry booths, and there is live music for the ponytailed, ancient vendors hawking wares, and with the music there is dancing, and in the Burl Hurl young hick kings of goober chic compare how far they can chuck old wood. You get toasted, you camp out. Day 2 you leave at nine for the river, spending the day drifting down the mighty Mist, Ol' Mist, until you reach the flats well past Darrow's Bend, party and camp out there, and then at ten the next morning take the old road east over by Dreem at the lake, with music and dancing the rest of the day and all through the night.
That said, faux-competition is the order of the day. Naturally along the way a certain degree of rivalry develops. If the costumed participants in the Logger-Mobile see the Hippie-Mobile slide off the road, they'll make a big deal about it, with sneers as they pass. But that of course means nothing. The only way the race is won is when the mistletoe gets ritualistically wrested from the overhanging bough of the Goddess Redwood.
We're still trying to figure out exactly why. But, one day, one great day we'll know.
(VIDEO TRANSCRIBED)"I have with me here today one Rora Hearn, a self-described Follower of this my Lost Coaster blog. A fan, if you will. Rora, one question: Why?"
"Why do I Follow your blog? Oh, I don't know."
"Name a reason."
"Well, there are just too many, Zen."
"Name one. Come on. Name a reason. Surely you can come up with one reason why you took the time to type in your email address there at the top."
"Your persistence. I found it oddly endearing."
"Come on. You can do better than that."
"You Followed my blog because of . . . my punctuality?
"Can't come up with anything more interesting than that?"
"You're not interested in punctuality?"
"Hey, I'll ask the questions here."
"If anybody should get to do any interviewing, it should be me."
"Be quiet and start talking. First question: How on earth did you start making Lost Coasters?”
"Well, Rora, like all great ideas, mine started with a drink. It was a warm day, and I had put some ice in my drink. When all of a sudden, I spotted wetness. A ring, if you will, left upon the table where I had set my drink. So to speak."
"Why didn't you use a coaster?"
"Yes. I'm getting to that. Where was I?"
"Exactly! And soon after that, I happened to see a redwood tree, all majestic and rising."
"Next to the table?"
"Yes. And looking up, I saw branches."
"But you get your branches from the forest floor."
"That's true. That's why I looked down again and noticed the ones there. And I figured, if I cut the branches, I could have coasters."
"From Humbaba County's Lost Coast."
"Rora, you crystalize my thoughts eloquently. Yes, from the Lost Coast."
"Well Zen, then what did you do?
"I had lunch."
"What was it?"
"That about covers it. And there you have it. Zen Mendosa, thank you for that interview."
Two days from now we'll be taking the trusty Tripper Room on her first test-run in the river. Hopefully not her last . . .
I'm champing at the bit to get the Tripper Room in the river. Gonna be awesome. I'll see if I can get Rora to come.
Working in the Tripper Room here, I feel like Indra developing his vision for the castle always growing. I keep my conga drums inside. Literally and metaphorically. But hey, if I can ever find a Theremin at a good price, I sure wouldn't mind getting one of those.
"Test run! Yes! All along the Avenue of the Giants, the solemn gray thread of redwood-lined road shines, ah, sure an' it shines from a wee mornin' sprinkle, wet asphalt a-glint an' alight, bright fingers of sunlight streaming through the tall straight stalks of the great grooved trees.
"To step off the road is to step onto duff, soft, rust-toned bits of broken redwood twigs, twigs broken off by birds high above, or snapped off in the wind, and step now we have indeed done, my associate and I--my "fan," if you will.
"Now, as you can see, we're surrounded by limbs of all sizes fallen to the forest floor, where the bodies of other trees which once long stood exhibit the startling stages of decomposition. Up close to the trees you feel the bark. So fibrous, so insulation-like. You can use this stuff as insulation. That's a fact. Did you know that? It's true. God, it's all true. Look up: Can't climb. Too big! The nearest limbs don't even start till a good eighty feet up on this one. Eighty fudging feet. Walk around the base. Twenty-five, maybe forty steps. Geez. And far above, the gentle sway. So gentle. Listen: Listen to the subtle creaks high above in the breeze.
"Well, enough standin' around shootin' the fat. Better hightail it back down to the flatbed. Never leave a Tripper Room alone on the Avenue for long! Some Bigfoot might sneak out and start messin' with it.”
Okay, here we are. I'm writing this on my laptop right now. We have reached the river. Now comes the unloading. Rora's getting the camera back out. This should be interesting. I'll set the laptop aside and get the maiden voyage on video!
"Greetings from the Tripper Room, baby! We are in the water! Hally-looyah!
"Well, here we are. Experiment initiated! Yes! Subject immersed. Via this vehicle. Yes! Woo hoo! To the realm of the unconscious we now begin our transcendental journey, bubbling water raging at the glass . . . . Window to another world. The river water surges in a manner producing a sensation akin to being, how shall we say? . . . deep inside a humongous water pipe. Yes, that's it. I know now what the genie in the bottle feels. I am become the show that glows in the box.
"Tripper Room bobbing in the constant pulse of the current, check. No sign of leakage, check. All systems go. This baby is yar. Aar, she's yar.
"Listen to the sounds of the surging. What a wonderful bubbling tumult. It's positively otherworldly.
"So, I'm in the Room, obvious enough, and the Room is submerged in an ideal spot in Mist River, the exact coordinates of which I deeply believe would be unwise at this juncture to reveal. What makes it ideal is the depth of the river here, the speed of the flow, and the absolute seclusion. I mean, this place could not be more perfect. Accessibility coupled with seclusion, actually. Yeah, I'm just relieved to find how top-heavy the Room is not, have to say. And to see that the window doesn't leak in the slightest. Not the slightest. Who cares about the damn Local Motion Days race, you know? I'll just live down here! God, I love this so much. And I mean, I would not be in here if I was concerned about safety in the slightest. That didn't come out right. I mean, if I wasn't absolutely certain of it. Anyway, as a matter of fact, I really think the Tripper Room can hold more weight. I'll go up and let my associate outside know that it's safe and it's time she went down with me in here. God, this is sweetness. I'm following my bliss. Look at me, Ma! Bottom of the river!
I feel so inspired down here. It's uncanny how right this feels. Like being in the womb, Down here I can totally get immersed in a story. I hear the constant rushing flow. Rora likes my stuff. Having even only one person believe in you is as strong as a million. She's sitting here with me right now. She's got her eyes closed, and her knees drawn up. In the fetal position. All fetal. We're listening to Zappa's "Apostrophe," having read some stream of consciousness with Joyce's Ulysses.
Claustrophobia is what I feel when exposed to the globalized fascism outside the true freedom here in the Room. Sitting in a bobbing submerged vessel at night with fiber optic lights illuminating the roiling river underwater is, I must honestly profess, emphatically the only way to fly.
Dark shapes caught in the weirdly-lit and churning, ever-changing display lend an eerie feel. Eels, it seems, most of the time. They slide and bump against the glass--curious, spurious, snake-like fish. They study us as much as we study them.
And we come into being in water. We float, kicking, suspended unaware by unknown means. Outside, events occur beyond our reckoning which affect us in ways we will never understand. Inside, we dream. And we are in a river now, where we have always been, and the river carries us, sometimes speeding up, sometimes slowing down, but we cannot escape its inexorable pull, cannot turn back the constant flow.
"Here we are out in the woods once again, looking around for fallen limbs. Just another day at goddam work. From the arcane magic of the submerged Room, to living out the cover of Led Zep's fourth album. I keep expecting to see royalty tromp by clapping coconut shells. Today we're in the Tumik area of Southern Humbaba County, out past Bargerville, somewhere east of Hawthorn. As you can see, the pluckings here are certainly ripe.
"Now, as I go about picking up sticks, using my best theater-voice, to be sure I'm heard--as I go about picking up these sticks--oh, there's a goodie!--I'd like to say, first of all, hey, thanks for checking out my blog here! I really, really appreciate it. So far, it's just one person I've got Following me here. I know. Wow. And I do appreciate her being my fan and all, but, yeah, I could sure use some more Followers! Type in your email, and I promise you, I will give you all I've got, blog-wise, be it regarding the Lost Coaster business, the whole process, the real world of it all, or be it the whole crazy hallucimotion project--whoa, there's a nice one!--and yeah, I think there's a lot I could do to make this blog more visible, establish more of an online presence. Probably a big part of what I could do to see my blog succeed would be to really focus on perpetual panic-mongering. Certainly I can't help but notice as I pick up sticks, like a Medieval peasant, that corporate profits are up, up, up after the big orchestrated economic collapse. Theft, if you prefer. Theft of the Treasury. And here this whole time I really haven't terrorized my audience at all. What was I thinking? Obviously, fear bypasses the part of the brain that uses reason, causing the viewer to not think rationally, and therefore be more likely to comply with the wishes of the manipulators. Oh hell, the batteries are low."
BETWEEN ZEN MENDOSA AND RORA HEARN)
ZEN: Hello there.
Are you there?
RORA: im here
ZEN: I have a great idea.
RORA: do tell
ZEN: Let's go camping this weekend.
In the Tripper Room.
In Mist River.
RORA: wish i could
can b there some of
RORA: i have a meeting sat nite
some of tho, ya!
ZEN: Some is good.
RORA: what r speciifics?
ZEN: I was just thinking of leaving the Room
moored in the same spot
RORA: good spot : )
RORA: will hav2have more fun:)
RORA: what time u want 2 meet?
ZEN: I should get there around 10 am
I'll call you when I get there.
I see now what the Tripper Room is: A magic implement. It is a vehicle of magic. Hey, what can I say? Thanks, universe! You know? Just . . . thanks. Who's the best universe in existence? YOU are! Yes you are! Prrr . . . prrr . . . nice universe, GOOD, good universe. Everything coming into alignment most excellently indeed, heh heh heh! Rora says I need to see the Man in the Tree, a carving which she says she's seen, a carving of a seated figure on a throne, carved high into a huge old redwood . . . two hundred and forty feet up. It's amazing, evidently, and must be seen to be believed. We also have plans for me to see the magic tools Rora will be buying soon. That was, in fact, what gave the idea of the Tripper Room being more than merely an entry in next summer's Local Motion Days race, more than the mere people-powered hallucimotion of a humble crafter of redwood coasters.
There is something so soothing in the feeling of submergence in this bobbing room. I can totally see how William Hurt turned into a monkey-man in one of these babies. In the Tripper Room, I'm Captain Nemo! Ah, the wonders of the window. At any moment, I expect to see a gill-man. In fact, it really would be terrible to see . . . well, I hate to say it, but . . . the body of a shark against the window. Coolly passing. Terrible to feel the Room move as the great white shark slides slowly by . . . and bumps it . . . .
All around now, the river rushes on. Mist River has become for me an existential truism. More than ever. This time it being personal. Now the sound of the existential river is steady, now the sound is hurried. In the sound everywhere I feel the endless shapes of life. And yes, I see in the water deeply. My fiber optics lights are sound.
The waterline rises almost to the top of the window with me in here alone. With Rora's added weight the Room might barely be completely submerged, top hatch and all. She should be here in an hour or so. I am so exhausted. I have to go to sleep.
(THREE HOURS LATER)
Had me a nap, all right. Still groggy. No sign of Rora, either. I looked around outside already. Reckon I'll mosey on over to Darrow's Bend and get some snacks. I already left out a couple of notes for Rora to see, just in case. It's great being able to leave the Room moored without fear of it being found, and that's exactly what I can do.
(TWENTY MINUTES LATER)
Well crap, my Pinto's dead! Bummer days. God dang it, my trusty Rozinante, no more. Won't start. Doornail-dead. Now this means I can't get the extra snacks and few more bottles of cold beer. Simply a cold beer to enjoy. And still no Rora.
Ah, screw it. Rozinante was on her last legs a long time. Rora will show up. It'll suck having to get another car. Used, of course. But, no point stressing out. This right here's a test. And I know exactly how to pass. Right now I need to focus on my work. I need to really get into it. I'll get that online presence going somehow! By the blogging gods, I'll show the e-viewing world just how much goddam fun a guy in a room in a river can be! I can't fail. The exponential potential for growth with Lost Coasters is real so long as I'm consistently active. My search engine rating can't help but climb so long as I deliver consistent content. And the thing is, I have no choice. I have to stay afloat. Somehow I have to manage not to let myself sink.
(FIFTEEN MINUTES LATER)
Dearest Tripper Room, take me away. This hatch . . . is closed. Bit of music, my sweet? What shall it be? Zappa? Chieftains? Gipsy Kings? The Ninth?
Here's to you, Tripper Room. Thank you, Great Spirit, my guiding hand and ghost bus. Thank you for being my friend, my safe and inspiring magical place that helps restore me to my natural, peaceful state. Thanks for being my positive paradigm facilitator, and for helping to release my mellowness caged by the machinery of the system everywhere outside.
Hold on. This calls for video.
"Greetings, social media fans! You know, in the future, rivers will rise due to the vast influx of bobbing Tripper Rooms moored to shores. Handsome mooring hooks supplied by State parks will one day be the norm. But, right now, it's just me, blazing the Tripper trail. By the way, do be sure to subscribe to this blog! We might have been experiencing technical difficulties up until now, but now it should certainly be easier than ever to go ahead and quickly subscribe. And after you do, just click on the first blog post, titled LOST COASTER BLOG, POST 1. Have a read! When you get to the bottom of the that one, click where it says NEWER POST, and by golly that'll take you to the second, and so on, and so forth. Be sure to check out the other posts, too. There's so very much--
"Holy crud! What the--
"Rora, is that you? Sounds like something just hit the--
"Holy! What the hell's going on? Who's shaking the Room? Holy crud it's an earthquake! Oh goddam—
"Oh my god!”
I saw the fissure widen as the Room fell in. I can't get the image of the widening fissure out of my mind. I can't stop seeing the river just fall away like that. I can't stop going over . . . going over. I still see the Tripper Room tipping over the edge.
I have no idea how far I slid. It could be a hundred feet down or a thousand. And dark, it's so dark outside. For the most part quiet now. I can hear water rushing somewhere. But I can't tell where I am and I'm too afraid to move. The Room slid for a long time at about a forty-five degree angle, then stopped, but I'm still not on level ground. I'm still at a forty-five degree angle, stopped, I think, on a lip of rock. I'm afraid if I move around much I'll dislodge the Room and fall again. God that was awful. I have a few sources of light in here at least. It really helps to write things down. Can't panic, have to think. Rora will show up. She'll see the Room gone. Will she see a chasm, though? Or did it close? What does it look like from outside?
I still feel leaning over, looking down into blackness. The tether must have held the Room for a few seconds before snapping. The Tripper Room rode down shafts of sunlight piercing into the blackness. I was absolutely helpless. I thought it was all over. All I could do was scream.
I have to do something. I have to move. I have to. If I could only reach the hatch certain that the displacement of my weight won't dislodge the Room. What if there's an aftershock? I can't sit here and do nothing.
Okay. Here goes.
"Look at this. Oh my god I'm in love. This is without a doubt the most beautiful place in the world. My god just look at this. The Tripper Room is fine. My Mag-Lite has a long reach and you can see it only fades into further blackness. Man, this could all keep going in for miles, just miles for all anybody can tell. Wow! Down over there is a pretty steep drop off to there's no telling how far down. But, over here, there's a lake--right there. The water's still really cloudy, but in one spot where I shine the Mag I can see it's deep enough to take the Room. I think I can slide the Room, as is, right on over the edge. See, up there's where the quake opened those two sides of rock. You can see a little light coming in from outside up there. I wouldn't want to stay down here too long, but I can't pass up this chance. No way. Besides, there really doesn't seem to be any danger now.
"My god this place is heaven. I see I'm running low on battery. Got to save some for in the Room. I'm going back inside."
I love it here.
The dust has settled in the lake. I can barely believe I'm actually here underground, living the dream, checking out stalagmites rising forty feet down, the tops of which the Room almost bumps. The spire-tips glow bright green in the wide glare of strong fibre optic cables, miraculously unhurt in the harrowing fall.
But now, wow. This is so incredibly spectacular. I actually screamed in the Room. I sat inside, staring for half an hour after that. Seriously. Half an hour at least.
I started talking to myself and that sounded way too loud. So I tried whispering. I whispered to myself down in the dark here for a while. That got to be a bit much. So I've been listening to music. The way it resonates through the lake is amazing.
The Tripper Room's stable enough that I'm actually perched on top right now quite comfortably without rocking the Room too much or getting wet at all, so far. I have to admit, I am a little leery about sitting up here. It's damn dark, first of all, so you feel like you're in a fish bowl for anything that might be watching. Even though you know no one could be watching at all. It's an eerie feeling, vulnerable, like you're perched for dinner on a floating plate for any long-necked dinosaur-type creatures that might come swimming by.
Hold on, that's funny. My cell phone is ringing.
It's very odd, because my cell phone's batteries have been dead for the last several hours. It's definitely going off. That's my cell phone, all right. Doesn't sound at all like my ringer, though. Somehow, that's my dead cell phone ringing.
Now it's stopped.
There's a message on it. The message says:
WHY DON'T YOU GET OUT OF THE ROOM?
I've been sitting here for a solid hour watching my dead cell phone spin. Just the darnedest thing. Spinning like a top. Then, about a minute ago, I said, "All right," and poof, suddenly it stopped. So I'm really doing it. I know I have to. I'm getting out of the Tripper Room now.
I'm going to climb back out. Out on top of the Room. I'm going to paddle the Room back to the bank, and I'm getting out of here. Right now.
(TEN MINUTES LATER)
Okay, I got out of the Room, but I can't get out of the cave. I really am trapped. I just don't see any way out at all. I think the opening that was left after the earthquake must have shut all the way. Because it sure was open before. God, why didn't I go? Why the hell didn't I get out when I had the chance?
Hold on. My dead cell phone. It's acting up again. The message I'm getting says for me to take the trail. I can see the Tripper Room from where I am, and I think I see the way I'm supposed to go. I've got my Mag shining on what looks like a natural trail.
Okay, I'm going to stop writing now. I'll put my camera on microphone-only and stretch the battery-life. All right. Here I go.
"I see long combs of limestone hanging all around.
"High above, a sky of stone, towering cliffs lost in an impenetrable blackness.
"From what I can see, vast amazing veins lace sheer rock walls, marbled slabs lean like giant flakes of flint in haphazard fashion, each monolithic slab greater than the next. In distant seas of shadow, crenelated stone curtains span black chasms where raging cataracts plunge into never ending midnight.
"Dammit, there's a message on my dead cell phone again. WHERE ARE YOU? it says.
"I can't seem to message back. Who the hell is doing this? Now here's another one!
"WHY DON'T YOU RETURN TO THE LAKE? it says.
"'I'd love to,' I keep trying to message back. 'How the hell do I get out?' I'm not sure, but I think that one might have gone through.
"TURN ON YOUR LIGHT.
"DO YOU SEE THE TUNNEL ON YOUR LEFT?
"TAKE THE TUNNEL.
"I'm turning off the microphone now."
I staggered around the underground, aiming for the tunnel, going with the messages, going with the flow. Lagoons were lit. Stars shone bright in the stalactite sky. In the tunnel I followed a creek all the way back to the lake, where I saw the Tripper Room, heart leaping like a cave-painting, and I got on board, and I climbed inside, and I stood there watching the water-line lap, maybe for minutes, maybe for hours, I couldn't tell. Eventually my dead cell phone buzzed in my pocket again. I took it out and looked at the screen.
I'M RIGHT OUTSIDE THE ROOM, the message said.
I felt a slight jostling of the Room bobbing in the water, heard something moving around outside on top. A new message appeared.
I'VE CLIMBED ABOARD.
I looked up. There was a fumbling sound at the hatch.
Ears straining, I barely dared to breathe. Suddenly, the hatch flew up, and I gazed in horror at the aperture. For a moment there was only blackness. Then the face appeared, quick as a spider in a web. It looked down into the Room, a great white bulbous head with a tiny, emotionless mouth and shiny, hairless skin, black almond eyes dark as the furthest depths of space.
There's an area in Southern Humbaba called Tumik. It's the like extra-Hippie part of the county, which right there says more than can ever be said. Turns out Tumik is the Yupa word for alien, as in outer space. Cave paintings found in the area tell it all. Pictures of flying saucer-type things drawn on the cave walls by the Yupa thousands of years ago. The proof that the planet has been visited for as long as our species has been around is everywhere. The alien I saw told me to call it Tumik, but it didn't say it with a message on my dead cell phone. This time, it told me . . . in my mind.
Tumik told me lots of things sitting cross-legged on a mound near the lake, perhaps thirty yards away, where I could see the Tripper Room bobbing between sandstone formations, its happy Hippie tie-dye glow a reassuring presence. The little white limbs and body, so child-like, so doll-like, lacked clothing, lacked visible gender traits. Probably my own gender bias made me perceive the alien as a he. His pitiless slit of a mouth remained immobile while words creepily incongruous with the pasty diminutive form issued into my mind like an unwanted link dropped into Facebook feed.
I'm glad to meet you at last, Tumik said inside my mind.
"Thank you," I said aloud--quite calmly, I thought. "But I don't understand."
I've been following you.
Your blog. Lost Coasters. You cut wood. On which to place beverages.
"That's right. You have a computer?"
"But you can get online?"
A thin, doll-like index finger gently tapped the big white head.
As with so many other things in life, I have to say, sitting down talking with an alien didn't exactly make time stop. Like when I went to New York City and wasn't hugely overwhelmed by the skyscrapers. Having seen movies, it just wasn't that much of a shock. Plus though, I think Tumik exerted some sort of sedative-effect that calmed me, mentally, and helped to make me feel real mellow, very fine, you know, like everything was all right.
So I sat down there, deep in the dark, somewhere west of Darrow's Bend, on the Avenue of the Giants, in Humbaba County, California, and beheld the ancient alien, pale and puny, deliver unto me revelations. Sometimes it was just Tumik's voice in my head. Other times it was a whole bunch. A cacophony of Tumiks revealed what I somehow understood was the story of the universe. But it was also the story of Tumik's people. I sat before Tumik a good long while, seeing the unknowable. When the absolute blackness of the great unblinking oval eyes started to unnerve me, Tumik's vast psychic energy--infinitely more evolved than our own--manifested as a visible emanation, an astral avatar, if you will. I had recently seen the silent version of Faust. Sensing this, I suppose, Tumik chose the form of Emil Jannings as Mephistopheles. This reminded me then and still does now of certain spiders which mimic the scent of ants in order to blend right in and gobble up all the eggs.
Mesphistopheles stood up from Tumik and leered, the alien's wadded little body so still he looked dead. The black satin-clad manifestation revealed, capering in a manner superficially deferential, a starry story the wonder of which exceeds description, yet again, this time pertaining to the redwood land of Humbaba County, and how there's this whole unseen world living underground.
Problem was, Faust being a silent film, Mephistopheles lacked audio. Inside that pale little dead bug shell of a body, Tumik must have sensed he was losing me as an audience. The alien's second-choice for an astral avatar with whom I might feel at ease proved more successful. Stepping behind some sandstone, Mephistopheles disappeared.
The unmistakable sound of a rocking chair. I turned around and saw, bathed in unnatural light, the figure of--there could be no mistake--Mark Twain, rocking back and forth in a rocker, lit pipe held contemplatively in hand, as though he were taking in the evening from the front porch. In the back of my mind I knew that the alien was still sitting across from me in the dark. But what I saw was Mark Twain and a chair. The chair looked real enough. Some instinct, perhaps, told me not to go over and touch it. Either that or the alien. Twain puffed his pipe and talked about toxic magic.
"Looking for resources that could get harvested from the planet over the long-term, you understand, the travelers found a form of energy unknown," he soliloquized. "The energy occurred naturally, deep in the planet's core."
"So the travelers stuck around. They harvested the resource, and stayed a spell." Puff, creak. "Untold generations passed. Eventually, the power broke down. Went rotten. New forms of energy were sought"--puff, creak--"and found, but the effectively magical products of a far-advanced science eventually broke down into the biosphere. That was a mistake."
Puff, puff. Creak.
"Unless of course it wasn't. You see, prior to that--long prior, when the travelers first found the planet--the original visitors had in their craft with them strange cargo, which escaped, and which the visitors were unable to ever recover. These beings are known by some as rock spirits, tree spirits, water spirits. Some are apt to help, and some are apt to hurt. All depends how they're treated. Probably they just want to be left alone. Trouble is, all the toxic magic leaked into the biosphere. It causes such strange things, presents so many uncontrollable long-term side-effects"--puuufff--"potentially, it's a fatal poison to the nature of reality itself."
This proved very disturbing to me. I felt bummed, big-time. "But isn't there any hope in preserving existence?"
"There is a way." Mark Twain leaned forward in his chair, his big hair making him look like Beethoven or God. "Your only hope is to put out the proper healing vibration. Use your own natural psychic energy, boy. Be at peace! Act decent! Practice renewable sustainability. In fine"--puuuuffff--"turn Hippie."
I had to process that.
"You mean just me?"
"Not just you."
"So--I really do need to be clear with this--to save existence itself, we all need to go Hippie?"
"Many as you can get, anyway. The more authentic, the better. Really, anything less than full Hippie puts out the wrong vibration and thereby contributes to the disintegration of reality."
Mark Twain tapped out his pipe and got up from his chair. We took a little stroll through the caves. Seemed short to me. There was a narrow trail alongside a steep sheer rock slope. Twain waved a flickering light like a torch which I couldn't quite see. I saw rocks tumble over the edge of the trail and fall away without a sound. The trail narrowed to a dead end. I wasn't too happy about being led there like that, and I liked it even less when the light went out. But then a sound grew in the blackness. The next thing I knew, unseen hands shoved me toward what I thought was my death. I fell through empty air for a second and landed on something that felt like the back of some furred beast which roughly rose. It was all I could do to hold on as the beast took flight, and I held on for my life, unable to see in the blackness at all.
Then suddenly I saw that my mysterious flying mount had flapped out of some high and lonely mountain fissure, exiting the caves and entering the open air of evening under a star-splashed sky. I didn't realize I had fallen asleep until I awoke outdoors early in the morning, and only then realized that the beast I rode was a horrendously gigantic bat, with a head bigger than a horse's. Long dark fur was all over my clothes. I had wound up in the Tumik area of SoHum, miles and miles from Darrow's Bend. I managed to hitch a couple rides home. A few hours after I got back, I found out I'd been gone for six months.
BETWEEN ZEN MENDOSA AND RORA HEARN)
ZEN: You there?
RORA: ur alive!
RORA: where the hell hv u bin
ZEN: I need to see you.
i thot we were suposed 2do that b4
ZEN: I thought so, too.
RORA: what happend?
ZEN: That needs to be in person.
RORA: oh really
is that wht this needs to be?
now after 6gotohellmonths?
is that what?
jus messsin with ya babe
name whn n whre
How about that same place?
Where we were going to meet.
Tomorrow at 2:00?
RORA: wud 10 b ok?
ZEN: Yep! See you there!
I'll be there!
RORA: see ya: )
I find I keep doodling tHUMB A BAt all over the place.
It was almost Halloween when the quake hit, and it's about May Day now. Seems like May was just recent. Because it was! It was only six months ago! Where the hell did the time go? It doesn't seem possible it could be more than a few days since I last saw Rora. Still, I've seen on Facebook all the pictures she's uploaded. Not many. Only forty-five. But that's a huge number for her. There's no question that six months has passed. How?
Sure would like to get the Tripper Room back.
I like how tHUMB A BAt looks like two tombstones on either side of "HUMBABA" as much as it also looks like "thumb a bat," which I did when I caught a ride on one.
I'll see Rora in a few hours. If she shows. And she will. Need that time to clean up the yard a bit more, I guess. Wash the bedding. I guess. I just don't see that many people anymore. Amazingly, no one seems to have much noticed I had ever even left.
Got back from the river. Rora showed up. She happened to bring along Travis. They're just friends, of course.
Grass had grown up all around Rozinante. The river rose high enough last winter (sure feels weird saying that--"last winter") that it rusted my poor old Pinto's underbelly. Plus a bunch of driftwood hit it, all mashed-up with dank dead grass and muddy twigs. I'd gotten there first on my mountain bike. I figured Rora would bring her pickup and save me the climb back home. But I knew that wouldn't happen the second I saw her walking toward me with that jaunty little stain, Travis.
I resented having to go through the motions. Of course I didn't want her to bring someone else along. And she knew it. That's why she did it. I wanted to ask her why she never showed up! I wanted to tell her everything that happened. But I couldn't. Not with that stain lingering. I still can't believe she would do that to me. In the big scheme of things, is six little months really so goddam long? Man, I wanted her on my side, listening and helping and being there for me, same as I would be for her. And I sure as hell wouldn't bring anybody else along. I still don't feel right at all. I'm numb. Stunned.
And even though I did my best to be polite, she didn't give me a lick of credit for that. Far freaking from it.
"So how long were you like gone for, anyway?" she said. As if she didn't know. She said so on Facebook, for crying out loud. She'd raised her voice enough to include the stain. She didn't say it loud, she just didn't say it to me. Everything she said was more for that stain's benefit, with me practically there on display.
"I thought we'd have a chance to talk alone," I couldn't help but say. The stain's agitated body language had me ready to start throwing down. Rora could see I was about to flatten him. She knows I would, too. Even the stain knew it, but he felt protected by her. Which he kind of was.
The mosquitoes were thick around Rozinante. When you looked close, you saw a tiny, ankle-high world of little hopping bugs in the driftwood debris. God, how I longed for the mountain to open again. I wanted to show her where I'd been. I wanted to show her what happened. I wanted to ask her about her year. What happened to us? Where did the time go? There was no way I could tell Rora about the giant bat. Well, not bat exactly. Close enough, though. Anyway, the mountain didn't open. It wasn't just pretty awkward. Meeting with Rora and Travis was rotten beyond belief.
Outside of all that, things have gotten badly fascist. Local business is taking a beating like nothing I've ever seen. Looks like Local Motion Days got co-opted by corporate interests after all.
Grove revelers chucked marshmallows soaked in glow-in-the-dark multicolor dye back and forth at each other last night. I can see the dimly glowing remains even now.
I saw my little white alien friend again. Rather, Tumik's psychic projection. He showed up to remind me of my mission. The actual bulbous-headed, almond-eyed being was probably meditating down in some subterranean cave, tiny wadded body pale and still as a bug in a sill. Being a million years more evolved, Tumik used psychic energy the likes of which no human mind can fathom. I had picked up a copy of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Tumik's projection appeared as Dr. Gonzo.
"What you . . . don't realize," the good doctor observed, lurching to my house in the dusty shade of day, motor function clearly compromised by any number of substances, "is how vitally important it is you stay focused on your mission!"
The evening was early and the doctor's visit unexpected. He wore running shorts, tennis shoes, and a Hawaiian shirt, with a visor on his beaming head and a long-stemmed cigarette-holder in his teeth. I could see his eyes regarding me from the depths of tan aviator glasses. He looked and sounded exactly like Johnny Depp doing Hunter Thompson, so to speak. I had seen the movie recently, too, so everything was nice and fresh for Tumik to tap.
"Listen dammit! You've got work to do! You've got Hippies to make! Go on! Yah, boy, yah! You realize this is to save existence itself now, don't you? Remember!"
"Geez, now you've got me wondering if I really can even trust you."
"You better quit kiddin' boy. You think the fabric of the universe unraveling is funny? What's wrong with you? My god, have you gone totally psychotic on me? Is the pressure of your mission already proving too much?"
"Do you realize how incredible it is that Rora Hearn is the only human being on the planet to follow the blog?"
"Ye cats. He's off his rocker."
"You know what's even more bizarre than finding an alien, is the lack of anyone caring about it. I can write with impunity."
The Doctor's bald head looked increasingly white, I noticed, as we walked over to the old picnic table, or rather what was left of it, up in the tall grass under some tall gray tan oaks leaning. I was lucky enough to come into some money several years ago and bought a fixer-upper and a few acres from a friend. I've put a lot of time on it, but a half a year of being left untended didn't help a bit. Dr. Gonzo's eyes, too, were awfully dark and looked less human every time I happened to look away and then look back.
"You're ticked no one follows your blog?"
"Yes. Yes I am. I'm ticked. The world is falling apart--even existence itself. What we need is a gigantic paradigm-shift. But what chance have I got of spreading the good Hippie word of peace and love and the natural world if even my writing about meeting an alien, recording the whole journey, isn't enough to get somebody to follow a damn blog?"
"Are you sure you have the right gadget set up?"
"Of course I'm sure. I think so. What do you mean?"
Well, long story short, we went inside and took a look at my blog here. I don't know. There might have been some gadget issue in the design feature when the blog became set up.
Maybe I shouldn't write with impunity after all.
Right now, everything feels disturbingly like Consuelo all over again. First Rora didn't show up--just like Consuelo. Then when she finally showed up, it wasn't like she actually did. Had to bring that little stain with her. "Travis." How can there be any hope for existence itself when there isn't any hope for even two people? Some broad and a Bigfoot, oh hell yeah, they can make it work. Two of them will get married and buried, side-by-side, hand-in-hand, every damn time. I bet if she watched some made-for-TV movie about it she'd get deeply emotional at the wild romance of it all. Tears for Hecuba.
The redwoods grasp reality. Firm roots clutching earth. Redwoods know about duration. Redwoods get groovier as they continue growing, and coast redwoods get the highest. The oldest ones are the most twisted.
Bud and I hooked up at a grove on the Avenue of the Giants and got to talking about Bigfeet while I looked around for limbs to chop into coasters, then headed to his place with my mountain bike in the back of his truck, kaleidoscopic multicolor peace signs in the clouds continually glowing.
What with the window down and Bud's muffler screwed up, I couldn't hear half of what the hell he said. Something he read in the The Freebie about a guy in an autogyro pedaling away a few hundred feet up over Humbaba County and taking pictures of a livid river of pollution, like an infected wound, behind some power plant or pulp mill or maybe slaughterhouse. Something about how the guy that took the pictures is busted for violating the corporation's human rights. He's in a lot of trouble now.
We stopped for gas in Darrow's Bend, where a dude came out whom I recognized from the Master's program at the university up in Carata back when. He had a full head of hair the last time I saw him. Now he was sporting a Franklin, and had that pulled back in a samurai. We talked about Local Motion Days, reminded as we were by flyers on the telephone pole nearby and and by bumper stickers on a couple of parked cars. This was all due to the corporate-backed race team, Team Patriotic. Team Patriotic was the one sponsored by LowCost, Buy 'n' Large, and some new chain everywhere now called Muy Yum. All of these were owned by the same source that owned the NARGs, evidently--the National Armed Resistance to Growers. It got me thinking about the Tripper Room, my own entry for the three-day race only a couple months off, still trapped somewhere deep underground. How I missed the bubbling view through the window underwater, all fiber optic wonder-lit. How I longed to stand aloft on deck with open hatch, maybe an elbow on the railing, plunked on an authentic wooden crate, digging the groove with reverberating tunes. Some Stones, some Dead. I thought of the alien I met underground. I thought of Tumik. Then the dude I'd been talking to, whose name I can't remember, pulled out this honkin' pair of shades with big black lenses that looked like huge almond-shaped alien eyes. And I got to wondering if the dude was even for real. Maybe this was just another astral avatar of the alien underground watching all the time, requiring I gather converts, turn people Hippie to put out the positive vibe that will keep everything together, but all I could think of was...to get her.
Over here Rora and I had walked. Down there by the community corkboard I had powered a Regal Lager, and she had a veggie wrap. I happened to mention this to Bud after gassing up, and he started to take off in the truck without me! With my bike in back! I had to run a little bit to catch up, but I managed to grab onto the door and get inside.
Bud Masterson played four games for the Raiders. As a scab. Started, though. He had a dojo in L.A. with ten black belts helping him teach a hundred students. Sometimes he gets paid to show cops how to shoot. Naturally I told him what the alien said about my mission. According to Bud, the fabric of reality disintegrating could hardly be more abundant.
"Listen," Bud said, sitting next to his AR-15 with the gas mask bong on, eye holes big and alien-like so that I had to wonder if it was really him, "when you've got people in poverty waving little plastic flags made in China, while corporations get increased rights and human beings get theirs stripped, when you've got dehumanization as a way of life, fewer and fewer with more and more, and more and more with less and less, yeah, I'd say the time is definitely out of joint."
In my absence I learned they had permits now for miracle marijuana. Bud had already gotten his miracle marijuana card a few months before. This was a new strain, so strong, so potent, supposedly it would replace Humbaba County's financial woes with lucrative whoas like never before . . .
There are permits now for a kind of pot so amazing, it's actually legally called miraculous. It started with a specific strain developed by the members of a Hippie commune way out in the hills of Southern Humbaba. Three of the women gave birth to strange offspring--people with miraculous powers. One of the boys was born with wings. Fleshy, bat-like skin that folds out--you may have seen the video of him leaping off the roof of a house and flying around.
One important feature shared by the moms and dads was that they all had body modification implants. Horns on one dad's head, surgically-grafted to his skull. The other little boy had antennae. The third, a girl, was born with a tail. They're all eleven or twelve now. The other thing the moms and dads did was smoke a lot of pot from a strain they'd made high in the Humbaba mountains, using the natural spring water.
According to my 111,000 year-old little white friend from outer space, Tumik, the pot still grown by the same Hippies the same way is steeped in the stuff that has always made the county unique. Somewhere deep underground in a nameless cave, the tiny alien's immobile body was as one with the cold wet rock all round, but his mind--oh, his mind--provided the power of psychic projection. Tumik's astral avatar made it easier to communicate. Plus I think he just kind of got off on it. The alien came to me looking like Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison in full Dionysus-mode.
I was down in a redwood grove looking for branches to cut into coasters when he showed up with a full head of hair and a beard, a leopard skin around his substantial waist, a pine cone-tipped staff in one hand, a handheld vaporizer in the other. He took a sip off of it. I could even smell it. Such was the power of the alien's mind, I think I actually caught a buzz.
"You're forgetting your Hamlet, Zen. Remember what the king's ghost says?"
"Yeah, he says, dude, get some clothes on."
"What's the matter? I'm just a large mammal."
"Dude, seriously. That's gross. You need some clothes, man."
"Oh right, my mission! DAMMIT! I keep forgetting."
"Fate of existence, Zen."
"I know, I know. I need to turn more people Hippie."
"More? How about some? Any?"
"Listen, I will get on this. I told you, you have my word. You have my utmost promise, I will do my faithful best to turn, I don't know, somebody Hippie. I'll turn 'em on to the awesome Hippie ways, and that'll help increase the vibe, the positive vibe we all need to keep the universe from falling apart. We need to be more like Thoreau, I know. We need to get back to the land. We need to just say no to corporations, the goddam corporate life of death running the world into the ground. We need to re-learn ancient ways, ways of living with the Earth proven to work. We need to think about the people, all people, really come from the heart, and look for technological solutions to our invented problems. We need to think of ourselves as a whole, and treat ourself with compassion, and the bravery of healing. We need a paradigm-shift."
"Take a chill pill, ace."
"Sorry. Got a little carried away."
"All right. It's okay. Hey, at least I see you know your stuff."
"Oh yeah, I've got the basic concepts down. It's just a matter of bearing down and applying what I know. Trying to save existence and all, you know, and without even any credit. It's not easy."
"I know, I know. Believe me, I've thought about it. But you've got to remember your mission."
The more I thought about it, the more I realized, what I needed to do was get out of the house and really travel around the county. I needed to find people receptive to increasing their own innate Hippie energy. People open to the power of peace, the power of love, open to the natural world, to reality. Did any such people even exist anymore? Or had everybody become totally brainwashed? This is what I needed to find out. To save the fabric of reality from unraveling completely, I had to travel in search of Humbaba.
Way I figured, I better take Bud. He was the one with the truck.
I once saw a man with hair plugs on his scalp. Plugs with little stalks rising out of what looked like too few holes. Like the head of a doll with the hair torn off. You couldn't help but see the holes. I remember that guy bragged about how he won every lawsuit he ever waged. And that was years ago. They've gotten way better at it now. Around Humbaba, it doesn't even have to be hair. A lot of people get synthetic strands put in, strands that glow based on body heat. You can adjust them to take different shapes, too. I've seen people with hair that shimmered like the iridescent multicolor neon bands of tropical fish. Saw a couple of them outside 2 Dye 4 Designs while we were gassing up. I had seen Jim inside playing a conga drum in a Santa hat. It was June.
The women with the rippling bands of synthetic hair were unbelievably hot, youthful-looking, and coldly vibrant in the eyes. This was due to colored lenses. But the contacts cut down on contact. You can't see the pupils. All you get is that eerie glow. Silver, today. Supposedly to protect the eyes from retinal scans now increasingly routine. Pricey, too.
The unattainable pair of unreal women jetted away from me and Bud in the truck in a way that made me slightly depressed. Not so much because of the invisibility cloak cast over us by the custom-crafted camper shell on the back of Bud's truck, redwood shingles and all. Nope. It was because it's depressing to see people so willingly dehumanized. Those two chicks could've been a hundred and ten years old, with most of the original parts replaced. They slid on down the Avenue. We were going the opposite direction, up north to Tertia. The giant mechanical Bigfoot greeting tourists to Darrow's Bend waved as we left, I could still see it waving in the side-view mirror half a mile down till we rounded the bend and took the turnoff to the Hippie Highway. Bud wanted to cut over to Dreem. There was somebody there he had to see.
Now, Bud's fully legal. Card-carrying and everything. Even these days though, it isn't always easy to openly discuss the sacred medicine. By the gods, how far my peoples have come! Unfortunately, when we stopped at a fountain to load up on spring water there were tons of the ripest, scroungiest Hippies you ever saw lingering around. Amazingly, I managed to remember my mission. I realized these were my people--I'm full-blood Hippie, myself--but then I took another look and had to wonder, to what degree were they my people?
Upon further examination, I concluded these were a bad Hippie breed. Border folk, of which one sometimes hears. Wild and rangy. I could just see those suckers didn't have any peace in their heart at all. All they wanted was to get high.
Back in the truck with the vape going, Bud said I needed to talk with people, talk with them or I'd never save existence.
"I don't see you getting out there and chatting it up."
"It's not my mission," he said. "I just need to stop off at the Samanas and head up to Tertia."
He had already taken a sharp left and barreled up a dirt road. Only about a minute later we were there.
Inside the stately Hippie home of Bud's good friends, everywhere you looked there was pot. Some totally foxy chick came up. "Welcome, friend," she said, taking me by the hand while Bud transferred something into his backpack. "Here we are all completely legal."
A TV was on in the living room. I could see unhappy heads of pundits behind her. We were there at the Samanas just long enough to hear. The pundit-heads talked about the looting of the Treasury. Overwhelmingly, unreal though it still seems, they all agreed: The looting had been a good thing.
Bud and I saw barely any cars on the highway for miles. In the few we did pass, most people were staring at their phones. Even the drivers. I texted Bud this observation. He looked at his screen, then called me a bad word.
"When are we going to see your alien friend?" Bud suddenly wondered.
I rolled up the window, envisioning opening the passenger door of the truck, slipping out, and running off of the highway into some saw tooth-lined vale, sky-high trees towering over a wildly meandering creek. We were in the stretch between Werman and Riverdell, occasionally able to look down at Mist River glinting in the distance, spectacular snags limned against the green of the trees and gray of the tattered and low-hanging fog.
"How the hell should I know?" I said. "I don't have any say over that."
We were quiet for about a mile. There was a bunch of paper and cans and crap at my feet. An empty bottle kept rolling around. I could feel myself starting to get hungry.
"I was thinking you might try summoning."
"I was thinking you might try summoning the alien."
"You said he appeared to you as Hunter Thompson, right?"
"No, I said he appeared as Johnny Depp playing Dr. Gonzo."
"Whatever. Weren't you reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas at the time?"
"Still am. It's right here." I had my copy in a pocket of my jacket which was next to me on the seat. I pulled it out and flipped it open to the dog-eared page. I was at the part where they're sitting with the cops at the convention. Realizing where Bud was going with this, I closed my eyes, touched the book to my forehead, and started focusing my untapped psychic energy, wishing and wishing for Tumik to appear.
At first, nothing happened. I kept concentrating on wishing. A couple minutes passed like that. When lo, as if by a miracle, I withdrew the book from my forehead and opened my eyes to find a guy with a visor and a Hawaiian shirt half a mile ahead, standing by the side of the road.
"Slow down," I said, "there he is. Let's pick him up for God's sake."
The alien's psychic projection hopped into the truck. I sort of politely helped him along so he could sit in the middle. 'Cause there's no way I was.
Bit of an uncomfortable ride, three dudes jammed in a cab being clownish.
"You realize, of course, all matter is solidified thought," Tumik said. Bud acted like he couldn't tell it wasn't really Johnny. "Don't mind Zen," he said. "He's ticked off no one will follow his blog." Tumik turned to me and asked when was the last time I checked my stats.
Sure enough, a couple of minutes later, there we all were staring at a phone and driving down the road. I signed in to my blog, then Tumik's astral avatar showed me how to go into the statistics of how many pageviews the blog's been getting.
"Hey check it out," I said, "ten in Ireland! Four in Russia. Two in Japan. Two in Sweden. One in United Arab Emirates. Whole bunch in Canada."
Bud said, "You're kidding."
"Nope. One in Australia, too. One in Switzerland, one in France, one in Italy, and one in Germany."
"So you see?" the alien's psychic projection said. "It's not just Rora."
Rora. The very mention of her name stood out like the Alps in my mind. It was like being on a walkabout, riding around in Bud's truck. Like dreamtime. But I knew I had to focus, samurai-like, on my work. Was my trying to save reality from unraveling a case of just another veritable Vercingetorix? Hey, maybe. But at least I had an audience. Hope remained. Finally, I felt as though I might yet be able to get out the good Hippie word, help make that positive vibe to save everything from falling apart, crumbling like an old maple leaf.
Then I noticed Bud's face. It had turned uncharacteristically ashen. At first I couldn't figure out what his problem was. Until I saw in the mirror on the driver's side visor. Bud had the visor folded back against the window and turned it down for me to see what he had noticed in the rear-view mirror.
The Depp-Gonzo, reflected in the mirror, appeared as Tumik's true alien self. He was leaning forward, craning his neck to see out the windshield to the sky. I could see in Bud's mirror the bulbous white head with the shaved-cat skin.
"Wow," the Depp-Gonzo said, seemingly oblivious, long-stemmed cigarette-holder clamped in his teeth. "A couple of autogyros up there . . . "
We stopped off in Fortville at a Muy Yum, the new Spanish-style chain everywhere. Had to. Starving. Nowhere else to go. We piled inside and sat down on hard plastic stucco-colored seats, Bud's face looking vaguely pissed. I couldn't figure out what this portended until I looked around and realized everybody else was staring at what they thought was Johnny Depp.
How could I explain that the figure seated next to me wasn't Johnny Depp publicly reprising his role of Dr. Gonzo, the literary alter-ego of Hunter S. Thompson, from the Terry Gilliam-directed cult favorite Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but was in fact a mental manifestation, the psychic projection of a white, bulb-headed alien with big black almond-shaped eyes, sitting in a dripping cave miles away, deep underground?
I turned back toward Bud. "Just play it cool," I whispered, barely mouthing the words.
Bud ignored me and directed his stentorian bass to the group in the booth a few over behind me. "What the hell are YOU lookin' at?"
It didn't really bother me if people thought Tumik's astral avatar was Johnny Depp. What worried me was if anyone tried to touch him--would a hand go right through? To me and Bud he was as real as anything, but how far would this hold for those whose minds had not been prepared?
I could see people reflected in the windows with plastic trays in their hands, slowly shuffling forward. In Fortville, TV was central. This was the wrong crowd to try to traipse Johnny through--even if it wasn't him. I didn't have time for this shit. I was looking for the heart of Humbaba.
"Hey," I said, hissing to Tumik, "how about to help save existence you toddle off to the little boy's room over there and disappear before you start a riot? Holy crud, I can see your true alien self reflected in the windows--go!"
"What?" Bud interjected. "You're making him leave? Why?"
"He's compromising the mission!"
"I don't care about your damn mission."
"Bud, he has to go."
"Yes! Go now," I said to the Depp-Gonzo, "go to the bathroom, be free!"
I could see Bud was thinking about taking a swing. "He's an alien, dude," I said, just to remind him. "A freakin' alien." I headed over to the counter, ready to order, not giving a hoot about the zombie-like crowd. Whatever had to happen, I'd damn sure be getting my tacos first.
Yet everywhere I looked, Medieval-like economic disparity abounded. Certainly most of the people there could have stepped right out of a Hieronymous Bosch. In the standard black hoodie one could see the simple peasant of yesterday, poor in health and education, laden perhaps with bundles of sticks gathered from behind the castle. Naturally I thought of my own Lost Coaster business, and strangely decided to see about a sale. I hurried through my order for tacos with this in mind, in fact.
But of course I'd forgotten about no soliciting. And that no one there could make any sort of decision, certainly not involving money. The young woman behind the counter was merely a shift-supervisor. The manager, whose picture I saw on a plaque by the straws, wouldn't be back till two that afternoon, and was clearly just a kid, anyway. Somewhere far away, a scented noble sat astride a freshly washed thoroughbred and raked in global franchise coin for nothing. Whoever owned the joint had probably never even tried dehydrated Muy Yum taco product filler.
I took my number and stood off to the side till my order came up. Bud went to the counter and placed his own order. By his politeness with the young woman I sensed he was about to get into it with the group at the booth. One among their number had scuttled off to the bathroom. I noticed that he came back now with the news of no one else inside.
I told Bud that Tumik had split. He reacted with the thousand-yard stare while eating his tacos.
Until one of the guys from the other booth came over. I could see his reflection in the window before he said a word.
"Where'd your friend go?" the guy said.
Bud stood up. He'd finished eating. Only a couple years prior, he ran his own security business. Turns out, his all-time favorite show was "21 Jump Street." I could see by the gleam in his eye that Bud was about to lose it. He'd lived under a pier in L.A. for six months. Used to wear his hair down to his butt. One time, he disarmed a belligerent cop.
No doubt about it. My mission was being compromised. We had to get back to the truck, away from these prying rubes.
It wasn't just a Mexican standoff, it was a fast food one, too. Suddenly, a cell phone rang. The guy who'd come over pulled one out of his pocket. "A Night on Bald Mountain" ring-tone, I noticed. Bud still had his death-look fixed. Finally the guy on the phone broke Bud's tractor-beam stare, turning away as though in deep conversation. Situation defused, Bud and I strolled leisurely out.
I didn't feel like talking about any of it in the truck. It would only serve to feed Bud's ego. Plus remind him of "21 Jump Street." It dawned on me that, while I had remembered to try to solicit sales for my business, I had completely forgotten to try to turn anybody Hippie in hopes of saving reality from unraveling.
Pulling out of Muy Yum, we saw the dudes from the booth flocking out together. They all had on their windbreakers now. You couldn't miss the insignia on the back of the jacket. Fellow Local Motion Days competitors. The corporation-hugging ringers symbolizing the system that runs the world into the ground.
We'd just met Team Patriotic.
Driving through the county in search of it, one sees the many places where the corporate piranha were loosed. All those little wind-up machines the system uses. Based on the same concept as the unmanned plane and the virus, really. Those corporate piranha get let loose, click speedily and sneakily over the land, and strip the life they eat right down to the mall, so all that's left is the bare white remains of creepy corporate crap where there used to be a thriving community. Same basic thing happened to the Indians. And hey, at least plastic trees in casinos don't require real water. The way that stuff gets polluted, nobody should have to mess with it.
The tree line high overhead looked like the broken comb of the gods. By night it would be black, silhouetted against the sky, and the psychedelic neon rivers furrowing the land with multicolor blood that run would cast a radiating glow visible to the stars, if the stars hadn't already died, and ever could have seen.
Entering Egeria Bud slowed the pickup to forty. Days of Daly's and Bill Beasley's were gone with the pulp mill wind. The KVIQ TV Channel 6 TV station, so long a part of the local community, was now an empty building on a corner, boarded-up with graffiti-littered plywood and showing ragged holes with smashed windows like the rotting sockets of a giant corpse on the street. And in the trailer park beyond, boobs watching tube, caught in poverty, desperate for identity, asserted their approval for their own subjugation most vociferously, per the propaganda from the corporate-owned stations that put the local one out of business, screaming in their dilapidation, "Go, team!" through uninsured toothless gums and waving little plastic flags outsourced to China.
We kept a low-profile all the way through town, smoke stacks making things very Blade Runner-esque, Bud bringing his truck up to fifty-five almost for half a mile before letting it settle down to a natural fifty, mandatory speed through the revenue corridor. A cop parked behind a bush zapped cars going by with his radar gun. I wasn't worried. I checked out the eucalyptus while we rounded the bay.
Ahead to our right the university loomed, but we took a left and headed up 14th, crossing the overpass and going slowly through dreamy streets thick with students for several blocks until we reached a roundabout and gradually took a left. The green house on the corner was another place where I had lived.
It was dejecting to find Das Bagels closed. There were some nice sticky garlic bagels and a fat Guinness each only a couple blocks over at the Carata Co-op, undoubtedly. But the parking was horrendous. People stood around in the streets like Carata was downtown Calcutta.
"You have to wonder," Bud said negotiating the Town Square in his shingle truck, "how every panhandler has a dog."
Getting back on the highway, we continued on north, as per the plan. Up in Tertia there were folks wearing buckskin jackets and buckskin vests with long, beaded fringe. There would be no retinal scans. I made sure to keep these thoughts to myself, so as not to betray anything to the cameras overhead at the streetlights that we passed
We pulled into Tertia sometime shortly after four with huge Humbaba rainclouds pouring over the ocean and the land looking like the start of "Dark Shadows," great gray waves crashing on the shore. We'd arrived at the home of our host. I could hear the Beatles playing as I exited the truck. They said to roll up. Roll up, for their mystery tour. We were just getting out, but it still worked.
A dude with a cammo hat stood waiting. "Rainy," he said. "You're right on time. How was the drive?"
"Wonderful," said Bud. "How are you?"
"Quite well, sir. How are you?"
"I'm quite well as well. I think you'll be extremely pleased with what I've brought."
"Well, let us retire for a bit to the shop. Who's your friend?"
I'd almost forgotten I was even there. I could hardly take my eyes off the spread. In the summer rain especially. Honestly, it's the most I ever felt like Ronald Colman in my life. Either that or Peter Sellers in I Love You, Alice B. Toklas.
Entering the house was like walking into the '70s. Early-'70s. Maybe even late-'60s . . .
I got along with Bud's buddy with the ocean view up in Tertia just dandy when right away he had a boat-load of nice things to say about my blog here. Turns out, Bud told the guy after the first couple posts that he should give my blog a read. Bud's buddy said he was hooked on the first post he saw and has been checking it out ever since.
"As a first-person narrative," he said, "I think it's right up there with The Diary of Anne Frank and Invisible Man."
We sat down at the cammo hat dude's computer. Gotta say, I never did get his name. I think Bud said in the truck on the drive up, but I wasn't paying attention. Then I think he said it again when we got out, but I just couldn't quite hear it in the rain. And after I started talking to the guy, and got along with him so well, especially what with his help and all, I never could bring myself to ask his name.
"Here's what your problem is," he said. I remember that part distinctly. The rest was something about a Feedburner address, whatever that means. I really don't know. Computers aren't my thing.
"The blog started out," I said, "as a record of my making a hallucimotion for Local Motion Days and as a forum for marketing my redwood coasters. I mean, I've got a college degree. As long as I have to go around finding sticks to survive, I might as well at least put my education to work somehow."
"I think the conflict in your life makes for a pretty good read," he said.
"I mean, the installments are usually brief enough that I can take the time to read them. And I love anything to do with the Lost Coast. You know what your blog reminds me of is Dostoyevsky. Ever read Notes From Underground?"
"Years ago, I think."
"And I see a little bit of Steinbeck, too. Very poetic."
"Hey, if you're interested in the coasters, I've got a couple sets in the truck. Eight bucks for half a dozen, but I've got two sets I'll let you have for fifteen."
"One dozen redwood coasters for fifteen dollars? Let's see them."
So off I scrambled, excited to make a tidy sale, noticing on the walls along the hall framed photos and flyers proclaiming Redwood Heights Tree Tours, a weird catwalk of ropes and bridges up in the trees of a redwood grove. Bud's buddy showed up in most of the shots as a guide.
The guy damn-sure had a nice place. Lots of brown, yellow, and orange decor. Like walking around in the Brady Bunch house and the writer's house in A Clockwork Orange all in one.
Outside, the rain had lulled. It was dusk now, setting sun obliterated by the overcast sky. Somebody, I couldn't help thinking, somebody in Bangladesh checked out my blog. Bangladesh. Bloggles the mind.
I grabbed the coasters from the truck and hustled back just as somebody else was showing up. I saw the headlights coming, but I went on in anyway, not knowing who it was, and not needing whoever it was to witness a coaster transaction.
Back downstairs in the house, Bud and his buddy were talking about genetically-engineered snails big as small dogs, and a skateboard powered entirely by a brainwave-reading helmet.
"Whoever's wearing the helmet visualizes a point in the distance becoming nearer, and the damn thing goes."
They were both too busy talking for me to properly conduct a sale. I put the two sets of coasters on a table, probably somewhat glumly, just as Bud's buddy's wife and her girlfriend came in. Both were very good-looking. Especially the wife's girlfriend, who wore the most wonderful mini-skirt and had--it took me a good while examining to fully perceive--not Nylons on, but light-tan hosiery tattooed onto her skin, a perfectly convincing dark band appearing midway up her thigh. I wondered how far the tattoo extended down--to her toes? I tried to imagine how that would look while we all listened to Joe Walsh and shot the fat on the deck.
Bud's buddy wound up pulling out a copy of Joseph Campbell's Myths to Live By. The girlfriend read from the chapter titled "Zen." She read from the part about how the Buddha had "so given of himself to the world that there was no one there" right when Joe Walsh's "A Life of Illusion" was on! I couldn't help but think about Tumik's psychic projections, the ancient alien's astral avatars, and I wondered how best to spread the word to keep reality from unraveling, and how in even greater display, considering the big ongoing picture, reality unraveling could possibly look.
Checking out the beer bottles standing all around--some still unopened--started reminding me of stalagmites. I couldn't help but think about the underground, the way light plays shined up into scalloped crevices and crevasses, all the monolithic cracks and fissures wavering high overhead down deep.
It was around midnight before Bud and I finally got out. I asked Bud if he needed me to drive. Bud just arched an eyebrow in mild surprise by way of reply.
The late drive back passed dark and quiet. We retraced our journey as if retracted back into a dream, arriving home to the sight of the giant mechanical Bigfoot at the Darrow's Bend turnoff a little after one a.m. We booked on down the Avenue of the Giants to the dirt road leading uphill that winds by my property, keeping an eye out for deer crossing the moon-splashed Avenue on their way down to Mist River for a drink.
I told Bud he could hang out and crash, but he said he had some things to do in the morning. The wooden camper with the shingled roof squeaked in back of the pickup all the way down the hill. Then the soft sounds of the summer night returned. Invisible crickets hiding all around with tiny alien eyes resumed communication.
Around nine o'clock that morning, I was out by my band saw running a bunch of limbs when I saw a group of people coming toward me whom I instantly took to be tourists. I thought I caught some German from a distance and immediately spoke up.
"Ich heize Zen," I yelled. "Was machen sie am wochenende?"
Looking back on it, I guess it was natural enough that they should turn right around and head back down the hill like they did. I guess the equivalent would be if I was wandering around a German forest and saw some local savage surrounded by sticks and blades wondering in broken book-learned English what I liked to do on my weekends.
I turned the band saw back on. Grabbed a branch, lined it up, made a couple cuts. Sliding a couple of raw redwood coasters off the edge and into the box below, I thought about Rora, the two of us together, together in the Tripper Room. How we made them colored underwater lights shine.
It was hard to believe that, somewhere underground, the Tripper Room was still trapped, bobbing moored in some subterranean river rife with toxic magic from a pre-cataclysmic age. I thought about Tumik. The alien's bulbous head, white as a tapeworm, was firmly lodged in my mind's eye.
"Tumik," I whispered, running another branch through the screaming saw's high shrill grind. "Come to me, Tumik," I whispered, "I need you now. Come in, Tumik. Tumik, do you read me?"
About twenty minutes later, while I was taking a break over at the picnic table with some cheese and some bread, out of the woods stepped a quite recognizable dude. I smiled and yelled out, "Hey, I'm surprised you're not Johnny Depp!"
Werner Herzog came over. The German tourists, of course, plus my having watched Little Dieter Needs to Fly and Rescue Dawn back-to-back over the course of a few nights with dinner. These things were fresh in my mind.
"I see you've finally bothered to respond to my thoughts," I added as Werner Herzog approached. I was growing to enjoy the underground alien's perfectly convincing mental manifestations.
"A fellow can really get lost in these woods," he said, looking and sounding exactly like the famous filmmaker. "The trees here are so big."
"I'm having trouble staying focused on my mission," I said. "I mean, I want to keep existence from falling apart as much as anybody. It's just so hard to find a way to turn people on to . . . you know . . . " I trailed off, shaking my head.
"The magic power that reunites?" Werner said, pulling out an e-pen.
"Well, yeah. How to make the good vibrations grow, you know?"
"Wow. That is so convincing. It looks exactly like you're really here. In front of me right now. Exhaling. Coughing, and coughing. I don't know, I just feel the weight of the world, you know?"
Towering greenery rose high above meandering fog. I had The Flying Burrito Brothers on. After a few moments, Werner spoke.
"I vividly remember, when making the film Aguirre, Wrath of God, consuming a meal made with the fermented intestines of an anaconda. It was a sacred and mysterious preparation and it gave me visions beyond my wildest dreams, visions which haunt me and impel me to this day. Indeed, to this very moment."
"Basically, I have to do what the Beatles did. I have to turn the world on to peace, love, and rock n' roll."
"A lot of people mistake me for Pete Townsend." Werner took another hit on his pen.
"I'm starting to get the feeling you're not actually a 111,000 year-old alien sending out an astral avatar from deep underground."
"I must confess, I haven't listened to the Who in years. Has anyone else passed by? I got lost from my group...”
(FACEBOOK EXCHANGE BETWEEN
ZEN MENDOSA AND RORA HEARN)
RORA: u there?
ZEN: I am.
RORA: saw your light on.
RORA: come on zen
trying to apologize
ZEN: What for?
RORA: not showing up alone
as if you didnt kno
ZEN: I appreciate that.
Why did you bring him?
RORA: started takin classes at junior college
last jan. met him in comparative religion
ZEN: Why did you bring him?
RORA: zen you were gone a olong itme
i made a friend
but theres nothing there with him
there never has been and i dont kno
why i took him with me
ZEN: Well, when can you and I meet alone?
RORA: how about tonite
i can come by your place
ZEN: Six with you sounds great.
RORA c ya! : )
ZEN: Zen out
I have to wonder if it was really even Rora I messaged with. Supposedly. I guess I'll find out. Oh well.
The sun hung over the sky like a humongous coaster, and the trees were giant beer bottles with limbs when Rora showed up at six. I told her how I'd met Werner Herzog, that he was in Humbaba making a documentary on the autogyro dude in trouble for finking on big business dumping illegal pollutants. All Rora did the whole time I talked about this though was flip her hair around and smile with a lot of eye-contact.
"Sounds interesting," she said. She came toward me smiling softly. Smiling knowingly.
"Woman," I said, setting down a Regal Lager on one of my own coasters, "you have won me with your words."
Old-timers tell of the blood-curdling cries of the Bigfeet at night, eerie yells weirdly rolling throughout the moonlit forest. But that's nothing compared to the way we sounded. The spirits of our hairy ape-like ancestors were shocked, shocked as they watched.
When our spasms had subsided, and freshly washed we lay abed wrapped in a post-coital glow, I thought about the world, and felt as though there might be hope.
Then the phone rang. It was my neighbor, an old codger called Cooter. Robert Coot's got a parcel of land adjacent to mine. He called up with a very strange story, something about his television set left running.
"Friggin'-a dude," I said, "it's late."
I was butt-naked there in bed with Rora sacked-out next to me. Absentmindedly observing Sluggo move around as though with a life of its own, I asked Cooter if it couldn't wait until morning.
"Zen?" Rora mumbled. "What is it?"
"Cooter," I said.
"Oh honey, I'm tired."
"No. My neighbor. Something's wrong with Cooter's tube. Don't worry about it. You go back to sleep."
When she turned over on her side, and pulled a knee up to her breasts, I confess I actually tried for more. But she's grumpy when she's tired, I found. Besides, there was something trippy going on and I had to go.
I stumbled over to the bathroom and tried my best to take a leak, but such was the residual state of my ardor, even leaning forward parallel with the floor was a dangerous proposition. I thought about baseball. Hit play on the boom box in arm's reach and listened to The Humblebums. Billy Connolly sang "Mother."
When that did the trick, I got myself together and hustled over to Cooter's on my ATV.
Seems Cooter had decided to save himself a trip to the dump, plus win a secret victory in his battle against environmentalists, by chucking his old TV in a hole in the ground.
Standing on my horseless chariot I powered up the rut-scarred road still trying to figure what Cooter meant when he said "it came back out again." Sure didn't sound like he meant he was drunk. Maybe not everybody's willing to go tearing off to help out a fat old guy always in overalls talking about trains, but the man makes a damn fine strudel.
Coming around down the hill onto Cooter's spread I saw him hustling around with a rifle looking every which way all at once in the manner of someone trying to avoid a sneak attack. The closer I got, the more he looked like Elmer Fudd doing an impersonation of John Belushi. Even the pair of handcuffs dangling from Cooter's wrist would have been funny if not for the rifle in his hands and the hollow look in his eyes.
"It was just an old goddam TV, I tell ya!"
The words came out of him, not necessarily directed at me.
"It was a Sylvania! Just an old black and white. Never gave nobody no trouble! Always kept to itself."
"Cooter, why don't you put down that rifle and tell me what exactly's got your Osh Koshes in a bunch."
"Threw it away," was all he said. ""Threw the goddam thing away."
"Down a hole in the ground, right?"
"Damn right I did!"
"So it climbed back out, that's what! Goddam thing held me hostage! But I got away! I got away! We gotta kill it--we gotta find it, gotta kill it--"
Over by the wood shed, a stick cracked.
"There it is!" Cooter screamed. Pointing his rifle, he tried to fire, and looked utterly befuddled when his finger pulled the trigger and nothing happened. This much I could see quite clearly, but couldn't see who or what it was over by the wood shed until it sprang into view.
The television bobbed five or six feet in the air, screen displaying that evidence of the Big Bang which we call static. The set seemed to float toward us at first. The static stopped as the set approached. The image of the flag appeared, in color, followed by the national anthem. Didn't faze me a bit, but Cooter stood transfixed. I sure as hell wasn't. Especially not when the TV crept out of the shadows and into a patch of light cast on the dry and dusty ground.
It was as though the TV had a hole in the bottom that must have oozed something shiny and black that lengthened and sprouted four limbs roughly equal to the body in wrist-thick girth. Nimble as a deer it crossed a distance of perhaps some twenty-odd yards toward us before I swept up a big rock and chucked it pretty darn hard right into the screen. But instead of busting through a bunch of glass like it should have, the rock thudded off of the thing with a sound such as a mallet might make striking a thick steak. Stopped it, anyway.
The programming changed on impact. Suddenly the screen displayed what I instantly recognized to be Goldie Hawn from "Laugh-In" in close-up, having just said, "Sock it to me!"
Somehow, this thing had handcuffed Cooter. Kept him hostage who knows how long and did who knows what. The dogs wouldn't go near it.
Then like a cornered rat the TV leaped at me and slashed with misshapen claws that hissed through the air like whipcord. The screen showed some pundit's face I'd seen at the Samanas saying how good it was for the country that the Treasury got looted, and how the poor were so lazy, and college was for snobs, and how union workers are such terrorizing bullies, and corporations are people, and whatever it was that the aliens had left so long ago in the land, when it came into contact underground with the old man's TV thrown down a hole, in showing the face of that fascist shill, it made one hell of a stupid mistake with me.
As its arm swept past I stepped in with a left hook to the side of the set that sent the TV sprawling. What that TV didn't know is, my older brother used to be a streetfighter. He's all over YouTube in DrunkFights. And he was doing that in his forties.
Just like hitting a side of beef. Didn't feel like a TV at all. For a second there it tried to rally. I recognized the close-up of John Saxon's face from an episode of "The Six Million Dollar Man" filling the TV's screen.
I knew I had to get in close. Chasing the TV, dictating the fight, kept it off-balance. I bulled in past a couple of gimpy swipes from the claws, and landed several blows rapid-fire undistracted by shots from Rocky and Raging Bull. Even when it spoke directly to me through lines of TV-dialogue I only pounded and pounded until I thought I'd about killed it.
It staggered away, looking pathetic, showing scenes from 2001, saying it could feel it. That TV wasn't going anywhere. Like a wounded bull in Madrid before the final blow, the television tottered. Every tearful scene you ever saw in your life flashed across the screen. All the close-up faces of actors in great moments of dying. Me, I was immune. Hell, I was the movie reviewer for The Freethinker for years when I lived in Carata.
The only thing that made me pause was the TV's posture. It looked more than anything in the world like it was taking a major dump. And indeed, that's exactly what it did. Quickly the misshapen claws retrieved the shiny black geometric result. Like a tiny monolith--it was a remote! The TV pointed it at Cooter and clicked away.
"Them poor! They deserve what they get for it!"
The TV shook the remote, hit it a couple times, then tried again.
"Latinos are illegal!"
"Cooter! You stupid idiot! The TV's controlling your mind!"
"Global warming is a hoax!"
The sneering face of the pundit on the screen caught my eye while the TV clicked away. There was an axe in a round of wood nearby. While the TV worked Cooter into an apoplectic frenzy, I ran to the round, grabbed the handle, plus the metal lid of a garbage can nearby, and raised the axe with an inarticulate oath. The TV ran, and I gave chase.
I chased that TV all over the place. Man, if only I could have caught it and taught it. Taught it the ways of peace and love. But every chance it got, the damn thing kept zapping people. It tried to zap me, and I accidentally dropped the axe trying to avoid that while using the lid as a shield. I chased it right down onto the Avenue of the Giants and it zapped some people going by in one direction, then again some more people going in the other, everybody with their windows down.
I finally caught up with it down at the river. Ran it down in the shallows as it tried to cross. I could feel its lithe limbs ineffectually resist as I wadded its arms around what must have been its waist. This was like holding three wriggling wrists. But the legs kicking couldn't reach me, and neither could the TV's claws. I kept lifting it up and smashing it down on a rock in the river. Meaty wet sounds of its head meeting stone were accompanied by strange crunches within. I swung that sucker like a sledge. The thin veneer of civilization had fallen away like a robe. At last, when I was sure that it was dead, I raised my face to the starlit sky and might well have given vent to a primordial cry had there not appeared, in intermittent glimpses between the trees, the vision of a man with streaming white hair booking along on a Segway.
I was pretty sure it was only Tumik, and not the real Billy Connolly. I did make sure to ask, though.
"Look at that now," the mental manifestation of the ancient alien exclaimed. "Would you look at what you've done? My goodness. Look at you, the hero! You're a great man! You chased it down and bloody well bashed its brains in!"
"What the hell was it?"
"I've no idea! I told you, fabric of reality unraveling."
The TV, looking decayed, began to disintegrate in the flow of the river. Even the remote, which I'd knocked away in the tussle, and which I could see wedged against a rock, had begun to dissolve. In moments all that remained was a smooth glistening lump about the size of a fist.
"Pick it up, Zen, quick!"
"Do it, quick!"
Barehanding the lump, I examined it.
"What does it feel like?"
"Can you crack it open?"
I bashed the lump a couple of times against a rock. On the third try it cracked. Pulling away the shards, I saw what looked like three black jelly beans.
"Go ahead, do it! It's the heart of your enemy. Eat it."
"Are you sure?"
I did still kind of want to let loose with a primordial cry. I went ahead and ate it.
"I don't know. Tastes a little like chicken."
I wanted for something to happen. But nothing.
"I don't notice anything."
"Give it an hour or so. I imagine the walk back to your house will do you good. I can sing you 'Mother' along the way. 'Black velvet shadows . . . '”
What looked like Billy Connolly sang on his Segway as I walked the Avenue of the Giants back home. It wasn’t really Billy though, but rather of course a mental projection of the ancient alien, Tumik, probably holed up somewhere in a cave, appearing to me in what was intended to be friendlier form.
Having rescued my overalls-wearing, model trains-loving neighbor, Cooter, from his discarded TV which came horridly to life in weird waters underground and held the old man hostage, and having chased down the evil TV and beaten it to death with my bare hands in the river, subsequently eating one of the black magic jelly beans tucked away inside it, I began to experience the effect of seeing more and more of what was always all around.
Now the darkness was broken by the richest hues imaginable. Colors came from lichen growing and glowing on the trees. Saucer-shaped fungi, ordinarily clammy and white, afforded strange illumination. Delicate moss, lacey and coral-like, pulsed warm turquoise light. I could still hear the crickets chirp, but now their song, sounding slowed down, took on the tones of an enormous choir. Extradimensional figures, shadowy and membranous, not expecting to be seen, moved about unconcerned. On the far side of the river, semi trucks shifted gears.
Tumik didn’t look like Billy Connolly anymore. I saw him as he truly was, and just as I did, he faded away, Segway included, having never really been there at all.
Now more than ever I couldn’t wait to turn people on to the positive vibe necessary to keep the fabric of reality from unraveling. Even more than that, I couldn’t wait to see Rora.
It was morning now, purple and crimson swaths of light blazing from the east over the ragged black tree line pressed against the sky. I couldn’t wait to tell her what I had experienced. To see the wider world was natural. Kind of like the moon always being black, and actually not ever silver at all. That’s only an illusion, in keeping with so much in life.
I told Rora so when I sat by her side.
“What’s going on?” she murmured, soft and warm, still half-asleep. I told her about the black magic jelly bean I had ingested at the alien’s behest after killing the TV in the river.
“See?” I said, producing the others.
“So you found a couple of old jelly beans?” she said, sounding awake now. “Who cares?”
I could feel the fabric of reality starting to really unravel.
“You are so selfish,” she said, getting worked up, looking at me like I’d just thrown away her birthday cake.
“What do you mean? I saw a television running around. It had claws. What, am I gonna not tell you about that?”
“Everything with you has to be so dramatic.”
“Do you really think you’re saving the world?”
“Actually it’s all existence.”
“Because I can tell you, you’re not saving anything.”
“But everything I told you is true. Ask Bud about the Depp-Gonzo. Cooter will tell you all about the TV. Go ahead, call them right now.”
“It’s early! I’m not going to bother anybody! I don’t give a damn what your buddies say!”
“Well there’s no reason to yell.”
“I’ll yell if I want!”
“Look, I mean come on, we live in an area with a giant mechanical Bigfoot. What’s so hard to accept about anything I said?”
“You want to accept something? You want to accept something? Go to hell! Accept that!”
She had been sitting up in bed, leaning away from me as though I were a leper. With loose bits falling. I had my magic beans in my hand, and for a moment I couldn’t help but look at them in dumb amazement that she wasn’t hearing the truth of my incredible adventures.
“So you don’t even believe I met Werner Herzog?”
She slapped the beans out of my hand and repeated, “Go to hell!”
“Hey! Those things are special!”
Rora started gathering up her stuff while I tried to find what Tumik had called the heart of my enemy. Three little black beans for a heart. One I found among the dust bunnies under some shelving. Brushing it off and putting it in a bowl with keys and change I said, “What’s the matter with you?”
“You’re what’s the matter,” she said, and walked right out the door.
“Now who’s being dramatic?” I said, while I watched her drive away.
“Well, here I am out in the woods, pickin’ up sticks. Probably pickin’ up ticks, too. In this country it’s not like the people with the money want to stand in the way of the people with the best ideas. It doesn’t matter who you are. If you work hard and show strong leadership skills, you could be President. Then when you’re President, you can be the one who makes the decisions. And if the decisions you decide maybe don’t go so great for the people with the money, they’ll understand. Win some, lose some. The main thing is that everyone wants the intrinsic fairness of our democratic system to remain intact. Just like always.
“I wonder if the moon or something isn’t in retrograde. Can’t say I’ve eaten right in a long time. Bills, bills. Money money coin chase. And why? I am an entity entering the universe in this vibration and never once ever gave the go-ahead for any of this slavery. If intelligence and caloric expenditure translated into money, I would be a great slave.
“The energy companies control the media. Which being corporate and right-wing, hide and divide. I know lots of liberals and none run TV stations. The national news doesn’t report what happens. It shapes what happens. We don’t live in a democracy, we’re in a plutocracy, and this government of the lying rich pollutes our land with corporate waste in the air and in the water. In the toxic Frankenstein food made in hi-tech labs for some hidden rich few to own and poison people.
“Hey look, another stick. I have a college degree.
“To the good, there isn’t a single part of the county that won’t get you off. Lick a rock, that’ll get you where you’re going. Break off part of a tree, any tree, that’ll do the trick. Fern’s even better than bananas. And if you see a dead homeless person, by all means, chow down. Around here, dead homeless people are chalk full of good stuff.
“Gosh, I’m poor. I sure hate money. There used to be a time when growing pot was wrong. So hard to imagine that now. If only I could pick up enough sticks, and cut them faster, and sell them faster, more, more, then maybe, just maybe, plus with a giant helping hand coming down from the clouds, maybe then I could finally afford beginning to be able to think about even considering the dream of initial cash outlay. But no! Of course that’ll never happen. That’s just silly-talkin’. In reality, chem-trails. A martial law world, plentiful with chips, drones and GMOs. Why are the awful things reality? Because, reality’s unraveling. Why can’t I stop that? Because, gotta pick up sticks.
“Hello, stick. Did I just take you from your girlfriend? The stick of your dreams? Good! Why should anybody else have love? Oh hell, I can’t take this one now. Why, sticks, why did she leave me? Why?
“Not that she was really so amazing. But the pickings sure are slim.”
All right, that’s it. I’m going back down to the caves, I’m bringing back the Tripper Room, and I’m gonna win this damn race and in the process save, not only the world, not merely the universe, but the entire multiverse, and that’s never been done.
Because check this:
Subsequent to a small amount of lamenting, a small amount of picking up sticks and snapping, why, right as rain I headed over to my friendly neighborhood market with purposes of perusing the cheap beer section, when lo, who should come into the store but mine sworn enemy, the very symbol of the loss of everything decent people ever held dear, Team Patriotic? Right away they started lying to the girl behind the counter, lying that they would be the ones winning the coveted Local Motion Days race fast approaching.
“How dare you treat this princess of the redwoods in so shabby a manner?” I declared, placing two 32-ounce bottles of heaven on the counter. “The lies you tell fill these well-stocked walls with excrement. Don’t you sully them Cheez Stix, boy.”
The satin-jacketed fools. They stood there looking like department store choirboys kicked off of “Hee-Haw.” Goober chic posers. Not all authentic like me.
“Says here declined.”
I swiped my card again.
Team Patriotic started recovering.
“Go ahead and swipe your card one more time.”
One of them did say, “Instant card-ma!”
I looked at my card.
Later, sitting out on a stump, staring at shadowy extradimensionals creeping around, I visualized the various additions required to install on the Tripper Room in order to sufficiently demolish the competition. Additions which I shall not here discuss because, on leaving the market, I happened to notice that Team Patriotic had their hallucimotion tied down on a trailer behind their shiny white rig, all ready to test run in the river, apparently. And looking very much like guess what?
The Tripper Room.
Unspeakable scum that they were, they’d been reading my blog!
Sunlight dancing down the branches of the tall trees shimmered on the Avenue like the ripples in the shallows of the river snaking below the road, distant groans of downshifting trucks hidden behind a green Cyclopean wall. Back and forth across the river, flanked by a towering canyon of trees, and throughout the forest rang the shrill pipings and trills of the birds. Fallen giants angled out of the river. Dry snarls of grass dangling in ragged clots from the bushes on the banks marked the high water, and waved like witch hair gently in the breeze.
“Tumik,” I said, standing at river’s edge. “Don’t leave me alone with the extra-dimensionals. Come on, send me a message, I’ve got my dead cell phone in hand. Take me to the Tripper Room, Tumik. It is time.”
Then Tumik’s voice appeared in my mind, and I knew to go to the side of the hill close by. There was a bunch of tick brush and poison oak. I could feel Tumik there on the other side of the rock. Kind of like Grady, the caretaker, talking with Jack Torrance.
“Are you prepared to keep reality from unraveling, Zen?” came the voice.
“I assure you, Mr. Tumik, nothing would give me greater pleasure.”
“Do you know that even now the members of Team Patriotic are being provided additional funding by certain parties destroying the world for their own private gain?”
“Doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. Doesn’t matter, either. Because I’m Team Hippie, and I’m gonna win. Gonna win one for the people, and make those fascist tools cry. In a plan so crazy it’s bound to work, everything will ride on this one race. Rest assured, I’m gonna smear ‘em. And my smearing the fascists will win the Hippie cause the needed converts, because everybody loves a winner. After that, everything’s bound to fall into place. I’m certain of it.”
Then did the very mountain crack open, and down inside the cave I strode, deep into the vastness of the underworld again, bulbous white head of the almond-eyed alien tremulously a-bob while leading the way…
Dear Tripper Room, you are now The Humbaba Cycle…on account you’re on wheels!
I baptize thee.
And thou art powered with black magic jelly bean, leaving me with one to go, seeing how I found it on top of a book on my book shelf when I got back with you thanks to Bud’s pickup and a chain to drag you out of the chasm. Then with no less than the power of ancient alien technology on our side and the unremitting goodness of having ingested the first black magic jelly bean myself, I got a super groovy wheel system set up around you, my wondrous craft, for the road portion of the rapidly approaching contest, easily detaching for submersion during the final stretch down Mist River.
Standing here inside I’ll see the waterline lap, lap against the window. I’ll see the murky river bed lit below with fiber optics. I’ll see the rocky river bank rise into the trees high overhead outside. Opening the ceiling hatch I’ll climb on top and see the Local Motion Days crowds watch the race from the Avenue above. And because I know that the fate of existence itself is at stake, I will paddle away with such va-voom…
Outside on my lawn now.
It’s true, you know. Thoughts affect the universe. The one-time visitor, Tumik, ancient alien whose call I follow, has long become a part of the land, and the call that Tumik sent to me was a key in a lock beyond my knowledge.
Hold on. Somebody’s walking up the road.
At first I couldn’t tell whether or not this was actually Sylvester Stallone standing in my front yard checking out The Humbaba Cycle. When he suggested that I wear my last magic bean as the stone in a magic mood ring, I realized I was looking at an extra-dimensional being with power to yet assume the disguise of its choice.
“Loog, Zen, if you wanna be the gradest Hippie in the world, if you wanna be the best, then you just gotta tell me one thing, you wanna learn to fly, or what? ‘Cause I’m ready to teach you how right now.”
“Seriously? You’d teach me how to fly?”
I went back in the house and found an old ring my mother never even wore anyway. After carefully removing the purple stone, I set the last magic bean inside and bent the metal that held the stone back up into place.
Then I went outside again, ring slipped on index finger, and said, “Yo.”
“Loogs like you got yourself one helluva magic mood ring, Zen. How you doon?”
“Oh, pretty good, I guess.”
“You feel like flying?”
“You gotta feel the mood.”
“I feel the mood.”
“You wanna fly now?”
“I don’t believe you.”
“The color on the ring hasn’t changed.”
I looked at the ring. “You know, one thing I don’t understand, why am I so important to the preservation of reality? What kind of a burden is that to put upon a person? Why aren’t you the one?”
“Hey, loog Zen, I’m eggsdra-dimensional. You want me to admit it? All right, I’m a freak. There now, you happy? Make you feel like a big man? Now come on, you already went through this with your little pal.”
I knew he meant Tumik.
“All right then, there’s something else I want to know: Why don’t we just start heaving TVs down that hole and work ourselves up a nice fat supply of TV Men for farming? Whatever these things are”—the black oval on my outstretched index finger faintly glimmered—“we’d be smart to start storin’ ‘em up.”
Suddenly clarity intensified further. Bing, just like that. I had to steady myself with my arms, that’s how good the clarity.
“Yo, Sly,” I said, “my magic mood ring—it was black, now it’s black and orange.”
“It’s black and orange?”
“Yo, you should try now.”
“How? You mean flap my arms?”
“I’m not sure. I never used no magic ring, Zen. But one thing I know, you gotta want it!”
“I wanna fly! Now! Come on, Adrian! Yo, yo!”
“You gotta want it!”
“I can’t hear you!”
“Yo Adrian! YO ADRIAN!”
“Go on, fly away! Get outta here!”
“YOADRIAN! AAHHHRRRGGH! YOAADDRRIAANNN!”
It was working. I could feel myself rising from the rocky ground. Sure enough, I found that by flapping my arms, I did indeed gain upward momentum.
I looked down.
I was six feet over the ground!
I arose, extra-dimensional beings flitting out from the forest, spurious shadows following unconcerned with communication, curious to see me seem extra-dimensional, too. Cool air rippled my shirt. Amazingly enough, I didn’t feel sick to my stomach at all. The green zig-zagging river carelessly wound about, about a hundred or two feet below. On the east side of the river, running fairly parallel, the Avenue of the Giants. On the other side, Highway 111.
A few miles south, Madrani. I could see the football field in the distance. Behind me—I swiveled mid-air with ease—Darrow’s Bend sprawled around the giant mechanical Bigfoot. Spying a sketchy crowd lazing about the town, I descended unto the rabble and bade them behold the miracle of my aerial demonstration. Incredibly enough, no one seemed to take much notice.
A collection of street people had stretched out on the sidewalk. One guy, exceedingly ripe, had a cardboard sign with a crudely drawn upward-pointing digit with a little memo saying to like him on Facebook.
Fabric of reality unraveling, I reminded myself, fabric of reality unraveling…
In preparation for race tomorrow spent entire day reading Finnegan’s Wake.
Love it! Makes perfect sense, now.
In fact, I love Finnegan’s Wake so much, I went ahead and inscribed a quote from it, directly onto the exterior of the large rectangular vessel which I shall captain to victory:
The quote starts on the front of the Tripper Room at the top edge, right in the middle, and runs rune-like around wrapping back to the front, so the “puk” meets the “Luk” like the knobs of a torc. With me inside the submerged Room, the word should rest just above the water, mostly.
The river is low. Someone from Local Motion Days left a message on my machine saying the race will go ahead anyway. All I have to do is take my carnivalesque non-motorized vehicle over to Werman to officially enter the competition sometime tonight.
Team Hippie—that’s me—has now officially entered The Humbaba Cycle in the race for Local Motion Days undisputed world championship. Chalk it up to the problem at hand that hardly anyone was even there. Normally you’d see tons of folks in embarrassing outfits with colorful banners and everything. Incredibly enough, neither of the TV stations up in Egeria are even going to cover the race at all. Weirder still, it looks like there will be only six entries this year. I don’t think that’s going to hurt my chances of winning. I already feel real good about that. But usually they get at least thirty or forty entries, sometimes over fifty.
Of the six, Team Patriotic, the National Armed Resistance to Growers, and America’s American Americans 4 America are all owned by the same multinational corporation. Then there’s the entry called Team Panhandler, which consists of the guys I saw panhandling in Darrow’s Bend, and then some family, the Burtchersons.
Bud says the local stations will continue focusing coverage on celebrating the rising corporate demand for mandatory Radio Frequency Identification chips implanted inside people’s hands. They’ve got parades for that all over the place.
The race kicks off in the morning at ten, but I’ll get there a little after eight to set up and make final checks. According to Bud, despite a certain degree of apathy toward the event, a lot of people, due to reading this blog, figure I’ve got it cinched.
I don’t want to get into it too much, but, odd thing to have to point out, there’s nobody else on my team. Originally Bud said he was interested in it for months before last year’s race. For whatever reason he dropped that plan pretty much at the last minute, so I went on anyway. The first morning is the hardest part for a single competitor to win. For me it means pedaling The Humbaba Cycle down the Avenue of the Giants all by my lonesome, whereas all the other entries have four or five team members.
They also have added weight.
We’ll head out from below Werman and stop at Darrow’s Bend for what amounts to a bathroom break and a chance for the leader to rest, then continue on the other few miles into Madrani where we’ll spend the night.
I arrived early to find The Humbaba Cycle intact. (Initially concerned about sabotage, I let that stress go with Tumik’s assurance he’d keep watch.) Pedaling over to the starting line, I ignored taunts from the NARGs pertaining to my coasters.
At the loud crack of the starting gun the ring on my finger blazed bright blue as I pulled away from the others with incredible speed, considering conditions. A few people were there taking selfies. You can see in somebody’s 2-minute video on YouTube where I go by in the background. That was a few minutes before I lost my right rear wheel. I had taken a turn a little too wide and hit the cuts in the road that are there to alert, and my wheel jitter-jaggered right off.
Houston, we have a problem.
About three seconds after I thought that, I looked over and I kid you not, not only did Whitney Houston step forth from redwood and sword fern, but Lee Horsley as Matt Houston, as well. Together, quick as a NASCAR pit crew, the two of them fixed my wheel right as rain and had me pedaling off in a jiff. This is perfectly legal, by the way. All of the entries have up to three helpers that can follow along and help with repairs.
You can see in the longer video on YouTube that Team Panhandler never really had a chance. The wheels on their shopping cart weren’t working right, the surface of the road was too bumpy, three of the guys sat watching off to the side, and the other two argued in the cart.
The Burtchersons left early on. I felt bad for the kid.
America’s American Americans 4 America had about as much chance as Team Panhandler. Their entry was a whole bunch of beer cans shaped like a big beer can. It had some sort of framework inside, but all four guys were way overweight, and you can see in the video they last about a mile before the whole thing falls completely apart in the road.
Team Patriotic and the NARGs each have five-dude teams. I barely beat them into Darrow’s Bend, even in this higher state of my attainment. Yet, with the star people on my side, I have at every turn prevailed.
Team Hippie being the first to emerge up the steep hill into Madrani momentously encompassed glory. For me, anyway, knowing what’s on the line. And oh, how the evidence of my mission’s import abounds.
Things have gotten so bad, manufactured rain and Frankenstein food either go unnoticed or seem fine. It’s like Rod Taylor among the Eloi now.
Sleeping in the Tripper Room tonight and tomorrow. Sure could go for Yvette Mimieux.
I don’t have to wonder what flipped Rora’s lid. Her inexplicable refutation of me is perfectly in keeping with the core issue: the multiverse is falling apart and I can’t let that happen. No matter what, I have to hold everything together.
There’s a hole as big as a beach ball hanging in the air behind the Post Office. Over at the football field, the goal posts are dripping.
With everything at stake, the prize is to survive.
All day long, Ben-Hur in the river. Fortunately—or perhaps by design?—my lats have always been awesome. Not for nothing did I chuck all those bags of fertilizer at Big Nursery, because I sure was able to lay into that oar.
I was surprised to find a small crowd had gathered, and felt somewhat distracted by the people lining the road down to the river, tooting kazoos. I didn’t want to be rude but I didn’t want to take my hands off the handlebars to wave back because I was booking as fast as I could. At one point I took the turn so wide on the gravel road, I actually overshot it. However, I willed The Humbaba Cycle back onto the road from literally hanging in thin air over an embankment.
About fifty feet shy of the river I had to disengage the wheel system. It was just too rocky, with the river so low.
Regarding implements attained in my journey, who knows if you can overwork them, or whether they improve in efficacy with use, or what exactly to expect? I worked one of the nodules that I’ve been calling magic beans down to nothing rubbing it all over the exterior of the Tripper Room. I don’t know how long the one I ate will work on me, or if its effects will fade at all. In any case, I needed to get the Room in the river, and I didn’t want to bash it up on the rocks any more than necessary, knowing how it would be getting plenty enough of that soon, so I willed myself into flight without so much as a “Yo Adrian” now, grabbed onto the railing and slowly lifted the Room off of the river bar. You can see me on YouTube carefully deposit the Room hanging at arm’s length in the middle of the river, then descend from Superman-mode and get inside.
Closing the hatch, I steadied myself in the bobbing Room and watched the waterline slosh and splash against the window as it spun. Glad to be out of view of the growing crowd, for a long moment I was loathe to get back out there and start paddling. I was sick of having to do anything and wanted to just sit.
But this was madness. I shook my head, took a deep breath, and managed to snap out of it.
The problem with the Tripper Room is being totally not at all nautical. It spins about aimlessly at best. Super hard to control, especially with me up on top. Behind me I could see Team Patriotic kept three dudes inside and used two to paddle. The NARGs were still stuck in the shallows with some catastrophe going on, I couldn’t tell what from where I was. (Later on I heard they cracked their hull.)
Then I saw Team Patriotic starting to get too close. Chucking the paddle in the Room, I closed the hatch, got out, and pushed from behind in Superman-mode again.
Evidently, my miracles are beginning to get noticed.
I’ve taken the race downriver now, having arrived just south of Darrow’s Bend at the bend in the river where I’m spending the night in the Room one more time. It’s dark now. I can hear some festivities coming from town.
And to think that this used to be fun.
(POST BY TUMIK AS MARK TWAIN)
Ah put that puff in there, and the creak as well, because they are, in fine, most convenient affectations to signal the change in speaker for this final post in a story as wild and wooly as the place and time that it records, precisely the way Zen Mendosa would have wanted it.
The next morning, Zen awoke in the Room instantly aware of his surroundings and utterly prepared for the last stage of the race, for the final conflict, whereupon achieving the ultimate destination downriver, there would then be required of the victor the ceremonial wresting of the mistletoe.
Indeed, as Zen himself so keenly perceived, at this point in the race the extraordinary achievements he displayed had developed no small local renown. From a core group of several who had witnessed his power of flight, the word spread online. And as the fame of Team Hippie grew in those couple days, there was barely enough reduction in watching tube to interrupt regular programming. This of course was all part of the plan.
By the time Zen rounded the final bend in Ol’ Mist, there were scads of folks dyin’ to identify with a man who was clearly about to win big. A Hippie man, by all accounts. A one-man team. A Lone Hippie.
The river, you’ll recollect, having fallen to a lamentable level because of big business causing global warming, lacked force to the current, so that Zen had to once again employ as much miraculous power as he could muster. Regrettably, it wasn’t much. The ring proved to be a bit of a dud. It never should have been used as a magic mood ring in the first place. Secondly, he waited too long with it. I’m amazed it did anything at all. Same with the other one. Probably, if he’d eaten all three immediately, everything would’ve been fine right away, but we didn’t have that information at the time.
Quite a few genuine celebrities showed up, having originally perused Zen’s blog in anger after Googling themselves. Very quickly, however, every last one realized he was trying to help humanity, the whole schmere, and because they had all grown to love him, they cheered with intense pizzazz as he pulled and pulled the ponderous contraption through the shallows toward the finish line.
Sweating and wheezing, he strained and he strained.
Johnny Depp himself appeared, publicly reprising his role as Dr. Gonzo. He cheered Zen on and so did Werner Herzog, standing right next to him. I have it on good authority they dined that night. Other than Johnny’s personal security having to escort Bud away—and it took six of them—the last bit of the race went just dandy.
The ceremonial mistletoe, having endured a great many years of being wrested, had been reduced to a pretty paltry condition, and was basically a stick. Used as Zen was to picking up sticks, this seemed fitting.
Anyway, folks cheered, and the celebrities seemed amused.
Yes, Zen won. And when he did, a subtle yet distinct popping sound could be heard. This was the hole behind the Post Office way over in Madrani closing. A couple minutes later, even the goal posts stopped dripping.
People putting synthesized burgers to their mouths stopped, looked at the sky, and said, “What’s with the tic-tac-toe board up there?”
Team Patriotic was broken. Folks cheered. A sense of community grew.
Personally, I suspected that Zen would literally become a Bigfoot, and then Rora would marry him. I saw a whole full circle thing going on with these uncanny events, but of course that’s not how real life works.
In truth, when he had climbed back onto his Tripper Room, mistletoe stick in hand, for a victory photo-op, a cloud appeared quite separate from the chem-trails, a big dark cloud with an ill-concealed flying saucer inside. From this saucer in the cloud a beam of light shot down, enveloping Zen in a display spectacular to behold. And then Zen arose. He ascended right on up into that cloud—or rather the silent saucer inside.
After that…he was gone. They took him away.
Zen had done so good, it was time for his intergalactic tour.
By way of epilogue, I might add that Rora started a blog. A few of her acquaintances pretend to like it, but it ain’t nothin’.
Bud’s managed to improve his standard of living by selling Zen-related merchandise and giving tours of his Tripper Room replica. I secreted the real one back down in the caves. It waits for his return. He deserves that.
By being the greatest Hippie ever, and inspiring others to follow his example, Zen saved everything for everyone. Literally. True, even today, not everyone knows about Zen around here. After what he’s done though, that’s okay. Besides, in infinite numbers of other places, he’s positively huge.