Sunday, October 15, 2017


Our team is out of it, the big finish. They are all home with their families. Next year they can try it again. We'll see if we take the bait. We sure ran with them this year. It was a fine time.

Now it is back to writing. Reading has to be trimmed.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Rain Rules


How much rain before the umpire calls the game? Do you need a certain number of innings before it is a complete game? There must be rules, There are rules for everything. I'm not playing ball today, so let it rain. I'll write a small October note and think about the game, it's on TV.




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Sunday, October 8, 2017


The games will be played
in the last good weather of the season.
i've a few books to read, stuff to write
and things are going to be okay




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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Count Basie


I don't know where or when; Chicago, the late serventies, I think. Changing planes on my way from Los Angeles to Cleveland. Back then when you boarded you walked through the first class section on your way to the middle section where the commoners sat. Ahead of me, in the aisle a small man in a neat sport coat and white sailors cap was just sitting down amid some commotion, and being quite cheery about it. As I passed I looked at him and maybe I was surprised and may have said his name aloud, or mouthed it, "Count Basie". For sure I had the face of recognition when our eyes met. He jumped up again, put out his hand and I shook it. I said his name at the same time he nodded and said, "Count Basie." I grinned and said s omething charming like, "I know," and kept grinning. That was it, a few seconds of one event fifty years ago and that good memory is still hanging on.


Sunday, September 10, 2017

was it?



Cleveland TV news people are quite a sight.
Women - thick makeup and Dolly Parton 60s flowing locks
frozen in time like a speed boat went by.
Who thinks that is good?
Men - bald with a shiny head.
I want to ask the boss: Is this your idea?

This is not normal. No, it is normal, although not for average people you see walking the street and riding the bus.
Do you feel average when you are walking around?
Average people should eat pizza and vegetables and look normal.

Are ties on the way out, forever?
Don't vote or comment; you don't and won't be counted.
Now can I go back to reading and re-writing?

How are you getting on?
It is late in the season.
Tell me what is making sense.
How about a simple coffee?
Ohio, I'm just passing through.
Hugs. You know I mean it.
Are you going to shave your head?



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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

eclipse august 21, 2017



An old friend in Ohio said, "Believe me, I saw it." No, he saw eighty-five percent, a circle with a bite out of it. That is something else. You must see one hundred percent of a solar eclipse to experience the event. We didn't know before we traveled to Kentucky to be in the area of totality, to see the moon covering the sun one hundred percent, resulting in us seeing a black hole in the sky with a ring of fire. A magnificence that entranced the crowd in the field where we stood for the two-minute and thirty- second duration of the event.

I heard scientists trying to explain the eclipse beforehand and they were too practical. The eclipse appeared as dynamic and unimaginable as a special effect in a movie. We had no idea beforehand. M said it is difficult to put into words because it is beyond comparison to anything we had ever seen. The sun 400 times larger than the moon, and the moon passing the right distance from earth to exactly block the sun, leaving a black hole in the sky with a circular ring of fire, visible in the earthly path of total eclipse.

We stood in a field in Kentucky with a hundred people to see the total eclipse one hundred percent. There we witnessed what we couldn't have imagined. The people cheered, then became silent, in awe M called the vision unworldly, like nothing we had ever seen. I thought to explain it and the word I came up with is magical. I am sure every eclipse first-timer took home an impression they never expected to experience.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Return of Blackie


Beginning in the spring we have a lot of birds in our yard. My wife keeps the bird bath clean for them. The cardinals have the bath they prefer to use, while the other birds use the community bath. There are robins, sparrows, doves, starlings, cardinals and blackbirds. We bought peanuts for ourselves and threw a few to the birds because it seemed the friendly thing to do.

While other birds didn’t pay much attention, one black bird in particular loved the peanuts. After just a few days it was apparent that easy to grab, fresh, free peanuts got to be a habit for this black bird. Soon he’d come around everyday at the same spot on the fence to wait for a tasty peanut. Only a short while later we had named him Blackie, our favorite bird.
It would have been nice to have a colorful cardinal, or even a blue jay as a favorite, but the other birds remained aloof. The best we could attract was our new feathered pal, the solo blackbird.

That summer a large variety and number of birds came and went through our yard, but only Blackie was a regular that we could identify. The robins had children and hung around teaching them to dig for worms, and the doves walked around in pairs. But, Blackie made a noise to attract our attention. Sometimes he'd start at the opposite side of the house. We'd be outside doing other things when we'd hear his squawk. We'd yell, "Blackie", run into the house for a peanut, and he would fly around the house to take his position on the fence and wait for us to come out on the porch. We talked to him and he would fly in for his peanut.

In the fall, most birds migrate south for the winter. Only the illusive cardinals stay year round.
One day The following summer, when my wife was working on the side of the house she heard a black bird squawk. She looked up and said, “Blackie, is that you?” It was. She went around to the other side of the house where we used to feed him and he followed, and took up his usual position at a particular spot on our fence and waited for his peanut.

After the usual bitter Ohio winter, the following spring came and my wife and I were happy to see the old, dark wanderer had returned. We enjoyed his visits for a second year. Through out the summer Blackie was a regular, and became friendlier and calmer with our presence.
The third summer Blackie returned again. Now he would fly to our back porch. I’d sit on a whicker chair and put a peanut on the small table. He’d hop onto it and take a peanut, then one or two more. Maybe an hour later he’d be back for more. Now we had a pet.

By the end of that summer he was taking peanuts from my hand, still a wild bird, but happy to play the routine of entertaining us for his peanut.
We got into the routine where most every morning Blackie would be there. We’d look out the window and see him on the fence, and as soon as we came out the old screen door with the peanuts, he’d fly over and take one from whoever got there first, my wife or me.
Many blackbirds were living in a wild area a mile south of our home. Each morning we'd see them fly over and head to the farmers corn field where they’d feast for the day, then return in the evening.

By the following year, the local corn farmers had complained sufficiently so that the city burned the wild area where the birds rousted. No longer did we have flocks of black birds passing over head. It seemed that Blackie had moved on with his friends.
May rushed by with no sign of him, we wondered if he died, relocated with the others, or went off to make a family. Then June came and he returned. This time he brought a younger bird with him. We called it Blackie Junior. This was the fourth year in a row for Blackie on our fence. The same spot, the same routine of squawking and waiting for his peanut. Unbelievable, four years in a row we had Blackie as a guest. We only saw him a few days that fourth year. His son never developed a taste for a peanut.

The fifth year there were even fewer birds around. May and June passed without a sign of him. Then at the end of July, when we had all but given up hope, he returned. It was a quick stop. He must have been living farther away, but he returned to make an appearance, did the squawks and the peanut grabbing routine, then flew back to the fence. We knew this was about the end of his visits. I swear, as he sat there on the fence for what we knew would be the final time, he looked back at us before he flew off. And that was the last visit we had from Blackie.
Though time has passed, we still talk about his visits and look for him, or son of Blackie, but now he is only a pleasant memory, yet we still keep our peanuts ready just in case.


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Monday, August 14, 2017

William of City Nights


Billy was a sweet kid. That’s the way he comes to mind, and if you would have met him about the time I did, then you’d have walked away thinking the same way. He had charm, real charm – the smile, the sincere eyes, neat well-styled hair that puffed up a bit, good looking young man.
Billy was cool, not classy, but cool, sort of a slick city kid that everybody knew. A young John Travolta with a clip-on tie, right down to the slight swagger, or hesitation in the way he turned around and fooled with his sunglasses. You'd watch him do it a million times. The girls loved his sweet style, and the guys liked Billy because he was the coolest of the cool.
He treated everyone well and was a good worker, he did the job. Of course, he never was much of a student, didn’t have the education you’d expect from his demeanor, but with a smile and personality like Billy’s you had confidence in the man, the way he handled himself, so it didn’t seem necessary to look carefully at his credentials.
I hooked up with Billy when I was a college student looking for work. A friend got me the job where I met him. Yes, we worked together, and among the group of maybe seven or eight young men, the others were either married or heavily working on it. Billy and I were the free souls - didn’t have to hurry home after work. We had time to walk to the bar across the street for a drink with our boss. Never a big drink, one beer, or maybe a soft drink.
We worked for a big organization and this guy wasn’t really our boss, more like a director for some of the projects we worked on during the day. So it wasn’t going to get us a good recommendation, or promotion. We went over to the bar with him just because we liked the guy and he liked us. Like Bill, he was affable.
The boss was Richard, about thirty something. Bill and I were in our early twenties. Oh, and I called Bill either Billy or Willy – probably because Richard did.
Richard and Billy had been working there a few years before I got hired. Their relationship was like big brother looking after little brother, that sort of thing. I never thought Billy needed looking after, but I guess Richard did. He knew him longer than I did.
When I started getting chummy with Bill he dragged me along when he walked over to have a beer and a talk with Richard. It was time for comparing notes on the day – that sort of thing. I didn’t mind tagging along. I didn’t have anything else to do.
At first I didn’t get Richard. He was a nice guy, a little different. I might have been leery waiting for his other side to show. I didn’t know much about him. I heard he lived with his mother and took care of her. Then after a while I found out that his mom was old and sickly and kept Richard busy taking her to doctors appointments and getting medicine, making arrangements for somebody to watch her, all that sort of thing.
He was always worrying about her, I got the sense it was real important to him to keep her happy. She must have raised him well, because Richard was truly a genuine, caring individual, not just to me and Bill, but to everyone.
Now looking back I think I was lacking in my ability to quickly perceive Richard as the spectacular individual he was - certainly a man beyond my experience. You see, I was a bar keeper’s son from a backwater town and had never known such an honorable, caring person. Now I’d say the likes of Richard few of us have had the opportunity to encounter.
So there we’d be at the counter in the bar, a beer for Bill and I and Richard with a mixed drink. It was a businessman’s kind of place. Subdued lighting and rather quiet. In those days they didn’t have music blaring all the time.
“So how’s things going for you, Billy? You being good?” Richard asked loosening his tie.
“Can’t find any trouble to get into,” Bill said with a grin.
“Yes, I’m sure you’ve looked.” Richard said softly sarcastic and smirked.
Bill reached into his pocket.
“Hey, here’s the five bucks I owe you.” Billy pushed five crushed bills across to Richard.
“That was fast," Richard said as he gathered the money. “Are you sure you don’t need it?”
“Naw, I’m going home after this, and we get paid tomorrow anyway.”
“You have tomorrows pay spent already?” Dick asked.
“By the time I pay everybody I owe I will, and the old man always needs something he never gets for himself,” he said.
“Hey, Jackson,” Dick leaned over my way, “You’re the quiet one. If you’re hanging around with this guy, don’t loan him any money. Or, worse yet, don’t loan him your car.”
“I got it fixed, didn’t I?” Bill said.
“But I had to pay the hundred dollars deductible,” Dick said.
Bill put his arm around Dick and said, “You’re going to get it back.” He was sincere.
“I know I will.” Dick said with a smile. “Five dollars at a time.”
They both laughed at that, and I was impressed at how genuine they were. It seemed each found something in the other they both needed, like a family bond between brothers the way brothers should be. They relied on each other for support.
Kenny Rogers and his musical group, The First Addition, was in town this week and all of them hung out at this club. They were scattered around the bar. There motel must have been nearby. They had a hit with What condition My Condition was in. It would be only a few months before Kenny would sub for the Smothers Brothers during the summer months. he group would go to the background while his solo career would skyrocket.
Mickey Jones was the drummer. He and I had talked on previous nights. He saw me and came over to say hi. Mickey, quite a congenial guy, told me last year he was the drummer for Bob Dylan on a world tour. That was a good resume credit for him. Kenny was here, but he had a girlfriend, or a wife, and they stayed off at a side booth with their heads together.

“How’s your mom doing?” I heard Bill asked Dick.
“She’s about the same. Ornery as ever. How’s you dad?”” Dick said.
“The old man keeps stealing my cigarettes and moving from one chair to another, so I know he’s alive ... I guess he’s doing okay,” Bill answered.
Bill had a cute, blonde, girl friend that Richard always asked about, and treated like the girl his son was going to marry. Bill in turn would always want to know how Richard and his lady friend enjoyed the play they went to, or the dinner they had at one of the fine restaurants in town.
I’d see these two guys every day at work and they’d always check on how the families were doing and kept each other informed. Dick had an good income and refined taste. Bill barely had enough cash for gas in his car, and his tastes were questionable. Bill's lack of education and poor upbringing were limiting factors. Having been raised in a rough part of town and his family never had the money or interest to properly care for Bill. Somehow, Bill learned to be always kind and considerate of others.

When Bill and I started to hang out together I found out more about him than just being a nice guy. He and his girl friend had an up and down relationship, and during one of those down times Bill came to me after work. “Hey, Jackie, what are your big plans for Friday night.”
“I don’t know, I usually don't think that far ahead. I don’t have anything planned." He looked at me disgusted, not accepting my answer. "The usual, I guess. There’s a couple of good places with folk music near campus,” I said.
“Folk music? You’re kidding me, right? What is this folk music? You know that went out years ago. Why don’t you come out to Gahanna?”
“What’s that?” I never heard of that.
“Dancing. Music. Girlies, Jackie.” He replied simulating dancing and using his hands to outline the curves of the girlies.
"Well, talk it up ... I'll think about it." It was hard not go along with Bill. He could say the right things to anybody, and I couldn’t see any changes when he talked with somebody else. It wasn’t like he tailored his talk to suit who he was talking to. He was always the same, and everyone loved his act: confident and friendly.

As we were walking through the lobby on our way to the parking lot and our cars after work one afternoon I remember looking at the reflection in the large glass front windows and seeing the president of the company and his entourage heading for the stairs on his way out.
The fellow was always very well dressed, busy and in a hurry. In the year and a half I worked there I’d only seen him occasionally and he was always rushing somewhere, in or out, moving quickly. To me he was like a wild character from a book or a movie, overly energetic. I’d never seen him stand in one spot.
Bill and I just came from the studios and entered the lobby when the president started down the large open spiral staircase. Two other men in suits were trying to keep up with the boss and were talking to him and waving papers at the same time.
The president saw Bill, waved and called out his name in greeting, and then came down rapidly and directly over to us. He didn’t see me at all, but he and Bill had a happy little chat while the two men in suits pulled suddenly back in silence and waited patiently to resume their pursuit.
After a minute of chatter the president left smiling and waving back to Bill. The doorman and the receptionist meanwhile were waving goodbye to the President, but he only saw Bill and called back again to Bill as he raced out the door.
When he was outside and climbing into a waiting chauffeured car that pulled in front for him, Bill turned to me and said, “He’s a nice guy. You ought to get to know him.”
Bill’s mom had passed away a few years before I met him, he lived at home with his father. The old man, that's what Bill called him.
“You shouldn’t call him that,” I said. “You should call him father or dad.”
“He’s seventy-two. That’s an old man, isn’t it?” Bill snapped back with a grin.
“Yeah, that’s old,” I said. I couldn’t argue his point, and it wasn't unkind when he said it.
“See, Jackie,” he said putting his arm around me. “You stick with Billy now, and you won’t go wrong.”

Gahanna was on the opposite side of the city. Bill kept talking me into going there, until I agreed. He gave me directions and I met him there on Friday night. He was at a table with a crowd of people when I got there. There were a lot of people in the place, all of them our age, and like Bill said, “Plenty of girlies.” Part of the building was a bowling alley, this part, all bar.
I found a place to sit in the group of tables he and his friends occupied, and met a few people as the night wore on. We introduced ourselves in the rush of the crowd and noise of the band, but nobody got anybody’s name. It didn’t take long for me to get into the mood. The band was great, everyone dancing. I had a few beers and danced a few times. California Dreaming, Hang on Sloopy, all the favorites rang out.

By the night’s end I figured out that Bill knew most everyone in the club, or at least they knew Bill. I noted also that this wasn’t a college crowd, these were inner city kids that didn’t go to college, the working class.
The girls were a little tougher, a lot of make up and ratted hair, the in-crowd. The guys were tougher looking too, tee-shirts, jeans and slicked back hair, street wise; definitely not the college crowd.

For a few months on weekends I went to Gahanna and met with Bill and his crowd. I met some girls, and once in a while I’d go out with one of them. Other times I’d meet Bill and we’d drive in my car or his, and he’d take me to other night spots in the city, places I’d never consider going on my own. We went to older, city bars. The one’s in the downtown, with neon lights and belly dancers. Little neighborhood bars where older bands played. The kinds that have been doing the local clubs for years. Small places, with black curtains you went through, before you saw the black lights and heard the black rhythm and blues bands.
An old restaurant and bar on a ghetto side of downtown was almost a regular spot on my late-night runs with Bill. There was a man there at played a console organ and sang Fats Domino and Ray Charles songs. He did Green Onions by Booker T, and the MGs, and Walk on the Wild side.

By then time had passed, and I was burning out on Gahanna. All of it was becoming less attractive to me. Five months had gone by, eight months into it and it was old routine. I was slow for not realizing sooner that I was living Bill’s world. That didn’t occur to me at first. We were best of friends in our way, we worked together. That cute girl friend of his eventually went away completely. Then it was Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights and sometimes Sundays we'd be running around.
I was a registered student at Ohio State, and becoming less and less registered when fall turned to winter and winter turned to spring. Work was more important to me than scholastic endeavors. After all, I was working in my chosen field. Wasn’t that the reason I was attending college – to work in my chosen field? And wasn’t it fun to run with Bill?

One night we were at the downtown, side street bar where the fat guy played the organ. And played, and played.
“Bill, I think I’m tired,”
The fat guy worked out bluesy stuff lately. It was all starting to sound like Green Onions.
“Tired?” I could tell by his act he was doing his best to revive me. “Jackie’s tired? Why Jackie’s always tired.”
“Nah Bill, go on. I know I just sit and don’t talk a lot. I don’t mean being this low, I mean bored, you know. I just want to do some other things." I looked around the dark, gloomy room. He knew what I was saying. I turned to look at him, "I’ve been thinking about another job too, I've talked to some people, and now it looks like it might happen.”
Somehow I didn’t explain what was happening to me. About being tired of the late night running, old clubs and mob-type characters, the race track, hoods in black ter- shirts who were all nice guys when Bill introduced me as his friend. The girls with too much make-up and ratted, wild hair packed in their tight-fitting everything.
“Let’s take a trip,” Bill stood up from the bar stool, clapped his hands together and was immediately excited.
“Where do you wanna go?” I asked dubiously and sipped my beer.
“Chicago. Ever been to Chicago?”
I shook my head in the negative. He had an answer for everything.
“Chicago’s a good time, Jackie. We can go on a weekend.”
“How are we getting’ there?” I already knew the answer.
He put his arms around me, “You’re going to drive us there.” He beamed his genuine smile.
“Why don’t you drive?” I said, though I knew that answer too.
“My hunk of junk wouldn’t make it out of town, that’s why.” He was right again. His rusted hunk of junk wobbled down the street and was running on bald tires.
The next few days he talked it up. The following weekend we were both free, so we planned that I would be over to pick him up after work. I figured out the driving time and the route to take, and it looked like traffic would be no problem. We were leaving after work, a good time to get out of the city.

Chicago. I was thinking about it as I drove over to his place. I hadn't been there. It would be interesting, a few hours drive. I’d been over to pick him up a couple of times when we went to the small clubs on his side of town, so I knew the way.
Bill lived in an average, rundown looking house in an older part of the city. Why am I going to Chicago, and on a weekend? What’s Chicago mean to me anyway. I never thought about going to Chicago before, it never appealed to me.
When I pulled into the drive Bill was nowhere to be seen, but his “old man” was in a wicker chairs on the porch, smoking.
“Hi there,” he called to me and waved as soon as I got out of the car.
Bill’s dad was an old man. He went through three packs of Camel non-filter cigarettes a day and looked like it. He only had one lung and coughed a lot. He was wrinkled and tired looking. I’ve known a few men in their seventies, happy, energetic, alive men, Bill’s dad wasn’t one of those.
He was more like the old, whiskey drinking veterans that lived in the old solder’s home and spent their days in the bar near the bus stop that catered to them.
“Billy’s in the house,” his raspy voice filled with solace, yet goodwill. As soon as he spoke Bill came out of the house.
“What you doin’ now, Old Man, givin’ Jackie a hard time?” Bill reprimanded him jokingly.
“No, I ain’t givin’ him a hard time, smarty ass.”
Bill gave his father a one arm hug and a big smile.
“Oh, go on with ya," his dad said. "Where’s my smokes? You take ‘em?” His father got the words out, then coughed, it came out awful sounding, lasting longer than any well-man’s cough.
“Sounds like you need another smoke, old man,” Bill said, then “Come on, Jackie. Let’s go look for the old man’s smokies.” I followed Bill into the house.
Although it was still light outside it was dark and old inside. There were dreary window curtains, walls were a smoked up dull yellow, and the carpet a style that must have been new when Bill’s father got married, a dark, blood red and black patterned Victorian. His father’s worn armchair was threadbare, and next to it a large stand-up ashtray overflowing with butts and ashes. They had an old couch with a cover draped over it. It all looked as if Bill’s mother had arranged the room before she died, and nothing had ever been moved since. The pictures on the wall, the old bureau, all of it so very worn and neglected.
Bill found the cigarettes and took them out to his father.
The were pictures on the mantle of Bill’s parents, one of Bill, another of an older brother, I never heard what happened to him, he was never mentioned. I looked carefully at the photo of Bill, from his high school graduation - the kind of photo done with a soft focus lens and all the skin blemishes removed and the eyebrows painted back in.
Bill came back in and took me to his bed room, dark and small with a rumpled bed and clothes on the floor. He had a couple of forty-five records, Shout by the Isley Brothers and The Way you do the Things You do, by the
Temptations. A small, old record player was on the floor in the corner.
After a few more minutes of standing, looking around, doing noting, I said, “Well, Bill, are you about ready to go?”
“Where?” said Bill surprised, like he had no idea what we'd talked about.
“Chicago,” I said, "that was the plan."
“Naw, let’s go out somewhere instead. There’s a new group playin’ close to here. I heard ‘em the other night and they’re real good. You’ll like it.”
I looked at him in disbelief. He wanted to throw out everything we had talked about. He was the one that wanted to go to Chicago.
“Hey, I was all set to drive to Chicago. We have the weekend off and everything,” I was a bit confused by the sudden change of plans.
“Naw. Chicago’s too far, besides it’ll cost too much,” Bill said.
“Well, yea, it’s a long drive. I don’t have to go. I was just set to go. I thought you came here to pick up what you needed.”
“Well, you’ll like this band,” Bill said. He was bent over combing his hair looking in the mirror on his dresser, combing with one hand and tapping it into place with the other. I watched him working carefully on his hair.
I blew out a breath in exasperation and shook my head, “No, I don’t think I’m going to make it, Bill." I started moving for the door. "I’m just going to get on back. I left in a hurry and I can do some things and maybe go out to one of the places on campus. There’s some guys from my hometown I haven’t seen for a while. I think I’ll catch up with them.”
When I headed out Bill came out to the porch with me. His father said goodbye. Bill walked with me down to my car.
“You want me to drop you off at the club?” I asked.
“Naw, some guys are comin’ over later, I’ll ride over with them.”
“Okay, see you later, Bill.”
I got in my car, a bit annoyed for the way it all turned out, but didn't let him know. What good would it do?
“See ya, Jackie. You be a good boy now.”
He waved and I nodded as I pulled away.

Bill was a nice guy, but he made questionable decisions and bad luck. You’d think at least if he had better taste he could have made better choices in life ... he could have improved his luck.
We started moving our separate ways after that. I changed jobs. Shortly after I lost track of Billy.


About fifteen years elapsed before my work brought me back to Columbus and in contact with someone who was talking about local television and mentioned Richard. When I heard his name my head turned. I listened a while and sure enough, they were talking about the same Richard. By the wound of it, he was doing well and a little farther up the corporate ladder. He’d moved to Cincinnati. A day or so later I picked up the phone and gave a call to his company’s headquarters. It took a little work, but I got a hold of Richard.
We had a nice chat. He sounded well. A lot of time had passed since I last spoke with him. I felt I had changed quite a bit since then, but Richard sounded about the same fine fellow, maybe just older, more reserved, as we both were, I suppose.
As we talked about current events, then reminisced a while, the old names came up one at a time. He mentioned a few that I only half remembered, names of people that either still worked for the company or lived close by and kept in touch with Richard.
He didn't mention the obvious, “What about Bill?” I finally asked. “Have you seen Bill?”
The slight awkwardness was unexpected. There was a deliberate pause. His tone was different, hesitant, but only slightly.
“Billy, nobody has seen him. Uh, he had a bad time. I guess you didn’t hear ... "
"What? I haven't heard anything. What is it?"
"Billy was sent up for fifteen years.”
“In prison?” I couldn’t believe it. I was shocked.
“Yeah, he got ... I think, fifteen years, that’s what I heard. Uh, that’s all I know. No one’s heard anything about him for quite some time.”
So Richard didn’t know any more, or say anymore. That news stopped our talk there. We said our good byes with promises to keep in touch.
I hung up the phone and sat there a while. That was the last I heard About Willy. I don’t know anymore, never heard any more, and don’t expect to. Whatever he got sent away for I would bet it wasn’t guilt of a crime that got him into trouble, more likely it was poor associations, that and plain bad luck.
Ahh, my buddy Bill. When I think of him, I can miss him. Geeze, he was a popular guy, charming and a charmer. We had some fun for a while, before drifting apart, going separate ways. The news about him ... how awful. It’s really too bad about poor Bill. I mean everybody loved him, we all really did. He was such a sweet guy.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Nevada City Hotel


It's haunted, you know," Mobley said. We were having a normal conversation, but he caught us by surprise with that. "What is?" we both replied.

"The Nevada City hotel."

We heard him, but shook our heads. It was a nice story... but.

"It is, he said, "It's the most haunted place west of the Mississippi." Mobley sounded serious. We weren't looking for ghosts, only a trip to the

mountains, to see the area, what it is like up there. Well he warned us, wished us well. We got our clothes together for a few days trip and drove off. We were living in Sausalito, across the bay from San Francisco and decided to take a trip up to Gold Country. On the map Nevada City looked like it would be our destination. We were telling Mobley about our plans.

We weren't seeking a ghostly adventure. When we got to Nevada City we had enough driving and were ready to find a place to stay for the night, and the best looking place to stay was the grand Nevada City Hotel on the main street in town. A normal looking, older hotel.

"Let's check it out," I said, and we did. It was a fine old place. The girl showed us a room that was clean and simple. We took the room that was on the street side, second floor. Nothing unusual about the hotel. We'd forgotten what Mobley said about the place being haunted.

That night we went out for early dinner and late drinking.

The town was quiet, but festive enough for us. We discuswed our day, our plans. which weren't much. We'd wait a see how we felt in the morning. We weren't on a schedule and it didn't matter if we were exploring the Gold Country for one day or three. The weekend was coming up and we would take
it as it happens. No plans, no matter. M. was off work until Monday, so we had five days if we wanted.

There weren't a great number of tourists or locals around, though there were enough to keep us out until eleven or so when we returned to our room. We laid down for the night and settled in. It seemed a little warm and stuffy. I opened the window, an old fashioned pull up type. Hard to do the metal
release and pull it up, but I managed, and got the window open.

Through the night we were both restless. We had side by side single beds and a double bed. We tried the double, one of us changed to the single, then
later we changed again ... and again. We heard banging noises from the water pipes throughout the night. Not a lot, but enough so sleeping was on again, off again, but the night passed.

First thing in the morning it seemed stuffy. We noticed that the window that was so hard for me to open, was now closed. When we returned to Sausalito M. mentioned the window to he boss,b Don Campbell, and he said ghosts always close the windows.

We took our showers and got dressed then went across the street for breakfast. They had pancakes on the menu and M. had the foresight to bring her Jenny Craig pancake syrup. It was in the hotel room, so she decided to go over and getit. I waited at our table by the window sipping coffee and she ran across the street. In a few minutes she was back, excited, with a story.
"I just saw a ghost."
"What are you talking about. Sit down."
She was out of breath and began telling me, the waitress came over and warmed up our coffees.
"I went to the room and had trouble opening the door, I think I opened the lock okay, but I couldn't get the door open, and a had to keep fiddling with it, but it finally opened." She looked perplexed about that. "I went in and went to my suitcase, I knew where the syrup was, so that was no problem and I picked it up and started back. The door locked easily when I left. So I was going to the stairs, just a few feet away. You know where it is."
I nodded, "Sure ... the stairs.'
"Have some coffee. Slow down." She brushed it off and wanted to keep going.
"So as I got to the stairs, there was this old man and he just got there and started down. He was really old and had a big wide-brimmed hat." She made a motion to show me how wide the brim was on the hat he wore. "He started down and I was afraid to go running down along side him. He was real old and I didn't want to started him be cause I was going fast and he was so slow. Then avoice in my head said, 'Go. Go.' like something was telling me not to go down that way. 'Go. Go.' So I crossed the hall, I knew there was a stairway on the other side, so I crosserd over to the other side and wet down on that side. It was really weird, I don't know why, but it was creepy. He was a ghost. I know he was."

We nodded to the waitress and she came over and we ordered our breakfasts. We both had pancakes and she kept telling me about the old man at the top of the stairway. After we ate and walked across the street to the hotel, I went to pay the bill while she went up to our room to get our things ready to go.

At the desk other customers standing there paid then went on their way. I stepped up to handle our bill. As I paid and she shuffled papers in order I casually asked the desk girl what she knew about the hotle being haunted. She slowly looked up into my eyes, judged it was okay to talk and spoke easily when she told me she hadn't seen anything, but she hears about it. "There is a woman and a young girl that walk the hall on the second floor." She
indicated overhead, and followed it along the building. "And there's a soldier in room twenty-three who sits on the bed and puts his boots on." I listened and marveled. Room twenty-three she said. I didn't have to write that down. I remembered that. I don't think I want to rent that room.
"Then there is an old man who walks down this stairs," again she pointed.
"What does he look like," I asked.
"Just an old man ... real old, and wearing a big brim hat."
"Are there any other old men in the hotel?" I asked.
"Old Mr...." She said the name of the man. "He lives here. but he don't wear a hat.
I nodded. Okay. No hat. I'd seen the old man she was talking about.
"That's all," she said.
"That's enough," I said. "My wife saw the old man coming down the stairs." M. was there then with our bags and she heard us talking.
"I saw him, I got to the stairs the same time he did and was going to walk down by him and a voice in my head said 'Go, Go,' and I walked around and came down this other stairway."
The girl at the desk shook her head. She'd heard similar stories. She hung the room keys she'd received from the other couple and from us and hung them on pegs in on the wall. I took the small overnight bag from M. We left through the old glass double doors and headed for our car.


Saturday, August 12, 2017

Stickman


Tourists see the usual sights when inclined to spend the time getting from one point of interest to another. Those of us who have lived in Southern California have taken weekend excursions to the mountains, the deserts, the ocean and many of the wonders of a hundred cities covered under the umbrella name: Greater Los Angeles.

In the mid seventies I took a day trip to Los Padres National Forest, an hour north of the San Fernando Valley, to see the mountain peak known as the condor lookout. A condor has twice the weight of an eagle and a 10 foot wingspan. They live 60 years. There were only six condors left in the wild around 1977. In 1987 condors were near extinct. With protection, now they number about 206. South America has condors in the wild. In the U.S. there were only six the day I drove to see them.

In less than an hour I got to the area where the condors lived. I parked my car and followed the signs, a short walk to the lookout. I saw families, old couples, tiny children held by their parents were there ... and so were the condors. Incredible, flying in large circles, like eagles. High above the mountains, out over the valleys. Five of the near extinct birds soared for the delight of the visitors. I had a camera, but didn't take a picture. Those wonderful birds would only appear on film as dots at that distance.. Seeing them gave me and everyone else a thrill. What a sight.

I walked away from the crowd assembled at the lookout and sought another subject, something close enough to photograph. The mountain peak quickly sloped gently into open fields filled with knee-high weeds, occasional wild flowers, bushes and boulders. When I was a few minutes away from the other tourists I came upon a young man in his early twenties, crouching in a thicket. He was next to a boulder, and so well camouflaged that I nearly stepped on him before I saw him. When I realized it was a person I was taken back. I literally jumped back a few paces. The crouching young man in the brush did not move. He was alive to be sure, I could see that, but still as a statue.

He appeared nearly naked and mostly covered with what looked like dried mud. More striking, he had a wooden contraption strung on his back. He crouched at an angle to me and I could see the network of sticks strung on his back. Each stick of near equal length, I approximate each piece of wood to be two feet in length and three quarters of an inch in diameter. The wood pieces were gathered from branches, obviously selected for their straightness and uniform size. The wood sticks were striped of bark and appeared quite similar. One end of the sticks were connected to a type of leather harness, slipped over his shoulders. The free ends of the sticks pointed outward at different angles. What had I come upon?

If the the sticks formed a pattern I could not tell, although there appeared to be regularity in the distance they were spaced. The free ends of each stick had a heavy string or cord fastened to it and hung freely. Strings connected the ends of the sticks on at least two other sticks. The entire array impressed me somewhat like several box kites strung together without the paper. The entire package could have formed a geometrical design; again, I could not be sure.

The young man's hair was shoulder length, a plain brown color; and his hair, like the rest of him was caked with dried mud. He didn't look directly at me, even though I stood a few feet from him.

As I continued to stare I began to think the mud on his face was put there in deliberate streaks, similar to how I would imagine an Indian would apply war paint or a camouflage. The mud on his face was not uniform, did not appear to be in a pattern, it seemed to have been applied in large heavy swipes.

I became aware of the passage of time, long moments elapsed with him not moving to acknowledge me, and me rudely standing near by him and staring. He did not appear to exhibit the intensity or concentration of a trance. It all seemed very curious.

I couldn't wait any longer for him to make the first move. I had waited as long as I could stand. "Hello," I finally said. Now it was up to him.

He turned his head toward me casually and spoke, "Hi." His reply came in perfect English. For some reason it was startling to hear his clear, plain voice. I expected a strange, foreign sounding voice that would indicate something more about his country, his history. There was nothing irregular in his reply. His voice was like that of any other twenty-something year old in southern California.

Now he was looking at me and I felt forced to speak again. I half pointed, or somehow indicated the sticks strung on his back, "That's really something."

"Thanks," he said. "I made it myself." That about floored me.

Then he was silent again. He had no more to say. If there was more then I would have gotten the conversation rolling. But he was quiet. It took only a few seconds for me to feel awkward at the silence. This guy squatted in an empty field of brush, half naked with mud smeared all over him and sticks held by strings on his back.

I lifted my camera to show it to him. "Do you mind if I take your picture?"

"No, go ahead," he replied.

This was the time of film cameras. If there were digital cameras I would have taken fifty shots and a movie with sound. As it was, I took one shot of him ... one lousy photo that didn't do justice to the scene. After I took the photo I became more daring.

"Do you mind if I ask what you're doing?" I tried to make the question as gentle and non-interfering as possible.

"It's a personal thing." That was all he said, and it stopped me. I could ask no more. He had successfully ended the matter.

"Oh, I see," I said. What else could I have said? He could have had a spear in his hand, I wasn't going to argue with him, it was a personal thing. He did not have to explain himself to a stranger. After all, he was well off the trail alone, behaving himself in a national forest. I was the one who came up to him.

"So long," I called as cheerfully as I could. He did not look at me nor say anymore following my words of departure. He remained squatting there, motionless as I walked away.

I looked back after thirty yards or so and I could just make him out. He blended in so well with the rocks and weeks and sticks of the field.

I got to my car and drove home. It was a personal thing.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Tribute in the sky


We were on the dock near our boat when the seagulls in flight started grouping up, flying in line. I don't recall which day. We saw it begin on quiet day; so I have attributed it to mid-day on a Saturday or Sunday when dock workers were fewer in number. The birds slowly lifted to the sky and began going around in a large circle. Lower first, then somewhat higher as more birds joined the expanding ring.

We could plainly see that high above us all the seagulls began to slowly rotate in a large circle. First a few, in an unclear, fragmented move, then more and the circle became clear|, so in a very few minutes as we watched, what seemed to be every seagull and perhaps a few other birds in our harbor area North of the golden gate were in flight over head.

One or two birds cried out as they circled. Leaders, or callers to announce to the stragglers; a cry to all. Plainly we could see the grandeur in their apparent solemn circling. The event unfolded as we watched. Surely it was planned. It took fifteen or twenty minutes in the entirety, a circle of birds overhead. We knew it was a salute, a silent, in flight tribute.

Since that day we've only mentioned it to each other a few times, every five or ten years, and never really tried to explain what we saw, how we felt. But for us there never was a doubt about that day, that occasion, what we had witnessed. It surely was a procession of tribute in the sky for one who had fallen ... an honor funeral for a seagull.



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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Mojave camping


To camp a night on the Mojave desert, sleeping under ten billion stars. That idea came to me and it seemed reasonable. Quiet, no one around. Don't need a tent. Out in the open. Sand to sleep on, soft ... well, firm. I'm sure it's well packed, not like beach sand, but sleeping on it would be like that.

The preparation was easy. I knew there was plenty of desert a little over an hour away. It meant driving out, throwing something on the ground, sleeping under the stars and coming back, that's it. I packed light, only for one night, took a blanket to wrap up in and a windbreaker in case it got cool. That could happen. I didn't take any type of rain protection, I knew that was out of the question. Being an Ohio boy and only a few years in California what I actually knew about the desert was limited to what I'd seen in cowboy movies. And when I first came out to California I drove through a blowing sand storm near Palm Springs. That pitted my windshield so much I had to get a new one. That sums up what I knew about deserts.

Getting ready I put on comfortable, loose, sleep-in clothes. I Wasn't even going to make a fire. So it'd be quick and easy. I Drove out Friday evening from the valley in LA. Took about an hour to get to the town of Mojave. Stopped at Wendy's to gas up: double cheese burger, fries and a shake. That done, I got gas for the car.

Perfect timing, Twenty-five minutes later, out of Mojave, I got on the desert about nine with the last rays of the sun. All the time I got myself excited about the campout, just thinking about it. Drove anticipating the black sky away from the city. In the San Fernando Valley where I lived there wasn't a lot of lights, but this was the desert: no traffic lights or cars gong up and down the street, sirens and all that noise and lights.

A few miles out of Mojave I took a side road, then pulled off. This was quiet desert. I pulled over and got out of the car. I walked twenty yards out on the desert and watched the sun going down on one side, the full moon rising on the other; I didn't count on that. Didn't want to search wood for a fire, it was getting dark. Waited. Didn't bring my guitar, nothing to do. I threw down my blanket and tried to sleep.

Two hours later, Still awake. The bright moon overhead, in my face. I couldn't see a billion stars ... I counted maybe eight. It was like sleeping under a street lamp, or worse, a spot light aimed at my head. The full moon never looked so bright. Well, I covered my face with part of the blanket, then proceeded to roll until morning. ,

My attempt at desert sleeping and counting stars can be labeled a failure. I got up early, ready for breakfast at Wendy's. When packing to go, which meant putting on my shoes, I picked up my blanket to shake it out, found seven scorpions underneath. Then walking to the car I saw the sign: "beware - rattlesnakes." I got in my car and drove home, not stopping at Wendy's for breakfast.

Now I think of my camping experience as a success. I didn't get bit when I camped the long night on the great Mojave Dese

Oh, my.darling night.




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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Navigator


The Navigator
Barlow, seagull funeral, James, a Monterrey

***


Such a strong name for a small sailboat and a little story,

a very little story in which not much happens,

but it is a story of love. About working on a boat engine,

work that has to be done. It may not sound

interesting if you don't know about boat engines, but don't

worry about that, neither do I, and I wrote the story.


My wife and I lived on a 37 ft. powerboat docked at the Marineways, a business with boat docks and repair, in Sausalito, the first village north of the Golden gate. Across from our boat staring me in my face until I bought it was an old wooden sloop. It came with a name: Navigator

I kept it on a hook near our boat, well forty yards behind our boat, a non-busy part of the channel. We came up from Los Angeles three or four years before. The sloop was made locallly and had been here a while. On a hook means: tied to something underwater. Instead of dropping an anchor there was something in the water the a float on it. I tied to that. About my boat, I'll tell you what I know ...

From the eighteen seventies to the mid-1930s Anderson and Christofani built boats South of downtown in the Hunter's Point area of San Francisco. As builders these men were renown. Their boats were crafted in a tradition of quality and caring. Navigator was built for a San Francisco contractor in 1931, or so I heard. The provenance of the small wooden sloop is cloudy. A second owner had the boat for twenty-five years, then came a succession of owners. Then it came on the market again when I bought it as a near cast off from a Sausalito boat dealer for a giveaway price. As best I can recall, I paid twenty-five hundred dollars in about l984.

Navigator was old, worn and spurned when I acquired it, although quite a sturdy dog. Everything about it original as fifty-six years before when it left the shipyard, including the engine and except the sails, they had to be changed a couple of times over the years. I kept the twenty-four foot sloop moored in the harbor and used it to sail the bay. Occasionally I took it out the Golden Gate. Naturally I had to do that. The first time the current was so strong I had to wait three hours, listening to an entire base ball game, before the tide turned and I was able to renter San Francisco Bay. After that I kept a careful eye on the tide tables and stayed mostly in the bay. I found plenty of floating room there.

This week the engine wouldn't start. I'd had engine difficulties at other times during the first year and a half I owned Navigator. Besides cleats and lines, paint, varnish and cringles, adjustments to the engine timing and carburetor, I had few repairs to the engine. I installed new batteries one time, another time I changed the points and plugs. I cleaned out the water jacket and repaired the water pump, cleaned the fuel system and painted the engine the original fire-plug red. Overall, I felt that I maintained the boat and engine as well as I could.

I'm not a mechanic and readily admit. However, as owner, I desired to keep her right. I did have a vague history with engines. When I was young Phil Jenkins ran his car repair garage and gas station across the street from my house. His son George was my first playmate, and from my earliest reckonings, we hung out at the garage. I wouldn't begin to pretend that Phil gave us instructions about engines, because I don't remember it that way. We were in his garage often; in summer heat and winters when the snow was heavy. We stayed in while Phil worked on the engines on a variety of cars and trucks of the 1950's; when they were mechanical and electrical and not computerized. We watched sometimes when Phil would pull a carborator, place it on his bench, take it apart, clean it, and put it back together, sometimes with a new float or spring, or just with the cleaning and oiling. Phil probably had a timing light to set the firing of the plugs, but I don't remember a timing light. What I do remember, and this is the part that stuck with me, is Phil leaning over countless cars and trucks with his screwdriver, adjusting the air and gas and idle settings until the engine sounded just right.

It is that random tuning, and ultimately, that perfect sound that stayed with me. Maybe George and I played a game of it, trying to hear when the engine was right so we could say "That's it," just a second before Phil gave the nod that went with "That's it. That's as good as she's gonna get." I know I heard it then because I hear it now. For all those years that came after I left the 1950s, Phil's garage, and our town limits, to venture faraway places into the world on my own, a part of me has remembered those days, Phil Jenkins, his helpers Nick Orshaski, later Bill Orshaski and Dick Harmon.

Here and there along the way opportunities have come for me to listen for that perfect engine sound. Whenever someone had the hood up on a vehicle I always took a peak and a listen. Worked on my own vehicles when I could. My '55 Ford had the idle too high. It was a small job, but it needed doing. From that point I expanded to other repairs, adjustments and replacements on a list of vehicles that drove me from my childhood in the 1950s right up to my Navigator's engine in the summer of 1986.My mechanical skills are limited. Although I never had a teacher or mechanical training, I did have patience and
curiosity. I'd always felt that I could do what I term monkey work, maybe Phil called it that: that is, I could remove parts and put them back where I found them. I could also disassemble larger parts and put them back together. It is monkey work because I didn't know what I was doing. To begin, there has always been someone to look under the hood and say, "It's the alternator." So I would take out the old one and put in a new one. Sometimes I'd even have to ask, "Is this the alternator?" But I could always take things off and put 'em back. And, thanks to Phil, I can hear what the engine is doing. I hear the timing and the idle and the belts and the cylinders. There is music in the clicks and pops and spins and whirs, and when the song is played out of tune you canI hear that. Like loving music, some people love the melody that a well tuned engine plays. I am not a mechanic, but have a fond attachment to that music.

At least once, and usually twice a week I rowed my skiff out, climbed on board, ran the engine on Navigator and washed the boat and wiped it off as I let the engine warm to operating temperature. Fifty-six years old. They don't make those old Universal two-cylinder gas engines anymore, and they don't manufacturer any of the major parts. The last replacement parts left the shelves years ago. A well-respected boat mechanic that I phoned told me he hadn't seen a part for that engine since the l950s. Navigator's engine could run, and more than that it could humm the sweetest, little engine music imaginable. I tuned and adjusted so it would be dependable; more than that, when someone heard it purr for the first time the little Navigator engine could illicit un solicited comments like,"Hey, it sounds good." Sound good indeed! Little did they know that their morsel of a comment barely nicked the surface of the fact: Navigator's engine was wonderfully sound. No qualifying statements are warranted, statements like, "Good even though it's an old engine." or, "it's good for a baby dwarf", or, "good, even though I don't know what I'm talking about." Indeed! Replacement parts? Well, my idea was to keep that wonderful machine running. They don't build them like my Navigator's Universal two-cylinder 1931 gas engine anymore. So every five days or so I make sure the engine runs to keep the internal condensation down, to keep up with how it's doing. Use it or lose it. That saying is very true for little, salt-water boat engines. I don't want to lose it.

The next day the tide was way out and when I looked out I saw Navigator leaning heavily. It was one of the years very low tides. twelve hours later when the tide was in I went out and moved Navigator out about fifty yards to deeper water. There were buoys to tie to, so it was no problem.

Monday of this week I rowed out to the Navigator. I live on a powerboat in a slip that has water and shore-power. Navigator is moored in a good location, about forty yards from my floating home. Navigator is too small to live on, twenty-four feet in the eater, twenty-nine feet end to end. My skiff provides reliable transportation out and back. I had run the engine a few days ago on Sunday and wanted to take a few minutes to row over, run the engine for ten minutes to warm it up, charge the batteries and row back. On shore nearby, the boat dealership where I bought Navigator. A two man operation, occasionally some other men filling in. Eric was a tall, thin, blonde haired, German fellow, not sociable unless you were in the market for a boat.

The day was fair as were most in Sausalito. Never too warm, usually just right. For sailing craft there is always a breeze to be found out farther on the bay. Aboard Navigator, I put the battery switch on One. The day before I started it with battery Two. Alternating batteries keeps them both charged. The gear shift was in neutral, the choke out full and I turned the key to the start position. The flywheel turned, the starter cranked away, the engine didn't start. I tried a few more times. Each time I listened more intently. There was no sound of the engine exploding in combustion. It wasn't firing.
Then, a transition, my thoughts and plans for the day abruptly corrupted. New, unplanned thoughts leaped in and took over. "My engine won't start,"
I said aloud. That primary thought took over. Immediately I had a new purpose for the day, other demands and interests were put aside. I looked toward shore. There was no choice. The engine must run. It was old and needed tenderness. Other demands and interests had to be put aside. The longer the engine sits, the harder it will be to repair. I will fix it. The transition made, I rowed back thinking of the problem. I glanced around and thought how beautiful this a place is to live. Another good day in paradise on earth.

My problem: to fix an engine when you're not a mechanic. first I had to remove the thought that I'm not a mechanic and proceed. Aboard ship the engine is behind the ladder. The ladder releases with two hooks. After I moved it out of the way I had access to the old red engine. Without tools I sat on a convenient side bench and began looking. Looking is my teacher, my assistant, my method. When I can't listen to my engine, I can look. I never asked myself what to look for when I didn't know what to look for. It's like a habit I had of asking questions. Children do that. Maybe that's when I got the habit. If I asked a question, I got an answer. Years later I would notice the answer began to form regardless.

I learned by looking that by looking I could find the answer before knew what question to ask. Answer: "Look, the wire is not connected."
Question: "Do you think everything is hooked together properly?"
So for me the beginning of fixing an engine is the looking.
I looked at my engine, and in my heart I was having a discussion about the looking. "The engine worked fine yesterday, it should work fine today. I don't think I am going to see anything." And I kept looking and kept
thinking.
"It didn't sound like it was going to start," I said aloud. It didn't start. I didn't hear the engine firing.
"It was turning over but wasn't firing." It only took a few minutes of looking and reasoning to tell me that I would have to examine more closely, as I rowed back to Tranquility Base, my home boat, for a few tools. The next few hours I searched. I cleaned the spark plugs, they were thick with un-burned fuel. In the distributor I found worn points. They looked flat and spent.
"The engine worked fine yesterday," I told myself and kept looking. It was afternoon and three or so into my problem when the "I don't know what I'm doing" feeling began to sink deep, like an anchor not set, drifting above bottom.

My friend Ken sold boats at the shop where I bought Navigator, the office was on shore across from where I docked. It was a two-man shop that now and again had a third, a younger salesman do some work, but the office wasn't that busy. Either Ken or his partner would handle
the place. The partner, Erik, a tall, thin, blonde fellow with a slight German accent. He was harder, more business
than Ken. I never had a rapport with him. He always seemed to be thinking of his next sale. I bought my boat from them, so I was done for. He didn't need to hear from me. Ken seemed easier going, had time to be friendly. He liked people and so did I. He would be around on the dock and
that's how we met.

Ken used to hire a dirty looking guy to clean boats, that was Bob, Something-to-do-Bob. Bob could have been in his
thirties, it was hard to tell. I don't think he shaved, but didn't have much facial hair, a bit of a mousy-mustache sometimes. He looked dirty, his clothes were shabby, worn and wrinkled. They were dirty. Bob looked okay physically, stood up straight, but he was a mess. He wore sloppy, baggy
clothes, not much better than rags. Anyone's impression of Bob, seeing him the first time, would have said that he was filthy with messy attire and never combed hair. That covers it. Head to toe he was a mess. Hung his head in such a way that he only seemed to make eye contact in rolling glances.
He was a soft-voiced fellow.Ken was a very presentable boat dealer at one of the Sausalito's upscale boat marinas. He was personable and friendly to all, said Bob was from a wealthy family. He got messed up from too much drink and drugs. He said Bob came from a nice family and now didn't have anything to do with them, slept and lived as best he could.
"Oh, I know his family. They've lived here a long time. Have a nice house up there on the hill." He pointed up toward the direction of the library, a good part of town.

I spoke with Bob the first time behind the boat repair shop at the Marineways. There was an old rowing skiff that looked abandoned, lying bottom side up alongside the back of the building, just off the parking lot. I walked by that way when the boat moved. I saw Bob crawling out from under the boat that morning. It was obvious he was sleeping there, fully dressed with his old military-looking jacket on.
After the skiff moved then he emerged. I happened to be ten feet away and stopped cold. He looked at me and said, "Dayjahave."
He spoke to me, there was no doubt he spoke directly to me. "What?" I know he asked a question, I could tell by the flat inflection. I had no idea what he had said. I remained silent looking at him.
"Dayjahave," He repeated the words in a soft American voice.
I'm sorry, but I have no idea what you're asking me." I stood frozen in the presence of this creature from another world. I recognized him, I had seen him before, around the boatyard, but his emergence from under the row boat caught me off guard. I wanted to respond to his query, to be of assistance, but I remained completely perplexed as to the words he said.
Knowing he had failed to communicate he said quite plainly in a soft, even voice, "What day do you have ... what day is it?"
"Oh, ... Uh ... it's Wednesday." What day did you have? That was it.
He nodded at ny response and turned away. I had answered his question. There was nothing more he wanted from me. I was on my way to my truck parked twenty yards away in the lot. I kept to my business and continued on to the truck. I don't know what he did. That's how I learned he was close around. After that I'd see Bob working on different boats out of water in the boat yard, polishing, washing, easy yet necessary labor. Not a lot of skill involved, but persistence.

After I met Ken at the boat sales yard where I bought Navigator I'd see Bob working there some afternoons, hauling buckets around, rubbing wax of boats, that sort of thing. Light work, clean-up mostly. From my houseboat Kens sales yard sat on shore directly behind me.

At all times, everyday, Bob looked the same, the same garb. a total mess. I asked Ken about Bob and he told me, "Something-to-do-Bob...that's what we call him, I know his folks. Was a real intelligent kid, really smart. Started drinking...got into drugs. He really dropped out." Ken shook his head, lamenting.
"I'd say he looks like he did," I said.
"I give him jobs to do. Easy things. Clean up, that sort of thing." He looked at me and touched my arm, "He'll do a light job, clean=up, that sort of thing. He's trustworthy. Honest and all that, you don't have to worry about him. Just don't pay him more than three dollars a day. He doesn't want anymore than that. He's afraid he'd start drinking again."
Three dollars a day? That was incredible. I could see that
even by the slow way he works he'd have to be would be
worth more than three dollars a day ...but still.
"He's not worth much more...but he does ok, clean up kind
of stuff.”
"Something-to-do."
"That's about it."
Later in the day I rowed out to Navigator. The sun was high, the breeze light. The air thin, not humid, fresh, perfect. The sound of the city a low purr, resonating in the background. Seagulls would squawk now and them, there would be a boat motor, but overall, an easy, quiet afternoon. I sat on the deck smoking a cigarette, enjoying the scene, caught between going below deck to look again or rowing back to Tranquility Base and walking around by the boat workers to ask questions to some of them. Some of them knew about engines. That's when Tim came along. He was passing by on his motor powered Zodiac, a small rubber raft craft. I called him and he came over.
Tim was the parking lot mechanic at the Marineways. I liked Tim, he was easy going and we got along well. He'd done work on my truck. He also drilled two holes in a replacement part that I needed altered to fit on the Navigator engine. At that time I let him put the gasket down and then bolt the part into place. I could have done that, but since he drilled the holes he wanted to set it into place. He's proud of his accomplishments. It's his work. He earns a little money by working on the cars and trucks of the boat owners that use our parking lot. He lives in a van, sometimes on a boat. It's good for his self esteem to successfully fix something, and I think it is very important for him to have that pride and boost his self esteem because he tells me about the automotive successes and he doesn't charge very much. If he charged twice as much his costs would still be reasonable, and I would think he worked for the money and perhaps for the satisfaction and enjoyment of doing the job. he charges very little and he often complains about how difficult the work is, and I see him working late at night with his tools
spread all around and himself covered in grease. Other times he'll stop by to tell me he is tired and will list his automotive successes.We have talked many times, Tim and I, and he has confided to me that he was beaten often by his father and that he used to have a quick temper and that his dreams are sometimes disturbing. I listen and tell him my things, that I had a strange dream and that my schedule was busier than usual and that I don't get to see my parents often because they live far away. The time Tim drilled the holes in the metal piece and put the gasket down and bolted it into place he also adjusted the timing and the carborator settings, I didn't want him to. It happened so quickly that I just let him do it. We had the engine running to check the water system, I cleaned the entire water system and an old piece of pot iron broke when I removed it and the part I got needed to be drilled
to fit. They don't make replacement arts for the old Universal two-cylinder engine.
Often I will hire someone to do a piece of work that I don't have the tool for, or that is beyond my knowledge or skill, or perhaps it is not a thing that I particularly am interested in performing. Tim claims metal working among his areas of expertise. I didn't have the right file, didn't feel like filing metal that day, so I let him drill and file the part for the water system.

When Tim began to adjust the engine's timing and fuel mixture I didn't like it. I couldn't stop him. I tried with a phrase like, "You don't have to do that, I'll get it." Tim answered with something like, "That's okay, I want to do it." Both statements, his and mine, were clear and final. No more could be said to change it unless I crossed the invisible line that would have harmed our friendship.

"I don't want you to touch the timing or the fuel mixture because I don't trust anyone to hear the music my engine makes."
He could reply, "You go to hell. I need to set the timing and the fuel mixture to show you that I am a very good person in this world and you should think a lot more of me than my father who beat me did."
I had learned from experience that I had to do the jobs that I could do well. To delegate a task that I am an expert in would mean that the task would not be done to my satisfaction. So many times I was shoved aside by an expert who I allowed to do a task that ultimately was not satisfactory. After a while I would see those false experts coming and divert and avoid their assistance. Not this time. Tim was too quick for me. Already he had begun adjusting the timing and the fuel mixture and I was not going to crumple his self esteem.
After a few minutes he rubbed his oily hands on a rag as he looked up at me to say, "Do you have the specifications for this engine?"
When I heard that question all of my fears became reality. It confirmed to me that this bit of tuning was not going to work out to my satisfaction.
"That's pretty good," I said with some finality.
"I'm used to working on car engines, and with timing lights. You don't have a timing light here, do you?"
"No that's all right. I think it's pretty good. Don't worry about it."
"I've got a light in the van. I can bring it out."
I told him it wasn't necessary. That it sounded pretty good and I was real happy with the part he drilled and installed. I pointed out to him that it wasn't leaking. That small distraction was to take his mind off of what he wanted to do. After more discussion Tim decided that he had adjusted the engine as well as he could without a manual and a timing light. Thank goodness he was ready to wrap it up for now.

One day I came across Bob early in the day, standing along the dock, not going anywhere, not doing anything. I asked him if wanted to go out to Navigator clean it up some, wash the deck, that sort of thing. He new the routine. I'd seen him working on other boats anchored out and on the docks. He was ready to go now.
"You can get out there?" I asked him. "You've got a skiff, right?"
"Yeah, I do...I can get there." He was shaking his head after he quit talking. I could tell he got the idea. I was still appraising him. We knew each other from being around, but it was still testing time for both of us to see how we'd get along.
"You can do it today?" I asked. "I'm working on the engine out there, but I'll be down below and out of your way."
"Today I am finishing up some for Ken." he rolled his shoulder and pointed. "Tomorrow, first thing though. I can be out there tomorrow morning."
"Okay, Bob. I'll see you then. I don't know what I've got tomorrow. I'll be out there or maybe not."
"That's okay. I'll row out there, no problem. I'll take rags and a bucket."
And so it was set. Something-to-do-Bob had another something to do.


The next day I went out early to start the Navigator's engine. It ran, but poorly. The timing was too far advanced and the fuel mixture was too rich. I made the adjustments, and when the sweet purring of the engine came to my ears I put the episode behind me. The engine sounded a little
raggedy, but it was running. The sun was bright, clouds were light, the wind only the softest breeze. It would be
another beautiful day.


* * * *


So I was sitting on deck thinking. Looking down to the engine and back to the boatyard where I could ask some questions about my engine's performance when Tim happened by. At that point I needed his input. I was stalled as my Navigator's engine. Tim pulled alongside, tied on and came below with me and as I told him the symptoms. He popped open the distributer cap and had a look.
"The points are bad."
Was he sure? Yes, he showed my how worn and burnt they were. I would have to change the points. That was it. Nothing more to say. That was easy. I thanked him for taking a look. He had to get some tools for a job he was working on and soon departed. I would get the points for my engine.



* * * *



The next day I had to go into San Francisco, I left about eight-thirty and saw Bob row out and tied his skiff off the side of Navigator. When I left for the city he was still sitting in his skiff doing something. I came back before noon and Bob was still tied up to Navigator and sitting in his skiff doing something. I changed clothes and made lunch. An hour or two later I rowed out to Navigator. Bob was still in his skiff and didn't notice me until I was alongside.
"How are you doing Bob?"
He looked up and grunted a hello. He had papers in his lap. It was pages from a book.
"What are you up to?" I asked him. "What's the book?"
"Uhh...it's just uh...my I Ching...I was uh, putting it in order."
I saw he had the worn book all apart and it looked like he had whole sections of the book spread out and was stacking
them. He was rearranging the book to suit his desire. I just shook my head in understanding, although I didn't understand. He remained quite involved in his work.
"I saw you from my boat. You were hear this morning ... I
haven't seen you get on Navigator yet."
"You don't have to pay me for today ... I'll get to it tomorrow."
I pushed off my skiff and picked up the oars. "Tomorrow
then, Bob. I'll see you then."
He nodded in agreement and that settled it. The next day he
was out there again in the morning, and this time he worked most of the day and cleaned up Navigator. When it was time to pay him I pulled out five ones. He had his hand out and pulled it back. He only took three.

No matter how much I wanted to make the engine perfect there were other matters that got in the way. I had work to do in the city. It was time to clean up and get dressed to go. The engine would have to wait.
Tuesday came and the day started cool. Grey damp mornings are not my favorite for working in the Navigator's engine compartment while I sat on the bottom of a damp boat that dangled from it's mooring. There was other business to tend to. My work, the mail, phone calls.
Later in the morning I went to the parts store and picked up the points I needed. I also got plugs, since I was having trouble with the spark I should change the plugs as a good measure. After I returned from the parts store I realized forgot to get a condenser. You always change the condenser whenever you change the plugs. I don't know why, but that's what everyone says. Oh, well, one thing at a time.
I don't believe everything I hear. People will tell you anything. There was a time when I believed what people said because they looked like they knew what they were saying was true, or they said it with great conviction, or they worked at a service station or parts store and should know what they were talking about. Then I found out that most of them were wrong. They seemed so right at the time, but I
would find out that most of them were wrong. They seemed so right at the time, but I would find out from someone else that they were wrong. So I learned that different people would say different things and I had to be cautious about who I believed. that's when I started to ask the same question several times to different people. I learned that I have a better chance of finding the truth about something if everyone believes it. If there's one opposing opinion then I will take the cautious middle ground. When everyone
says the same thing, then it's good enough for me. Everyone says you should change the condenser when you change the points. I don't know why, but that's what everyone says. I rowed back to Navigator Tuesday afternoon and took out the old points and put in the new. It had been a long time since i had changed points so I had to use my monkey method of paying attention when I took the old ones out, then put the new ones in the same way. It worked fine. I knew they needed to be adjusted so I adjusted them so they opened and closed. They would work just fine without a measurement. I also changed the old plugs for the knew spark plugs. About then I realized I hadn't purchased the condenser. No problem, I was in no hurry. With the engine back together I tried to start it. It didn't fire. It sounded the same, only the battery was going dead from so many attempts to start the engine. I took the battery back to tranquility Base and put it on my charger. Brian was working on a boat at the yard. I would get his assistance. Boat yards and boat docks and boat towns have an inclination toward collecting foreigners. No matter where the port is, there will be persons from other countries there. They come by boat. They work on boats. Some stay a while and some stay forever.

Brian is from England. He graduated as an engineer from a college there. He worked his passage over as an engineer on a diesel powered sailboat. He married here, and although he was planning a sailing trip to the south Pacific, his bride was not in favor of it. The last time I spoke to him about it he said the trip was put off for a while. Brian works for Harry at the Marineways. He sands and points. That's
the kind of work that is done when a boat is hauled out at the Marineways. Brian assisted me once before when I needed help with Navigator's engine. He pointed the problem with the water cooling system. That's when I learned a bit of his history. I paid him well at the time, and we got along, so I knew he'd be willing to assist me again.


* * *


Brian came out at five p.m. after his work at the yard was through for the day. I rowed him out and he listened to my engine story. he used my meter to determine where the electricity flowed and where it didn't. His verdict came within five minutes. At last. here was an engineer who knew engines of all sorts. he could determine the trouble. Here was the wise physician making a house call.
"You're not getting enough spark," he said.
I thought, Ï know that. The engine is not firing. I'm not getting enough spark is like saying the same thing. You're an engineer. You told me which direction the water flowed in the water cooling system. You sailed across the Atlantic ocean under the title engineer. You speak with an English accent.
"I didn't row you out here for a boat ride. How can I pay you anything if you don't do anything?"
the sun was going down. Brian told me he had a friend who would be around tomorrow. He assured me that his friend knew everything about engines and would be able to go right to the problem. The music would pour out and it would be sweet and clear once more. I said fine and rowed him back. it was getting too hard to see my engine. he told me to re-wire.


* * * *


On Wednesday I met Craig, Brian's friend. Craig was very normal looking. He wasn't from England. He looked like
anybody else. I thought he would look special and talk like a mechanical genius. he didn't. Brian explained the problem with my engine as I stood there. Brian hadn't mentioned that he'd volunteered his friend's services. Craig wasn't hesitant. He would look at my problem engine.
He did say something about not knowing about my engine. it wasn't familiar to him. For some reason I wasn't concerned. Brian told me that Craig knew all about these old gas engines. I still wasn't worried. Maybe I was desperate, although I had confidence in this very normal
looking Craig who said he would take a look at my Navigator's engine.
I rowed Craig out to the Navigator after five p.m. when the boat yard work was finished for the day. Craig liked my boat and that pleased me. he looked around and examined the spark. it took just a few minutes. In less time than Brian observed Craig announced, "I think the coil is bad." We left it at that and I rowed him back with promises of returning for assistance from him if a new coil wasn't a cure.
Good old Craig. "I think the coil is bad" is what I wanted to hear. I thought the coil was bad. I had no way of knowing for sure, but I thought it was a reasonable conclusion. I was ready for his words and I accepted them. I would get a coil and fix my Navigator's engine.


* * * *


Tom Hall has engine parts. many places in the San Francisco bay area have engine parts for boats. I could have gone to several shops near Sausalito and in Sausalito to fine new engine parts. Tom Hall has expertise. He's old. My engine is old. tom Hall has old engine parts and old expertise. if anyone could provide parts and answers for old boat engines it was Tom Hall, and he was just down the street. Early Thursday I went to Tom Hall's. Tom's shop is a boat engine museum in the far end of a group of low rent metal sheds located off the beaten path behind the Arquez Shipyard and known only to the locals and perusers of the Pacific Bell Yellow Pages. Tom was out. I picked up a 12 volt coil from Kelly. The girl that works there. She's Tom's bookkeeper but she found a coil. Thursday afternoon I had to work. Business kept me from doing anything more with the engine on the Navigator. It was okay though. I had passed from the state of mind that discovered a problem. To the state of confusion and anxiety over the problem. To the state of mind that told me I was closing in on it. The problem would be solved. Craig thought it was the coil. He looked very normal and not like a mechanical genius but I liked his thought. I've got time Friday to put in the coil. I would fix the engine. There was not longer any uncertainty about the problem.


* * * *


Friday I put in the coil. Rechecked everything. Wiring, points, condenser, batteries charged, fuel mixture and timing were close enough to start it. Plugs were ready. I worked deliberately. I had spark. I put the battery to the ON position and turned the key. The engine turned and turned and I pulled the choke out full and it turned over and it fired. it fired. Several times it fired. and then
it stopped. I had cranked the engine too hard. It almost started. It fired and huffed and almost started, and then it stopped. The starter was smoking. The engine wouldn't turn over again.


* * * *


I gave it a break. I rowed back to Tranquility Base to check phone messages and just take a break. I went into the next state of mind that told me I was nearly there. The spark was back to the engine. It almost started. It would be okay. I could fix it. It was a good time to take a break.


* * * *


when I rowed back to the Navigator the engine would not turn over. There was plenty of spark. The starter relay was working. it clicked. The starter was burnt. Tom Hall was there this time. He talked for a long time to a customer on the phone. I walked in and sat down in an old oak office chair. I didn't stand for five minutes, and then sat down. I went in and saw Tom on the phone and sat down. There was another customer at the counter. I didn't mind waiting. I knew Tom would have the old starter for my old two-cylinder engine. Sears wouldn't have one, that's for sure. I walked into Tom Hall's shop with a state of mind that felt like going into a landing pattern at the airport near your home town when you're headed back after a long absence. I sat waiting with the satisfaction that my
job would be completed this day.


* * * *


I like old people, always have. There has always been an easy relationship formed between myself and an old person. The older the person, the easier a relationship formed. Old people are wise. They have to be wise to survive for a long time. They are seasoned and tested. I have always known this and old people recognize the respect I have for them. Some old people immediately show me a return respect, as if to acknowledge my regard for them. Other old people are more cautious and feign indifference because
they are cautious with strangers. Tom is old and wise and cautious. He feigned an attitude of limited warmth to me; even though he could tell that I respected him and he could tell I that knew he was a pussycat at heart.
when it was my turn with Tom Hall I explained my engine problems. i took my time, giving him the full story and he listened intently. He confirmed that my starter was defective and that I should have used a six volt coil instead of the twelve volt coil that I asked for and received from Kelly the secretary on the day Tom Hall was out. Tom had the coil I needed. I returned the old one and the new twelve volt coil that I'd purchased. Tom also examined my old starter and showed me how it had rusted into the engaged position, thus burning itself out. In the back room Tom found another starter for my antique two-cylinder engine. He placed it on the counter and called it the only one left in the world. He was only half joking.
I know there aren't many. In all of Tom Hall's vast shop storage area he had just the one.


* * * *


Back aboard the Navigator I installed the coil and the new/old starter. Everything was ready. I had no doubts. With the battery on I turned the key. The music played. Quickly, I made the delicate adjustments that Phil would have done and the music became even, sweet and clear.
After a few minutes of running the engine while cleaning up the mess of wires and old parts and tools, I shut down the old two-cylinder and rowed back to my home-boat. It was very satisfying to have the job completed and I was determined to immediately begin writing a story about it.
That story leaped onto the paper. Clearly it would be about fixing the engine with a dash of the people along the way. I stayed on the project. Several hours later, the story completed, I read what I had written and found that my story was really about my feelings and my friends, about
looking, learning, and persistence; ultimately, about listening to the music.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Going down the back side



I got up this morning prepared to head off the mountain a few days. Not finished with what I had to accomplish, but set for the work. All week I thought of what I had to do to get ready, but I waited until Friday to start the final chores. It is a long way down and I didn't want to forget anything and have to turn around. But some chores had to wait. I couldn't very well clean up the refrigerator until I got ready to go. Now it was time to finish the final jobs so I could leave.
Cleaning, putting the kitchen and bunk in order, straightening up anything left in the yard. I had to make sure no tools were out, and get them hanging in their places. I checked the barn again, locked it up, brought in some firewood in to keep the pile stacked so I'd have it ready for the cook stove when I get back. While I worked It occurred to me someone said you can get off the mountain the back way, but no one does that. I thought of trying that way a couple of times. Al probably said the mountain road out front, the one we come up with, goes over and down the back side of the mountain. You can go to L.A. that way. I could try that way down. Al is the one to talk to, he's only five minutes away. I drove over. Al has been on the mountain longer than anyone. I found him out front of his cabin by his small cook fire.
"Well, Jackson ... look what the cat dragged in." He chuckled. We greeted each other, did the proper small talk and when he asked me what brought me over this way I told him I thought about going down the back way.
"It's possible, but no one goes that way," Al said.
"That is kind of what I had in my head before I drove over here ... Why not? Is it safe? The road okay?" I broke aq twig and threw it in his fire.
"It's passable ... the road is fine that way, but you're right, no one ever goes that way."
I squinted and got ready to ask, and then he told me.
"Because it's longer that way. I suppose that's why we don't use that road." He pulled out his matches to light his pipe.
"How much? What are we talking when you say longer?"
"Oh, imagine ... ," and he paused to look up at the waving pine tips in the cloudless blue sky. "An hour ... not that bad." He lit his pipe and stared me down, waiting for my reaction.
"That's okay," I said. "An hour's not terrible."
"It winds around some, it does that. If you're not in a hurry, that'd be just fine. Slower, that's all ... You're not in a hurry now, Jackson ... are you?"
I shook my head no, he poured us each a coffee and we went through it all again. Yes, it's safe. That back way could be an hour longer, enough to keep people from going that way, up or down. I watched him puff his pipe, then asked, "You've taken that way?"
"Oh, yeah ... but it's been years ago." He said the road swings around a while on that side, "But after it climbs over the peak it comes down the backside into Jawbone Canyon "just as pretty as you please."
"I can get toward Los Angeles?"
"Not a problem. Sure, you can take it out of Jawbone to Mojave like usual, or there's a way that goes straight, that might be a little quicker. I don't rightly remember. ... I don't know why you'd want to go down that way .... unless it is curiosity." He smiled with his mischievous little kid smile.
"But I can take the back road down, my car would make it?"
"sure," he laughed, "It's a good road, not like that Hershey mine road, too steep. But it's a longer way, that's why no one ever takes it. I don't know why you'd want to go that way."
"Well, an hour longer isn't bad, and there is different country to see."
"Well, that there would, it's dryer over there ... the sunny side." He sucked on his pipe and then looked at it. "It's longer," he laughed, "but it'll get you down the other side."
Al said he hasn't taken the back way for years, but it does go over the peak and down the back side. The county maintains it, grades it once a year, they have too. It's a fire road.
"How high is it? I heard it is about ten thousand feet." I was giving him the questions. He could give the answers that no one else could.
"I couldn't say how high ... it's doable. Nine or ten ... not that high. Nine thousand maybe. A little higher than here. That's not a problem. It's longer." He screwed his face up. "Why would anybody want to go that way when it's longer?" he asked.
"Just to see it."
He chuckled and shook his head. He understood that logic. None of us would be on this mountain if we didn't have a little curiosity about what's over that other hill. He took the coffee pot off the stove so it wouldn't burn up. There is so little traffic on the mountain we often go a week without anyone driving by. There is one road up the mountain. The road I want to take down on the other side obviously goes both ways, but it isn't marked down below. I've never seen it. It starts some where in the valley on the south side.
So, Al didn't know the elevation, but settled on a guess of more than eighty-five hundred feet. We were at sixty-five hundred now. two thousand more isn't significant and there wouldn't be any snow this time of year. It's not the rainy season. He didn't think there'd be any problem if I didn't mind taken extra time. I've never been to the back side, never heard anyone who had, only Al. He said the road is longer way to go, but it's possible to take the road and get to Los Angeles. It wasn't dangerous. Everyone always takes the Paiute mountain road, the same one. It came up and went down, nothing to worry about with the usual road everyone took. If you broke down, someone would be along to help. The road that went the back way is unknown. There wouldn't be anyone on it to help if I had a problem. But Al saying I could make it is good enough for me.
I might have wondered about the back road a few times, or maybe I just came up with it the last couple days. I decided to try the back way down the mountain. I wasn't in any hurry. Going down to do the wash. Had a well and drew water up by the bucket, but had to go to town to use a washing machine.

It began to get dark when I started out. When I have to take off there are aleays jobs to do a round the cabin. For an evening meal I made sandwiches and packed one to go along with my last two apples and a peach in case I needed something. I didn't do cooking and leave with the wood stove hot. I packed my dirty clothes, some simple repair tools, I have a road kit ... electrical tape, masking tape, and water. I carried a gallon in the trunk for the car and a plastic bottle next to me to drink along the way. I started out. I turned left going out of the drive this time, that felt a little strange.
I still had at least an hour's light before it got dark, so I could see the surrounding area as I climbed, slowly at first. The first few miles I'd driven. I knew the road a mile or so beyond my cabin. Soon I was beyond familiar as the sun was going down.

Squatters were people who built or occupied cabins on National Forest land. Now the Forest Service began cracking down. I passed one of the squatter cabins that the rangers had taken action against. After giving warning and got the people out, they went in with chain saws and got rid of the cabin. This was an old beauty someone had restored, I'd seen it before. Now the rangers had been there with their chain saws and cut the cabin in two. A beauty of a cabin, in better shape and construction that anything we'd seen before on the mountain. The rangers had used chain saws and cut the cabin in two - horizontally, then pushed it in on itself. The nicest cabin I'd ever seen, now destroyed. It hurt me to see it now. Somebody did a lot of work to build a cabin back in the woods where no one could find it, then time passed, other people moved in, fixed it up and neglected to get the legal documents. The Forestry Service found them and tore it down. Too bad the rangers couldn't have used the cabin for themselves.
Driving the turning roads up the last hill through so many trees I didn't have a clear look at the sky. Nearly full dark before I had sky enough to see the first star. As I wound up the final hill thinking about whether it was a planet or a star. Venus is blue, Mars red. It sure looked bright. I thought it must be a planet and tried to use the color and position to figure if it was Venus or Mars. I hadn't studied my stars for a while, I used to know what was out there. I continued up as it got darker, the star or planet still ahead of me. It was the only one out that I saw. I wound through the trees and couldn't tell my direction well. Generally I headed South.

Continuing the climb, and with trees farther apart allowing for more room to see the sky, a few other stars came into view. Stars for sure, smaller than the first one I saw that must be a planet. About then I broke out of the trees and crossed the top of the mountain, at the same time the planet I'd been watching for a half hour began to move. No doubt. It began to move.
I slowed the car. It wasn't an illusion, the bright planet was moving, heading east. It had me excited. I'd been keeping an eye on it for twenty minutes, maybe a half hour, and now it began to move. It wasn't an illusion, it was moving. I stopped the car for a better look.
"I got to see this," I said out loud as I got out of the car. An unsettling idea. Now the planet moved in a large triangle formation: first left, then up, down right, left, then up again. I was calling out the position changes, "left, up, right" ... about a full second for each new position. "This is crazy." How did this come about? It's moving.

It repeated triangular movements several times, maybe three or six rotations of the cycle. I stood outside, one hand on the car, watching the starlight as it made these moves, repeating the same triangular motion, left, up, down right, left and up again. I didn't imagine this. I stood by the car mouth open. Shaking my head, following the star, watching the light moving. The bright star definitely making triangles in the sky. Holding my arm out, the triangle seemed about as large as my hand at arms length, but the light seemed way up in the sky where a star should be.

Then that bright star light snapped out. I was out of breath from excitement, out of words. I waited a few seconds, stood there, watching. Before disappointment could settle in the light came back on, bright and still. There wasn't a sound in the forest. There were other stars scattered around, they looked smaller. The bright star couldn't go away like that. After maybe three seconds the bright star came on again in the same place, right where it was. Now it began moving to the left, easterly. Slowly at first for a second or two, about the distance of the bottom of the triangle.
Then it suddenly picked up speed and shot like a bullet, no, more like an arrow, that's a better way to describe it, because it didn't disappear, it remained visible. I saw it go and followed it with my eyes. I had an unobstructed view to the East. The ball of light shot off to the East and kept going out, straight out. In a blur, straight out over the Mojave desert ... out and farther and out of sight.
It was three or four good seconds and that star light turned to a dot out of sight. I saw it go and it left me stunned, speechless. What had I seen? It was here, right up above. I had watched it for a half hour or an hour, saw it start making triangles. The light went out. Come back on. Move slowly a short ways and turn into arrow speed as it shot straight, out across the Mojave.
When I calmed down, looked around and confirmed I was still alone, I got back in the car, rolled up the windows and locked the doors, then began my way down the mountain, the back way, toward Los Angeles. Of course I talked about the event with friends, but what I saw made no sense. And I saw it. That's it. Driving down, all the way I kept looking for the star to return.

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