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Excerpt from THE KID FROM SANTA FE

Posted by on Dec 24, 2017 in Blog | 2 comments

From Alturas I headed to Mexico, stopped in Bakersfield for the night.. When I came out of the motel next morning the Buick Regal sat on its hubs. I looked around to see if it’d happened to anyone else, then went over to the office. The desk clerk said he didn’t know anything about it.
I said, “I didn’t either until I walked out of my room five minutes ago.”
He said they weren’t liable, “the sign says so.” He pointed at it. I’d been looking for a little more concern like “Aw, gee, no kidding? Took three wheels and how could that happen? Isn’t that the pits?”
I asked if he’d call the police for me.
“Could, but they never came for things like this.”
“What do they come for?”
“Beatings, killing, stuff like that,” he said.
“Oh,” I said. He seemed pretty unconcerned.
“It’s not my problem,” he said. “There’s a wrecking yard outside Bakersfield a few miles over there. Maybe you can find some replacements.”
I hitched a ride over and described the model and year. The man said he’d look around. Ten minutes later he returned in his golf cart with four wheels in the back.
“You’re in luck,” he said, big smile.
I asked for a ride back to the motel after paying and he said he’d have the boy drive me.
Putting the wheels on the car, they looked familiar. The last one had a kind of swastika design on the tire wall where it’d rubbed against a curb. No, that wasn’t it. It’d gone flat as I was driving a few months ago in Alturas and had that mark on it when I stopped to change the tire.
I knew as I worked that this was a pretty potent sign not to go to Bahía de Los Angeles in Baja. Safer to stay here. But I didn’t want safer. With my stolen wheels back on, I headed south.

I picked up a Mexican woman at the turnoff to Bahía from Highway 1. She was going to clean some houses in the village. She lived over there beyond that ridge. She hitched into Bahía three times a week. We talked in her language and it felt better. I like Spanish and Spaniards and Mexicans, anything Latino.
The light was startling as we drove east in the late afternoon. We came over a rise and there was this cluster of islands far off, catching the light in a way that made them extra three-dimensional and radiant as if they were alive.

The woman said the government had big hopes for Bahía: they’d put in a mile-long landing strip and planned lots of hotels and a connecting toll road across the peninsula to a port on the Pacific side so people could ferry their boats back and forth from the Sea of Cortez without having to go around the tip of Baja.
I’d heard Bahía was this quiet little paradise of fishermen and low-key life—now I was expecting Acapulco. But when we came down the hill overlooking the bay it was really no more than a sprawling marina with trailer parks and a few low buildings as cornerstones of hope for the tourist center being designed in Mexico City. I dropped her off and found a plain room with bed, rickety chair and table, and a pitcher of water and wash pan.
It took half an hour to walk the town in all four directions, another hour to walk the marinas and trailer parks, and it was getting dark by the time I returned from the air strip, which turned out to be exactly that and no more, a wide asphalt strip already crumbling. There were no foundations for a terminal, not even those promissory signs: Soon Opening, Terminals A-F, Restaurants, Condos, Nightclubs, Rental Cars and Aviation Tower, or Rent to Own.

Across the Sea of Cortez from here was the village of San Carlos the Mexican government had been developing over forty years, but the land itself had refused. The waters refused. The spirit of the place and the people refused. A Club Med came and went. A hurricane came and blew down everything the government’d put up, took away the ancient terraced camper park overlooking the port.
When the movie Catch 22 was made in San Carlos, things tilted away from the land’s power to keep things as they were. Things had been improved for the movie company. There was a two-mile-long four-lane going into San Carlos along a tropical-treed boulevard next to a deep bay edged by crescent beaches. Ahead were jagged castle rocks. One was called the Caracól with a small village on top, the other a signature landmark called the Tetas de Cabra, looking either like the teats of a goat on her back or the fingers of a drowning man reaching to heaven as he sinks away, depending on your mood.

In Bahía, mariachi music played with country and western through the night, braying laughter and boozy singing, slamming of trailer doors, boat motors starting up, sometimes a crystalline phrase of Spanish blessing the desecration of a place imagined by the gods in mellower times. I like squalor and chaos so I could’ve joined them easily at another time, but I was in freefall, an empty man with no desire to kill fish or drink myself into a stupor with good-timing guys and gals. I wanted to do that alone. Sometime. Not now.

I took off early the next morning. Along the road back I saw a turnoff north that cut thirty miles off my getting back to Highway 1 and took it. The road was narrower than the one I’d come in on and along stretches were big boulders in place of shoulders. If you ever got a flat, there was no way you could get off the road. Where there were no boulders there was a sheer drop to the desert floor. Back then the Mexican highway departments didn’t plan roads with drivers in mind, only vehicles. What happened to you was your business—their’s were roads.
I passed another old American car, an Olds 88, just as big and heavy as mine, with Baja plates, but when I passed him he passed me back right away. He had a bigger engine. He settled in ahead of me and slowed down to where we were doing twenty. I fell back. He fell back. I needed a long run to pass him but there was no way to pull over, and when I stopped in my lane he did, too, just ahead.
He got going first and I hung back until he was far ahead enough for me to make a run. As I came up on him at ninety he floored it and we were abreast, but there wasn’t the power to pull ahead and he wouldn’t let me fall behind. I couldn’t see his face. He had on a dark hat, but I could see big teeth in a big smile.
A big truck was coming toward us fast on the straightaway. The smile stayed there. Now we were doing ten miles an hour side by side and he had me covered. On both sides of the road were boulders. I pushed the accelerator to the floor and so did he. Just when a head-on was inevitable he let me squeeze around him, we clicked bumpers and molecules of paint from the Buick line-danced with molecules of the Freightliner.

The Olds pulled around me again and slowed to thirty, so I followed him obediently until he turned off at a Y. He touched the brim of his hat in salute and there was the smile again, still no face…
 

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From the upcoming novel THE KID FROM SANTA FE

Posted by on Dec 24, 2017 in Blog | Comments Off on From the upcoming novel THE KID FROM SANTA FE

Us Kids’ Favorite Game, Santa Fe 1944

Our favorite game in those first months of 1944 was the hunt for mother, tracking her like young hound dogs, down to the plaza and cantinas, over to La Fonda and Alfonso to ask which Bohemians she left with, calling Lucy, the town operator, to find where her last calls came from or went, over to Jack Stacey’s to see if one of his taxis’d taken her somewhere, Geri Granger’s, Joan Jordan’s, Stanley Breneiser’s, Shusie’s? God’s place? George Blodgett’s?

We were the hunters, Maid Marion the game. Whenever we found her was a time for the laughter of discovery, and her special joy at being tracked down by her kids.
We wanted her to be free always…so we could find her again. It was the best-ever game…

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Fingertip of Forever

Posted by on Dec 17, 2017 in Blog | 3 comments

It’s all there at our fingertip…the universe, time, space, all that stuff. God is the tip of our finger, He is all tips of all fingers forever. Forever blinks on and off but even on Off it is On.
There is nowhere to go when you die because there is no death. If there was it’d still be at your fingertip..a point there forever and ever and ever, though come to think of it the tip of your finger has always been and always will though there is no Always, there just Is. A fruitful, loving, warm and cuddly Is.

We are always here in Love. Nothing to make amends for, to be forgiven for. Nothing but love at our fingertip.
And even that. But how about the snap of one finger against another? Hmm? That is the beginning of our life, cuz there’s only one fingertip.

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Rowe Mesa

Posted by on Dec 1, 2017 in Blog | Comments Off on Rowe Mesa

THE KID FROM SANTA FE,

Santa Fe

Excerpt Nov. 30

…When I had a firewood business I’d drive from Galisteo over to Rowe Mesa near Pecos. I had a 1949 3/4 ton Ford pickup that came off the assembly line black and was now sea blue. I loved the wood business because it put me alone with the wilderness. I’d been cutting on Rowe for a couple of years off and on. Even pre-Spanish Indians from the nearby pueblos cut here. I’d find the stumps of juniper and cedar with stone axe marks.

One day I came to an island of tall Douglas fir mixed in with what looked like desert piñon except these had straight trunks and grew as tall as the fir. I entered a lush cool fragrant copse of trees and a spring seeping along a rock bed growing fern from its banks. This was unreal because Rowe Mesa is high desert, dry as a bone in summer and the trees are gnarled because they come from the gnarled that were passed over for bigger, better trees for so long only the gnarled were left to perpetuate the species.

I’ve never seen tall straight piñons even in Truchas where I lived, high in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains north of Santa Fe, where there was plenty of snow and rain. There were big ones but their tops were like other trees’ roots, all over the place. These were majestic and twice as tall as the tallest I’d seen. I strolled around with my axe, tried the water, spoke to the trees, mainly questions. There was no cicada buzz or bird song. It was still. No litter. A sanctuary, that’s the word. I could still see the same sky way up there but everything else was different. I was in a parenthesis in time.

I knew I was being allowed to see this, to be here. To others it must just be land with cactus and stuff, otherwise it would’ve been cut down long ago. Part of me was at peace and wanted nothing more than to be here, another wanted to go get the chainsaw and start cutting. There was enough to keep me working a week. The problem was that once I started I’d break whatever invisibility it had and others would move in fast. I’d laid down truck tracks in the grasses getting here, someone else would follow these out of curiosity. If I left now could I find my way back here? There were no landmarks I could see driving in, just craggy mesa top on all horizons.

The part that only wanted to soak in the stillness and beauty kept acing out the part of mind that was the woodcutter. Eventually I found a big-trunked cedar on what felt like a boundary line between the sanctuary and the rest of the mesa top and decided to start there and see how it felt. It took an hour to saw through because the dry cedar wood soaked up the oil on the chain so I kept having to stop and sharpen the cutters and refill the reservoir a half dozen times. When I got nearly through the tree didn’t lean into the notch and fall as expected, it just sat down on the blade. I used the axe as a wedge and axe as hammer to lever it up and pull the blade free. But nothing would budge the upper part.

Farther out from the cedar was a towering dead fir riddled with wormholes. It was easily a truckload, cut to length and stacked to the top of the Ford’s barred sides, maybe a cord and a half. It was around noon and would take the rest of the afternoon. I’d check out the cedar tomorrow and see how I felt about toppling it.

I cut the notch in the dead fir and took a break before starting in from the other side. There was something spooky about this one. Nothing was regular about its branch arrangement. There was a fullness toward the top where all the branches were twisted and tormented as if the tree had been in pain during its life. If a tree can have slow motion epilepsy this one did. Seizures of its spirit guided the wood growth. My feeling was to leave it alone. I was good at telling where a tree’d fall but couldn’t figure this one. Still I was here, it was here, I had a saw and truck, and it had worms and nowhere to go.

The vibration of a saw will travel up a dead tree and sometimes loosen broken branches, so I kept glancing up ready to move away if anything dropped. When I was almost through I stood up to take a breather when something tapped me on the top of the head. I felt a stick not bigger round than a pencil but twice as long arrowed into my skull at the soft spot where the cranial plates join. I pulled it out and looked at the end that’d been in my brain. No blood, only wetness. I felt okay, but figured I better sit down. There was something not quite right and I needed to track it down. I sat with my back against a tree, clicked off the switch to the motor and checked my body out mentally. There was an itch on my cheek and something moving across it. I swatted and a big violet and cream-colored centipede hit the ground running and chased itself away. How did it get there in the few seconds since I’d sat?

The light was odd, the sun way over there. And it was chilly. I got the feeling I’d been in a sweat. I touched the Husquavarna and it was cold and that didn’t feel right. I felt wetness on my neck and traced it up to the crusted over hole in my skull. There was a burning itch all over my face and neck now, even my lips hurt where the centipede had been exploring.

I stood and looked around, didn’t have a clue to where I was. When I came upon the truck in wandering around I didn’t know what it was. I’d never seen a truck before. All there was in memory was an impression of three old bearded men in gray robes angry with me, and that happened just when I felt the centipede on my face. I saw them in profile next to me emerging from wherever I’d been those six or seven hours.

There was no worry. When a person doesn’t know who he is or even that he is supposed to know, there is no worry. I was free of everything that wasn’t automatic, a just-born babe in men’s wear. I was untagged consciousness becoming aware of where I was by virtue of being there with it, whatever it was.

Putting the saw in the truck was automatic, tying it down and watching my hands do something I didn’t know how to do was fascinating. What smart hands. I looked into the cab and didn’t recognize or understand anything more than the seat. I touched the things I saw but there was no connection. I climbed in like a little boy and sat there holding the steering wheel and then some things came to me. I made a motor running sound. My left leg twitched. I looked down and saw the clutch pedal and tapped on it with the boot. It went down. My right hand was holding the knob of the floor gearshift.

Savvy nerve patterns got the truck started and scouted the way out by following the squashed down grass, and knew where to turn once we got to a Y on a dirt road, and then the main road off of Rowe and through the village at the bottom to the freeway where I drove at ten miles an hour till I understood the meaning of all the horn honking going on from passing cars. Same thing when I got to the turn-off to Lamy, and then the village of Galisteo where I rolled into the wood yard at sunset. A woman came out the back door and smiled. Who was she? Where was I? Who was I?

I stayed at home for a few days till my memory came back. Never did go back to Rowe Mesa. From then on I cut only standing dead Engelman spruce over on Santa Clara Peak, north of Santa Fe…

(Online version of TKFSF to be published in January at Amazon Kindle, Macbooks, Smashwords, & bookstore copies nationally in February)

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The Hounds of Heaven…

Posted by on Nov 29, 2017 in Blog | 1 comment

Us Kids’ Favorite Game

Our favorite game in those first months of 1944 was the hunt for mother, tracking her like young hound dogs, down to the plaza and cantinas, over to La Fonda and Alfonso to ask which Bohemians she left with, calling Lucy, the town operator, to find where her last calls came from or went, over to Jack Stacey’s to see if one of his taxis’d taken her somewhere, Geri Granger’s, Joan Jordan’s, Stanley Breneiser’s, Shusie’s? God’s place? George Blodgett’s?

We were the hunters, Maid Marion the game. Whenever we found her was a time for the laughter of discovery, and her special joy at being tracked down by her kids.
We wanted her to be free always…so we could find her again. It was the best-ever game…

(From the soon-to-be-published THE KID FROM SANTA FE, from www.augustawindpress.com)

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Fingers itching to get going…

Posted by on Nov 21, 2017 in Blog | Comments Off on Fingers itching to get going…

Hey, How About Fingers? Geez!

Fingers are servants
to the entire body and universe, they scratch where the universe itches, write down the thoughts and poems of brain and soul, pick fruit and flower and lint, and point out bears and lions and heroes of the constellations at night.

They explore the jungles of lovers, the rivers, volcanoes, laplands, and saharas of their vastnesses, opening flowers and melons and seedpod for the soul and loin.
They test for heat and cold and wet and dry and enemy and friend, tend to wounds on the body they work for and others they love, sketch the air with emotion and didactics. They cradle small living things and pieces of old life and new they find, and bring these treasures to the lips or heart or mind they give away free.
They are born to serve and bring unto us everything we can imagine, and introduce us to what we never imagined. So they are creators too, weaving us matter-of-factly into tapestries of adventure our brains are a bit too contrived to.

Fingers have ten individual souls working at the weaving rack of our lives, playing our lives like harpstrings or keyboards, our brain just the plainsong of right and wrong.
True, fingers are in service to mind and brain, but they are masters of our expressed happiness. They do what has to be done and wave away what mustn’t, they unite in prayer and ring-around-the-rosies, they slip bands of love onto others’ fingers to wear as ID of belonging to something or someone, they slip into infant mouths as creators of peace, and adult mouths as invitations to paradise.
Our toes balance the known universe with the feet, our fingers the universe of our desires with the hand. Our hands nailed Christ to the cross, but our fingers wrote his story and passed along his love.

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New York City 1963…

Posted by on Nov 17, 2017 in Blog | Comments Off on New York City 1963…

New York

When I was laid off the AT&SF Railroad in the big national strike of 1961, I hitchhiked to New York City from San Berardino in California. A psychiatrist and his wife picked me up and took me as far as Philadelphia.
For the first few months in the city I collected unemployment from the Union and it was more than most salaried people were making in the early sixties. The Union’s grip on railroad management was what the strike was about. Too many men on a job with too much pay and no rights for management to fire anyone for any reason. What was the need of four brakemen on a freight train with four on standby in the caboose? When the four got off after their five-hour shift and the ones on standby took over, four more came on. Why was a ditch digger on a signalman crew like me getting $400 a week with room and board and full benefits, with no skills other than using a pick and shovel, and no seniority?
We were installing new signal boxes between Chicago and Los Angeles, living in converted passenger cars from the 1920s coupled to the cook residence and kitchen car, ice boxcar, and dining room. These were towed along the main rails to sidings where we loaded up food, water, and ice, and drive out to the old signal boxes and road gates.
Unemployed, I was picking up half pay from the railroad brotherhood at Penn Station as they looked around for a new position for me. Part of the deal struck between management with the union was for the railroad to pay half salary to those let go until they found other jobs. In return, the union would allow a thirty percent reduction of the work force.
I landed a position at Ronald Press, a publisher of college textbooks and scientific monographs by specialists in various fields. Ronald had the world’s definitive book on the sex life of the mosquito. It was big as an unabridged dictionary.

I was being trained to go on the road in the Midwest to get teachers to choose our books over the competition’s, mainly Prentice Hall. But somehow I didn’t know it. I was hired by a man fascinated by the mythology of the far west who hired me because of my Western-cut suit and stories about being a cowboy in Big Piney in Wyoming, and riding horseback from Sevilla to Madrid in Spain a few years before. I knew nothing about textbooks, publishing, or selling, and by the time they sent me out on the road with a trunk of books I didn’t know much more than I did five months before.
I don’t understand how these things can happen. Anyone should’ve seen that I was a simple person incapable of learning enough English, geology, math, and physics to convince professors who had degrees in their fields to change their Prentice Hall textbooks for ours. Maybe Bob Warner imagined qualities in me just to keep me around in my black Leddy cowboy boots, telling stories about the pueblo Indians and New Mexico ranchers. Or maybe he was too distracted by his Delta Airlines stocks and being on the phone with his broker. He retired two years later a millionaire, and one of the first things he did was fly to Santa Fe to see the places I’d talked about. He looked up my mother and her new husband to brag that I was the worst salesman in the 100-year history of Ronald Press. I wonder how no one picked up on that during my training.

I decided to be an actor. Uta Hagen and Herbert Berghof had an acting school in Greenwich Village. I signed up at HB Studios. Herbert Berghof assigned me a scene with a seasoned actress who in our rehearsals at my apartment taught me to act through her becoming the character. I was a chameleon, so as long as I believed her and felt her emotion, I delivered the goods. She was powerful, so I was powerful, and when we did our scene there was not a sound from the class at the end. The people stared wide-eyed, then exhaled as one. Herbert tapped his pencil and looked at the ceiling, asked where I’d studied.
I hadn’t, I said. At the end of class there was a swarm of women wanting to do scenes with me. I looked at the actress who had been so emotionally wrapped in her character that she gave life to mine, and she smiled as if to say I was in for it now.

Herbert wanted me to read for a supporting part in a play by Horton Foote he was to direct on Broadway. He got Dick Baumann to be my agent and suggested I try out for his wife Uta Hagen’s advanced class, which I got into by doing a scene from The Rose Tattoo. Because there was no one in her class that wasn’t a professional, I was believable. But I was only as good as the other actor I was working with so, when I went out on auditions and was paired with someone without that spark, I was at a loss of how to become real because I had no technique.
If Herbert had done the Foote play and I’d gotten the part it could’ve been another Ronald Press deal. I was at best a collaborator, someone a professional could bounce off, which enlivened me. On stage I had good energy and eye contact, I really listened and looked at people as we do in real life. If the other actor believed, I believed, and once in the groove we sparked.
I went on TV commercial calls and small theater, then got a leading role in ABC-TV’s The Doctors and The Nurses from an audition scene Fred Underhill wrote for me and Judy Adler, Ben’s mother-to-be. The show’s producer, Doris Quinlin, sent me to the director of the television show the next day and he had me read a scene on camera with the woman lead. When I got the part it was only a matter of going in to sign the contract at ABC. Dick Baumann said he’d call my message service when the time came. I left the city with Karen Deming to go to her parents place in Connecticut for the weekend, and the next day kept going into Canada where I got a cross-country ride on a new school bus being delivered to the Northwest Territories. It was loaded with vagabonds and outcasts the driver picked up along the way. Weeks later I called home and heard I’d been replaced when ABC couldn’t get hold of me. I was fine with that. I’d been terrified.

My success and acclaim in theater and on screen was mainly on the streets of New York. One night between Sixth and Seventh on 44th I think it was, walking alone along a street faced by the backs of theaters and passing under a streetlight mid-block, a tour bus passed, slowed, and stopped. A man got off and trotted back, big smile, grabbed my hand and shook it with both of his, babbling on about how he loved my films and television series and how he had a bus load of tourists from Yugoslavia who had recognized me and made him stop. He wondered if it’d be okay for them to come over to take my picture and get autographs.

I couldn’t get a word in: What films, what series? I hadn’t any credits except one off Broadway play.
He was already running back to the bus, yelling excitedly in a Slavic tongue and the tourists were piling out and heading my way, working men in work clothes and women in shawls and bulky dresses clustering around taking pictures, handing me pieces of paper to sign, some of them quite moved. Then the tour guide gave an order and they trotted back to the bus with him, he shouted his thanks, saluted, climbed aboard and off they went.
I stood there a long time before realizing I’d made it in acting. I was a star. They’d show the photos back home and tell of finding me in this canyon of a street, the man they’d seen in so many films:
You know him, he’s the one who was in that film with that blonde girl.
Oh him? You saw him?
No, not just saw, I touched him, this is his picture, he signed his name on this paper.
What does it say?
It says his name, him, you know the one. We were all around him, we were so lucky the tour director saw him, I think he was trying to hide his face when we went by but the tour man saw him and stopped the bus and we got out. He is so handsome, he was so kind, I can’t believe how lucky we were.

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