Sunday, October 30, 2011

R.I.P. Mr. Luff

Working on a draft for a short "noir-ish" style tale about a girl in a bar waiting for a guy to show up at a bar and another guy is working in the bar playing up the comic relief and all this is taking place in a bar ... you get the picture. Anyway, she hands the bartender a note and leaves. The guy comes in and the note is passed. Nobody dies, no big explosions, and no bikini clad women. The message is powerful though. A powerful message is sometimes all that matters. Stay tuned.

If you haven't already surmised I am dialed into the WCPE Classical Music Station out of Raleigh-Durham, NC. It's the only way to survive these threadbare Saturday afternoons in the Mojave desert. A sonic refuge where desperate souls, cast aside by fate's cruel kiss, can rally some momentum to go on. The word interminable flashes through my head. I know this to be a false alarm. For, in standardized periods of little movement, there are no events to drive our stakes into. To mark out the progression of time. Just the void. Inside this sector of swirling chaos is where the essence of the "free vortex" begins. However, it can't be found on the surface. It is underneath the skin. Like scabies or slivers. Message in a bottle. Bacteria in the paper cut. Or, like my soon to be published short story, scribbled on a napkin and kissed with red lipstick.

I spent the morning at a Memorial Service for my High School English teacher, Mr. Luff. Having moonlighted on the side as a licensed funeral director I would wish to point out that, after having attended this service, I feel like I need to reevaluate my position when it comes to knowing anything about presenting a funeral service. Having gone as a participant, instead of an active player, I have learned far more about what is happening at Memorial Services then what I have learned in the past years working them. That isn't to say that the local mortuaries don't provide quality services ... quite to the contrary. I think, perhaps, as old school undertakers we're slightly out of touch. Exaggerated sense of self worth in the funeral product comes to mind. That is neither here nor there. Didn't mean to cut a promo on the state of the funeral industry or myself. But there it is. And here it is ...

The first principle of the free vortex is the illusion of time. You have to perceive it this way ... our backs are against a slow moving wall. The wall is as thick as the width of the many millennium spanning backwards to the beginning of time. It is in fact interminable. Infinite. In an endless retrograde. The wall is slowly inching forward. We're helpless to stop it. You can push and lean back as hard as you can but you cannot move backwards. The wall is made of clear glass. You can observe everything that has transpired in the past. You can stare back through the wall but, like a rear view mirror, all you can see are moments moving into the past. The '"lived" portions of our lives fading into the distance. The glass is unbreakable. Bullet proof. Pound away at it all you want. Anchor you legs and lock your knees. You will never break it. You will never stop it. A wise man once told me, "If your going to fall ... fall forward." Forward time is the gateway to the free vortex. The first thing you have to do is move your back away from the wall. Take a few steps out in front. The future is unwritten and temporarily void of light. It's the blank canvas. Run towards it! Jump forward into the void with all your clothes off ... cannon ball! Stop leaning against the past and the passing of time. Take that leap of faith. Creation is the engine. It just needs a driver. Creativity is more important than knowledge. I heard that said today. It was one of Mr. Luff's maxims. We will hang that on the nail at the doorway to the unwritten. The unwritten has a name. That name is "Free Vortex".

Mr. Luff had taken up sky diving long after I had graduated high school. At his Memorial Service I watched video footage of one of his sojourns into the air. He had an impressive number of jumps before he died. Over 400 leaps of faith into the unknown.  Somewhere up in the atmosphere Mr. Luff, my high school English teacher, spun round and round and plummeted to the Earth's surface. In that space in between airplane and hard ground he was enlightened. Certain intangible truths reveled themselves to him.

It was told at the Memorial Service that upon one occasion,  Mr. Luff's jump was mired with complications. His main shoot failed to open. At the very last moment he was able to engage one of the reserve shoots. The landing was real stiff. It crushed quite a few vertebrate and sent him to the hospital in a rather serious condition. I believe that somewhere up there in the dark, blue void he was out in front of the glass wall of time. Perhaps he was too far out in front. Eventually he would hit a barrier that would stop him. I can only imagine what swirled through his consciousness during this rushing descent from thousands of feet high in the air. He was beyond knowing. The fourth and fifth wall crumbled before his eyes. He survived the fall. He came back to camp with the ability to spark fire. He was changed.

When he made a full recovery he went back up. Many questioned his choice to return to sky diving. He performed a few hundred more jumps after that. All successful. He had now made danger his vocation. An act that is noble and worthy in it's self.  I can only trust that he glimpsed something up there that few of us have ever seen. His hands touched enlightenment. He met creation on the way down and creation shared it's timeless riddle. "Some men do it for diamonds ... some men do it for gold," sang Tom Waits once. Mr. Luff served a higher master. He did it for creation.

When Mr. Luff passed away last week, from a long battle with cancer, he told his wife he was ready to go. I believe he had "it." Whatever "it" was. "It" being what we have all been digging in the dirt for our whole lives. That one unmovable truth. That moment of enlightenment. That passing torch of creativity. He was dressed in his sky diving suit before the cremation. For that final, faithful leap into the dark.

R.I.P. Mr. Luff.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Blog - Straight Up, No Chaser

Someone once told me that the desert is comprised of hundreds of dirt roads that all lead nowhere. I would tend to concur. I have witnessed this myself. I have driven them all. Upon every single damn one I have had to eventually turn around and drive back to where I originally started from. It's an endless maze. A merciless stain of defeat and mired probabilities. Long shot dreams for broken souls. Cactus halos that tear the flesh of the brow. Sand, instead of salt, for your open wounds.

It's fall in the Mojave. The terrain looks the same as summer but it's colder now. The temperature has dropped ... probably to catch up with the general populations IQ! I'm just kidding. Had to get that one in. I don't mean to be a dick but then again I do. The desert is an acquired taste. Especially in the remote area where I reside. The last place in the world that you want to be caught without a ride home or a reason to live. The Morongo Basin ... 29 Palms to Joshua Tree to Yucca Valley. East to West respectfully. And all the surrounding areas from North to South to further East ... I'm even talking Wonder Valley and beyond. On down to Amboy and into the Morongo Perserve. Where no man or woman comes out alive. And if you do ... you come out changed.

I'm sitting in my house on a Sunday morning. I have a strange contraption strapped to my ankle and I was told only to leave the house during certain hours of the day. I will elaborate on this no further. However, it correlates with today's topic children: ALL THE WAY. To all you half assers and noncommittal individuals lurking in the shadows of indecision this will be your wake up call. Let me explain ...

A week ago Friday I was driving home from my day job as an undertaker. I was dressed in a black suit and a black tie and dark Ray Ban sunglasses. I was manning the wheel of a small Toyota economy car that I borrowed from a retired Russian trapeze artist. Now on disability, he found comfort in the notion that there was really nothing more to see beyond the confines of his one bedroom house. The chessboard, the imported cigarettes, the bottom shelf vodka sustained him. And the faded memory of loose women, circus lights, and past glory were all he needed. It was all any man needed. So he didn't really require a car. But I did. He owed me a favor. The cheeseboard is a cruel mistresses and the tote board never lies. Sometimes the horses come in ... sometimes they don't.

I was driving into Joshua Tree on Hwy. 62. As I approached the Park Boulevard intersection I happened to glance over to my right. Out in front of Mike's Liquor I saw to young men beating the living shit out of each other while another gentleman in a white tank top and sagging shorts watched on. He clapped and postured and cheered as the two other men, engaged in fisticuffs, swung and wrestled out on the sidewalk. I slowed down as the stop light glowed red. I thought to myself, "Gee that's a peculiar sight in Joshua Tree."

I waited and watched at the intersection. The fight continued and no one joined the one man audience. Nor did anyone come forward to intercede. Perhaps I was the only one seeing this? That was the sudden conclusion my pea-brain mustered. As the light abruptly turned green, I slowly drove forward and thought, "We need more of this type of thing in Joshua Tree! Mike's Liquor's  new marketing slogan: Two Men Enter ... One Man Leaves!"

I knew it could only be a bad omen for the evening to come. When I arrived home I found other people engaged in heavy drinking and loud talk out on my front porch. One was a quite stunning female with a low cut blouse. She was a liquor rep from the Sky vodka company. As I loosened my tie I knew the night would end bad. It would just be a matter of what extreme we would take it to. Multiple bottles of vodka in all flavors, shapes, and sizes poured. There was beer and rough men courassing and, in the mists of all this, I made a phone call to a certain individual about a certain particular sensitive matter that we will not approach at this juncture in time. Needless to say, it put me in a mood of distress, and "fuck all." Confronted with a constant stream of loss and dreams unrealized any young man's spirits can be crushed under a cavalcade of bitter regret. Especially when you stare into the void and discover that all the blame lies squarely on your shoulders.

As we approached the ten o'clock hour things went completely sideways. The sense that my life was a complete wash became all to glowingly apparent. I concluded that the night would not end without the complete destruction of my physical and mental being. I made some calls ...

The details of the fact and fiction that follow are of no relevance. I concluded to take it all the way. However, by 10 a.m the next morning I was back in bed wondering where it all went wrong. The worst thing about the hangovers and heartaches that ensued was just the fact that I had to endure them. I concluded that if your bent on personal damage and self-destruction, make sure by the end of the night you disappear into a puff of green smoke ... never to appear again.    

Like every successful endeavor in life ... you must take it all the way! The next time you decide to wander out into the darkness of the desert night with a liquored brain and a death wish do us all a favor ... do your self an even bigger favor ... don't return. I don' care if you take a bus to Cleveland, join the merchant marines, or get zipped up in a yellow body bag and shoved into the morgue. It' all or nothing! Not just for the endeavors with positive connotations, but even for the things that give Satan's dark forces legal ground.

This Sunday morning I stepped out onto my porch (it was after 9 a.m. - don't send the cops to collect me quite yet) sober as a stone and bent on total domination. Many new battles on the horizon ... looking forward to some more 'Fight Club' action out in front of Mike's Liquor on a Friday evening in Joshua Tree, California. I know, dear reader, you to have many battle's ahead. Many fiery dragons to slay. I wish you happy hunting and much success in the days to come. Verily my brethren, I implore you to take it all the way! Don't look back ... don't stumble or side step ... most people will denounce you ... the rest will condemn you ... but believe me, the light at the end of the tunnel will be the brightest and most beautiful thing that you have ever beheld! It makes no matter if it's self-improvement or self destruction ... if your going to do it, see it out to the end.  

My room-mate is back home from work. He's ready to take it all the way at 10:55 a.m. "Jack Daniels and Coke and a Marlbro Red ... it's just inspirational ... like the new apple i-phone that just came out." There is beauty in the darkness as well as the light.

I stretch my arms out into the sun and embrace the sand and creosote. For all the dark hues I cast the desert in I still can recognize a beautiful day when I see one. The sun is warm on the shoulders and we're all still in this game of life in some capacity. Get out there today and take it all the way ... at least that's what Charles Bukowski will tell you ... and that fool is never wrong!

(On a side note: It's Arm Chair Travelers weekend on WCPE ... if your not supporting classical music on WCPE - Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina then you need to really reconsider  your position  in life or just .... Eat Shit and Die!)