The Daily Grind

The Daily Grind

SusieQ woke up Saturday morning feeling ‘pressed’;  not depressed, repressed, oppressed or compressed.  Just ‘pressed’.  After Friday night’s wing-ding party, “Prince is Gone, so let’s Dance, Dance, Dance” she struggled to lift the downy bed coverlet off those sleepy blue eyes her willpower and effort focused on reading the oversized RED-LED clock facedial.  10am already.  “Shit, I’m late to work,” she wheezed and reaching to the headboard counter, fumbled for her pink I-Thing call machine to dial in to the daily grind.

“Hello, Queequeg, this is your busy barista,

SusieQ  letting you know I’ll be an hour latte.  Please tell my Coffee-Mates, Stubb and Flask, to cover for me at

Starstrucks.  I’ll be there as quick as I can.”  Click.

The struggle ahead to get past blankets, into working attire and off driving in her canary-yellow Fit was definitely an  uphill slog.  Damn.  She had “Purple Rain” on the brain and kept spinning last night’s DJ playlist into her jukebox mind.  “When Doves Cry, Let’s Go Crazy, Kiss (me) and let’s do the Bat Dance”.  Let’s face it – she always loved the artist formerly known as Alexander Nevermind / James Coco (not cocoa) and she did her best to brush the purple glitter from her hair as she prepped for the work ahead.  She laughed as she looked at the Starstrucks company dress code (green apron, slacks and appropriate jewelry) she had taped to the bathroom mirror.  With a flick of the wrist, she tossed the ‘uniform of the day’ into the laundry hamper.  No green apron for her today, that’s for sure.

With ‘purple passion’ pulsing in her veins, SusieQ went back to her clothes rack and emerged as Prince’s Princess,  dazzling in a polka dot pantsuit featuring a speckled black blouse and white pants offset with a dashing neck scarf.  Just to get things right, she topped off the getup with a Starstruck hat, adorned with her Prince-ness picture, looking regal and rockin’.  ‘Let’s  get going’ she mused and motored off to the mall to get it on with the coffee crowd.  As she made the scene at the Starstruck shoppe, SusieQ glided in the door just 45 minutes late to her shift.  She was singing and toe-tapping her way and the food droid staff smiled and quickly picked up the beat.  “Hey Queequeg, let’s get a double machiatto on the rush.   Stubb and Flask, harpoon me baby with some Mocoa, White Chocolate Mud”.

“One, two, three, let’s work.  C’mon let’s have some fun.  We’ll work till the morning comes.  Let me see you work”.

Do the daily grind.

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Appliance Time Again

Appliance Time Again                                    Ray Charles - Down Under by Tim Weil - Stories and Songs    

(with apologies to Buck Owens and Ray Charles)

CHORUS: It’s appliance time again, the fridge is broken
This old icebox it ain’t workin’ anymore
Yesterday she threw the mayonnaise in the garbage
A pool of water lies beneath the door.

The crisper holds the lettuce and the veggies
The temperature’s gettin’ mighty warm
Our box is livin’ way beyond it’s shelf life
We ain’t chillin’ out the way we did before.

CHORUS

The repair guy say the themostat  stopped workin’
The beer is warm, the food has started thawin’
Got to shop for a new refrigerator
After writin’ out the words to this sad song

CHORUS

Now they say AMANA’s gonna need a woman
My gal says that’s a brand I gotta try
But if she fills our icebox up with onions
I’ll bow my head and slowly start to cry.

CHORUS

Well it’s cryin’ time again look what she leaves me
A dead refrigerator and what’s more
This appliance and these cryin’ eyes are grievin’
My babe walked out the house and slammed the door.

CHORUS

The FRIGIDAIRE stopped coolin’ yesterday
And the WHIRLPOOL is headin’ down the drain
Our love’s defrosted baby, the ice just melts away
It’s appliance time again, you know I’m leavin’

CHORUS

Copyright © 2018 Tim Weil – Security Feeds LLC

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Walsenburg Waltz

Spanish Peaks, Huerfano County

Invocation

Beneath the snowy Spanish Peaks
The Huajatolla (Wahatoya) in native speak,
Our tale begins with Story Creek
The steady flow of words we speak

On 80 acres of grassy plains
Bluffs and hills and scrub emerge
We scratch the land, our lives converge
Outside the hamlet …

Walsenburg Waltz

one, two, three
one, two three
waltzing thru time
swing with the beat
kick up your feet
one, two, three
one, two, three
partners in crime
gliding in space
running the race

Back in the day, the world was headed for Hell and Marigold’s group household opted out of the chaos, buying 80 acres in southern Colorado, beyond the front-range growth surge we foresaw, even in 1978. Huerfano County had cheap land so, numerous hippie tribes settled there, in the footsteps of coal miners who came for the jobs and stayed to scratch out a living running cattle, selling real estate, motels and cafés catering to travelers.

Huerfano County road signHuerfano (meaning orphan) County’s Spanish Peaks, neither quite a fourteener but standing out from the Front Range (wa-ha-to-ya in the native tongue) were landmarks on the Santa Fe Trail. Population centers include county seat Walsenburg, sex-change capital Trinidad, Ludlow (as in Massacre), La Veta and a double handful of small dried-up towns scattered across the scrub oak and pinon of the hills and sagebrush of the high prairie.

Huerfano County has been home to the oldest Jewish congregation west of the Mississippi (which recently folded, selling their beloved Torah to, coincidentally, the temple that Fred and Marigold joined in Denver); to Drop City, Libre, Red Rocks and other hippie settlements; to neo-con retirees who, in 2016, turned the county Republican for the first time in its existence. There’s a struggling ski resort on the west side of West Spanish Peak, an opiates problem and history that looks a lot like poverty.

one, two, three
one, two, three
play the song over
we’ve only begun
and still having fun

Construction with Manuel Labor

Story Creek aerial view15 miles up a county road, with no electricity or running water, our dreams become projects. Build a cabin, string a fence, lay in a cistern. Pour concrete walls. Pour lots of concrete walls. Stand up a windmill, dig a trench, pump water up a mesa to tanks for gravity-fed irrigation systems. Fix a broken tractor. The entropy of the land: we’re always building, and things are always breaking down.

Under the direction of Randall Vision, we pound posts and string barbed wire to keep out the neighbor’s cattle. The small-batch cement mixer labors as we pour foundations and raise greenhouse walls. The cute little Kubota backhoe groans digging through hard dirt and harder rock on the hilltop, preparing holes for a pair of water storage tanks.

On a 105-degree morning we arrive at the cement-works yard in Pueblo, where the office manager shakes her head, “In seven years I’ve never seen a day when everything went right.”

But we buy two 500-gallon cisterns anyway. They’ll deliver them Friday … sort of: they unload them fifteen miles down the road from Story Creek. How we’re supposed to transport two large, heavy, fragile tanks from there never occurs to them. Several conversations and days later, they send the truck to bring them the rest of the way in, to the holes awaiting them.

One, two, three
One, two, three
Build without ceasing,
Sweat, blood, and blisters,
Structures increasing.

The only way to get water from the pond to the tanks is to pump it but, we have no source of electricity. We acquire a windmill and Fred learns how to stand it up and mount the blades, balancing on the tiny platform twenty feet up, wrestling slabs of sharp tin into place then tightening the bolts so they’ll stay there. Once it’s up and running, the windmill’s a source of joy – lie in a hammock in the willows and watch it turn all afternoon. Gradually, the cisterns fill and water flows to the greenhouses.

Three Flat-Tire Day

Randall drives everyone hard, including the heavy equipment. Who’d have thought the skinny stumps of scrub oak would poke clear through tractor tires? Again and again? When the stubble punctures the first tractor tire, he puts on the spare. The rear tire is next to go, at which point, a 15-mile trip to town is in order. At Jolly Bonacelli’s tire repair store in Walsenburg, the heavy-set repairman does a belly flop onto the tire, tools in hand. Jolly Bonacelli and his very big belly. On the return trip to Story Creek, our pickup truck has a flat, just a tired tire. Three flats and you’re out for the day.

Gimme Shelter

Rammed earth dwellingThe only structure on the property when we acquire it is a low shed, used to store hay, protected from snow and wind. Raise the roof, add some walls, add more rooms – piece by piece it becomes a cabin. Fred and Marigold, dreaming of Rammed Earth, design the next addition, pouring a foundation then presenting plans to Frank Noga, the county engineer. He never heard of rammed earth – pipe clamps secure sturdy forms aligned 15″ apart, sprinkle in a moist blend of clay, sand and portland cement, then tamp it till it rings, hard packed. Keep adding earth-mix, keep tamping and the walls rise. With a “hat and shoes” – protective roof and foundation – a rammed-earth structure lasts centuries. Well, Frank Noga’s seen plenty of hippie shelters – our architectural drawings are a step above. He stamps his approval on the plans.

Pouring Concrete Walls

Friday afternoon work crew – Randall, Norm and Fred – watch the sun go down behind East Spanish Peak, no cement truck in sight. A race to the bottom of a Jack Daniels fifth is interrupted by the rumble of the mixer at 4pm, hours after everyone has given up on it. Oh shit! What are we going to do now? When the truck reaches our site, the tipsy crew goes to work. Fresh cement is delivered one wheelbarrow at a time. Try not to spill; this stuff is really heavy.

one, two, three
one, two, three
Maria del oro
Fred does his part
stay close to the heart

The Great Escape (almost)

Kawasaki 175 (Estrella model)The Kawasaki 175 (Estrella model) is a sporty, temperamental motorcycle for riding the Story Creek back roads and making quick trips to town. One day, Fred takes it out for a spin. Wearing sunglasses plus a helmet with a smoky visor, he keeps fiddling to kick this sucker into third gear. As luck would have it, he notches third as he comes over a rise, revving up to 30 mph about the time he sees, about 40 feet away, a three-strand barbed wire gate closing the road. Steve McQueen in The Great Escape would have leaped gracefully over this barrier. Instead, Fred goes for Plan B: dropping the bike, sliding wheels-first into the obstacle to save himself from painful lacerations. Almost. His right hand on the handlebar finds some nasty barbed wire that slices a two-inch gash in his middle-finger knuckle.

Resourceful to a fault, Fred wraps his wound in a bandana, opens the gate, picks up the Kawasaki and drives 10 more miles into town, seeking ER medical relief. The nurse checks him in and parks him on a cot to wait for the doc when two cops bring in his new roommate, a psychobilly traumatized with a PCP psychosis, restrained by the sheriffs and howling to beat the band. Fun is where you find it – that’s Fred’s for the day. The docs stitch him up, he rides back to Story Creek and, to this day, keeps his middle-finger scar as a reminder.

One, two, three
one, two, three
verse stands aside
here comes the chorus
written just for us
one, two, three
one, two, three
story creek farms
a Walsenburg waltz
with plenty of schmaltz

Hippie Days

Fast forward to the next century. Fred and Marigold, passing through Gardner, see a poster advertising Hippie Days – “Let’s go!”

They arrive armed with their copy of Shelter, a 1973 book about alternative structures, building materials and communities, a number of which grew up in Colorado in the 60s and 70s. The large-format, thoroughly illustrated book draws lots of interest. When Fred turns to the Red Rockers page, a woman stabs a finger at the group photo in front of the fifty-foot dome and exclaims, “That’s me! I was three. That girl next to me is a doctor with a degree from Harvard Medical School.”

Her friend looks over her shoulder as Fred identifies his cousin, David. “Didn’t he have a brother who was a junkie?”

Even in the 21st century, hippies are alive and well. Most communities are memories, evoking exasperation and fondness. “That dome was great for parties but it was a big noisy space – really hard to live in. In the summer, we lived in tents and tipis for privacy and sanity.”

Another onlooker remembers Archuleta, where some people lived in Zomes (domes made of aluminum sheeting). Libre is the only community still functioning. An artists’ colony, it sells work at a store in Walsenburg but mostly, the denizens keep to themselves.

Hippie Days shimmies in the sun to great music and belly dancers, with vendors selling vegetarian treats, books, handicrafts, original photos printed on greeting cards, rainbow tie-dyed t-shirts, wind chimes… All the people, even the sheriff’s deputies and the vaqueros, dance as the afternoon lengthens into evening, and No Bad Vibes rules the day.

One, two, three,
One, two, three
Dance and recall –
Hippie Days rock,
Laughter and talk.

Together or Bust!

Some folks can hang out for years, friendly but not too close. Not Marigold and Fred. Seven months into cohabitation, Huerfano County gives them a nudge. Four-day weekend: perfect for work and fun with the household crew. Last week’s snow has melted: perfect conditions for perfect mud, swallowing Fred’s car to its axles.

But Marigold has work the next morning, two hundred miles north. No way to tell her boss she can’t make it so, she grabs her pack, hikes up the road, hitchhikes into town then thumbs her way home, and gets to work on time.

JesterThe next day, Fred wrestles his car out of the mud, driving home by way of the long-gone Red Rocks commune, the dome his cousin shared with thirty other hippies. Fred’s cousin, David, morphed into a film critic for Newsweek. The Red Rocker, Larry Lazlo, hangs his hat in here in Denver, with Co-Media Photography. His celebrity portraits grace Denver’s SIE Film Center today. Everybody starts somewhere.

The Fred and Marigold reunion occasions a hard look: what are we doing? Hanging out, it appears, does not equal “your problem is mine” loyalty. When opposites are in motion, they’re either in mutual orbit or flying off in separate directions. The Weak Force of “kinda-sorta-maybe” doesn’t hold.

So, our Fools must reflect, in the light of the Cosmic Beam:

“You! You! What are you doing?!”
“Who, me? Us?”
“Do it t-t-together!”
“Well……….”
A party-pack of reasons not to… blows away like chaff.
So, laugh!

One, two, three
one, two, three
follow the dream
tapping our toes
wherever it goes
one, two, three
one, two, three
April, she comes
brings what she will
it’s always a thrill

A Foolish Day at the Court House

Huerfano County CourthouseApril 1st, 1981
Opposites drawn like magnetic poles
North and south at the county courthouse
Two fools collide and merge our souls
Writing a story, we find a spouse.

Meeting Judge Murr just before nine,
We say the words and swap the rings
Figuring it will turn out fine,
Like lots of other silly things.

Fred and MarigoldA dyad launched from the Alpha Motel,
Friends at our side who know us well;
A close-kept secret, intensely discussed

We tie the knot and the joke is on us.

one, two, three
one, two, three
you hear the tune
laughing out loud
away from the crowd

one, two, three
one, two three
waltzing thru time
swing with the beat
kick up your feet

Re-invocation

Spanish Peaks, Huerfano CountyBeneath the snowy Spanish Peaks –
The Wahatoya in native speak –
Our tale now ends with Story Creek.
The steady flow of words we speak
On 80 acres of grassy plains,
Bluffs and hills and scrub emerge,
We scratch the land, our lives converge.
Outside the hamlet

– Waltsenburg Waltz

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The Ultimatum – Get in Shape

get_in_shapte

The Ultimatum – Get in Shape

story by Ralph Underwood Fit

One, two, three, four.  Work it out.  Work it out.  One, two, three, four.  Get in SHAPE, Get in SHAPE.  One, two, three, four.  Are you fit?  Are you fit?  One, two, three, four.  Help yourself.  Get in SHAPE.  Work it out.  Please allow me to introduce myself, I’m a man of health and fame.  Ralph Underwood Fit is my name.  My students know me as RU Fit, your personal trainer for the ‘Get in SHAPE’ program.  Try to see it my way and we can work it out.  Get it?  Here’s the deal – with my four-part system, I’m here to help you help yourself with the ‘Self Help Assessment Plan Evaluation’system.  That’s SHAPE, for short.   The shorthand for HELP is easy to understand.  H-E-L-P

H – Have a problem?

E-   Everyone does

L-   Let’s get together and

P –  Party

Now I know you’ve seen those TV bunko artists with the perfect hair and perfect teeth pacing the stage with a headset-microphone pitching all kinds of self-improvement programs – save your money, eat wholesome food, follow my exercise program, learn to bowl or save your soul.  With our SHAPE system you’ll have the tools to empower your life.  The cost to you, the dinner theater audience, is absolutely free and if you’re not  satisfied, we will provide a money back-guarantee.   As I like to tell my students, there’s something lost and something gained in living every day.   So let’s get on with the show.

Living here in the Rocky Mountains, Colorado country, we are at the center of the fitness universe.  Folks move here from around the world to find a self-improvement training program of choice.  It might be body-shaping, cross-fit training aerobics, pilates, weight training, or the extreme sports like ultrarunning, alpine climbing, high altitude trail running, mountain biking, parachuting, couloir skiing, free-soloing, mountaineering, cross-country skiing, downhill racing and the like.  To be clear, our program is about none of that stuff.  The X-Games are not Y-U-R-Here.  RU Fit’s ‘Get in SHAPE program starts with one basic assumption – ‘I still haven’t found, what I’m looking for’.  Here’s the deal.

We all remember the characters in the Wizard of Oz, right?  The Scarecrow who lacks a brain and desires above all else to have one; the Cowardly Lion, king of the jungle, who looks for courage and nerve to conquer his fear and finallythe Tin Woodman who states that he has neither heart nor brain, but cares nothing for the loss of his brain.  As the song goes …

I could while away the hours, conferrin’ with the flowers
Consultin’ with the rain.
And my head I’d be scratchin’ while
my thoughts were busy hatchin’
If I only had a brain.

When a man’s an empty kettle he should be on his mettle,
And yet I’m torn apart.
Just because I’m presumin’ that I could be kind-a-human,
If I only had heart.

Life is sad, believe me, Missy,
When you’re born to be a sissy
Without the vim and verve.
But I could change my habits, never more be scared of rabbits
If I only had the nerve.

The RU Fit SHAPE system begins with a similar set of problems.  Mine.  It was helplessness, and lots of it.  Hence the desire to be helpful.  To get the heart of the matter, I developed the SHAPE program out of a strong desire to help people help themselves.  Here’s a few examples.   In junior high iI was raising money for the Toys for Tots program providing the Marine Corps recruiters with gifts for the young victims of the Vietnam war.  In high school I was leading fund drive for the US AID program, providing protein powder food supplements to the starving Ibo population suffering malnutrition and genocide in the Nigerian Biafran war.  In the college years, I was helping a Mexican family reunite across the US border and later, I did combat duty as an inner city bilingual school teacher in South Center Los Angeles – a war zone in an urban barrio.  At some point during those teaching years, RU Fit got the message, ‘help yourself Mr. Teacher man. we’ve got to get out of this place if it’s the last thing we ever do”.

Fast forward a few decades and let’s take a close look at the SHAPE program in action.  The case study involves   the Rebuilding Together program, a national non-profit group that organizes home improvement projects  The raison d’etre behind Rebuilding Together is providing good will, volunteer effort to provide help to families or individuals in need of assistance.   Similar to the ‘Habitat for Humanity’, this program is the nation’s largest home/community repair program with thousands of projects across the country every year.  In one day, houses are made into homes, racial, social and religious barriers are broken and lives are transformed.  Back in the Washington DC area, our temple volunteered one year to the next either painting, scraping, hauling or hammering to put a new look on an old home.

In the early ‘90s, we met a man who had certainly helped himself in Life.  Warner was an 80-year old black man living alone in a 3-story townhouse off Florida Ave in Northeast DC.  As a proud army veteran, Warner had marched into Berlin at the end of WWII as part of the liberation forces.  His distinguished military career lasted another 30 years and in the early ‘70s he was discharged with honors from the service.  His home was decorated with medals and commendations and yet he had been living alone for many years, a ward of his church, with no immediate family to care for him.   Although blind in one eye, Warner could take care of himself, and he liked to cook.  To improve his home, a project was planned to remodel his kitchen and the Rebuilding Together team began work on a Saturday with a tear-out of the old cabinet and countertop fixtures.   In the corner of his kitchen, our crew piled the cabinet contents onto a few tables so everything was ready for the remodeling job the next day.

On Sunday morning our crew chief Larry and I parked in the alley behind Warner’s home.  It was early in the day, an hour or so before the remodeling volunteers were scheduled to arrive.  “You know Larry, I’d be relieved if you go to meet Warner.  Chaos is about to descend on his home.  You might want to see if he’s still expecting us to invade his townhouse to pound nails, scrape paint and make noise on this early Sunday morning. Let’s make sure that Warner is in good SHAPE before the worker bees arrive”.   So Larry left the van in the alley and walked around to the front door while I waited for the ‘all clear’ sign to come on in.  It was one of those moments in life when everything comes to a complete stop, like the scene in that sci-fi classic, ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ when Klaatu the alien freezes time to give humans a last chance to save themselves from mutually assured destruction, self- annihilation, nuclear war and the like.  After twenty minutes or so, Larry came out the back door of Warner’s home, looking white as a ghost.

“What happened Larry?”

“Something bad,” he said.

“Did Warner have a heart attack?”

“No, worse”.

“Did he die?”

“No, worse”.

“OK, he didn’t die or have a heart attack, what could be worse than that?”

“Around 7am, Warner got out of bed and went downstairs to fix breakfast.  He went over to the kitchen stuff we had left in the corner and poured himself a glass of apple juice.  The four ounces of fluid he drank was PineSol, not apple juice.  He did manage to call 911 before he collapsed and the medics were wheeling him out the front door when I arrived”.

“Holy crap.   What should we do with all the volunteers coming over to fix his kitchen?” “I’ll take care of the crew”, he said.  “Let’s have you call the Rebuilding Together office and get some advice”. I rang up the local HQ and explained in a panic that ‘we’d fixed his wagon, not the kitchen’.  They told me to stay put while they sent their attorney over to take a deposition.   While awaiting the legal-eagle to arrive I started thinking once again about the desire to be helpful and the design of the SHAPE program we are presenting tonight.  A few basic ideas came to mind.

  1. The road to hell is paved with good intentions
  2. Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong
  3. Murphy was an optimist
  4. No good deed goes unpunished

To this very day,   still hear Warner, mumbling something about, ‘go help yourself’ as they rolled him out the door In the end, the whole mess sorted itself out.  They pumped his stomach in the hospital, the crew built out the kitchen, the attorney got his statement and the Rebuilding Together program learned a thing or two about dealing with adversity in the mission of helping other people’s lives.

OK?  Got the picture?  The SHAPE system (a  Self-Help Assessment Evaluation Program) is designed to make helpful people more successful with their mission.  Unfortunately, things don’t always work out as planned.   Remember that example,  Klaatu the alien, in ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’.  He lands his spaceship on the DC mall and emerges with his sidekick, Gort to bring peace and harmony to our ragtag planet Earth.  And what happens?  He presents a harmless device as “a gift for the American President… to study life on other planets. The army guys shoot him, right?  Nevermind, he’s a determined fellow (Klaatu Barada Nikto).  At the end of the film he stops all electric power on Earth for 30 minutes to show what would happen if we humans threaten peace in space,  Damn if the soldiers shoot him again.  You just can’t win.

One, two, three, four.  Work it out.  Work it out.  One, two, three, four.  Get in SHAPE, Get in SHAPE.  One, two, three, four.  Are you fit?  Are you fit?  One, two, three, four.  Help yourself.  Get in SHAPE.  Work it out.  Try to see it my way and we can work it out.  Get it?  Here’s the deal – about that four-part SHAPE system, it turns out that the HELP we are assessing is really another acronym, word scramble and when properly sorted out leads us to the conclusion (almost) – Help stands for – ‘HUMANIZE EVERY LIVING PERSON’ (so Help me finish) –

If I wanted your assistance / I’d offer no resistance / Trying never to escape

I would take your HELP on Sunday / To my office on the Monday /And work to get in SHAPE.

I may not be the wizard / To fix or tame a blizzard / To keep us safe and warm

But with the HELP we are providing / We’ll take your shadow out of hiding / Give you shelter from the storm

If this story has a moral / To keep with you tomorrow /It’s a straight and simple song

Just SHAPE up your demeanor / To keep from getting meaner / Can’t we all just get along?

And that’s the SHAPE we’re in

ultimatum

 

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Tribute to Yevgeny Yevtushenko

NY Times obit-tribute  4/1/17 –http://securityfeeds.net/tweil/city_of_yes_no/yevtushenko_obit.pdf

The City of Yes and the City of No – a surging outcry against repression

Performance Poet (1966) – LIFE photo

Book signing at Washington Festival of Books (2006)

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Fool Courting Dance

Fool Courting Dance

A ROADSIDE DISTRACTION

The FoolFirst eve of their journey, SF to Boulder, T-Bone asks Mobility B (MoB for short) to stop in Carson City, so he can gamble. But he sleeps thru town, and wakes up in Reno.

“Here we are,” MoB announces. He goes into a casino and the baker loses his dough. Night in some fleabag. Next day, Palm Sunday, down US 50 – the road less travelled and, 20 miles past Fallon, the Squid has its second flat tire.

“You know MoB,” says T-Bone, “I worked as a tow truck driver with a Holmes-440 rig on the LA Freeways. Changed many a spare tire for a lady in distress.”

“No problem,” says T-Bone, “here’s what we’ll do: I’ll jack up this jacked-up car and you, with the jack (I’m broke flat) will take of business back in town. How’s that sound?”

T-Bone is cashless, MoB has travelers checks. She hitchhikes back to Fallon, a flat tire on its rim under each arm, and calls up 24-Hour Repair.

Guy says, “I hope you don’t think I’m gonna give you a ride clear out there.”

“Oh no, not at all. I’ll just hitchhike.”

He mounts and balances two new tires. “Well, you still got still half an hour on the clock – I’ll drive you out to your car.”

“Thanks!”

“But I hope you don’t think I’m gonna put ’em on the car for you.”

“Oh no, not at all. I’ll do that.”

Back at the roadside broke-down Squid, T-Bone gets flashed with a ‘Ben Franklin’ impulse and, unpacking his Indian Tiger Kite, he walks sagebrush over tumbleweed, over cactus, out in the desert landscape to ‘go fly a kite’. There, he spends an hour or two dancing the Tiger Kite in the freedom of the Nevada wind.

About this time, MoB and Repair Guy arrive at the Squid to find T-Bone flying a kite. Repair guy puts both tires on the car – nice guy! No longer stranded, MoB and T-Bone take comfort in the 1969 Falcon Station Wagon with a black fender, a grey one, the rest of the body gold. A cracked windshield and all their stuff sitting there on the US-50 shoulder. This Squid, a veritable ‘bucket of bolts’, holds these two fools together at this dead-stop intersection of their young itinerant lives.

CORRESPONDENCE COURSE

Roll back the clock 4 months, to November in Boulder: MoB gets the Cosmic Kick in the Ass and abruptly obtains an old cheap car, and away she goes like a balloon with a hole in it, launched spinning, Alaska-bound, while friend, T-Bone, stays in Boulder to study computers, baking French bread to make bread.

Before parting waves, parting ways, T-Bone lays down some terms and conditions so that MoB and guy can communicate through space time – as retold by the poet, Jaime De Angelo:

Fox was the only living man. There was no earth. The water was everywhere.
“What shall I do,” Fox asked himself.
He began to sing, in order to find out. “I would like to meet somebody,” Fox said. Then he met Coyote.
“I thought I was going to meet someone,” Fox said.
“Where are you going?” Coyote asked.
“I’ve been wandering all over, trying to find someone. I was worried there for a while.”
“Well, it’s better for two people to go together … that’s what they always say.”
“OK. But what will we do?”
“I don’t know.”
“I got it! Let’s try to make the world.”
“And how are we going to do that?” Coyote asked.
“Sing!” said Fox.

The deal is sealed. MoB and her Squidmobile are launched on her maiden, epic voyage …

Dear T-Bone – thoughts from Montrose:
strange town
cold night
full moon
trains
Play me that harmonica again.

typing
stopping
why should it distract me
that you are baking bread?

If I had a job
a van
needed a cup of coffee
I might be there.

Instead I have a boat
and miles
and piles of words
to tell the world
& hope they want to know
& so I go
on the great black river
in my rubber-keeled fish
with a beer
& the AM bands
& these 2 hands
to guide it all along.

It can’t be wrong
– feels like paradise
under this sky
a place to be,
& places going by …
Harmonica

I tried that harmonica
– where’d you find those notes,
that train-whistle-moan
that mournful tune?

Asphalt busy with campers
jeeps, trailers, trios in orange.
Kill those elk, fill that freezer,
maybe something
for the mantelpiece.
We swim concurrent on the highway
in our different streams
– Could they really be nearer
than you?

Play that train again,
I’ll let you know.

A Cool November Night

Monday

Well, well, well

There you are. Cool blueberry country. Home of the Stamper family. “Never give an inch.” Milessssss down the road. How ya doin’?, Miss Mobility?

Here I sits. Little House on the Prairie, North Boulder style, me, Augusto, Justin & Julie stashed in their rooms watching Jane and Papa Henry Fonda in a movie. Time winds down to the holiday season and sometimes, a lot of things happen when you’re standing still.

In Bend
They don’t extend
that helpin’ hand
tho’ friendly as can be.
“No Boy Scouts we &
owe you nuthin’
oh you nuthin'”
don’t y’ see
ain’t nobody poor
‘cept fools like me
footloose & free
But they don’t give
a time of day
to anyone who lives my way
– “You have no phone?
Scram you can’t
wash dishes here
Why they’re standin’ in line
Bribin’ each other to get lost
they want this $20 a day
job so much.”
So, “You know where your
job fits the best
– put it there –
I don’t wanna take yer test
Think I pack m’ bags &
head north, north & west

Into land of fog & rain
I am the Fish’s nose again

Skeezo
Frenic news

“I’m here to welcome you to wherever you think it is you think you’re at.” – X Swami X

“Poetry’s trash, mere cloud of words, comfort to the hopeless. But this is no cloud, no syllabled phantom that stands shaking its sword at you.” – Unferth to Grendel

“Sounds like you got a Tennessee to be Seattled in Washington for a Weil. Well good for you. With a little luck, we may vectorize at some future date. But vector rays are hopelessly divergent lines. Think about Heisenberg’s Law – “If you can see her, she doesn’t exist.” Ergo ~~~ if she’s far away she’s probably doing O.K.”

I have a room that’s pretty bare:
there’s one low table, still no chair.
Not a dresser for my clothes –
Boxes stacked are holding those.
The closet’s large, with many hooks
and hanger space and shelves and nooks.
There is a lamp, and ceiling light
but neither of them’s very bright.
The wooden floor could use some wax
to cover many cuts & cracks,
but then, the ceiling’s fairly high,
there’s lots of space, it’s warm & dry.
Alaska’s hanging by the door
the bed is adequate & more.
The kitchen’s nice – the stove is gas
(they’re hard to find up here – alas!).
The Iron Squid down on the street
is parked beneath where sparrows meet.
Poor Squid! I’d like to keep him clean
But then, where park the old machine?
Athlete’s foot creeps between toes
– I have those Coastal Climate woes!

Well, guess I’ll send this off to you;
if you get the urge to rhyme back, do!

MoB:
Slip-sliding away, the closer to your destination the more you go {drawing of slope written slip sliding away.

I realize that Boulder ain’t happening for y’all but I thoughts your direction was headed towards the LAND (no mention of Spanish Peaks homestead in correspondence). My prejudice is to get something concrete out of this place before I splits elsewhere. & I have unilateral Arian drive to get computer job security under the belt (or at least to give it the ol’ college try).

Journey to Folk Arts Music. (Sing song to strangers on the street). Present song to local folk artists (& croissants for a good review) Man on phone bluegrass artist, with an air of silence that conquers all. He speaks quietly, “That was an agent for Nashville Studio they want me to go cut a record, $50,000 guaranteed.” (Yesterday he played Molly’s for nickels & dimes). Played my pitch to his pitch –

Battle for a New Oil Lease

Iran in the cameras
Iran in the papers
Iran in the White House
Where the oil money flows
Iran so bad
Our Army couldn’t touch ’em
They took our radar bases
In the Gulf of Texaco
French bakery
Later lying at home, wishing I had someone to go to Molly’s with bluegrass Ned was going to sing my song tonight. DARN.
Midnite
Back to the ovens.
No more Cinderfella stories.

Briefing for a descent into a boiler… Tomorrow I get to put in a ~ 24-hour shift taking measurements of wall-thickness in aforementioned place. Scaffolding, heights, bad smell, long hours, numbers.

Do you sing? Do you dance?
Do you laugh without a joke?
Ever swing, take a chance, share illegal smoke?
Do you jive while you drive, let your spirit free?
Do you miss that fishy kiss, do you think of me?

Anyway
should I say
what you are to me?
Someone kind (scale & fin) to ( ) unbindingly
(You won’t like it if I write it so I leave ( ) blank –
Friendship’s fresh air without pressure, nothing if not frank).
Send me a letter, I’ll write a poem better –
I never know what I’ll say.
Just take a blank sheet, the ink & the words meet,
follow it all of the way!

CALL & RESPONSE:

So, I went down to the Crossroads, just to spend some time.
In these still moments, lettuce take time to look ahead at our divergent vector rays and consider these possible scripts, well —

  1. MoB goes to Canada marries an Eskimo.
    Naa!
  2. T-Bone goes to IBM, marries a Computer.
    Hope naa!
  3. MoB goes to North Pole, polar bears hate alfalfa sprouts, comes back to Boulder … huff buff.
    Nope. [I wanna go forward! No Boulder Buff!]
  4. T-Bone scatters in April.
    Yep!
  5. MoB comes back to Boulder CO, MoB & T-Bone link up.
    Y Not?
  6. T-Bone: I’ve a mind to give up living and go shopping instead.
    Don’t buy it’s all inferior goods
    high prices & who needs it?

Inquiry:

Everytime I find myself empty-handed & things are dull I Fold Paper.
Tonight, I make Kangaroos.
The paper is Creased
Pinched
Curled
Pointed
then isn’t Just Paper
Making birds
What sort of financial future
might an Origami Artist
carve out
(fold out?)
of a 1980s (!!) society?
Into what circles
of that society
might I Fold
Curl
Point
my way
to manipulating some
material
clay
paper
sometime
metal
stone
wood
food
words
Making
birds
turtles
Stirring up
the cup of wonder
Cutting adult webs asunder
to free the child
living under —
An elder child
a Fool
must be
But I would rather
Fool and Free
Than smarter be in
Misery.
If someone laughs
& lights those eyes
I feel I have done
something Wise
so why not awake
by an image, I make
some slumbering corner of mind
where a person is kind
can have joy
a free heart
in this world
not apart
Is there such a
market
today?
Intelligence is
What You Use
& Luck of the Muse
Not just Logic
& Pedagogic concluse.
Bend a thought or 2 my way
& le’me know what you have to say.

Cobbler

MoB
Good Friend of Mine
Thanks for the Note
Thought I’d drop you a line
The trouble, it seems
If I follow your rime
Would be Making cents
While unfolding time
The solution we find
Is not much of a problem
We’ll put you to work
In a big Kindergarten!
Alas & Alack
She moans with a scorn
“I’ve really no use
for the not-quite-yet born.”
“If I’m to return
To my land as a native
I must strike out new
With a task that’s creative.”
Want ads are wanting
Who needs a position
When with words and with paper
You’re a folding magician.
Now girl, here’s some lip
From a new age visionary
I’ve looked into the future
And sister, it’s scary.
Scarcity, hunger & famine it seems
May be riding the crest of an American dream.
Without any roots, we’re just tumbleweeds
Blowing around in the Dustbowl of need.
(In the world of the doomsayers
Life’s never too rosy
T needs MoB or
He’ll never be cozy)
MoB needs busy
Or she’ll never be happy
T [bone] it seems
Is going quite daffy.
(On cold days at home
We used to make taffy).
Stop.
Breathe.
Maybe these ramblings aren’t crazy
If we can stretch the mind’s vision
Like that old home made candy
And pat it around in the palms
There’s a chance we’ll
Create a Confection
That’s Grand!
(Watch out now, it’s HOT)
Luv,
T Bone

[FADE BACK TO THE ROADSIDE SQUID]

Fools Courting drive off into the great Salt Lake desert, alternator light blinking red and dark while semi truck mudflaps slap road grit and sleet snow into Squid’s cracked windshield. MoB lies prone on the seat, unable to watch, while T-Bone guides the sliding wheels, driving half blind into the night.

So, after those rhyme-times, they take a chance –
in Boulder, he finds he can hold her,
she finds it’s no colder –
Just what he told her –
They stoke the fire so it won’t smolder,
Each offers a supporting shoulder –
living by whatever rules
pop out of their molecules
Silliness and wit their tools.
There we leave our courting fools.

[SEGUE WITH HARMONICA]

Hohner harmonicaI tried that harmonica
– where’d you find those notes,
that train-whistle-moan
that mournful tune?

Play me that harmonica again.

ILLUSTRATIONS

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Who Wants to be a Homeless Person?

Who Wants to be a Homeless Person?

To compete for prizes in front of our live studio audience, you potential contestants have been invited here to the universal ‘Hobo Jungle’ sound stage for a dry run and a simulation of that popular game show – “Who Wants to be a Homeless Person?”  A few tips before we get started – please refrain from pandering during our rehearsal. No shenanigans, smoking, drinking or swearing are allowed.  And for God’s sake – don’t just stand there – do nothing.  Finally, all questions put to you must be answered in the time allowed.  The clock’s already ticking so let’s get started.

When introduced by our host, master of ceremonies, Rocky Feller, state your name clearly, give a brief personal statement and if you know it, the GPS coordinates of the city blocks or territory you inhabit.  For example, “Dempster Dumpster, scavenger and gleaner, Petticoat Junction” would be a good reply.  “Boxcar Bertha, railroad denizen, Grand Central Station” is OK but “Darrell Licht, vagrant and freeloader, any street corner USA” is a bit too vague.  Try “Wazee and 15th St. if you can’t remember your territory”.  39.753049 latitude,-105.0019142 longitude will get you extra points.

After our 1st commercial break (‘Mr. Clean gets rid of dirt and grime and grease in just a minute.  Mr. Clean will clean your own house and everyone that’s in it.  Mr. Clean, Mr. Clean, Mr. Clean), it’s time to play “Who Wants to be a Homeless Person?” so wait for the Applause sign to dim and give Rocky Feller your full attention as he reviews our game board.  Categories for your questions might look like these –   Cheap Wine, Midnight Choir, Outdoor Plumbing, Signage, Railroads, Campaign Slogans and ‘The Law’.  You will each have a wheelbarrow of blank cardboard signs and a collection of multi-colored markers to write down your answers.   Remember to keep your answers brief and directed to the questions at hand.  Answers like ‘God Loves You’, ‘Homeless Vet’ and ‘I’ve Got a Family to Feed’ will win you no points.  Let’s try a practice round –

Category – Cheap Wine.  Music Plays – “Down in New Orleans where everything’s fine, all them people are socking that wine.  Drinking wine is their delight and when they get drunk they’re goin’ to fight all night.  Give me wine, wine wine spodiodie”.   What’s a spodiodie? – Answer – A wine spodiodie is a shot that has a layer of Port Wine on the bottom, then a layer of (cheap) bourbon, finished on the top by another layer of Port.

Category – Midnight Choir – ‘That saved a bum like me’ comes from what gospel hymn? – Answer Amazing Grace.

Category – Campaign Slogans – What is the slogan of the Homeless Party? – Answer “Will be President for Food”.

Great.  Now about those prizes you’re playing for.  Finalists in the round of champions will compete for rewards like

  • A monogrammed, freshly painted park bench with guaranteed newspaper delivery for a full year.
  • Personalized street corner signage and a direct deposit box for your daily tips and donations
  • The company of your friends at the Big Rock Candy Mountain resort (and rest home).

Good luck contestants.  Play hard, play fair and play to win.

Music outro plays in the ‘Hobo Jungle’ sound stage – homeless

Trailers for sale or rent
Rooms to let, fifty cents
No phone, no pool, no pets
I ain’t got no cigarettes

Ah, but two hours of pushin’ broom
Buys an eight by twelve four bit room
I’m a man of means by no means
King of the road

Third boxcar, midnight train
Destination, Bangor, Maine
Old worn out clothes and shoes
I don’t pay no union dues

I smoke old stogies I have found
Short, but not too big around
I’m a man of means by no means
King of the road

I know every engineer on every train
All of their children and all of their names
And every handout in every town
And every lock that ain’t locked
When no one’s around

I sing, trailers for sale or rent
Rooms to let, fifty cents
No phone, no pool, no pets
I ain’t got no cigarettes

King of the Road – Roger Miller

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Read the Latest Story – Follow the Leader

t33

© 2016 Tim Weil, Stories and Songs

The Troop Song

The Hawk Patrol has standards high
We’re moving forward all the time
This cast of hawks never lets you down
We’re Scouters on the uphill climb
We’re honor bound to service
On brotherhood our aims depend
We’re all of like persuasion joined
That Scouting may not ever end

troop33_1927_sm

Fall of the Leader

On a sunny August Sunday in the Maine woods, parents, friends and scouts slowly stumble out of their campsites for the breakfast drill.  Cooks assemble, coffee pots heat and the pancake griddle sizzles.  No one is really awake and several kids pull the sleeping bag over their heads in hope of avoiding yet another work detail.  Scoutmaster Pat Donnelly (Mr. D), has yet to appear.  This summer marks his 20th  year with Troop33, and the memory of many trips gone by drifts over this campground – scenic places along the Eastern seaboard as far north as Acadia National Park in Maine, as far west as Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, and as far south as the Great Smokey Mountains in North Carolina.

As shepherd of the flock, Mr. D. had seen it all – hundreds of teenage boys, dozens of adventures, family convoys and the almost accidental progress of boys growing into men.  With scouting as a compass, pointing towards the North Star of young adulthood, he has guided these lads past family comforts into the world of uncertainty and beyond.  Yes, Mr. D. has seen it all, but today he does not rise for the morning program.

Two scouts playing cards at a picnic table are interrupted by a young boy frightened and shaking as he tries to speak.  “Did you hear what happened?  Mr. D. has died in his tent.  Heart attack”.  The card players laugh.  “It’s too early for jokes.  Why don’t you go chop wood, make a fire and burn some bacon?  We’ve got better things to do than to listen to your nonsense”.  But the joke won’t go away.   As the morning unfolds, a tragedy of silence spreads from Mr. D.’s tent and fear takes holds throughout the troop.  Faced with the harshness of a death in the woods adults scramble making calls to 911.  A medical team arrives to take Mr. D. away.    The troop has lost their leader.

The chaos of an aborted camping trip follows with  the slow sadness of campsite breakdown and the long sullen drive home to Maryland with cars full of sorrowful children and grieving friends.

Closing the Ranksare-we-there-yet

In the sad summer weeks ahead, a proper memorial is arranged for Mr. D. and dozens of tributes pour in, testimony to the years of community service Mr. D. has given to Troop33.  A new scoutmaster steps forward, Frankie Cloud (Mr. C), himself an Eagle Scout, now a government attorney with his own son part of the program.  Other parents, new to the troop, step forward to offer volunteer service.  Wiley Timmons is one of these new recruits.  A former public school teacher, with a teenager in Troop33, his experience is zero (“my mom paid me $5 to quit cub scouts”).   No matter.  Wiley’s wife, Marigold, gives him plenty of encouragement.  Her dad, Lloyd, had been a Colorado scoutmaster for twenty years, a Norman Rockwell type of  ‘knowing and capable’ leader.  ‘You’ll figure it out as you go’ she says.

Encouraged by Marigold and welcomed by Mr. C., Wiley asks for advice.  “So what do I do next?”.  Mr. C. recommends Wiley to a Scout Leadership program and asks him to enroll, accompanied by Eddie, a college dropout on his second (or third) drug rehab program.  .Mr. C. is plain in his motives.  “Looking to you two to ‘learn the ropes’ so to speak and maybe help Eddie get his act together.  How’s that sound?  By the way, you’ve already missed the first class but I’m sure you can figure this program out.  You know, ‘tie the knots, sing the songs, learn some first aid, camping skills, leadership training and stuff like that”.  Wiley is ready to go.  He’s moving forward, all the time.

The Hawk Patrol

hawk-patrol2

On a Tuesday night, at a Methodist Church near the county landfill, Wiley and Eddie join the Hawk Patrol, a group of 10 adults assembled as a working scout team.  Their leader and coach is Russ Faraday, an off-duty motorcycle policemanbuilt like an offensive lineman.  Russ knows how to get your attention, give orders, and train adults as capable scout leaders.   He is quick with advice – “There will be 4 more meetings of the Hawk patrol followed by an overnight camping weekend to test your scouting and leadership skills.  You know, tie the knots, sing the songs, first aid, camping skills and following orders.   Stuff like that.  Each meeting begins with a color guard, Pledge of Allegiance and the Troop Song .  With 6 other patrols  enrolled  we have 70 adults for the leadership program.  “Don’t miss any class and you’ll all be fine.  As the song  goes ‘we’re all of like persuasion joined that scouting may not ever end’.

The weeks go by quickly .  By the fourth class Eddie is gone.   Wiley keeps up with his studies.  He likes the songs.  Fire safety, merit badges, orienteering, first aid are easy for him.  Following orders,  not so much.  This thing about the patrol method (chain of command) just doesn’t fit his 60s-era, anarchist personality.  Russ always offers sage advice –  ‘Buckle up, huckle buck.  We’re moving forward all the time’.  By week 5 the Hawk patrol are ready for the overnight camping weekend at a local state park and for two days they run the gamut of scouting drills.  Highlighting scout teamwork, Hawk Patrol builds a bridge out of timber and rope, lashing together a sturdy structure allowing 20 adults to ford a narrow stream. On Saturday afternoon clouds darken and the rain pours into the night.  Now the program is really getting under Wiley’s skin.

cobbler

That rainy evening, on kitchen duty, he gets the KP assignment as dessert chef tocreate Peach Cobbler surprise using Dutch oven and coals.  Too bad he can’t follow directions – Can of peaches, biscuit mix, sugar, fire and coals are the recipe for Dutch oven cooking.  No one told him about putting coals on top of the Dutch oven cast iron lid.  Without overhead heat from the coals, the doughy biscuit mix sinks into the mélange of lukewarm peaches and juice, creating a lovely tepid mixture, a chewy fruit surprise.  Good though.  Given the cold and  rainy weather, culinary skills don’t matter and Hawk Patrol devours the dessert.

bridge

Shake Down

After this deluge in the woods, the Hawk Patrol’s soggy weekend ends on Sunday afternoon and Wiley emerges a seasoned scout leader.  He has tied the knots, sung the songs, given first aid, and used camping skills, leadership training and stuff like that.  When he gets back to his home and kids (Marigold is away) he goes straight to the hearth to light a wood-stoked fire and bring heat back to his weary bones.   Within minutes, the living room fills with smoke.  ‘Damn the damper’ he curses.   Handkerchief to his face, Wiley fiddles with the fireplace and opens the flue.   Windows fly open and the kids just laugh at their Dad, the scouting man, trying to asphyxiate his family.

Next Tuesday night, Wiley and 70 scout leader trainees arrive for the graduation class.  Lots of high fives, atta-boys and camaraderie of team spirit fill the room.  A couple of speeches from the trainers start the program – ‘be proud of yourselves, you’ve completed the course, learned the skills and are ready to be leaders for your own scouting program’.  As the names are called, Wiley waits for the ‘Ts’ near the end of the alphabet.  ‘Wiley Timmons please come forward’.   In front of the assembled audience, Wiley shuffles forward to receive his certificate from Russ.  The handshake is offered but just before Wiley makes contact Russ pulls back his hand to remark – ‘you missed the 1st class right?  Sorry, you can’t graduate tonight.  You’ll have to come back in the Spring for the makeup program’.

Dazed and confused, Wiley returns to his Hawk Patrol table.  WTF.  He speaks with the other trainers who advise him to call next week and sort things out.  Making the calls he finds that he’s talking to several members of the county police department who have volunteered their time for scout leadership training.  The general conversation is like trying to talk your way out of a traffic citation – ‘uh huh, uh huh, uh huh, no’.  Come back in the Spring and finish the training’.  Mr. C. offers words of encouragement – ‘you tie the knots, sing the songs, and give first aid, master camping skills, and leadership training.  You’ll be fine’.  Russ sends a ‘mea culpa’ letter.  ‘I should have kept a better eye on you so you wouldn’t miss the makeup class.  I’m still learning myself.  Come back next Spring and finish the training’.

Wiley joins Troop33 as an Assistant Scout Master.  He patiently waits until Spring to finish the leadership training program.  The agenda for class is to recite and study the Pledge of Allegiance and to fold the American flag.  When he passes the class his scouting son consoles him – ‘don’t forget Dad, two thirds of BSA is still BS’.

Fall of the Leader (part II)

A good training program can stick with you for a long time.  With three years of university training Wiley had once managed a year of teaching in the ethnic, inner city neighborhoods of South Central LA.  With six weeks of Scout Leadership training, he has improved.  Wiley stays with his Troop33 program for 10 years and over time helps 25 kids (including both his sons) advance to the rank of Eagle Scout.  Eddie and Russ don’t do so good.

Two years past the Hawk Patrol classes, Eddie makes the local county news, arrested for multiple armed robberies in the affluent homes of suburban Maryland.  He gets fifteen years in the penitentiary for his crimes.  The last time Wiley and Russ run into each other they are both riding the DC metro. Russ is escorting some inner city kids to a Redskins football game.  He remembers Wiley and gives him a football poster for his kids.  A couple of years later Russ appears in the local county news.  On an ‘off-duty’ motorcycle trip in West Virginia, Russ is killed by a car, jumping the median and crashing into the bike.

By now, Mr. C has left Troop33, replaced as Scoutmaster by Sailor Man, another community parent who like Wiley, has gone through the scout training program with Russ.  Together they tie the knots, sing the songs, and give first aid, master camping skills, and leadership training.   Stuff like that.  Wiley and Sailor Man attend the memorial service for Russ,  an evening of tribute and mourning,.  To pay homage to a respected member of this community, a dozen police cars blink their patrol car lights outside the funeral home.  Inside, hundreds of people queue up for the casket viewing and memorial service.  A squad of county policeman perform close-order drill in tribute to their fallen colleague.   Sailor Man and Wiley pay their last respects.

trained

As the song goes, ‘this cast of Hawks never lets you down’.  They carry on Russ’s leadership training, working together with Troop33 for the next severalyears.  They tie the knots, give first aid, and teach the camping skills, passing on the lessons handed down from their Hawk Patrol.  Stuff like that.  Wiley still writes the songs.

schmidt

Talkin’ Scout Master Blues
At Boy Scout camp, in West Virginia country
Kids went camping with our trusty Scoutmaster
Who brought his whistle and mosquito-net stockings
Took us hiking, canoeing, and rocking
Timber bashing,
Capsizing
Having a good time

Now Troop33 are a mighty good bunch
They get up in the morning just in time for Lunch
When the work patrol starts, you know it’s a winner
They will be on the job when it’s time for Dinner!
‘Cause they’re busy,
Building campfires,
Having a good time

There’s Andrew, Alex, Alex and Chris
And Brian and Brian (who did I miss)
Dan, Danny, Daniel and Daniel
(somebody give me a cocker spaniel)
There’s Evan, Mark, Michael and Nick
Page and Patrick (that will do the trick)
Trina and Tyke (who have I forgot)
Nobody!

This song’s almost over but the story’s not done
There are many more trips that we haven’t begun
So when you’re back in school and Life’s really a bummer
Keep your eyes on the trail
We’ll see you next summer
Timber bashing,
Capsizing,
Having a good time.

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Bowling for Dollars

Bowling for Dollars

by Tim & N.C. Weil

Eagle Bank Bowl - Bowling for Dollars by Tim & N.C. Weil - Stories and Songs

for the love of the game

T for Temple U
T for Temple U
U-ni-versity!
Fight, fight, fight!
For the Cherry and the White.
For the Cherry and the White,
We’ll fight, fight, fight!
We are the Mighty Bruins,
the best team in the West.
We’re marching on to Vic-tor-y
to conquer all the rest.
We are the Mighty Bruins,
triumphant evermore
and you can hear
from far and near,
the Mighty Bruin roar.
U-C-L-A Fight, Fight, Fight!

A Sporting Enigma

“How about this? How about it?”

Marigold was scrambling the morning breakfast while Ernesto burnt the toast. Fred’s coffee mug jiggled in his hands as he excitedly read the morning sports wire headline.

“This is it. We’ve made it. It says right here that Ernesto’s college, Temple University, will be battling Grandpa’s UCLA Bruins, right here in DC at the ‘The Eagle Bank Bowl’ (whatever the hell that is)!

“We’ve got to go. It’s going to be ‘The Big Game’.”

RFK Stadium - Bowling for Dollars by Tim & N.C. Weil - Stories and Songs

Ernesto tossed the charred toast into the compost and reloaded the bread incinerator, thinking what a cold place in December RFK stadium can be. He considered the few reasons any evolved person would risk the prevalent threat of freezing to death outside –

  1. A loved one is stranded on a frigid evening and must be saved before nightfall.
  2. Through years of training, a seasoned athlete has earned the right to compete in the Winter Olympics (held at the South Pole).
  3. It is the 1800s and someone they vaguely know, told another person that they know that someone they definitely know, might have found gold in them thar hills of the Yukon.

In his mind, watching the Temple Owls in a meaningless college bowl game did not quite make the list.

Marigold chimed in. “Aren’t those tickets expensive? Can we afford to go?”

Fred read on –

“It says here, in the paper, that UCLA will be making its eighth bowl appearance in 10 years and the game is a price-is-right experience. UCLA failed to earn one of the six bowl spots affiliated with the Pacific 10 Conference but was able to accept an invitation to the Eagle Bank Bowl because the game was a break-even proposition financially. In 2001, the Bruins declined a bowl appearance because of the cost. When they were invited to the 2001 Humanitarian Bowl, organizers asked the school to commit to a ‘sponsorship’ of at least $300,000. While Bowl Championship Series games offer huge paydays, some lower-tier games now require schools to buy as many as 10,000 tickets to the game to participate.”

“Can we bear to miss it?” Fred demanded.

“This is our big opportunity to see a bowl game,” Marigold acquiesced.

“Well, when you put it that way… Resistance is futile.”

Some people might wonder about the brilliance of scheduling a winter, post-season game in Washington DC, which, while not New England, is pretty far from the Sunny South. This ‘Eagle Bowl’ looks to be a ten-year contract in the concrete palace called RFK stadium. Might as well hold it in Siberia. The turf will be like tundra. But a bowl game is a Bowl Game. They won’t have hotel or airfare costs. This is their chance. Tickets are purchased. Let the hype begin.

Team Spirit

In the economics of collegiate sports, Temple football had been in danger of being banned from post-season play during the previous season. After two miserable years, a third consecutive low NCAA rating for the Temple football team would ban them from bowl competitions. Back in 2001, Temple was forced out of the league due to poor attendance averages, non-competiveness and a lack of commitment to the football program from university officials. This year was different. The Owls were playing competitive football and the Eagle Bank Bowl was their first bowl game in 30 years. The last time the Owls played for post-season glory, Jimmy Carter was president and Babe by Styx was at the top of the charts.

For UCLA, it was all about Westwood pride. The Bruins team had played in 35 bowl games in its history, compiling a record of 16-18-1. After their 4-8 record last year, UCLA’s coach made appearing in a bowl game a primary goal.

“I understand there is bean counting that has to take place,” Coach said, “but I also understand that there will be more beans the better we do. Of course, any momentum the Bruins might gain would be killed by a loss to a Temple program making its first post-season game in 30 years.”

For Temple University’s highly funded but largely unsuccessful football franchise, this game was indeed the Big One. This being their third bowl appearance in 110 seasons and, coming off the disgrace of being ineligible earlier in the decade, the Temple athletics department invested in a 104-page glossy commemorative post-season guide, to celebrate their new-found football accolades. It didn’t hurt that they’d be facing an opponent whose gridiron feats were the stuff of legend. Defeating them would only heap greater glory upon the Owls. Sportscasters would take note of this game, thanks to the Bruins, a team to follow and by following them, would surely remark on the worthiness of this contest.

Cast off the chains of moderation! Greatness demands excess. While others toil abjectly, football patriots take to the stadium to win honor; to wreathe their school in victory; to achieve greatness in the face of such mundane obstacles as an icy field, numb fingers, a bitter wind circling the concrete colosseum. Gridiron gladiators gather to face lions – no, Bruins – and prove their hardiness, their unbesmirched character, their excellence deserving of the gods’ laurels. No falterers need apply. The years gone by, with their dismal statistics, mean nothing today. This game, this frigid afternoon, offers an eternity in glory. Temple’s players need only the fortitude to grasp it, to hold their fortune proudly before them as a standard in a parade.

“Shower us with cheers! We are your team today, here to win!”

Pre-Game Show (the Patriot Game)

To kick things off, Fred and Ernesto attend the tailgate party at the DC Armory. The fandamonium is awesome – bad food, thin beer, lots of preppy spirit and Pom-Pom girls kicking to the Temple fight song. Ahead of the game, the guys wander over to the Siberia Stadium, a real freezing bunker. The crowd is sparse, so far but wait! Overhead, a plane appears.

Announcer: “Ladies and gentleman, as part of our benefit today for returning veterans, the Suffering Soldiers organization welcomes the crack team of Army Rangers, now parasailing onto the field. Put your hands together to welcome Staff Sergeant Ray Joynes and his precision jump team, as they land their chutes here in the middle of the stadium.”

Huge flags are unfurled and one soldier is lionized for his courage as a parachutist with prosthetic legs.

“Now turn your attention to the Jumbotron, where General Invadus welcomes these brave rangers who have re-enlisted for another tour of duty.”

Click.

“And in the middle of the playing field, we have the US Coast Guard silent drill team, performing close order rifle manoeuvers – with bayonets! Thank you, Drill Team! Now, please remove your hats for our national anthem, performed for us by US Air Force Major D.C. Washington.”

Ross Perot - Bowling for Dollars by Tim & N.C. Weil - Stories and SongsAt last, here to get the ball rolling (so to speak), H. Ross Perot, one-time presidential candidate and patriotic business mogul, pontificates about the greatness of football: the pride they should feel at being chosen to stab their cleats into this august (frozen) turf; their mighty collision poised to take its place in the history of sport. Mr. Perot supervises the toss of the coin. Temple has won the toss. Let the game begin!

Now Let Us Play

All is in readiness as Marigold arrives from the Metro, having come across town after work. She missed the Armory pre-game celebration and tailgate party, so she is not yet fortified against the cold with the warmth of alcohol. She makes her way to join her men at their designated seats, out under the slaty December skies, the sun already too low to provide a lightbulb’s warmth in this vast cold mausoleum, where so many sporting dreams have come to naught.

This is the venue where the Washington Senators won lasting ridicule as ‘First in War, First in Peace, and Last in the American League.’ This is where the Washington Redskins franchise struggled before they moved to a new, enormous football palace. This is not a stadium echoing with greatness.

This is, however, a stadium bowing to the gods of expedience: no heavy lift of huge ticket sales; no donation requirements to a charity and a pair of teams willing to play here for the sake of being in any bowl game, no matter how small, in a contest however poorly-matched, under field conditions no athlete could enjoy. Big Games are where you find them and, if you’re here, it’s because attending a bowl game is a notable experience – everyone should be so lucky!

Thanks to the twin obstacles of distance and climate, many UCLA alumni stay home and stay warm. Philadelphia’s not far and Temple denizens are a hardy bunch, accustomed to wintry weather, daunting odds, the whole underdog mystique. Rocky Balboa is the city’s patron saint – a has-been who works hard, takes his lumps, gets knocked down but comes back to win another day. Maybe Rocky will guide the Owls today.

Marigold has brought an army blanket under which, the trio huddle – cold before the game is even underway. She declines a beer, which would make her hands colder than they already are despite her gloves. Too bad they don’t sell whisky – not ordinarily a drinker, she would appreciate the heat of a high-octane beverage today.

The only way to stay warm is to cheer energetically at every opportunity – pass the ball, catch the ball – yay! Make two yards rushing – double yay! Win a first down – whoopee! A touchdown produces an ecstatic outpouring from frozen fans – ‘Hooray for the Owls! Go Temple Go!’

And go they do – the first half is Temple’s. Those UCLA players don’t typically endure such harsh conditions. The cold must be much more unpleasant for them than for the Owls, who must often face bad weather.

The half-time show is a chance to get up and hustle around the concourse – not that once-warm French fries have any appeal but moving circulates the blood and thaws the fingers and toes. A visit to the restroom proves that the building has no hot water. At least the toilets are clean and supplies are adequate – one dare not complain. Someday, these hastily-dried hands will thaw.

An investment in hot chocolate is mandatory and half the fans are in the concession stand line. Marigold is fortunate to purchase two frothy cups before the treat is gone – and though the beverages are tepid, they are much warmer than their surroundings – yes, the fans will certainly both drink and enjoy them (while cuddling them between their hands as one might nurse the beginnings of a fire, encouraging the infant flame in hopes of its flourishing into actual warmth).

Fred and Ernesto have done their own concession line gauntlet and the trio reconvene at their seats, fortified with icy cocoa, cold dogs, crystalized ketchup and frozen buns. They look around at their fellow fans – groups everywhere are outfitted in team jerseys, hats, face paint and mustard stains, sporting beer and burgers, either insensitive to 23-degree weather or too drunk to care. Fred and company resettle on their frigid metal slabs, remembering fondly, summer days in ball parks, when presence was pleasant. Bodily warmth soaks away into seats exposed to Washington December, untouched by the ghost of low-winter sun.

Temple’s marching band heads back to the stands, having performed as spirited a half-time show as musicians who must put their warm lips against brass mouthpieces and bare fingers on brass valves could possibly offer. Teams return to the field to a roar from the crowd, and the contest is resumed.

Marching band - Bowling for Dollars by Tim & N.C. Weil - Stories and Songs

But the second half is UCLA’s game. Temple can’t keep possession of the ball – unable to make a first down, let alone a touchdown – and UCLA starts to play like the well-oiled, we’ve-played-in-the-Rose-Bowl team that they are. The field is an ice rink and the Bruins rack up points by not changing directions in the middle of a play, while the Owls’ offense sitting on the bench don’t look like they’re going to see enough action to stay thawed. On the slippery field, UCLA running backs ride the frozen turf for extra yards, while Temple tackles lose their footing.

UCLA’s supporters now look warm – scoring is its own source of heat – and the cold penetrates further into Temple fans’ butts, damping their enthusiasm. The tide has turned, Temple’s first-half advantage is gone and everyone can see victory in the Bruins’ eyes. Temple mascot, Hoo T Owl, cavorts along the sidelines to no avail – fans’ thoughts turn inward now, to their frozen body parts. They have no energy to spare for their team. Not so by the Bruins’ bench. Joe Bruin’s got the mojo and his team keeps skating for yardage across the ice rink of the RFK field.

Fred, Marigold and Ernesto have abandoned the game in their hearts but their butts stay put – they paid to see a bowl game; it’s highly unlikely they ever will again and they’re going to, gosh-darn-it, see the whole thing, down to the endless final minute.

So goes another sporting contest: one team lauded in the papers and the nightly news while the other team, snubbed in its rare post-season opportunity, goes home defeated, greatness proving once again out of reach. And fans everywhere lament their foolish optimism, acknowledging that their team lost, not because of playing conditions, bad calls or injuries but, because they just weren’t good enough.

The Morning After (the Big Game)

“How about this? How about it?”

Marigold was scrambling the morning breakfast while Ernesto burnt the toast. Fred’s coffee mug jiggled in his hands as he excitedly read the morning sports wire headline.

“This is it. Tonight, Nebraska is meeting Arizona in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego. It’s the Really Big Game!”

“San Diego in December sounds nice,” Marigold remarked “and Nebraska’s a perennial contender – they’ll crush Arizona. Maybe it’s on TV.”

Copyright © 2016 Tim and N.C. Weil – Security Feeds LLC

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Posted in Heroes and Legends, Humour, Sport and Recreation, Stories, Stories and Songs, Tim Weil | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Bowling for Dollars

Down Under

Down Under

by Tim Weil

Bull-face - Down Under by Tim Weil - Stories and Songs

A Good Story Begins with the Blues

I will not go down under the ground
‘Cause somebody tells me that death’s comin’ round.
An’ I will not carry myself down to die;
When I go to my grave my head will be high.
Let me die in my footsteps
Before I go down, under and drown

Dylan (with apologies)

 

White Water

Wiley Timmons woke early in the Malibu dawn; a 16-year-old surfer boy gazing out at the 6-foot waves rolling out past the breakwater reef at Old Joes, the mysto-surfing spot just north of third point at Surfrider beach. Standing next to his 7-foot Makaha short board, Wiley saw what looked like NIRVANA – an ocean of surfing adventure that lay at his feet. The glassy sea and powerful waves presented the thrill of big surf, all his own. It was early enough in the day that no beachcombers strolled on the Colony sands.

Malibu white water - Down Under by Tim Weil - Stories and Songs

 

He suited up, waxed his board and paddled off into the powerful sea, before the sleeping crowd of the ‘Malibu Riviera’ had crawled out of bed. He knew that a new day was dawning, not just in the ocean before him but in the challenges he now faced – surfer boy against the world. 50 yards offshore, he sat poised on his wave-riding board, waiting for a chance to ‘ride the wild surf’. That’s when he saw the next set rolling in, another 20 yards out from his waiting zone.

Turning the nose of his surfboard out to sea, he doggedly paddled to get clear of the first wave coming his way. Then, he saw the second wave rolling in and once again, his tired arms dug into the water, stroke after stroke, advancing a couple of feet with each lunge of his arms into the sea. He was breathing heavily as he covered the distance to the oncoming swell and, with one last thrust of power into the water, he crested the face of wave number two. As luck would have it, this was a set of three waves rolling in and Wiley caught sight of the next monster swell headed his way.

With bulging eyes and a pounding heart, he made one last sprint to get clear of the set. He was scared, tired but determined not to get caught inside and to push through the next wall of water he faced. When, finally, the nose of his board pierced the lip of the wave, he knew he was free, now maybe 100 yards offshore but clear of the fearful force of Mother Ocean.

At that moment, past the height of another 6-foot wave, Wiley felt the tug of the tide pulling him back into the powerful grip of the sea. He was going ‘over the falls backwards’, sucked into the wave, clutching his Makaha board for survival and plunging into the churning whitewater action. Instantly, the surfboard was ripped from this hands and he plummeted deeper.

Which way to the surface? How much breath do I have? In a panic, he opened his eyes underwater only to have his contact lenses washed out. Am I drowning? Can I break free from down under this tumbling mass of whitewater? Relax young lad. Let the water carry you on. And, with what little oxygen he had left, Wiley crawled to the surface to pop his head free, only to gasp a mouthful of sea spray and air.

Wiley bobbed through the surf and half-drifted, half-swam his way back to shore. Back on the beach, he found his new surfboard damaged and dinged from the tide pool rocks and in a moment of failure and defeat, he ass-dragged his way back home: not the conquering hero but the waterlogged surfer boy, dejected from his pounding.

South of the Border, Down Mexico Way

Fast forward a decade and Wiley, the Dharma Bum, sat with his guitar in a Tepic bus station, waiting for transportation to San Blas, beach heaven, on Mexico’s Pacific coast. Like all good stories, this one begins with the blues. Waiting for his connection, Wiley strummed and picked through his songbook – Sugar Babe, Winding Boy, Frankie and Johnny, Got the Blues and I Can’t Be Satisfied. That’s when a Mexican couple drifted by.

“You must be an American.”

“How can you tell?”

“Well, I like the sound of your music,” the stranger chimed in. “Let me show you this one,” and he sang a few verses of Unchain My Heart, a Ray Charles classic.

Ray Charles - Down Under by Tim Weil - Stories and Songs

 

So unchain my heart, let me go my way.
Unchain my heart; you worry me night and day.
Why lead me through a life of misery,
When you don’t care a bag of beans for me?
So unchain my heart oh! Please, please set me free.

Wiley dug the sound of his new friend’s rhythmic playing, his palm beat on the soundboard of the guitar adding nice syncopation to the melody. He offered a comeback to this improvised show.

“Stop me if you heard this one. God is Love. Love is blind. Ray Charles is blind. Ray Charles is God.”

His new friend laughed and properly introduced himself.

Mucho gusto para conocer. I am Gregorio (Grego) Santillo and this is my girlfriend Angelina. We are travelling on a holiday break and headed back to Mexico City. If you find your way to the capital, here is my address on Cerrada de Torreon. Look me up if you have the time and we can play more music together.”

Wiley stashed the address note into his travelling gear, thanked his new friend for the invite and sauntered off to make his bus trip to the beach.

As might be expected, a few weeks later, Wiley’s aimless, vagabond wanderings landed him on a bus to Mexico City. Debarking the bus in the middle of the night, he hailed a taxi to Cerrada de Torreon, in the neighborhood of Nueva Los Angeles. Fearless and foolish, he walked up to the apartment house address that Grego had left in his note. Wiley knocked on the numbered door and a petite, fair-skinned woman greeted him coldly in the night.

“Who are you and what are you doing here?”

“I am Wiley Timmons, an American, traveling in Mexico. Grego invited me to visit when we met up in Tepic.”

“Oh. Come in, come in. Bring your things (backpack and guitar). Sit down while I make you some coffee and tell me about your trip.”

“Well,” said Wiley, “like all good stories, this one begins with the blues… ”

He rambled on about his Mexico travels, beach camping in Guymas, sleeping with tarantulas, feasting on coconuts and lobster for $5/day, dodging drug deals, living in palm-frond palapa huts and running around with the beach-bum crowd. A brief stay with some ex-pat medical students in Guadalajara was a complete bust so why not head to Mexico City, for more music madness with his new amigo, Grego? It was late, he was tired and he ended his stories with his chance encounter with Grego and Angelina in Tepic and this new junket into Mexico City.

And then it dawned on him to ask – “What is your name and how do you know Grego?”

With an icy stare, his host replied, “My name is Belinda. He is my husband.”

Right on cue, Gregorio walked into the room and glanced fiercely at Wiley as Belinda slammed the bathroom door behind her and began sobbing loudly.

I’m a dead man now, Wiley mused. Mexican home wrecker, a stranger in the night, here in the capital city, with no alibi to wriggle out of my predicament. Like all good stories, this may end with the blues.

“Ain’t gonna tell you no story, Frankie, I ain’t gonna tell you no lie”
Says, “Albert passed ’bout an hour ago with a girl they call Alice Prye.
He’s your man, and he’s doing you wrong.”
Frankie called Albert, Albert says, “I don’t hear.
If you don’t come to the woman you love, gonna haul you out of here.
You’s my man and you done me wrong.”

 

Santillo family - Down Under by Tim Weil - Stories and SongsFortunately, this psychodrama came to a merciful close. The love triangle between Grego and his amores (Belinda and Angelina) had been going on for years. This was just another episode of a Mexican soap opera, here in the neighborhood of Cerrada de Torreon. The evening melee was just a rite of passage and Wiley could now spend the night with his new acquaintances. In the weeks to follow, he was adopted into the Santillo family circle.

Grego and Angelina were graduate students in psychology and social work. He was also an artist, who painted, performed puppet theater and sang his own original music. Grego was the oldest of ten brothers and sisters. His father, as in so many broken homes, had long since fled to the States and, as a partly employed house painter, sent back to his family a stipend of $75 a month. Belinda, bless her soul, worked in Dr. Rocquet’s Psychosinthesis clinic, the Albert Schweitzer Institute, where group therapy was guided with the use of indigenous psychedelic mushrooms and peyote harvested from the plants of the Sierra Madre Mountains.1

Despite their hardy spirit, talents and intellect, here in the mid-1970s, the Santillo family and friends lived in a constant state of fear and paranoia. Mexico City still lived in the shadow of the Tlateloco Square massacre of 1968 and the police state that had grown around daily life. During the 1960s, the international climate of student protest had spread to the capital city, where big money was building out the Olympic Games. The demands of students and political opposition came together for a rally in the central square.

Under orders from the government of Dias Ordaz, the army, commanded by Luis Echeverria, surrounded 10,000 demonstrators on the night of October 2, 1968. A group of soldiers from the Mexican Army called “Battalion Olympia” fired ruthlessly into the unarmed student protesters and kept shooting at people who let the students take shelter inside their homes. Dozens of students died in that protest and hundreds of people were disappeared into the Mexican prison system for several years.

Eight years after “La Noche Triste”, the Sad Night of the Tlateloco Square massacre, the repercussions of political repression still hovered over the city. In the days that followed, Wiley followed Grego and Belinda through their daily lives. With Grego, he toured city prisons, where conversation and interviews were part of the research program. On weekends, Grego performed Punch and Judy puppet theater and Wiley enjoyed the shows, first as a spectator and later as a translator of the Punch and Judy scripts into English. In the evenings, they played more blues into the late night hours.

 

Dr Salvador Roquet - Down Under by Tim Weil - Stories and SongsOn an invitation from Belinda, Wiley joined a session of the Psychosinthesis experience2 – a 24-hour psychedelic therapy session. He was the only gringo in a room of thirty tripping participants, where crude, multi-media depicted scenes of violence, sex, death and pornography were shown, designed to shock and disturb the sensibilities of the average patient while white-coated lab technicians took notes on sterile clipboards, observing and directing the madhouse scene before them.

Among the patients, there were shouts, tears and laughter as medical staff, briefed on case histories, intervened with a personal photo, a family member, a dialogue or an interview about the patients past, taking them down under their “hang-ups” into a guided tour of their own inner lives. At some point during the session, Wiley was questioned about his own raison d’être (who are you and what are you doing here?) to which he replied with a Socratic comeback line – “Who was cooler Huck Finn or Tom Sawyer?” and crawled off to sleep in a corner of the room. With his travels coming to a close, Wiley thanked the Santillo family for their friendship and hospitality. He tucked away a new address in his wallet and told Grego he would search for his father in the Latino neighborhoods of Los Angeles. Backpack assembled, guitar in hand, Wiley took leave of his new found friends.

“We shall stay in touch – further on down the road. Que te vaya bien y adios, amigos de mi corazon.”

Freedom Runner

Como maestro bilingue (a Spanish-English grade school teacher) Wiley later ventured into the American Latino experience, working in a barrio school in South Central Los Angeles, in a neighborhood riddled with gang warfare, barred windows, street violence and, God forbid, illegal immigrants. He taught in a community where the Crips burned the Jr High cafeteria to the ground, where immigrants lived in constant fear of deportation and where his class of 28 Latinos, 4 Afro-American and one white girl looked to him as a safe harbor in a dangerous world. These street-hardened students were eager to learn and over the year, he took them beyond the basics of reading, writing and ‘rithmetic and taught them History, Model Cities, Puppet Theater, Drama and Folk Dancing (the Virginia Reel), which they performed in taffeta skirts and leather vests throughout the district.

 

Barrio school, South Central Los AngelesAs that year came to an end, he arranged to take the 10 brightest students for a day-trip to the beach, only to have his plans cancelled by the school principal, who told him, “Take that trip and you’ll be fired. We don’t have insurance to cover these inner-city kids on a day trip to the beach.”

He knew then, that his job was to keep students in their chairs, “safe in the schoolroom” and down under the socio-economic forces that would keep them in their place. It was time to go. Like all good stories… this one would end with the blues –

Sometimes I think this world is just one big prison yard:
Some of us are prisoners. The rest of us are guards.

Dylan (George Jackson)

Outside of the schoolroom, Wiley tracked down Luis Santillo, Grego’s dad and visited this drunk, impoverished and aged man, living in a flophouse apartment. When he gave him a letter from Grego, he provided a lifeline between blood kin, separated by borders, lost in time and broken dreams. Luis just cried thinking of the family he had left behind.

After a year of inner city blues, Wiley headed back to the west side of town. No more the professional teacher, he was content to study auto-mechanics and work as a pizza chef. One night, in the middle of his evening shift, Grego surprised him again when he walked into the restaurant – with a sinister character by his side.

Mi amigo, Wiley, I need some pizza and $500 for my friend here. He’s a ‘coyote’ who smuggles illegals into the country. He brought me across the border, into the States, hidden down under the trunk of his car. And now, I must pay for my freedom.”

Wiley sorted out the finances the next day and Grego, freed of his political and personal paranoia, became his roommate for a spell. Grego and his father got back together for a reunion, after the long separation of a decade and thousands of miles.

 

Wedding party - Down Under by Tim Weil - Stories and SongsWithin a few months, Grego found housing and later, Angelina, Belinda and Grego’s son made the crossing into Los Estados Unidos. As fate would have it, Wiley slipped into the ménage-à-trois. He and Angelina dated while she found her own home. They wined and dined and danced to Santana’s Samba de Sausalito. One afternoon, they shopped for a leather coat in LA’s garment district. Wiley later wore this jacket to his brother’s DC wedding and on a tour of the Carter White House, but that’s a story for a different day.

Reverie

 

Barrio students - Down Under by Tim Weil - Stories and SongsYears gone by and Wiley thinks often about his Mexican family and the hands across the border that brought their lives forward. He remembers the names of the barrio students who touched his life – Maria Gonzalez, Art Flores, Lily Butler, Felix Santillan, Otelia Campos, Miguel Aceves, Frankie Rico and Ora Dean Mason, the one white girl who came into his classroom early one morning, frightened and alone, to tell Mr Timmons that Lily’s brother had been shot dead in the street last night, after Wiley’s Open House party at school. In the rising and falling tides of Life, he remembers a near-drowning experience, surviving the pounding surf and struggling to the surface (from down under the waves) for just a breath of air. Last he heard, many years ago, Grego was teaching in the LA City Schools and performing puppet theater in the Latino communities he had moved into. Wiley still strums his guitar and sometimes sings these lyrics loudly into the night – Like all good stories, this one ends with the blues.

If I had rubies and riches and crowns
I’d buy the whole world and change things around.
I’d throw all the guns and the tanks in the sea,
For they are mistakes of a past history.

Let me drink from your water
Where the mountain streams flood.
Let the smell of wild flowers flow free through my blood.
Let me sleep in your meadow with the green grassy leaves.
Let me walk down these highways with my brothers in peace.
Let me die in my footsteps
Before I go down, under the ground.

Dylan (with no apologies)

 

Notes

 

2015 Tim Weil – Security Feeds LLC

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