Friday, February 21, 2014

Throne of the Cross

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Ghost of Collingswood

The dead, was it possible that the dead was dead and made alive in the form of an animating spirit—the soul?  As was such a case that took place in the dojo in San Francisco; I had experienced a ghost like figure, and forevermore never to forge. And logic was pointing the way to me on this subject, now with interest.
       As I think back 40-plus years, in such a case the person wouldn’t be an individual at all; but with some kind of astral body, an animated image. I was told back then, the dojo was haunted; despite the doubts, the outlook was brighter to me once I had moved into the dojo to live.
       I slept there going on three months, and often heard this rambling about the dojo in all hours of the night, I slept on a sofa, looking into the gym area. It was evident within these three months, that there was a strange likeness of a ghostly figure. How could this be, but it was. None of the Black Belts, would ever sleep in the dojo, not one, for this very reason, it had a ghostly reputation.
       I told the ghost one evening, as he walked by me, we’d have to share the dojo, because I was not leaving. There remained to me the horror of doubt, could he hurt me, I even challenged him, one night when the windows were banging and the chairs were banging and I couldn’t sleep, he was making quite a ruckus. Hence, that night doubt itself took a concrete image, I called to the Lord for assistance, and all went deadly silent: after a vast and impenetrable gloom had taken over me, but mentioning the Lord’s name, seemed to lighten up the darkness into a positive existence for me. I called him: “The Collingswood Ghost” for the dojo was on the street called, Collingswood.
       There were not really a possibility of relations between the ghost and me, nor could we change places with the other. There were within those three months, many suspicious circumstances to warrant his presence, and as belief became reality, my intelligence recognized the full possibility of this matter, and at 21-years old, my mind put all the strange incomprehensible matters which had whirled through my head into deeper thought. The Ghost wanted to be left alone for the most part. He didn’t want invaders, and that was exactly what I was to him.
       I suppose this one time I was antagonistic to the ghost, I wanted his attention, and I had no real weapons against this thing but truth, if indeed that counted. It must have known and understood, I was stubborn.
       Now that I look back at those far-off days, 1968-69, I perchance had only a passing knowledge of the danger I might have been in. I had told this story once to a woman from St. Paul, Minnesota, some ten years later, well learned in the art of sorcery, the occult, strange incomprehensible matters, dual existence, supernatural mysterious ways, and she told me, feeling compelled to speak, “You were lucky, you might have been swept through horrible possibilities; you really had reason to fear.”
       Perhaps the apparition, was of the lower sort, not the better, or more evil, who’s to say.
       My impression of the apparition was that it was a huge being, perhaps four hundred pounds, it made the wooden floor crackled as it walked by me, and it showed an indentation in the wood as it went from one step to the next, I could even visualize his food print as this took place, double my size. I suppose my female friend was thinking of what terrible steps the monster ghost might have taken to effect his wishes, had I not called out to the Lord. Nay, what would have been his wishes, we will never know, I think his ultimate purpose was as I said, to be left alone?  I was to a certain degree in some glorious enthusiasm, and to him, I was just a pest.
       Then and there, I was determined not to warn anybody of this, and to await, as well content as I could be in my ignorance, I felt sorry for the ghost; and when I left the dojo to go to another residence, when I was asked how my stay was, I’d simply say, “Nothing out of the ordinary.”

No: 1032/2-18-2014

Youthful Times Along the Mississippi

Mike Reassert and I, were both full of trust and confidence with one another. It was remarkable, we were like Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, in now what I call those far-off youthful days, along the Mississippi cliffs, just below the city proper of St. Paul, Minnesota.
       We climbed those bluffs in the mid-1950s, a considerable distance up and down the Mississippi River Front to visit the caves; not miles in extent, but rather blocks. Some of those upper cleft caves were dug out during the Civil War times, they had iron doors on them yet; it was where they kept the munitions, so I heard. They were long and narrow and lofty caves in the upper strata of the clefts, with long passages.
       The cliffs were of sandstone, and easy to make reaching holes for ones hands and then to be used for the feet, stretching from one to the other, and many were already made in the bluffs for us.
       The larger caves were river level, one being so huge, a boy of our age, such as we were in those years (8 to 12-years of age), could get lost in them; dodging the half starved to death bates flying low and high and roughly overhead, as if local. We found on many occasion, city drunkards sleeping off a hangover inside those lower caves. I swear—fingers and toes not crossed—the mouth of this one cave was as big as Moby Dick’s yawn, stretched as far as it could go.
       I knew Mike, for years I knew his every thought, before he acted on them, “Let’s kick the bums in the feet,” he’d say, just to attract their attention. And we’d both do it, wake one up, startle him some, or kick sand in his nose that would attract him right quick. The caves were an uncanny place to contain a sport such as this, but we did our best.
       We often found cylinder like, writings, as if they were drafts from the newspaper, the St. Paul, Pioneer Press.
       We never stayed too along, eventually loafers and rowdies would appear, dragging one another along, with a bottle of whiskey in hand.  Matter of fact one day, Mike had an irreverence thought: he found a brown half-pint whiskey bottle, it was empty, and he peed in it filled it nearly all the way up, and wanted me to do the same, and I had but a drop to offer, he gave it to a poor dried out looking drunk, and right after he took a gulp of it, figuring out what it really was he hollered to the high heavens at Mike and me, swearing and cussing and jumping up and down and then he and his fellow comrades started to chase us, and like the Lone Ranger and his sidekick, Tonto, we jumped on our bikes and hightailed it out of there, to beyond the sunset (figuratively speaking), and all the shadows that ran after us, trying to find us, we were hidden in the dim lighted path of nowhere! Of course once within the downtown part of the city again, we were walled in on all sides, like a forest, but it wasn’t hard to escape, we were seasoned in escaping, plus, the bums never mingled among the more sane inhabitants of the city, and we knew this.
       It seemed to us, along the Mississippi the air was always crisp, with freshness, especially in the mornings, while the dew lifted from the river. When the day became more heated and more sticky like, it became also more dangerous, the cat size, fat rats, came out of the lower ways of the clefts, to breath the fresher air, and it got to over 105, in the heart of the Minnesota summertime, to where one could cook an egg on the sidewalk, and they even showed that on television, so I recall.
       I had no ill luck with the monster rats, although one time, three reddish haired rats tried to corner me, but I escaped backwards towards the river, throwing stones that only seemed to bounce off their backs. As I mentioned, there were three of them, this one time, I was eats for them, and cowering at their approaching. It was as if they intended an entire family to feast on me. And I bet I would have tasted good!
       Then off, Mike and I went to find someone’s garden that had rhubarb in it, I loved rhubarb, and especially rhubarb pie, and then next someone’s green apple tree, we were like raiders, some days.

       Mike lived in the inner circle of the city, I some three miles or so, away; as years passed, by and by we’d meet, until about twelve, thereafter once at fifteen, and that would be the last I’d see of him. We had attended St. Louis School, on 10th and Cedar Streets, in downtown St. Paul, in those early years, 1954 to 1957. They tore the school down in 1960. He was a good lad to have as a friend, and always meant well. He was also precarious, taking risks, uncertain, and poor. This is just a reflective pause, to think out the facts, should he ever read this story.
       This is all part of my education, I look back on with the most satisfaction.
       During those years with Mike I learned to smoke fairly well, a bad habit I’d keep for twenty-years. We’d put our change together, buy cigarette packs, of Lucky Strike, or Camels, or Pall Mall, in the Walgreens stores, or Woolworths, or Grants. Run in and out before the manager caught us, and run over to the Emporium, and Mike would press all the buttons in the elevator, and when someone would get on, they’d see all the floor lights, lit up on the side wall of the elevator, and look at me and Mike, and I wanted to say, it was Mike’s doings, but I had to hold back my laughing, and once he or she got off, we bust out with amusement.
       I suppose you could say I was a little more characterless than Mike, he was always more daring. Perchance I was more like Huck Finn, and Mike more like Tom Sawyer.  Neither one of us noticed, or if we did, didn’t say, that we didn’t have much charity for one another’s defects. Our life and adventures together were—which I led with Mike, and there are many more—were full of charm and so are the memories of them yet.

No: 1031/2-18-2014

A Long Monstrous Sleep (1960)

The sun was down some when we reached the fairgrounds, Lamoure and I, it was after five o’clock. We laid there in the grass behind the iron fence, and a building, the building somewhat hiding us, in the cool shade, it had been a hot day, and we had both told our parents we were staying over at each other’s home, and taken off to find a new adventure, and so here we were, snug as a bug, in the fairgrounds, camping out, thinking of things, and getting rested for the night, and rather at ease and satisfied.
       I could see the sun going down at the other end of the fairgrounds, looking through an opening in the branches and leaves of a nearby tree, while laying on my back, and the moon fading into sight, with its gloomy gray interior.
       There were arc lights from the streets that spiffed light through the iron bar fence, and down and across our faces, somewhat breaking up as it bartered its way around the fence’s open spaces. And from somewhere came a little breeze. A couple of gray doves, were perched on a branch of a tree nearby, jabbering as if in trying to settle a dispute.
       I was potently sluggish, tired and for the most part lazy, and comfortable—I didn’t want to move from this spot. Didn’t want to get up. Well, after a half hour of this laziness and Lamoure and I talking about this and that eating some beef-jerky and drinking some water from my canteen, Lamoure dozing off, we both thought we hear something, “Perhaps a bum!” I said to him. He stirs some, rouses up and looks about. A moment later, I hear it again, and Lamoure looks down the street some, towards the midway area, we’re both smoking Camel cigarettes.  He looks at me as if he knows what the matter is now.
       “Police!” he said.
       Well I knew, no police came into the fairgrounds, it had to be the grounds man I figured.
       I could see his white shirt, as I tried to sit upright, to greet him. So I sat there cross-legged and waited. Thinking how it always happens, adults come around once you get comfortable, and spoil your fun. I knew he’d chase us out. But I had a good enough time I figured up to now, and just seeing him coming quicksilver trying to figure out how he was going handle this, that is, to chase us out of here, was worth the wait, I was too tired to run, and I suppose that’s what he expected.
       So, says I, when he got a few feet in front of me, and Lamoure standing up looking awkward as a jaybird trying to find his nest, “I suppose we got to leave?”
       “Yup, but what in tarnation are you doing here in the first place?” He asked, in a rather friendly tone.
       I changed to a more humble posture, thinking maybe we’re in luck, he’ll let us sleep here for the night, so I says, “We’re just camping out, and we’re not going to disturbed anyone!”
       He wasn’t very well satisfied with that, and there wasn’t any doubt in his face now, we were leaving. And we left.

       With our canteen, and jackets, and a blanket, we trekked down alongside, outside, the fairgrounds fence, it must have been a mile, and a few past that, we were per near five miles from home. I was pretty hungry, but it weren’t going to do for me to start complaining, neither one of us had any money, just a pack of smokes between us. Then when we got down a ways, by the University Farms, it was pretty late, and we found a carrot garden, and we didn’t lose no time, we pulled a half dozen of those carrots from their roots, we went and looked for a place to sit down, found an old log, at the edge of the garden, looked out across the field, the sky looked black as driftwood, the stars twinkling, like little lanterns, then wiped those carrots clean and ate them as if they were T-bone steaks.
       We got home at 3:00 a.m., I went up and laid down in my bed, and drifted off to sleep, a long monstrous big sleep.

No: 1030/2-11-2014
For Lamoure  

An Old Traveler’s Ways (an essay)

These nights are a hundred years long for me, perhaps for any old travelers accustomed to being on the road, or in the sky. I lay awake and miserable till that hour every night arrives that I must be put to sleep; and grow older and more rickety waiting through the silent, stone-still hours of the night, forever and a day waiting and waiting, as the clock-strikes each hour, on the hour, to fall to sleep.
       This is no life for old seasoned men like me of travel.
       It was four years ago now, when I last traveled, when at last it was with something very like joy that I could afford to put the enemy to rest, and get on track again and travel, that year I went to Cape Horn (Chile), and Argentina, and then to Israel, with a new kind of birth of the old warrior spirit in me; it all sprang out of me like I was in the line of battle, back in Vietnam, back in ‘71.
      This kind of thing sounds odd to many, and perhaps impossible to some, to travel at will, I have done it all my life, but there is no surprise in it for me when it comes around, at the time. On the contrary, it is a perfectly natural thing to do, for me.
       I have traveled to fifty-six countries.  It is—so I feel, quite within the probabilities of most people I know to do this, if indeed, they put heart and soul, and one third of their bank account money into it.  And I figured it out early in life, it didn’t take a lot of money to travel, I was a modest-salaried person, professional later in my life, it takes some savings that is all, and the act of letting go of those savings, and planning.
       I’m from Minnesota, a Midwestern boy. Often times when I travel, have traveled, as to India, or Egypt, or some far-off destination like Iceland, the first hours upon arrival, if not the first full day, my inners get a deep woodsy stillness, it nearly overcomes me: it is a kind of an excitement, strong enough to enable me to mark a destination and go directly to it, as in Egypt, I went right to the Pyramids when I got off the plane. As when I went to Lisbon in 1998 for the World’s Fair, within three hours off the plane I was walking the grounds of the Fair. The first time I was in Paris I hardly knew what I was doing, I spent $240-dollars on taxies in 24-hours, back in 1997.  I was dazed with excitement, hardly audible the first hours, when directing the taxi to where I wanted to go. My first time in Rome, it was an uncanny kind of excitement; late night smells, dim lights cafes, restaurants; afternoon heat, all rising and pervading.   
       When you travel alone, everyone seemingly has a reproachful look, shadowy eyes, but it is not really so, people are just people and most folks never did me any harm. Even though a few tried in China, and Greece, and Germany, and Spain and Lisbon.
      On another note, sometimes you get thinking, wondering who this or that person might be—or so I have—allowing  the imagination to be magnified, but they are much like you and I: hospitable, kind, courteous, or so they were to me.

No: 1029/2-10-2014

An Offence that didn’t Happen

        (Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, 1971/War)

For the most part, on Cam Ranh Bay we never had any drills: nights, mornings, forenoon, evenings, none at all.  We drove here and there, now and then for rifle practice, everyone sooner or later had guard duty; some of us visited village girls, and in-between drank and smoked ourselves to a frenzy, or virtually dead state: one or the other; and by and by had ourselves a youthful good time, and by and large, had honestly good meals: then back to our regular duties, happy and content like a Minnesota Prized Hog, at the State Fair. And to add to that, one might say, for the longest time life in a war zone was idly delicious, per near perfect, even movies on bed sheet held tight against our wooden outside wall, a part of our dayroom, or lounge where we usually could find a can of warm beer after duty hours: hence, the sheet was stretching across the wall, and we saw the latest movies, at 611th Ordnance Company. There was little to mar it.
       Then came the alarm one day. It was reported, no, more like rumored that Charlie, the enemy was advancing on us, here at Cam Ranh Bay, in all directions; from the surrounding hills, — digging in for an offence. The result was near panic among us, an all encompass concentration.
       It was by far, a rude awakening from our pleasant day, every day trance like tranquility.
       The rumor was not definite, nothing concrete; so we didn’t know what to anticipate, where to retreat to if we had to retreat, all that was certain was, the South China Sea was on one side of us, and in a horseshoe shape, the inland peninsula surround us on the other side. Consequently, we were sitting ducks—so was our circumstances; but we all tried to maintain an attitude of laisser-faire, to put up a front of not yielding to the unknown.
       And so the captain, Captain Rosenboum, yielded the point and called a counsel of war, for one and all, all being 160-soldiers in or Ordnance Company.
       The question was: do we fight or retreat, which is more like running. Nobody appeared to have even a guess to offer, but the Captain.
      He explained in a few chosen, and well selected words, calm and slow: “Insomuch as Charlie approaching us in the hillside, in fox holes only big enough to breathe out of, we know he is there, but will he attack in force?”
       And we all looked at one another, our course was simple, there was no direction to go in—; the Captain’s face how true this was. It was now decided that we would stand our ground, right here, never fall back because, back was into the sea, although we had ships out there, somewhere, wherever.
      And so our rifles and our magazines were full of ammunition and were within a hand’s reach; close to that anyways.
       The hills were rough and hilly and rocky, with lots of foliage. And into them the night always grew very dark, and rain began to fall. So surely if they were to attack it would be burdensome, if not troublesome, struggling and stomping along the narrow muddy pathways in the dark to get to us; and we all slept with our arms and legs ready to jump up and out of bed to the muddy slop in front of our campsite; of course, we were half drunk, or if not drunk, missed up by dope of some kind.  And there was among voices dismal to hear and take part in, low voices. And the enemy maybe coming at any moment. And so the growling and complaining continued night after night, unabated.
       For a week we waited for the attack, as helicopters pawed around the rocky hillsides, swept down around the coastal areas, rocketed here and there, looking for Charlie. Consequently we lost interest in the attack, the war, the worry of it, about it, because the attack never came.
       And for the rest of this story which precedes it, has long ago faded out of my memory.

No: 1028/2-10-2014

Penguin Yarn ((Magdalena Island) (October, 2010))

The Inevitable ((A Short Story and Tribute) (Papa Augusto))