Storm Worlds

Hello Everybody,

A while back, I was walking up to Food-4-Less at Sunset and Western Boulevards where a bum was being ushered out of the underground parking lot by an employee. The old black, gray-haired bum didn’t give the employee any flack, and the employee appeared sorry to have to oust the old man into biting elements Wild Hollywood.

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“Don’t you have anybody,” the young clerk asked, “a family member who’ll put you up?”

The old bum walked ahead of the clerk, slow, hunched shoulders, his jaundiced eyes wide and blank. “Naw’all families what’s left i’back in Texas.”

“Sorry, man, but-”

“Izz alright…I’ll be gon’ now.”

The old bum lifted on foot in front of the other slowly like he was a character in a butoh or kabuki play. The employee followed just long enough to be certain the bum wouldn’t sneak back into the parking garage. But the old bum looked to have already forgotten he’d been in the garage, already forgotten Food-4-Less on Sunset and Western, already forgotten Hollywood. One foot…then another foot…eyes forward…

Friday morning, I awoke to the steady fall of rain. The blinds on my window were shaded in a green-gray hue, much different from the usual orange-yellow that was most mornings. There was usually a soundtrack of chirping birds, too. Of course, no birds came with the sound of rain, but at about 7am, the siren’s began. For the next hour or so, one siren after another screamed down the boulevards, sounds of cars skidding and symphony of horns produced a cadence underneath the emergency vehicles. I could see the skidding cars on the wet streets in my mind. For two days, LA had been in the grips of STORMWATCH ’14 – a collective warning by the local weatherpersons about the oncoming rains which were sure to severely compromise driving conditions. It’s beyond cliche that LA motorists can’t handle driving in rain…

20140130_122817-1“Yeah, it’s ridiculous,” said my friend John, as he pulled a sharp U-turn on Hollywood Boulevard, later that day, as we sped through Hollywood. “But you gotta keep in mind, when it rains out here…mountains crumble. The world falls apart, bro. Like reality dissolves.”

After hanging out with John, I went to a cafe where I ran into “M”. M had been in and out of homelessness most of last year, but seemed to be getting back in the groove this year. He’d gotten his old job back as a scenic carpenter, got a phone, new clothes, etc. But every now and then I go several weeks without seeing him and I’d begin to worry. Friday marked the end of one of those “several of week’s.”

“I’m alright,” M told me, then she shook his head, “well, no, I’m not alright. My demons came back to me a few weeks ago. They wouldn’t leave so two nights ago I broke into a construction site, tide a rope to a scaffolding and to my neck and jumped. But the rope broke and I fell…only hung for about 3 seconds then I hit the ground. I just laid there on the ground, saying, “why am I still alive, God? Why?”

“How are you doing right now?” I asked.

“Better than I was two days ago. But I still don’t know why I’m still alive.” He was leaning on a parking meter, looking out across Vine St. It wasn’t raining, but the air was wet, cool. “Maybe there’s a reason, you know…”

The rain picked up in the evening and fell through Saturday morning. By the light of the green-blue window, I worked on my friend, Luis’ book that I’m editing…

***ELECTRIC RATS IN A NEON GUTTER: POEMS, SONGS and STORIES by Luis Galindo goes on sale MARCH 10th!!!! Support independent publishing and order a copy! (Psst…if you want, you can already purchase the ebook on AMAZON HERE or on Barnes and Noble NOOK HERE!!!***

***And…keep your eyes peeled for a compilation of El Jamberoo posts in book form! Details forthcoming so stay tuned!***

On sale March 10th! (Or get an ecopy now on amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com...

On sale March 10th! (Or get an ecopy now on amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com

I thought about that old Texas bum that I saw at Food-4-Less Saturday morning. I thought of M, too, who was out there somewhere – under an awning of a coffee shop or liquor store, but maybe not. Maybe he’s just out in the rain along that long winding, painful road from Texas to Hollywood…that long winding, painful road from anywhere, where there’s no signposts of what’s ahead, where there’s drugs and alcohol and crime or nothing really too terrible at all but for some reason there’s still divorces or estrangement from family, firings from jobs, car wrecks and sickness and money never seems to comes in steadily, where the things you wanted and may have even needed are skylighted upon the horizons to the North or South as you continue to head West. You swore when you set out that you’d head in the direction of those things…swore aloud…but for some reason they’re off to the side…or worse…directly behind you, and you can’t recall for the life of you that you passed them by.

I finished work on the book and ok’d it for printing and online sales. By then the rain had stopped. The orange-yellow hue and bird chirps were back, so I put on my boots and headed to the Home Depot down the street to price materials for an estimate on a rabbit cage I was to build next week.

As I was approaching the hardware store, I saw a man standing out front of the Hollywood Star Inn. As I got closer, the man looked familiar, like…

“Bob Hawk?”

The man had been squinting at me, as if trying to figure out if he knew me, too.

“Oh my God, Todd Pate!”

“Jesus…Bob!”

I knew Bob back in New York. For years, I worked at a box office in the Theatre District in Midtown Manhattan. Bob came to all the shows there. We struck up a relationship and when I started getting my own plays produced…

“You know I saw everything you ever wrote.” He said, always said, every time he saw me. “You know, Todd, some of your plays were really out there…but I always sensed you were approaching some kind of edge with them, purposely, like you were seeking something on the edge. They were very exciting , even if some were…” He made a waving sign with his hand. “…really out there. But you were always looking for something…”

Once upon a time...

Once upon a time…

I was waiting for him to tell me more about this Edge, because it sounded like only a brilliant, dynamic, powerful…etc…kind of writer could reach that kind of Edge. I’d been working on Luis’ writing all morning, I wanted…no, needed to hear about how my writing goes to this Edge, that takes people to this Edge that, and how I may be the only writer in the history of Man who can take you to this Edge…

…but one sprinkle led to another and then the rain came and Bob Hawk and I ran under the awning of the Hollywood Star Inn. By the time he shook off the drops, Bob had changed subjects.

“So I’m out here for some work,” he said, ‘but I thought, if I need to be out here in LA, I’m staying a week. And I don’t care about the rain! It’s better than the cold in New York.!” A car pulled up, Bob’s ride. “Well, I gotta go.” He walked to the car, then turned around suddenly. “Oh, I’m not sure if you know, but that old building were all the bums hung out on 42nd and 9th, next to where you used to work. It’s gone. The whole corner’s completely torn down. It’s surrounded by the wooden fence but you can peek through the holes and see that they are building something new…probably a…” He held a hand high in the air. “…one of those big steel and glass things. But you can see the theatre clearly, and I think of you every time I go down there.”

Bob got in the car, they drove off. I headed toward the Home Depot. The rain was falling hard. The hardware store blurry as I approached it, as if I was crossing through a waterfall separating two worlds…into a world where I was a builder of rabbit cages. coming from a world where I was a writer approaching that Edge, the Edge. No…Bob Hawk and New York seemed more than one world ago. Way back behind me, several storms ago.

On my way back, I had to go to the bank and get rent money. Halfway there, as I walked down Hollywood Blvd, the rain fell the hardest it had yet. The roar of water falling and flowing drowned out all other sounds. Cars silently skidded at red lights, plowed through the huge stream of water that overtook the street – flowing down, to the west, taking the city to the ocean. Bums huddled under awnings, people ran down side streets with inverted umbrellas. I walked, soaking wet, too wet to run anywhere. The damage had been done. I strolled to the bank, pulled out the money, cursing my roommate for having the gall to charge me rent every month. The heavy rain continued on my way home. Thunder echoed every now and then. Well whaddya know,” I thought, “this really is a storm.”

By Sunday afternoon, the rains were gone. The sun made more than one appearance during the day. By evening, the city was clean and pleasant, like it just stepped out of a bath tub. The view of Mount Hollywood and the Observatory was unimpeded by smog or haze. The air was cool. I walked over to my friend’s house to get the keys to his car, so I could pick up his car in the morning, and get materials for the rabbit hutch on Monday morning. It was nighttime when I began my walk back home, I came upon a bum sitting at a bus bench on Hollywood Blvd. I smelled the alcohol from several yards out, before I could see him well. Over and over he’d let out something like a sneeze that he finished with a, “f#$k you…ah, ah, ah choo f#$K you! Ah, ah, ah choo f#$k you!…”

20140301_184242When he got all those out of his system, he resorted to traditional drunken babble. A car passed by and it’s headlights gave me a clear view of the bum. His clothes were damp and soiled. He was about fifty, bearded and nearly toothless. He also had two pair of handcuffs around his neck, worn like necklaces. I walked passed him, and moment later he came down with another case of the “ah choo f#$k you’s.” I turned around and watched him, just thinking that he’s not waiting for a bus. He’s just sitting there, sneezing and cursing. How did fifty or so years get him there? I walked on and he faded from my ears. The city was quiet, except for the coming and going of cars. They’d rush up, I feel their lights on my face, and they’d rush off. Then the dark and quiet again.

I’m ending this blog with that. Maybe there’s a little more to write, maybe not. But I have to get out the door and start building this rabbit cage. The window is yellow-orange and there are birds, even a lawn mower. It’s not a bad world out there today. One that’s pretty to look at, maybe. Pretty enough to keep from looking at the worlds ahead or behind, anyway…maybe.

Be well…

We Will Be…

Hello Everybody,

The other night, I was sitting on the floor in the half-empty living room of the bungalow, reading a book next to a lamp. It was late. Luis and Andre had been packing all evening. I could hear Andre throwing things in boxes in his bedroom.

It’s about that time again...

It’s about that time again…

“You know,” said Andre, appearing in the doorway – beer in hand – not looking at anything in particular, “I was gonna live here forever.” He laughed. “I never thought I’d need to leave.”

Every so often, he’d come to me with something he’d found in his room.

“Oh wow, check this out!” he exclaimed, holding a little drawing book and a fresh beer. “It’s this book of drawings I did when I was a kid. I was probably seven or so. Parts of my life up to that point.”

I stood up, looked over his shoulder as he thumbed through the book with his beer hand. He kind of disappeared into each drawing, pausing just long enough to grasp the memory before turning the page.

“Look at this one, man!” The drawing was of his parents, brother and himself eating at a Japanese restaurant (spelled Janpenese with a crayola) in Chicago. “Get this,” said Andre, reading a caption at the bottom of the drawing, “‘Things I love in my life: my family, the Chicago Bears, and God.” He laughed, took a long drink the beer, slammed the book shut. “Man, I always wait ’til the last minute to pack,” he said, then went back to his room.

One crazy chapter after another...

One crazy chapter after another…

Luis didn’t wait until the last minute to pack. He’d been sending his belongings to his girlfriend and family members in Texas for the last several months. But both Andre and Luis had the same aura of hasty hesitance surrounding them as they packed. By seeing them pack together, I realized that packing’s packing, no matter how you do it. Both of them were heading to new places – Luis to work in New Orleans, then Houston; Andre was moving in with his girlfriend, Charity. Exciting things lay ahead for them both, but those things didn’t necessarily make the transition any smoother. They were still turning the last page of a chapter, which is always a tricky turn. You lick your fingers, but the page is still difficult to grasp. The anticipation of the ending of the chapter grows into frustration as you try to separate the pages, and when you finally do and turn the page, you speed through to the end. After reading the last sentence, you hang on it for a while. You read it over and over, trying to understand why, exactly, the chapter ends with that sentence. You put the book down, close your eyes, and look at the sentence in your head, searching for the meaning underneath the words…not wanting to face the possibility that there may not be any profound meaning in the sentence at all, that it’s simply the last sentence that needed to be written.

The next day, I was sitting in the kitchen eating a sandwich. Pictures of Luis and Andre, friends, newspaper clippings and cards still hung on the refrigerator. Pots still hung from the rack, but there were fewer things on the counter and table. I got up and walked around. In the hallway, the weird painting of Gandhi smiling and holding a ham-hock was gone. Throughout the apartment were boxes – or just empty space – where a couch, a chair, a lampstand used to be. The bungalow’s rooms were hollower. An echo rattled through the whole apartment. It was as if reality was disappearing, piece by piece. I imagined I would soon be standing in some kind of blank chamber. White walls, white floor, white ceiling. Nothing, just me in a pair of jeans holding a half-eaten sandwich.

People are turning chapters all over East Hollywood.

People are turning chapters all over East Hollywood.

When I saw my backpack by the front door, I suddenly realized something that I’d willingly put off realizing for a few weeks. I needed a new place to stay, soon. Then I imagined myself down the street, hanging out with the winos in the hobo jungle at the corner of Sunset Blvd and Serrano St. – boiling a shoe in a pot over a small fire, stirring it with a twig, my hand clothed in a glove with the fingers cut off. There was a tin can of something heating by the fire, for a side dish. I didn’t know what it was, the wrapper had been torn off. Some hobos down the way were engaging in spirited babbling, another was blowing sad on the harmonica. It was nighttime, and though we were in the heart of Jungle Hollyweird, we could all hear a far off lonely train whistle blowin’…

I finished the sandwich, put on a t-shirt and sent out a mass email stating I needed a place to stay for a week or so. I had three places to choose from within minutes, then more as the day progressed. I was spared from homelessness once more.

But homelessness was on my mind. Several times during the week, I met up with a man who was homeless, who I will call “M”. M is 49. For the last several years he’d been in and out of jail. He’d robbed, stolen, all of it. With two strike against him, he’d spend the rest of his life in prison if he got another felony.

Art imitating life in the Hobo Jungle.

Art imitating life in the Hobo Jungle.

“I go to a parking lot over there by Melrose at night,” he said. “It’s not so bad. There’re some strung out gang-bangers that go there, but they look at me and I just look at them. They don’t bother me. I just gotta hang in there until the 10th of next month and I get some housing and food stamps. Man, sometimes I think, how did…” the thought either left him or wasn’t worth completing, “…well, it’ll all be good, man. I’m just tired, you know.”

Luis’ and Andre’s next door neighbor, The Great Warrior, was tired too. He had a place to sleep, but he didn’t know for how long. He was unemployed and had about one month before he’d be broke. He was once again reshaping the resume and writing cover letters during the day…and repeatedly beating me at chess at night, while talking to me about it.

“I don’t know man,” he said. “I put a call out to all of my industry friends. If I’m lucky, I can get something through them. I’ll probably be the oldest PA (production assistant) in the city.”

Later, I rode with The Great Warrior to the farmers market in Silverlake, in his pick-up truck. We were carrying on a conversation of half-sentences with long spaces of silence in between. “It’s hard not to get down on myself,” said The Great Warrior, with potential to be the first to speak a fully structured, grammatically correct statement. But when steam started shooting out from under the hood of his truck, he finished with, “that doesn’t help.”

Early evening on Thursday, I was walking down Serrano St. It was still hot, but the heat seemed to be tired, lingering for posterity because it was still August. Summer was dying. It felt like I’d just arrived in LA. I have three whole months. That’s plenty of time to get it together, I thought as I steered the rental car down Sunset, back on June 1st. The evenings were cold then. They were hot in July. Now, they were cold again. The hot days and cold nights left me with a thick head, which made me not want to do a damn thing, lately, especially lick my fingers, grab the corner of the page and turn it.

Dying summer...

Dying summer…

As I neared Sunset Blvd, I ran into Edith and her son. Edith and family lived in the bungalow next to The Great Warrior. Back in July, Luis and I built a ramp for them, so the patriarch of the family, Miguel, could get in and out of the bungalow in his wheelchair. Earlier in the year, Miguel was injured on the job (you can read more about it in the Jamberoo: O’er The Ramparts We Are…). Miguel was undocumented, and though his Good Ol’ American Boss had no problem hiring him to work for her, she hadn’t much interest in him after he broke his back on the job. No insurance, no workers comp. He was, in short, screwed, and everyone in the family carried the same expression of bewildered fear on their faces.

“Gracias,” Edith said as we walked down the street together. “For the ramp. Thank you.” She thanked me every time I saw her.

“De nada.”

We walked awkwardly in silence for a few steps, before Edith asked, “You boys go, eh?”

“Si…moving.”

“Oh…we will miss.  Good boys.”

She turned to her son and spoke rapidly in Spanish. I heard enchiladas. When she finished her son turned to me.

“My mother would like to cook for you guys,” he said.

“My place,” said Edith. “Es Monday OK?”

“Monday’s fine…si! I will tell Luis and Andre.”

The three of us shook our heads and smiled for a while. Then Edith thanked me for the ramp again.

“De nada,” I said again. “Are you guys OK?”

Edith looked at me with nothing in her eyes but honesty. Then she finally smiled, said, “We will be OK.”

I told them I’d see them on Monday and walked ahead, fast. I didn’t need to be anywhere but I had to get away because I got angry and hurt and sad and even a little happy, dammit, because it was yet another time when I’d heard someone say they will be OK when they may very well not be OK. I was completely and utterly baffled once again by our species’ oversized brains. Or is it some defense mechanism set deep in the lizard part of our brain, to stay alive, this “I will be OK.” People die hopelessly, sometimes, don’t they? People get f@#ked and know they’re f@#ked and the people who f@#ked them give them the old “f@#k you” and they’re left to wander in the white blank space until their last breath, right?! Surely, that will happen to Miguel, Edith and their children, right?! There are people all over facing real despair! Not little dilemmas over whose couch to sleep on, but real hard streets where things may kill you if you fall asleep. But if you ask them they will smile and say “we will be OK.” We WILL? What is it that keeps us saying, “We WILL?”

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OK…

I went inside a donut shop and bought a donut and a Coca Cola. When I walked out on Sunset, the weather had changed for the evening. It was cool, just like that. To the west, down the boulevard, the sky was yellow-pink – the sun had moved behind the hills. The streetlights had a little more pop to them – brighter yellows, greens, reds, all down Sunset. I could see Edith and her son walking west, some distance ahead of me. They were talking, their hands moving, their steps not so heavy. They could’ve been any mother and son walking into that magnificent yellow-pink sky. I turned the corner and walked up Serrano. I was about to eat a donut and drink a coke. Edith and her son were alive. There was only Now and we were all, indeed, OK.

Be well…

Forgetting, Hiking, Remembering.

Hello Everybody,

map_get.aspOn Saturday, I went hiking at Lake Awosting with my friends, Dan and Matt.  Lake Awosting is another mountain lake on the Shawangunk Ridge, along with Lake Minnewaska, which I wrote about in a previous Jamberoo (The Fading of the Ancient Screams http://wp.me/p2O8u6-5E).  Awosting’s at a lower altitude than the other lakes, and due to a recent snowstorm, the only lake open for hiking.  So, easy decision.  Lake Awosting it was.

Dan was tasked with making the decisions for the trip – it was his idea in the first place.  His wife, Wren, was out of town and he wanted to get out of the city.  Matt’s girlfriend, Molly, went with Wren, so he was free to come along, too.  Dan rented a Zipcar, printed out the directions, plugged in the ipod.  Then we set out for the Great White North, into the clean air for a day of hiking and good old-fashioned gettin’ back to the land, man-in-the-wild kinda stuff.  Maybe even wrestle a bear.

I looked forward to the trip all week.  I’m at the point of jumping on  any opportunity I can to break free of the gravity of New York City, which has such an affect on a person that it – should one embed themselves in its caverns long enough – compresses them to a size so tiny where the only perspective attainable is:  everything’s close to me and closing in on me, everything’s fast and faster than me, everything revolves around me and I am the center of the Universe, where are my pills?  Being on a mountain – or anywhere out in the open – gives me the understanding that I’m but a tiny piece in a puzzle of incomprehensible proportions.  Not a border or corner piece or a piece with any wierd curvature, just a piece that looks like most of the others.

Matt and I on Saturday, befrore setting out into the wilderness.  Dan is parking the car.

Matt and I on Saturday, befrore setting out into the wilderness. Dan is parking the car.

But I wasn’t thinking of any of that, however, in the days leading up to the hike.  I was thinking about a fellow named Oscar Koch.  I met Oscar in 2010. He was in his 60’s.  When he was younger he wrote a little, did some acting.  Then somewhere along the way, he suffered a sever injury, leaving him partially disabled.  Sometime after that, he became morbidly obese.  Then he was homeless.  Fortunately, he ended up in supportive housing through Housing Services Inc, where Matt worked.  Matt had read a few plays of Oscar’s and asked me if I would direct a reading of one of them – one he’d been working on since 1979 – and said it would be a big deal to the big guy to see his play on the stage, even if it was just a reading.  I said yes.  I figured it would be a nice way to sweeten my karma, no big deal.  But of course, it turned out to be bigger deal than I could imagine…

All I could think about was Oscar one the way to Lake Awosting, with Matt right behind me in the backseat.  But we didn’t talk about Oscar, and after we parked the car and began our ascent to the lake on the snow covered trail, the beautiful scenery – along with my mental preparations for a bear attack – pushed the thoughts of Oscar further from my mind.  Onward we marched, playing the role of Man as the trail narrowed and the parking lot and civilization disappeared.  It was a grand time.  But the snow on the trail got deeper and deeper as we forged on – knee deep in some places.  Soon the hike had become a genuine bitch of a thing.  But we weren’t about to turn back.  Dan, Matt and I grew silent as the time between the slushing of our got longer and longer.  Sometime around then Oscar came back to my mind with gusto…

We went on this path, just add a foot of snow to your imagination.

We went on this path, just add a foot of snow to your imagination.

His play was about a community theatre troup rehearsing a play about life in the great depression.  It was one of those plays where the line between reality and make-believe gets blurry and before you know it, the actors believe they are the characters.  A young engenue really thinks she is the young sickly girl she is portraying.  A young shy actor really believes he can take her away, heal her and make her happy.  The actress playing the engenue’s wilder, older sister really believes she can run off to the city and become a star.  And an old over-acting actor really believes he is the drunk tortured Everyman of the play, the symbol of the decline of the country, a martyr.  Things get whacky and the director hopelessly tries to hold onto his sanity.  Oscar’s play wasn’t an untold story, but certain lines grabbed me, like this one from the older sister:

“It’s a great big world out there!  I can’t wait to go out in it and make myself sick.”

This wasn’t a play written by a 25 year-old ivy league graduate student at a series of cushy writer’s retreats on the shores of various lakes throughout New England over the period of two years.  What made Oscar’s play great was that it was written by a man who ventured out into that great big world, then before he knew it he was crippled, fat, homeless, and later spending his life in a tiny room in a big city solving crossword puzzles and rewriting a play he’d begun as a young man, before any of it happened to him.  What made his play better than anything a trained writer could think up and write it down to create an intellectual statement was the fact that it was exactly not that.  It wasn’t trained writing, it wasn’t thought up, it wasn’t intellectual – it was simply lived life.

One day, Oscar tried to tell me about his life and how things ended up the way they did.  But as he tried he became inarticulate, as if everything about his life was foggy except the present moment.  Finally, he gave up trying and shrugged his shoulders – which were permanently lospided due to the injury he suffered years ago – and smiled.  Of course he smiled, he had every reason to.  His play was going to be read in New York City.  I didn’t need to know the details of Oscar’s life, anyway.  I knew who he was through his play.

Explanation of Oscar's life, anyone's life.

Explanation of Oscar’s life, anyone’s life.

Toward the end of the play, the drunk father storms onto the stage and rambles out a monologue about his broken manhood in a broken country and that death is the only choice for him now.  His sweet, sickly daughter cries at his feet, begging him to stop speaking of such things.  Then suddenly, the drunk father morphs back into the actor – confusing the sick daughter.  He tells her the rehearsal is over.  She doesn’t understand and grows distressed.  Then he smiles, empathetically, and tells her it’ll all be ok – that life blows around like a storm with great triumphs and deep lows and more losses than wins, but at the end, you’re gonna look at the few people around you and tell them, you know, it wasn’t all that bad.  Then he leaves the stage, not the tragic alcoholic father caught in a social whirlwind, just the tired actor who has to get up early the next morning and go to work.  However, the young actress remains convinced she is really the sick daughter.  As the lights begin to go down, she asks where everybody is, that she’s scared and lonely.  Gradually, she grows more distressed, and panics.

“Keep the lights on!  I am not ready yet!  I’m young!  I still have so much more to do!”

Lights down, the play ends.

I cast some of my fellow actor friends in the roles and we did the reading at a theatre on 42nd street – my friend, Erika, ran the theatre and let us do the whole thing for free.  We invited some people to come and most of them did.  Just before we began, Oscar was very nervous.  He was also a bit embarrassed because he was so large he had to sit on two chairs on the edge of the stage, where the audience could see him.  But I’m sure that was fate.  I’m sure all of us in that theatre were meant to see Oscar clearly as we listened to the words of his life’s masterpiece.  The man was the play, the play was the man.  We were meant to see that the only training for storytelling is living, and writing without living is nothing more than hollow intellectualism, i.e. lies.

After the reading, Matt, Oscar and I talked in the lobby about what parts of the play could be worked on.  We made plans to meet in two weeks.

“Well, I guess I got work to do,” he said, very happily.

Matt called me two days later to tell me that Oscar was dead.  It was apparently a peaceful passing.  Matt found him in his room sitting on his bed – a crossword puzzle on his chest, pencil in his hand, as if the next word could only be found in a dream.  Don’t tell, Matt, but I could hear him crying over the phone.

“The last thing Oscar said to me,” Matt said, “was, ‘Gee, I guess I’m a playwright now.'”

Then that was it.  I hadn’t seen or spoken to Matt until this past Saturday.  Almost 3 years.  Just like that.

Example of the truth being much less dramatic.

Example of truth being much less dramatic than fear.

It was very good to see Matt again.  It was good to see Dan, too.  It’s good to see friends, anytime.  Our hike was like most hikes I’ve done.  It was hard going up, easy going down, and reaching the destination didn’t feel like the big deal I thought It’d be – just three friends sitting by a frozen lake, eating snow, speaking every now and then.  Towards the end of the hike the three of us goofed off like kids, chased each other, stumbled, laughed at ourselves.  We made it back from the wild in one piece – lived to tell the tale.  Turns out the bears were still hibernating.

We huffed and puffed in the parking lot, which lead to more laughter over the fact that damn, we’re are getting older.  We were so tired we had to drink coffee to stay awake on the way home.  But we made in to the city without passing out or slipping into dimentia.  No, we are alive and healthy, each of us possessing an abundant potential to thrive.   As Dan drove me to my place, I stared into the dashboard light, bewildered over the richness of memory – how real my memory of a guy named Oscar Koch was – sewed into my life, my story.  I was also a bit ashamed to realize that I’d forgotten about him until now.

There's Oscar,  the older fella standing in the back.  Matt is standing at the far left.  The rest are damn good  friends.

There’s Oscar, the older fella standing in the back. Matt is standing next to him on the left. The rest are more damn good friends.

Be well…