Freak Zone

Now into some twisty fifty mile an hour curves, the traffic breaks up. Semis in the slow lane Jake braking and a few hot shots zipping by- way over the speed limit- then cutting into slack spots before doing the same move again. It’s the law in Colorado. Fast lane is only to pass. Also, if a vehicle is obviously stopped on the side of the road, State law says you have to get over to the left. Mile after mile of smoothed out, red-streaked rock formations everywhere since the road drops you two thousand feet in about five miles. Coming out of a tunnel into bright sunlight, Rick spots the red sportscar that had the truck from hell on its ass. In a long sweeping left banked curve, I too see her. She’s tucked in between two semis like a chick between a hen and a rooster.

I pass, on the right is our former enemy. We look down from way higher in Tegan’s Dumptruck. She just looks straight ahead. The psycho with the twin flat beds is nowhere in sight. This gal wasn’t chancing it. She was staying right where she was, thank you very much. After a few miles we forget all about her.

Every one worth a damn in Colorado drives a Dodge pickup of some sort. New ones- or close to it. Flat beds, set up for towing fifth wheel horse and stock trailers, service bodies. The big grills and frame make the three quarter tons look like three ton jobs. I’m a Dodge man to the core, but these new Dodges are half tons on steroids. Pull any new pickup into a materials yard and start loading scoops of gravel with a short bucket loader. On any of them a real ton of material will have it looking just like a great Dane looks hunched bent over taking a dump on a lawn. Driving said loader for Jessie, first owner of the Acton hardware, I witnessed many a sad faced owner frantically shoveling sand or gravel out of his bed to get the shocks off the overloads.

I’m at the Boulder DMV with my son-in-law and Scout, my four year old granddaughter. She’s a big deal. A six grandson streak was finally broken. As Jason, Scout’s dad, waits his turn the man about four people ahead of him is heard to say, “I’ll be back in two minutes!” I’m sitting down in one of two dozen wood chairs that line one wall. Scout and I watch the man go past a bunch of busy windows then past the security guard and out the double glass doors. As soon as the doors closed everyone had something to say about what had just gone down. This buzz-headed, inked up bozo in his late twenties, has just slunk out in his low slung shorts and flip flops leaving a kid in a removable car seat on the DMV desk. Hey, it’s Boulder. The license gals have wooden desks you sit down in front of. Pretty laid back. Not this laid back though. You leave your kid? An infant? It was pretty damn funny what everyone in line had to say about it.

This chubby black gal next to us about three chairs over breaks the ice. “You have to be kidding me. Is this dude a friend of yours?” Directed at the fifty or so Latin looking woman wearing a nice shirt and sweater circa 1980’s. Looking dazed at the front doors then scanning everyone staring at her from the closest lines and chairs behind them she pops right out of her daze to defend herself. To anyone who wanted to listen, CLERK: “I’ve a good mind to have the man arrested. I’ve never seen such behavior in 21 years of working here!” OK, she’s now off the hook. The outrage pours out in machine gun burst from all over the room. Even the clerks on each side of her and the people being helped get some shots in.

This cowboy had a couple of good ones. Since he was about six four and three hundred pounds, he could say any damn thing he wanted. In this atmosphere, he had a lot of latitude anyhow. COWBOY: “Were all thinkin’ it. Poor white trash has now reached a new low point!” Now two women approach the baby. One spins the car seat around and tilts it. A cute little white trash baby is asleep. It has a tiny, too-small shirt on that barely covers the top of its chubby tummy. Someone had written. WHITE POWER on its tummy with a felt pen mimicking a tattoo. Swell. Many more comments poured out, then the father was spotted coming back into the double doors. He’s smiling and sort of strolling. His flip flops clapping on the linoleum floor as he comes back to his desk and clerk.

He smiles and starts to say something and gets his legs cut off at the knees by a now enraged clerk. CLERK: “I don’t want to hear anything from that mouth of yours except goodbye. If I hear anything different I will not hesitate to have security arrest you!” All said straightforward and well modulated. This zero made the mistake of looking back for some support. No way. Stone cold silence and frozen glares. I glance down at Scout and see she looks concerned. I whisper, “Don’t worry, the guy’s an idiot being taught a lesson!” She smiles and nods her head. Picking up the car seat, he puts on his sunglasses in defiance and leaves the premises.

Our next stop was GREAT! A really old, really big used book store and vinyl record warehouse. My first stop on the Freak express. I buy my grand kid Simon a six foot backed cut out of Boba Fett, the bounty hunter from Star Wars. Simon is the thoughtful insightful sort. Rare for a Fahey spawn. He says a dejected, “Too bad he died in the Pit of unspeakable horror!” Huh? What bullshit is this? As I fork over ten bucks for the original but beat up display I fill Simon in. Boba Fett kicked in his back pack thrusters, dropped two sonic grenades and was blown free about three minutes after Jabba the hut was choked out by Leia!” No wonder our country is falling apart. Kids don’t know any of the important things that bind us as a society. He perked up at this bit of news. Also, Boba built a ‘Slave Two’, intergalactic bounty hunter ship, but, another time.

If you think I’m off base ask any kid fourteen or younger who John Wayne is. They have no idea what you’re talking about. I have an old movie that has John Wayne asking for war bond donations. He was dressed in his cowboy gear sitting with a high back chair backwards. A lit smoke in one hand. His Stetson was pushed back as he wrinkled that broad forehead of his and said, “I don’t need to tell you who I am, so, lets get down to what I’m on screen for!” Sorry Duke, not any more. I once fixed the phone jack on his ship at the Balboa Island Marina pier off his house while working for Pac Bell. It really was a ship. It had formerly been a U.S. Navy minesweeper. About sixty five foot long with all steel frame and hull, quite a ride to hit the ocean on. It was called, ‘The Grey Goose’. I wish I could have gone on it. Alas, I fixed the phone problem at the pier jack connection. As soon as I replaced a green pitted connection, the phone started ringing on board.

While Simon took the six foot board out to the truck, I watched him through the storefront glass to make sure he got back OK. With all the displays, it was hard to keep an eye on him. As he came back inside, another kid he knew from school comes in right behind him. Night and day. Simon, hippie throwback followed by a pierced Goth in torn black everything. They seem to like each other. As they say adios, one of the owners of the store says, “Hey, Judas!”, while he comes down a crowded book aisle towards us. For some reason he thought I was with the pierced kid. I smile and nod. The owner looks like a young Jerry Garcia from the Grateful Dead, 1970’s. He accepts me as a friend and says, “You going to the battle of the bands tonight!” I shrug my shoulders and ask Simon if he’s going. Simon says no and heads for the record side of the split building. I go for small talk. “So, kid, did it hurt getting all those pins and studs put in?” He looks bored but gives me a monotone ‘humor the old guy’ spiel. Then I notice the ink peeking out of his shirt collar. I’m stunned. He had to be fifteen if that. The store man is his uncle, it turns out. His uncle says, “Hey, show him how much you’ve gotten done!”

The black hair, streaked with red hair, is exposed as the kid takes off his multicolored Jamaican flop cap and lifts his zombie apocalypse t-shirt over his head. Half of his upper back had a Friday the 13th Jason in an almost colored-in red stripe shirt, stabbing some other gore guy with his scissor fingers up through the stomach. This other undertaker looking guy is coming down with a machete into Jason’s skull in about one second. Muscles bulging with the power he’s putting into the blade’s downward blow. Hey, some lucky gal might marry into this work of art. It can only go up in value. I shake my head up and down and say nothing. My input wasn’t needed for once. The kid puts his shirt down and heads down a book filled isle with his uncle. Not a word said.

Heading back to Tegan’s, I tell Simon and Scout about the special needs kids I talk to all the time at the Tehachapi show and the second hand shop I’m doing my Community Service at. Simon wanted to know what Community Service was. I gave him the short version. “They can’t shoot you after court on compliance codes so they make you clean toilets and scrape gum off the floors with razor blades!” He gave me the thumbs up. Scout once again looked upset. I tell her I also get first shot at all the toys and books that come in from my pickups. This makes her real happy. Back to the special ed kids. Most aren’t kids. Some are in their fifties. All are just like me though. Stuck at sixteen years old mentally. If that. I click with them. On some weekdays, the local theater has half prices. Not only the usual one dollar hot dogs, but breaks on tickets and pop corn.

I go to this four plex all the time. Especially when about twenty of these ‘kids’ have show day. The theaters are really small. Fifty people, max, in each one. I’ve been in it plenty of times sitting all by my self. The last time I went and the kids were there, the new Marvel flick was out teaming up Iron Man, Thor, some kung fu chick, a bow and arrow guy, Captain America, and, the HULK. The doors open late all the time so we were jammed up all in a bunch just like cattle after a stampede. About five groups back all the families are normal with normal kids. Behind them, apart a few paces, are the special kids with their escorts. They just walk down the street from their home at the top of the avenue.

Everyone is well behaved and really excited. In the front of the conga line are two pals I’ve smiled and said ‘Hi’ to before. One is really stocky and looks like a cross eyed, fifty year old Charlie Brown. He’s wearing a HULK sweatshirt that has HULK flying through the air on one of his leaps. His pal is black as black can be and stone cold blind. He has a cane and those rolled back eyes that let you know this kid is really handicapped. The blind kid is attached to his buddy like glue. Arms locked. A matron is right behind them but relaxed. Everyone wants in so the lines start to bunch together. A normal teenager from the front of the line has just broken Charlie Brown’s heart with a statement to his friend in line with him.

It was innocuous enough but a hard blow to hear for the special kid. “You know, the HULK is way over rated. Iron man or Thor could beat him, no problem!” As some vomit came up out of my stomach, I had to put a stop to this kind of blasphemy instantly. I spin and go into attack mode. “First of all, the HULK doesn’t even need these other losers. I heard they forced him to join. Second, the HULK has already bounced Superman like a basketball when they met, running him out of his own town; he destroyed The Thing in three pages of that comic after the fight started; Thor and Iron Man double teaming HULK would just make it easier for HULK to waste them instead of having to hunt them down one at a time. After they’re toast, what is Captain America, some karate gal and Robin hood idiot going to do against a now really pissed guy that gets bigger and stronger the more you beat on him?”

The doors open and in we all go. As I go for popcorn, I pass Charlie Brown and his pal waiting for their tickets. I put up my hand, Charlie Brown high fives me then pulls me over for a huge bear hug. I sat a couple of rows behind them and made comments all through the movie on how HULK was doing all the real fighting, etc, etc. It was fun.

Back home, just last Saturday night, we had bizarre lightening-like flashes coming over the tops of the five thousand foot hills that separate us from the Mojave Desert. Since we heard on ‘Coast to Coast’ that a big solar flare was to be hitting us, we figured that might be the source. We call everyone we can think of in the Antelope Valley and surrounding areas to go outside and report back to us. Except for my sons, no one cared. I was Chicken Little and the sky was falling. Pretty sad. Hey, if the S.H.T.F, we know one thing. We’re calling family and that’s all. Everyone else that thinks the way we do, off grid, own water, self reliant. They won’t need a call. So, we too are pretty much looked on as Freaks. So be it. Queue Hendrix’s anthem for the fade out and let your Freak flag fly.

Oh, while at a Boulder Café, around ten thousand foot up on the mountain behind Coal Creek, I share my table with three Chinese tourists. Only one spoke English fluently. The others nodded their heads a lot. They looked like Chinese Ozzie and Harriet kids. Very polite. Maybe in their early twenties. The other two are male and a thin, intense looking female with tightly pulled back hair. She smiles at me then ignores me. I notice her quiet companion is missing the ends of two fingers on his left hand. Zeng, the only name I can remember of the more fluent of the group sees me looking at the nubs and says a pleasant, “A panda bit them off!” What? A fuzzy little chubby fur ball did that? I tell him that I had just read a book on Wolverines and could see him losing fingers to one of them, but a panda? The man missing the ends of his digits speaks Chinese to his companion. They have a spirted back and forth them I’m filled in. All three are now looking right at me as their companion speaks.

“He says he once thought the same thing. He was shocked to find out their fur is a hard and sharp as a pigs bristles. They also fight off leopards and kill small animals for food. When he was studying them in Bejing, a man went into an enclosure to hug one and have his picture taken. He had his testicles torn off and almost died on the way to emergency!” Gee. Who would have guessed?

One last thing. On those Wolverines. They have fantastic, life-long connections with mates and offspring. From being studied by radio transmitters, fathers years later will hook up with mates, daughters and sons and spend weeks hunting and playing together. If a male shacks up with a pregnant female, when the usually two or less pure white offspring are born, the male will raise them as if his own. Cool! Pound for pound the Wolverine is the most powerful mammal on earth. Only about five hundred or so left in the continental United States. More in Canada, and some colonies still exist in the colder areas of Europe and the Norwegian areas…

To Sqeegan’s near Boulder

It’s six a.m. on the fourth of July. Filling up the dump truck outside of Mojave on the 58 to Barstow. I pull the truck over to the air/water station to give the rig the once over before a 1,000 mile non-stop. Dropping the hood after an A-OK, I see them. Road Demons. Oh yeah. Real Demons. I know the breed. Raised with some of their young in juvenile facilities and half-way house ranch homes. Their boys are usually mean and heartless. They don’t tend to get any nicer as they age. The five men and one woman staring at me from the dirty windows of a beat up stretch van all have the same look. Prey? I give them a pantomime. I use my right fist to make a head bash movement, then, I pretend to bend over and drag someone backwards by their armpits while casting a quick eye around. I then stand up straight and bow at the van. They all nod as one and smile back at me.

As Rick comes out with our road coffees I ask him to check out the van from his rear view mirror as I start the truck and pull around past it. I ask him if anyone is looking at us. Rick says. “Nope”! Every time I sip my coffee I check to see if its behind us. After we hit the 15 to Vegas I lightened up.

It’s a free ride through Vegas. The Fourth is a good holiday to travel. Most prefer barbeques and fireworks to long desert drives. Out of Nevada into Utah, only an occasional spattering of huge rain drops on the windshield from dark clouds miles away finally reaching us. The flat boring desert breaks into some wonderful rock formations and gullies cut by racing waters. No water in them though. Drought and wild fires have the air like dry kindling as you suck it in.

With no stereo and bible thumpers on the radio from Salt Lake City it’s story time. Rick the Great asks me if we could stop at the Calico Mines some time. He was captivated by the road signs promising a great time for the family. I tell him the story of a Widowmaker. Not the King, another story. This was about the F.W.D.

Sometimes the Dead should be left alone about raps its story up in a nutshell. As at the beginning of this story, let’s face it. Some people are just plain bad. The degrees can vary. but they’re out there all right. I would have to say the same goes for a lot of other things. Machines for example.

I had a truck parked at the far end of my Acton ranch that sat there for YEARS. It’s personally killed three men and maimed at least a dozen more. When I asked my truck pal George Sack to come check it out after finally getting it to my place, he didn’t even get out of his Dodge pickup. He stared at it, then me, then told me to hop in and we would go to lunch. I wondered if he would look over my new rig first, I was all excited at making it home in second gear all the way from Aqua Dulce, ten miles away. Putting his truck in drive Sack said a tight lipped, “Fuck you and fuck that truck. It’s a bad luck piece of shit man killer. Get the fuck rid of it!” He then backed to the pavement and left me in his dust.

After some of my own experiences, I left the truck in isolation. To unload it on someone else would just bring me some cosmic bad luck. Until I figured out a better plan, it sat. Battery cables disconnected. With no help from George, I take some photos of it around to various mechanics and truck repair shops wondering if anyone was familiar with the company. Even after the internet almost zip on specs. Info on the F.W.D. company, sure. No spec manuals. Zero. Zip. Nada. I pretty much figured all the controls out on my own. I also figured out how it could have hurt and killed so many guys. It was alive. Oh yeah. I find out later from Sack that he himself had driven the truck to a film shoot in the valley once, years prior. He told me the truck was one treacherous bastard. He would never, ever, drive it again. “It almost killed me a bunch of times. It pops out of gear. The brake gauges show everything is fine then they fail you. The crane controls just go out of control. It has those dual controls on each side of the boom and it feels at times like someone is working the controls the same time that you are. It’s a scary truck. Just junk the fucking thing!”

I had won the truck in a poker game in what was most likely the only case of a guy cheating to lose. The owner tells me after the game I’m responsible for its transport. If it wasn’t gone by the next Saturday he would start charging me storage fees until I did remove it. Fine. I ask if one of his drivers will take it to my place for a fee. He just said a low, “Good luck with that my friend!”, then pointed to a bill of sale laying on the table as he got up and left. I was estatic! I already knew the truck well. Every time I went to the Boston Henry drilling and well shop I would always walk around the faded orange truck parked in the rear yard, all by itself. It sat tall. Real tall. It’s what’s called in the trade a C.O.E. Cab over engine. To access the 612 horse V-8 you had to pull two steel rods just under the drivers seat through some tiny steel steps built into the frame. The steps had pointed teeth welded into the tops. To better catch your heel and plunge you into a head first fall to the ground. Once behind the big steel steering wheel, you were trapped in place. The bench seat was bolted into one position. If over 170 pounds, get used to that four foot around wheel hitting you right in your belly button. Don’t even try to wriggle into any sort of comfort zone. Accept it and get to stage two. Starting it.

Now, you’re thinking of starting your own vehicle. Forget that idea. This truck was built in 1960. Its name on the only ad I could find on it? THE TRACTIONEER!!! Yep. No bullshit. Look it up. Built to go anywhere. Six wheel drive. 14 ton, forty five foot extending boom. Sixteen foot alligator armored steel bed with diamond plate in the middle. A twelve foot long, thirty inch around steel auger to drill holes for power poles. Under the boom, a rear projected forty thousand pound winch with two hundred feet of five eighths braided cable ending in a giant steel hook. At the end of the boom was a grab claw to pick up poles to set them in the new holes you just dug. Just like at the job site at the Calico Mines where it killed its first man. Back in the early sixties, it was owned by Edison. They had to truck it on a lowboy to any really tough job; their regular trucks couldn’t cut it. Its huge engine sucked up fantastic amounts of fuel. It got one mile to the gallon no matter how you drove it. In six wheel drive carrying the end of a seventy foot pole on its bed held by the winch? A half mile to the gallon.

Since it was such a monster to drive, the crews aware of its rep would palm it off on new guys. After a quick lesson on how to work the controls, another sucker was snickered at as he attempted to lift a pole for the first time. Hey, what was the big deal? Some laughs then the guy would give up. Nope. This time the new guy seemed to have a knack. Out went the extender boom. Open went the toothed-with-steel jaws to grab wood pinchers. Fully opened, they gaped forty inches wide. As the forty five foot pole lifted clear, the new driver beamed down at his co-workers while exclaiming, “This is a piece of cake!” Then the boom went out of control right into some power lines way on the other side of the truck. Fighting the controls from his side of the bed, the new guy couldn’t even see the other side of the truck from his position. Some amp sparks, a loud crackle of high voltage then the operators shirt caught on fire as he slumped against the all steel control console. The power surge killed the engine but not the voltage. It was a few minutes until they could knock out the power and get the body down. The F.W.D. had its Edison decals pulled and the truck was sent to be sold at auction. A company in Santa Barbara bought it to do tree trimming work. It maimed and injured so many employees it was traded for an old water truck.

It ends up at another auction. This time bought by Boston Henry in Aqua Dulce. It’s such a pain in the ass the Henrys try to make their money back by renting it out for movie shoots and such. That’s how Sack ended up driving it. To a movie shoot. Two hotshots rent the truck for a job they had lined up. They needed the auger to set some posts for a mini barn and hay storage shed.

Getting to the ranch early, they follow the owner’s directions and back the rig into the edge of some large pepper trees. Circles can be seen showing where the holes are to be drilled. The ranch owner, a nice looking blonde in her thirties wonders if the boys would like a beer. Hell, it was in the 80’s already and it was Saturday. Why not? A six pack later while perusing the handmade sketches for the structure, the men return to the truck, fire it up and set the stantion legs to support the crane. Once the legs are set, you can operate the crane controls. Oh, after you choose your operating gear speed then put the controls to the dual positions on the rear bed behind the tall cab. If the interior gear jumps out, adios rear control. Instantly. Usually it will just stop. Not all the time. It had happened to me before. That’s why I would use number ten ground wire already looped to fit over the tall shifter with the steel knob on top to the brake pedal. Something these guys didn’t know about.

As the man on the ground gave instructions the man on the left side controls started to extend the boom towards the eight by eights in a pile to the left. As the man at the controls started to struggle with the levers the boom started going out all on its own while swinging out of control to its far left. As tree branches started to creak and snap the truck finally shuddered to a stop. Not before the boom hit a 220 line going out to a guest house in back high up in the pepper trees. The boom man died instantly. His buddy died later in the hospital. He had tried to pull his pal free and caught some voltage while standing on wet grass under the left stantion support.

The rig ends up back at the Boston/Henry yard. It’s traded for another truck to Dave Woods. Oh man. Woods. A real piece of work. Shifty. Clever. Knew every con and trick to be known in the drilling trade. Chased by many and wanted in six counties. I loved the guy. I worked for him for a year off and on to pay back a well he drilled for me. Actually, by his nephew, Brian Flowers. Brian stories are really funny. Another time on him.

Woods was this kind of guy: Once I went with him to collect a debt on a well he had drilled. It was up off Hierba road behind the Pepper Tree Market off Sierra Highway. It was around nine at night. Woods and I had just left the Aqua Dulce bar and were pretty lit up. The porch light comes on illuminating the entree, then, pitch black and stars once out of its aura. The man who opens the door is pissed. He towers over the both of us. Woods at first glance looks like a grown up Opie from the Andy Griffith show. It’s what got him over. At first. Fifty grand later you want to punch Opie out.

So, the big man steps past his screen to start berating Woods for a thief and a rip off artist. Something about promised water or whatever. I stay next to Dave but say nada. As the man steps even closer to Dave, Woods suddenly starts to bawl while tearing his worn out white shirt off. The man steps back, his face aghast. In the yellow of the porch light I step forward to see what the man in staring at. From Woods breast bone to his naval is a zig zag blood red wound held together by about a hundred staples close together. HOLY SHIT! While starting to cry, Woods tells the man he did the best he could but his kidney operation had taken all of his cash. That’s why we couldn’t pick up the drop pipe in Bakersfield for his well casing. As we sat in Woods truck outside the bar in Aqua Dulce recounting the ten grand cash the man had given us for the pipe, Woods looked over at me just before shutting off his dome light and smiled that Opie smile while saying, “I knew the scar would seal the deal!”

Before I can finish the F.W.D. story some events happened around us taking our minds off the past and back to the present. While I let off the gas to let an 18 wheeler cut over from the right lane to pass a string of slower semis ahead of him as we turned onto the 70 to Denver, a red BMW cuts me off and also cuts off the big dual trailer truck I was letting into my lane. He has to swerve so hard to miss her his rear trailer swings back and forth making the tires smoke up in billows as he hammered his brakes. I hit the dirt in the meridian since the dump bed blocks a clear view directly behind me. Better safe then sorry. The picture of ten cars rear ending me flashed through my mind as I slid in the gravel, under control but not in a good spot. I check my right mirror, see that all the cars had slowed with no problem, I get back in the fast lane.

About a mile up the road I pass the Cowboy’s truck with the custom dual exhaust stacks. He’s about thirty, wore a Stetson like John Wayne’s in Rio Bravo and had a wild look on his face. He looked down at Rick and I as we rolled past him on a big incline and nodded. Adios compadre. In about five miles I come up on a string of cars stuck behind some suck ass doing fifty right next to a big rig doing the same. You know the type. Some half a fag who beats off to ‘Broke Back Mountain’. The type of fuck wad who enjoys fucking traffic over. This time I loved the little asshole. He had our yuppie gal pal stuck behind him about five cars back. Cool. Now I could maybe get some payback. Not road rage. Just some running off the road into a cement buttress while calm and collected. I don’t get the pleasure. Like the maniac driver in ‘DUEL’, I see an 18-wheeler coming up on my rear getting bigger and bigger with every glance to my left mirror. I hit my brakes and pull behind the truck in the slow lane. I let two more cars do the same in front of me who are hep to what’s coming up behind us. Not yuppie girl. She’s still riding the bumper of the car in front of her.

As the semi roars past me, I hug the line to see what is going on ahead. From the cars hanging back next to me, it had to be something. Couldn’t see a thing as we were now in a curving downhill grade cutting to the right. As the road leveled off, I was able to get behind three cars that passed me. Like ducklings, the cars ahead of me behind the slow load jumped behind my wake. We all saw the same thing at about the same time. Far up the highway as it started to curve to the left was a tiny red car with an 18-wheeler one inch off its back bumper. Both doing over ninety. OH MY GOD IT WAS UNBELIEVABLE! Then, into some canyons they went. The gazelle and the hungry dragon still inches apart…

Mean Streets

I just argued with a black crack head broad over some fifty cent used boxer shorts. She felt they were way overpriced. Since I was still coming down from throwing a phony crippled broad out of the store in her wheelchair, my adrenalin was up a few notches and my “Hey, how are you” persona hadn’t came back yet. I pull two bucks out of my pocket and give it to the gal and tell her to go crazy. Ok, so another satisfied customer.

These phony pukes and there shove it up their ass ‘Handicapped’ license plates. When society goes Road Warrior these fuckers are the first ones I’m smoking for gas for my truck. Next in my sights, 500 hundred pound blimps with cankles the size of fire hydrants driving around on little electric carts. Hey, fatso, try walking and you wouldn’t need the cart. Or, the “I’m so god damned clever” ones that are driving OFF ROAD TRUCKS with the handicapped plates. Blow me you lying pricks. I haven’t seen a real handicapped person get out of one stinking vehicle since doing fifty hours of community service. If Road Warrior scenario happens? I’ll make these plate holders install land mines around my compound for room and board.

My only good times are going for donated pick up items in my truck. My top five pickups? Hmm. Lets see. OK, starting with five and working to number one. I already know number one so it’s hit and miss with the others.

NUMBER 5: After instructions written in Klingon from a retard, I head into the unknown. Since the Thomas Guide I bought at Home Depot only has the rich areas in it, if not in Stallion fucking Springs or the good parts of Old Town, you’re on your own. My own road isn’t on it. It just shows a wiggle into a dead end canyon that’s a faded squiggle. No lie. Glad I spent 18 bucks on it.

So, back to the pickup. With no Thomas Guide, I figure a gas station map will have to do. Same bullshit. No dirt roads if PRIVATE. Swell. I fight the urge to slice my wrists the long way up and try and use the written instructions. Naturally no phone number anywhere on the scrap of paper. I end up asking some kids riding double on a bike near the Circle K. They want me to buy them a pack of Marlboros and they’ll tell me right where the street is. I tell them no way. I end up going to the hardware store and asking the delivery guy at Henry’s. He gives me the low down. An hour later I’m no closer to my pick up and down a quarter tank of diesel. I spot the kids on the bike in a small park as I’m heading back to the 2nd hand store. I slow and yell, “Stay right there, I’ll be right back!” I know they can see me pulling into the Circle K.

I get a bottled water and a Snickers and some Marlboros. Holy shit, smokes are expensive! I shoot back across the street, let these teens see the smokes in the plastic bag as I take out my water and Snickers then toss the bag onto the top of the trash can next to me. They tell me right where the street is and off I go. Holy shit what a dump. I back down a long weed-choked driveway with a guy from Deliverance guiding me back to my prize. I must have broken off thirty Chinese Elm branches with my tall dump bed. At least they smell cool when you snap them. You can put a stick in a bucket of water and they’ll grow roots out in a couple of weeks. The Chinese that built some of our rail roads brought them over to remind them of home. They also shoot out new growths from their extensive root systems.

I get past the trees and I’m in a big yard full of junk. I find a spot to turn around and get this old man at my window pointing out what I’m to pick up. Looks like a big stack of plastic yard bags full of clothing. I shut off the engine and step out to check them out. I pick one up and the bottom falls out. Holding the ripped top straight out I say to the old man, “Hey dude, I’m not the trash man. This is house hold trash!” The old man is indignant at my attitude. He starts waving these scab covered arms around about two feet from my face while starting to curse me. Screw this. As I head back to my truck I spot three old lawn mowers with weeds growing out of their handle controls. I stop him in mid-curse asking him how much does he want for these lawn mowers. He says fifty bucks. I pull out two twentys and say take it or leave it. He snatches em right out of my paw. I load them up and the guy tosses in a rototiller with no wheels.

I fight my way back out his drive and take the stuff right to Murry’s Lawn Mower Repair. I had just gotten a field man lecture on weed eaters from the guy before buying a Dr. Weed mower from him. Well, Pat, my wife, bought it for me on her credit card. My whining about my small hand held one doing five acres finally drove her insane. Anyhow, while getting the low down, Murry had taken me into his back area where he keeps all of his ready to be picked up equipment he has already repaired. He asks me with a wink. “Which brand is there the most of?” Easy to see. Out of ten in a row with the red ‘Repaired’ tags hanging off their controls, eight say Sears on them. I was learning already. Don’t buy Sears.

I ask Murry to give me the lowdown on other brands he has stacked up all over the place. I mean stacked up, too. Some places there’s literally piles of them. I ask him why he keeps them. “Parts, my friend. Just like an auto junk yard, I can part them out and make a lot of dough!” Oh really sez I. I wonder, “Which ones are you always looking for?” He says instantly, “Anything Husquvarna. They’re Swedish, and some models are impossible to find. I can get fifty bucks for some good wheels and rims alone. If a particular model some old farmer is in love with, what ever I want for rebuilt carbs, trannys, stuff like that. If it’s Italian or German, same deal. Keep your eyes open for me and I’ll take them off your hands, no problem!”.

One of the mowers was a Husquvarna, another was an Italian BHP or something. The third was a Sears model. All beat to shit. Solid tires on them so no flats at least. I back up to Murry’s side gate and ask his yard guy to see if his boss will want the stuff in the back of my dump. The kid steps onto my duallys and looks over my side board. “Oh, shit yeah dude. I’ll go get him!” I drop the tailgate.

Murry goes wild. And not over the lawn movers. He’s crazy about the roto tiller. He gives me a hundred bucks for everything and asks me to find more. Hey, a small profit, but that’s how I roll. The D.A. and Judge think I’m some high roller with all the hundreds of tons of material they took three weeks to remove from my old place. Over three weeks. Hey, it took me thirty years mother fuckers, doing little deals like I had just done with the mower guy. Try doing it yourselves. I’d love to see you pull it off. That goes for anyone. Try putting a ten thousand pound, ninety foot long, ten inch wide and fifty inch tall glue lam up into the air and setting it on something that won’t fall over or collapse. It’s not easy. It takes a moron with a dream to even attempt even one. Forget 128 ninety foot utility poles and fifty two such beams. Oh, don’t forget 60 thousand pounds of inch flange steel ‘I’ beams at forty foot long. I am that moron.

Back at the store, I give the sad news about the waste of time household trash. My manager is actually pretty cool. He offers me some fuel money from the store kitty. I decline. I got to have some fun and made some cash. No harm no foul. The store doesn’t handle junked motor anythings. Maybe the odd fridge or stove. I haven’t seen one big appliance since going to the store and I’ve been hitting its books shelves off and on for months. Maybe because THEIR TRUCK IS BROKE DOWN. Telling people such in a small town can kill a lot of donations.

Oh, on making more dough. I get another lecture by my boss about poaching in others’ work areas. The paid employees little turfs and fiefdoms. I cut to the chase and tell him to put me where ever he wants me and enough said. I clear off the outside tables that have boxes full of stuff with five generations of dead black widow males swinging on the last webs they would ever spin. Since it was now summer Momma had moved to shade. I get a little desert. Some people backed into the rear alley area and unloaded a bunch of boxes. I blow through the two tables to get to my desert.

I move all kinds of stuff into separate grocery carts from stores long out of business so don’t think anyone steals. Some might be lazy, worthless scum bags but everyone seems honest and above board. If anyone in the store buys something, it’s rung up and then the receipt is signed by a manager. I haven’t even tried pricing something my self and taking it up front. I let someone else price anything I’m interested in. I haven’t bought anything over three dollars, so don’t call the President.

Into carts go boxes of used snow chains. Not the good ones. The plastic shitty ones that attach to your rims. On the box is a drawn picture of a smiling woman attaching them as she kneels down wearing a DRESS! Yeah, right. Into another cart go glass ware and such. Coffee mugs with whale handles that say Monterey Bay Aquarium, kitchen ware of every sort and make. I put metal in one plastic Kool-aid dispenser and junk into a small cardboard box. Anything wood flies out of the store. Wooden stir spoons with the holes in the spoon end can cause a riot it spotted by shoppers at the same time. Ditto for wood rolling pins and wooden salad bowls. Glass coffee beakers for some 1930 automatic drip coffee maker that runs on DC? Knife fights. No lie. They can get vicious. Metal blender dealies mom’s let kids lick frosting off of are like mini holy grails. Ancient pop out metal temp gauges? “I’ll cut your throat bitch!”, from the mouth of a kindly looking grandma if another gal even tries to look at it in her basket.

Oh man, don’t get me started. Every day I see the same broads perusing the store. Gee, think they own their own stores and are reselling. Nah. One old battleaxe offers me a little tip if I’ll keep my eye out for etched glasses, or, German knives. I tell her first come first serve. Any German knives I’ll tell my wife Pat about. She’s the one who’s the real pro in garage sales and second hand stores. Hell, if we ever have another ice age I can trade the bag after bag of down everything Pat has stashed in our barn for some hot teen age babes that are scantily clad and freezing. Only to help Pat dress deer and bear and hoeing in the garden. I’m only thinking of her welfare.

Inside the store go the carts. Electronics on one cart goes right to Mr. Navy. He’s one of the coolest guys in the joint. He actually works. He shows me how to test like a pro. I pull out a portable CD player I liked. It’s old, but, really heavy- so I figure it’s a quality item. Nope. Mr. Navy straightens me out. “Its heavy because of these!” He flips it over and removes 12 ‘D’ batteries with green corrosion coming out of them. He hands me the unit minus batteries. It almost floats away. It’s also missing the AC cord. My guy has his own personal collection of cords. In goes an old Pink Floyd disc and he tests it. It only works if you hold the power cord in a certain position while you stand on one foot while turning your head to cough. Adios to that idea. Mr. Navy tests three TVs that all work. Two are missing their remotes- a big minus in the second hand world. It will cancel out any sale to the 500 pound crowd. Get up and change a channel? Are you serious? No dice on the VHS players, either. Rick the Great has been looking for one for a year now. The two we tested were bad. Mr. Navy could tell by the way they sounded that the little plastic wheels had busted cogs. He shows me the date on the newer looking one. 1982. No wonder.

A gal that does the womens clothing catches my eye as I go past with a cart filled to the top with plastic crap too pathetic to mention. Envision plastic coffee cups shaped like cowboy boots faded and stained. Enough on that. She wonders how I could be so cruel to toss out wheel chair bitch. I tell her in a whisper, “First off, she’s a fake. Second, she made the cashier cry talking to her so mean and vicious!” I start to leave and am called back by the clothing women. She whispers, “How did you know she wasn’t crippled?” Oh man, some people have such dull protected lives. A wheel chair is one of the oldest scams in Hollywood. I whisper back to her, “Always check out the shoes of anyone in a wheel chair. Most in wheel chairs that are actually messed up just wear slippers. If they have shoes on look to see if they’re scuffed or worn!” Duh.

Enough for now. I’m bushed from redoing the picture frame section. It’s right next to the old ladies used dresses and we don’t need to go down that road. I was snorting Windex straight the last half hour.

Heading for my daughter Tegan’s in Boulder, Colorado in a couple of days so I’ll be have to catch up when I get back. Hope they have the fires out. At the least should have some interesting road tales. Later…

Ask Alice When She’s Ten Feet Tall

For some reason, I was humming the old Jefferson Airplane song as I watched Alice try two of the pay phones in a row that were out of order. The third was in use. A big trucker was on a call, yet also checking out Alice as she went from phone to phone. Alice looks through the glass door of the occupied booth. She didn’t care that he was in a conversation. Before she could knock on the glass the big man opened it up while still keeping the handset to his ear. From my seat in the running car, I can see big tears rolling down Alice’s face. The trucker dropped the handset as he came out of the booth then around the rear of our car for me. I hit the electric door locks. Alice screamed something at him which made him stop and come back to her at the booth. As Alice took over the phone the big man glared at me as he went past the car towards the coffee shop. I turned my attention back to Alice. She wasn’t crying anymore.

I had a pretty good look at her through the glass as she would turn her head my way once in awhile as she read from a little book she took from her purse half way into her call. She wasn’t on the phone that long. As she walked past the front of the car, I noticed the trucker was still outside the coffee shop’s entrance. Alice gave him a kiss on his cheek and shook his hand. Once again the tears were flowing.

Back inside the car, it was back to business Alice, as she told me to pull over into a parking lot of another coffee shop across the road. I let her out front to save her a walk then parked and locked the car solo. Once inside the small coffee shop, I’m escorted to a booth by the only waitress. On the curve bench type seat was Alice’s jacket already tossed in the middle. I drank three mugs of coffee before Alice came out of the women’s room.

What the? She looked great! You had to look really hard to see the slight cut on her mouth or the swollen lips and eyes. In fact her now painted red lips looked even better then usual. As she sat down I almost made a joke. One glance and that idea went away. The glance said, ‘leave me alone’. I ordered hot turkey sandwiches. As I had figured, I ended up eating most of hers, as usual. She always ate like a bird, so I’d always order stuff I liked. As I ate, Alice stared out the window. While finishing the second sandwich, Alice asked me to tell her a story. I wondered if she wanted any particular story. She wanted a good one was all. I ended up telling her the story of the White Elephant. Since it was the last story I ever told while still clean and pure, I’ll retell it in the short version. It’s a true story so you can look it up if you want the longer version.

STORY: A Maharaja that controlled a large province in India made the mistake of granting one of his villages a pass on having to pay their annual tribute because of a baby elephant calf he spotted with one of their handlers. The calf was pure white. Enamored with it, he took the calf in trade for the taxes owed. As it grew it was deemed special and by an Imperial order proclaimed it was to do no work. Ever. Soon, every village in the province with a white elephant paid their taxes the same way. The Maharaja was going broke feeding and caring for his lazy herd. One of his older wives, who had long fallen out of favor, said she could relieve him of his foolish edict if she regained the number one spot again. He agreed. The British army landed not far from their province moving towards the Kyber pass. As a gift of friendship every regiment that passed through was given a royal banquet, and, a special white elephant to seal the deal. Not wanting to offend, the British put their new elephant with their own herd that carried their cannon and such. Once the regiments got together they found out they had been had. No phones in those days. It was weeks before the ruse came to light. Hence forth, in British slang, anything that was big, costly to keep, and impossible to sell was known as a ‘White Elephant’.

Alice stared at me after I finished the story, but said nothing. Fine. I went back to counting cars getting on and off the highway just past us. It was now dark. The cars pulling into our lot shot their headlights into the glass next to us so I would check the occupants out as they left their cars to come inside. The sun still has some kick in it, but the fog and mist, plus its going down, was making dark take over even faster then usual in the narrow pass. When Alice slid over and got up I started to follow her lead. Nope. She pointed at my coffee mug letting me know what I would be doing for the next few minutes. A big black Suburban had caught her eye and she was heading outside to meet whomever was driving it. The side door opened and Alice was inside and out of sight in one second.

As the waitress poured another cup of coffee for me she said an unfriendly, “Was that from you?” I asked her what was from me. Staring at me like she wanted to toss the hot coffee in my face she leaned closer to me while saying, “The beating. Did you beat her?” I shook my head in a negative while professing no violence in my makeup. Let alone a woman. She headed over to another table. Women notice things men miss all the time.

Alice never came back inside. Someone else did though. A man walked over to my table who looked like he could tell George Foreman his mom was a pig and get away with it. Grabbing the check off the table he said a matter of fact, “Lets take a ride buddy!” That was it. He tossed some money to the gal at the register and kept right on walking. I followed right behind him.

As we left the coffee shop, I watch the Black Suburban get onto the highway. We headed for the Caddy, still parked where I had left it. The big man waited by the passenger door while I hit the locks and climbed in. Guess I’m driving. Before starting the car, I turn to look at the man who had climbed into the back seat, then, sitting right behind me. Nodding at me he said a polite sounding, “We would like to see the horses my friend!” I try and sound laid back and answer with a pleasant, “You got it!” I checked the gas gauge and pulled into an empty slot at the gas station next door and filled up. Not knowing what it ran on, I filled it with premium. With a full tank, we headed up the now even foggier road.

With the sun gone, it was as if we were in another world. I had to creep at five miles an hour in some spots. Using the high beams blinded us even worse. I end up using the parking lights most of the time. After what seemed like hours, I discover I had passed our destination. The dead end clued me in. I turn around and drive even slower back down, trying to spot our road from a different direction. I end up parking and walking on foot using a small flashlight from the glove box. I finally find the driveway from some blurry lights from the farm house. It was a bit closer to the road then the steel barn. The gravel made me feel confident I had the right place. I return with the news. My two companions get out of the car. Both have some sort of weapon under their big coats. I led the way. Off below us, you could make out the shape of the barn. The barn was pitch black. At a brick path leading to the house, up on a small rise, the flashlight is taken from me by the smaller man. All of us had walked slowly and carefully so as not to slip in the loose gravel near the steps.

Before getting out of the car on my return with the news that I had found the place, I gave them a rundown on everything that had transpired. Including the men that I knew were there. I had never been in the house so I didn’t know about people that might be inside it. I’m told to shut up and go quietly back to the car and to stay at the wheel. I nod in the glow of the small flashlight held close to the shorter man’s chest and head back up the steep drive. I have to walk like the mummy with no light. The pavement clued me in to find the car up the road a bit. The fog seemed to be lightening a little as I peered out the windshield into the gloom. I could see a knocked down, bent gate once in awhile from the house light’s glow off to my right.

Some loud ‘BOOM’s make me look through the fog even harder as I sat straight up. I check the keys to make sure they’re in the ignition. My mouth is dry and my heart is pounding. I’m scared half out of my mind. Suddenly I’m not cold anymore. Some more, fainter booms, and all is quiet. I can hear someone coming up the driveway. Their moving fast. I put my hand on the keys. It’s not a man. It’s a horse. Then another and another. One after the other, they’re running in the fog, half mad. One starts screaming in pain as a couple more can be heard crashing through thick brush way off in the dark. I can hear the sounds of wire being stretched. It must have ran into some barbed wire across the road. The snorting and whinny sounds stop, and I hear it heading down the road again. It must have gotten free, or maybe just hit some chain link; it was impossible to see. Now I can hear heavy breathing and men’s footsteps coming up the gravel. I don’t know what to do. I just sit and await my fate like an idiot. I’m told to start the car and turn the low beams on. It’s my new pal with the flashlight. His companion is right behind him.

In the headlights, the two men strip off their outer garments. As they undress, smoke and an orange glow tells me the house in on fire. They seem totally unconcerned. Putting all of their outer clothing into some black trash bags like they’ve done it a hundred times before. I can see them breaking down some shotguns with really short barrels. One looked to be an auto loader. The other was a double barrel for sure. I then watch them dividing some items on the hood of the car using the flashlight to keep count. I lean forward and try to make out what they’re sharing. They looked sort of like little lumps of gold. Huh? Then it dawns on me. Their teeth. Now I’m really scared. Sure I can act tough and full of moxie. In reality, I’m just barely twenty. This is way over my head. My right leg starts jumping all on its own. It at least has the sense to want to run far, far from this place.

As they climbed into the car, the interior light showed me their new looks. They looked like guys who had just went golfing. Slacks and nice jackets. Shoes shiny and polished. Can’t see any weapons at all. The big trash bag is shoved on the floor behind the seat of the large man sitting next to me. The man next to me looks like an oversized dog that has just been on a fun run in the woods and now wants a fire place to lay down in front of. Saying a calm, “Let’s roll!” I do as I’m told and start the car then head slowly down the still foggy road. No one saying a word.

We hadn’t gone but a mile or so when I was told to pull over. Once again I do as I’m told and almost piss my pants. I figure I’m next. I’m told to leave the engine running but to shut off the lights. I wait for the blast. If I could have whipped up some tears I would have. Once again, real life is not like the stupid movies. The man in the back says a calm, “I can’t see a damn thing!” The big man agrees. The man in back slaps me in the back of my head letting me know its time to roll.

We stop in Castaic to toss the trash bag into a bin behind a closed hardware store. I’m told to shove it down good and put some other trash on top. I do as I’m told. They ask me if I can get next to the lake. I take them down a side road where you can see the lake past a chain link fence. Looking all around, the big man gets out, tosses his gun parts over the fence into the water, then does the same for his partners pieces. Once this is done, they seem to lighten up. Stopping at a gas station just before the on ramp I’m told to get some brews and chips. Bottles if they have ‘em. I come back out with some Cokes. The clerk had asked for my I.D. I was carded into my thirties. The big man laughed and went inside for the beers. When he came out, he tossed us both some big beef jerky sticks. Getting on the freeway, I’m handed a cold beer. With the thick fog behind us my spirits perked up. A big paw squeezes my neck as the big man says a friendly, “Hey kid, tell us this story about the Elephants Alice was telling us about!” I stretched this telling until we hit the Gower exit…

The Wild Life

It’s 1967. The Hart High lunch line. I just stole 10 hamburgers to sell on the hill later. I’d lean over with my right hand inside a tear in my bomber jacket to boost food from the microwaved catered food trays. Next to me is Frank Angelostro. He has a flowing Hawaiian shirt and some sweat pants since his Levi’s were stolen in gym class. He puts his stolen burgers and cheese burritos in the front of his pants. As I start to pay for a milk and a bag of Fritos, Frank suddenly screams out in pain as he leaps around like a madman while jerking his sweat pants off. I watch in horror as my best pal starts clawing at his testicles covered in molten hot cheese from an exploded burrito cover.

ITEM: Doing Sheriff work camp during the summer Angelostro, Carl Winager and myself are shoveling and raking fire zones around large white buildings at Special Devices Systems off of Placerita Canyon. An explosion about fifty feet away scares the crap out of us. It’s over before we can jump for cover. The entire side of a sixty foot warehouse is blown away. Three men in lab coats are staggering around with blood coming out of their ears. As we drop our tools to help, the Sheriff lead flunkie tells us to pick up our tools and keep cutting weeds.

ITEM: When they shut down Bermite in Saugus, they did no clean up. They just shoved everything into a wide valley in back and covered it all with a zillion tons of dirt. We took lumber from huge stacks at the old site as soon as the security man fell asleep in his trailer. We dragged the wood to three huge oak trees near the train tracks and built a connected tree house. It was the first thing I built the County tore down. The start of a tradition. After they tore it down, they left our Playboys next to the middle oak tree under a big rock. On top was a short note on a torn lunch bag. “NICE JOB KIDS!”

ITEM: After some heavy rains the Soledad wash is careening out of control all the way to the ocean 30 miles or so away. We take a military raft for ten part of the way down it before a Fire Department helicopter is hovering over us as we’re paddling like crazy past Denny’s off Sand Canyon. We turn it over and swim for our lives across from Whites Canyon. Still raining like crazy, one of the O’neal brothers and I escape. It takes me four hours to get home. As I climb through my bedroom window, my overhead light snaps on. A Sheriff is sitting on my bed drinking a Coke. My mom screams, “JUST TAKE HIM!”, as I’m led downstairs to his car.

ITEM: Working at Ace Cains cleaning trout ponds, we find five baby great horned owls in the top of a shed we’re supposed to tear down. I take one home with me. To save time, Johnny M., a proud owner of an M. 40 military truck, drives it through the shed. A 2×6 splinters and goes through his radiator. He’s so pissed he quits. I end up hitchhiking with a baby owl in my jacket biting and clawing me. Later, my step dad comes home from a drinking bout (this was just before he rolled his Half-ton Chevy Pickup off of Placerita, getting thrown through the windshield, then having the truck roll over him- TWICE, and lived!) I had a large cage built in the garage with a perch outside. Owls are nocturnal so night time is their time. The owl, Apache by name, is out on his perch. Bill comes in the garage side door because it’s pretty late. As he take his jacket off, my owl flies to his arm like I had trained him on my own. Not good. Bill Burtis tore that garage up in the dark fighting to get that owl off of him.

ITEM: Bill Burtis was a cement man. Foundations, cantilevered slabs, swimming pools, driveway, tennis courts. All sorts of stuff. He did a park for Canyon Country up Bouquet Canyon. Angelostro and I were hired to strip all the twenty foot 2×4 framing off, pull the cement double-headed nails and clean the cement off before stacking the wood. We get bored and start up a D-6 Dozer sitting near the wash. I tell Frank I can drive it no sweat. I back over one of the new slabs. Not good. We also can’t shut it off. Bill Burtis pulls up with some burgers in sacks for our lunch. He slams them into the ground and looks to the sky with his arms out, silently begging for lighting to strike us most likely.

ITEM: We’re doing a swimming pool for Clayton Moore, the original T.V. ‘LONE RANGER’. He signed an autographed picture for me I still have of him and Tonto sitting on Silver and Scout side by side. I’m about ten years old. I say, “Where’s Tonto’s name?” Moore goes back inside his house, then comes out about five minutes later. Its now signed by Tonto with an ‘X’ under Tonto spelled out in block letters. Moore tells me Tonto was taking a nap and couldn’t come out. He then pats me on the head and asks me, “So little man, who’s your favorite cowboy?” I say a loud, “Tom Mix!” He ignores me and starts talking about a driveway with Bill.

ITEM: I have Tom Mix’s Wedgewood stove. Yep. It came from his old film cutting lab off of Franklin across the street from the Magic Castle. It will go in the new barn’s kitchen. Tom Mix ended in a sad way. Homeless and broke. No one would hire him anymore. He ended up living in his big Bentley or Rolls, whatever. Anyhow, he was driving to Vegas and hit some sand sliding him off the road. A large leather bag full of silver dollars flew from the back seat and broke his neck. Yakima Canutt, my kids Great Grandfather, told me that Mix had a mean streak and could be hard on his horses. I never liked him after that. I switched to Ben Johnson. No one could out ride Ben. Even Yakima said he was the best he ever saw. And that was from a guy who had THREE World Champ all-around saddles sitting on saddle stands in his front room in North Hollywood. I’d watch the fights on Friday nights with him on occasion and he would feed these tree squirrels right out of his hand that came in through an open kitchen window. A great guy!

ITEM: I’m at Buster Keaton’s estate near Malibu. I’m supposed to pull some extra phones out of the giant home to make the monthly bill lower. As I step inside the three-story foyer with the elderly lady of the house, I happen to look down at my white T-shirt as I take my tool pouch off to ease the weight of the belt cutting into me. My shirt is alive with tiny black dots hopping all over. FLEAS! I then smell the cat urine and spot about ten cats looking down at me from beds and perches off the stairs and from landings. OH NO! A CAT LADY! I run outside and strip naked behind my truck while putting my clothes in a large plastic bag I then filled with powdered desiccant we carried just for that purpose. She watch’s me from some rose bushes the entire time.

ITEM: I’m ten miles from a security booth at Edwards Air Force Base at a large six-story high locked building made of steel. The windows are glazed. No one is around. The wind is blowing off the vast empty tarmacs around me about sixty miles an hour in snapping gusts. Lulls, then, WHAM, the wind would howl. I’m to disconnect an old pay phone booth. A bad lunch strikes and I have to go. I mean, NOW! No one around so I drop my pants between my Pac Bell truck and the side of the big building and let nature take its course. I complete my job and drive back to security to sign out. Three big black soldiers are laughing their heads off as I sit in my van awaiting the sign out sheet. These guys are just dying they’re laughing so hard. I lean out of the sun and look inside the air conditioned booth to see what they’re laughing at. It was me, on a 24 inch screen, taking a dump while reading a Ring Magazine and picking my nose. Under the eaves of the building was a telescoping security camera recording me.

ITEM: Bob Sharber and I are at an SCC box in front of the Chevron station across from the big church on Highland and Franklin Street. A guy in a monk robe, shaved head and some white finger paint on his forehead asks us if we have any matches. I give his a small box I had from the Whisky. The guy goes out into Franklin and sets himself on fire. A man in a beer truck put him out with a small fire extinguisher.

ITEM: I’m sitting in my truck across the street from the Chinese theater. A bunch of street kids are putting on a show with their dirt bikes for the long line of people waiting to see the first STAR WARS movie. The line was all the way up to Franklin. Eight kids laid down in the street as two kids stopped traffic inching its way around the block looking for parking. A kid I nicknamed Evel bunny hopped at speed over all the kids, then, bunny hopped his bicycle over the two-foot high block wall around Grahmans side parking lot.

ITEM: I’m at Penny Marshall’s house off of Out Post road. I was replacing her master bedroom phone. She never leaves her bed. She works out of it like most do an office. Jack Lalane lived two houses up from her. The guy from WKRP lived right across the street. I mention her neighbors trying for small talk. She looks above her glasses and says, “Tell me something I don’t already know!” I think for a second then it comes to me. “Well, I was at your dad’s house about a year ago repairing a system down. Your mom has so many nick knacks it took me an hour to move one table to get the pull-down ladder to the phone equipment in the ceiling!” Penny just stares at me looking annoyed. I continue a bit faster. “Well, your dad has all of his people in a big meeting and I kept interrupting him. He finally gets ticked. Outside by my truck he says an angry, “Why are you in the ceiling wrecking my meeting?” I tell him rats have chewed his phone cables. At this he blows his stack. “I just paid thirty grand to have that roof fixed. What do you have to say about that?” I think a second then say, “Well, the rats say its nice and dry up there now!” He orders me off his property. As I pick up my orange traffic cone and chock block, he stops, walks back to me and says. “Finish your job. You really pissed me off, but, you’re pretty funny. You should write for me sometime!” Penny’s dad is Carl Reiner. She laughed and told me to shut up a second. She called her dad and told him what I said. He remembered me. COOL!

ITEM: I get a ticked off customer because I won’t run any wire in a redone bungalow off of Sunset. It says on the face of the order, “No wire runs or drilling walls. Phones go at existing jacks only.” I have to call for a supervisor. Dispatch sends O’neil. A supervisor who already doesn’t like me for a bunch of valid reasons. My super was on vacation. O’neil shows up half crocked and its only one pm. Ripping the work order out of my hand, he tells me to shut my mouth and keep it shut. Up the three steps to the front door of the nicely landscaped four plex, O’neil pounds on the door five times. Three gay guys answer. The one who called to complain about me not putting phones in their bathrooms wonders who George is through the still closed screen making George even angrier.

As the largest of them steps out onto the porch, O’neil sticks the work order in the customers face and screams, “IT’S RIGHT HERE SISSY, IN BLACK AND WHITE, NO WIRE RUNS, GOT IT?” As the big guy- nude, but for a towel- starts to stammer out a reply, O’neil ends the conversation. “ARE YOU RETARDED AND DEAF. NO WIRE RUNS!” Shoving the work order back into my hand O’neil then goes across the freshly planted lawn and kicks the little green wire protector into the street on the way to his company sedan. I look at the guys and say, “Well, there you have it from management. Happy now!”

ITEM: I’m in line at the Laurel Canyon Market waiting to pay for one of their custom deli sandwiches. A man in line just ahead of me looks familiar. Its George Harrison, the Beatle. He turns and looks at me. I say, “Hey, aren’t you one of the Beach Boys?” He nods his head and says a cockney, “Yep, surfs up dude!”

ITEM: I’m talking to the real estate man who owns the building the County store is in. He has a big office under it. As we step outside his office to see where he wants me to run some new wire from the pole for additional lines, a gigantic crash is just above us and out of our line of vision on Laurel Canyon. As we turn to the sound of the crash, two blonde haired kids are sailing through the air right into oncoming traffic. Cars are rear ending and going over the curb everywhere. I couldn’t look. Later on I find out their mom had pulled out of the market parking lot and hit an oncoming car head on. The kids were in the back seat of her Jaguar with its top down and no seat belts.

ITEM: I’m at a huge house off of Mulholland, two houses from then Governor Jerry Brown. In the days when he was dating Linda Ronstadt. I can hear some classical piano music coming from the next room as a maid lets me in for phone repair in the kitchen. I glance in the room while the maid gets the woman of the house. A tiny little girl in a white lace dress is playing a grand piano with custom foot pedals. She’s sliding back and forth on her bench to reach the keys. She sees me in a framed photo’s glass and looks over her shoulder at me. Maybe six or seven. Curls like Shirley Temple. I say a low, “Any Jerry Lee Lewis?” She immediately breaks into, ‘Come on over baby, we got chicken in the barn’, in a fast riff. Her mom storms down some stairs and shouts for her to get back to work. As the little girl went back to Bach or whatever the mom tells me off all the way to the kitchen.

Phonehenge North News

ITEM: Been hanging with Oscar the water man. He handles every emergency that comes up for the local water company in my neck of the woods. My neighbors just above me blew a one-inch water line fitting and were out of town. I call the company, they hook me up with Oscar. Now we’re good pals. I’ve been going all over the place goofing with him while he does all the work. I’m learning a lot about Bakersfield and Tehachapi.

In Acton, I tried to find a used tire for the dump truck. Nothing at five places under a $100 bucks anywhere in Whiteville. Oscar hangs with a different crowd. We stop to get a tractor tire fixed at a barrio shop in a rough area of Bakersfield. It takes up the entire bed of a one ton flatbed. As we roll it off I wonder about a used tire with my dimensions. Oscar speaks rapid fire Spanish. A kid from the back rolls out an almost new truck tire. It’s $20 bucks if I can fix the guys ringing on his fax machine. Done deal.

ITEM: We eat at the most extraordinary places. Just outside of Bakersfield, heading back to Tehachapi, we pull off the highway over a cattle guard and into some trees. There’s thirty trucks or more of working guys parked all over under some giant oak trees next to a small creek. Big tow able barbeques are going. Half steers on a couple being tended by some farm workers. Vats of beans of all sorts. Fresh vegetable salads- all organic. These guys are hep to the pesticides that have been destroying their families for years. I’m the only white guy there. All are staring at me. I get in line. I pay FIVE BUCKS for all I can eat. As I pay, the woman speaks Spanish to me. Oscar translates. She wants to know if I have any requests. I have Oscar ask her if they won’t spit in Santa’s chow. Everyone chilled out. I was offered a seat at a bunch of tables. Kids were running all over calling me Santa in Spanish.

ITEM: Mexican Americans don’t like Obama. I’m not political. I vote Peace and Freedom. I vote in case the mother ship only picks up the voters. Why risk it. They say, ‘NoBama’, when they say his name. They feel he hasn’t done one thing he promised. The main thing their pissed about is all their kids serving in Afghanistan and Iraq not getting proper medical care coming home. Plus, STILL THERE.

ITEM: News flash. The economy isn’t coming back. You need thirty-year jobs to pay off thirty-year loans. Until those things come together, forget the lying news on TV and radio. My pal Sack the Jackknife King says he’s seeing a half-dozen machine shops folding and going to the auctioneers every week instead of every month. The cost to retool? Hey, just try finding parts to start to build ANYTHING, let alone start up some sort of manufacturing. You have to get your material from China. Or anywhere else in the world. Not the USA. We broke three two-inch box wrenches from Harbor Freight trying to break down the boom on the UNIT crane to move it. I finally borrowed some old Craftsmen wrenches and an air hammer to get it done. We put six-foot cheater bars on the Craftsmen made out of six inch pipe and they laughed at us.

ITEM: Oscar takes me to Quail Valley lake. Its about ten miles from my place way back in the mountains. Lots of locked gates. Being the nice guy that I am, I get the combinations from Oscar to open the gates for him and save him getting in and out. Half way up a freshly packed dirt road, I look up to our left and see all these Wind Power trucks parked in a holding yard. Oscar fills me in as we head up into the National Forest. Oscar is Mexican/Indian with a long braided pony tail. Thick set and powerful build. About five or six years younger them me. I’d arm wrestle him but never fight the guy. First off he’s too nice a guy. Second. Mexican guys always throw mean left hooks and I wouldn’t like one of those at all. I fight with my mouth until I can find a car to run around to stay away from an opponent. If you want action out of me I’ll sell you one of my old, “BLAZING COMBATS”. Oh man, just the best!!!! Frank Frazetta does the covers. I have one over my computer framed. It has a Marine with just a helmet and his pants and boots holding a wounded buddy in one arm and firing a Thompson with his other. Ejecting shells are arching out into the muddy water. The Marines grimace says it all. “COME GET SOME!” My other favorite of his is eleven Saber Toothed cats gang jumping a Woolly Mammoth. Hector, the artist that paints adds on fifteen-story buildings, is going to paint it on the side of my Blue barn in trade for my wife Pat advising him on Immigration stuff. She’s retired now but still knows all the laws. Plus, since she Pro Bono’ed half her cases anyhow she loves barter. We used to chickens and eggs all the time. I love that stuff.

ITEM: Once past the Wind Turbine truck staging yard, we start climbing into the forest. Around five-thousand feet, we’re in thick trees and undergrowth and some really cool rock formations. Most of the rocks are volcanic. Big bastards. Some are larger then Oscar’s full-sized crew cab pickup. It’s a Toyota Tacoma like my wife Pat’s, but it’s a lot larger. Oscar told me his was the first year that Toyota went full-sized. I think Pat’s is way nimbler. Plus Sack put a custom flat bed on hers that’s easier for her to load and unload.

We climb to some cutouts for the new Turbine towers bases. Holy shit. Each tower has to have a hole that can hold fifty yards of cement. If not even more. Giant forty foot long cages of one inch rebar laying on the ground on their sides are still six foot tall. We get out and check out the surrounding area in a sweeping vista. The tall mountains in front of us are really getting rugged. Craggy rock formations with big trees growing out of the hundred foot calving stone splits are all over the place. We hop back in and keep moving. It’s five pm, and we have about two hours light left. It’s even shady in some of the dips in the small canyons already. This is where we saw our first three bears. Oh yeah. A Cinnamon sow and two cubs are leisurely strolling across the wide dirt road in front of us heading to go down towards the lake off to our right. The mom is losing her winter coat big time. Huge chunks are coming off in large swaths. Patches of beautiful short glossy hair stick out here and there. She looks to weigh about a hundred and fifty pounds. The cubs look about five months old. They’re born in the den and suck super high-fat milk, so they look really good after eating all the juniper berries covering the giant Juniper trees all around us almost obliterating the rock strata.

I call out to the cubs like the little kid from ‘Old Yeller’. One of the cubs starts to stroll over to my door. No way. Momma huffs and blows into the thick brush. Both cubs take the hole she punched and disappear. Oscar is blown away. “Dude, I’ve worked here for 26 years and those are the first bears I’ve ever seen!” We head on into even thicker forest. Now there’s big pines and really fat mountain oaks shoving the junipers out of the way. Big slabs of multicolored rocks peek out of the gaps of green and brown. Not a half mile up the wide smooth rolling road now climbing constantly, we spot him at the same time. A BIG black bear. He’s easily three times the size of momma bear. He sees us at the same time just up and off the road and he goes right into some thick scrub like a Sherman tank. I’ve driven Sack’s Sherman, so it’s a good metaphor. Oscar and I high five. What an afternoon! We come to some gates that are wide open. I wonder to Oscar if we could get locked in after going past the gates and stuck when a worker locked them not knowing about us. Or even worse. Knowing about us. Oscar shrugged. He informs me he not only has some five-foot handled bolt cutters in his bed, but also a cutting torch and tank. We’re set so we continue up the dirt road.

We end up passing huge cut outs and a giant brand new power substation surrounded by heavy equipment of all types. D-10’s with side blades. Six wheel drive water trucks so tall they have headlights welded on custom bars under their brush guards. Graders. Semi everythings. That was the reason for the new road. Some of the Turbines are two hundred foot tall with seventy five foot long blades. The loud ‘WHOOOMPP’s’ as they spin sound AWESOME! Oscar wonders about thieves. I tell him my kid Tejas puts in security systems with 24-hour infrared tracking by Satellites. They can take your license number no problem. I’m talking about the one in your pocket if you had it out. No lie. Good luck trying to stiff these guys for one bolt. A twenty mile road to get out? Great planning Sherlock. Plus, the GPS tracking gear they install on anything worth taking. We drove past and kept going to the top. We end up not at the real top but close enough. It was starting to get dark so we jumped out to take a quick peek past the safety berm. WOW! We could see all the way to China Lake’s testing base. The one they took Area 51’s stuff to.

Heading back, we slow to take Oscar’s rig out of 4 wheel drive. THREE MORE BEARS!!! Another momma and two cubs. This sow is twice the size of the other mom, but her cubs are only half the size of the other cubs. I start to talk to these cubs and Oscar tells me to shut the hell up. “That bitch can tear our doors right the fuck off!”

ITEM: Coming out near the lake on our way back it’s dim, but some rays of sunlight can still be seen here and there. We’re out of the big mountains and down in a neat valley. The lake looks to be about ten acres. The ends are chock full of ten-foot high reeds. Brush grows all around the side across from us. Some people are fishing. One guy ends up coming over to us. I figured he knew no one was supposed to be trespassing. Oscar is as nice as pie. Not so others on the road. This guy has had a few brews and complains bitterly about a guy named Pat who hassles him all the time. He mentions some problem at the LOVES gas station in town. We check the water pumps and roll. Half way out of the lower hills, we bump into a guy on a quad ATV. Oscar knows him so we yak it up. Oscar had always wanted to see the guy’s place and asks if we can come check it out. Pat calls his wife on his cell. We can hear her say an emphatic, “NO!” Guess they live a mile behind a dormant Volcano for a reason.

ITEM: I gave Oscar a ton of VHS and DVD’s I’m sick of or have three of. Leo has bought me at least fourteen used copies of all the Star Wars movies from Pat’s trips to Salvation Armys and church second hand stores. If you like a town full of second hand stores, Tehachapi is the place to live. They have a church about every fifty yards. As I hand the big box to Oscar before leaving his place, we yakked about Pat telling us his side of the gas station affair against the guy at the lake’s version. We laughed about what a coincidence running into both parties. A voice calling Oscars name makes us turn in the dark towards the gate leading to the dirt road. Into my headlights steps a lost soul. You can see it in her face. She walks like she’s forty and looks eighty. As she steps closer all doubts vanish. Her hair is in knots and her lipstick is around her lips a half inch past her lip lines. Like a macabre clown on meth she wonders if Oscar can give her a lift up the canyon. Oscar lets her know that the Highway Patrol had towed her car at noon from where she rolled it the night before. I think he said it was a Jeep. He also lets her know I’m taking off and would be tickled pink to drive her. Thanks pal.

ITEM: Two corners off of tight dirt roads we suddenly have a llama in my headlights. A tiny little white-haired gal is trying to drive it down the small road to an open gate. Psycho hops right out and starts helping to drive the animal. I use my dump truck as a pusher. Staying away, yet moving it ahead. Once the animal is in the gate, the old lady thanks us. Turns out she has 45 of ‘em in all shapes and colors. Takes care of them all alone. Psycho knew her so they yakked it up for a few minutes. I shut off my truck but left my headlights on. The old woman, “You know that big old Bobcat that’s been around here for years? Well, it’s a female. My big black tom was just a humping the hell out of her the other night outside my kitchen window where I put the cat chow. He looked like a midget screwing a fat lady!” Girl talk. I was still in the truck.

Last Item: I filled out a ‘Welcome to Tehachapi” card at the rental place where we got the 6-ton 4×4 lift to move the steel water tanks. The lady finally calls me and wonders if she can come by to give me her free maps and a lecture on Tehachapi’s past. We had quite the conversation until she asked for my address. I say, “I’m up Sand Canyon Road and then down Umtali!” There’s dead silence on the receiver. Then, a changed voice says, “I live in Bear Valley Springs. I don’t go up that canyon!” CLICK.

Tehachapi North News

I’ll try and get a few copies out before sentencing next month, on the 18th of May. It might be a long spell in between issues after that.

Umtali Road is getting to be a deserted canyon. A neighbor across the dirt road and up the canyon a ways had a flat tire on his horse trailer right before my blue barn. His girlfriend was driving the U-Haul truck towing it. As I helped him out with my crane’s floor jack, I got the whole story on the move out. A divorce, the house is now deserted. Both parties made a go of living at the place. Both ended up almost losing it. Now it’s just empty.

Good luck going through the joint and finding some treasure at another’s misery. The ‘Watchers’ will put a stop to that. In the nine months we’ve lived here, we’re the only ones that talk to everyone. All other neighbors have some grudge or hard on for theirs.

When the local hooligans kicked over the thirty-eight mailboxes on the paved road off our dirt trail, eleven never have been picked up. They’re slowly being driven over as the winds blow them into Sand Canyon Road. Soon, flattened like odd-shaped license plates, I’m thinking of doing the side of the new barn with them for a folksy look. So, minus the latest mail box casualties, it looks like about sixteen folks still have mail delivered. You can’t count the canyon residents from these boxes, though. You also have to consider the bunker people, the illegals hiding on someone else’s property, out and out squatters, then, people like us, having post office boxes in town. I like my mail. I don’t mind traveling to get it. Oh sure, we could get an armored set of mail boxes. That would take some doing since you have to have your neighbors request it, too. Not in this canyon.

I was using my tractor to smooth out the deep ruts in our road that could easily hide Ward Bond and his entire wagon train, no problem. I figured on some smiles and knowing nods of happiness from neighbors driving past while I forged ahead. Nope. Just like the god-damned mailboxes, no one agrees. One gal slowed to a stop so I shut off my loader to get the well-deserved thanks. She rolls down her window, spits into her hand to put her cigarette out in the small pool, then lays into me. “What in the hell are you doing?” Amazed, I start to stutter out a reply. Nope, not fast enough. “You smooth out the road and the sons-of-bitches will just cause more damn dust. Knock this shit off!”

After she drove off, I thought to myself that she had a point. About ten days after we moved in with our little incentive push by L.A. County, I made up my mind that I would never be passed on our road again. Sure, I’d let the maniacs pass me on the 10 mile dead end to hell Sand Canyon. Can’t stop those psychos (ours is the only road in Tehachapi that isn’t on the local Thomas guide. It’s just shown as a dirt squiggle. No speed limit, either. The locals say the road takes care of the speeders sooner or later, all on its own). The one spot it actually has a sign says 15 mph and MEANS IT. I can’t squeeze over 26 mph with my dually dump and it tracks like a slot car with a load in the back. The wreckage of cars’ doing over 27 mph in icy conditions are soon lay out in the field smashed and rusted. Why doesn’t someone tow them out and make some good dough scrapping them? Who needs a .306 round through the noggin. Remember Fred Kirpsie’s sad ‘year in jail’ sentencing for hoarding a couple of weeks ago? There’s THOUSANDS of Kirpsie-types in every canyon you care to drive up. Most full of hard scrabbles watching you through high powered binoculars as they stir their meth tubs.

I’m kidding? Every week there’s a murder or a lab blowing up. It’s like a wild west ‘Blade Runner’ scene at night. We’ve had Sheriff search teams through our place three times and we haven’t hit a year here yet. In the Tule fog, the mounted search guys were forced on foot from all the barbed wire everywhere. The fences you say? Screw that. I’m still pulling downed barb wire out of dirt piles and from the scrub oak brush piles. Its easy to spot tangled around by bucket and front wheels. When it shoots back at you from tension as you have to use both hands to cut it with bolt cutters, it’s quite a little slice of heaven.

Our last visit by about 100 search team members was when Drunken Tits rolled up her old man in a throw carpet as he was passed out, then beat him with a small wood stove ash removal shovel. She would of used a larger one but the first one she could find had to do. Oh man, what a shelaking that guy took. I could see the lumps on his face from five acres away. After she raped her son (or, so he told us at 3 am one dark night wanting succor) they finally moved away three months ago to avoid court. The guy moving out gave me some new gossip on that but save it for another edition, back to cars passing me on Umtali, I drifted away again. Since hardly anyone reads this stuff, big deal. As stated I’m no Hemingway. But, since he’s wasn’t here, I’ll have to do.

At first, I thought these locals had the same courtesy we had grown accustomed to in Acton. After running our street for thirty years, we had everyone slowed down twenty five years ago. Take a beat-up bike that will still roll, place a dummy kid on it made from old clothes and filled with smashed newspapers topped with an old helmet, Voila! One freshly killed kid when rolled out of the thick Olive trees across from the old place, right into the headlights of Mr. Speeder. Until they shine their flashlight underneath the skidded-to-a-stop vehicle and see it’s a dummy, it tends to stick in their speeding little brains. If still reticent, two boxes of one-inch roofing nails down their one-mile dirt drive way. I’ve seen them with four flats at the stop sign at Sierra Highway after the nail treatment. No, on our new dirt road, it’s one Road Warrior after another. Especially at five thirty am, taking Leo to his bus stop eight miles away. I’m proud to say that since my new policy not one car or truck has ever passed us. And they NEVER WILL.

Our second week here while still moving, I’m going slow to keep the dust down. In a top ten of suck ass dirt roads, ours should at the least get an honorable mention. A gal in a big black SUV blows around me like I’m standing still. As she heads up the road her gigantic dust trail is blocking out the entire road. That was it for me.

I handle a few punks and old geezers in beat-up pickups while honing my skills for payback with Metro girl. I carried two scoops of one-inch gravel in my dump bed for no reason, other then better traction and less bounce until we finally had our Ali-Frasier of Umtali Road. Waiting for Leo down the road one day, I forget all about the little zipperhead as my eyes behold the black SUV coming up Sand Canyon at a high rate of speed. Firing up the F-550 Diesel turbo my hands are shaking at the steering wheel. I force my heart to stop trying to burst out of my chest as I race to get around the aforementioned dead man’s curve. Once around it I’m into really twisty canyons of rock formations that surround the Indian burial grounds to my right. Cliff dwellings and all. Checking my rear view mirror, I see that I’ve pulled it off. Flooring it around every tight curve, I try and get a good lead to pull off my plan.

What plan was this? To get across the road from the mailboxes, then to hide in the goat herder’s dirt driveway directly across from Umtali. I gave him a steel rabbit cage for helping Leo with his bike once, so we’re tight. Once Metro girl does one of two things, her ass will still be mine. If she stops for her mail is the best scenario. If she powers on up the twisty dirt road so be it. Since it’s to be to the death, I could care less. My heart is beating like it’s going to jump out of my rib cage. My mouth is dry as a desert lake bed. Blinking my eyes to un-cloud my contact lenses, I keep my foot on the brake but the tranny is in drive. She powers up the road. Checking for cross traffic and also looking for telltale dirt swirls showing a car on the dirt road ahead, I punch it. I came up on her so fast I was next to her and past her before she could step on it. Oh, she tried. I have to give her that. Too bad bitch, I had planned my moves many a night like a gibbering maniac planned building an atomic bomb. Once across the dreaded whoop te doo’s of molded clay troughs half-full of old exhaust systems, I put the pedal to the medal. Wearing my seat belt for the first time since buying the truck six years ago, I pull it a bit snugger as I begin whipping my dually wheels back in forth at well over sixty mph. Catching a glimpse of myself in my useless window rear view because of my high dump bed behind my head, I see the look of a stranger peering back at me. A wild eyed lunatic with white spittle built up at the corners of his gaping mouth. One quick wink of an glazed eye back at me then back to looking for a possible head on around the next brushy curve.

Slowing as I came to my drive way I pull up onto the property a good hundred feet to see past the atomic dust cloud. Creeping out at twenty miles an hour she appears. Covered with dust and dirt clods she glares at me as I wave a frantic hello back at her. Why humiliate a worthy opponent. Now it’s a polite wave and reasonable speeds between us. In a small town, word gets around fast. Sure, I’ve had to drive a few square pegs into round holes to get the passing thing over with but it was for a good cause. Once Leo starts to drive, God help us all.

PHONEHENGE NORTH NEWS: Oh, I forgot to tell you about the drunken cowboy that passed Leo and I in front of the MONOLITH, then, had the gall to flip us off. We ran him off the road at the ten-mile-an-hour railroad crossing leaving his Camaro facing the wrong way and hung up on the second set of tracks. I lost my right mud flap but it was well worth it. Leo needs guidance in these formative years…

Hey Mildred

It takes too long to write long hand so hope you don’t mind the typed out letter.

It’s raining here in Tehachapi. Looking out the big picture window, I started ruminating on working as a phone man in LA, Hollywood and Beverly Hills. It rains so rarely in Southern California, the animals seem to be caught off guard even worse than the humans. Once, while working a cable vault in Griffith Park just below the old Zoo, I stroll by a hobo camp wearing my PacBell military-style rain suit, galoshes and an umbrella. Hey, I’m working on cables that have to stay dry, sorry hobos if I’m not sitting in an old animal enclosure getting soaked with hundreds of rats running across my hole-filled shoes.

When I would buy new steel toe climbing boots, I would keep my eyes open for a bum or street person who might get a few more miles out of them. After once again trying to be a humanitarian, this psycho street nut takes the proffered boots and seems miffed. Huh?

It’s freezing out in the middle of December in downtown and this guy is barefoot with purple feet. I say to him, “Hey, I have some new socks here in the back of my van somewhere, let me find them!” As I open up my rear phone van double doors, a boot sails right past my right ear just missing my skull. I drop, and look back, just in time to see the other boot coming at me. I partially deflect it. I get a lump in my right arm where it hit me. Now I’m steamed.

I go for him while shouting, “OK, asshole, you want crazy, I’ll give you a fucking maniac!” As he starts to run up the wheelchair ramp into the front entrance of the Denny’s on Sunset Boulevard, across from the Tuxedo center rental store, the manager of Denny’s has been watching the entire scenario through the large glass window in the booth he always sat at to chase hookers out that wanted to use the bathrooms and payphones all day. I could do an entire chapter on Denny’s hookers and waitresses. Hey, maybe some other time; let’s get back to street nut.

I leap onto his back like Tarzan would and the guy, who’s twice my size, goes down onto the wet sidewalk. As I hop up and get ready for action, the bum is also getting up. He’s ready for action, too. Except for one little problem. His pants, that were in bad shape to begin with, are now torn off and around his ankles.

Oh my GOSH! His ‘unit’ was FILTHY and covered in what looked to be black grease. I thought he was Latino from all the dirt and stains on his face and hands. Nope, just a run-of-the-mill white trash nut case. As he starts to bounce in a boxing stance, that flopping unit made me start laughing out of control as I backed away from him. This really made him mad. I look around for some backup. No dice. Everyone inside of Denny’s is now in the formerly empty booths facing Sunset, watching me about to get my ass kicked by a semi-erect crazy man with no pants on. His bush looked like you could hide a small mammal in it quite easily.

Now that I’m backing up, crazy man really starts a show. Grabbing one of The Times newspaper racks in a bear hug to most likely smash me in the head with, I once again start laughing since I know they’re bolted to the cement from being stolen so many times by druggies. As he strains and shouts curses, he begins to defecate. That was it for me.

I run for the front door of Denny’s, waving for the manager to open them up pronto. The manager stalls with the keys, making me start to go into a rage. I shout out I’ll have fifty pay phones installed all around his dump if he doesn’t give me succor. Once safely inside, I find a spot next to the Ms. Pac-Man machine to hide, but also to watch the show outside.

It didn’t last much longer. As expected, if fifteen minutes goes by and a cop or two hasn’t cruised Sunset, it’s a small miracle. Two cars converge on Hercules, still fighting that paper rack like a steel marlin…

Random Thoughts

It’s four a.m. The school bus recording telling us about no school from snow woke me up. Once I’m up, I’m up. I hear something heavy on the roof. Already dressed for an hour, I take the spotlight outside. I almost break my neck on the piece of shit ramp the Navajo Longrifle built and I haven’t replaced yet. I step away from the house and shine the spotlight up onto the roof. A big bobcat stares back at me. Guess I know where our missing cats have gone. Through his digestive system and out his ass most likely. He’s only in sight for a brief second, then gone into the dark. Sitting back inside warming up, a lot of things went through my mind. Especially this FaceBook deal. Who really cares about what I write? I figure if even one of my grandkids gets something out of my experiences, then it’s not a big waste of time. When I was 14, Frank the Navajo’s medicine man pal told me I was, ‘Many men’. I was to tell the stories… How many times do you just take it for granted there will be a tomorrow?… I’m standing in the middle of Outpost Drive with a warning sign in my hand. I’m bored stiff. I’m working one part of a street safety team to make cars stop or slow for a series of manhole trucks surrounded by orange cones and safety racks, working on installing a new cable from manhole to manhole. I can just see my partner down by the next curve. This part of Outpost is really dangerous because of a natural spring, weeping out into the street off a crack in the natural rock facing, just past the narrow sidewalk. In the winter, cars slide in the green gook, all the time. It’s summer, but some of the green slime is still prevalent. Especially the curve I’m directing traffic on. I hear the sound of a car coming towards me just above the sharp curve. Not much traffic since it was after ten a.m. and all the commuters trying to avoid the snarled traffic on Highland, just down the mountain, the usual route. Nope, Outpost was for the hot shots in the know on a back way into Hollywood. The sort that pass over double yellows and in the parking lanes. As the convertible sports car comes into view, there’s no traffic coming up the hill, so, I give them the ‘SLOW’ side of my paddle. The driver smirks at me, shifts down, then blows on past, not slowing at all. His passenger smiles at me as they shoot by. I hear my partner shout a warning. I see everything at once. The brake lights of the sports car as the driver spots a huge moving van coming up around the bend below. The sports car hits the green ooze, slides into a dozen or so bright orange cones, then, takes out the metal security gate around an open manhole. A tire goes into the open hole, flipping the sports car upside down. It goes the rest of the way on its journey, sliding wheels up. It hits the far curve, flips back to rightside up, then stops against a mailbox, just next to a driveway that headed up to a house out of view. I was glad another car had come down the street. It forced me to keep my position. I really didn’t want to look into that wrecked car. I didn’t think they would be smiling anymore… I’m leaving Formosa garage in my Pac Bell repair van. I’m stopped by Bill Granger, a forman I really liked. He asks me to come along to check on one of his techs who hasn’t called in for two days. I’m the union rep, so, it was company policy if a foreman was going to a tech’s home unannounced to have a union man along. I park my van and hop in his sedan. We find Tom’s triplex off of Willoughby and knock on the front door. Tom’s yellow El Camino is parked in his narrow driveway. No answer. I go through his side gate past his overflowing trash cans, then open the unlatched screen door to knock on the half glass wooden door. No answer, but, from the half opened glass window, I smell death. Granger slits the screen, opens the lock from inside, we go in. We find Tom in his bathtub with most of his head on the wall and the ceiling… I’m pulling off my helmet at work, hear some guys talking about Mike Brummet being dead. What? I was just with him at Dodger stadium, installing pay phones and riding around on the field with the electric cart the maintenance guys had loaned us. He had been out in the desert shooting with some friends. Setting his .45 on the lowered tail gate of his friend’s truck, someone tossed some gear onto the tail gate. The gun went off, hitting Mike in the chest… I’m on a pole just up the alley from another tech, Eric D. We’re replacing a bad drop line to a big party house up the street. The wind is blowing like crazy. I can see Laurel Canyon from my pole, so, I shout to Eric, “Lets have lunch at the Laurel store!” ( I once was in line behind John Lennon of the Beatles buying a sandwich. I say, “Hey, aren’t you one of the Beach Boys?” He smiled and replied, “Yep, surf’s up mate!”) Before Eric can answer, a gust of wind blows down one of those big toothed palm fronds off one of the sixty foot palm trees all around us. It comes down in one of those lazy back and forth deals, then, nails Eric in the head, cutting his right ear right off. I take him to Cedars emergency. They sewed it back on… A drunken supervisor is going home from work. His car breaks down just off the Los Feliz off ramp near Traveltown. He steps right into a fast moving car which knocks his leg, right off. I worked for this idiot once. He was later fired after all the surgeries for stealing on the job… Hmm, stealing… We’ll call him Williams. Mainly ’cause that was his name. He was going to be fired for selling phone equipment out of his van. Chief Special Agents for the phone company HAD HIM ON FILM. Williams walked. He told them it wasn’t him on the film, it was his identical twin brother who had escaped from a jail in Ohio, taken his truck while he was eating lunch at his aunt’s in Crenshaw, sold the equipment, the parked his van again while he was unaware. They found out he did indeed have a twin on the run. Williams was shot three times in a phone booth off Washington later on, so, he was retired early. Sort of a win win for him… Oh, Williams told me a neat story from when he was in the Navy. While on the air craft carrier Enterprise, all hands were excited about getting shore leave in Tokyo. They’re all made to stand at attention for five hours until the armory got back two stolen .45’s. He told me there was so many pissed off guys standing by their opened lockers, the pressure broke the thief…

Downtown L.A.

When the work slowed down in Hollywood or Beverly Hills, or, if you were a smart ass who needed straightening out, you ended up working Downtown L.A… Not the nice parts either. You go where the cables go. They usually start out in a Central Office (C.O.) then, like a hub of a wheel, cables left it like giant spokes, then turned into even smaller cables, the farther out they went. I always hated it, yet, sort of liked the challenge in a sick sort of way. Mainly because of the people. If you’re cable maintenance, you work big cutovers after six pm. Don’t want to piss those big clients off. Into the breach you go. Cables don’t run in front Downtown. They run underground. In big long dark alleys. Through brush in Griffith Park. Brush so thick it rips your sweatshirt and jackets to shreds. Once you’re out of the glaring lights, you find the Lost Souls. The ones who live in the hidden camps, grottos, the abandoned zoo, freeway underpasses.‎.. Or, the other side of the coin. The rich, the late night movers and shakers. Private clubs. Every sort of bar and hang out, for every sort of person. You get pulled off your regular work, all the time if you were a special circuit man. Heart monitors, alarms, traffic signals, data transmissions, railroad switch signals. All kinds of stuff. Since I was always causing trouble in crews, I end up on the Specials crew, Downtown. Boy, was it wild. I go out with a guy named Rick L. on my first night on the new crew to learn the ropes. You worked noon to whenever you felt like. Techs were hauling in over a hundred grand in overtime in six months. In the sixties, no one cared how long you worked. Just get it done. Rick was an alchoholic, but a working type. He was the first person to show me the underground city, sometimes multiple stories, underneath the street lights and towering buildings packing the miles above. In between jobs, Rick hit his usual bars and clubs. It’s easy to get a tab anywhere in town if you play ball and do favors. Favors? The kind that could get a guy killed. ‘The little bird on the shoulder’, was one such favor. Here’s how it would go down. You’re in a bar, replacing a credit card machine gooey with Coke spilled in it. Maybe a Coke kicked over by some almost nude gay dancer, T bagging a customer off the bar, right next to you. Your a phone man. There’s one thing a phone man can’t say. “I’m not going!” You’re instantly unemployed. You go where dispatch tells you. Period. If a dispatcher doesn’t like you, it’s one turd sandwich after another. Hate to climb poles? Those will be the only jobs you get, forever. So, back to the bar. A voice from behind you, shouts out it needs to talk to you over the blaring music. You turn and see the owner of the joint, looking weird from the flashing stobe lights and lazer going off all over. You nod, finish your repair, meet him in the almost quiet rear office. He pushes out a chair, wonders if he can fix you a drink. He then gets down to business. Someone is doing him/her wrong. They want to tap into some lines. If you don’t get up and walk, money will then appear. Here’s where it gets tricky. You read the paper a few days later, after accommodating your new pal, and see that someone got themselves killed. Maybe it will say for ‘no reason’. Maybe you’re the reason. People say all sorts of things on the phone that aren’t true. I’m no different. You’re protected by that void. It’s just a voice. Not reality in a way. You gave someone ‘the little bird’. Maybe they heard just what they didn’t want to hear. They snap and in the blink of an eye, they do something foolish or crazy. Another phone man, Big Ed, told me a story along these lines and I never forgot it. It can be tough not to pick up bunch of hundreds shoved at you for five minutes work. I was sorely tempted on many an occasion. I found a lot of other ways to get in trouble, but never line tapped. Plus, I was a snot nosed kid. On top of that, a lousy phone man. It took YEARS to become a good phone man. Adequate was all I ever was. My forte was schmoozing pissed off customers. I’d keep them under control until a real phone man arrived. For thirty seven years, the dog and pony show kept me jumping. Usually right into a fire…