Hello and Goodbye

The best things come and go

It is best to let them

I always settle in a place and think…

I’ll stay here forever

but circumstances change

or it’s the people

Sometimes we change

and we don’t even know it

I didn’t realize this when I was younger

I was holding onto friendships

places

and things

I thought they should remain the same

but they didn’t

Things separate from me

like gravity

Even my greatest passions leave

I tell myself

my fire will keep burning

if I keep stoking it

but it always goes out

and things are reborn

from the ashes of my past

I meet new people

and do new things

From time to time

the old wants to become new again

but it will never be what it once was

I see old faces and listen to old stories

but they are only echoes

as unreal

as memories

I depend on the things that haven’t left

because they’ve been with me for such a long time

but I know they will leave

and I’ll need to wish them goodbye.

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It’s not my painting

No matter how many flaws we hide

No matter how much color we add

Everything flows into a mix of confusion

We do not see what lies within

We do not know how alone we really are

We blend our picture with that of others

Sometimes we let them paint our canvas

and layers form

until the weight of wrong strokes

covers who we really are

We get painted into corners

and people look at the strokes they made

doodles of themselves

thinking they were yours

These false artists get angry

Disappointed in the picture they helped to make

Seeing failure

after much effort

Then they hang what they think they own

in a public place anyway

explaining it to others

Conjuring madness

Reminding people of their lives

dripping with someone else’s oil

The masses disdain what they see

but they can’t stop looking at it.

Philosopher or Not

I met this philosopher once. He was a janitor. And he told me, “I have a big home in Northbend.” I smiled and listened to him while he changed the cafeteria trash cans. Suddenly, one of the kids I was watching got into a fight. I grabbed his arm and ushered him into the nearest closet. It was the janitor’s office and it was filled with tools. The boy grabbed a hammer and came at me. “Get out of the way,” he said.

“I can’t let you do that,” I replied. My adrenaline exploded. I talked him down and after the incident I was high for hours. It’s difficult to know if chemicals create meaning or something else, but that day I knew I’d done something special, something no other person could have done. Things are just ideas. But when things are only things, they lose their meaning. It is the ideas we attach to them that make them great. I’m presented with battles constantly and I don’t know why. They may be a test to live better, or to have the courage to do things differently.

Chapter 1 The Fat PI

Gregson was fat. He loved to eat. He played chess in the park against himself. This was less about the game and more to do with watching people. They all had someplace to go and something to do; lives that didn’t concern him and this was best. If friends or acquaintances asked him what he did, Gregson said, “I’m a private investigator.” But he was really retired. He just couldn’t face another day without the possibility of a case. He knew that Frank would be riding by at any moment and that would at least break up the monotony. What did he have left to do? Feed the birds? God; he was retired.

“You know, I think you have been playing the same game since I met you three weeks ago.”

“This is the second.”

“Really, I couldn’t tell.” Gregson knew the voice only too well. He turned his attention from his game and looked up. He was staring at a horse’s mouth. He looked up a bit higher and there was Frank.

“Brought you a hot dog,” Frank said.

“Thanks.”

“Say, did you read the newspaper this morning?”

“I never miss it, except for today.”

“Well, you missed something all right. Somebody was murdered right here in Chess-Field Park. Apparently, they were killed the medieval way; poor bloke took a lance right through the chest. He was propped up in the main lawn this morning.”

“Do the police have any leads?”

“No, not really, but there was something… kind of unusual if you ask me. They found a solitary black knight positioned in the middle of a chessboard where he was killed. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence or the killer is trying to make a statement, but he left his calling card.”

Gregson looked at Frank. “You know what? You really should be a detective.”

“Thanks Greg, but I’m not sure I want to stop riding Charlie.”

“Ummm.”

Charlie is my horse.” Greg sighed and they both laughed.

“Let me know if you find anything else,” Gregson said.

And Frank rode on, waving a parking ticket behind him and placing it on the windshield of a red sportscar that was double parked.

“Well, checkmate.” Gregson said to himself. And he left the table to go feed the birds.

The park was wide. It was old. It took up too much space in the city. Soon the plot was going to be developed. Some asshole who knew another asshole got the rights to it. Crying shame, Greg thought.

“Man, I’ve got to lose weight. I can’t believe I ran the park marathon 5 years ago. I guess that’s what happens when you change your routine and you stop chasing bad guys. He walked up the hill and admired the old castle. Then he walked back to his studio. Gregson was trying to write his memoirs, but he was struggling. Could it be that he didn’t have a case worth writing about? Real detective work just wasn’t that interesting. Maybe detective stories were just stories? And Gregson turned out the lights and went to sleep.

It’s better than a driver’s license and a car

When I was 16, my friends were taking driver’s ed and their parents were buying them cars, not really nice ones, but they were transportation and I longed for my independence. I asked my parents’ permission to get my driver’s license and they kept saying, “Not until you’re 18.”

“What about a car?” I asked.

“Save your money,” they said.

It didn’t seem fair. It would take me years to make enough money mowing lawns and by that time, I’d miss out on all the worthwhile experiences in high school. I’d probably end up graduating, going to community college, and living with them for two more years. I needed my freedom.

Without a car, I resigned myself to taking long walks. I preferred the woods because suburban life didn’t seem real and if it was real, I preferred the sounds of the trees instead of the noises people make when they live too close together. I brought a small shovel with me. People probably thought I was crazy or I was some kind of killer, but I just loved to dig holes. I read Treasure Island and other stories. A hole always needed to be dug to find the treasure.

On a lonely spring afternoon, I decided to take a different path through the forest. The trees were much older there and they reminded me of the woods in fairy stories. I looked for a tree that had the most potential. If I was a pirate, I would’ve buried gold there. I began digging, but it was hot and after 15 minutes I was ready to stop; then the ground gave way and I almost fell in. It was a cave filled with cobwebs and spiders and right in the middle of the hole I noticed an interesting rock. It was milky white with a shadow on the inside. I grabbed it and hoisted it out of the hole. It looked like a fossilized fetus. I don’t know what I thought I was going to do with it, but I put it in my backpack just the same. I was excited to trek back home and show my friend Clayton.

“Looks like a dinosaur,” he said. I took a second look.

“Come to think of it, it does look like a dinosaur.”

“You should take that to the paleontology museum. They might pay you well for it, if it’s not a rodent.”

“That’s a great idea, but shouldn’t we clean it up first?”

“Yeah,” Clayton said. He grabbed the hose and began to spray it, but the dirt wouldn’t come off. “Maybe we could soak it in boiling water.”

“I’ll get one of my mom’s canning pots. We set it to boil and plopped the stone inside.”

Later, I set the stove to simmer and grabbed a scrub brush. I began to massage the stone. I couldn’t tell if it was the reflection of the water, but it looked like the thing inside the stone moved.

Chapter 8 Desert Drag

Second…Third…Fourth…Frank shifted into Fifth and the roadster ate up the road. He merged onto the asphalt artery with the other traffic and took the turnoff into the desert. When a car gets moving fast enough on desert sand, it billows into a cloud and Frank couldn’t see anything behind him, but that didn’t matter because he was only thinking about one thing, gold. Frank had money, but gold is different than zeros in a bank account. It wants to be gazed at by greedy men. Gold changes reasonable folks into fools; it reprioritizes relationships; and when it is found, nothing will ever be the same again.

Frank turned into the flood zone. The debris changed everything. He looked for markers so he could find his way back to the plane, but the only thing that looked the same was the mountain. The dust behind him was like an enormous wall that blotted out where he had come from. Frank started to feel like he didn’t have anywhere to go. The desert is like that; it will test a man in unusual ways. He stopped the Jaguar right when the sun rose above the mountain top. He was looking for anything; a sign; and then something glinted in the distance. Frank had to drive slower. He kept his eyes fixed on the reflected light, but something was throwing him off. Something glinted through the dust behind him. Frank knew the desert plays tricks on the eyes, but he had nothing left to trust, and he had to believe the plane was in front of him.

He parked at the top of the canyon, and there was the plane farther down. The skeletal pilot was leaning up against his red baron; his ivory bones tanning in the sun. Frank felt guilty moving the skeleton a second time because the dead need to rest, but the living also need to make a living so Frank opened the door anyway. The skeleton didn’t seem to mind. The bags of gold were where Frank had left them. He grabbed two and walked up the canyon. This went on for hours. If the bags had been filled with concrete, they would’ve stopped most men by midday, but they were filled with gold and Frank had more energy with each bag he dropped into the old Jaguar. Frank found a Luger at the bottom of the pile and he checked the magazine. It was full, so he put the old German weapon in his back pocket.

The stars were popping out as the sun when down. Frank turned on the headlights and both bulbs blew up. Pete could work on cars, but he didn’t know shit about electrical. Frank had to navigate the debris fields by moonlight. It was a good thing too because the menacing eyes were staring at him through a telescopic sight.

Making Waves

There are waves in the world. Most people know this, but they don’t really understand it. They have routines to avoid them. I create waves without even trying. I do this because it seems real. I’m bothered by waves, but I’m also bothered by the storm underneath the surface. The more unpredictable I become and the less bothered I am by it, the more I move other people and people don’t like to be moved. I can no longer say the right thing at the right time because I feel as fake as a facsimile. I was meant to ride waves and be crushed by them. I don’t know why.

-Intellectual Shaman

Chapter 7 Pete’s Antique Automobiles

When automobiles die, they get buried above ground; usually by briars and bushes. Frank just needed a car that could take him into the desert and wouldn’t croak when he got there. Antique automobiles were strewn across the lot in a haphazard fashion. There were rusted parts cooking in the sun and some of them were bleeding oil into the grass, returning from whence they came—oil to oil, gas to gas, exhaust to exhaust. Frank noticed a barn in the back, faded, and missing planks.

He heard the characteristic sounds of an automotive shop, socket wrenches, air compressors, and off-tune whistling. When his shadow darkened the door, he noticed the barn floor covered in wood shavings and oil. Two feet stuck out from under a 1937 Jaguar SS Roadster. You can tell a lot from someone’s shoes. They were red Converse with mismatched socks.

“Are you the person I talk to, to see about renting a car?” Frank asked.

“I’m the one and you can rent any of my automobiles for 10 dollars a day?”

“What’s the catch?”

“Well… they don’t go anywhere. Most of them don’t have engines. You can work on one, if you see one you like, but many of them haven’t been touched in over a century.”

“I was actually hoping to drive one today.”

Drive one?” The feet slid out from under the old race car and a bewildered teenager with a spotty blonde beard gave Frank a quizzical look.

“What for?”

“I need to pick something up in the desert. You really don’t have anything that can take me there?”

“Well… I’ve just finished working on this car. It might take you where you want to go, a little too fast, if you know what I mean?”

“How much?” Frank asked.

“I’ll let you have it for a hundred, but each one of my cars is like family, so I expect you to bring it back.”

“You have my word,” Frank said.

Pete gave him the keys and the old prospector handed him a hundred-dollar bill.

Frank got into the Jaguar and turned the ignition. The engine sounded old, but strong.

He shifted into first and left the automotive graveyard, not noticing the hearse following after him.

Fat Tom

Fat Tom was an ex-cop. He’d served in Korea and now he was a golf course marshal. The problem was that his previous jobs made him paranoid and racist. His wife divorced him and he had diabetes. He was also suicidal. Doing the job kept him motivated though. He’d hide in the bushes with binoculars and wait for “Orientals” to violate the etiquette of the game. He yelled at some Asian lawyers one day and the golf course got sued. He was shortly fired.

Tom still came to the driving range to hit golf balls and he would give me life advice. “Andy, if you choose to get married, be sure to take your wife on vacation. She won’t love you if you don’t.”

“Okay Tom, thanks.”

“And don’t marry an Oriental woman; they cost too much.”

“Ummm.”

“Think about joining the military; if you don’t, you’ll probably end up like Ryan and his cronies. They don’t do shit and they think they are going to turn pro one day.”

“Okay Tom, thanks.”

“You know Andy, you got one hell of a swing. Why don’t you try out for the UW golf team?”

“Maybe.”

“That is the problem with you; you just don’t do anything. If you did try, you would be great.”

“Thanks Tom.”

Our conversations usually went on like this until Tom got hungry and left to eat the buffet special. It was all you can eat, and Tom tested himself every time.

Tom had one good friend. Bill. And Bill liked me too. “I worry about him Andy. On these hot summer days Tom just sits in his skivvies and watches TV in his basement. He told me that he doesn’t have any reason to live after his wife left him.”

I nodded. I wonder if Bill realized that Tom had a good friend and good friends are difficult to come by.

Samurai Golfers

I was playing golf alone

on a typical spring day

when I met a samurai on the golf course

“Hiiii,” he said. He was about five feet tall and he bowed to me.

It was an honor to be in his company

He was nearly 70 years old and played golf very consistently.

I smashed it off the tee box and he howled with delight

“Loooong!” We kept playing like this for some time.

Until we joined up with another samurai

They knew each other and they started jabbering in Japanese.

I’d hit my drive and they’d both bow and gesticulate.

They weren’t half bad too.

They’d hit their balls and wait for me to hit mine.

Then they’d whoop with delight.

For some reason my putting got better too.

The more they cheered, the better I became.

“Pro, you are pro! Ahhh, nice shot!” They would say.

And we reached the 18th green and I holed it out for a birdie.

Each samurai bowed to me and I bowed back.

I felt like a warrior.

They honored me.

And I’ve never had a better round of golf.

Three and a half years later, I went to Baskin N’ Robbins with my mother.

I went to order my ice-cream

And the owner looked at me. His eyes got really large.

And I couldn’t figure out why.

“Looong!” He said. “Very Looong!”

And then I remembered that I had played golf with him several years ago

He was one of the samurais

and he owned the ice-cream shop

What a great guy

I’ve never played golf with anyone better!