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              It was a blustery weekend in Muskrat Flats. The wind was conducting a symphony as the poplars bordering the vineyard...

Monday, December 14, 2009

Life may not be a bowl of cherries, but it sure can be a good bluberry muffin recipe.

Hiya Folks - So glad you could join me. It has been a very busy couple of months in Muskrat Flats. Life is moving right along as it always does. Not too much has happened or really changed. I.E. your reporter has been busy and can not devote as much time as he would like to nosing around in the business of some of our favorite characters who color the landscape in Muskrat Flats proper.

The one constant is that life goes on and everyday a sense of community is reinforced as one helping hand reaches out to another in need. Even if that helping hand is a well deserved slap in the face which will wake you up a bit and help you to "snap out of it," as they say. That's they way they roll in the flats, always has been and hopefully always will be.

This week provided some of those tense times, where there was a disagreement and tempers briefly flared.

There was an incident at the Odd Fellows Hall the other day between Sid Bartleby, Moe Eckstein and a group of onlookers.

Earlier in the day, Moe was driving on the interstate with one of the guys he had met when he was an occupant of the long term care facility he was in when he was doing his treatments for cancer. Bennie Blanco is his name. Due to life's unfortunate circumstances Bennie has found himself to be alone, ill and with very few friends. He was your average cranky old man. Moe took pity on him and began giving him rides when he needed to get out. That day, Bennie needed a ride to his lawyer's office in Dana. He then needed to get back to Muskrat Flats for a doctor's appointment at noon. Moe being the good sort that he is, offered Bennie a ride.

Things took a little longer than expected at the Lawyer's office and there was some construction which had caused some delays as dump trucks moving in and out of the construction zone stopped traffic, on one occasion. Bennie began to get anxious as it appeared that they were going to be late.

When they got to the toll booth they were in a line of three cars. The guy in the first car was asking for directions.

"Jesus, Moe will you look at this shit? Who asks for directions at a toll booth?" He was huffing and puffing.

"Comon, Bennie relax. Here use my phone. Call the doctor."

"I'm not calling the doctor. Jesus Christ!" Bennie barked as the toll booth operator was pointing in one direction while the driver was waving his hands and gesturing in the other direction. This went on for a very uncomfortable 60 seconds or so. The driver finally proceeded.

The car in front of them inched toward the toll booth a little slower than Bennie would have liked. Moe and Bennie watched as it appeared that the driver was taking off her seat belt. She was because her window was broken and could not be rolled down. She opened the door and leaned out to hand the toll both operator the ticket and her money.

Bennie barked,

"Jesus Fuck, will you look at this now? We're never going to fuckin' get there on time." Moe rolled his eyes and looked at his watch.

Much to Moe's horror Bennie then reached over and leaned on the horn. As he did this, the driver - a young African American lass with very pleasant features, turned and scowled at Moe.

Moe recognized the driver as Gina, Kurt Bartleby's girlfriend. Moe put his hands up in the air giving an "oops" gesture. However, his unease with the situation caused him to have the most inappropriate reaction. While he was gesturing, he was also laughing.

The displeasure, once again registered in Gina's face when she recognized Moe and saw him laughing. She took her change, slammed the door shut and sped off.

"About fucking time," Bennie bitched with no remorse.

The next five minutes were spent with Moe and Bennie shouting at each other. Moe took Bennie to the appointment, for which they were on time, and then dropped him off at his apartment after more bickering. Moe then proceeded to go to the Odd Fellows Hall to grab a coffee and blueberry muffin.

Moe walked into the kitchen where Paul and Donnie were embroiled in another one of their nonsensical conversations. This time it was Parallel Universes.

Paul said,

"You mean to tell me you really believe there is a parallel universe. Like, one where there is an evil Mister Spock with a beard?" Donnie replied,

"I'm telling you there are many parallel universes. There may even be one where you're not an asshole." Everyone burst out laughing.

"You're a jerk, you're still pissed off about me being right about the fact that a mountain lion can be a UFO."

"Whatttt? We had that conversation over a year ago."

"Well I was right about opening your coat to make you look bigger. That will scare mountain lions away?"

That was all Moe had time take in. He needed his caffeine. He looked over in the corner and his Sonny Boy, Gomer and Corey Blackstone were deep in conversation. He heard a chime and Corey began fiddling with his iPhone. Gomer took this opportunity to take his phone out and check his mail. As Moe saw this he thought, "These kids today ... so unfocused and rude. Stopping a conversation to fiddle with phones. Who ever needed to talk on the phone in line at the store, or pumping gas?" Moe's heart began to beat a little faster as his temper began to get further away from him.

The stereo began to spew out dogs barking, Jingle Bells. Moe Looked over at the portrait of Sheriff Hawthorne. Above the painting, one of the jackalope's horns had fallen off and was dangling from its head by a thread. This further annoyed him. He stopped to get his coffee and muffin.

"Good Morning, Iva." Moe said. Iva looked at him with a cool expression and simply acknowledged him.

"Moe ..."

She walked away. Her coldness went unnoticed as Moe went to his table and pulled the Jackalope down from the shelf. He took one sip of his coffee. and opened one of his newspapers. He thought to himself, finally, the opportunity to simmer down in solitude and relax, when he heard the door open.

He looked up and saw Sid and Gina walking in the door together. Sid saw Moe raised his hand in the air and bellowed,
"I wanna talk to you!" Gina simply glared at Moe who stood up.

"What's your problem? Why did you honk your horn at Gina?"

"I didn't honk at her!" Gina gasped,

"Yes you did," She turned to Sid, "He totally did. And when I looked back at you, you were laughing about it." Gina shouted.

"Well, whaddya say to that? Moe? You honked or you didn't?

Moe was silent, Sid goaded him.

"Well ... Why did you honk?"

"I didn't Honk! It was Bennie Blanco. He was late and pissed off when the guy in front of her was asking for directions. So when she opened her door at the booth he honked. It wasn't me I didn't honk." Moe looked over at Gina who had her arms folded across her chest. She shot out her hand pointing right in Moe's face,

"I saw you laughing. I deserve an apology." Moe erupted.

"IT wasn't me. I DIDN"T HONK!! For Chrissakes, Sid ... I argued with that bastard, Bennie Blanco. for five minutes after that. I didn't honk."

"But it was your car, right?" Sid queried. He waited for Moe to respond, when he was silent that proved to Sid that was an admission of guilt.

"Sid softened his tone and got a glimmer in his eye as he began to feel badly for his old friend who was placed in an awful situation. After all he was doing Bennie, that miserable prick, a favor.

"Moe, comon, She was late too, the guy in front of her with the directions ... Her window doesn't work, the last thing she needed was to be honked at by a couple of old white guys, one of whom was laughing."

"Now wait a minute, Sid. Don't make this about race. My record stands for itself on the subject of civil rights and racism. I been writing about it for 40 years!" Moe looked at Gina and began to sputter a bit, He took her hands in his and apologized.

I'm sorry, I didn't mean to laugh at you, I was just so horrified that Bennie honked my horn, that was my reaction." Gina looked at him with a puzzled expression. She softened too and was ready to accept his apology When they heard a all too familiar voice from the peanut gallery.

"Just face it Dad, you're a Honky." Moe looked over at Gomer as his son started chortling with laughter. Moe glared . Gina agreed, she pointed at Gomer, smiled and nodded her head. Sid, said,

"Sonny Boy's right, kid, You're a honky!"

"You guys are nuts, I'm not a honky." Moe was smiling and shaking his head. Sid pointed his finger,

"But you had one in your car, that makes you a honky by association. "

"Then you're a honky because you associate with me." Gomer was beside himself with laughter.

All the folks at the Odd Fellows Hall had a good laugh that morning. It was a ridiculous situation all around. But in the end, everything was made right. After everyone moved on to deal with their business for the day, Moe grabbed another cup of Joe, sat alone and nestled into his newspapers.

He took a bite of his blueberry muffin. It was light and airy, the blueberries were perfectly dispersed throughout the muffin all except for the one spot where a cluster of berries had congregated. That spot sure looked moist and sweet, much denser than the rest of the muffin. Moe had thought about these muffins on occasion, how consistent they were and somewhat predictable - in a good way of course.

This is because the formula has remained unchanged for over a century, he thought. The blueberry muffins from the Bartleby's Mercantile have been made the same way with the same ingredients all this time. The muffins were a warm buttery oasis which the folks in Muskrat Flats could count upon to be the same - unchanged, a constant in the historical time line. They are, after all, as old as Muskrat Flats itself.

The muffins have remained unchanged through numerous wars, presidents, depressions and recessions. They have remained unchaged through the cold war, McCarthyism, political upheavals, times of temperance and excess, alike. Moe mused that it was unfortunate that living life could not be as simple as following a formula as specific as a muffin recipe -a recipe to guarantee success.

Of course, that would be boring, Moe thought as he noted how satisfying that juicy cluster of berries was sure to be. That cluster wasn't supposed to be there, but it happened. Regardless of the formula and how the muffins were supposed to be, it existed. That cluster was held together by the same ingredients that went into every morsel, kind of like Muskrat Flats, Moe thought. We have the same people, the same routines, but you never know when there will just be that one factor which will change everything. The argument and the comic relief which followed was as dense and sweet as the cluster of berries he was squeezing gently between his fingers.

All of the necessary ingredients to produce the whole were there, but there is the occasional instance which causes an aberration - in this case it was a welcome and unexpected suprise. A rare morsel of sweetness that reminds anyone who cares to notice, that sometimes where you are, is the best place you can possibly be.

Moe looked up from the treat he was rolling in his fingers as he felt a pair of lips kiss the top of his head. He felt warm and strong hands on his shoulders and heard Gomer's soothing voice tell him,

"I love you, Dad. Happy Holidays."

"What're you doing Sonny?"

"I'm going to the airport. Gotta catch up on some paperwork for the jump school. Then I'm calling the ACLU to let them know that the foremost writer on civil right issues for the last half century is a Honky."

"Ahhh, you're nuts!" Moe said. Gomer replied,

"What about them?"

Moe squeezed his son's hand and watched him depart from that warm wood paneled room chaotically decorated with dusty impressionist paintings, and dilapidated taxidermy in need of repair. But the imperfections were insignificant as he looked around at the festive decorations. A menorah over there, Santa in the corner, a lighted nativity across from the fireplace. They all added nicely to warm glow of the room at the corners of Petersen and McKernan Streets.

Just like his mother he is ... always a joker, Moe thought to himself. How he missed his lovely bride and how proud she would have been of their Sonny Boy.

Moe popped the last morsel of the muffin in his mouth. The cluster of berries he had been musing about was well worth saving as a the last bite of that muffin - Life never had tasted so sweet.

He folded up his newspapers and wondered why any rational thinking person would ever have a good enough reason to be ...

Running Hard out of Muskrat Flats.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Monday Morning You Sure Look Fine.

It has been a while, since I have written anything. A long time. That is not to say that I have forgotten about our friends who are still congregating at the Odd Fellows' Hall at the corners of Petersen and McKernan Streets in Muskrat Flats proper.

Coley Blackstone and his dog Chubby are doing fine. They are still going for their morning walks to the Odd Fellows' Hall. Coley still occasionally indulges himself by deftly yet discreetly plucking an interesting piece of paper out of a trash can he passes. I say indulges himself because he is working very hard to get to the root of his obsessions and compulsions. Chubby always offers never ending validation as he looks up lovingly while chewing on his plastic banana.

Moe Eckstein and Sid, his best buddy, are still holding court in the Banquet Hall every morning amid the the omnipresent aroma of freshly baked blueberry muffins.

The Memorial Day concert is still quite the topic of conversation when the town was overrun as word got out that the featured band for the evening, Odorono, was in reality the hippie jam band PRY.

Police were called in from local counties to control the crowd, early on. So things never really got all that out of hand.

They had a little mini Woodstock situation on their hands as about 10,000 more people than expected showed up for the event. The food vendors and local merchants were elated as their business for the day was brisk, giving a much needed bump in revenue during a period where the local economy had slowed down.

PRY did their best to keep everyone in line and did a fine job. Gomer was up on stage that night as well, bringing a big bottom to the band as they had two bass players for a major portion of the second set. Sveltie was up front, encouraging him while her husband was isolated in their house, much drunker than he intended or worse - promised he would get, that afternoon.

Later in the summer Silver Days was a success and the residents are now gearing up for the Fall Festival at the Farm Museum. Gomer took a few days off from PRY tour, where he is filling in for their bass player Lester Phillips, to do the annual Silver Days parachute jump and to perform that evening with his Hardcore Klezemer band Gomer Shabbos and the Hook Nosed Satans.

It wasn't quite the same situation as the Memorial Day concert, but there was a noticeable bump in attendance and there were a good amount of concert goers who were sporting PRY t-shirts.

As always, behind the scenes, a frequernt catalyst for shaping current days events in Muskrat Flats is the oft revered and even further maligned prankster, Sheriff Samuel Coleman Hawthorne III.

Gomer meandered into the Odd Fellows Hall, grabbed a coffee and a blueberry muffin. He was greeted by Iva Bartelby with a hug and a kiss. He spied Iva's husband, Sid and his father sitting in their usual spot, the table underneath Hawthorne's portrait and the two stuffed Jack-alopes.

He also spied Sveltie who was giving him that mischievous half smile. He went over and gave her a hug and chatted for a minute. He then reached into his sack and returned the wooden box containing what some perceive to be Sheriff Hawthorne's most recent prank on the modern day Flatlanders. They hugged again andGomer headed to greet his father.

Moe was locked and loaded.

"What's that all about, Sonny Boy?"

"It's nothing Dad ... I was returning that diary."

"Oy, that diary." Moe motioned with his thumb over his left shoulder,

"This guy, the Sheriff - he may have been a genius and did a lot of great things for this town, but he was fucking NUTS. He should have been locked up in some sanitarium or a looney bin. He is fucking with your lives with that crazy book."

"Daaaaddd!" Gomer wished he would shut the fuck up.

"Soooooooo ...." Gomer cringed. Here it comes, the clincher.

"How's Miranda? Does Sveltie know about you two, not that it matters to her since she's an adulterer too."

"Oh Dad, please can't you just let it go? Why can't you just give me a hug and tell me that you missed me?" Moe got up.

"Of course I can do that, I do love you, Sonny Boy." Moe said as he leaned in and grabbed his only son in a big bear hug. He whispered in Gomer's ear.

"I love you more than you will ever know. I just feel like I still need to protect you ... you're my baby." They broke apart.

"I know Dad, I know." Gomer wondered how long he was going to feel like a little kid.

"By the way, Dad, Miranda is fine. I'm going back to San Francisco in two days and she is going to accompany me on the last leg of the tour."

"That'll keep him out of trouble, eh Moe?" Sid chided.

Moe simply clicked his tongue against his teeth and grunted.

"Soooooo Sonny Boy ... " Gomer thought, what the fuck now? I thought we were done. He relaxed and even laughed when his father finished the sentence.

"What do you think about Mackenzie Phillips and Papa John Speedball? And you think your childhood was fucked up?"

"Oh Dad ..." Gomer admonished as the conversation meandered into less controversial territory.

Moe and Sid got up a little while later for their weekly run to Costco.

Gomer flipped 0pen his laptop and went through his mail. He got a correspondence from his buddy Pablo, a musician he had met at a recovery convention in the Northeast.

Hey Gomer, I just wanted to drop you a line and let you know I'm thinking about you. I hope things are going well with PRY. We'll see you at the Satans show in Burlington next month. In the meantime check out my latest blog. He clicked on the link and the blog popped up and began to read.

Monday Morning You Sure Look Fine

It has been a busy couple of weeks. Somehow music seems to have taken over my life. Between my work schedule and my obligation to my kid I don't have much free time. Now music seems to be dominating the landscape and stealing away any free time I may have thought I had.

Any of you who are regular readers here know that I'm a busy guy. But lately it has been insane. Not the kind of insanity that they talk about in the rooms of recovery, but It could be if I don't stay centered in my recovery. For the while, I think this is a good kind of insanity. It is becoming clear that things I have intended to do in my life, for a very long time are coming to fruition.

I was walking into my favorite coffee shop this morning. As I got out of my car I immediately spotted the group of guys having coffee. I knew two of them but this was the kind of group I could spot a mile away, they were all just like me.

I was looking at a smiling, laughing group of junkies and drunks. All of whom woke up one day and through various circumstances and scenarios it came to be that they woke up for the last time to greet the last day they would ever take a drink or a drug.

That's how it always happens.

Call it God's plan.

Call it co-incidence.

Call it society intervening in your life for the last time and letting you know enough is enough in the likely instance that you can't figure it out for yourself.

Call it what ever you need to call it, but believe it.

The one guy of the group I knew well, spotted me. He is one of the old timers in the fellowship which I attend. He smiled greeted me and shook my hand.

He then asked me that inevitable question,

"How are you doing?"

I love that question. But, before I could answer he said,

"I always ask that question but I can tell by your demeanor and body language that you are doing great. It is good to see. So what's going on? Why so happy?" He inquired.

I told him that I had been super busy getting ready for a concert which I played in Bushnell Park in Hartford on Saturday. I was filling in on bass for another band whose regular bass player had a previous commitment. I mentioned that's why he hasn't seen me a too many meetings in the last few weeks because I have been practicing and getting ready for this.

"And you never could have done this if you were using, could you have?"

No, I absolutely could not, I assured him. I used to get high and get lost in my head saying I wish I could do this or I wish I could do that. One of those wishes was "I wish I could play music in front of people."

He was psyched to see how happy I was.

"You see how it works? I remember you when you first came around. Just keep doing what you are doing and everything is going to fall into place for you. It is good to see you," he said as he bid me farewell.

It is true there are things that are happening in my life which I absolutely could not do if I were still using. The joy and freedom I experienced playing on a real stage with a real sound system (Two 500 watt cones on each side of the stage stacked on top of 4 - 15 inch speakers at 1000 watts each) in front of a large and appreciative crowd of smiling faces. All of this would disappear if I picked up.

First, I was playing in a group where the core of the musicians are in recovery. They wouldn't want to play with me if I were using. I doubt would have the motivation to go out and get my own gigs or seek out other musicians. No one would want to play with me because I would be all screwed up. Then I would be back to hiding in the dark playing for myself.

I did something crazy today. I was looking through Facebook and came across a request from and old Deadhead acquaintance.

When I knew this guy, he was a liar, a cheat and probably many other things that I had yet to find out about him. I don't know if he has some kind of mental illness which prevents him from remembering some of the warped stuff he did to me or my friends, but he reached out to me anyway.

I took the higher road and approved the request. I have changed and continue to work on changing. Perhaps he has as well.

They say everything happens for a reason. This is a true story.

I began flipping through this guy's friends list on FB and I came across a smiling face I recognized - David Frieberg. If you are not familiar with David Frieberg, he is a musician who played and sang vocals with Quicksilver Messenger Service back in the 60s and continues to do so this day.

About two years ago, I went to the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love concert at the Fairgrounds in Northampton, MA.

It's a Beautiful Day, Tom Constanten, Big Brother, Quicksilver and Jefferson whatever the latest incarnation of their name is, played. Paul Kantner and Marty Balin were there, no Jorma, Jack or Grace though.

The crowd was small but enthusiastic. David Frieberg played a big part playing with multiple groups that day.

I was freshly out of detox for what would be the second to last time. I was about a month clean, going to meetings and really struggling to do the right thing. I was at the show with a friend who was telling me,

"You need to do this and you need to do that to get your shit together," all the while forgetting that we had snorted oxys together on a couple of occaisions and once asked me if I could cop him some heroin.

I was checking out the musicians to see what they were playing hoping to pick up some licks. I must have looked pretty serious, perhaps even like I wasn't having a good time.

At that very moment, I looked up and David Frieberg was staring right at me making eye contact. Then he pointed his index fingers upward at his mouth, indicating that I should smile and I seem to recall, sing along as well.

It cracked me up and I did smile.

And I did sing along ... Come on people, now, smile on your brother let us try to get together and love one another, right now."

It was once of those special moments where I first felt that as a clean and sober person, I wanted something that someone else had. Something intangible that can not be bought or sold. The only way I was going to be able to do what David Frieberg did for me that day was going to be to break out of my shell and get up in front of people and play some music.

The show was over early and it very well may have even been that night or perhaps even the next Saturday night that I went to an open mic at the local sober club where I got up in front of the crowd and played three of my songs.

All of the musicians there were humble, and encouraging. None believing it was my first public appearance. They encouraged me and told be to keep coming. Where have I heard that before?

It was that night I met one of the musicians who fronts the band I played with last weekend.

The crazy thing I did, which I referenced earlier, was to contact David Frieberg and tell him this story. I have a feeling he will appreciate it as much as I appreciated the kindness in his smile during that warm summer eve.

I want to keep what I have so I am going to keep giving it away. Especially if all I have to offer at the moment is the kindness of smile to someone in the audience who looks like they may need one.

Thanks for your time.


"Wow" Gomer thought. He closed the laptop and gathered up his things. He smiled to himself and checked his own inventory and recalled that kind of band audience interaction he had experienced so many times. He vowed to be more conscious of this situation in the future having been shown just how profound such an act can alter someone's path,

He wondered if Sveltie was going to be around. He would like to see her. Then he thought of Miranda and her wonderful smile and loving acceptance of his shortcomings. He had to push thoughts of pursuing some private time with Sveltie out of his head, He then made a vow to himself to make his brief visit in Muskrat Flats to be one where he could take care of business.

He also decided if anyone deserved a life changing smile of his from the stage, the only one he could think of right away was Miranda.

So he went down his todo list and made a hasty plan to get cracking so as soon as possible he would be ...

Running Hard Out of Muskrat Flats.

Monday, July 20, 2009

"I've got no chance of losing, this time."

Last week, I faced one of the most arduous tests of strength during my ongoing recovery than I think I have ever encountered. I have faced less lethal situations in the past and failed but those were different times. Then, I thought I could get away with it, I thought I could beat the odds, so to speak. The situation of which I speak was my one year anniversary ... 365 consecutive days without drugs or alcohol.

I say it was a test of Strength because all kinds of crazy thoughts were going through my head in the days leading up to the anniversary including but not limited to picking up that drug and doing just a little more research to see if things may have changed in a year.

But I have been recovering, not abstaining. I have been doing work to insure that thoughts like these, "the thought that pulled the trigger," don't get the best of me. Working at recovery has given me the tools to combat such thoughts.

It was an interesting week that is for sure. There were successes and triumphs as well as setbacks some major and some minor, but I didn't let the setbacks draw me into to a dark mode of thinking or take me to a place where I feel comfortable, alone with my thoughts and would be solutions. That place is comfortable indeed. You see, everyone there understands me. I don't have to yell, I don't have to argue. When I am in that cozy room of solitude, I don't even have to finish my sentences ... yet, I am heard loud and clear like a crisp echo bouncing off of a distant canyon wall. Thoughts of visiting this dark place are why we work one day at a time. As I have found out, I managed to do it one day at a time, 365 times in a row.

The other successes - We finally came up with a band name. It is the Glenwood Mills Band. We play an eclectic mix of jazzy jams, blues, reggae, country encompassing both original material as well as some covers.

I like to call it Sedentary Rock, music that will extricate you from the couch, but not necessarily cause you to get up dance like a whirling dervish. unless you are a 20 something hippie chick, of course. They can wildly dance to music which consists a cowbell, a couple of djembes and someone humming through a black plastic comb wrapped in tissue paper ... and make it look good.

The setbacks were minimal with the exception of my finally coming to terms with the fact that, unless he tells me or demonstrates otherwise, we have lost the rhythm guitar player in the band. He was the catalyst who originally brought this group of musicians together.

I can understand his frustration and He is a busy guy, just like the rest of us.

Our last gig was unorganized, we were playing outdoors in the late afternoon. We were scheduled to play at 3:30. The timing got screwed up and we were put in a position where we had to start earlier. Only two of the folks in the band got the message. When we all got there and set up, we had to alter our two sets of music down to one abbreviated set, half of which the guitar player didn't know because he had missed so many practices. Sounds like fun, huh! After all that is what it is supposed to be, isn't it ... fun? We ended up playing a great set of music in front of about 10 people.

A few days later, I was talking to Stuntman Steve Sanderson, a professional musician who has been on the front lines of performing with his band Drunk Stuntmen, for the better part of the last two decades. He asked me how the gig went. I told him of the woes with the timing and two of the musicians showing up when we were supposed to start, the frustrated guitar player who was upset about the set list which included songs he really didn't know, and the fact that there were four more people in the audience than were in the band.

He started laughing and simply said, "Welcome to my world. How does it feel?"

How does it feel?

It feels fucking GREAT!

I want to go out of the way to make sure that the guitar player feels at ease about his decision. I understand. I really do. At the same time, I need him to understand how profoundly I have been affected by his early willingness to lay the foundation for getting the band together. My life has changed dramatically.

I have always been into music. I have "jammed" with various people over the course of the years along the way absorbing different musical nuances and styles. I have figured out the type of musician I like to play with and who I Don't want to play with. I have picked up aspects of music theory, some licks and most importantly confidence in both my voice and what is happening with my hands. The funny part is, it took me twenty years rather than the few short years of suffering through music lessons and an unyielding practice schedule most people endure.

I have taken music lessons in the past. For the most part they were not fun. This probably had to do with the teachers I had.

This is also partially due to the fact that I have always had other artistic interests. Between the writing, flame working glass and music, I have developed a self imposed brand of creative schizophrenia. I go through phases when one aspect of creativity is always in the foreground while the others swirl around in the background, jockeying for postition on, at the very most, my list of priorities: at the very least my list of whims.

Right now the music dominates the landscape. I've been writing intermittently and for now, the torch sits idle.

But getting on a schedule with all three seems to be the natural progression of events fulfilling a goal I have set for myself.

When I rented studio 33 1/3 in Building 2 at the Indian Orchard Mills, someone asked me if I had a goal?

I set out to create a space where I could do glass work, writing and music. The goal was to make it all work within 5 years. By work, I mean, income generated by my activities at the studio would pay the rent, not necessarily my bills, but the rent and the minimal overhead associated with the Studio. I remember Jerry Garcia belting out that encore which everyone hated in the early 80s ... you know the one that had the lyrics,

"Keep your Day Job until your night job pays." Good advice Jerry.

It is happening. I am gaining notoriety as a glass artist. An example being, I am doing a Flame working presentation at a Child Care center next week. (Please ... No Clown suit jokes from the Peanut Gallery.)

I am going to put together a powerpoint presentation along with some tangible examples of what I do. A few weeks later I have a three hour lesson planned as well as inquiries from others regarding lessons and renting torch time and the time is upon me when I must begin to build up an inventory for the Fall Show and the upcoming Holiday gift giving season.

Greg Saulmon of Local Buzz fame, a free Arts and Culture newspaper which is no longer in print but thriving online as a featured department on Masslive.Com, mentioned my writing in an article he wrote a few weeks ago. It was in an article which was a salute to may father Garry P. Brown. The passage read

676: Number of words into Garry Brown offspring Paul Brown's stunning essay "State Fair" when Coliseum Charlie makes an appearance: "They would be sitting in the same seats where 'Coliseum Charlie' would sway behind his tower of empty beer cups drunkenly swinging his tee shirt above his head cheering for the Indians as Eddie Shore looked on in disgust and yelled for him to put his shirt back on, but he let Charlie come back every week. At least his feet weren't on the seats."

That day my website got over 80 hits from curious onlookers. Hopefully they read something that made them laugh, cry, think, cringe, and perhaps even turn away in either embarrassment or disgust. Who knows how they felt when they left?

And, again there is the music. I was at an open mic the other night, as an audience member, when I walked by a stranger and he greeted me by name. A good friend who just finished a tour, with his band, in Europe simply said,

"Get used to people knowing your name first ... It is part of the parcel with this whole "notoriety" thing. You deserve it."

I described how I got to playing music, slowly - at my own pace. I never stopped doing it because I wasn't good enough or it was too hard. I love doing it.

I finally broke out of my shell getting up there on stage and wanking on the guitar singing my songs at a couple of different open mics. As my guitar playing skills improved, apparently so did my latent bass playing skills. People have noticed. I have been asked by one of the folks who I met through an open mic to be the alternate bass player in her band. It is a band which plays Recovery/Sober Festivals. My first gig with them is September 25th.

As it stands now, three years into the 5 year plan, things are starting to come together and not seem quite as schizophrenic.

Even though my friend has decided he no longer wants to play in the band, his efforts to initially get us together was the catalyst for manifestation of the wonderful things which are about to happen because I now know I have the skill, confidence and willingness to get on the stage and do my thing.

As long as I have my noodles and my fingers cooperate, that situation is not going to change.

Perhaps my higher power put him in my life in the context of the band to give me the opportunity to grow. Just as his higher power may have put him in this situation so he could better understand concepts of patience and tolerance.

I love him and consider him a dear friend, none of that has changed. Hopefully he benefited from the shared experience in ways which are neither obvious to others and will be cherished for a lifetime.

Finally, I want to mention the passing of a friend, Jennarow Jerome King, who died a young man as he lost a battle with cancer. I understand it was a battle, as he fought to the very end.

J.J. was a fine man. He was a loving husband, father, child and sibling and will be missed by all who had the unique pleasure of meeting him, knowing him and loving him.

I send my love and blessing to Heidi and JJ's family.

It is a beautiful day outside. I think I'll slow it down a bit and take a leisurely stroll rather than speeding things up and ...

Running Hard Out of Muskrat Flats.


Monday, June 15, 2009

One Bill Makes You Larger and One Bill Makes You Small ....

Gomer Eckstein sat underneath the oil portrait of Samuel Coleman Hawthorne the III. He was wearing a black t-shirt, black cargo shorts and army boots. His long black cloak was folded on the back of the empty chair to his left. His clarinet was in its case on the table and the hard case containing his four-string Fender Jazz bass was leaning against the wall. He was holding a newspaper as if he were reading it, but he was distracted.

He rubbed his eyes, thankful for the 10 hours of sleep he had gotten the night before. He held the newspaper, a flimsy and thin document, a tabloid style rendering of the paper he had grown up reading. The very same paper which had been two dailies and a whopping 2 inch thick Sunday paper at the height of its publication. He remembered breaking his back as he delivered the Sunday Journal, so many years ago. He put down the paper and tousled his long wavy black hair.

He had been staring at the portrait of Hawthorne, fixated on the name in the lower right hand corner of the canvas, the artist and alleged infamous vampire, Jean Luc Lemay. His thoughts swirled. He thought of Miranda, he thought of his father, who used to write for this paper before he achieved national notoriety back in the 60s. He thought of Allie a long lost running buddy who appeared to still be lost. He thought of Sveltie, also known as Mrs. Jenny Smith, his friend Jerry's wife, with whom he just planned some post show intimacy. He heard his sponsor in his head admonishing him.

"I love you man, you know what I'm saying. You want to hear God laugh? Take back your will and make some plans. With plans come a set of expectations and when you have expectations you are always going to get let down. So go ahead, make those plans. and call me when you are so hurt you want to use."

"Fuck!" Gomer thought to himself. "Fuck, fuck, fuck, what am I doing?"

He once again picked up the paper and felt the thickness of its meager pages in his hands. Its size reminded him of one of the inserts he used to have to stuff inside of the Sunday Journal before he delivered them.

"Fucking paperboys have it so easy these days ..." he mused as his train of thought was interrupted by his dad.

"Reading Poor David's Almanac?" Gomer's confusion at the question registered in his face. Moe continued,

"David L'Etoile ... the Publisher of that rag. He is going to save $300,000 a year on newsprint going to that format, that is what Crazy Jerry in the press room told me." Moe quickly wiped his nose with a hanky.

"You can't even swat a fly with that shit, and all the typos, heh! Where's the editing? Headlines with spelling errors ... it's not the newspaper I worked for ... " He moaned before he spied someone familiar walking toward them.

"Hey... will you look at this, it's another rock star, How are you doing Lee?"

Gomer looked up as his good friend Burleigh Coggins, the lead guitar player for the band PRY, the band playing at the Memorial Day festivities that evening. Lee reached out to shake Moe's hand.

"I'm fine Mr. Eckstein. I read your last article in Mother Jones, it was great ..." He looked down as if he were wondering whether or not to finish the sentence, but Lee did.

"I'm so glad you are feeling better and looking healthy." Gomer smiled. He knew that Burliegh felt that if anyone in the room were a rock star, it was his father, Moe. Burleigh revered Moe's status as the writer who in Lee's opinion was the voice of an entire generation.

Moe turned as he greeted Fennel Santori, the drummer in PRY.

"Well ... Hello, my dear." Moe bent down to kiss Fennel on the cheek. He ran his fingers through her bundle of blond and purple dreadlocks. "Oh, you kids with your crazy hair ... it works for me, Fennel," Moe said with a wink. Fennel squeezed Moe tighter and said,

"Moe, if my wife ever leaves me, I promise I will marry you." He snorted a quick laugh, giving her dreads a playful tug.

"Who said anything about getting married?" They all chuckled. The rest of the folks in the room turned to see why the volume in the corner of the Banquet room at the Odd Fellows hall, suddenly increased.

Donnie and Paul having graduated to status of official kitchen workers felt it was their duty to keep the new dishwashers Joe and Corey in check as they were obviously star struck by the appearance of Lee, Fennel and the guy who was now walking through the door, the keyboard player for PRY Skimpy Cooper. He looked and waved as Corey shouted out "Hey Skimp!" and twirled his fingers in the air as if he were playing a keyboard.

By now, Gomer was standing. Skimpy shook Moe's hand and smiled. He looked great.

He hugged Gomer and whispered in his ear,

"How are you doing, my brother? Hanging?"

"I was hanging one day last summer, fortunately the tree limb broke." They all laughed. Lee and Skimpy high fived each other as they recalled the blog Gomer had written about the botched reenactment of Sherrif Hawthorne's hanging at last year's Fall Festival. Moe excused himself.

The four musicians sat down at the table and began catching up.

"Where is Les? Gomer asked inquiring about their bass player.

Lee looked over at Skimpy and then to Fennel. Gomer felt the tension and regretted asking the question.

"Les is still sleeping. He has been having a rough time lately," Fennel offered.

"He has been talking about going to detox the last couple of days but he feels like he needs to finish the tour, we're on the road for another two months." Lee said.

"What is he into?" Gomer asked knowing that booze would be the first answer.

"Oxys, which he is washing down with booze." Fennel said.

Gomer stared off processing the information. Skimpy shook his head. "I love the guy. I want to help him but He has to make his own decision."

Skimpy was thinking about when he had checked out and forced the band to take a hiatus. All the while he thought Les really resented him for that. Skimpy finally knocked on Les' door one day after a year long sojourn where he anonymously hitchhiked and walked across the country. Taking odd jobs as a means of supporting his new lifestyle, focusing on his recovery.

The day Skimpy knocked on Les' door. He opened it and simply stared at Skimpy for about 20 seconds before he began to weep, hugging his band mate and telling him how grateful he was to see him alive. Les had always been the anchor, the unwavering foundation of the band. Now his life was in jeopardy.

Gomer fidgeted a little. Fennel reached out and held his hand. "

If Les decides to go and we hope he does, I'm afraid he'll kill himself... will you play the rest of the tour?"

Gomer was shocked by the offer. Lee leaned in, "We finish up with a week long run in San Francisco ..." he wheedled.

Skimpy chimed in, "We've talked about it, Les wants you to be the guy."

"Wow," Gomer thought. He had to think hard about this. Lee and Fennel, he knew they still smoked pot, but Skimpy he was solidly in recovery as well as a couple of members of their crew. He was still reeling from the temptations of his last tour. And the kids on PRY tour, well they were hard core. His interaction with the tour kids, was probably Les' downfall as he always had a strong connection to what was going on in the parking lot outside their shows.

This connection was where Gomer had fucked up in the past, a door which he had closed but felt straining to open the last couple of days before he had met up with Miranda. Oh, Miranda ... the fact that they would finish in San Francisco definitely made their offer most appealing.

"What do you think?" Lee asked.

"I think about the tour kids, you know people places and things. But that's what they talk about as far as life on life's terms."

"Yes they do, I hear you loud and clear brother." Skimpy offered.

Lee and Fennel kind of looked at each other. They both realized that this arrangement with Gomer could change the dynamic of the band, the power structure. They had always been the ones who could drink and use safely. In fact they had slowed down considerably leading relatively sober lives, partially out of respect for Skimpy's situation and partially because it seemed like the thing to do, they weren't getting any younger.

Fennel cut out all of the pills and booze, Lee never really drank to begin with and was somewhat traumatized by Skimpy's drug use as he tried to get a glimpse into his world by experimenting with Skimpy on occasion only to feel like he was on the verge of death, one time seeking medical intervention as Skimpy just laughed and told him to calm down ... he would "be all right in a few minutes."

But Lee and Fennel still used. They had always been the sane ones, the ones who had their feet planted firmly on the ground. They had fought tooth and nail with Skimpy when he was all fucked up. They argued, they issued ultimatums and threats. They begged and pleaded for him to stop using dope. He cleaned up for a while and then relapsed while on tour. Nodding out on stage, constantly being late because he was out copping or just laying in the dressing room in an heroin stupor. At the time, Skimpy resented them for that and didn't want to do the same thing to Les, instead calmly and discreetly trying to carry a positive message to his sick and suffering band mate.

Lee and Fennel weren't prepared for the change they saw in Skimpy when he came back from his hiatus. They liked it. He brought a new and fresh energy to the band. as well as a new language with his lyrics, some of which Lee considered "preachy." Now they were inviting someone who had the same experience as Skimpy, a recovering heroin addict, into the band. Someone who spoke the same language as he, a language which was both welcome, although unsettling and foreign at the same time. It was a language they feared they may not understand in the long run.

Fennel said, "Look, you don't have to answer right now. Let's just have fun tonight." they all agreed.

The show was supposed to be a surprise show. the band on the bill was called "Odorono" The oft forgotten if not willingly suppressed name of Fennel and Lee's high school garage band. they played a total of two gigs. Before there were personnel changes and their college careers sent them, in opposite geographical directions.

"Check this out," Fennel said as she handed Gomer a copy of the newspaper. "I know Morbid Morty says any press is good press, but this is an extreme example of the kind of shit we have had to deal with.

Gomer looked at the article. It was the police blotter from the previous day's Journal.

Three Men Face Charges

Dana - Three unidentified men were taken into protective custody early Friday morning in the south end of Dana. Officers Clay Hutchison and Donna Falco were on routine patrol when they noticed a white rented van parked facing the wrong direction across the center line on Loring Street.

Upon further investigation, the officers found three Dana residents all of whom were disoriented and incoherent appearing to be under the influence of drugs. One of the suspects was naked.
A search of the van turned up two 9 MM pistols, five empty nitrous oxide cylinders and a small amount of marijuana. Evidence indicates that the three men had attended a performance at the Lakeside Pavilion where the jam band PRY had just played the second night of a three night run. The men were transported by ambulance the St. Alphonso's hospital where they were sedated. One was treated for blunt for trauma to the lower back and left knee cap. Detectives indicated that criminal charges are pending.

Gomer finished the article and looked at his three companions.

"What the Fuck? Guns, Five tanks of Nitrous? What's that all about?"

"We have had a big problem with the gas after the shows, lately. It seems to be that organized crime figures are targeting the audience. " Lee said. "The first night at Lakeside the scene was totally disgusting. One of the tour kids said it was these shady characters who were all guidoed out with black track suits and slicked back hair. Beyond that we really don't know how this happened?"

"If it happened in the Lot, I'm sure Les will tell us when he finds out." Skimpy said.


The scene after the first show at the lakeside Pavilion was like any other night. The crowd was stumbling around, bouncing off of each other. Hot and sweaty ecstatic concert goers basking in the after show glow. They were drunk, high, tripping, some of them were even completely clean and sober and still had the same goofy smiles on their faces.

Everywhere inter-lot commerce was happening and business was brisk. Whether it was the basics of food and liquid refreshment, or other itrems such as clothing, memoribila, glass pipes or other eye candy such as hand formed glass jewelry and marbles. And yes, there were drugs being sold. It was all discreet, for the most part.

One of the tour kids, a "wookie" named Doodlebug was standing there with his open glass case. He was wearing some patchwork shorts with a couple of large cargo style pockets. Out of one of the pockets protruded and aluminum slingshot. He had long blond dreadlocks, a shaggy beard and regardless of the night, he was wearing a pair of dark shades. He was also wearing a t-shirt that said "Hippie Mafia."

Across Shakedown St., he heard the constant roar and hiss of opening and closing tanks of laughing gas, their contents being pumped into large punching bag ballons and being sold for 5 dollars each. He didn't see any cops around. He handed his glass case to his twenty something companion, Star, who was similarly dressed. She surveyed the situation and saw who was selling all of the gas.

"What the fuck, dude?" She queried to her boyfriend. "That's totally fucked up."

He was on his phone texting.

"Dude, I'm on shake near the second lot, check out these gassholes."
The response came instantly, from a wookie named Muskie.

"I c them"

A few seconds later, Muskie showed up and hugged his companion.

Doodlebug was irate,

"Dude, what the fuck? This is not good. It's bad enough when one of us does this but these fuckin' idiots bring some seriously bad vibes to the scene. Plus they are taking money out of the scene away from the kids who need it. The fuckin' custies don't give a shit either."

"Comon now, Doodle dude ... how much money did you make schwinging Molly tonight? Muskie queried in a low but reassuring tone. "I can't begrudge them for trying to make some cash, But I don't like it either, too high profile they'll bring the heat down on all of us. There's nothing we can do about it now."

He looked around at the scene. Everywhere there were balloons. Kids were lying on the ground. passed out, some convulsing. He saw one girl with a gash on her head where it hit the hood of a parked car. He looked around at the other tour kids struggling to sell the drinks, food and hand crafted items. All of the stuff that brings good vibes.

"Nope, Doodle I don't like it, it's too much." Just then a kid walked by bitching to his friend. Muskie overheard what he was saying.

"So fucking Tony Soprano over there had a handful of cash and he said I had to get two balloons cuz he didn't have time to make change for a $10."

"What a fucking cock. Someone should do something about that."

Muskie looked at Doodle. Doodle shook his head and spat on the ground and said,

"It's fucked up, dude."

"I know," Muskie responded, "I know ... They'll be here tomorrow, keep your eyes open. I think we can persuade them to, at the very least, give us an ... honorarium."

"Damn right, dude."Doodlebug began to laugh raising his hand in the air, they slapped each other's hands and shook. They hugged again. This time a bundle of cash went from Doodle's hand into Muskie's. With the other hand he delivered a package into Doodle's hand.

The next day as the pre-show marketplace began to unfold, two wookies noticed the white van pull into the lot. They texted Muskie who was there within minutes. Some of the other kids who had been there the night before noticed as well. Those wanting some of that sweet air began to gravitate in that direction.

The three gangsters were sitting in folding chairs outside the van, one was reading a newspaper. The other two were drinking and checking out the women walking by, when a kid rolled up.

"Hey man, you got any gas?" the one reading the paper, Vinnie, looked at the other two.

"Yo Rocco, Tone ...You believe this fucking guy? Does it look like we have any gas? You dumb hippie fuck? Get the fuck outta here, come back later." The kid scowled and slunk away cursing under his breath.

A number of other curious concert goers who remembered the trio from the night before got the same treatment. Each leaving pissed off. It was worse with some of the young women who approached them as they were turned away with ribald misogynist taunts included for good measure. The gassholes were not making any friends in the lot. All around them was a wonderful party. People playing music, dancing, getting revved up for the show and their presence was just a downer.

Vinnie got up and barked at his cohorts.

"Let's open it up for a few minutes." They began filling balloons at kids quickly ran over, some against their better judgment. After about 20 minutes they shut it down. They went back to reading the paper and basically doing nothing as most of the crowd headed toward the entrance to the amphitheater.

Vinnie looked up and saw a tall lanky dreadlocked kid with a beard wearing Ray Bans.

He said to the others, "Who the fuck is this guy?'

"My name is Muskie. Who are you? "

Vinnie, the big guy reading the paper, did all the talking. The other two just grunted and looked imposing.

"I'll tell you the same thing I've been telling the rest of you for the last 10 minutes. Store's closed, get the fuck outta here, come back after the show."

"My aren't we polite. You treat all of your customers like that?"
Vinnie did a double take. and scowled at Muskie.

"I don't want your gas. I'm here to talk business. You guys seem pretty vulnerable, out of your element, I'm here to offer you some protection. You pissed a lot of people off last night, and even more today."

"What the fuck?" One of the goons in the back blurted and lurched forward. Vinnie, raised his hand.

"Tony, stop!"

The guy in the back stopped in his tracks. Smoothed down his slicked back hair and primped his track suit. Vinnie started laughing.

"Protection, YOU are offering me protection? Are you fuckin' serious? Protection from who?"

"It would be a shame if you guys sold the contents of all of those tanks and your money disappeared before you got out of the parking lot." The three looked at each other and began to laugh. One of them leaned forward opening his track jacket slightly, briefly exposing a gun.

"I don't think that's gonna fuckin' happen kid, now get the fuck outta here."

"Oh, it will happen, trust me. You keep pissing people off and cause a big scene, you are sitting ducks, I'm not threatening you, I'm just pointing out what can happen if you don't work with me on this." One of the three was eye-balling him suspiciously. He looked around and saw at least five or six dreadies on the periphery intently watching the conversation.

"Yo, Vinnie, I think he's serious." He began to whisper. "Look around Boss, we're outnumbered.

"Ohhh," he exclaimed as he turned to his companion and slapped him on the shoulder. "Shut the fuck up! Of course he's fucking serious dumb ass, but you think he can REALLY do anything about it?"

"You should listen to your partner. What did you have last night 5- 6 tanks? (They had 10) I figure with breakage you probably averaged about 1000 bucks per tank? Give me $1500 and shut down for a few minutes every 10 minutes or so. What you can do is get the tanks away from the van ... set up in those trees over there have a couple of tanks going at the same time. That way if the cops move in you just leave the tanks, take the money and run. You do that and we have a deal. I suggest you accept my offer, after all you are doing business in MY neighborhood."
He tipped his sunglasses down and made eye contact with Vinnie as he said,

" You understand?"

The three looked at each other. Vinnie looked at Muskie and sized him up for a minute before he began to laugh and yelled,


Muskie smiled and said, "If you change your mind, ask any of the kids selling food over there for me, they know how to find me. "

He walked away, shaking his head, as he heard once again,

"Fuck you , you believe this fuckin' guy?"

The trio did however take Muskie's's suggestion of moving the tanks into the trees.

Later in the evening the kids who didn't get into the show or chose not to go in, were milling about. Listening to music, dancing, drinking. It was about 10 o'clock. They heard the whining roar of a freshly tapped tank of nitrous. Gopher and his brothers in the lot watched for a few minutes. They had two tanks going.

The three nitrous vendors were chattering at each other. Vinnie was collecting the money and the other two were filling the balloons.

Muskie handed his girl a $50 bill which he'd just dosed with liquid LSD

"You know what to do? You, Amanda, have the bottle that is dosed, be careful don't spray anyone else or your self it is strong. "

She walked over with three of her friends. She patiently waited a minute. She handed the big guy the fifty. He really didn't notice that the bill was wet. Nor did he notice the girl was wearing rubber gloves. She asked for three balloons. He put the fifty in his pocket. He withdrew his hand from the pocket, instinctively licked his moistened thumb before he peeled off a couple of bills for change. Rocco and Tony were were in the dense trees, sweating in warm May evening. Two of the girls were giggling and bouncing around. One produced a squirt bottle and started spraying her companion with water.

"oh, that feels good, Amanda said. She produced another and said,

"You guys look hot." She took aim and squirted two blasts of the psychedelic solution in the face of each of the guys on the tanks.

"What the fuck? Knock that shit off, get the fuck outta here." Tony wiped his face. He took a direct hit to the eye, Rocco was wiping the liquid off of his upper lip and mouth. The girls scurried letting the balloons deflate and getting rid of the rubber gloves they were all wearing as the LSD began working its way into the narrow and feeble brains of the mobbed up nitrous vendors.

The show got out about about 45 minutes later. Shakedown St. filled up again with the stumbling smiling masses. And a good chunk of them wanted some laughing gas.

Vinnie, Rocco and Tony did a roaring business for about 45 minutes selling hundreds of balloons. They figured out a system the night before, and with the help of the hippie kid earlier in the evening they just became more efficient. They were so busy and moving so quickly they didn't realize what had begun to take place.

All of the sudden something happened, things began to seem a little weird. Tony, the one who got hit in the eye from the dosed spray bottle, all of the sudden seemed incapable of doing something as simple as turning a valve after putting a balloon on the nozzle.

Rocco noticed this and he began to feel like his clothes were too heavy, he was hot, sweating profusely and he couldn't feel his feet. Where did his feet go?

"Yo, Rocco. what's that?!! he asked with a twinge of fear in his voice. He turned, sure he saw something behind that orange tree which was swaying back and forth.

Vinnie began to freak out as this kid in front of him wouldn't stop talking.

He was handing Vinnie a 20 dollar bill. And said, about 20 times in a cartoon voice,

"But you don't understand, Mister, you gave me too much change, Mister, Don't you understand, Mister? Too much, you know what I mean, Too much change, Mister."

He handed Vinnie a 20 dollar bill. Vinnie peered at him his pupils filling his retinas as the 20 dollar bill began to melt in his hand. Vinnie was grooving on the swirling mass in his hand. When he was startled again.

"Aw man!!! the kid shouted. You did it again mister, you gave me too much change, Mister Tooo Much change. How you gonna make good business if you give me too much change, Mister?" Vinnie turned in horror as Rocco was lying on the ground howling in pain.

"I been shot, Someone fucking shot me!!" he was holding his back.

"You didn't get fucking shot, there was no gun.

Tony pulled his gun out and stared at it with the look of utmost fear in his voice. He happily handed the weapon over the to the stranger who beckon him to do so. There were about 4 dreadlocked kids swarming around making a big fuss. Asking Rocco if he was okay? Then they all started on Vinnie again. who was standing there staring through them with a fist full of cash and his pockets bulging. Some one tapped him on the shoulder.

"Hey mister, you gave him too much change. Mister? Mister?? Why do you keep giving him so much change?"

Vinnie was helpless. He heard his companion on the ground howl one more time as a glass marble silently cut through the air, launched from Doodlebug's nearby slingshot, it splintered the top of the howling man's knee cap.

"I've been shot again!!!" Vinnie looked around even though he didn't hear a gun. In the confusion one of the kids who was asking Rocco if he was okay reached down and discreetly took his gun. It seemed like Vinnie was unarmed.

Vinnie looked at Muskie who suddenly appeared before him.

"Help me ..." He squeaked.

Their van had already been ransacked. The three full nitorus tanks inside were stolen and already en route to the Shady Grove Campground, Five miles away.

Muskie took Vinnie by the arm, Rocco and Tony were also helped along. Rocco was limping and trying to take his clothes off. The kids ushered them into the cargo area of the van which conveniently had a metal cage separating the passenger compartment from the cargo area. After Muskie had relieved Vinnie of all of his cash. He stood at the back of the van. looking at the three men amidst the empty cylinders. A clean cut kid hopped into the driver's seat.

Muskie peered at the men, and simply said,

"I'm sorry I couldn't keep this from happening to you guys. Perhaps you'll think twice before you fuck with our scene next time. It was a pleasure doing business with you." He slammed the doors to the van shut.

The driver said, "We'll have you home in no time flat." Don't freak out too much. He turned on the music and White Rabbit began with Jack Casady's bass thumping away and Jorma's searing guitar lines filling their ears. The next tune soothed them a little bit as Frank Sinatra began crooning Come Fly With Me.

The van traversed the short distance between the amphitheater and the south end of Dana. Old Blue eyes was still crooning away as the driver quickly, parked the van in an intentionlly haphazard manner. He opened, the rear door and threw the bag with the weed and the guns in the cargo compartment. He hopped into the back seat of the car which had followed the van. The car containing the four tour kids then headed to the Shady Grove Campground where most of the tour kids were staying. Beer, food and camping were compliments of the three nitrous vendors that night. The three who were caught unawares as they encountered themselves in the parking lot of a PRY show that night.

Vinnie held onto the bag containing the guns and weed as he peered out the open door into the Dana night. The street lights had a purple glow. He felt more afraid than he ever had in his life. Rocco moaned in pain again as he removed the rest of his clothes. Then the cargo compartment filled with a beautiful flashing blue light ...

Sure you could say Vinnie, Rocco and Tony encountered themselves in the Lot in the whole psychedelic realm of interweaving segments of hallucination, paranoid thought and stark naked reality as the LSD sawed through them, dissolving their egos and priming their brains for some terrifying but honest self-examination.

In reality they did encounter themselves in the lot. Muskie and Doodlebug may be little shaggier, and lot more down to earth, than the gangsters the trio were used to dealing with. They sure were smarter than most of them. Tony saw the Wookies for who they were, but was shot down by Vinnie's inability to take a suggestion from a subordinate. After all, at the end of the day the hippies were the same ruthless criminals who took them down as the trio would have taken anyone who was a threat to their home turf in the south end of Dana. The drug induced psychological warfare may have been a little over the top, but they lived to tell about it, didn't they?


Les finally woke up and joined his band mates and Gomer. The Shady Grove Campground emptied out as the tour kids headed to Muskrat Flats. The scene around the stage was buzzing with anticipation. The word was out that PRY was playing this free show. Gomer stood back stage with Lee, Fennel and Skimpy. They looked on as Les was engrossed in a conversation with a couple of Wookies. One of them handed Les an envelope. He hugged them both. Lee thought he saw one of them slip Les a package during the hug. Les ambled over to where the band stood. He handed Gomer the envelope.

"What's this?"

"It is a $1500 donation to the Blackstone Foundation."

"Seriously from them? Where did they get the money?" Gomer asked as he handed the envelope off to Coley Blackstone.

"Gomer, you wouldn't believe me if I told you. Let's hit it."

Les played the show relatively sober, trading licks with Gomer. They did a few Satans songs that they all knew. The crowd went wild. And right up front, as Gomer and Les hammered away at their basses was Sveltie watching his every move like a star struck groupie. From the stage Gomer could see the Hotel at the Farm Museum. He couldn't wait to meet her there, but for now, he had to rock out.

It is amazing what the brain can conjure up sometimes, whether you are drunk, stoned or tripping, there is always room for that one revelation, that one moment where everything make sense and your life will never be the same.

That moment has ruined some lives and has saved others. Les had his moment of clarity as he jammed with Gomer and Skimpy, Lee and Fennel. He wanted what they had. He wanted it more than anything and would do anything to get it ... even if it meant leaving the tour. He knew after the show, he was going to pack his bags and head for a destination of hope ... a chance to enjoy the wonderful life he had carved for himself. To truly enjoy it as he never had before.

Somewhere else in Muskrat Flats, Jerry Smith was wishing for the same thing, but he had not caught enough pain yet, he isn't quite done as he sat there alone in the dark with his best friend.

On the stage behind the Odd Fellows Hall at the corners of Petersen and McKernan Streets. Les knew. He knew he was done and his new life was about to begin as he prepared himself to be ...

Running Hard out of Muskrat Flats.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

In Memory of those who have fallen and those who are well on their way ...

Memorial Day came and went as it always does in Muskrat Flats or anywhere else for that matter. It was unusually busy in town as somehow the holiday weekend, which seemed to come a week earlier than usual coincided with the graduation ceremonies from the Muskrat Flats Community College and Samuel Coleman Hawthorne High School. The town was buzzing with activity and decked out with its patriotic colors.

At the Farm Museum, the parade to commemorate the remembrance of our citizens who had fallen both on native soil and abroad was set to begin shortly after the graduation ceremony for the 35 students in Sveltie Smith's vintner program.

The students received their hard earned sheepskins situated at the edge of the neatly cropped and flourishing grape vines they had so faithfully manicured, coaxed and harvested the last four years. The ceremony ended with Sveltie opening a Nebuchadnezzer bottle of sparkling wine, a vintage the class had produced in the classic method champenois. Empty glasses were hoisted in celebration and anticipation as Sveltie sheared the cork off of the 15 liter bottle situated in an ornate cast iron decanter which was produced by Kurt Bartleby in the Farm and Agricultural Museum's Smithy shop. The apparatus hoisted the 38 kilo bottle on a swivel for easy pouring.

Kurt stood by marveling at the ceremony as Sveltie rhythmically rapped the side of the bottle with the knife with which she popped the cork. Kurt watched Sveltie rap the bottle thinking she may shatter the vessel all the while wishing his dearly departed mentor, Benwah were here to witness this ceremony as well as his handiwork. This thought was broken as he watched geyser of wine erupted out of the opening of the bottle to raucous cheers from the students and their families.

The opening of this bottle had a special meaning for the class as they recalled the whole process which began in the first weeks of their program four very short years ago. The recalled day the had to disgorge the Lees or sediment from the bottle. A procedure where in the course of the first fermentation process the bottle has been turned completely upside down in the rack situated in caverns carved out of the limestone below the farm museum. The sediment which settles in the neck of the bottle is then frozen inside the bottle in a chilled brine bath. The bottle is opened and this plug is spit out of the bottle by the compressed carbonation. The volume of the bottle is then replaced with a some sediment free wine a small amount of yeast and sugar are added then bottle is recorked and the three year fermentation process begins. The gyser subsided the champagne was poured and the now filled glasses were once again hoisted.

Memorial day sure did come up quickly for Gomer Eckstein as he stood leaning against a post in front of the former railroad station, watching Sveltie, Kurt and her students celebrate. He watched Sveltie with her arm around her husband Jerry a full glass of the champagne in his free hand. He looked excited, like he had permission to drink.

Gomer remembered how that felt ... having permission to get high. What a glorious feeling that was, no hang ups, no sneaking around, no lying. Those were the aspects of his addiction he despised when he became strung out. All of the manipulation, the deceit, struggling through the emotional upheavals with his then companion Sarah. Then there was the seeking out of other women with whom he could use ... peacefully, but that never really worked out and comes with its own set of emotionally charged negative circumstances.

The last time Gomer stood in Muskrat Flats, snow was in the forecast. He has just finished a cross country tour with his hardcore Klezmer band the Hook Nosed Satans. He left the Flats in late February to attend a meeting with the folks from Showtime regarding a pilot for comedy series he had written about a Rabbi in Las Vegas who ran a Funeral Parlor.

Although there was initially a buzz amongst the network higher ups regarding the concept of "Shiva Las Vegas," Gomer was accurate in his assessment that they had cooled to the idea as the meeting had begun. "The concept sounds to similar to 6 Feet Under," Was the final explanation.

Being the self sufficient bastard that he is, Gomer took matters into his own hands and produced a music video based on the tune Viva Las Vegas with him singing a duet with a Hasidic Elvis impersonator. The video already has over 100,000 hits on You Tube.

The tour was lengthier than usual. He was playing larger venues taking his music mainly to colleges in the Northeast including his Alma Mater, Amherst College. Then the Satans headed south to New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Raleigh, New Orleans, Austin, Santa Fe. From New Mexico they headed north for a string of three shows in Telluride, Colorado and then west to Seattle and Eugene, OR, where he was met by the new love of his life, his girlfriend of eight months, Miranda Klein.

The new lovers spent a few days in the Portland area before they hit northern California, and ended up in the Bay area where the Satans played shows in Berkley, Palo Alto and Mirandas's hometown, San Francisco.

Meeting up with Miranda and spending a couple of weeks with her, when he did, was a Godsend for Gomer. The tour was a little harder than he had anticipated. It seemed that everywhere they went, someone wanted to get him high.

He began to feel as isolated as he had felt when he was strung out. He called folks in his network, he called Miranda, he even called Sveltie, for which he felt somewhat guilty. He could rationalize and tell himself that they NEEDED each other at that moment. when they were reading about the love triangle between the vampires Isabella, Astrid and their very own Sheriff Hawthorne, that their fanning the embers of a relationship which had died years ago was the right thing to do ... at the time. But sometimes, us addicts don't think things through when we are caught up in the moment. It was hard for Gomer to say goodbye to Miranda that night as they walked together hand in hand, as new lovers often do. The walked down South Van Ness Avenue after noshing on some chicken tamales. And he sang to her. He sang a beloved by Jerry Garcia which made her weep as the lovers walked along in the Mission, in the rain.

Everything worked out with Sveltie, after all she and Jerry were still together. As he thought this he watched Jerry hoist his third glass of wine and noted that Sveltie noticed as well. Gomer watched her whisper something to Jerry who walked straight over to the bar and refilled his glass as he left his wife standing there watching him with a look of disappointment.

He could identify with what Jerry is going through as he struggles with his alcoholism. But he also felt empathy for his former girlfriend and recent lover as he watched her let out a little sigh before turning her attention and her beautiful smiling face in the direction of one of her students and her parents as the pain in Sveltie's heart continued to unfold, especially if she was further witness to what was occurring with her husband, unseen, behind her as she spoke.

Gomer's cell phone rang. He looked at the display, the number was blocked. He ignored it. There was no message left. The phone rang a couple more times. He finally picked it up.

"Hello?" He queried.

"Hey, Gomer! Whats going on, baby?" Gomer hesitated and got a knot in his stomach. He was silent.

"Hello? Gomer, it's Allie. I just wanted to see if you had the same number and do some catching up." Gomer sighed again.

"Hi Allie, how have you been?"

"I'm doing pretty good, I've got a job and an apartment. I'm doing good."

"Are you clean?"

"Well sort of ..."

"How are you sort of clean?"

"I've been doing good, I'm on suboxone, I go to meetings three times a week?"

"Really? Do you have a sponsor or a home group?"

"I've got a few people that I call ... It's tough, you know how it is ... a struggle. I have to get a paper signed for my probation officer three times a week."

"I see. Look, Allie ..." She cut him off.

"I can't lie I've been using every now and then ... you know what they say about the only requirement is ..."

"Yeah, I know, the desire to stop using." He looked down at his shiny black fingernails.

"Listen, baby, I ran out of suboxone and don't have any cash to get my prescription filled. I was wondering if you wanted to get together?"

"Allie, I'm clean, in fact the length of time I've been clean has been exactly the same amount of time it has been since we last got together."

Oh ... comon baby, I wouldn't let you use." She was starting to get an edge to her voice.

"Listen," Gomer said, "I'm sure you have the best intentions, I'm not blaming you for my using. I just don't know how I would handle it if we did get together, even for 15 seconds. I just don't know ..."

"Oh baby please? I need you."

"Comon, Allie, I can't do it."

"I want YOU!" Her voice got sugary as she tried to further manipulate the situation. Gomer sighed again and spoke.

"Listen Allie ..."

"Comon Gomer, let's do a date ...." That was all Gomer needed to hear, because there was nothing more he wanted at this moment. He was swirling in a melancholy sea of emotions as he watched Sveltie occasionally turn a look at Jerry, who looked away every time. He turned his head, pretending he didn't notice that she was looking over to him. He thought of Miranda and how he missed her company. He thought of both women and how warm their bodies felt as they snuggled into his. He thought of Allie and the comfort she could provide.

"Gomer ... Gomer? "

"Yeah I'm here. Allie, I'd love to see you, but I can't. I know you are using, and I feel really vulnerable right now ... I just can't see you." She began to cry.

"Gomer, I need you. I'm sick. Comon ... I've been doing good, I just fucked up a little bit. I really need the money for the script. You're doing good, I've seen you on the computer. You look good. I wouldn't let you fuck up, baby. Please??! I'M SICK!"

"I can't. I'm sorry." He hung up.

He took a deep breath. He looked over at Sveltie once again. She was on her phone this time, staring off into space. Jerry was yukking it up with a couple of the girls who had just graduated, starting to get a little sloppy and flirtatious. Gomer's phone rang again. He reached for it, without looking at the display screen, ready to blast Allie for calling him back.


"Gomer ..." He looked up at Sveltie. As she spoke she made eye contact with him. "Do you still have Hawthorne's diary?"

"Why...uh. yes, Yes I do. I still need to read the last chapter."

"I still haven't read that one. You want to read it to me?" Gomer looked straight at her and without hesitation answered,


"I figure he'll be passed out by three or four. I call you later."

"I don't want to fuck anything up with you, Jerry or Miranda."

"I know Gomer, I want to do the right thing, too ... are you going to meet me, or what?"

"Yes. I'm going to go over to the Odd Fellows. I still haven't seen Dad since I got back into town, they probably need some help over there with the picnic."

"Are you playing tonight?"

"Burliegh, from PRY asked if I was available to sit in, I told him yes."

"After the show then?"

"Yes, after the show would be perfect."

"I'll meet you at the hotel, sweetie." She discreetly blew him a kiss and hung up.

Gomer gave her a wink. He put his hand in his shoulder bag and felt the box which contained Hawthorne's diary. Why Jerry asked him to keep it is still a mystery, but an obvious bad decision on his part.

"Hey Gomer!"

"Coley, what's going on, my man?" Gomer reached down and tousled Chubby's bangs as he growled a little bit thinking that Gomer was going to try to take away the plastic banana he had in his mouth.

"I'm heading over to the Odd Fellows for the parade, you wanna walk with me, Coley?"

"Sure." He put his arm around Coley as they headed toward the intersection of Petersen and McKernan Streets. Chubby picked up the paced to follow grunting as he walked.

"So ... I've been away for a while, Coley. Any good gossip going around town?"

The two friends headed away from the Farm Museum. Sveltie looked at Gomer one last time as she felt Jerry's hand on her arm.

"I'm sorry, baby, I'm sorry. I gotta do something about this" His apology didn't prevent him from taking another drink, though.

She looked at him and replied.

"I know Jerry, I really do love you and that is not a lie. I know I'm not perfect ..." He stopped her.

"I'm not feeling too well, can you drive me home?"

"I don't want to go home. I want to be here, I want to see the music. I want you. Don't you understand. All I ever wanted was you, until this became more important." She motioned to his glass. He hung his head and took another sip. Sveltie just stood there silently looking at her tormented husband. She didn't know what to do. But she did think to herself ...

I'll drive you home, but If I can't get what I want, I'm going to at least get what I need.

She repositioned herself as she watched Gomer and Coley disappear around the corner.

"Comon big guy, let's get you home and set up in front of the TV. I think the Sox are playing at 1. I want to be back in time for the parade."

Gomer thought about the last 15 minutes as the Odd Fellows hall came into view. He should have been listening more attentively as Coley gave him a rundown of all of the shit that has happened in Muskrat Flats in the last few months. He thought about Allie and her struggle with heroin and how he wanted to lash out at her for not being clean, making her inaccesible.

He thought of Sveltie and her issues with his good friend Jerry and how he felt powerless to say no to the prospect of meeting her even though he knew it was wrong. He thought about all of the insantity and how vulnerable he truly was at this moment. And thought to himself ... I can't wait to play some music tonight.

As the sun climbed in the sky illuminating a perfect spring day, it is unfortunate that there are two addicts that Gomer knows who will not be there to enjoy it.

Allie is probably in the South End of Dana right now, dope sick and trying to hustle enough money to get off empty after having spent her hard earned paycheck. And Jerry ... He will miss the beautiful day, passed out in front of the flat screen TV as his sexy and lovely wife watches his estranged best friend gyrating on the stage, playing with his favorite band. An unfortunate set of circumstances to precede the final reading of Sheriff Hawthorne's sex charged tale of murder, mayhem and immortality taking place in Historic Muskrat Flats.

Yep, Gomer dodged a bullet that afternoon with the phone call from Allie, one which was destined to shatter his skull, leaving him in a bloodied heap on the pavement.

Now, if he could only dodge the bullet engraved with Sveltie's name, which was soaring in his direction and threatened to pierce his heart.

Just a suggestion, Gomer, now would be a good time to get back on the road and begin ...

Running Hard out of Muskrat Flats.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Our Primary Purpose.

I've been thinking about time lately. I'm pretty sure I've written about time before. Time keeps popping up as a subject these days.

"No time to lose," is what they say.

Others sing about time being "On my side."

Some of the old timers at the Odd Fellows Hall at the corner of Petersen and McKernan Streets, in Muskrat Flats proper, speak of "time being money," especially Sid Bartleby; he is kind of corny like that.

Then there is the big question. Often the question is asked confidently as if the inquisitor knows they are going to draw a favorable response. The tenor of the question can be intuitively modified to be phrased in a sympathetic and encouraging light, based upon the vibe of the situation. In other situations the question can be launched in the muddied quagmire of small talk, only to illicit a strained and sheepish response further sullying an already awkward situation.

This question being ... "How much time do you have?"

Is not such an unusual question. It is uttered in many different situations on a daily basis drawing responses such as:

"I've got five minutes before I have to pick up my kid."

"My schedule is clear. What can I do for you?"

"I'm running late. Perhaps we can do this tomorrow?"

In the "Iron Triangle," (the section of Muskrat Flats where you are perpetually on the other side of the tracks as it is bordered by train tacks on three sides) you may get a different response to this question, especially if you are standing outside of a 12-step meeting clutching a coffee in one hand and a Newport short in the other. Within the bounds of these circumstances, within the triangle, someone may reply:

"The Good Lord willing, I've got twenty years on the 3oth."

or "I've been clean for three days."

or my favorite:

"I was clean for Nine months, but I fucked up last week.

The last one is the response I gave last time someone asked me that question, almost nine months ago. I could have given a new response, one I picked up from on of my sponsee brothers,

"I've got the same amount of time you have, brother, I've got today."

This may sound like a smart ass answer to the outside observer, but when it really comes down to it I really can't ask for much more than that. In my world even one day clean is a freaking miracle and I'm not kidding.

As I watch a friend currently struggling with the disease -- how caught up they are; how the drugs just absolutely warp their sense of reasoning; how the drugs bastardize any semblance of normalcy they may have once experienced -- I remember where I was when I was in the same position.

I remember when I was so strung out that every day was a comedy of errors; a bizarre panorama, a faded and unfocused surrealistic landscape of shame and remorse filled self-loathing. I was a walking zombie on a mission to get high no matter what (If not high, at least to keep from getting sick). It didn't matter to what extent I jeopardized my life, my job, my child and everyone else who loved me and couldn't understand why I would choose to lead such an existence.

The funny part is, in my twisted up self-centered thinking, I couldn't understand why they couldn't understand. I mean, could they not see that I was sick? I had to use! I could not stop, otherwise I would get sicker. I wanted to get clean, but I wasn't about to get sick to do so. I was in the same position my friend is right now: I wanted to get clean, but I didn't want to suffer any consequences to do so.

Time - A dear friend of mine used to say, "You don't want what I got, cause I've got NO TIME."

I've been texting this friend of mine. Right now, my friend, who is struggling, has nothing but time on their hands. And that time is frittering away slowly, day by day. They don't want what I got, cause I've got no time for their shit. There is a simple solution to their problem.

Just Stop Using. That is the one common denominator shared by every recovering addict in the world. Just for one day, they stopped using. And they got up the next day, did it again, and again a third day. It is going to suck. You will feel like you have the worst flu you have ever had, but each subsequent day that you just focus on 24 hours of not using you will feel better. Although stopping is a big part, you also have to do something to to arrest the obsession to want to use and compulsion to go out and do so. That is where 12-step meetings helped me.

I did four medically supervised detoxes. One was an outpatient program prescribed by some quack I found in the yellow pages. I got higher on the shit he prescribed for me than I did with the junk I found on the street.

Since I had no guidance or suggestions from clean addicts as to how I could succeed I damn near killed myself when I did cave in after three days and picked up. A using buddy found me in the kitchen of my apartment, barely conscious, with a spike dangling from my bloodied arm. I am thankful they got me up and walking around instead of stealing my shit and leaving me there.

The next three detoxes I did -- the first shortly after the aforementioned debacle -- were in a locked ward. Sure, I could leave whenever I wanted but I didn't. Each time I got a little further along to discovering a permanent solution to my problem, which was me, not the drugs. I was -- and for the time being remain -- the problem.

In the end, when I finally walked away from the fence bordering that crimson poppy field, I did it cold turkey. I had no intention of stopping. I simply prayed to God and asked for help. Little did I know others were praying for me as well. That morning, instead of going out and copping, I just went back to bed and rode it out. The sweats, chills, the squirts, dry heaves, involuntary muscle spasms ... it sucked, but I did it.

I am praying that my friend makes it, because they know there is a better way to live.
I am praying for them; That is all I can do. No money, no rides, no hand holding. I have a hard enough time working my own program of recovery than to watch a loved one go through the hell of detox, putting myself at risk by being in the company of a sick, suffering, conniving manipulative, self centered addict who will do or say anything to get a fix. That would just be stupid on my part. I am not being judgmental when I say this; it is just the way it is. That is how we are when we are active.

I don't want to sound unsympathetic, but there are professionals out there who can do this ... because I KNOW that I can't. In my fellowship, our primary purpose is to carry the message to the addict who still suffers -- that message being that recovery is possible. However, this doesn't mean that I should put myself in harm's way.

My friend is not responsible for their disease, but they are responsible for their recovery, not me. I am praying for you, my friend. Consequences be damned, because right now they are not that bad. But I assure you, if you keep running, they will get worse. Can't you see that they already are?

The time to get clean is now, because Time is running out.

Yep, the time is running out about as quickly as I am ...

Running Hard Out of Muskrat Flats.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

"Cause I'm not feeling too good, I've lost a lot of blood ..."

Once again the folks in Muskrat Flats are waiting for snow. It has been a tired and turbulent winter for our friends. Not so much from the climate or foul weather, there is only so much you can do about that. Sometimes foul weather can be a savior. Where would Coley Blackstone be had his house been left intact following the micro burst which ripped apart his living room and dining area last August?

His bedroom, with his large comfortable king sized bed, was untouched. The cardboard refrigerator box, in which he slept in his dining room, that is still caught up in a tree about 100 yards into the woods behind his house.

If that foul weather had not come, perhaps Coley, Muskrat Flats' richest resident, would still be walking up and down Petersen St., with his dog Chubby, fishing in the trash for bits of interesting paper. He might still be hanging out on a park bench across the street from the Odd Fellows Hall, smelling the aroma of Iva's blueberry muffins, some of which are grilled delicately in whole butter. How many days he would sit on that bench wishing he had the nerve to cross the street and ask for one of those golden brown nuggets. Instead he sat on the bench lost in the whirlwind of his insanity, scratching away at his black composition notebook, figuring out the interest his fortune was amassing on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. His obsession, driven by a chemical imbalance left him feeling alone and detached, so he figured might as well live like he felt ... homeless.

He was walking through the woods the on his way downtown and saw his box, wedged in the branches at the top of a black birch tree. He stopped and looked up at the box which was glistening in the sun as patches of ice melted away after the previous night's coating of freezing rain. He pulled an ice slicked sapling from one of the lower branches of the birch and stripped the black bark away with his fingernail. Chubby was nosing around in the snow and ice. Corey peeled back the tender membrane underneath the bark and put the wood in his mouth, tasting the bubble gum sweetness of the tender shoot. He rolled the stick around in his mouth, as he gazed up at the box.

"What the fuck was I thinking, living like that?"

As the sweetness of the branch dissipated, he spit it out, thinking that the sap from the maples would be running soon. Iva's muffins must be wondrous with some melted butter and some fresh maple syrup.

Coley was thankful for the weather. Even though it was cold and wet, and he occasionally had to pry balls of ice, wedged uncomfortably between the pads of Chubby's paws, it was severe weather which had exposed his charade.

Now, he felt joy. It wasn't such a terrible thing to let people into his life. His neighbors were making a difference. Perhaps if he walked across the street and asked for one those blueberry muffins, long ago, the good neighbors in Muskrat Flats would have come to his aid. Perhaps they would have found out that he was the mysterious resident who everyone had been talking about. But now he thought that probably wouldn't have made a difference in how they treated him. Yes he was the anonymous donor who kept charities functioning, scholarship funds solvent, social service programs rolling along with full budget. Not bad for a homeless guy. Can anyone doubt that he is the bastard Great Grandson of Samuel Coleman Hawthorne III? But, they would have seen that he needed help and would have assisted him in getting it, of that he was sure.

He gave the cardboard box one last glance, took a deep inhale of the crisp morning air and headed to the center of town.

At the Farm Museum, things were pretty normal. It was quiet with the exception of school groups who would come around for a tour of the blacksmith shop, to see how the animals are cared for in the winter and of course to enjoy the sleigh ride past rows and rows of Sveltie's barren and dormant grapevines.

Sveltie and Jerry were hashing out their problems. They loved each other but each were beginning to look outside of their relationship for the comfort and excitement they should have been providing for each other. Sveltie was beginning to worry about Jerry's drinking. When they were together his consumption seemed to be in check. The last time Jerry "let slip" that he was with another woman alcohol was a factor. She was wondering if it was not so much that he was looking for sex as he was looking for someone who drank like he did. This, of course, made her feel guilty being a vintner, his wife and, undoubtedly, his biggest enabler.

She was in the Blacksmith shop with a group of the school children as Kurt Bartleby was pounding away at his glowing rod ... of metal. Sparks were flying through the air. Behind the spray of sparks stood her assistant, Gina. What a beautiful girl she is Sveltie thought.

Gina was standing there smiling seductively at Kurt, who looked up and winked at her. The group of first and second graders were holding their ears as Kurt pounded away at the metal. He stopped and addressed his young crowd.

"Now, I'm gonna cool this off a bit ..." He plunged the metal into a wooden bucket of water. The metal screamed and hissed like a muskrat being suffocated by a large snake, as it hit the cold liquid, much to the delight of his young audience.

"Now, I'm going to put my rod in the glory hole and its going to get real hot when Gina pumps the bellows for me" He said with a grin

"Oh Jesus Christ!" Sveltie thought to herself. "You two seriously need to get a room." She looked at the Teachers and the group chaperones. Thankfully they didn't seem to catch the double entendre.

As he started pounding away and shaping the metal, the sparks started to fly again. Gina was framed by the the glowing shower of metal and the reflections flashed in her eyes and illuminated her lovely chocolate skin. Under her winter gear she was wearing a dress which exposed enough of her cleavage to make Sveltie want to do a double take.

Sveltie marveled at the sparks and the look in Gina's eyes as she watched Kurt. She thought of the rainbow points of light described by Sheriff Hawthorne in his diary.

Kurt was great with the children. He listened attentively and answered their questions as they fired away.

Sveltie's phone chimed. It was Jerry.

"I'm caught up with the story. Meet me at the hotel after work? Show me the secret room?"

"Of course my love. I've got a surprise for you."


Sveltie and her husband walked into the Sheriff's most recent dirty little secret, outside of room number 10 at old Muskrat Flats Hotel. Jerry began to look around.

This is amazing he thought. He looked at the bottle of absinthe and uncorked it, taking a sniff. The anise infused herbal aroma tickled his olfactory receptors. He looked at the paintings.

"These paintings are probably worth a fortune. They need to be displayed where the public can see them."

He pulled two bottles of Muskrat Flats Vineyard's Reisling, some cheese and crackers. Sveltie should have felt disappointment at seeing the bottles of wine after the conversation they had last night, but she let it slide. She took her winter coat off revealing the costume she had worn at the Fall Festival. Jerry's eyes widened as he saw his wife dressed as Celeste, Sheriff Hawthorne's favorite girl.

Sveltie lit the oil lamp as Jerry peered through the grating into room number 10.

They sat down. He poured the wine and he began to read aloud, one again, the century old words of Sheriff Hawthorne.

"Isabella caused me to feel like I had never felt. There was the danger of the the situation which caused the most excitement for me. Knowing that as delicate and sensual her mouth felt upon my flesh, that mouth also contained those fangs which were capable of draining me of every drop of blood I possessed. As I sat in my office, feeling her mouth on me, feeling those talons raking against my flesh, feeling those mysterious rain drops of burning color soak into my body, I could se my tombstone coming in and out of view as her head slid up and down.

"Here Lies A Man That Made Them Laugh." I read.

"They won't be laughing when they read this, What will they say if they find out about this?" I thought as I experienced a sensation the Padre down the road would prefer I feel for procreation purposes only. An intense wave of pleasure it was.

I was shocked out of my next thought as Isabella penetrated my mind once again to receive the thought.

"I would give anything to feel like this every day."

"Would you, now?" I heard her ask.

I countered this by thinking,

"Why ME, are you ever going to tell me. The carnival leaves in to days."

I composed myself, pulling up my trousers as Isabella lit a cigar. She walked over to the painting
I had behind my desk. She looked at it for a very long time, making sure to blow her smoke away from the art. How courteous, I thought.

"Jean Luc Lemay, a very talented artist. where did he paint this in Paris?"

"No, in this office actually ... you know of Jean Luc?"

"He speaks very highly of you. You made quite an impression on him, Sheriff. A man who would fake his own death to save a town. You seem a little more self-centered than that, but apparently I could be wrong. You did the right thing ... yes, you made quite an impression on Jean Luc, indeed."

I was growing impatient, wanting the answers to question I felt I deserved.

"We spent much time together in Paris. and he accompanied me back to Muskrat Flats. We still correspond by mail."

"He told me I would find an ally in you, that you were different."

I beagn to think about Jean Luc and his habits, he is ...

"One of us, Sheriff. He is a vampire. He should be an example to you that we're are not all heartless killers. Predators we are, but we can always find undesirables who deserve what we are more than willing to give them. "

"Like Caesar? He was an undesirable?" She kept pacing around my office touching my possessions as she spoke before finally settling to the chair. As she sat and took a puff of her cigar, some droplets of light jumped out of her and disappeared.

"Occasionally we find someone we desire, one who we would like to be one of us."

I got a chill as she said this, and saw more sparks leave her body. She shuddered as if she were being pleasured as we spoke.

"Your girl Celeste is enjoying Astrid's company right now. I can feel it."

"Those drops of light, how does that work?" I queried trying to change the subject. She ignored my question as she began to tell me her confession.

"Astrid joined our carnival about a year ago. I was immediately drawn to her, as were you."

"She has that affect on people." I noted.

"Before, she came to the carnival, I felt a presence which I could not quite identify. The Mexicans would always come to me and ask for help to keep away the nightmares. They would describe them to me, but I couldn't read their thoughts regarding the nightmares. It was odd. I tried to help them, but they are so superstitious they didn't fully trust me, either."

She uncrossed and crossed her legs, as my eyes wandered up her thigh. Isabella continued.

As Astrid and I became closer, she told me of a situation which had occurred with Caesar. He kept trying to get in her good graces, About two weeks ago, He tried to force himself on her one night, after they had been drinking. He ended up beating her. I was livid. I wanted to kill him, but Astrid asked me not to, fearing that I would expose myself. I have deep feelings for her she is special to me."

"You are in Love?"

"I don't know if love is what it can be called when you are immortal, Coleman."

"So, you confronted him, anyway?"

"Yes, again, I had that nagging feeling I just described. I tried to read his thoughts and he just laughed.

"You can't get in my mind, little girl." He said. "You saw what can happen when I don't get my way. You don't want to see what I can really do. The deserts we cross are very wide and vast ... a good place to hide the body of an annoying little girl who does parlor tricks with people's minds, a good place for someone - to disappear."

I took a pull of my cigar. She continued.

"The next morning Astrid was feeling exhausted. As if she had no sleep. She described a nightmare she had. She said she was awakened by a sound. Then she felt like someone or something was holding her down on her cot. She saw a purple and green mist which enveloped her and she felt like she was being raped, even though nobody was there. In her mind, she saw horrifying images of snakes."

That evening I went to see Caesar's show. He looked at me leering in a menacing way. I watched him wrestle the snake. During his act, something odd happened. As he rolled around on the stage with the snake wrapped around him, I saw wisps of green and purple. I knew right there what I was dealing with."

"What was that?" I had to ask.

"Caesar was a vampire who is a non-blood drinker, but drains people life force, their energy, their soul."

"He visits people in the night and penetrates their dreams, and rapes them? Like an Incubus?" I asked.

"Incubus? Very good sheriff, I'm impressed. But an Incubus is a demon. Caesar's type have trained their minds to prey on those of others."

I sat there stroking my mustache. She took another pull from the cigar and I said,

"Well, continue, how did he die?"

"Astrid was visited by him once more in the night. The next day I made her one of us. You saw the ritual. That gave her the ultimate protection and the strength for the ultimate revenge.
Astrid told Caesar that she had a change of heart and lured him into his tent, where I was waiting in the corner. She got on his bed and I saw the wisps of green and purple coming out of his body once more. He must have sensed my presence, because he turned to me. The clouds of energy drew closer to me.

"I told you not to fuck with me little girl. You don't know what I am capable of." He advanced toward me as did the clouds of energy.

I just stood there and released my own energy. The droplets of light you see began to pierce into Caesar. He was caught totally unaware. He had no idea what HE was dealing with. He screamed.

"Arggh! What are you doing to me?" He tried to turn up his own energy level but it was too late. I got inside his head and screamed as loud as I could.

Astrid jumped on him and sank her fangs into his neck and began feasting on his blood. I bore my fangs and advanced at him. He was shaking in fear trying to fight off Astrid. I swiped at his abdomen with my hand slicing his flesh. I licked the blood from my fingers. Looked him straight in the eye and said,

"Goodbye, Asshole!" As I cradled his head in my hands and snapped his neck. Then Astrid and I drank."

"Wow, why did you leave him out in the open to be found like that?"

"Astrid had spread the word that he was responsible for the night time attacks. All of the Mexicans described seeing snakes. She said the nightmares would never happen again and she is right."

"What about the energy, the purple and green cloud? Gone?" I asked.

"It is disembodied and we have protection against it. So you have heard my confession. What are you going to do?"

"What can I do, I guess it will have to be the chupabora who did this."

"Chupacabra, Sheriff. With me sitting in front of you, you can't acknowledge the existence of another supernatural being?"

"No, not right now."

"What are you going to do about the other thing, Coleman?" Isabella asked as she sashayed over to me. She smiled and bared her fangs. She sat in my lap, my hand ran against her smooth side cupping her breast.

"What other thing?" I asked coyly, trying to ignore the direction the conversation was headed.

I looked at the painting done by Jean Luc and thought of the portrait he had done of me which now is hanging in the Odd Fellows Hall. How could I have spent so much time with him and not even have the slightest suspicion that he was a vampire?

"I want you Coleman, do you want us? You faked your own death once before, you could just leave when we leave." She was kissing my neck, her breath in my ear, whispering how she desired me.

"I have to think about it." I thought. She continued kissing my neck grazing my skin with those fangs. I began to get aroused.

"Can I at least have a little taste, Coleman?"

I didn't answer. I simply put my head back as I allowed her to sink her fangs into my neck. I was once again bathed in a brilliant malestrom of light as I melted in her arms."

Sveltie opened her eyes to look at her husband Jerry. She was horny as hell and wanted him right then and there.

Sveltie saw the love in his eyes. She hoped that she could return the love he had for her. For she still had some unresolved thoughts on the matter as well as a wandering eye. She wondered why she couldn't just love him like she used to.

As odd a story as it is, rife with sexuality and fantastic forays into the supernatural, the constant in this plane of reality, this miniscule slice of time in the history of Muskrat Flats seems to be that Sheriff Hawthorne is still shaping the lives of Muskrat Flats' residents, descendants of neighbors he loved and cherished in his lifetime.

Perhaps it is time that the folks in the Flats, start to really take a look at the life of Sheriff Hawthorne and put an end to his posthumous meddling. We hear stories of the lives of legends from the American frontier people, like John Henry or Pecos Bill, even outlaws like Frank and Jesse James. They all seem so much larger than life and unreal. But in the case of Sheriff Samuel Coleman Hawthorne III Esq., and his larger than life legend enmeshed in the history Muskrat Flats, the ante has been upped with a sordid story, in an old leather bound tablet, written by his own hand, in blood.

I say they get rid of Sheriff Hawthorne's diary first, before they start ...

Running Hard Out Of Muskrat Flats.

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