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Goodbye, then.

I got the news a few days ago. I still find myself crying about it. Sinuses and eyes burning. Cold, crackling fist around my heart squeezing. My mind unable to reconcile that it’s real.

Zaine is dead. He’s gone.

How the fuck is this possible? It’s a joke, right? Inconceivable.

There was too much energy in him. Too much light, too intense of a presence.. Too much a part of my life, too much of an influence on who I am. It’s almost like a part of me dying.

Inconceivable.

We met in high school. Initially, we didn’t like each other much. A mutual love of Rush and Jethro Tull got us past that, made us realize how much we were alike. We bonded over theatre and art and music and humor and life.. When shit went sideways with his dad and he needed a place to stay, my mom welcomed him in, and he lived with us for over a year. We’d smoke and drink and laugh and talk of plans for the future. How we’d escape our shitty environment. Rebellious Bastards United. He got an apartment in Lewiston, and it became the hub for my Senior Year in High School. We’d go over there and drink and smoke and get high and talk about girls and life and art and how we wanted to change the world. And escape, god.. Always… How we wanted to escape.

The night before I left for California, the girl I was dating at the time let him drive her car against my protests. He was drunk. The car got into a minor scrape, he ran drunkenly down the street, blaming himself, saying “I should fucking die, I can’t do anything right”. I needed stitches in my chin, blood covering my chest like I’d had my throat slit, and yet I told my mom “We need to go after him. Make sure he’s OK.” My mom kept insisting on the hospital, I insisted we find him first. I prevailed and we found him. Made sure he was OK. Let him know that what mattered was HIM. Not a stupid car, or a stupid girl that (let’s face facts) I would never see past that night ever again.

Then I moved to LA.

Six months later he moved to San Jose.

We spent Thanksgiving together, eating TV dinners out of the metal foil trays. Both of us poor as fuck. Both of us scared as fuck. Both of us happy as fuck. We’d escaped. Sure, we had no idea what the future would bring, but the first step was made. We were no longer trapped.

Over the next five years, I saw him ever 6 months or so. I’d stay with him and his roommates Amie Sue and Eric, who became as much family to me as Zaine was. Any excuse to go to the bay area for “a short trip” became a multi-week camp out at their place. Shows and espresso and cigarettes and music and art and heated passionate discussions. And laughter. So much laughter.

My memory has gotten hazy and flawed over the years on a lot of things. I can remember incidents, but I can’t SEE them. My memories of Zaine are crystalline. I can see his face go from quiet contemplation to a wide grin. The way he twisted his head when he laughed… The way he’d give himself over to the laughter. Embracing it fully.  I can see him dancing in my living room to 80s Christian New Wave music. I can see his head cock and raised eyebrow when I’d say something particularly absurd. I can see all of these things like a movie playing out before me.

We got our first tattoos together. I designed his. An Ankh made of green chrome with pieces pulled away, revealing the broken circuits underneath. We went to an old Korean tattoo artist who did a very poor job, the needle set way too deep… Scarification over tattooing… And blood pouring in sheets down our arms. Rebellious Bastards United.  Later we saw NIN at the Cactus Club. Down In It had just been released as a single, but the show cemented both of our love for the band. I’d send him tapes of the band in the NW before they broke. He’d send me obscure industrial and darkwave stuff. We’d see each other as frequently as possible.

Tori wanted me to come down to Taos NM to hang while they recorded Under the Pink. I called Zaine and told him we were making a road trip. We headed out at night, driving… Driving… In the heat of the August evening. We reached Lake Havasu AZ in the early am. Deciding to see London Bridge we wandered around the park… Unsure if we should enter, not wanting to trespass. Two cop cars came screaming in to the parking lot. The cops had us up against the car, asking what we were doing, us trying to explain “we wanted to see the bridge”, Zaine thinking this was time to pull out the comedy of imitating the Zeppelin “Take us to the bridge” riff.

The cops let us go, after deciding these two long haired scruffy fucks weren’t a threat, and we drove on… Through the desert, the scent of sage heavy in the air, leaving our skin sticky from the pollen. Singing as we drove, writing songs on a beat up acoustic guitar. Finally getting to Taos.  Watching meteor showers in the desert after the day’s recording. Listening to early mixes, stomping across the studio floors in Doc Martens. Having Eric sample the sound for the rhythm track for Space Dog. Driving back…. Not just to San Jose, but all the way to WA. Not wanting the trip to end.. Saying “THIS should be a MTV show. Not that Real World thing. Actual friends trying to deal with life on the road” Tori getting concerned when we’d “fight”… Both of us laughing, telling her “this is just how we are. We’re brothers. We fight and go at it, and we might not talk for ages… Even years, but we ALWAYS come back for each other. We love each other.”

Right before I got married, he crossed a line, said something that I felt went “too far”. I cut him off, told him “You can’t take that back”. And that was it. We didn’t talk. Years went by and ego and pride kept me from reaching out. In recent times, when I talked to Amie Sue, I had mentioned how much I missed him. When she talked to Zaine, she told him “You should talk to Rantz”

But he didn’t. And I didn’t.

I don’t have many regrets in life, but goddammit… This is the big one.

I read the post on Jennie’s FB wall… That he was gone. I knew it wasn’t a car accident or a robbery gone bad. I prayed… I prayed it was, but I knew it wasn’t.  It’s been days. I thought I was immune to being affected by death. I thought nothing could get through. And yet, every hour part of me aches and hurts and wishes for a time machine. Some way that I could drive to San Jose and tell him “You dumb fucker, you KNOW I love you man, let’s cut the dumb ass bullshit. Let me be there for you.”

But I can’t.

I’m sorry Zaine.

I will always miss you.
You will always be my brother.

05

07 2014

Outtake – “Alt”

So…

for the last 2 months, I’ve been buried in the world of script writing. One script for a TV pilot, the other for a feature film. I’ll hopefully be able to talk publicly about those two projects very soon, but that’s the main reason there have been so few updates on The Homecoming Game recently. The “final” draft of the pilot got sent out today. It’s been an amazing process… one that’s lead to me working on another TV pitch for a series called “ALT”. Here’s a sneak peak at the opening (which will give you “flavor”, but none of the specifics)

EXT. DARKNESS – UNKNOWN

Descending Bass notes RING OUT, two at a time, the next pair beginning just as the previous notes begin to FADE AWAY.

In SLOW MOTION we see the CLOSE UP FLARE of a match being struck. The guttering flame touches the end of a cigarette, smoke billows and swirls as tobacco transforms to ember.

FOLLOW THE MATCH as it is FLICKED AWAY... tumbling... a cartwheeling comet that is SNUFFED as it LANDS IN THE STREET.

The last Bass note of the intro lingers, fading for a moment. It’s barely an echo as the FULL ASSAULT of the song kicks in, explosively transforming the scene with LIGHT AND MOTION.

04

11 2013

Magnolias ’90

A brief break from the Homecoming Game to present this poemy-thing. Enjoy.

—–     —–     —–     —–     —–

Come with me as I drive
In summer, ‘91
At night, only night
With the sweet, sweet scent
Of magnolia in bloom
Intoxicating imagination
Stirring dreams

 

Days unbearably hot
“It’s a real scorcher”
Says the man
With the impossible
Geological
Meteorological
Pseudonym
Not a hair out of place
That fucker has AC
In his studio
With his shiny
Glittering
Teeth

 

While me
I lay prostrate
Spread eagle and sweating
In supplication
Subjugated
On the bathroom’s chipped tile floor
The coolest surface to be found
Behind the towering church
At Franklin and Highland
In the heart of Hollywood
(before it “sold out”)
Naked and sweltering
Not moving
But melting
Slowly
With each hour.

 

Like desert reptiles we lived
Drugging ourselves
Into comas by day
With pills
or booze
or weed
So we could sleep in the shadow
(or at the very least, not move)
Until the sun went down
and the moon rose
with the cricket song
and nighttime noise
That spoke of cooler air
Of the hour and time
To drive.

 

Whispering wordless
That the workingmen had left
The arctic frost offices
Exempt from restrictions
Placed on when
and where
and how
AC could be used
In reluctant exodus they drove
Slick with sweat
and muttered profanities
Along Sepulveda Boulevard
Inchworms beating them
In their race
To stucco ovens
Their valley homes

 

While those poor bastards
(and bastardettes)
Tossed and turned in Van Nuys
Waterbeds of sweat
We’d slowly emerge
Uncoiling at night
Desert snakes
Time to live
To work, hunt and play
3am
The 101
Empty and open
At speeds far from legal
As the air cooled
On a magnolia breeze

 

“Up the Beach” on the Stereo
Avery’s bass ringing out
Long throbbing notes
With windows rolled down
We’d speed and we’d chatter
Humming along
With gulps of espresso
Bringing fire to the hands
Toothy grins to the face
Wheels spinning, minds racing
Down Alvarado
To Wilshire
In the Bryson
We’d meet.

 

Black ink
Marks on paper
Dry the instant they flow
From brush or from pen
In gestures indelible
Under a canopy of Christmas Lights
Strung from trees in the back
It’s Linseed and canvas and pigment and paint
Color flies
Runs rivers and pools
To the ad-hoc percussion
Staccato beat hammered out
On welded pipe constructs
Punctuated by steam hiss
“Espresso Remix”
Pencils scribble and travel
On notebooks from pockets
Capturing it all
Trying to freeze
Struggling to hold
These moments
So fleeting.

 

Jerry puts on a tape
Of Jane’s new song
It’s not out yet
(But Perry’s a friend)
and we listen while working
Creating and laughing
A soundtrack with resonance
For what’s happening here
The artists and writers
Musicians and fools
All gathered together
In the wee morning hours
With cigarettes
and music
and magnolia
In the air.

 

And Jabberjaw on Pico
Is like Paris
Or Berlin
Or New York
In the 20’s
Except that it’s here
and “at this moment…”
(Now twenty years gone)
Each minute sang
and things inexorably changed
For good
and for bad
But never the same
As those nights
When we’d drive
Creating
The future

 

03

10 2013

The Homecoming Game – Part 19

Concluding Chapter 12 of the Homecoming Game. Shit Gets Nuts from here on out…

…..

I don’t know how long I’ve been standing there in the doorway of the bedroom that was mine in another lifetime.

Remembering.

Trying not to remember.

Trying to pull the memories and incidents out in an organized, systematic, item by item basis, only to find them spilling out of the overstuff closet of my mind… tumbling down, engulfing me.

It’s obviously been long enough that June has grown a little concerned… perhaps having second thoughts about allowing this stranger into her house.  She knocks me out of the vortex of remembering by clearing her throat and asking me… gently but with a pointed undertone, if I’m “OK.”

I shake my head. I smile at her. Act reassuring. Hit all the right notes so she won’t think I’m some nutjob who’s wormed his way in to the comfort and safety of her home. I do this with the hollow ringing droning on in my head. I do this with the surge of nausea that’s threatening to overtake me. I smile and nod and tell her I am “fine”.  I’m well versed in pretending everything’s ok.  I’ve had a lifetime of learning to conceal my reactions.

There’s nothing that would indicate this was every my room.  The bed with the jerry-rigged hiding place is long gone. The stained, flat, olive green carpeting has been torn up and replaced with warm maple flooring, laid in an intricate saw-toothed pattern.  The window to the back yard is no longer a plain sheet of glass… instead it’s become a stained glass tableau of the ocean. Gentle waves and sailing ships with a lighthouse casting multi-hued beams of illumination, rendered in faceted glass across the image.  The weak winter sunlight is transformed as it passes through this window, becoming pools of blue and green and amber and rose that lay across the room in a dappled pattern. It is a warm and inviting and comforting and cozy place. The type of environment that urges you to curl up in the overstuffed rocking chair in the corner, under the antique brass lamp with the ivory pettipoint lampshade and read a good book.  Even the walls have been altered… the base, painted plaster has been superimposed with long vertical paneling, made of a lighter maple finish that highlights and accents the complex hatching of the flooring.

It is not… by any stretch of the imagination… my room.

And yet, it is.

Standing in the doorway, looking in, I feel… somehow.. Wrong.  As if, by my very presence, I’m casting a shadow on this transformed place. That I’m contaminating it with old memories and traumas.  That… just by standing there… I’m summoning something black and dark and morbid and horrid.  By being here, I’m ruining it.

I thank June for her hospitality, and tell her… with all sincerity… that she has done wonderful things to the house.  I tell her she should be proud of the transformation she’s acheived.  She beams at these compliments and more as I make my way towards the door… wanting to leave as quickly as possible before I further contaminate the environment. As I reach the door, she stops me, bustling off to the kitchen momentarily, before returning… moving with such speed that the ties of her apron are flapping behind her… to hand me a still-warm jar of Huckleberry preserves.  The content glisten and gleam, and promise delicious ectasy to be had.  The berries hang thick and plump like jewels of indigo and violet, and I can’t help but think that if she can render such incredible acts of transformation with the dark place where I grew up, the magic she can summon from those tiny berries promises to be something spectacular and potentially life-changing.

We stand for a moment at the door, exchanging final pleasantries.  She makes sure I have a copy of her card, and tells me to not hesitate to contact her… either via phone or email… if any of my Hollywood friends ever need a real interior decorator.  She makes sure to assure me that I am welcome to drop by any time. To bring my family by the next time I come up to visit.  I don’t tell her there won’t be a next time. I’ve already darkened this place too much.  Let it have a new life. A better one, I hope.  I wave to her standing on the porch as I leave.  Smiling, I manage to just fit the jar of preserves in my jacket pocket, as I start the walk back… up the streets to the dirt lane, to the school, to the car.

Moments later, as I sit in the car, my hand on the keys, ready to turn the ignition.

I realize I don’t remember walking back.

 

The Homecoming Game – Part 14

“‘Cos all these little deals go down

With little consequences

We share, we share.”

- How We Operate, Gomez

 

XI – SPIRITS

I leave the middle school, put it in the rearview. Open the Red Bull I brought with me in the car.

Drive.

Smoke.

Down Appleside drive. Down the hill on Scenic Way. The road we used to call “the twisty road” connecting the Heights to Clarkston proper. It used to be snakelike, whipsawing back and forth in narrow curves flanked by the dirty, unstable surface of the bluff on one side, and a steep drop on the other.  Many a drunken teenager missed one of those turns… shot out into the empty space of night, before their car went tumbling down the rocky, barren face of the embankment.  It was Known, when I was a kid. It was a Danger. An example of What Could Happen. What WOULD happen to Drunken Teenagers who were foolish enough to combine the elements of being teenaged and drunk. Like an old country bogeyman, except with “tooth”. You knew it wasn’t just your parents telling you things that Parents Say To Keep You From Doing Shit.  Every one of us had read it in the papers, time after time. Many of us knew people who had family members make the injurious, sometimes deadly, plunge.

Safety concerns have obviously overcome the molasses nature that slows down and sticks to the gears of small-town bureaucracy over the last couple of decades.  The thin twisting ribbon of asphalt has been replaced with a gentle incline coated by a wide plain of fresh black surface broken only by two shallow arcs, carefully graded to the hillside.  There’s little danger now of accidentally overshooting the turn even at high speeds. Probably even under the most “altered” of conditions. Part of me thinks it shameful, as I gently drift down this “kiddie ride” version of the hill I drove in my teenage years.  That the “improvement” in safety thwarts modern Darwinism. Allows the idiots, drunkards, fools and halfwits to survive and breed. I remind myself that these are not Kind Thoughts, but it doesn’t stop them from coming.

I hook right on Highland, and park at the elementary school, pulling out the cameras and my cigs. Putting in the earbud headphones I thumb through the thousands of songs and artists stored in MP3 form on the phone. Trying to find a soundtrack for the moment. Something resonant, but not maudlin. Something that captures the “formative years” spent at this school, but that also acts as a buffer. A prophylactic that protects against it infecting my state of mind.  It would be easier, perhaps smarter, to simply not go here. Not take “the walk” that my feet traversed hundreds of times over a five year period, but whoever said I suffers from an excess of smarts or wisdom? Since I’m back here… in this town… I feel almost like the victim of some violent crime faced with the trial of the one who perpetrated atrocities against them. Knowing deep in my gut that if testimony isn’t given… if witness isn’t borne… then “they win”. They’ll be free to continue on their dark path, damaging and injuring, raping and maiming, brutalizing and killing.

Melodramatic?

Well… yes. But only slightly.

Not as much as you’d think.

I settle on Skinny Puppy’s “Mind, the Perpetual Intercourse”… music I became exposed to after leaving, rather than songs that formed the soundtrack of the days here. Dark, and yet “bouncy”… before the band turned darker in the face of political anger and heroin.  It seems like a choice that’ll allow me to feel… whatever I will feel… and yet keep it all at a distance.  The thrumming synthetic bass of “One Time One Place” fills my ears, Nivek Ogre growls the first line and my feet move.

One after the other.

I find quickly enough that the concerns I had… worrying about emotional highwaymen lurking around every building and corner… were conflated in my mind.  Enough time has passed that the traumas induced here exist only as the faintest of echoes. Barely audible whispers of the psyche. Thin and reedy without tones or depth. Harmless white noise heard over a distance handheld am radio. The sidewalk that runs the length of the school , broken up in a pattern of angled slopes and flat planes that extend in straight lines, connecting the buildings all the way down to the blacktop and the PE field beyond, summon only the mildest of strong recollections… Walking up here on the weekends to skateboard down the length of concrete runway on cheap decks bought for pennies though the Sears mail order. Short, oddly shaped decks with hard plastic wheels. Unforgiving of any obstacle no many how trivial or minor. We could be traveling down at light speed, the echo careening off the sky as we broke the sound barrier, only to find ourselves dangerously launched without warning into the air when the unyielding surface of the the milky wheels made contact with almost microscopic pebbles.  Later… wincing and shuffling, we’d stiffly trudge home. Our skin a patchwork of lacerations and large abrasions gained from those split second moments of launch and re-entry. Badges of juvenile bad-assery worn with pride.

The memory triggers remain soft and benign until I hit the playground. I stare for minutes to my right, trying to figure out what’s “wrong” with what I’m looking at, and finally it bubble up through the soup of time.  The “Concentration camp” is missing.  Replaced by a shiny, new Boys and Girls Club facility. Perfectly manicured lawn. Safety first-oriented play equipment. Wide and open. As long as I can remember the “camp” was there… the local equivalent of a house rumored to be haunted. The site of atrocities only spoken in whisper. Aged, dying oaks cast an eerie twilight over the buildings on even the brightest of days… Long, shuttered, whitewashed buildings, arranged in symmetrical rows. Rough in finish, the kind you’d find in World War II-era barracks, or in a not-quite-acceptable summer camp for kids.

While we had no idea who had built the structures, or what the buildings were intended for, it was Completely Obvious to our elementary school-aged minds that this was a concentration camp. One likely built (because of its close proximity to the school) to house and torture kids who Did Not Behave in class.  This conclusion was reinforced by the all-knowing tidbits of information given to us by the Fifth Grade students.  They had survived here for five years. They had Seen Things. They Knew The Truth.  The Concentration Camp terrified most of us, keeping our levels of normal kid-related mayhem in check.  You didn’t dare even wander to that side of the playground, lest you hear something or see something that would make you a liability, and force the teachers and administrators to have no choice but to commit you live out the remainder of your numbered days in those ominous buildings. Inexplicably, seeing that they are gone… that they no longer exist to terrify future generations into being model students… fills me with sadness and loss.  One less piece of mystery and danger in the world.  One less element of the unexplained to spark imagination and thought.

I stand there for a while, at where the Merry-go-round used to be.  The corrugated metal wheel, limited in the velocity of its orbit only by how fast the kids pushing it could run, is gone. Another decision made in the name of “safety”. No more recess vertigo… gripping the curved metal bars as you hung your upper body out into empty space, spinning inches away from the ragged gravel surface. No more cries of “Mrs. Wendt! Brad broke his arm! He broke his arm!” Fewer casts for classmates to sign. Shutting another doorway to imagination and momentary escape for the sake of protection.

I look around, making sure no kids that live nearby have come to take advantage of the wide fields of the playground, looking for fun in the rapidly melting remainder of last night’s snowfall.  It’s empty. No sounds, No voices. Safe.  Another sigh and I pull out a cig, shielding the lighter with my hand as a breeze picks up. Inhaling as deep as I can. Driving nails and cancer and tar and nicotine and Bad Things as deep into my lungs as the flesh allows.

I look to my left towards the “big field”, as we called the wide, flat grassy area extending from the blacktop and the basketball hoops to the fence that separated the school grounds from the houses that ringed it.  I have to smile at the memories it ignites.  The grass area almost as long as a football field and twice as wide.  In fourth grade, we’d play epic, massive games of soccer, using the fence as one goal and the blacktop as the other.  We weren’t limited to the regulation number of players, and it was not uncommon to have teams of 15-20 kids facing off against each other, chasing the ball across the massive grassy plain like Mongols riding in to pillage.

One time, a kid got too hot, and draped his windbreaker across one of the fences before returning to the game.  I was one of four goalies protecting the fence against the marauding “other team”, and I looked over to see that the cow… a calf really… on the other side of the fence had decided that the windbreaker, being blue and floppy and shiny and pliant, must be some wonderful new food product.  I watched frozen in amazement and horror as the cow slowly, deliberately, began to eat it. Almost the entire sleeve had disappeared down the cow’s throat before I snapped out of my mesmerized state and screamed to the owner of the jacket, “James! This cow is EATING YOUR JACKET!

Every one of the players froze, their eyes swinging over to the fence, staring in morbid fascination… watching as the cow munched away.  James came running over as fast as his fourth-grade legs would carry him, screaming “Don’t just stand there… HELP ME!”  We grabbed what remained of the coat and pulled… and it came… slowly… disgustingly… inch by inch… out of the cow’s mouth and throat, covered in green slime and undigested grass.  Once it popped free of the cow’s mouth, the two of us took the logical step of dropping to our knees and throwing up. Undigested Frito’s and carrot sticks and school lasagna and chocolate milk from a carton all spattering and mixing with the gelatinous green slime coating the battered windbreaker.

Fun times.

There’s the backstop for the t-ball field. Same location, the run between the bases permanently furrowed in a dirt path carved over the years by thousands of children’s feet. The structure is metal now, replacing the towering wooden fram that used to be here, but everything else is the same. The same as it was when I was in third grade.

…..     …..     …..     …..     …..

The Homecoming Game – Part 9

It’s been a rocky week, so my apologies for the slight delay in putting up the next installment.

…..     …..     …..     …..     …..     …..

“Angel, come closer

So the stink of your lies

Sinks into my memory.”

Fountain & Fairfax, The Afghan Whigs

 

VI – PATTERNS

 

The parking lot is a black field. The sodium lights spaced in a grid of nine cast tight spotlights and discolor the hue of any object struck by their illumination. The fallen snow beginning to create mottled fractals on the surface. White against black with nine circles of blue marbling under the towering poles. The high pitched hum from each light meshes with the next, building to a dull, grinding electric whine that sets the nerves on edge. My car, the only one in the lot, has turned ox-blood red under one of the lights. The metal is wet and glistening. Spotty and uneven with the pulpy bits of snow that haven’t quite yet melted away. It looks cancerous and bloody. Out of place.

My hands won’t stop shaking. It’s the cold. I’m sure it’s the cold. Almost 20 years in LA. No snow. No ice. No sleet. No weather like this. The body has gotten lazy in warmer climes. The body has forgotten. This is “mild”. This is nothing.

I try to pull a cig loose of the pack, and my fingers are all stumps and butter. Unable to be precise. Can’t get purchase on the paper cylinders. The grasping becomes more urgent, desperate. The box pops from my hand, the cigs for flying. Slow motion in the glow of the sodium haze. Cancer sticks. Nails in my coffin. Tumbling. End over end toward the grey and black slush. I watch them fall. Spinning slowly. There’s a sad beauty to the descent. The inevitability of it all.

Falling.

Descending, inexorably.

I don’t even bother trying to grasp for them.

Not even one of them.

Frozen.

Paralytic in that last moment of stuttering clumsiness. Watching them impact, one by one, the paper instantly becoming translucent by the moisture. Dissolving. Threads of tobacco swelling, bursting the paper. Slow motion science film on decay, unfolding in real time.

Fuck.

…..

The Homecoming Game – Part 5

Our hero isn’t happy to be back in his childhood hometown. He’s grumpy about it, and determined to stay that way.

This is Chapter 3 of the book. It’s a short one… enjoy!

…..     …..     …..     …..     …..

What may appear, might easily be explained

But given the situation, of info saturation

What you feel can never go away

- I Am I, Queensryche

 

III – TEN MINUTE HOLD

 

In the car again. I’m driving. Aimless. Pointless. Flakes and shards of ivory and enamel littering my mouth from the grinding of my teeth. Detritus, there’s always detritus. Debris swimming around. The car moves across the bridge, heading into Washington. Two towns defined only by the fact that a river between them marks the state line. The red light of the sunset strobing as the shadows of the bridge fall across the windshield. Staccato beats of light and dark, a counterpoint rhythm to the throbbing in my head.

There’s a reason I know the last time I yelled at my father was when I was sixteen. There’s a reason I am so goddamn sure of that fact.

Coming off the bridge, I head west down Riverside. Passing the one “shopping complex” present in Clarkston, an Albertson’s, McDonald’s and a handful of transitory stores that have changed services supplied, owners, and signage countless times in the two decades of its existence. The Washington State liquor store used to sit next door to the old location, off diagonal… no idea where it is now. I’ll have to ask Michael about that when we get together tonight. If he’s available. Still need to call him. Need to take my meds… I’m getting scattered here. Rattled. Can’t be in this state when I call El to talk with her and the kids.

Even though my memories of the incident have a distinctly disassociative quality to them… like it happened to someone else.. Or I read it in a story… Or saw it in a film when I was a teenager… The memory is still there.

20 years gone now, but I know it’s memory, and not some inflated bit of drama, conjured up. Some latent false impression from my years of trying to numb myself with booze and drugs.

Just as I think I’ve missed it, and that I’m going to have to turn around in the parking lot of the golf course and country club (An establishment whose very existence in Clarkston struck me as ironically akin to having haute cuisine at a Sadie Hawkins dance.), I see my “haven of luxury” for the duration of my stay here. The Bridgewater Inn. It’s an average, unremarkable two story structure. Tidy, clean and plain. These characteristics already place it miles ahead of the other forms of accommodation in the valley. It’s off the main road, down in the fields by the river where, years ago during World War II, the airport used to lay.

I know the incident is real. Mom confirmed it before she died. Over the years, we had never talked about it… a terrifying elephant in the room that we mutually, silently, ignored in the interests of keeping our sanity. In order to not ask the logical follow-on question… if it happened, then who was to blame, ultimately.

Pulling in to the “guest check in” area under the plain while awning, a neon sign blinks “VACANCY”. Too far back from the main road to be of any use to passing motorists. Invisible to those it might apply to. Obviously, there’s no valet service here… the lonely front desk is visible through the double-wide glass doors. I smirk at the small, skewed sign hanging on one of them that proudly proclaims “YES, we have internet access!”

Mom was close to death then, and the question had to be asked. I hated myself for even broaching the subject. She was in so much pain at that point… the cancer had eaten her away from the inside. The robust woman with a creative twinkle in her eye was gone. Replaced by this skeletal figure, bound to the hospital bed by a million tubes and wires. I agonized over it for the first three days I was there. Should I just let it go, should I forget about it.  In the end, I had to know if the memories were accurate. If they were mine or something imagined.

Something exaggerated.

I hit the bell on the desk and wait for someone to come. Laptop bag over one shoulder. “Location Bag” over the other. The boxy black canvas bag has been with me around the world. Sets in Mexico packed with sunblock and light clothing that never keeps out the bugs. Sets in the Canadian Tundra, packed with socks so thick I could barely pull my boots on over them, but still not thick enough to keep out the cold that radiates through the soles from the permafrost. Sets in the UK, packed with waterproof layers and a packet of wolfsbane… hidden amongst the my shirts as a surprise from El for me to find during a three week shoot out on the grey alien landscape of the moors. This Location Bag has been to hundreds of exciting, frustrating, challenging, and often rewarding places with me. I mentally apologize to it for having to bring it here. A clerk who can’t be older than 20 finally appears. His oversized grin and black waistcoat looking professional, even if his $10 haircut and rampant acne doesn’t. “Yes? Can I help you?”

Mom didn’t have much strength, and didn’t speak much during those last days. We’d often sit there, and I’d read her the script I was working on, doing a poor job at acting out the voices of each of the characters. Sometimes she’d give a slight smile. Other times, she seemed to be lost in thought… imagining the world I was describing. On a few occasions, she give a little frown, and small shake of her head, indicating that she didn’t think the scene worked. Her instincts were good, and the scenes she found problematic were always changed, making the end result much stronger. However, when I finally broached the subject that had been gnawing away at me, and asked her if it happened… if it happened like I remembered it… she spoke clear and quiet. Her whisper like sad, thin rice paper crackling in the breeze.

“Yes, it happened… it did.”

I start to slap the AmEx card on the counter and then catch myself mid-motion, returning it to the wallet and pulling out the Visa card. I place it, and my California driver’s license on the counter facing the clerk. “I’m checking in. Jacob Saren. There should be a reservation in my name.”

 

An open call/letter to all…

This is a difficult blog entry to write. I thank you in advance for putting up with it, and forgiving me for having to write it.

The last two years have been… we’ll just say challenging. Those close to me know what I, and my family, have been through. Those not close to me do not need to hear about said challenges. Every one of us has them. Every. Single. Day. The world doesn’t need whining and/or complaining, especially in this day and age with every human being having their own personal megaphone with which to caterwaul via the internet. They are my issues, my challenges. I’m the one who needs to deal with them.

On the positive side of things, the 2-3 years of “challenges” have appeared to turn around. Because of the wonderful world of NDAs, I cannot discuss any of the developments that are supposed to rectify the situation… and THEN some… within the next three months. It’s been a lot of work, in multiple fields, juggling a truly insane amount of projects, but it appears (God willing and the river don’t rise) that it will have been Worth. It.

As part of these deals/projects/developments I cannot yet discuss, I have been driving back and forth to Los Angeles from San Diego at least every other week. Often more frequently than that. Negotiations and meetings and things-I-can’t-yet-discuss with companies-I-can’t-yet-disclose that have to be had with me there in person have had me on the road a. Lot. No complaints. Not ONE in the slightest. It’s very much worth it.

Yesterday, I had a car accident. While I and the other driver were uninjured, the front end of my car is rather… well, screwed. This leaves me unable to drive. Without being able to drive, I can’t close these deals, and the last three years of “challenges” go from having a positive ending to… something NOT so positive. Which is why I’m writing this. A blog entry I would do anything to NOT write. Wishing to some higher diety there was another options OTHER than writing this.

To be clear, in simple terms, I do. Not. Want. Charity. I do not want “donations”. I don’t want “loans”, I do not want that, and I cannot ask that. I am (in theory) a capable writer, artist, editor, designer, and all-around creative monkey who has been working professionally for the last 30 years. I need short term projects, that I can do quickly (but at an excellent level of quality) and that will provide payment in exchange so that I can get my car repaired.

If you, or anyone you know has a need for a logo design, a shirt or album design, character designs, writing or editorial services, please contact me at rantz at rantzhoseley dot com. (remove the spaces and insert the correct symbols, obviously) If you can, please put “Freelance” or something along those lines in the subject. Thank you for reading this far, and my apologies for having to write this in the first place.

21

03 2013

Mixtape 365 – 8

Bad
U2
The Unforgettable Fire

During the “bleak years”… the period from 87-89 where my mental state was so bad that I wondered multiple times daily if my life was over before it had begun… this song was part of the ongoing soundtrack. Ironically, a song about battling despair and the fathomless hollow of addiction was one of the few things that gave me strength. I’d be in my room, tears cutting hot trails down my cheeks, as I sang in a sobbing wail along with Bono “I’m wide awake… I’m not sleeping”. It became a mantra to myself. A truth you don’t believe, but say repeatedly. Hoping that one day… hoping it won’t be too late… hoping that the words would become truth. For almost a decade after that, I couldn’t listen to this song. Just the opening notes would summon up those feelings… that mental state. An audio mnemonic device that would threaten to send me spiraling down. Now, years later, the song is a marker. A stone over the grave of what was… and what almost happened. I appreciate it, and wish I’d had the wisdom and knowledge then that time has given over the years that would follow.

Mixtape 365 – 7

#7

SONG: 21st Century Schizoid Man

ARTIST: Robert Fripp & Maynard James Keenan

I stumbled upon this track completely by accident while driving one day from LA to Orange County. A friend, knowing my love of Tool, A Perfect Circle, and Puscifer, had made me a “Maynard Rarities” CD to listen to. The disc included tracks like “Ass Kicking Fat Kid” and a demo of Tool with Rage Against the Machine, along with live versions of Stranglehold and some of the tracks off of the 90s-era “Replicants” disc. The real shocker for me was 21st Century Schizoid Man, MJK’s collab with King Crimson guitarist and head-fucker Robert Fripp. The Guitar and synth roar in bombastic and theatrical, oversized and overwhelming, followed by Maynard’s chopped and compression-treated vocals that sound almost like a rally. (What kind of rally… you’re not quite sure, even after multiple listens) It’s a truly epic and powerful song, and one that I usually listen to before heading into meetings or interviews or other situations where I need to get my adrenaline pumping beyond its normal caffeinated levels.

09

01 2013