Rick McKinney

R.I.P Tom Kennedy

 

5/19: Gracious David

Filmmaker & Sound Designer David Silberberg has been kind enough to provide Jigglebox the sound file to:

A Last Conversation With Tom - Audio File

I am grateful that the piece resonated with many of you. These past weeks have not been easy, surely not for any of us, least of all for his family, for his wife Haideen. If I tell you that I struggle, it is only to excuse what seems to me an inexcusable silence here on the site. I had meant to say so much more about Tom. Yet I cannot seem to write. I cannot focus. I constantly get lost in little wormholes in my mind. So I reach out. In an attempt to jump start this process of burning brighter, I am reaching out in a way Tom would have wanted, I think. I am calling people I never called before. I am setting dates to do things. I am saying, "Come sail with me!" as often as I can. So far one person has taken me up on it. I am un-hermiting one little match stick ignition at a time. There's hope. But alas, I haven't been able to write. Forgive me. And thank David. Both for the audio and for his fine capture of the May 1 ceremony at Ocean Beach. - RSM

 

 

5/7: The key he left me

In my recent search of this site for all things Tom Kennedy, I forgot about what follows: his review of my book. Which is fine. My focus these past weeks has been squarely on Tom and my memories of him. But it helped preserve me tonight after a day spent spiraling in the wake of the wake of him, his absence suddenly made all the more acute in the vacuum of his great memorial and all who crossed many miles and made tremendous efforts to be here and honor him on his turf.

I went to the book review page tonight for something else, and there it was. Tom's review. Leave it to Tom to leave no mere generalized review but a detailed map of those parts of the book that resonated with him most notably. In this way, if you'll allow, his review is not about me, but about him, and I like that about it. I had never remarked this before, but in this way, in this noting of specific pages, Tom's review is like none other. Like the man himself.

I was very lonesome for him today. What a strange comfort to be able to open up a book and read a bit of him in me. -RSM

Tom Kennedy's response/review of my one published book, Dead Men Hike No Trails, 2006:

"Equal to the achievement of the AT conquered and the rants written is the editing and self publishing of the work into book form. Good job! You are now assigned the task of going on adventures and writing novels about them for the rest of a long life, ending it early would deny us the books that you have yet to write. Good work. I hope the concept of life being a journey instead of a destination has increased in relevance. I loved the way you combined thoughts on our contemporary situation with the great Henry Miller quote and juxtaposed that with the snake eating the salamander right in front of your face. Some of the most notable thoughts that you shared in the book for me came in the 9 pages from page 208 to 216. The high cost of the "don't talk to strangers" meme is one of my personal themes. I also agree that the "exclusivity clause" (211-213) of Christianity cancels out the whole thing for me. And your dad (p.216) asking you what it was in the real world that made you anxious, and you replied "Advertisements-to know that I live in a world of lies." That really hit truth for me, with my marketing degree and all." - Tom Kennedy

 

5/6: The only other man to ride The Lizard

[A memory from William Burge, creator of The Lizard, one of the most insanely dangerous & cool vehicles ever driven (not trailered - driven!) cross-country to Burning Man. William aka "T" sent me this a week ago. Alas, it got buried with a lot of other important & time-sensitive things like an invitation to write about Tom for Raw Vision Magazine. Apologies to all. It's been a rough.. um.. blur. I will catch up. - RSM]

"We rode together that year I rode to Burning man on the lizard. It was a couple of days after it was all over, and Tom escorted me to Flynn's house and we dropped off the car. I had no idea if I was ever going to see it again, and I said so to Tom. Between the two of us we only had enough to pay for the burner room special in Reno. The lights were screwed up on the next incarnation of the One-Eyed Wonder and driving Tom's truck through the desert while he slept was, I have to admit kind of terrifying. I was really sleepy, and I thought it would be the worst thing if I managed to put it off the highway in the middle of the night.

"We made it to the hotel and got the room and talked about when tom rode the Lizard (he is the only person other than me to do so). The next morning we woke up hungry and put our change together. I told Tom I would go down to the one armed bandits and get us enough money for some breakfast. Tom being the zen master he was thought about it and said "Why not!"

"I came back with 50 bucks and we had some breakfast with change left over for us to get a new plug for the headlight switch on the truck. I fixed that part and he dropped me off at the Airport to fly home. Tom was living In the first art space I ever entered and always made me feel at home. I wish we would have lived closer together. It would have been a great time I'm sure. See ya on the other side Bro. - William Burge

 

photo by Sherry Tobin

5/3: A Last Conversation With Tom

[The following is the text of my elegy to my friend Tom read aloud at The Tom Kennedy Memorial Celebration May 1, 2009 at American Steel, Oakland, CA ]

A Last Conversation With Tom - Audio File

Joshua Tree National Monument, November 2008.

Barack Obama has just won the election, and Tom and I have come alone to my favorite desert on a kind of research vacation after all his missile launching, McCain-mocking labors. We've spent the day looking at land to accommodate a dozen sailboats for an inhabitable art installation called The Desert Regatta, the gonzo scale and Noah-on-acid in-the-desert, aqua-land nature of which appeals to my friend Tom, the maker of whales on wheels.

It is now deep in the night, and our campfire and the stories told 'round it from the recent RNC to our first burn together in 1995 are already a memory. Tom and I are camped out under the stars, our tents a mere ten feet apart in a place so silent you can hear the click of climber's caribeener at half a mile. I awake in the night and we speak with the disembodied voices of two men talking through darkness and thin tent fabric walls. We take it for granted that the other is actually out there in the darkness.

Tom! Tom!

Yes, Duke?

Oaah! Phew! Okay. Okay. I.. I just had a terrible dream. Tom, you, you were dead. You died. I went to your funeral. Oh, God. It was so, it felt so real.

We were at the box shop. No, first we were at Cody's with CyberSam in a tux, and all your loved ones and Larry Harry, too, and then the box shop and then American Steel. Tom, it went on forever. A whole week long, maybe longer. Which is good, I guess. It was a regular moveable feast! But.. it was your funeral.

The missile rig was there, all decorated up, and Blackie, too, piled in flowers and photos of you, and the tale of the whale picked up in Placerville and thrown clear to Oakland by John Law in some superhero whale toss like Will Smith in Hancock.

The box shop was set up so that everyone in attendance could bang out a little copper heart with your name on it. And I walked in when Barbara Fried was whaling away with all her heart in remembrance of you and stupidly I said "Hit it, Barbara!" thinking to encourage her when apparently she'd already heard this from half a dozen men and annoyed now slipped and hit her finger getting a blood blister, her first ever, or so she said. I told her how you'd damn near severed your finger with a grinder on a last minute power jam before hitting the road with the missile last year, told her to take heart in a kind of injury of solidarity with you.

Ken Duffy wrote you a special song and in my anger at your death I was afraid I would hate it but dammit if his words didn't choke me all up such that when I suddenly found myself wanting to join in belting out the refrain, I couldn't even speak.

And just when I thought maybe I could hold it together for the sake of whoever might be looking to me for comfort and support, in walks this guy playing bag pipes.

And it was like right from the start, Tom, right from first news of your death I'd had this sharp shooting pain between my shoulder blades as though I'd been shot through with a harpoon and had yet to realize the killing thing was lodged fast in me, sticking right out of my chest. Well, when those bagpipes started up, lemme tell you I felt the force of the blow. And it was awful because there I was standing by your alter at the missile rig suddenly pinned there by the force of the bagpipes as the guy stopped to play there and me with my eyes morbidly fixated on this stainless steel, wood and glass midget Major Tom made for you by Al Honig.

But it wasn't just FOR you, Tom, it was YOU Tom!

It was YOU in there, well.. what was left of you. And goddammit if those bagpipes didn't keep going, pressing me harder into the truck, the bagpipes and the urn both beautifully wrought and heartfelt but eerie, too, for their ashen wailing words which spoke in no uncertain terms:

THE KING IS DEAD

And I pressed my head hard against the glass of the missile rig's cab as though by force of thought I could push my way inside and back in time to when I'd sat inside for hours and days creating the tacky red white & blue interior you were so generous in praising when to my mind it seemed a trifle to the whole missile majesty. I wanted to crawl inside that trifle, to escape the bagpipes and Jim Skinner's fire-shooting penis and the copper hearts that read T.O.M like R.I.P, sweet as they were, sweet as it all was, the songs (for their were others), the people (name them - they were there), I wanted to crawl inside the safety of that little womb I'd created, that Missile Dick womb, but the doors would not budge and to my horror I found them locked and the bagpipes were screaming now and I, feeling trapped, I turned to face the crowd and stood there, my face contorting in some horrible grimace as the weight of your death fell on me like a jet engine from the sky and the camera flashes flashed, and I saw myself captured ugly scary for eternity like Donnie Darko's sister in the film's final scene, her grief absolute. It was a nightmare, Tom. Everybody was so sweet and loving but it was a nightmare nonetheless, because you were gone.

Remember that time Charlie said, "This is Duke! He's famous!" not realizing that was you sitting there in the dark, Tom, fooled by your undercover Republican clean shaven face, and I laughed at the notion of me being famous as compared to you?

We're all famous, Duke.

Ha! Yes! That's just it! In the dream, you.. you become a legend overnight, Tom! It's astounding. Breathtaking, really. It happens so fast. Like a legion of angels winging out to catch you as you fall, all the people whose lives you've touched over the years race from the four corners of the Earth to sing your praises and lift you up the moment you die. And the media, Tom! The Chronicle, The LA Times, even Time Magazine, man!

Doesn't sound like such a bad dream after all, Duke.

Well, yeah. Okay. But Tom! Don't you see? In the dream, you died!

What else was good about the dream, Duke?

Well, everybody was there. Ev-er-eee-body! Your mother, your father, all your siblings, nieces and nephews, Haideen's parents who loved you so. And EVERY EVERY member of your extended and beloved family of artists and friends, the best talents of Burning Man and the art car community including a procession of over thirty art cars for your funeral. Dana and Flash of course, Joe & Deborah from New York, John Law, Pepper comes from Houston and oh, Tom, what a lovely ode Pepper wrote to you and all your finny creatures!

PK seemed to run everything from her cell phone and laptop while never failing with a smile and a hug. And teams of little elves cranked out a thousand ceramic rippers to give away in your name while across town Dany Mac poured a bronze casting of the same. It was beautiful, Tom.

Do we ever get Ripper back from France?

Yeah, man. Yeah. We're gonna get him back. You bet. But heh, Tom, it.. it.. it was just a dream. I'm all right now.

I need you to do something for me, Duke. I need you to burn brighter.

What? Tom.. come on man, it was just a bad dream. I'm sorry. Let's go back to sleep now. You're starting to freak me out.

Tell them that in my stead they must all burn a little brighter now, that everything I said about my own abilities was to inspire others to do better for themselves, and thus continuing to inspire still more, and so on.

Tooooooom?!!

Tell them I love them, Duke, that everything I did, I did out of love. Tell them to carry on the love.

[Somewhere far off a metal click signifies that a climber's predawn ascent has begun. I unzip my tent slowly, one tooth at a time, terrified at the truth now dawning. I speak his name softly once more, then fling the tent fly open. He is gone. No tent. No Tom. I am alone.]

Finishing my last conversation with Tom Kennedy, I say aloud to the desert dawn:

They know, Tom. They know. And they're already on it.

 

Tom Kennedy had a whale-size heart. He loved with every ounce of it. He loved life. He loved us. I believe that something as etherial and intangible and magical as love, indeed as whimsical and grand as his love, is capable of slipping through the clockworks of time and space, the atomizing and oxidizing effects of fire and earth, of surviving in tact the transformation that we call death. As such, Tom Kennedy is now more alive than ever. Our fires, the fires of our hearts, will not burn less brightly but MORE brightly for having known him. Let us, his family, his community, carry that flame forward and share its warmth and goodness with one another and the world.

Thank you. - R.S.McKinney

Lots of great photos & video from the memorial linked here

 

4/28: Tom Kennedy Blossoms

Been here at Tom's keeping company with Haideen and Tom's mother Pat, and Haideen's parents who just left this morning to return to the east coast. I'm keeping busy turning out ceramic sharks and scouring years of poorly-organized photo files from the depths of old hard drives to add to Friday night's slide show of Tom imagery. As such, I haven't had time to pull down a new memory of Tom. So today I give you this, a lovely email I received from Emily Duffy the other day, a sort of accidental ode written into the actions taken by her and Catherine Boyd late last week. - RSM

"I guess we'll see you tonight. I'm mostly still numb about the entire thing. I just can't accept it yet and not a tear has left my eyes yet. I guess I'm still in shock. Hearing about such a thing while away from home is very disorienting and since I got back on Tuesday night I've been madly rushing around with the caravan etc. (and laundry.) I know the tears will come, they may even start tonight. I'm not much of a crier so it's not abnormal for me...still I would like to make some salty water in Tom's honor.

"But yesterday was rather strange for me...in a good way I think. Jo was getting in my face about the caravan a bit and I finally had to say, "FINE, I'll go check the caravan route today." So I drove over to SF, heading first to Ocean Beach and the spot where the sea took Tom. While I'm on the Bay Bridge I get a call from Catherine who's at work. I had a rose from my garden ready to toss into the sea for Tom but as soon as I heard her voice I knew I needed to go grab her and take her with me. She was easy to convince!

"We met 10 minutes later at Trader Joe's where we bought bunches of bright red and hot orange (flaming) daisies. Then we drove to the beach. We found the spot...it's a powerful spot I could feel it full through my body, it gave me shivers...but it didn't feel sad. Tom's in the water there's no doubt he's all over that area but it felt like he's waiting for us to come pick him up next week. I didn't feel any regret from him, only great sadness for those of us he left behind (especially Haideen.) I thought later of maybe filling a little bottle with some of the water to keep a bit of him with me. I may still do that next week.

"So Catherine and I, in a big blustery Tom-wind, (like that one up in Joshua Tree) set about making a curve of flowers facing the ocean and then we spelled out his name (which is mercifully short.) It all felt right and looked pretty. Those flowers were battered by the wind but they stood boldy in their vibrancy, just like Tom. - Love, Em

"P.S. Please let me share some of those many tears you're shedding for our dear friend. It's easier for you to cry than me...I'd be grateful.

 

4/26: Tom Kennedy Flare

New Year's Eve, 2003. Tom is living in a thickly settled neighborhood in a coastal California town. His girlfriend is away and Jim, Melinda, Bruce and I are Tom's guests. The drinks are flowing, the music is loud, and a plan is hatched. Coast Guard issue rescue flares are distributed, two to a man. A lengthy walk to the beach ensues. I recall a growing sense of danger, fear and trepidation, only mildly tempered by the beer and my faith in brother Tom.

Hell, the man had shot a bowling ball over a mountain. He and Jim had a little sideline hobby making black powder cannons and firing off bowling balls, typically into hillsides though the story goes that once the cannon surprised them and overshot, sending a bowling ball whizzing straight over a mountain out at Black Rock in Nevada. Some German hikers trundled down the mountain an hour later gesticulating wildly and shouting "Kugel! Aus des Himmel! Mein Gott"

I wasn't there for that one, but I can just see Tom doing that "Woo! Did you see what we just did?" little boy thing he often did with both hands raised to puckered lips, eyes bugged out, devilish smile breaking through. He was about to do it again.

Tonight's munitions weren't any puny handheld flares or smoke signals. These were the kind of flares that shoot 500 hundred feet up in the sky and hover awhile burning at 10,000 candlepower illumination to draw attention for 20 miles around to sinking ships and people in peril on the water. We weren't in peril. Not yet anyway.

We arrived just shy of the stroke of midnight and sunk our charges in the sand. At Tom's signal, at the stroke of midnight, we fired off half a dozen flares into the night sky. Half a dozen! When ONE would have sufficed to call in the cavalry. I was so nervous I was practically running before mine went off. We were all running. And giggling insanely. I don't think I've ever seen Tom run so fast. I hardly got a backward glance at the scene. Suffice to say for a few minutes we lit up a good chunk of California coast that night, making the run back a cinch, of sorts. We'd created our own pseudo sun to light our way.

And this has perhaps nothing to do with Tom except that he was a big fan of my book Dead Men Hike No Trails, the only human being I know of on Earth to have read all of its 378 pages in one sitting, and now that he's gone I wonder if he ever saw this silly little Python-riff video clip I did about it. Needing comic relief, I stumbled on it just now. I think he would have liked it. - RSM

 

4/25: Tom Kennedy Fish Tales

I have so many memories of Tom. Here are but a few:

Burning Man, 1995, a dozen or so art cars roaring across the empty playa before there were rules, before there pedestrians enough to necessitate speed limits. Tom drives the shark, his girlfriend Shelley riding bareback atop Ripper, her arms wrapped around his fin, the only thing holding her on as we ramp up to freeway speeds. My perspective on all this? Standing naked atop Max the Daredevil Finmobile bracing for dear life in a rock-climber's chimney hold, pressure against the opposing fins, high on life, in awe of this fintastic man and finfetish creatures.

Summer, 1998, on the road with Tom and his band The Finatics and some Napoleonic jackass pseudo-documentarian who rather than observe the art cars and the band of pranksters tried constantly to direct us. This was my first exposure to Tom Kennedy the great diplomat. And to Tom the prankster. I have a 100-page manuscript of gonzo scribblings from that journey called "Glued to the Road." It is full of colorful anecdotes that I will pull from later. In general, however, I remember with what awe I beheld Tom's ability to work with everybody and anybody, synthesized in the impossible person of the filmmaker who kept trying to direct us all when he should have just shut up and let the camera roll. Somehow, Tom found common ground with the man. I would have punched him. The journey took us from Houston to Minneapolis to Portland with a whole caravan of cars and Tom's big bus, Our Lady of What We Have In Common.

I was napping upstairs in my art car Duke one afternoon on that journey, Tom's friend and Finatic band member Caz at the wheel when I noticed a curious thing happening. The wispy clouds, heretofore passing by my skylight window overhead as we rolled down the highway toward Rapid City, South Dakota, were suddenly going in circles. Groggy from my nap and the summer heat, it took me a while to register this as more than some daydream, whereupon I stood and, realizing we were no longer on the freeway, popped open the skylight for a look. We were in a supermarket parking lot, and Tom Kennedy was circling the wagons. We apparently had been circling for some time, for just then the blue & reds arrived, one cop car for every art car in the caravan, sirens blazing. Busted. Naturally, Tom Kennedy, diplomat, Jedi knight, smoothed the feathers of both store manager and police. I can just hear him now, "These are not the art cars you are looking for. We can go about our business. Move along."

I will never forget a very personal moment between Tom and me that seems to be the moment that cemented our friendship forever. It was a breakdown moment, something we art car artists, always working with older cars and rarely well-trained as mechanics, are well familiar with. Our journey from San Francisco to Houston with the Missile rig just last May was so fraught with mechanical problems that, as Tom put it, "It we wrote this as a fictional story, Duke, no one would believe it." It was that awful. But we got there.

But going back to whenever it was, back in time, ah yes, summer, 2002. It was Houston. It was hot. Tom, on some goodwill mission as usual, had taken out the bus and broken down on a freeway feeder road in Houston's upper class Bel Air neighborhood. I got the call and ran to his aid, though there was little I could do but sit by and wait with him for AAA to come, typically a long wait when you deal in vehicles as large as was Tom's great love: the bus. Any bus. At the time, Tom and I were both refugees of a sort. Tom, feeling ousted by a small but influential faction of the Houston art scene, was now living in California, and I, though also from California, was currently residing in New Orleans.

We'd come to town for the annual Orange Show Parade and gotten stuck, both of us with serious mechanical problems. Both of us were guests of Pepper Mouser, our most generous host and friend. It was a week or two after the parade. Everyone else had gone home. We were still stuck. Broken down and broke. There, by the side of the road in the humid heat, Tom broke down and cried, much the way I have been crying on and off since Easter. He wanted to go home. He couldn't take it anymore. I knew the feeling. He talked of maybe having just enough cash to buy a Greyhound ticket. It was some ungodly long ride, something like 46 hours to San Francisco, plus another four or five hours to get him to back to his girl in Mendocino.

I had in my possession a Southwest Airlines travel voucher, a "golden ticket" as I used to call them. I saved them for just such occasions, although always before it had been me in need of a fast retreat. I handed it right over, splurting out a few expletives to accompany my conviction that no friend of mine was going to spend 48 hours on Greyhound, and no, he could keep his money. The local community via Pepper and the Houston Art Car Club, had been very kind to me, the latter raising funds to buy Duke a junkyard motor. It seemed only natural to pass on the good will. But it was one of those acts of kindness that just hooks a person, I guess. Not everyone would have made such a big deal of it. But Tom Kennedy apparently never forgot that simple gift. He paid it back about 1000-fold over the past six years. (More on this later..)

The last time I saw Tom alive, he was standing beside me at a boat auction with $1500 cash in his pocket from him & Haideen and the firm intention of giving it away to improve my living situation here on the bay so I wouldn't have to move, away from him, but mostly away from this city and this boat-living life that he knew I loved more than I cared to admit.

It's entirely appropriate that Tom's passing has set off this chain-reaction of love and power and celebration of life, that Tom Kennedy has gone off like a fireworks factory in a sleepy little town now ignited and rocketing off in all directions and a zillion brilliant colors.

Tom Kennedy was ALIVE in all caps. And nothing that alive can ever fully die.

Tom Kennedy was love in action.

(More on Tom to come..)

- RSM

 

4/24: Kennedy Flashback #1

Some horrible eternity has unfolded in the past 72 hours in which I have been pacing the docks, floundering like a fish, like all the finned creatures Tom breathed life into and left behind on dry land now to find their own way in the world without him. I can't find the words. I am paralyzed. I am dumbfounded. I pivot between mania and terrible crying fits. I want to just throw in the towel, literally chuck the laptop in the bay and go back to making ceramic sharks with PK and Mike and Haideen and Dana and Flash in preparation for the May 1 Tom Kennedy Grand Memorial at American Steel in Oakland. But I'm a writer, dammit! I ought to be able to write about this man, this friend who loved me so, reached out to me constantly in my downward spirals, lifted me up, lifted us all up, made us swim with him and all his whimsy and light.

Tom Kennedy

So I dig. I dig in my mind and finding it broken for a moment I dig in my files, deep in the subterranean vaults of my computer where all the tales half-told of this adventure and that, many involving Tom, sit and wait for someday attention, publication. It isn't much, but last night I found this: the beginnings of a great tale of the Burn of 2003, a tale that would have been great were it not abruptly severed in the telling by the suicide of close friend just days after the Burn that year. Nonetheless, the first two segments are worth reading for their mentions of Tom. I have soooooo much more about Tom. Much more on this website, I'm sure. And much more in the archives. But it will take all year to find and post it all. I'll be lucky if, by May 1st, I find something unique to say at his celebration. For a writer I am suddenly gone dumb. Forgive me, Tom. I love you, man.

Pepper Mouser has just given me permission to reprint Finitude, the lovely ode to Tom wherein Pepper so cleverly and sweetly embodies our own symptom of grief in the vehicles that Tom breathed life into in his time on Earth. I was touched so much by it that it stimulated a response in me, some words for Tom where before very little had come.

Finitude

by Pepper Mouser

Somewhere a shark shudders as it instinctively senses its father will create no more.

Somewhere a dolphin makes clean lines in the dust on its fiberglass cheeks with its artistic tears.

Somewhere a shark bike can't take the loss and drifts sideways in the sea of storage with x'es for eyes.

Somewhere a van whose fins once reached to the sky sits with tearful snot running from its ringed nose.

Somewhere a saintly bus with huge fins and a cadillac ass can't roll with the weight of her grief that we all have in common.

Somewhere a ranger turned nash that lost an eye and didn't die now wonders if it can go on without those strong hands on its wheel.

Somewhere a whale has gone to pieces and now despairs that it may never get it together to go too fast again.

Somewhere a hippo doesn't wag its tail, and squeezes a tear out of its winking eye.

Somewhere a fuzzy curve tailed cat car meows to its maiden and asks why.

But somewhere.......... a veeeery unusual school bus reflects on itself, keeps its eyes on the prize... and rolls on.

And somewhere.......... a whimsical missile truck waits, poised to stop that war yet.

And somewhere.......... pristine fresh wrought fins adorn a puckered up Black Rock fish that can't wait to get that first coat of playa dust..... forever.

And somewhere a kid looks at a book about Art Cars, consults Wikipedia, or like my Grandson did, surfs a Ripley's page and does NOT believe it, but sees that it can be done.... anything can be done.... and with a certain, finitude....... finatically even.

And everywhere, people who knew him and people who knew of him, live out their lives richer for the experience of... Tom Kennedy.

I love you Tom and I know you loved me and that's what means everything to me.

[Response to Finitude by RSM]

And somewhere on a sea once raging with creativity a poet lay mute and sobbing in a little boat barely bobbing in the doldrum windless wake of one great storm of a man passed on. As with the wind, the words have been knocked out of him. But he is grateful for this Finitude, for this glimpse into the sense of loss being felt by all these brave looking-glass land-sea creatures, these anthropomorphic vehicles. Poor things. Poor, poor whale all gone to pieces.

So he sits and tries to reassemble the whale in his mind and dabs the dolphin tears and wipes Max's nose and steadies the drifting bicycle and answers the feline whys, for it is far better to worry over these poor creatures than to feel the pain of his own loss. God help him, maybe he'll find some words of his own to say about this man who loved so many and gave so much and changed so much for the better. But for now he just sits there going nowhere, finding no words, feeling helpless, feeling lost.

People are always asking God for signs. The poet just wants words. Lonesome for his friend, he addresses the empty cabin bench seat across the boat's map table and asks "Tom, help me find the words to honor you." He closes his eyes and types. Opening them, he sees a long string of the same three letters repeated over and over on his screen: finfinfinfinfinfinfinfinfinfin. "Funny, Tom," he says.

Giving up, he goes to bed. Below him as he sleeps, starting just inches from his bed and stretching six feet down below the waterline deep into the subconscious of the living world, there rests a wedge of lead called the keel. There's another one just like it on the sailboat next door. And another on the sailboat beside that. And so on throughout the marina. And the marina down the way has more. Why there are thousands and thousands in the San Francisco Bay alone.

Throughout history, the afterlife has been viewed by many as a kind of mirror image of life, this world turned upside down. The triangular appendage beneath the sleeping poet's boat would resemble something else if turned upside down. Flip the boat over. It is no longer a keel.

It is a fin.

In the inverted symbolism of the afterlife, the new world, Tom's new playground: it's a veritable forest of fins.

The poet, dreaming, smiles.

4/21: Road Tested

Hitting the fear-laden American road of just one year ago with Tom Kennedy in a giant missile launcher was almost more than my nerves could take. Not only was there the angst factor of driving a missile across a nation at war, but we experienced mechanical breakdowns on a biblical scale, like, some spine-tingling, hair-on-the-back-of-your-neck-raising horrible puff of blue smoke every three hours for 2000 miles. I nearly jumped ship twice. Mike Tackaberry, just four hours from Houston but at the breaking point, pulled me aside and suggested we set fire to the rig and jump a train together. We had been road tested and found wanting.

But Tom just took it all in stride. He was indefatigable. He possessed an unswerving faith that the ugliness we were all living under could be turned around with big art car pranksterism. I know he wasn't made of steel. He confessed to great inner weaknesses, though honestly, I never saw a hint of it. I sometimes think he said such things just to relate to me, his Prozac-addled, far-too emotional friend for whom he showed constant love and was to the end extending a kind of protective big brotherly arm.

In an uncanny turn of events in the daze following Tom's death, I was sent right back to that Texas road trip hell. I say uncanny, because the parallels between our mechanical Dante's Inferno of exactly one year ago and the hell of my BMW blowing up on the road home to San Francisco from Joshua Tree were just too great to deny. Tom was with me every step of the way. I can't get into it all right now. I'm in too much of a rush to get offline and be in the present with Tom's wife Haideen and wonderful circle of family.

Suffice to say, Tom blew up my car then fixed it with characteristic Tom Kennedy fin-esse! After the engine temp gauge failed and the radiator went off like a brick of firecrackers Wednesday in Palm Desert, Tom rode shotgun with me for four insane daze in the desert and under the hood and on two 100-mile AAA tows to force me to get home not the easy way but utterly and totally ON FAITH and with love and patience, reliant on myself and my own hands to replace EVERY ITEM in the cooling system, yes, but also elevated and carried home by friends.

As I rolled out of LA yesterday in a sweltering summer-like heat and my newly-installed temp gauge held rock steady at 190F, little did I know Tom was in the air and on people's minds over at the LA Times.

I made it home yesterday evening, driving straight from sweltering heat of I-5 and Steinbeck country to Oakland and across the Bay Bridge at sunset, skipping a much-desired trip to my boat and driving instead straight to Tom's and into the welcoming arms of his wife Haideen and Dana and Flash and Mike Tackaberry who was with Tom when he died. It was a heavy but healing reunion. I was a week late, but I swore to all present with God as my witness that I'd come straight from the Southland, in a sense, as soon as I could. I was dirty, stinky, unshaven, ten pounds of black grease beneath my fingernails. I literally hadn't stopped to think or deal or email or call or cope or anything since I'd read the news and made some initial response near a week ago. It had been just fix the car! Fix the car! Don't abandon ship!

And that was all Tom whispering in my ear. Hell, when I heard $500 for a BMW radiator, I said, "Fuck it." I would have left the frikken car in East Jesus to be a planter for cactus and succulents, its sunroof a target repository for Charlie's ubiquitous nitrous cartridges, consumed and expelled with a rapidity reminiscent of that shower of shells from Neo's Gatlin gun in the freeing Morpheus scene from The Matrix.

But no. Tom had other plans for me. I'm betting that was just the beginning. - RSM

Special thanks to the Boyd Family for their support and love, to Max and John and Darrick and Timmy and Sis for their direct cash intervention in this crisis to get me home; to Emily Duffy for the offer of a ride home had I been forced to abandon ship today. And to all of you who have reached out in as-yet unanswered phone calls or emails to express your love and support. Haideen doesn't do the Internet, like, at all. So if anyone wants to write little notes to Tom for the home alter or send her a card, write the house directly via snail mail to:

Haideen Anderson, 875 Bowdoin Street San Francisco, CA 94134

Thank you Philo Northrup for the glorious shot of Tom busting a gut over some crazy naked dude wearing a George Bush mask riding the missile;-)

 

4/13: FIN

The man who made Ripper the Friendly Shark and dozens of other fin-tastic two and 4-wheeled creatures to help mend, as he called it "the smile gap" has molded his final fin. I'd like to think that, like Mr. Limpet, Tom went swimming to play with all of his aquatic friends deep down underwater in an ocean of art car possibilities only he could imagine.

My friend who called me brother and treated me with profound kindness and respect and love, Tom Kennedy, a man who lived his dream to make a living creating art cars and making people happy in so doing, died Easter Sunday 2009 in a drowning accident off San Francisco. He is survived by his wife Haideen Anderson, his mother and sister and two brothers and father and an immense and sprawling family of friends and admirers worldwide. He made the whale, he drove the whale, he was the whale, the shark, the dolphin, the daredevil finmobile, and on and on, a fin to every creature car.

Far faster than my shock-addled brain can muster words of any profound significance, his vast network of friends are saying it right now with great passion and eloquence on a special
Tom Kennedy Dedication page launched by John Law on Laughing Squid.

I encourage you all to go here and read and learn (or learn more) about Tom and his work, to visit TomKennedyArt.Com and to return here to Jigglebox later in the week when I hope to have had time to write with a clear head about my beloved friend, the reality of whose death hasn't I think quite even hit me yet. - RSM

 

4/09: Subtle, Not So Subtle

I'm in The Southland for a week. This is my new favorite name for southern California, home of the warm sandy spawning ground of my sun-splashed high school daze. The Southland. I suppose I could Wiki up a probable answer to the origin of the term, but no. I'm content with the source by which the term finally (and fondly I might add) found root in me at last: Donnie Darko director Richard Kelly's Southland Tales. Thanks to my cousin Justin in New Hampshire for turning me on to Kelly's work.

Justin of the East. Rick of the West. A not-so-subtle difference born of a not-so-subtle threat. Weird the paths life takes you on. I wonder what strange and different beast might have been born out of me had I, despite her threat of eternal expulsion, thumbed my nose at my mother's post-divorce ultimatum and stayed in New England with Dad at age 14. I wonder. Instead I ended up here, and am not ungrateful. The Left Coast. Living on a sailboat in San Francisco Bay. The past few nights in Lincoln Park in LA and now in the burbs inland from my high school beach town haunts, and I can't deny that the Southland is as much a home to me as anywhere. Maybe more than anywhere.

But all that is tangential to today's entry. Or is it? I got up this morning at the crack of dawn, sat down at the laptop and started chipping away at a this poem and that short story. But for some reason I was drawn to The Philip Glass Slipper first. I jumped online and in the backdoor of Jigglebox, and in the haze of an early morning pre-coffee rare-to-be-awake-before-my-nephews hour, I made a few slight changes to the second paragraph on the piece and pop! It suddenly seems tied together better, the beginning to the end. It's a subtle change with the not-so-subtle effect of gracing the piece with a more alluring opening. To whit: a woman, that integral fire around which all great yarns are spun. - RSM

 

4/03: Hurry Up & Wait

I wrote this inspired piece in one mad seventeen hour rush of words following a live performance by Philip Glass a month or so ago. I let a few friends read it. I let one trusted friend edit it, and I did a bit more editing myself. And then I sat on it. For no particular reason, I just dropped it.

No. I remember now. I dropped it for the same reason I always drop my lovely poems and prose pieces and make-believe characters: rejection. Nothing personal. Never is. In this case, it was temporal. It was a timely piece. "The Chronicle needs evergreens," they told me. Right. And I'd sent them a rare cactus flower that blooms but one night a year. Damn! Missed it.

Hmm. Am I missing something here? Will it not now bloom again and again thanks to my capturing it in words? Whatever. Salon.com never even responded to my queries. The Guardian said it didn't fit. No matter. I'm working on extracting its temporal nature, making it, essentially, an evergreen. At which point I'll pitch it to some literary mags. We'll see.

I'm done waiting to see it IN PRINT, however. So here it is, for you, my readers. Published. Here on Jigglebox.com. Enjoy the ride. - RSM

The Philip Glass Slipper

 

3/25: Rick McKinney Reads

Starting this month, you can now type the above phrase into YouTube and see videos of me reading my work. For starters, I'm reading passages from my book Dead Men Hike No Trails. But I'll be branching out and reading my poetry and other works as well. Right now there are only a couple of passages posted. But there are many more to come.

The next video, due up in a few days, is kind of special in that it's Chapter Zero (which you can read by clicking the link below) of Dead Men and that I'm currently splicing in lots of still images related to Hunter S. Thompson's funeral to spice it up.

Chapter Zero

 

3/24: Fleecebook

Whoa. Where does the time go? Oh, yes. FaceBook, the new e-vil that is replacing e-mail and e-ating up all of my e-time. Anyway, for those of you poor unfortunate souls not on Fleecebook (oh! I love you! can I be you? so innocent and pure? your idle time spent in noble pursuits like making popsicle stick art and eating glue!), here's my latest little creative endeavor:

 

3/04: The cousins and the writer

When I wrote my book Dead Men Hike No Trails, I wasn't thinking in terms of a young audience. I don't know that I was really thinking about audience at all. I just wrote it because I had to. As literary achievements go, if ever it be perceived as literature, it was at the very least an honest and immediate recording of a six month Appalachian hike and everything going on in its author's heart & head during the hike. The Palm pilot, collapsible keyboard and my prolific enthusiasm made it so. But as I say, it wasn't written for children. What record of everything going through one's mind could possibly ever be suitable reading for anyone, let alone children?

So I seized an opportunity this past week to come to New Hampshire and take my cousin Justin up on his offer to record me reading from the book onto video for web upload. I got a good few hours of reading in before some local bug hit me and stuffed up my head to the point of ruining any further reading. But just before my voice went totally nasal, I visited my young cousins and their parents allowed me to set up camera and record reading to them. I had found one story-length passage in the book worthy of a young audience, and my Uncle Bob's kids sat through it beautifully attentive and sweet.

Though there will be more to come as I edit down and post the other readings, this ten minute reading will likely remain the highlight of the trip's endeavors, for me anyway. The kids just made it great.

Thank you to all The McKinney Clan of New Hampshire who helped make this brief trip both pleasant and productive.

And thanks to you, my readers of many years, for your continued interest. For many of you, this may be your first time seeing me read live. Enjoy. - RSM

 

2/23: in spiritus new orleans

It's Carnival time everywhere in the world where pre-lenten festivities reign (in Deutschland it's called Fasching). I got to party down with the krauts on the eve before Lent while a student in Bonn long ago in 1988. But best of all was the time I rang in Carnival in New Orleans!

With Fat Tuesday just hours away, my mind goes back to a wild and never-to-be-forgotten Mardi Gras season spent down in the Big Easy with master float artist & builder Julian Stock in 2002.

My heart goes out to Julian for whom New Orleans is home and who hasn't missed a Mardi Gras there in thirty years. Alas, this year Julian is recovering in Texas after being beaten nearly to death last fall. In a recent phone conversation, he sounded well, said he was walking again, and claimed to be slowly on the mend. You can send Julian well wishes and virtual cocktail tokens via the Friends of Julian Stock MySpace page created in his honor.

With warm healing thoughts for Julian, love for him, his brother Chris and the rest of the Stock family, and a general wish to share with you the spirit I found in New Orleans, I post here several links to my writings from that period to ring in Carnival 2009.

The last is a link to WWOZ, the best place to be on the web on Mardi Gras day!

Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez! - RSM

 

2/20: Because it never got weird enough for him

Today and throughout the coming days I will be thinking of writer Hunter S. Thompson who, depending on how much you think you know about life & death, had either the audacity, the courage, the cowardice, or the wisdom to choose the time and place of his own exit from this world on this date four years ago today.

Though it could be argued that to some extent this entire website and my entire body of work is an homage to Thompson, here are a few of the more obvious Hunter Thompson-related writings I was able to find here on Jigglebox.com.

 

2/18: Because he cannot not sing

Nobody winds out an alleluia like a Catholic boys choir. Or an amen. Incredible. Amen has about forty-five syllables. Alleluia ninety.

Tonight I stepped off Muni bus #1 onto the streets of Nob Hill and smack into the music, some lyrical trilling of the bells in the north tower of Grace, a call to worship. And was I not there to worship? Well, yes. I suppose. In my way. For me, for the past few weeks here in San Francisco, it has been all about the music. But not in any way you'd expect. No concerts, no bar bands, and whoa, hey! No cover charge. Just really high energy choirs, two of them. Each amazing in its way. Both entirely different. One the Glide Ensemble choir with all its feet-tapping boogying spirituals and high energy gospel music. The other up the hill at Grace Cathedral, straight-laced, formal, yet stunning.

Arriving tonight, I ask the young guy at the sound booth at the rear of the cathedral where tonight's choral Evensong will take place. The church is massive, to say the least. There are little chapels off to both sides and then the forward-most area that houses the mammoth organ and the choir, two sections facing one another. To my surprise, I am invited to sit up in these sideways facing seats at the apex of the action, as it were, to sit among the choir.

I'm self-conscious with my full-size backpack, only half full though it be with laptop, stenos, a copy of Dead Men and my jacket. Sitting at the forefront of a giant cathedral is enough to make anyone self-conscious. To boot, I discover a new stain on my pants, a splatter of ink spot stars in a Little Dipper like formation in the area of my crotch. Great. My nice "new" Salvation Army tan slacks, ruined.

Ink stained wren, I breath past the de facto corset of muscle that years of anxiety has wrapped, boa constrictor-like, around my mid-section, right where the expanding ease of diaphragm should be. It's probably always there now. I only become aware of it during moments like this, moments of incidental stress when it cinches tighter still. I make a conscious effort to breath past it, through it, to break it down with full deep draughts of cathedral air. I'm more or less successful when the choirboys begin filing past. It's a real rush sitting there among them.

Would that I had known I could sit here last week for Carol Williams' organ recital! Wow. No matter. It is pure joy here now with angelic voices and deep bass of organ filling the vaulted spaces all around us and far out into the nave, the ocean of pews stretching out in a kind of Catholic infinity to my left.

One boy, one little blonde boy that couldn't be more than 10 if he's eight, settles his gaze on me and I cannot shake him. It is my first time sitting this close to a choir in years, let alone a choir of young boys, and I am genuinely startled by the sounds coming out of them. It's as though my brain can't put the two together, the super high pitched song of angels juxtaposed with this gathering of little men.

So it is that the blond boy's fixed stare further befuddles me. I keep looking away and then back, pulled by his unwavering gaze. Maybe he's not really looking at me, I tell myself, just idly gazing in my general direction. But no. I am more or less alone at the end of the row. Besides, there's that laser-lock fixation and that internal knowledge that someone is really locked on to you.

Eyes. Such eye contact in cities is almost unknown to me. But there it is. I find myself smiling unconsciously. The smile widens. The connection is undeniable, my smile benevolent in a way I couldn't fake if I tried. It just happens. And it's nice.

What does he see? I wonder. A protective urge comes over me, something instinctual. And then an odd bit of projection. Suddenly in my mind, I envision a frightening scenario. The boy has no one to go home to. I imagine him stepping out of the cathedral tonight with the unnerving question on his mind, "Where am I going from here?" I see him like some little wharf rat orphan riding the subway alone, small, fragile, a target for every evil. I watch him scurry alone through dark industrial southeast Oakland, beneath the cavernous roar of the I-880 overpass, avoiding the blue and red flashing lights of a police cruiser and the gaze of two cops flanking a homeless man seated on the ground, arms in the air.

I see his little heart aching as he passes another and another homeless person curled up in dark, dingy corners of the concrete soulless realm of Embarcadero east of 5th Avenue. I see him climbing aboard an old sailboat, removing an ill-fitting hatch board and squeezing inside. Replacing the hatch, he turns to face the only home he knows. It is damp and cold but there are blankets and candles and there is food. But there is no love. No family. No mother or father to tuck him in, no brother or sister to play or bicker with benignly for some form of social congress. He is alone. He lights a candle and, staring into its flame, slowly, after a long pause, he begins to sing.

The vision, all of which flickered through my mind in a single distracted moment, has passed. I focus again and there he is, his all-knowing innocent gaze. The boy is safe. It's me I wonder about. I smile again and look skyward. There is a Heaven up there. There has to be. For I realize I am the little blond boy. The little blond boy is me.

Down here on Earth it is hard work to stay alive. There are unspeakable horrors. But there is such beauty, too, and elation and magnificence as to belie the existence of a Heaven somewhere. I close my eyes and hear angels and I know it is so. It has to be. I open them again, however, quickly. With closed eyes, all this could be a recording, resounding around me in spectacular stereo sound. I keep my eyes open to remind me that I am here, to lock it all in, to devour the moment.

Even the little boy in my vision, alone on his little boat, has a purpose. He is there to sing to the elements, to the flame of fire before him, to the water beneath and the air all around. He sings to please the Earth. He sings because angels must sing. He sings because he cannot not sing. He will sing until the flame goes out.

Between the choir's celestial renditions of Magnificat and Nunc dimittis, the officiant reads from John 17, verses 15 through 23. My mind catches Beatles lyrics from the drone of New Testament verse. I am (in) you and you are (in) me and we are.. altogether? I think John said "one." John! Oh, the plot doth thicken.

During every episode of angelic choral song, there are moments when my mind drifts, hypnotized by the opiate sound. But just as I am quick to reopen my eyes, I am quick to refocus to the here and now, to absorb it all moment to moment. I find myself wishing the singing would never cease. It would be wrong and unnatural to stop the flow of life, to freeze frame any one moment. But the temptation is there. Bottle the beautiful. Capture that alleluia in a conch shell that I may hold it to my ear and hear the siren song forever, whenever I want.

Thursday's Evensong at Grace Cathedral does end, and with it the magic of the place. When I try and take a seat in the nave halfway to the exit, to sit and write about the experience, I am stymied. Elvis has left the building. All I can do is walk out into the night and hope to recapture the moment in words later.

I stroll a zig-zaggle of streets down and north to Caffe Trieste, my new home away from boat, to write. As always, to write. I am not seated five minutes when up walks a lovely woman of perhaps 30, if that. She takes the table one away from mine, settles jacket and bag, walks off, reappears with glass of red wine, sits and stares at her wine. I fully expected a man to appear any minute. But none arrives. I said hello upon her arrival. Does she want me to talk to her further? Yes. Of course she does. But dammit, dammit! I came here to work!

It was raining earlier. I couldn't get moving. It is so hard to get moving when you live in a tiny space. Pity me not, I know. No job, no commitments, only my half-assed self-discipline to get me out of bed in the morning. Or at noon, night owl that I am. A little Internet, a little "Wall-E" for entertainment while I eat breakfast, a little more online busywork, emails, Facebook, a few phone calls, and whoosh, the daylight near gone, I switch into high gear, a reminder from my cell phone scheduler to get to Grace by 5, which I amazingly do, then here, to work. Then this woman! Instant temptation. To flirt? No, not even.

And that's the funny thing. I would put my hand on a bible and swear to this, but my first instinct was to talk to this woman not for me but because she needed someone to talk to. Not for me, although God knows I need to socialize far more than I do, for me, for my mental health. But, the work! I came here to work!

Now she's gone. Chronicle crossword puzzled-out, wine downed more or less in a few gulps toward the end of her tenure as my strained and separate neighbor. Ugh. Poor woman. Poor me. Poor all of us who live in our little bubbles, bellies clenched and breathless in hyper self-consciousness, so close but so far from one another. Elevator close. And truly, truly, elevator light years apart.

Forgive me, pretty woman. Whoever you are. I was just trying to stay focused, to tell the story of the past hour before a new story could begin. It is my curse. It is my blessing. One simply cannot write fast enough to be at once present and to tell the story, too. I have tried. Many have tried. I am still trying. And tonight I will go home alone, having visited God, heard angels sing, been there in Grace among several dozen souls eager for the same, walked the streets from there to North Beach and back to the foot of Market Street passing hundreds of souls, sat here in cafe for hours, and spoken to two people for a total exchange of less than two dozen words. Sad. And yet, the story told.

Another penny invested in this fortune of unrealized intellectual property that is my life.

- RSM

 

1/10: Books, Birds, Guns and Men

No, I was not involved in the rioting and looting in Oakland. And no, the violence didn't occur in my neighborhood. It was a good ten blocks away at least. It looked like good clean American fun, and I was surely of a mood for some vigilante justice after watching Johannes Mehserle summarily execute Oscar Grant in one of the two BART stations closest to my home. But I was busy drifting about in my own bedazzled world Wednesday night. Had I returned from across the bay to attend a 6:30 p.m. movie as scheduled, I would have popped up at Lake Merritt station smack in the middle of the fire-starting, window-smashing expression of righteous indignation. (Notice the placement of the world righteous in that sentence.) I can only relate to the feelings that fueled the whole shithouse kick-in.

No, instead I was sitting in the upstairs loft section of the Steps of Rome cafe in North Beach feverishly pounding out a 1000 words of the same gibberish I am always writing, of my impressions of things I see and smell and hear and think and feel and do. Friend Mike had called to say he couldn't make the movie. So I lingered awhile and tried to justify my day and my three dollar coffee in an inky alphabetic sketch of an afternoon stroll over the cables and canyons and steeple-topped peaks of San Francisco. About when the rioters were reaching the crescendo of their relatively minor and decidedly other-themed Night of Broken Glass, I was standing staring mouth agape and eyes agog at 23 bright white books in flight and blinking against the dark night sky above a street corner a block from City Lights Books.

"Hooray Brian!" I whispered to myself in awe of Defenestration artist Brian Goggin's latest beautiful coup. A collaboration with artist Dorka Keehn, Language of the Birds is, in the artists' words "an illuminated flock of twenty three translucent, suspended open books with bindings positioned as if they are the wings of birds in flight." Words and phrases fallen from the open pages litter the sidewalk underfoot.

An hour or so later, I stood staring skyward at no less than five helicopters hovering above me in a vulture-like array with quite another feel to it. I had stepped outside the Lake Merritt BART station, my skin pricking with the tension in the air immediately, and seen the cop cars blocking streets a short distance off. So I'd looked up.

I quickly snapped out it and got moving. It's not the sort of neighborhood one wants to linger in at night. Aside from the less-worrisome possibility of being accosted by the poor and desperate, there's the very real possibility of being viewed as a threat by a man with a gun. It is how cops are trained to think. And guns in the hands of threatened men fire with some regularity. It is the nature of guns and men.

Thank God and Goggin for graceful white flying books. - RSM

 

1/4: By the Grace of Glide

Went to the city yesterday and spent the night in the local AYH hostel. One of them anyway. There are three in the city, and two are within five blocks of one another near Union Square. The plan: wake up just four blocks from Glide Memorial so I'd have no excuse not to make it to hear my favorite gospel choir and be there among all those highly-charged soulful joy-filled people jumping up and down and shouting out for Jesus. Woo! After the manic madness of my holiday loop-di-loop emotional roller coaster ride, it was either the hostel or the hospital, church or the psych ward for me. I figured I'd give the spirit a try first. Try and make it through the first week of the new year before giving up and admitting myself to the nut hatch.

Standing in line to check in at the wrong hostel (I'd made reservations at the other but didn't know it yet), I met journalist Chris Barylick in town from D.C. for the MacWorld Expo. Ten minutes of Chris' abbreviated current history told with a skilled sardonic wit made my erroneous wait entirely worth it. He impressed me with his passion for journalism despite the poor pay and some hard (but humorously conveyed) knocks, like stuffing his coat with fruit at an employee party for the tanking UPI after the Moonies bought it.

All I told him of myself was in answer to his question of where I was from. I confessed to my long journey across the bay from my boat and why I'd come to spend the night. "That's psychotic," Chris said, granting that my living on a boat was one step up from Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon. I took it as a compliment. What the hell. I didn't bother drawing parallels between our paths. I didn't even mention I was a writer, and I was glad I hadn't when he said he wished for a mentor to knock some sense into him. At 31, Chris has a decade on me, as it were, ten years to do everything differently than I did. At best, to do everything right. I had the sense he was going to do just fine. But if he needs that mentor, I hope he chooses better than I did.

Jesus! Did I say that? Chooses better than I did? Well, I sure as shit didn't mean it. Besides, I no more chose Hunter Thompson than I chose to have blue eyes. It was destined. It was in the DNA. I did choose to follow him on the path of alcohol, drugs and insanity, and therein they'll no doubt say, was where I went gravely wrong!

Anyway, my church-goin' plan was a decent plan, and it worked so well that I made it to the 9 a.m. service at Glide allowing me to then stroll on up Nob Hill to Grace Cathedral at 11 and sit in on the Catholic action up there. Damn. Talk about ecumenical night and day! I like Grace for its truly stunning interior, those arches reaching up to heaven and all that stained glass. But after Glide's free and open spirit and Blues Brother's-mission-from-God backflipping black gospel energy, well, you get the picture.

Or do you? If you don't, get thee to Glide Memorial Methodist in San Francisco's tenderloin sometime. It'll outright blow your mind. - RSM

 

1/2: Intentions

Soft
Slow
Placid
Waters
Whisper
Waves of
A sailboat
Now passed
Rocking mine
With sleepy cradle
Cadence here at noon
Sending all time backward
To the womb and all intentions
With it, sirens singing raise not sail
Of busy day fraught with ripe concerns
Return instead to bed and sleep another day.

 

12/31: The End

Happy New Year.

 

12/26: Box up your shit

Happy Boxing Day!
Thank you Jesus that
The blasphemous consumer nightmare
Targeted at us in your name
Is over!
Jesus Buddha wise one with all you might have been
Never would one so simple and wise have concocted
The plastic sin-gilded spin-guilted weirdness
That we call Christmas
Hooray!
It's Boxing Day
I survived another 12-25
(I was gonna say we but many did not)
So box up your shit and
Give it all to the poor
And thank God no gun-toting Santa
Showed up at your party door
With a box full of fire
And vengeance
Covina
What a world!
What a day!
Hooray
Box up your shit
And move on.

 

12/18: Trade ya laptops!

If any of you, my loyal readers, are getting a new laptop for Christmas this year, perhaps you'd consider donating your old one to Jigglebox. There are few things worse for this writer than being laptop-less. I have a laptop that is just that: less. Very much less than what I need. It hobbles around on one leg and should have been glued to art car years ago. Seven years old, it's the computer I wrote Dead Men on, and it's now a dinosaur. PC or Mac, I speak both. Heck, if you're the collector type, I'll even autograph the old mac and swap it with you! Email me at the bottom of this page for shipping details. Thank you and Happy Holidays! - RSM

 

12/17: Strange & pleasant tidings from videoland

Last month I attempted to summon up the courage and the organizational fortitude to get my art car & rolling soul Lord Duke back on the road and in the game again. Friend Patrick volunteered the services of his truck and trailer and another dear friend fronted some money for the cause. I went to Arizona to get Duke, but my heart was troubled by a great ambivalence. Duke has the honor of being one of just a few art cars out of perhaps thousands to be housed in Harrod Blank's Rancho del Arte, a future art car museum. So though on the one hand he (the car) is merely in storage at the moment, he is also safe from the elements and secure against retitlement, registration, smog & other officious hassles I would no doubt encounter by relocating the car to California. That and he doesn't run so well. He tries, but he is old and his creator has asked an awful lot of him doubling his factory weight over the years, for one. He could use a new engine, and though the car is infinitely worth the investment, the $1500 or so it would cost remains well beyond this poet's meager means. Harrod, a longtime great friend and I talked it over, and I decided to leave Duke with his buddies. Be the place ever so humble just yet, it is nonetheless a sort of heaven for art cars.

So I visited with my old pal Duke awhile and gave him some love in the form of repairing a long-broken ignition switch, one of those small fixes that require a ridiculous amount of tearing into the car to get to it. Spending some quality time in Duke again reminded me of what an incredible creature he is, a venerable sage of the internal combustion age, a museum unto himself and thus, in this case, a museum within a museum! If after I die anyone is ever interested in what made me tick, it's all in there. I swear. Even the stack of unpublished prose manuscripts, poetry, and reams and reams of dreams scratched out in steno modesty. In Duke, the writing and the art in me live as one. The feeling of sitting in that car for me is, well, I imagine it is not unlike the whole life flashing before your eyes phenomenon that the near-dead describe. As time passes, there are more and more remnants of the truly dead dwelling therein, some part of the spirits of those I've lost who knew and loved Duke now folded into his own anthropomorphized 8-cylinder soul. Anyway, I left him be. I returned to California without him, and that's okay for now. Still trying to figure out what to do with ME let alone a giant car as I close the door on my nautical life of the past year and now wander rather lost in the Southland of California again.

There is a point to all this rambling, and that it this. Duke has a rich and colorful history, snippets of which I collected on video cassette from the various television and cable network stations and programs that featured him in his travels across America. There is one particularly funny bit where, after a reporter in the field showcases Duke, it cuts back to the Fargo, North Dakota newsroom whereupon the talking heads, rather at a loss of what to say, stumblingly speculate in Fargo-ease what an ill fate might await Duke were he to winter over in Fargo. In another, an Indianapolis network news team broadcasts live from inside Duke at a grand show of cars the day before the Indy 500. Alas, said videos sit in a box awaiting the day when some hi-tech knight in shining armor rescues them onto digital and from there to YouTube for all the world to see.

How ironic and enjoyable it was then to get a link to this today from my YouTubing sleuth friend Hunter Mann. I think the videographer did a fine job. As for coverage of Duke's exoskeleton, he/she only missed the trunk lid flag of guns. Dig it! And take a moment after to give "billbisbee" due props and perhaps contribute an anecdote of your experience(s) with Duke. - RSM

 

12/15: Shoe, Bush! Shoo!

Bush had a shoe thrown at him yesterday. Good. Good riddance, you capital offending swine. YOU KILLED HUNTER THOMPSON! Strange Christmas season this is cooking up to be. I'm near-broke for the holidays and living out of my car (I still have a boat but I'm avoiding it like a tomb as the SF Bay Area's rainy season sets in). New Hampshire got whaled on by the mother of all ice storms, or should I say a brief but powerful ice storm and the mother of all power outages. Something like 80 gagillion New Hampshirites have been without power for days and may go the holidays in the dark. Hmm? Smell like a conspiracy to you? Right up there with gas prices this season? What the F---? In other news, my good buddy Julian Stock was apparently beaten near to death and has been in ICU in New Orleans for weeks now. I'm wrecked by this and other bad tidings, such as today's revelation that another dear friend of mine hasn't talked to me in a year because she's been a battered woman the whole time, terrified to call for help and was herself nearly beaten to death over Thanksgiving. I learned I now have a cousin living out of dumpsters on the streets of Orlando. It goes on and on.

And it's just gonna get more F---'d up in the coming months, isn't it? We haven't even yet BEGUN to feel the damage exacted on us by that coprophageous little creep GW! Oh, no. If karma came in the form of thrown shoes, we'd all be barefoot soon because that man would attract every shoe in the world like the shit-magnet he is. Alas, as I was saying, things are just gonna get uglier. We may well all indeed soon be barefoot. Here's a nice little ditty from my brother-cousin Justino addressing some of the topics of the day, as it were;-)

Dodging Flying Shoes While Dumpster Diving In The Never Ending Blackout
by Justin Alessandro
(For Rick)

Shoes A'flying, bobble head moves like a Puma,
Hatred so thick it will delay his Memoirs.
People we love search dumpsters for leftover pizza.
Others suffer through days of Darkness, while the silence grows.
A never-ending inner turmoil, calmed by any means necessary.
But we are breathing the same air, sweating thoroughly
Through our own follies, self made or just fate.
Everyone's different yet we are all the same.
Jesus buzzes through the pantry, escape to search full bookshelves, all empty of
The one thing that belongs there.
But it's Ok.
We all breathe the same air, we all sweat the small stuff and we are all different.
Yet we truly are the same.
We bleed red,
We cry wet,
We yearn for that one thing we don't have.
That one thing for each may be different yet it's still the same.
True Happiness, the biggest cliche of all.
True Realization of the American Dream.
Your dream, my dream, her dream and his dream.
Some day we will wake and end the day while wearing the same smile.
Knowing, finally, that all the players played the game.
And the good guys finally won.



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