Gonzo Writer & Art Car "Lord Duke" Rick McKinney's Jigglebox.com! - Lost Coast chap one

Starfish Halls

Chapter One

The following story was written in large part in 1992. Although it is as yet incomplete, I decided to serialize here on Jigglebox.com all the piece of the story I could find. Some of it is most certainly in a box somewhere, some of it likely lost, the rest lives in my head alongside a host of unborn and never-actualized characters and plots. Many thanks to the demons of "get a job" and "you gotta eat," the usual societal suspects whose evil misanthropy is to blame for every murdered fetus of the creative mind.


The barnacle sighed and
in a blink of its barnacle eye
opened and peered out at the winter sky
through the window of its weeping eye.

"Haha! It is rain," the crab shouted in vain, for the shellfish were deaf and the seaweed insane. The barnacle said nothing having neither a mouth, and the crab sidled on to the west and the south. All this occurred on a rock on a beach in the middle of nowhere far out of reach, on a coast so rugged and rainy and raw that no one goes there so no one saw.

Almost no one.

As nature will have it, there are those in the habit of beating themselves to death in the wild. Such a man drew near on that January twooth, to the Lost Coast in a rainstorm in a car with no roof.

Born with ears, mouth and eyes yet no shell to disguise, man conquered the world and in its demise turned again to the mountains, to the trees and the shore to remember, for a moment, what Earthly life is really for.


I drive my topless 76 Ford Granada towards the northern entry point of the King's Range Wilderness, the mouth of the Mattole River. My car is a rolling barnacle, a mutant, broken shell of a car impervious on all sides but open on top. The rain pours into the interior in waves oblivious of the somewhat absurd metal frame that once held a windshield and a roof. Even at the moderate speed of 40 mph, raindrops sting my face with the insidious efficiency of a thousand tiny jellyfish. I am the shark, piloting the whale. We are a symbiotic Darwinian aberration, the whale and I, ancient and insane.

Fred drives behind me. He would second the insanity motion then disregard the rest as the voice of madness. Redundant? I suppose so, but such is the very defining nature of insane. However, the duality of craziness, the fact that one can be crazy in a good way yet perceived insane or bad crazy by the so-called well-adjusted masses chills me. Act out of the norm, beyond the precepts of common, comfortable existence, and the common man will shun you.

Well, so be it. A touch of madness will come in handy where we're going. It is the vital sugar to aid the ingestion of God's most potent medicine: the wild.

The Lost Coast --as California's King Range is known-- acquired its name from more than its remote location. The coastal terrain, 25 miles of sand and rock gingerly cramped between a tempestuous Pacific and a wall of abruptly rising mountains, is soul-niverous. It can devour the soul leaving one either enriched or lost forever. It is the last stretch of California coast unpaved by man, one of only a few spots on the United States map blatantly void of the little red or black lines that signify roads. It is a naturally occurring hallway in which --together with frequent rain-- beauty, terror, misery and ecstasy hail from the heavens in resplendent display. In short, it is what Big Sur would be had the highway commission had decided to skip it as well.

The Lost Coast hallway has but two doors: on the north, the tiny town of Shelter Cove; and to the south, the mouth of the Mattole River. We are still a distance from the northern portal driving along the Mattole Road, but like a magnet which need not touch an object to have its attraction felt, the coast senses me, and I it. I passed a blissfully lonesome Thanksgiving here once, a dreamy-eyed caveman lulled by the surf, gnawing smoked salmon and drying his clothes and himself by a fire, safely ensconced in a driftwood hutch.

The rain is itself magnetic. Objects coursing through it are drenched in its substance, wetted by its frenetic energy. It is on me, everywhere about me, its geophysical enchantment seeping into me, mating like a mollusk with the viscid maturation of an instinctual lust within me. What I feel is a lust for madness --my lust-- a lust subjugated in the belly of every thinking animal.

Fred is starting to perceive the energy in the air. He hasn't told me. It's just a feeling I've got. He's driving a quick little Japanese car, a Toyota something-or-another, but for some reason he cannot keep up with me. Or won't. We took both cars so we could place one vehicle at the Mouth of the Mattole and drive to the Shelter Cove trailhead in the other, thereby having a rendezvous vehicle awaiting us at the hike's completion. As I cut off onto Lighthouse Road, I feel a sudden devilish desire not to wait for Fred to catch up, to leave him lost in the one-horse town of Petrolia. I pull over and wait for him, the devilish feeling gone. Crouching in its wake is a queer sense of foreboding.

I cut the engine when he doesn't show immediately. I listen to the rain dripping off leaves in the woods all about me. The drops alight on me without sound. Their silence is the silence afforded a stranger in a small town cafe, speaking as they do to the leaves and never to me. I am not offended. Nature has earned her fraternal snobbishness.

All I have earned is the cold in my fingers and the water in my clothes. My affiliation with the growing madness of our mission hasn't left me numb. Uncomfortable driving in this rain, I wish to leave my car first, thus getting me out of the rain and into Fred's car where it is undoubtedly dry and warm.

The Lost Coast beckons. When Fred catches up, I zoom off down the muddy dirt stretch of Lighthouse Road driving insanely. I tell myself it's because I want to get there, to get out of this torrential rain. But that's not true. The rain is there, too. The weather is foul all over Humboldt County, probably all over the state. Some tropical storm front, warm for January but wet as the ocean floor.

And even given the rain, there is no turning back. There never really is.

To look at every day as a tiny lifetime unto itself is to see that even a modest retreat is a movement forward in time, a hop, skip and a jump along a one-way line. If we make the whole of life our passion, and thus our every day, thoughts of turning back for any reason must naturally melt away.

What is behind me is not important. I picked this phrase up from a film I saw as a child. At the onset of a cross-country car race, a driver reaches up, breaks off his rear view mirror and tosses it behind him up and out of his speeding convertible. To his puzzled companion he shouts, "What is behind me is not important!" Indeed. Forward, never back. Words to live by. Impetus words.

I press the throttle down harder as the curvy mountain road empties out onto a long, cliff-side syncline as straight as a desert highway. Beads of rainwater collect on my nose and fall to my lips where they seep into me, become me. I sense a change in the air. Ocean air. The violent, storm-excited Pacific. According to the maps, this last stretch of coastal road before the mouth of the Mattole is the western most point in the continental United States. It makes sense. The ocean is seething here, hungry. We are on the bow of the proud schooner America. The guests are cozy in their staterooms. They can't know the chaos of the sea about them, the chaos we know here on the forward deck. Out here the steamer continental cuts the western blue, eternal.

Two hours later, Fred and I arrive at Shelter Cove, the south end of the range, the southern portal. Miles back at the mouth of the Mattole, I left my car and climbed into the dry warmth of Fred's Toyota. His only words to me after witnessing me drive two hours in the rain without a roof were, "I don't know how the hell you do it."

I don't know either. Moments of insanity feed me somehow. I thrive on madness. If I waver, I soon recover and the better for having endured the trial. Not so with Fred. I can see this whole endeavor frightens him, and I am sorry. The uncertainty of the elements, the multiple faces of nature, to me these are all part of the gig. Buy the ticket, take the ride. I see a deep spirituality in the schizophrenia of nature. And these are honorable trials, infinitely more enriching than the trials and the madness manufactured by men.

[This story to continue in the coming days...]


Ó 2003 Rick McKinney


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