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



Starfish Halls

Chapter Two


[Continued from July 26th, this 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.]

 

"You'll hunk elk through the damp canyon forests around the ruins of Rockefeller Center, and dig clams next to the skeleton of the Space Needle... (You'll) paint the skyscrapers with huge totem faces and goblin tikis, and every evening what's left of mankind will retreat to empty zoos and lock itself in cages as protection against bears and big cats and wolves that pace and watch us from outside the cage bars at night."
- Tyler Durden from Fight Club by Chuck Paliniuk
 

Fred runs to use the portable toilet across the dirt lot. I chuckle at this parting shot at domesticity and set about cinching up our packs and sleeping gear. I remove Fred's bag from his pack and wrap it in a Hefty trash bag to seal it against the rain. When Fred returns from the toilet, he immediately takes issue with my preparations. "What did you do that for? I had it tightly rolled."

The tension of the storm is in me, in us. With his words, I feel it swelling, heating up until the rain between us veritably boils en route to our feet. Steamy sparks sizzle as they hit the sand.

photo by Arturo Crespo

I have clicked into survival mode, a previously inert weapon now locked and loaded and pointed 25 miles north over sand and surf. This shift of gears likely occurred while Fred was taking his last whiz in the pseudo-home comfort of the porta-potty. The benefit of what I'm doing seems less obvious to him. I refuse to explain the obvious. The animal instincts in me have been rising to the surface since I smelled the ocean air miles back on the mountain pass. They are mean and not much on small talk.

A while back, Fred joined the navy and disappeared for four years. Once great friends, we had drifted apart. I'd been a student forever, the final three years of which I had spent up here in northern California absorbing old hippie wisdom and running amok in the wilderness. We didn't think alike anymore. He spoke of money and responsibilities, I of spirit and experience. Our journey to this rain-soaked dirt lot, the southern portal of what I considered the most mystic place in California, had so far been and would continue to be a metaphor for this ideological rift.

We had come a thousand miles from Fred's mother's house in San Diego to introduce Fred to Humboldt County where he endeavored to got to school. My sole purpose in making the journey with him was to ease his transition into his new environment, introduce him to my friends and the places I had so enjoyed during my years here. But Fred had spoiled all that by scoffing my good intentions and turning the whole trip into a battle of wits. Knowing full well I had no money to help him out with the trip's expenses -- his trip's expenses -- he belittled me, shocked at the impropriety of my coming to his aide bereft of the one currency he understood: cash. For many tense hours up Highway 101, he judged me in the disappointed tones of a parent and in long blocks of silence setting me very much ill at ease, filling me with discomfort and regret.

Standing here now in the gray, drizzling winter weather waterproofing Fred's sleeping bag to prevent what most assuredly would have been an uncomfortable first night out for him, I suddenly feel enlightened. Fred is in my territory now. I look up at him and smile. His furrowed brow looses its grip, anger giving way to angst. He knows.

Fred doesn't like my silence. He says I am "being a dick." I stare him hard in the eyes and say, "Don't challenge me." So much for subtlety.

Wanda and I visited this beach once back in the late autumn. Wanda called the place haunting. The seemingly incessant wind troubled her greatly. It was the first time I'd heard anyone say that wind frightened them, wind even in the sober sunshine of afternoon. It frightened her, and I wondered now on this same stretch of beach if Fred, a man of few words, wasn't also unnerved at the wind, acting petulant as men will do in the face of inexpressible or unconscious fear.

Wanda is this tripper I know from Tijuana. She's a half-breed, a queer mix of elevated Spanish intellectual and crass, neon-clothed Tijuana party girl. She's a pot-smoking, highly promiscuous Mexican catholic who'll spout dark, sporadic wisdom in a moment of need like a popcorn popper ejaculating addendum commandments to the existing ten. She has listened attentively as I've walked her through the Lost Coast in my mind. As such, she's developed a respect for it not unlike my own mystical reverence. Which is wonderful. Because she's never hiked the Lost Coast, never stepped off this beach at the south end. With her fear of wind, I don't think she ever will.

With a blast of wind and another earful of electromagnetic raindrops, I finish the cinching of Fred's pack, thrust it against his thighs, stand up and smile. Working my mouth to offer some words of encouragement to Fred, I am interrupted by a voice coming out of the rain.

A lean, dark-skinned kid in Gortex and hi-top sneakers skips over to us from his van across the lot and says hello. His name is Panto. He's a surfer from Arcata. Out to surf the coast, he says. "I was about ready to give up and drive back to town when you guys showed up." He tells us how surprised he is to see anyone else embarking on the trail under such conditions. The weather report is grim, he says. He says they're calling for rain all weekend and well into next week. As he speaks I can see Fred blanching, all white and dripping, sinking into the sand like a snowman fooled by children into an eagerness for the arrival of Spring, only to find out that warm rain will melt him away.

I suddenly had the urge to grab the kid Panto and yell, "Shut up about the rain, you traitorous little pussy fart!" Creeping into me was that uneasiness that surfaces just shy of a done-deal. It arises most poignantly when persuading a friend to join you in an endeavor you yourself are not secure in. Just when I thought I'd sufficiently buried the negatives of the argument, up shows this kid to rekindle the fear and loathing that I'd be hard at work to overcome both in myself and, with less success, in Fred.

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

 

Ó 2003 Rick McKinney


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