the rolling stones

box cars and snake eyes re-visited part 3

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he was almost running when he heard the cantina door slam closed.  the sound of that act more or less calmed him down.  an old white guy running around the streets of a predominately illegal mexican barrio just might attract the wrong attention.  especially if johnny law got involved considering the circumstances of the murder he supposedly committed over night.  jesus, things just kept getting better and better.  
 
slowing his pace to a stroll he casually looked behind him and down the street.  no one was out and about in any direction.  at least no one he could see.  he made up his mind to continue east to avoid the homeless guy from earlier.   when he got to eastern ave. he made a left and began walking up the hill.  
 
stress, the heat, and lack of any breeze or wind began to take it’s toll.  he was sweating heavily when he heard the sound of a car coming up from behind.  he resisted the urge to turn around and check to see if it was the cops.  no sense looking any more suspicious than he already did.  the sound of the car got closer and seemed to be slowing.  it took all of his concentration not to bolt like a race horse.  
 
out of the corner of his eye he caught the front quarter panel of the car.  black.  crap.  the cops.  the car was indeed slowing.  it stopped and it was then he realized it was a limo.  the back passenger side window slid down.
 
‘ride, soldier?’
 
the voice was familiar and as be bent down to look inside at the back seat he knew before he saw her.  the nurse/angel/government goon.
 
‘i suppose i don’t have a choice.  right?’
 
‘let’s see…not really.  you get in and enjoy the cold air and have a chat or i use my cell phone to call 911.’
 
‘nice to know somethings never change.’
 
‘get in, soldier.’      
 
the lock clicked.  he sighed and opened the door then slid in beside the lady.
 
‘alright.  i’m in.  what’s the deal?’
 
she didn’t say anything as she hit the button to open the partition separating the driver from the passengers.
 
‘yes, mam?’  it was the blonde german woman from his driveway yesterday.  yesterday?  yesterday seemed so very long ago.  from his backseat angle she looked remarkably like heidi klum.  
 
‘take us to the house in manhattan beach.’
 
the partition was already sliding closed.  a muffled, ‘yes, mam.’,  was heard.
 
‘ah, was or is, that who i think…’
 
his seat mate laughed and said.  ‘things and people aren’t always as glamorous as they seem.  most things aren’t.  some folks like to get out of the box whenever they can.’
 
‘like keith?’  
 
‘not exactly.  but the blonde driving us down to the beach isn’t why i’m here, or you, for that matter.’
 
‘fine.  get to the point.’
 
‘OK.  look, soldier, when we come calling.  you do as we say.  you know that, right?’
 
‘i guess.  i mean…i don’t know…’
 
‘yes, well, you do.  if you don’t things get complicated.  understand?’
 
‘oh.  cops and murder suspect stuff?’
 
‘bingo.  you catch on quick.’
 
he sighed and looked out the tinted window.  they were almost to the 110 freeway.  they’d be taking it south soon.  at least it was cold inside the limo and unless nurse/angel called the cops he was somewhat safe.  at least for now.
 
‘so, is it finally time for my big job?  whatever that is?’
 
‘i see.  that makes a bit of sense then.  um, your reluctance to cooperate the other morning.’
 
‘look, you’ve bounced me around a bit in the last what…?’
 
‘it hasn’t been long.  just a few days really.’
 
‘you mean, ah, everything…a few days?’
 
‘give or take.’
 
‘what about emma?’
 
she looked at him oddly then said, ’emma?’.
 
‘yes, my wife.  is…is she a part of this?’
 
it was her turn to sigh.  ‘soldier, you remember, of course, emma has been dead for years.  cancer i think.’
 
‘come on.  yeah, i know that but she…she was there.  at home.  i saw her.  felt her.  she fried me some chicken.  we ate.  we laughed and listened to an old gene autry CD several times.  then we went to bed.  you can’t tell me that wasn’t real.  it was like, well, like it was years ago.  jesus.’ 
 
‘jesus had nothing to do with it.  even though there would seem to be ah, well, similarities.’
 
he didn’t know what to say or think.  she seemed like she was telling the truth.  she also seemed totally confused by what he’d just told her.  
 
‘i don’t know what’s going on.  i only know what i saw and felt.’
 
‘as for emma, i’m sorry, but i don’t know what’s going on there.  we had nothing to do with what happened.  it may have something to do with why we wanted to see you.  some fairly powerful things are at work here.  you know that.  or at least did.  we need to run a few simple tests.  blood work mostly.  just to be sure things are OK.’
 
he felt as if he was sinking into the lush leather seat.  the words numb and crushed were also on his mind.
 
‘you don’t look well.  are you OK?’
 
‘what do you think?  emma.  er, ah, the murder.  did i do it?’
 
‘no.  you cooperate and it will go away as quickly as it appeared.  we needed to be sure you knew where you stood with…things.  you work for us now, soldier.  we are your life.’
 
‘sweet.  hunky dory.’
 
it was all he could think of to say.  nothing more.  he’d do as she said and see what happened.  for now.  though the thing about emma was getting weird.  very weird.  even considering everything else.
 
with traffic it was mid afternoon by the time they made it into manhattan beach.  the limo pulled up in back of a very nice two story beachfront home.  the limo door latches clicked and the nurse/angel motioned for him to get out.  it was cooler by the ocean with a slight off shore breeze. motioning again she had him moving through a wrought iron gate and into a small patio at the back of the home.  he was thinking the view on the other side of the house must spectacular, especially at sunset.  her voice brought him out of his revery.
 
‘you can get comfortable either inside or go out front and watch the ocean.  i’ll call for you when i’m ready to draw some blood.’
 
‘sure, count dracula.’  
 
‘funny man.  the old VA joke.  keith is around here somewhere.’
 
‘he is?’
 
‘yes.  he’s been here for a month or so rehearsing and relaxing.  his wife and i are old friends.’
 
the man gave her a very strange look.  the he remembered an earlier conversation they’d had about keith.  all he could think of to say was something inane.
 
‘mick too?’  
 
‘ah, no.  i don’t know where he is.  maybe you can ask keith if he’s around.  it’s still early for him.  he might be asleep.’
 
the view was outstanding.  nothing like an ocean vista along with the sound and smell of the ocean.  he hoped he’d be around for sunset.  even though there were no clouds in the sky to ramp it up.  he was lost at sea when he heard her call him into the house.  the blood work equipment was set up on the dining room table.  he let her have her way with him.  when she was finished she told him if the tests were OK he’d be home soon.  she also told him regardless the murder rap was going away.
 
he decided to stay inside and watch the ocean.  around 4pm he turned on the TV to watch the news.  the TV was tuned to the local ABC station. he wasn’t paying much attention to the news more so to the ocean.  then he heard the announcer say something about the l.a.p.d. canceling a search for a murder suspect.  they had somehow or another confused a few pieces of surveillance film.  
 
the reporter was marc brown.  he didn’t know him from the man in the moon but respected his work from his time living in los angeles.  the remote was close by and he grabbed it quickly changing the channel to the local NBC affiliate.  they were coming out of a dog food ad.  when the announcer came on he had the same story.  it was, chuck henry, another old time l.a. news hand.  it must be true.  she’d kept her word.  the murder suspect rap had gone away just like that.  he turned off the TV. 
 
turning his attention back to the ocean he moved outside.  he sat in a lounge chair and drifted off to sleep.  a voice woke him.
 
‘cheers, mate.’
 
from behind him it was a smiling keith richards holding a guitar case in one hand and waving to him with the other.
 
‘i speck i’ll be working with you again sometime.  till then be well, guv.’
 
before he could say anything keith had turned and was gone.
 
the nurse/agent appeared.
 
‘i see you saw keith.  did he say anything about mick?’
 
‘no.  he wasn’t very talkative.’
 
‘oh, well.  the preliminary results look to be ok.  for now, all things are a go.’
 
‘OK.  whatever that means.  thanks for keeping your word about the murder.  when can i leave?’
 
‘you’re welcome.  soon.  very soon.  just try and relax.  remember when we call you listen.  no going off the reservation as the saying goes. capisce?’
 
‘yeah.  capisco.’ 
 
he rubbed his hands over his face.  he needed a shower and a drink.  in front of him the sun was in free fall and had just hit the far edge of the horizon.  you could almost hear the splash as the sky turned a vivid orange red.  BBQ smells filled the salty beach air.  sea gulls noisily rushed to their nightly roosts.  soon it would be dark.
 
jmh           
 
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box cars and snake eyes re-visited part 2

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the air was almost black along with foul smelling.  at first he thought it was a dream.  vietnam?  long ago?  no.  not that.  this was real too but in the present.  the odd time travel bit was happening again.  at least there were no ringing phones.  he rubbed his eyes for several seconds. maybe it was a dream after all.  when he stopped and opened his eyes again the black air was still there.  he sighed.  the foul air burning his lungs.  
 
he was standing on a sidewalk.  he knew where he was.  east l.a.  and it was summer in the city of lost angels.  so much for his memory of last night and the dead of winter up north in his little country cottage.  oh, man, was about all he could think of at the moment.  
 
it was already very hot for early morning.  even for lotus land summer.  a nasty inversion layer was trapping every bit of particulate matter low to the ground. it was at least several hundred feet thick.  almost like the the hills were on fire.  and burning madly down towards the valleys.  he coughed and rubbed his eyes again and noticed a homeless man walking towards him carrying a couple of large crumpled paper cups.  the guy was big and vibed bad juju.  he was still a couple of hundred feet away though.  but, making a bee line straight towards him.  turning the man walked quickly in the opposite direction.  
 
he was on city terrace drive and marengo.  just south and steps from the rush of the 10 freeway.  he stayed on city terrace and kept moving east.  for some reason he thought of the house not too far away.  years ago, every christmas, it was decorated with thousands of lights.  you could see it from the freeway as you either flew by or crawled by as the case may be.  one christmas, before emma, a vietnamese girl he was dating made him take her by the house.  up close the house was even more impressive.  it was massive as well.  a small but steady stream of cars made their way by the home.  a portly guy and his wife were out front dressed as mr. and mrs. claus.  christmas carols played from hidden speakers.  the lights glimmered and twinkled.  it was almost jaw dropping.  especially when santa walked up to the car and handed his giggling date a handful of christmas candy through the open car window. ‘merry christmas!’ he said with a distinct mexican accent.  incongruous at best.  totally lala land.
 
the house was still there.  still massive but nothing about it spoke of any christmas memories.  he stopped to look at the home and catch his breath and wondered aloud if it was still a christmas tradition.  he glanced west and was pleased to see that the homeless had given up on whatever it was he was thinking.  he had headed back to his probable corner at soto and marengo where he might catch some spare change from folks leaving the usc medical centers.  county usc and keck a bit further east nestled in the small rolling hills of east l.a.
 
moving west again he wondered why he was there.  he did know that eventually somehow or another he’d end up back home again.  it was just one of those things.  he wasn’t used to it but there was nothing he could do about it.  what bothered him was not knowing what was going to happen.  he never knew.  he wondered if he’d see the angel/nurse/government agent again.  or keith.  one or the other usually showed up. sometimes together.
 
he was passing the vista motel a large early 60’s structure.  he’d never seen it from this angle.  it was always from the freeway.  you couldn’t miss it.  it was big and sat right on the side of the road.  with the constant freeway noise he often had wondered how anyone ever got any rest.  on the side of the street he was on he’d stopped in the shade of a mexican cantina.  he stuck his hands in his pockets and came out with a few small bills.  the bar was already open so he went inside to get out of the heat, to grab a beer, and think a bit more.
 
it was dark and cool inside.  as his eyes became adjusted to the light he noticed a couple of other early morning or all night drinkers were down at the end of the bar furthest from the door.  the place reeked of stale beer, old smoke, and seedy desperation.  as he settled into a bar stool his bare arms stuck to the bar top.  the bartender wandered over wiping his hands on an old dirty towel.  he made a sad attempt at cleaning the bar top with the rag.  
 
‘cerveza, por favor.  coors light.’, the man said, as he placed a five spot on the bar.    
 
the bartender nodded and went to fetch the beer.
 
the beer arrived sans a glass which given the circumstances was just as well.  the TV was on and as he sipped the ice old brew he watched it without much interest.  it was the news on a local spanish station.  a rather pretty reporter was standing in front of the old parker center building yammering away in spanish about something or another.  the only interest he was paying was to her ample cleavage.  given his meager knowledge of spanish he’d gleaned she was talking about a murder that had occurred last night.  the suspect was still apparently at large also apparently considered to be armed and dangerous.  he yawned then sipped his beer.
 
the next moment was one of those things that made these time travel deals a white knuckled scary ride.  it was as if he’d plunged through all of dante’s rings and had boarded the boat steaming into the port of hades.  his picture appeared on the TV.  ms boobs was saying something about the photo being the suspect the cops were searching for.  a person interest.  yeah, it was him.  what the fuck?  he was even wearing the clothes he had on in the photo.  
 
he was so startled he was sitting ramrod straight on the bar stool.  his bottle of beer frozen halfway to his lips.  jesus, a new wrinkle indeed.  he finally got his arm to move again and he drank long from the beer.  thankfully, neither the bartender or the drunks at the other end of the bar were paying no attention to him or the TV.  he finished his beer.  left the five on the bar.  said nothing then stepped back out into the black air, hot sun, and blinding light.
 
jmh                

 

box cars and snake eyes re-visited

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sunrise was still twenty minutes away but on the horizon the sky had turned a muted gold with a pale turquoise above it. the man was vaguely aware of this. sleep, alcohol, and probably a good amount of smoke made it very hard for the man to welcome the new day with any enthusiasm. laying in bed half sleep he could see the colored morning sky and the leafless trees through his bedroom window. for some reason that sight bothered him though his hangover prevented him from putting a finger on exactly why it did.

the bedroom and probably the rest of the house still smelled of last nights dinner. garlic, rosemary, and fried chicken. he yawned. stretched. then rolled over to give his emma a good morning kiss, and if she was awake, to thank her again for last nights wonderful meal. he realized the other half of his bed was empty. cold to the touch as well.

this jolted the man fully awake. he threw off the bed covers and sat up.

’emma? emma?’

no answer. as he fumbled around for his underwear and sandals he wondered where she was.

’emma? emma? hey, you here? emma?’

it was way too early for any sort of shopping adventures even for her. what was going on? where was she? the man was out of bed and semi dressed as he made his way out of the bedroom. he was still calling his wife’s name as he went from room to room. spotting his old pickup through the second bedroom window he knew emma couldn’t be far away.

’emma? emma? come on girl. where are you?’

he was in the kitchen. the smell of last nights dinner was very strong there. dinner dishes and a cast iron frying pan sat dry in the rack beside the sink. his truck was still out back so maybe she had gone up to the country store on the corner. early for that but, well, maybe. he got to the back door and then he heard it. a car parked out on the dirt driveway. the man moved aside the curtain to get a better look outside. he saw the car. it’s motor softly idling and it’s exhaust as thick as smoke in the cold morning air.

that was it. very cold outside. trees with no leaves. it had been late spring yesterday. hadn’t it? warm with meadowlarks singing. emma had made fried chicken for dinner. he grabbed both sides of the backdoor jam to steady himself. looking through the small window he stared at the car. it was a limo. a very pretty blond woman wearing a chauffeurs hat sat behind the wheel. next to her in the front seat sat keith richards of the rolling stones he was wearing a semi sort of smile on his craggy face. he raised both hands in a gesture that could only mean, who else would it be? keith’s smile grew into a huge grin and then the man heard the all to familiar cackling coming from the enclosed limo.

it was happening again. that was for sure. but why? deja vu all over again? the man stepped into the cold winter morning to meet his fate while he and his heart ached for his long dead emma.

as he walked toward the idling limo the passenger side door opened. keith’s cackling laughter had died away. walking around the open door he noticed that the old stone was apparently sleeping. or more likely passed out. he heard the driver speak in a soft voice with a slight german accent.

‘good morning, sir. please, get in. i’m afraid you’ll be alone until keef wakes up.’

sticking his head inside the car he said.

‘hmmm. yeah, at least you said, please. look, um, i just woke up and i’m not really dressed for a road trip. what’s the deal? where are we going? who wants me now? and why?’

he stopped talking when he noticed the pretty blond just staring at him.

‘ah, christ. i haven’t even had my morning coffee yet. it’s cold out here. i’m going back in the house.’

he closed the closed the limo door and turned back toward the kitchen. the chauffeur was saying something but he didn’t care. when he reached the kitchen door he looked back at the idling car. keith richards was still asleep, or passed out, and the driver was still staring at him, but now she was talking to someone on the phone. great, he thought, as he went back inside closing the door. the man was careful to lock it as well. though if it was them again a locked door meant nothing.

he busied himself making coffee and tried very hard not to think about the limo sitting outside on his dirt driveway. eventually whatever was going come out because of it would make itself known. another drug run with the rolling stones guitarist? maybe. though the thing with his dead wife emma was another story.

the house very clearly smelled of rosemary garlic fried chicken. no doubt about it. two sets of dinner dishes and a couple of wine glasses sat in the dish drying rack. when he opened the refrigerator for some milk for his coffee he spotted a plate of leftover fried chicken along with a container of leftover roasted potatoes and carrots. yeah, last night had been real enough. or was it? emma was dead. she died of cancer years ago. maybe it was just the ache and misery of her loss that still haunted him.

‘ah, but, ghosts making fried chicken, roasted potatoes and carrots?’

he’d said that aloud as the phone in the kitchen started to ring. he sipped his coffee and stared at the ringing phone. he wasn’t going to answer it but by the twentieth ring he got up to answer the phone if only to stop it’s incessant ringing.

‘yeah, who is it? no, tell you what, i don’t care. leave me alone.’

he hung up the phone. several seconds later it started ringing again. this time he unplugged the phone from the wall. sipping his coffee he walked back to his bedroom and unplugged that phone as well. silence filled the little home. when he got back to the kitchen he noticed that the limo was gone.

jmh

the rolling stones ~~ 50 years and counting

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the brown eyed girl informed me this morning that since today is the 50th anniversary of the rolling stones first live show or some damn thing or another, and that folks were trotting out their top 10 stone’s song lists in honor of that sacred event.  so, she asked me if i was going to do a ‘list’.  i said no but have since decided why not in that this spring and early summer there hasn’t been much in the way of new stuff coming from this end of the space time continuum writing wise. 
 
i’m old but i wasn’t there to see the first rolling stones live show.  i didn’t get to see them live until november of 1969.  the infamous 3am performance at the forum here in southern california.   just a few weeks ahead of the even more infamous altamont show up by the city by the bay. a show i thankfully missed due to getting drafted into the army a few days before the whip came down up north.  at any rate, i’ve been a stones fan since i first heard them on the radio.  ‘love is love and not fade away’.  things don’t get much better than that.  ok.  so here’s my list.  the caveat being it’s today’s list.  this moment’s list.  this evening after a nice home cooked meal composed of a wedge salad, bbqed hanger steak, roasted corn and lord knows how many glasses of dago red things might be different.  tomorrow morning as well.  or a week from next thursday.  get the picture?  i think you do.  the songs bottom to top are…
 
 
10.  sweet virginia.  yeah, scrape the shit right off your shoes.  reminds me of my long ago forgotten youth.  a back in the day type thing.
 
09.  i’m a king bee.  a youth and testosterone memory filled song.  although a re-make, one of their first great tunes.
 
08.  memo from turner.  yeah, we all work for you mick/keith.
 
07.  rip this joint.  more youth and testosterone.  alabam don’t give a damn.  little rock don’t give a fuck.  uh huh.    
 
06.  wild horses.  the song written for gram parsons.  
 
05.  the spider and the fly.   she’s common flirty she looks about thirty.  there’s a theme going on here.   
 
04.  let it bleed.  i was dreaming of a steel guitar engagement.  
 
03.  jigsaw puzzle.  love the song and the sentiment.  
 
02.  under assistant west coast promo man.  memories of huntington beach, ca many many moons ago along with a certain home in de onta.
 
01.  gimme shelter.  this is one thing that doesn’t change.  regardless of the mood.  number of glasses of vino.  or pretty much anything else.  their best song.  ever. 
 
 
i’m sure you have your favorites as well.  raise a glass and toast the original bad boys of rock and roll.  happy 50th anniversary lads!!
 
jmh