Monthly Archives: February 2010

Pete’s Journey, the real story. Part III/III.

Final installment:

——-

Now, this lady was an older woman – in her forties, maybe – and Pete was at the time a younger man. So when he returned to her home the next night, after another day spent exploring the neighborhoods of L.A., and found her lying on the couch wearing next to nothing, he didn’t know what to do!

At least, that is, until she began to slide on foot up the length of her bare leg, crinkling her white chiffon lingerie. “Come,” she said, “sit over here next to me on the couch.” With an invitation like that, he found he knew exactly how to handle himself.

For the next week, all Pete did was Boom-Boom. He’d walk around all day, then come home, get fed dinner, and Boom-Boom! Those were the best five days of his life, and for this kid from Cyprus, there could be no other place for him on earth but singular, beautiful California.

Of course, it didn’t last forever. It couldn’t. At the end of Pete’s week, before he flew back to DC, the woman took him by the ears. “Look,” she said. “Do you see those photos on the wall? The ones of the man in the army uniform?”

Pete saw them.

“That man is my husband. He’s away now, but I never know when he’s going to come back. So after you leave, if you ever return -” and she took his hand and put it to her breast, her beautiful, tender breast – “you must promise that you will never try to contact me. Ever.”

Pete promised. It killed him, but he promised. And when he returned to L.A. after just nine more months on the east – months during which he sold all his things and told his one friend, his brother, “look me up if you ever make it out to California some day” – he kept true to his word.

California never was the same for Pete after that first magic visit. He moved into a little place in Venice, and he eventually opened his barber shop just off the 4th Street Promenade. Thousands of new acquaintances entered and left his life over the years, and he never tired of the weather. But still, Los Angeles always lacked for him, tangibly, that special quality it promised the first time he came out and saw it.

I realized at the end of his story that I’d almost not come to get a haircut at all; that day, I almost let the rain keep me inside. But if I had let the elements get the better of me, I never would have seen that pretty woman with the umbrella. And I never would have heard Pete tell me that every now and again, when a lady walks by his shop, he stops what he’s doing for a minute and thinks about her.

Usually, he just considers what might have happened in her life, and where she might be. But sometimes, he lets himself imagine that she walks by now and again, looks through the shop window at him at work and smiles. And on those days, he can’t help but wonder which, if either, he’ll see first again in his life: that long-lost woman, or the falling, powdered snow.

The Guttenberg Bible

In the beginning God created heaven and
Steve Guttenberg, and God saw that it was good,

so He let Steve take care of the rest. And Steve said,
“Let there be light,” and there was light, and Steve said,

“Let there be Police Academies,” and there were
six sequels. And then, in a moment of true

genius, Steve said, “Let there be Tom Selleck and Ted
Danson,” and there were Three Men and a Baby.

And Steve saw that it was good. It was so, so good.
And God was pleased, and all was right with the world.

But then Steve said, “Let there be High Spirits,” and,
“Let there be It Takes Two,” and finally, for some

strange reason, “Let there be Zeus and Roxanne, about
a dog and a dolphin who become best friends,

wouldn’t that be so cool? Guys? God? Anybody?”
And it was not good. It was not good at all.

(I know because I saw it in theatres when
I was eleven; even then I knew it sucked.)

So then Steve said, “Let there be Dancing with the Stars,”
but by that point God had stopped listening long

long, ago, and Steve was on his own. Maybe he
should have considered a job in publishing;

I hear Gutenberg is a good name for that.

(number 9)

Click. Armed. Or was it his arm? He isn’t sure, but swears he feels the impact. He swears he knows somehow, he knows just how it feels to be the hammer, with just one chance to pound the metal casing, sending bullets to wherever bullets go. He lightly sighs and feels the gun become an extension of his arm: Fire-Arm. The cold steel texture of what was once a handle has gone numb, warmed and smoothed by the flesh and blood that is pumping through veins and past the grip before it pours into the chamber. His heart is swelling steadily, screaming perseverance (or at least it tries); but our blood is built to spill before its time.

Ideas are bulletproof, he reminds himself. A single bullet starts a revolution. Forty-five revolutions every minute sing a song in seven inches. If one hundred bullets start one hundred revolutions, doesn’t every bullet have a tune?

He needs to find the harmony, so he counts the bullets in the chamber as a single bead of sweat falls from where his hand became the gun, landing on his toe that he had shot an hour earlier; irony. Only he could ever salt these wounds.

He breathes in deep, and checks his watch: it’s 9:43. Good time for a revolution.

Pete’s Journey, the real story. Part II/III.

Part II:

—-

Some thirty years ago, Pete was living in Washington, DC. He’d found work as a cabbie, of all things! He was born and raised in Cyprus, an island controlled by the English at the time, which by virtue made him a British citizen. He fought in the North African deserts during The Big One, for the good guys, and between his friendly passport and his service record, it wasn’t too hard for him to get a green card to come to the States.

One day in Washington when it was really coming down – snow a foot thick on the ground if it was half an inch – a lady got into his cab and told him to drive her to the Pentagon. Pete flipped the meter and got going, but wasn’t a half mile in before she screamed at him to slow down lest he kill ’em both.

At a stop light, he turned and casually threw one arm over the divider, as only cab drivers can, and sneered. “Lady,” he said. “Have you ever driven in the snow before?”

“No,” she admitted. “Actually, where I live, we don’t even have snow.”

That flummoxed him. Pete missed his Mediterranean youth and the warm, swaddling sunlight that seemed so far away from this strange capital. He asked her to please, please tell him: where was this wonderful place whence she came? She straightened her posture and demurely replied.

“Los Angeles.”

When they reached Defense Department headquarters, the woman thanked her for the ride, then passed Pete her business card – RAND Corporation, it read – and told him to look her up if he ever made his way out to Santa Monica.

Three months later, fueled by cold and dreaming of warmer climes, Pete bought a non-stop ticket for a flight to L.A.

The first thing he did after arriving at LAX was to catch a bus to Santa Monica.

The second thing he did was to call her from a pay phone.

You can imagine how the conversation went. First, she had no idea who he was. Then, she was thought he was crazy. Who takes people up on spurious offers like that? But when she realized what she’d done – he was foreign and all alone, in an alien part of the world, because of her – she told him to meet her at her office on the corner of Pico and Main.

With nothing else to do, Pete headed on over. He stood at the corner and waited. When he was done waiting, he waited some more. He was about give it up for lost when at last, the woman arrived and picked him up in her car. She spent her whole lunch break driving him around the city, and after she dropped him off, told him to call her when she got off of work.

That day, Pete walked around Santa Monica, marveling at its natural beauty. The beaches and ocean reminded him of home, and the weather – eighty-five degrees in the middle of winter – pleased him to no end. Gulls fought for fish and salt tinged the air. He thought, for sure, he’d found paradise.

When night rolled around, Pete met the woman, whom he’d come by this point to think of as a friend, at her place. She fed him dinner, and at the end of the meal asked him where he was going to stay.

“A hotel,” he said.

“So expensive!” She shook her head. “Stay here tonight. And tomorrow, we’ll go looking together for an apartment to move you into.”

“An apartment? You misunderstand,” Pete told her. “I haven’t moved here. I’m just visiting for a week.”

“Hmm.” The woman pondered. “Well, if you’re only in town for a little while, you’ll just sleep here with me.”

Cue the guitars. Bow chicka bow wow!

Department Store Time Machine

We’d walk into a JCPenney, probably
looking for suit jackets or black shoes, serious,
before a funeral—something to bring me home
before the holidays—and be transported back
before the west coast; college; most of my love life;
before I stop hating high school; my first girlfriend;
before I work at that very store, or, further,
before you work there before me, Sundays, weeknights;

before my first kiss at the multiplex next door;
before I start shopping in men’s; teen’s; twelve-plus;
before my bright white communion shoes turn brown;
before Oscar overalls; Batman pajamas;
before it stops being just you and me. But not
before I learn to walk without your hand, sneakers
velcroed, so I can hide inside the clothing racks
as you pretend not to know where I’ve gone.

I Loved You More Last Time

line before you closed the
door on my big toe by
turning left instead of
right when I came home from
visiting our last time

line, the one in which you
told me all your secrets
six whole years before you
told me that you loved me—
past tense, in our first time

line before your cat ate
all my stomach’s butter—
flies and you hadn’t been
my mother yet, so I
went back before that time

line, back before I knew
you which is why you slammed
the door on my big toe
but you turned right this time

line, and I asked if you
would dance the paradox
with me in our new time

line where I’d love you like
the first last time and let
our love glide on moth’s wings,
transmutable in time.

Pete’s Journey, the real story. Part I/III.

Well, I alluded to telling the story last week.  So, on the advice of the editors, here it goes.

The intro has changed a little bit, so let’s take it again from the top.  Get ready for a three-part series.

——-

Bittersweet Memories – Disappointment in L.A.

Pete is my barber. He’s probably the barber for all of the grubby single guys in my neighborhood, because his is the only place around that doesn’t feature stylists, mandatory shampoos, or scalp massage. He doesn’t charge fifty-five dollars for a shaping – it’s just thirteen bucks a trim – and if you tip him a few extra on top he’ll offer you a sucker from a plastic bin that he swears was blessed by Jesus, Moses, Martin Luther, Buddha, Krishna, Mohammed and the Pope.

Nudie mags hide under the stack of newspapers by the door. White hairs sneak out from the canals of his ears.

Every month, I walk the five blocks from my apartment to his shop, where I sit down in his chair, get a haircut and shoot the breeze. Last time I found myself there, it was raining, and the two of us happened to look out his plate glass window at the same time. A pretty young woman, shapely and around the age of twenty-five, walked by underneath the cover of a Burberry umbrella.

“They’re always after me,” he muttered. Briefly, I considered how wise it might be to leave my neck exposed to an old coot brandishing sharpened steel shears – a coot who might, unbeknownst to me, harboring persecution fantasies brought about by “the big red ‘A’.”

“Who?” I tensed, ready to bolt.

“The ladies,” he said, gesturing to the glass. “They’re always after the alimony.”

I chuckled, and so did Pete, but after a while, we got to talking in earnest about women. “You know,” he said, “I came here because of a woman.”

I didn’t know that, and I told him so.

“Oh, sure,” he said. “You want to hear the story?”