Bart Mendoza 5 a.m., Dec. 8
Horsing Around With Chords on the Newport Ave.
So let's call him Flamingo and his scruffy ZZ-Top bearded, wire rim wearing hippie sidekick Ringo. Flamingo lives in a rode hard full metal box of wreckage. And he drives the midnight blue Dodge mini-van, Z Richochet edition, of scrapes and dents with a rear bumper hanging by the hardened knots of salty time-tested twine. His battle scars are much easier to see than Ringo's. A Vietnam Vet overwhelmed by regret and shuffling around town with a noticeable limp. Ringo uses a brown wooden cane adorned with nicks of the side swiping brush nature and the OB law and cold hard concrete surfaces that neither ever seem to escape. Their whole world is the Newport Ave.
Cigarette butts. Tweakers twacked in wild-wide-eyes wandering crack creviced streets. Graffiti. Uneven curbs. Sushi. Seedy linoleum floor hallways. Whiskey color streetlights. Lines painted yellow-blue-white. Camera surveillanced spaces to walk, park, BE Right. Pastic mannequins, fashionable and frozen women behind glass. Bicycle racks. Telephone poles. Curtains blowing through open windows and buildings holes. Stickers stuck on bolted ashtrays. Locked doors. Fire hydrants. Bird-Sh$t stained awnings. Antiques. Parked RV's. Orange cones. Signs. Liquor. Taco. Tattoo. Surf. Discarded cardboard signs saying 'Please Help', 'Homeless', 'Loose Change'... There's a checkered flag waving from the end of the pier. Folks is just dying to live Here.
And here it is...
Flamingo plays guitar on the ave. He's been at it for years. Strumming his life away. His sidewalk-stageshow of choice is usually out in front of Ho-Dads or across the street and down, in front of the C.O.W. (cd's, lp's & tapes). He claims to be living only from the tips of six strings but I sense a monthly check systematically picking itself into his coffinized Existence.
Flamingo wants to die but supposedly only the good die young in his line of strum and the bum has survived double and then some as far as the 27 clubbed Hendrix, Morrison, Joplin and Cobain...
A short stocky-squatty black leather jacket wearing Portugese man, Flamingo looks like he'd be way more comfortable in NYC. He looks like your grandfather's sports bookie. His tight dark & ashy gray curls, the full 5 o'clock stubbly shadow, the speedy sentences, the appearance of cagey street smarts exaggerated by his ever constant head twitch's and rotating observations. He gives one the sense that someone is always watching or jack-rollers are just around the corner or maybe he owes someone sum money. Flamingo is the acoustical Jimmy the Greek of OB.
At one time a member of a promising classical jazz band back in the late 70's, he's now just another carnival street performer battling the recent influx of homeless acts escaping natures wicked winter ways and finding the sedated comforts of OB. It's during these months when a clear eyed wanderer makes his or her way to me and they're just beginning the OB game that I'll tell them,
"Yea... This town will hold you alright but be mindful. Everything you'll quickly love about this sleepy portal by the sea is exactly everything you'll soon despise."
They usually just look at me like, whatever dude, I got this... It's then a month or two later and they are usually so, so chewed up that they're often not recognizable and then they are gone. Where? Oh I do wonder but not for very long. I'm always nowwing to my own tantric song with no sense or desire to belong. The Light Dance knows no right or wrong.
But all is definitely wrong for Flamingo now. His old lady, the very same gal that only 3 months earlier was waltzing all around town, helping him spend a very sketchy litigation pay-off that's since run dry is locked up in a Insane Asylum. He misses his crazy little thing called 'love'.
A woman, good or bad, can put a bounce in a man's step, a sparkle in their eye, a fire in the heart and a gasm in the belly... A woman gives a man some hope. Someone to hold onto at night and keep warm with. Someone to whisper meaningful stuff into one moment and then in the next moment it, like everything else becomes meaningless as you roll her over to her side in the morning, give her how much you love her and then... She's gone and so is Flamingo's will, his heart, his soul, ...
The mini van, the home, is coming apart. Flamingo catch's me exiting the temporarily 'saved' OB library one day and says in a terror stricken tone,
"There is just no way... No way... I can live on the streets.... I,I,I do not know how you all do it.... I,I,I could never do that..."
I smile inside, remembering a past Volvo arrangement and thinking the same BS. Ringo sits on a wooden chair inside the building recently marched for and temporarily preserved by passionate locals willing to take to the streets with signs and rhymes but themselves having not endured enough suffering yet to say hmmm...
Instead foolishly occupying their time with a 'noble cause' while continuing to be the cause, because, they got involved in a political cause that despite all the big time money in San Diego. It just hasn't got enough of it to keep rec centers and libraries open... My firends, the rich have their own libraries and as for recreation, that's what private country clubs are for. So yes, the library will soon be gone but we, in the midst of Apocalyptic times, distortingly defined as an economic crisis are Infinite. The only marching that one should be occupied with RIGHT NOW is toward the LIGHT.
So Ringo, who is also occupying his time, hunched over and squinting, does his crossword puzzles. He does them damn near all day, everyday. Flamingo sits down beside me in Starbucks a couple of days later and says,
"The mini-van isn't running. The cops are hassling me. They say they're gonna tow it if I don't move the damn thing. My sister... I called her... She is thinking about wiring me the money... Can you believe it? She's thinking about it... My own sister man... This is my home here man... Can you believe this"?
And yes I can, because what the Normals are calling Normal is Scary these days but history has turned to legend. Legend has turned to myth. Myth has magically become an ideology and ideologies build cultures. While cultures create an illusionary consensus experiencing an illusionary Reality of Things.
Flamingo goes on sputtering,
"And all these new travelers and homeless fks are killing my money. I had to get a burrito on credit from Nico's yesterday for lunch."
A few days later, morning... I'm out in front of Starbucks puffing my own insanity about, doing my secular transcendental meditation. Breathing in. Breathing out an ill pranayana. A smokey mandala. A rythmic chanting. I smoke therefore I am, active, occupying myself (wonderwhywonderwhywonderwhy). My mouth needs activity. My mouth wants to suck the breast. Warm milk flows in. Warm smoke flows thru the cigarette, between my lips, feels just like a nipple. My mouth wants to kiss lips. Merge with voluptuos softness. The cigarette, moist and soft, puffing, stroking between my fingers... Buzz... High... Orgasm... The Bali Shag ritual, whenever I choose. Wherever I want. My mouth active, occupied, on it as much as I want and then what? Roll over baby, I got that too...
Flamingo walks slowly. It looks alot like love, every step he takes hurts. His eyes are barely open and a thick lime green noogie of snot runs down beneath his nose and into his mouth. He smells like a projectile vomit bunker. He doesn't wipe the green sh$t away. I can't stop staring at it. He mumbles,
"Last night... The fking cops followed a dealer back to my car. They tried busting me but I just barely smoked it all before they got there, and it wasn't weed either."
No sh$t... I'm thinking... A stoner would have wiped that river of booger off a long time ago genius. I witness the moment and realize that ol Flamingo is trying real hard to tell me something. He elaborates,
"I was smoking black tar man..."
He search's my face, desperate for a reaction. I don't give him one.
"They only found the aluminum foil pipe but they told me to get outta town or they'll run me out. I've been in OB over a decade man. Where am I gonna go."
I wanna tell him, no Flamingo, you've been on Newport Ave for over a decade not OB. Drive over the hill and into Point Loma. The sun shines, the downtown skyline glows, the police presence declines and these folks can only watch so much CSI or Law and Order. Give em something real my brother. Interrupt that trophy wife's tan out on the sun deck or the fat man's entitled longboard sesh down at North Garbage. But instead I ask,
"So you got the vehicle running"?
"Nah... Me and Ringo been pushing that beast around but my sister says she's going to wire me the money."
"Well that's good."
"Man... I don't know if I can quit."
"Smokin... Smokin the heroin. I mean... I'm going to have too... I gotta clean my act up man. I can't even play the guitar right now. Haven't played in days... I'm gonna clean my act up man... Their watching me..."
And on and on he goes... Talking more to himself than he knows without knowing it. I listen. Flamingo and the Light have found me as suitable a stranger as any to declare the Death Wish to. To issue the slow So-Cali-suicide watch. And I hold the moment together with the only glue I can, I witness and let it go. I treat it the same as the green foutain of snot. I say nothing because the heart always knows, our hearts are our real brains.
Paths, routines are easy to pick up upon in OB. With such a closely shared conglomeration of entities sharing seaside space it really is a 'thoughtsphere'. This is why when you are thinking of someone or thing here it usually manifest's at the speed of Bright.
So I, in between my wandering walkabouts that seem Cosmically Designed to disrupt these very same paths I cross, as well as spiritually uplift me have detected a new twist, a novel punch in Flamingo's morning time clock run thru the Newport Ave.
He's sauntering over to the payphone across the street and around the corner of the Super Mad Max like he's got a hunch or a fat tip. But Flamingo don't play the horses. It's an oddly familiar gait. It's sorta like the one he sported when his ol lady mysteriously popped back into his life after he won a grand for being in the wrong place at an even wronger time. It's an odd walk, back and forth to the phone. I catch him coming back my way. He looks like hell.
"Did ya get that van fixed yet,"?
Flamingo doen't look me in the eyes. He can't look me in the eyes today. He can barely open them, let alone speak. He mumbles,
"My sis wired the money..."
He shuffles away lucidly and stumbles back over to his house that Ringo and he have been pushing around town 8 feet at a time. Staying one gnarly step ahead of the cops and the meter monster. I watch as he fumbles with the door. His hands are shaking and he finally opens it up and climbs in, sits down.
Flamingo hasn't been playing guitar this week. He's busy smoking the black tar and waiting to die just like you are. He's just occupying his time a little differently is all. I head toward the OB library to occupy some of mine. Maybe I'll puff a smoke on the way...