Ted Burke 1 p.m., May 27
- Community Blog
- Grrrrr...acies Penalty Box
Poetic Justice Has a Neighborhood, It's 92107 OB, Cali...
Around the age of seven I wrote a poem. I cannot recall much of it but the last couple of lines ended with something like:
OOOOOOO... I want to know this so-called Mr. Death... Does it all really begin or end with a breath...
I remember my mom's face tensing up, her green eyes tearing, going glassy, like small lakes do out in the country after the sun's glare and a childs laughter hit them. She put her arm on my shoulder and softly said,
"Oh Tommy... You're going to have a tough life."
The clock above the kitchen sink silently tick-tocked. I walked away from her that morning, this time wondering what on earth my mom could have been talking about...
Thirty-seven years later and today (11/14/08) I walk into OB Starbucks. My Neighborhood... I plop my red North Face, The Jester's edition backpack onto a wooden chair. Rodge, an elderly gentleman in his early seventies lift's his eyes out from newspaper like a gator floating on the surface of swamp.
"You okay today," he asked?
"Could use a little love..," I answered.
Rodge smiles, folds and crunches the black and white news, then digs into his white bermuda shorts. He hands me two bucks saying,
"Never a problem Tommy... It's always my pleasure."
"Thanks Rodge, so, so grateful."
Awhile and some sips later Rodge asks,
"Did you ever get those poems & writings together for me"?
You see Rodge is a retired engineer from Boeing and now a professional 'Mansion-Sitter' for a wealthy couple in LaJolla. Long story blogged, I had meant Rodge about a month earlier in Starbucks. We loose and naturally began sharing parts of ourselves with one another. Well it turned out that the wife half of the wealthy couple was an authors agent, with several clients on the best sellers list and others in this book club belonging to someone named Oprah. Are you getting the pure picture of potentiality here?
"Yah Rodge... Almost forgot... "
I pull a stack of papers from my notebook. I'd put a sampler package with maybe thirty poems and a couple short stories together for him.
"Oh wonderful Tommy... Do you have a folder or envelope we can slip them into? I don't want to mess them up and besides it will look a little neater when I give it to her.
"Ahhh... No but let me work on that before you leave."
So I walk up to the counter, ask Karen, just one of three beautiful baristas working this morning if they've got something I can use.
"Tommy... Let me check, or better, ask Shelia when she comes in."
Well Shelia, that's the manager, rolls in a few minutes later and says,
"Yea... No problem honey... Just gimme a sec."
In between brewing and all this, Karen, the other Barista, has gone on break. She's walked all the way back to her place on Narranganset Ave. and grabbed me a big yellow envelope. That clock silently tick-tocks and then suddenly, like two 8X10 manilla book-ends I am sandwiched between Shelia and Karen. Can you believe this LOVE! They smile, I smile, and we all laugh that deep far reaching belly laugh that tickles. I thank them and Rodge is out the door with my 'stuff' under his arm, a Venti cup in his hand and saying,
"We'll see where it goes..."
I leave my coffee filter partitioned office, still penniless as you're probably beginning to surmise. I mantra, "Be still, be stiil, be here," silently to myself while walking sidewalk to Peoples COOP. The sliding glass doors part and open like my imagination. I take the stairs up, up, up... and away... Organic man slips through the split-pea soupy air, past the kale salad and into the front desk section. Two woman, that I do not know are sitting there name-tagless. They smile, I smile and then I authentically declare,
"I'm a little short today..."
"A little short? Of what..."
"I don't have any money."
My glassy imagination, still sliding open, has seen a bunch of boxes outside that could use breaking down. I point this cardboard fact out.
"Well... We really can't do that."
One of the women pulls and tosses a dollar onto the counter separating us. I smile, she smiles and I say,
"Oh I'm not soliciting in here or anything."
"That should help you a little."
After eating a fresh 'everything' bagel I leave my kitchen remembering that the Lutheran Church gives out food today. I've used my six visits up but the sweet woman we'll call Dee-Ann has told me that if I show up and help break boxes down, they'll help me out a little. So it's up another flight of stairs with another exchange of smiles. These ladies volunteering their time are like everyones grandma, so, so kind.
They don't need help today but they still bless me with a jar of peanut butter, a can of tuna, and a protein bar. She tells me they'll need help next week and to come on by. From here it's up to some friends house on Pescadero. Truely blessed am I, at 44, and despite being the consumate loner, when I do share time it's with late teen or early 20 somethings. They're still asking themselves, the 'Why Am I Here' question and infinity has always been disguised as youth. A couple of these dudes come from families of privilege and I'm sure their parents, who are my age would be wigging if they knew what I was passing on but I only answer their questions. I only show them how to live poor and still be a true seeker of Thee Divine in 2008 America. I only know why we are Here. They kick me some fruit from time to time and when rain is threatening So-Cal one of the guys has an old Chinook RV, 'The Baja-Mobile' that he lets me sleep in.
Today it's just me and Sparks. His floor is soon covered with about 200 poems I've recently written. We start rapping, rhyming, and singing them to various trancey-dark hip-hop beats from off his computer. SHHHHHHwwwweeeeee... And the time space continuum gets out done. It's 3 P.M.
Sparks goes off to work. I slide down two steep blocks of alley, on the same street, to check in with Mr. Bernie Burns. He lets me keep my bag of cans and plastic on the side of his garage. This means I don't have to haul them with me everywhere until my bank, The Recycle Center behind Rite-Aid opens at 10 A.M. I call it my can-preffered checking account. There are no penalties for early withdrawls but a real shortage of ATM's available. Yes banking, like life is soooooo relative but always the drive thru nonetheless.
I do not have any deposits to make today. Partly because of the fierce competition and partly because I'm mostly just trusting Uncertainity on a new and improved level. It's that darn imagination of mine again, you see they never killed it. I like to challenge this 'Self' from time to time in between the challenge of houseless. Sometimes I'll fast a few days or stay up all day and night Naturally, and usually just walk, stopping to meditate when it feels right.
Mr. Burns hands me this tiny dolphin that I found 3 or 4 months back during a canning expedition. He's shined it all up. It's shiny.
"It's a real silver... Figgarded you wanna pawn 'er."
"Figgarded right Burns," I josh, Thanks..."
On the way back down to Newport Ave. to complete the circle that is this day I get that intuitive calling, ALUMINUIM LOVE... PLASTIC... FIND IT... THEY WILL PAY...
Yah... No kidding... It's just like that movie Field of Dreams with Costner. BUILD IT THEY WILL COME... So my head, hands, and heart plunge into the Blue Bins of realness. I'm doing alright. Suddenly a woman mash's her face into a screen window, an ambiguous veil of transparency and yells,
"Get outta there right now!"
"I'm trying to get something to eat."
"Get out! Get a JOB... You bums tear the bags and the flies come..."
"Yes, yes, I know but like I said, I'm trying to get something to eat."
The husband slips in beside her and mash's his face into the screen now.
"Get the FK outta there or I'll call the police," he spits. I nod my head and move on as he backs away to wipe his face. Okay... Lets pause right now for planetary system identification. Folks.... Friends... Don't think for a milky way moment that I don't get it. I've been on both sides of the fence. I chose this side and right Now I'm staying here until I see something else as Sane. Call me crazy... But I think I might just be on too something beautiful. Ghandi says, "Be the change you wish to see...": I'm doing it, not talking it over or intellectuallizing it with my friends in the living room. I'm not on Oprah (yet) trying to sell you another book about the power of Now. I'm aiming far lower. All I'm shooting for is too make you love me and blah, blah, blah I could go.
So I turn the cans & plastic into $5.07 despite the screeny ski mask hold-up. I walk into the pawn shop next to Bernie's Bicycle Shop (another Bernie) and I find out that yes the dolphin is silver but the little guy is also only about 2 grams of it and thus, no dinero. So I walk outta there and this 8 or 9 year old thrasher skates up to me and says,
"I'll do a kickflip right here for a dollar."
"Howz bout for a shiny silver dolphin."
He eurathanically lands it solid on the first try. I drop the dolphin into his grubby little mitt and away he skates. I 'front manual' myself down to the pier to catch James's Giant Peach of a sunset. Oscar Wilde once said, "Imagination is a quality given a man to compensate him for what he is not, and a sense of humour was provided to console him for what he is."
My mom is no longer with us and God knows, in her own way, after reading that childhood poem she was just trying to protect me. Oh everyday doesn't flow as smooth as the one I just shared but my mom had it all wrong. There is poetic justice and it lives in 92107 OB, Cali...
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