a stranger and a story shrouded by an orange coat

The person strikes a troubled figure.

Sitting on the curbside, hunched over. Dark pants. Shirt of unseen color. Shoes. Head and shoulders shrouded under an orange jacket.

Impossible to know whether man or woman.

A dark backpack, unzipped, upright on the sidewalk just to the left of the person.

What’s someone doing sitting here on the curb? In this neighborhood. At this time of night?

The hour is a quarter past midnight.

Here’s a largely industrial pocket of town. Older buildings and small shops like auto body repair, scrap metal, a furniture store, a dive bar up the way, seemingly a musicians’ rental studio. I’ve caught wind of loud rock ‘n’ roll from a source I can’t pinpoint late at night at the radio station where I work.

During the day, this avenue is a small thoroughfare. At night, it’s deserted. Only the very occasional car passes by.

There’s a parking lot around the furniture store. Usually it’s empty but tonight there’s cars. Perhaps a party or the nearby music studio?

It’s only because I’m on my way home from work at 12:15 a.m. that I even drive past the hunched-over figure draped by an orange coat.

I follow the road with its distinctive sharp curve to the right. “No. I can’t do it.”

I make an illegal U-turn in the middle of the road. Hopefully no cop just happening to pass by.

I pass by the hunched person slowly to get a better look but not so slowly to around suspicion.

It’s dark. The area’s lit only by dim streetlights and the brighter lights of the parking lot.

I can’t know who’s under the orange coat or what he or she’s doing here at this hour. My street smarts and common sense are well honed. Always err on the side of suspicion and caution.

The biggest mistake anyone can make is to trust or assume good intent. This is my guiding principle in life. I’d have made a fine detective.

I continue on and swing another illegal U-turn for another drive-by, this time slower that the last. Who’s under the orange coat and why?

Should I stop?

The opened backpack. Has the person been robbed?

Is this a guise? A setup? Is there a bad man under there waiting to spring on someone?

Or is the person in distress? Trouble? Unable to move or walk?

Here’s certainly not a taxi or bus route. Is the person, perhaps a partier, waiting for a boyfriend to pick her up?

I roll down the passenger window and bring the car to a stop while maintaining a safe distance. Through the window I holler: “Are you OK??”

The person rises. A woman. Exposed in the shadowed light of the street lamps. Young. Maybe 5-6. A little fleshy.

Darkness around the eyes. Perhaps mascara or eye shadow that’s been smudged. Perhaps she’s been crying.

She answers my question. “No.”

She’s unsteady on her feet. Weaves my direction. She’s a somewhat frightening spectacle of unsteady and unstable and troubled.

I know not who she is or what brings her to sit hunched over on a curb with an orange coat over her head and an unzipped backpack at her side.

I just know that I truly and sorely want to help this strange.

And I do not want to put myself in danger.

As a streets-smart cookie, my first three rules of survival are:

1. Always trust your instincts.
2. Trust no one until they’ve proven s/he can be trusted.
3. Use common sense.

She’s troubled and disoriented and distressed. As evidenced by her uncertain gait and tone.

“It’s OK, it’s OK,” I say. I roll up the window and drive quickly the 5 minutes to my apartment.

Soon as I’m in, I dial the police.

“There’s a woman at such-and-such location,” I say. “She looks to be in trouble.” I describe the scene. “It’s not a good area. She may be drunk. If she is, he’s very vulnerable.”

I also mean she’s a sitting duck. If she’s indeed as inebriated or drugged out as she seemed and as the picture painted, she’s a target for a bad man. Or has been assaulted and is traumatized.

I can’t know. I just know she may need help that I can’t directly provide and should be checked on.

The nice dispatcher gathers more details. I provide as much information as possible except my name — “a concerned citizen” suffices — and my phone number.

“We’ll send an officer over to check.”

“Thank you. Thank you.”

I am so relieved and grateful.

I hope the officer made it in time. That the woman, having been brought to her feet by my drive-by, didn’t gather up her unzipped backpack and begin walking. Or try to.

Did a companion emerge from a maybe-party to help her? Someone arrive to drive her home?

I can’t know. I can know only that I did the right thing. I acted on:

* Conscience. I just couldn’t drive by and leave a person hunched under an orange coat there on the curb at night in an isolated area.

In the same way that I couldn’t leave the dog that I’d encountered dead in the road the other week just lying there. That’s another story untold.

* Compassion. I’ve been there. Too drunk to walk. Distraught. Vulnerable. Unable to help myself. Plus as a woman, I’m acutely aware of the dangers that a vulnerable or incapacitated female presents to men of ill intent. Though I’ve no idea what her story is, I couldn’t allow THAT story for her.

* Common sense and street smarts. Already addressed.

* Community. Prescott is a town of community. One of the rare places in America where community thrives. Where people watch out for one another. Give. Do good things for one another, including total strangers.

Every week there are letters to the editor of a resident or visitor who’s been on the receiving end of a random act of kindness. While I’m cautious to extol the virtues of my community — I DO NOT want to encourage the Californians and others from their gawd-awful liberal blue states to move here! — I also want to sing well-deserved praises!

This is a community that steps up to the plate. That cares. There is no walking by or standing around watching someone being beat up on the street like happens so many places in America (Seattle, New York, Los Angeles for starters). I live here BECAUSE I’ve lived in crap places. I CHOOSE to live here because I’ve been sooooo around and know how people are.

Whatever the circumstances that brought that young lass to sit on a curb at night on an isolated street in an industrial part of town hunched under an orange coat with an unzipped backpack at her side, I cannot know.

I pray she was merely emotional and drunk and that her circumstances were neither life-threatening nor an act of violation.

I pray that the contents of her backpack were not tampered with or violated.

I hope today that the only aftermath of her predicament is a hangover.

I hope that the officer arrived in time to help her because help is what she needed. And thank you law enforcement!!

I hope that today her face is washed of the smeared makeup that in the shadow and streetlight cast an eerie raccoon spetre-ish appearance.

I want her to be safe and OK. Whoever she is.

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Cards! Come! They did. And so did Lady Fortune.

Write about a fortune-teller.

March 21 prompt, “A Writer’s Book of Days”

Purple gypsy scarves, bangles and jangles and turbans. They weren’t for her.

Hers is a long line of ancestors in fortune-telling. Some were legit. Some were in it for show, donning those scarves of spaghetti fringe and rainbow beads and a thousand bracelets that clacked with every twist of the wrist.

Serafina sometimes felt burdened her ancestry, her special talents, her gifts. At times, they were a curse, as any gift that truly differentiates you from the masses is. Giftedness brings loneliness.

To relieve herself of that burden, she knitted or tended to mourning doves. About 20 of ’em in a walk-in aviary in the backyard of her 1-bedroom house. The house is the size of a postcard; the backyard real estate though makes up for it. It’s three times the size of her house!

The cooing of doves, their gentle guttural churnings and their varied vocalizations sooth her. They make this sound when she arrives with a pan of seed, another sound when they’re threatened, another sound when communicating danger, and still another sound when contented.

The doves, though not the brightest bird in the world, were at least honest, she thought. Like all animals. No facade. No deceptions. No manipulations. No personal agendas.

Unlike people, what you see in animals is who they are.

Serafina was an expert fortune-teller. The real deal. Like her doves. No flash. No fancy-schmancy dramatics that so, too, many clients sought and believed characterize a good fortune-teller.

Too many fortune-tellers belong in the business of acting rather than in the art of insight and predictions, thought Serafina a thousand times.

Some people will do anything for a buck and many will pay the bucks for a good show instead of authenticity. These facts depressed her but what could Serafina do? Certainly not impart wisdom upon the human race!

Like those of her mother and both grandmothers and their mothers and so on down the line back in time, Serafina’s tool was nothing but a simple deck of 52 playing cards. The very one and same used by men in countless poker games through time and in her families too.

Instructions on the meaning of each card began early. Just around 7-1/2 years old, she was. Both grandmothers and mother assembled around the kitchen table beckoning Serafina to take a seat.

Enticements included a plate of gingersnap cookies, homemade of course — her favorite — and a chilled glass of ginger ale. Also homemade. “Come, sit,” Grandma Amber would say, taping a seat with the palm of her hand.

As a girl, Serafina was far more keen on chasing wild rabbits and pheasants in the nearby fields than sitting around the table with adults learning the ways of the cards. Grandmas Amber and Mattie insisted. Too, Serafina’s mother gave her no exit despite long frowns and beggings to be outdoors where the fun was.

Recognizing Serafina’s knack with the cards — “you’re a natural!” – Serafina musta heard that a 100 times! — the three ladies brokered no refusal.

As with many things — piano lessons, yard work, home chores, everything from making the bed to milking the cows that kids balk at and refuse and GOOD caregivers insist upon regardless — it was only later that Serafina appreciated their intent and imposed discipline. Those truly made her a better person.

Around 18, Serafina came into her own. The study of the cards, their individual meanings, around the kitchen table with her elders was long completed.

Whatever card appeared in a layout, she knew well its “bookish” meaning. That, in simplest terms, a 3 of Diamonds indicated legal or money issues, possible disputes or delays. A 7 of Hearts challenges in love broken promises, disappointments or unfaithfulness. And so on.

Yet “academics” had no place in cartomancy — that’s telling fortunes with playing cards. Those were simply guidelines, the traditional meaning assigned to each card. She could look at, say, that 3 of Diamonds and see — just SEE — not legal problems necessarily but something entirely different. Something outside the box of traditional teachings.

Like an unexpected pregnancy, for example, in Susie’s case. Or a windfall from the untimely death of Uncle Joseph, in the case of Big Marvin –too bad about the tractor brakes failing. Or an unplanned road trip, in the case of Greta, who swore she never wanted to leave the town, never mind the state! But yet when she learned of a brother she never knew she’d had — a long-held family secret that came to light — she could only think of Serafina’s prediction as she sat on that Greyhound seat en route to Missouri two states over.

At 18, when she received her first deck, her very own!, Serafina’s world shifted. It was akin to her teenage friends getting their own telephone back in the day before the ubiquitous cell phones in every toddler’s hand! A direct line and private.

Serafina began offering readings to her friends, both for practice and fun. A good many pooh-poohed her invitations for readings — free, they were too, no less! Especially the boys. They verily laughed her out of town!

And since theirs was a town of 5,000 and the next one over was a good 20 miles’ drive — and she had no means to get there — being laughed outta town was unwelcomed banishment indeed!

Regardless, like her mother and grandmothers at that kitchen table who persevered with her long ago, so did Serafina. Over time, word spread.

Girlfriend Louisa marveled at her repeated readings. “She’s so accurate! How’d she know those things?!? I never told anyone about me and Mike! No one!” (Mike was her secret older lover from that town 20 miles away).

So it went. Praises upon praises. Even the doubters — again, mostly the boys — started coming around.

“Serafina! Tell me, when am I gonna meet a girl?!”

“Serafina! am I gonna be able to get outta here and go to college?!”

“Serafina! Is Debbie cheating on me? I really think she’s screwing around with Joey but she says no. Is she a liar?!”

“Serafina! How can I get money?? Workin’ at Bobby’s Burgers just ain’t cutting’ it.”

On and on it flowed, the questions, the concerned citizens. Some were everyday thoughts; many were soulful ones. Serafina was privy to more unrevealed thoughts and concerns and revelations than the minister!

“Serafina! I’m so unhappy being married to Billy. Should I leave him?”

“Serafina! I suspect I’m pregnant but I don’t want to have another baby. What should I do?”

“Serafina! I think I like women more than men. What’s happening to me?!”

Serafina in time became minister – counselor- fortune-teller and best friend to those she knew and many she didn’t. Her reputation for insight and accuracy grew and word spread, as it does. Even passersby through the little town called Cottonballs — at one time cottonfields draped the landscape far as the eye could see — stopped, drawn there either by word of mouth or a humble neon sign flashing simply “Cards! Come!” in the window of her little office along the main street.

Serafina achieved notoriety and outrageous success. Yet humbleness was her nature. She stayed in that tiny 1-bedroom house with the large yard despite ample resources to “upgrade.”

She never left Cottonballs. Never married and never bore a child. Her doves were her children and her craft. She was sought and never turned away anyone who was truly in need and had but a dime in a pocket.

Indeed, her knack with playing cards brought her her fortune. There were no purple scarves, bangles and jangles and turbans or bracelets clacking with every twist of the wrist.

Serafina was the real deal. And, thank god, there were still folks who favored that over entertaining performances.

When Serafina died and her simple “Cards! Come!” sign was switched off for good, the town, along with many regular clients from outside, mourned. But perhaps no one mourned as much as her doves. For in her, they’d had a kindred spirit. Kind. Gentle. Authentic. No artifice, no phoniness.

Just like the birds she so loved. The doves who were released on the evening of Serafina’s service at her little home with the big yard.

And on the gravestone is carved the 8 of Hearts. The meaning: An unexpected gift or visit or invitation to a party. A passionate relationship or success in business.

One of the few occasions when, in the life of Serafina the fortune-teller, that the traditional meaning held.

For Serafina. And for us all.

For Serafina. And for us all.

To Serafina … who from the other side teaches that our fortune lies not neither in prescribed texts nor rules dictated by others. It rests in our authenticity.

I’m a kid again. And I owe it to Walmart.

And a crabby kid who needs a nap. Badly!

Well, that was fun!

In a non-fun kinda way!

Story short, I hit the road as this gypsy-nomad girl is wont to do. Has gotta do.

For me, it’s more than just the sweet music of the wheels goin’ round ‘n’ round. It’s complex. It’s therapy. It’s release. It’s my blood. My nature. The love of the road intertwines with every single part of me. Take away my mobility and freedom and I’m a dead girl. Or an entrapped one at the least.

So yesterday I answered the call of the road. Packed my Subaru with the bare essentials (got it down to a science) and a few extras for fickle weather. And hit the road with loose destinations in mind. Meaning everything’s subject to change as the wheels roll and I ride with the flow.

I travel alone and usually on the byways and backroads and into remote areas. Truly, the biggest challenge of any road trip is the research in locating free dispersed campsites — aka primitive sites, aka boondocking. That’s how I roll.

Such places are often out in the so-called middle of nowhere. Just learning of their existence, never mind location in the woods or wherever, is half the battle, if primitive/budget road travel be the project. Learning of their locations online, without assistance of proper boondocking or RV books and/or Forest Service Road maps, is very time consuming.

Anyhoo, that’s the setup. Yesterday I was a girl with a plan. (Which, trust me, isn’t always the case!)

The plan was to spend the day in the little historic mining town of Jerome (AZ), then head on to nearby Cottonwood and throw a tent and sleeping bag on the boondocking dirt at Thousand Trails.

Dusk is dropping — fast. I go into to my uber-organized road-trip goodies. Pull out the tent bag first. Unzip the bag. No tent.

Shiiiiiiit! I’ve got the rainfly and the stakes. A lotta good those’ll do!

Having just moved and not used my tent in about half a year, I forgot that the tent is separate. I know right where it is too! Neatly folded in its own bag and tucked inside my military green duffel bag. In the storage closet back home. Some 2 hours away!

Shit shit shit! In all my many, many road travels and adventures through the years, I’ve never forgotten an integral element of camping! Ever!

I weigh my options. Sleep in the car. No. Not gonna happen for various reasons.

Or sleep in the open air. Also no. Among needing my privacy, I also need the safety and separation from the world a tent provides. Moreso in a crowded boondocking site like this one.

I don my thinking cap. I passed through a town on the way in. Maybe there’s a Walmart? I type it into my car GPS. Bingo!

Some 5 miles up the road.

Dusk looms heavy. I hightail it down the dirt roads to get to Walmart, get the cheapest tent in stock, hightail it back and get the campsite set up before desert night drapes all in black!

It’s a Walmart Supercenter. If you’ve ever been to one, you don’t need me to tell you that you practically need a GPS (speaking of GPSs) to locate an item!

Bingo! I spot down the Sporting Goods section. Bingo! Tents!

But where are the tents?!?

The shelves are all but empty. Oh. It’s gotta be the nice weather and approaching spring.

All that’s left are two types of tents.

One holds 8 people.

The theres for kids. Two tykes side by side, as the illustration shows.

So a pricey 8-person tent. Or the cheapest kiddie tent. What choice have I got?!

I’ll tell you what choice I’ve got. Dinosaurs on hot pink or flowers on dark blue. I pick the latter as “less conspicuous” in the “wilds.”

With tent in hand — along with a can of beer and a McDonald’s coffee cuz it’s that kinda night — I pull back into the campsite JUST as dusk is surrounding to night.

The tent design sucks. I won’t go into how. Trust me, it sucks big time! This tent is NOT a keeper. It’s going back to Walmart when this trip’s done. For now, it’ll do. It’ll have to.

It’s dark. Between my night blindness and progressive lenses, which lose functionality at night, the Arizona desert sky and what moonlight?!, I’m groping around like that proverbial blind man learning an elephant by touch to singlehandedly erect a new tent and tweak the stakings.

Fortunately there’s no shortage of hammers They’re everywhere! They’re called rocks!

At last I get the kiddie tent up … my mat and sleeping bag unrolled. I do some journaling in the shallow light of a battery-operated lantern. Sip my beer. Enjoy the starry clear skies.

Then I call it a night around 8:30 p.m. It’s camping. What else do you do?!

Such was the plan.

I doze off maybe 10 minutes. When I awaken — at a guesstimated 9 p.m. — there I remain. All night long. Wide awake.

ALL NIGHT LONG.

One, I cannot get troubles out of my mind. Two, and most importantly, those online reviewers are wrong. Dead wrong. This place is not “quiet” like they wrote!

This place is noise ALL NIGHT LONG. From truckers, cars, motorcycles. It’s 1/4-mile away from a busy state road! And if you know anything about Nature’s acoustics, sounds are magnified and carried across spaces. Especially wide open spaces like canyons. And deserts. Duh.

So ALL NIGHT LONG I lay listening to the roar of traffic. On the move. From 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. I toss and turn. I wonder if I’ll sleep AT ALL. I’m at the start of a road trip. This is not a good beginning!

I refuse to look at my phone. I don’t wanna know the time.

Eventually, just as dawn is cracking, I doze off. And awaken early. It’s camping! What else do you do?!

Result: A guesstimated 2 hours of a light doze. During nearly 12 hours inside a kiddies’ tent. Bought on the fly at a store that just happened to be in the area! Walmart to the rescue!

Because of how I travel — i.e., often by the seat of my pants — I always favorite boondocking sites. Ya never know when I may pass this way again and need some dirt and some sleep.

Or “sleep” in the case of the Thousand Trails boondocking site near Cottonwood, AZ. Those reviewers are insane to call it quiet! I’ve but one suggestion to them: Get your hearing checked.

+ + +

Needless to say, I packed it up and rolled out there first thing this morning. Being this tired and whacked-out from no sleep is neither conducive to safe driving or observant travels.

Where I’ll sleep tonight, I’ve no idea. One things for certain. It won’t be on any reviewers’ assurance that the boondocking site is quiet!

+ + +

This comes to you from a coffeehouse in Flagstaff. Three espresso shots won’t cure what ails me today.

The clouds have rolled in, promising rain in a day or so. Best to travel eastward and stay ahead of the storm.

Most likely will end up in Winslow, Arizona. Yes, THAT Winslow, brought to fame by the Eagles:

“Well, I’m a-standing on a corner
in Winslow, Arizona
and such a fine sight to see
It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed
Ford slowin’ down to take a look at me.”

Hope that girl won’t mind if I look back at her with one eye closed. ‘Cause me, well, I’ll be a-sleeping on a corner, standing up, in Winslow, Arizona …”

the Pharaoh and his tempestuous disobedient slave

Was all geared up for the day’s writing prompt from “The Writer’s Book of Days.”

Open to the page and March 8 prompt. Night.

Feel like I’ve done that one to death! No word play intended. Death – darkness – night.

So I’m gonna pass, which I rarely do on prompts, and write on a subject that’s near but not dear to my heart.

Slavery. More precisely, breaking the bonds of slavery.

I am a slave and was enslaved, from a very young tender age, by a father who was tyrannical, authoritative, cruel, brutal, oppressive, suppressive and domineering. It was his way or no way; the only in-betweens were World War IIIs.

He had his very good side, definitely. He was very intelligent, observant, witty, original in thought, perceptive, non-conforming and especially creative.

Whether it was a paint brush, wood carving tool or landscaping implement in his hand, he was a genius. He crafted everything to stunning perfection or very nearly so. He was an artist and artisan with incredible and rare attention to detail. (People generally don’t care about quality any longer.) He was a precisionist. In those aspects particularly, my father and I are two peas in a pod.

I love my father to death.

And am the first to acknowledge that he was not an easy man or an easy person. He intimidated everyone. Most adult neighbors didn’t like him and/or feared him. Friends of mine and my sister’s mostly refused to come to our house to play because they too feared him.

Growing up under his thumb was hell. Is hell. The branding marks remain on the inside, where no one sees them.

Slavery. These are deep and complicated issues that I’m not gonna write about, for many reasons. Instead, I wish to focus on breaking the shackles of slavery.

* * *

How is it done? I do not know.

Humankind has had slaves since before Christ. I’m not a Biblical or religious person — AT ALL! At all.

I’m the first to admit that my Bible knowledge is about zilch. Years ago, however, prompted by my own Valley of Darkness (speaking of the “night” prompt) in Washington state, I did plod my way through the Old Testament.

It was slow going and not really enjoyable. But by plodding onward (interspersed admittedly with plenty of skimming), I came to learn of the Egyptians’ oppression and enslavement of the Jews and their eventual release by Moses.

It is a historical tale of tremendous importance in meaning, symbolism, metaphor and actuality for mankind. For me as well (though, as I wrote, not in any Christian, religious or faith-based perspective.) I leave it to scholars and others with far more knowledge and understanding of history than I to dissect the most widely-read book in the world.

I do like how this particular person captured it here:

“Finally, in order to truly identify with the exodus from Egypt, we must understand how we have been (and continue to be) freed. The Jewish redemption from slavery meant the ability to serve God instead of Pharaoh. Our freedom from slavery does not mean freedom from acting on behalf others, but rather it means the ability to choose how we will serve others.”

* * *

The only God I’ve known is my father. He was God in the House (in both my childhood and adulthood). His force was the force of God. His anger and rage. His dictates were never to be questioned or challenged. Not without penalty and severe consequences. His thumb upon everyone in the home (not just me by any means!) was real. Forceful. Mighty. Unyielding. Controlling. He was more than a tyrant. He was the Pharaoh of Egypt. He was God.

We were a family with no religion or secular faith. I’ve no problem with that. I’m not conventional or a sheep or a follower. I question and I challenge and I think and I arrive at my own conclusions. I’m rebellious and defiant and abhor authority.

My father, last I heard, was an atheist. My mother may’ve had belief in God. If she did, she certainly didn’t draw from it or display it in any way in terms of protecting me. (She was not a good mother or well woman; I shall leave it at that.)

She briefly gave “religion” a go by taking me and my sister to the Unitarian church (dad stayed home). Which, as you should know if you don’t already, is about as non-churchy and non-religious as it gets!

That so-called church-going didn’t stick. No loss.

Outside my father, I’ve no concept of God. Not really. I’ve had innumerable moments, experiences (including life-threatening) and encounters that can be understood and explained only as revelations of a greater force and power. A Divine Intelligence. An Intelligent Universe. (Note that I said an intelligent universe, NOT an intelligent people!)

Life itself suggests a creative power and source that some would call God. My father, despite his authority as God, did not create this world. That may seem obvious but in fact is not to a child under an oppressive dictates and thumb of an other.

Circling back to slavery and breaking the bonds.

Moses has not stepped into my life to open the gates and lead me away from the torments and imprisonments under the Egyptians. I’d be a fool to wait around for him to appear!

What I lack is obvious to me. A trust in life being good. Because it hasn’t been, rather, more precisely, was not from newborn infancy. A trust in people being good. Because they have not been. A trust in a greater power that is not only benign (a huge leap itself) but one that sees each of us individually and cares. I’ve no sense of that; my childhood imparted none of that.

I have no faith. I did not just arrive at that in a day. Life experience taught me.

In short, the “f-word” to me is not the bad word. My f-word is “faith.”

* * *

I’m sitting here trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life.

I do not mean every moment for the next 20-30 years or whatever I’ve got left. My father is gone, to the Other Side, that is, and not that long ago. I struggle and grapple with it as any true human being would. I am forever changed by the loss of my significant parent.

Yet his markings — his brandings by the Iron Fist — remain. They’re not scars yet. They’re wounds. Hurts and pains raw and bloody still, nowhere close to being scabbed over.

Too often I continue to think like that slave that he made me be and the slavery forced upon me.

Too often I continue to be confined and defined by his brutalities and limitations imposed upon me, nee forced down my soulful throat.

Too often I think of the punishments and hardships that await me rather than the dreams that might release me from Darkness.

Too often I think of Death as my relief and release rather than of the Light in my own soul. I think of his intelligence rather than my own. His enormous creativity rather than my own. His pains rather than my own. His nightmarish childhood rather than my own. His dictates rather than my own inner compass of deep morality, integrity and honesty.

It’s that that I surrounded into an invisible acquiescent nobody. If my father is the Pharaoh, then I am/was his tempestuous and rebellious slave.

I fought him and his dictates tooth and nail. I fought him to preserve my life. I fought him with all the force my little stature and big intelligent mind could muster.

But I always lost. Always. He was bigger than I. A fucking lot stronger than I. Had greater force than I. He held the controls. The authority. The power. The whip. He WAS God. I stood up and pushed back more than anyone else in the family (including a shitty mother who supposedly protects and loves her child) and I paid dearly.

* * *

I’m not sure why this is being written today. Perhaps it’s partly because I’ve got a birthday in a week (ditto my sister). We’re getting up there in the years. Aging’s got a way of challenging and altering one’s perceptions and viewpoints in life.

There’s more to it than just the impending birthdays. What to do with my life without my dad’s imposing unyielding God dictates is up for discussion. How to break the enslavement is a massive question.

And since I am unconvinced that God exists, or cares, to whom do I turn for guidance?

To whom do I pray for higher knowledge, wisdom and guidance at this challenging time?

My dad “bashed me” in the head and shoved his will down my throat time. Who hears my voice? Who can hear my heart? Who will listen? Does anyone listen? Is anyone there?

* * *

“Night” was today’s writing prompt.

Turns out this post, without intent, is aligned after all.

As a nocturnal creature, I favor and know more about night than day. Too, I know more about Darkness than Light. Slavery than Freedom. I know more about an other’s will imposed upon me than my own, free to be, free to live.

In closing, I circle back to the above excerpt: “The Jewish redemption from slavery meant the ability to serve God instead of Pharaoh.”

Remove “Jewish” from that statement — ethnocentricity is unnecessary and limiting; slavery is a human matter — and I’d concur.

At this time of my life and on the cusp of a birthday closer to death than birth, I’ve much to contemplate. I’ve much to learn about how it is that one — that I — break the chains and bondages of slavery … when there may or may not be a God.

Noc Noc, Talk Talk, Love Love

Write about a time you won, Big.

March 7 prompt, “A Writer’s Book of Days”

It’s not anything I could’ve predicted. Seen coming. Seen happening in my life that even in its short 31 years was characterized by first traumas/struggles and two, unconventionality.

The time I won, Big.

1988. San Francisco. Noc Noc. A dark cave of a place where the unconventional, the cool, the artists, the weirdos, the fringe hung out. Myself included. I was shaving my head my back. I mean shave. As in with shaving cream and a razor. And in shaving verrrry carefully!

Wasn’t a total cue ball. I’d left a long thin piece from the top of the head down the right side that I braided and tied off with the tiniest rubber band available on the market and thread. A tuft at the front that for a while I dyed orange. And a longer tuft down the back that I kept in a small ponytail aka Hare Krishna-style. (I wasn’t.) I’d created the style myself. Called it my monk-artist cut. And the real me.

I came to know E., the cool cat and very odd (even by my incredibly open and tolerant standards!) owner and designer of Noc Noc. But that’s an entirely different story and none of your damn business, frankly. I’d often go to Noc Noc with my Japanese language book and sometimes a scarf wrapped around my mostly-naked head. The City of Fog gets chiilllllly and damp and, as I discovered, you lose a LOT of heat through the head! Strangers would come up to me seated at the bar and rub my head like it was Buddah’s belly or something! Yeah, good times.

I got to studying Japanese not because of E., who is Japanese. Well, E. played a part in that E. introduced me, by presence, energy, cultural aura and all those many intangibles to which we Pisces are so attuned, to The Other Side. The Eastern side. I’ve always felt, since I was a child, a profound and “inexplicable” affinity with Asia. Later in life I came to understand it on many many levels and explained it simply as “I’m an Asian trapped in a Western body.”

Be that as it is, it wasn’t so much that I was introduced through Noc Noc and E. specifically and the other native Japanese to an unknown foreign culture as I was brought home.

I mean yes, I hadn’t yet been to Asia. (I had been through Europe, across the United States and, barf, into Mexico. But I’d always felt, starting from childhood, a strong and inexplicable affinity with Asia. I used to eat hamburgers with chopsticks. My mother I’m sure thought I was a total freak. Not her daughter. Wasn’t the first time, certainly wasn’t the last! Peas too. They’re terrific for developing chopstick skill & technique!

Later in life I came to understand much much more about this affinity. Now I simply express it with “I’m an Asian trapped in a Western body.” Most people don’t get it. They can’t understand. Can’t relate. In honesty, I don’t give an f. I’m not like most people and I know it. I don’t want to be like most people and I know that too.

So circa 1988 when I discovered Noc Noc in the Lower Haight of San Francisco, I felt like I’d found home. It was a strange place. Like a Moroccan opium den sans the opium (obviously).

Dark, shadowy, candlelight, intimate underworld haven for the unconventional, the artists, weirdos, freaks and fringe. Verrrry intimate place. It held, what, 30 people max? There was seating at the tiny bar that seated about 8. The funky tables, seats and booths were hand-fashioned outta wood; circled around a table, four was a crowd. I vaguely recall a couch or two toward the far wall.

I’d go in, sit at the bar, drink sake martinis and study my Japanese. At the time, I wasn’t planning a trip to Japan. At the time, I had no freaking clue of what my future held! No clue of what awaited me in that subterranean intimate opium den of a place. A place where the very shy Hideo played highly eclectic music from a DJ booth the size of a closet. Two people in it was a crowd for sure. Among the many unique and truly unusual discoveries, Talk Talk at Noc Noc was one of ’em!

I was studying Japanese in an evening course at the time not because I had any travels there planned. I simply I looooooooved the sound of the language. LOOOOOOVED it. I’ve studied five languages, including English, and none had that effect on me. (I did find Italian beautiful, however; the sounds of French are the WORST! HIDEOUS! Why people think it’s romantic is beyond me!!!)

To my ears and sensibilities, the sounds of the Japanese language were Zen. Like listening to water flower over rock. I used to make E. talk to me in Japanese. Didn’t matter what was being said. Coulda been the stock market report for all I cared! Just Talk Talk (speaking again of cool music!) to me in Japanese! E. obliged.

Because of Noc Noc and E., things happened. A LOT of things happened. Things developed. Unfolded. One thing led to another and led to another. Things that are deeply personal and private to me. Things I wouldn’t tell anyone but an profoundly dear and close person. So you ain’t gonna hear it here.

In a nutshell, Noc Noc and the people and events and oh so much more entirely altered the course of my life. My life got shape-shifted. Big time. I got shape-shifted. Through and through.

And the rest as they say is history.

The time I won, Big … it’s got nuthin’ to do with jackpots in a casino. Got nuthin’ to do with lottery tickets or a chance find on the street of a clipped newspaper ad of someone hiring a writer / editor / radio person — and absolutely that’d be a majorily huuuuuuuge win!!! A dream come true even!

The time I won, Big … it’s got nuthin’ to do with, say, buying a dinner plate at the Goodwill for 50 cents and discovering it’s one of a 100 in the world and worth $50,000!

And it’s got nuthin’ to do with the scholarships, academic achievements and awards including in my field of journalism, back when journalism was still journalism, not this fucking Obama-Liberal Agenda, oh so long ago. All of which I’m deeply proud of and inexpressibly wish that someone other than myself (i.e, employer) would also value so I could make use of my gifts, talents, abilities, experience and skills in paid work.

So yes, I do feel that I won, Big, on that level. As an inquisitive and bright Student of Life who’s always been highly academically oriented and keen on learning, to be able to receive quality higher education that included specifically the best journalism education in the country (the University of Missouri in Columbia) Columbia, Missouri) is something I do not take lightly.

But that’s to the time I won, Big, Really Big. That occurred starting in 1988 in that hovel of an opium den in San Francisco back when I was shaving my head except for those tufts and the long skinny braid down one side. When I got discovered, not by a publisher — though I’d NOT say no to that!!! I got discovered … spotted … seen … recognized for the truly unconventional girl that I am by someone equally weird, in different yet compatible ways.

I got zeroed in on by an Japanese person who had absolutely no idea at the time of just how much of a counterpart I was! A Westerner on the outside, an Asian on the inside. Soooo much happened, so much I won’t share save to say that, yes, my life and I both were wholly, fully, completely shape-shifted.

What began as a tiny dark weird underground hovel of a hangout where I’d drink those sake martinis and study my Japanese book became … yes, the Jackpot of my Lifetime. The people involved know who they are. I know who they are. God knows who they are.

And so on this day, March 7, 2015, some 26 years later and, coincidentally, nearly to the very day that I got on a plane for the first travel to Japan — a short 2-week visit that soon thereafter led to nearly 11 years in the Land of the Rising Sun — I celebrate … remember … honor … give gratitude to that weird place called Noc Noc. To the weird mysterious artist who created it. To the Japanese who forever changed my life, mind, soul and spirit. To the Love of my Life and the one who got away.

Real love, no matter how badly or painfully it ends … real love, even when it leaves your life, never dies. Your paths will cross again in other lifetimes and on the Other Side. True love is unaffected by time or distance or other partners. True love withstands every thunderbolt and crash of the waves and ruination by human hearts and hands. True love never leaves.

And that is the time I won, Big. It’s safe in my heart. Spoken but not revealed here. It is shared by none but me and T. You know who you are. I know who I am. We know who we were. And will be again on the other side. True lasting forever love. The biggest win of the human heart of them all.

a whacky ruling replete with wisdom that never made the news

At 5 in the afternoon.
(after Federico Garcia Lorca)

March 4 prompt, “A Writer’s Book of Days”

(First, who’s Federico Garcia Lorca? Oh. A Spanish poet, playwright and director of the 1800s.)

The reverberation of the wooden gavel striking its sound block was felt across the courtroom. Not a difficult accomplishment as the room seated only around 25 at capacity. That day, it was inhabited by only three, which amplified the striking of the gavel all the more.

“Mister Abrams. Are you fully aware of the charges brought against you?”

“I am, your honor,” he responded, meekly. Dumbly. He didn’t truly understand. He did not understand how he could be brought to court for violating the peace and sanctity of another’s home. He thought the world was his oyster. His. H-i-s.

That his thoughtless, inconsiderate and obnoxious behaviors could so impose upon another human being, intrude into another’s home and ruin, if not obliterate, the “quiet enjoyment” of a tenant’s home as provided by Arizona law was a concept beyond the scope of Mr. Abrams’s intelligence and understanding.

“I’m a man,” he thought. “My family is from Egypt.” The machismo of his culture escaped his awareness. Ditto his — their — macho attitudes. He was the center of his universe, like most men of his culture.

Moreover, he was nearly revered as a god by his girlfriend, who sat in the gallery with a tissue already dabbing her eye. A blonde, shapely, busty lady. A real catch by Egyptian standards.

By America’s too. She was young, not merely in age — 25-ish — but life experience. Hers was not an old soul with innate wisdom, neither a soul to acquire wisdom quickly.

She was naive and for that she easily succumbed to the “charms” and powers of a macho dark-skinned man. Danielle Steele couldn’t have penned a more romantic figure. Cliched? You bet! But cliches and fantasies sell romance novels. Not realities.

“Well then,” announced Judge Heathrow, leaning back with all the earned authority of his 26 years on the bench. “Let us proceed. You are charged with excessive disruptions and disturbances of the peace of those around you, including and specifically the neighbor who lives below you.”

“Yes sir,” said Mr. Abrams.

He still didn’t understand how disruptive and distressing his actions were and had been. Months and months of stomping about, stepping with the force of booted Russian soldiers trudging through snowdrifts. Pounding and hammering and dragging heavy furniture across wooden floors into the night. Where was team lifting with the busty girlfriend? Even the judge wondered.

Months of dropping things that sent waves of crashing sounds reverberating across the plaintiff’s ceiling. Abrupt thumps and thuds and ruckus that caused her to literally jump inches from her chair. Her nervous system, overwrought by the continuous intrusions, no longer burned. It’d morphed beyond into a cold steel. She, the prosecutor, was done. She had had enough. Had enough of being unseen, unheard, disregarded by her neighbors. By HIM, the macho Egyptian.

She took the case to court. The judge had listened with fairness uncommon in this modern age of unreason marred by self-serving attitudes, political correctness and gains in the liberal agenda at any and all cost.

Judge Heathrow sat upright in his judge-ly chair with the tall black leather back. Straightened his shoulders. Looked with a poker face first at the defendant, then the prosecutor, then briefly a piece of paper on his bench.

Then, with that same poker face displaying but one expression: an unyielding commitment to fairness and peace that was his task, purpose and mission to uphold, he announced his ruling:

“I rule in favor of the defendant.”

Mr. Abrams’s gasp was as audible across the courtroom as the gavel bang had been. The busty blonde girlfriend’s too.

“With conditions,” he immediately and emphatically added.

The cheer of Mr. Abrams and his busty blonde girlfriend deflated, their shoulders sagged.

“The prosecutor has excellent grounds for this case. This court has found it a case of merit. You have, Mr. Abrams, been inconsiderate. Thoughtless. Inattentive to the right to peace and quiet enjoyment by not only this prosecuting tenant but all tenants in your building.”

Mr. Abrams, seated at the defense table before the judge’s bench, looked down at the floor.

“You have been found to have been arrogant and unconcerned about the impact you have on others.

“You have been the cause of distress, unwittingly perhaps initially. Yet when it was brought to your attention in a neighborly dialogue, you disregarded the agreement toward cooperative harmony and peaceful coexistence in tight quarters. I am assured of such by the photographs entered in the exhibits.”

Mr. Abrams bit his lip. He looked ready to both cry or punch the judge’s lights out. As macho men are wont to do when their machismo is usurped.

“The prosecutor in this case has convinced the court of the validity of every claim. She is, in fact, by law, in the right and in the spirit of the law has won this case.”

Mr. Abrams looked up at the judge, confused.

“To answer your question,” the judge proceeded, “I have ruled in favor of the defendant.”

“That’s me,” whispered Mr. Abrams.

“It is not because she is wrong. She is right. It is you who is wrong. And yet I rule in your favor because it is you who must learn the rules of community cohabitation.

“It is you who must remain at the property, not because you have the means and resources that enable you to do so.

“You have been an unneighborly neighbor and until you learn to be kind, thoughtful, considerate and mindful of those around you, you will continue to live there and received continual reminders from the divine and from tenants below that you are crossing the line,” the judge stated firmly.

“When you have learned that community living involves others, not solely your self and/or your girlfriend, you will be released from your lease by circumstances and forces greater than yourself and you will go on to become a better neighbor in the next location.”

Mr. Abrams’s expression of puzzlement was astounding.

Taking the cue, the judge “dumbed down” his ruling.

“In other words, Mr. Abrams, while the court has ruled in your favor, it is not because you have been in the right. You have not.

“It is because you have been inconsiderate and unneighborly. Until you learn otherwise, you must remain in your current residence and be subject to remands and reminders from those around you about your transgressions so that YOU might grow.”

“Oh.” It’s all Mr. Abrams could muster.

At 5 o’clock that afternoon, under crisp cloudless blue skies and a full moon, a Judge of Uncommon Fairness & Reason made a seemingly confusing if not convoluted ruling that favored the offender rather than defender.

Yet in his supreme reason, wisdom and insight, he issued a ruled ultimately designed to serve the good of all.

How so?

It meant, for the plaintiff tenant, opportunity after opportunity to speak up on behalf of herself and the sanctity of peace and serenity in her home.

It meant, for the defendant Mr. Abrams, lessons in growing up and mindfulness toward others.

Lastly it meant for humans and future neighbors of Mr. Abrams and his blonde-busty- “what a catch!”-girlfriend a quietude that otherwise they’d never enjoy.

A win-win-win in a landmark case on the books that receives none of its due recognition and applause in the legal profession. Unfair? You bet. As are humans.

At 5 o’clock that afternoon on March 4, an unconventional, even whacky, case was sealed with a reverberating strike of the gavel on its sound block.

The judge rose in dignity ad silence, turned and retreated to his chambers.

At 5:15, after hanging up the black robe on the coatrack in the corner of his chamber, he poured himself a thimble of superb single-malt Scotch and sighed a deep sigh of tremendous and voluminous weariness with the human race. “Why must people be so unfair. So unreasonable. So selfish.”

Sadly, he found no answer in his law books, his compelling wisdom or dignified sips of Scotch.

Alert to the snow-wearied: Do not read!

Finally! Precipitation!

More! More! More! Pretty please!

More! More! More! Pretty please!

The view from my window when I awoke about 2 hours ago. Normally the town’s visible beyond that tree there. Today, not so much …

While this is about the last thing that much of the country, worn out by Winter 2015, wants to see, Arizona, along with Utah and other Southwest states, welcome it! We’re mired in a severe and lingering drought. We *wish* for and soooo need some of that wet stuff! Our land is dry, bodies of water are hurting for replenishment.

I didn’t believe it when I heard it last night. “More rain and snow on the way.” As it stood, the weather forecasters had once again overstated, overdramatized, overhyped a “massive storm” that’d deliver “days of rain and snow from Saturday through Monday.”

Typical liberal media “the sky is falling! NOW!” Everything’s a crisis with the media except Fox. However, this is Arizona. One of the very few remaining vestiges of conservatism, reason and freedom from the socialist takeover by Obama and the libs and the outpouring of crap from from his lapdogs media. The liberal press, and hence its overblown overkill weather reporting, are not part of this terrain. Most people here don’t buy into it.

So when days of drenching precipitation didn’t materialize (wasn’t even close!) my skepticism about the trustworthiness of weather forecasting was only fueled.

But! Snow they predicted for Monday and snow is what we’re getting! Yeeeeey!! Yahoooooo! *Boy do we need it!!!*

Won’t be much, they say. About 1-3 inches accumulation. Come tomorrow, the storm’ll travel eastward. Personally, I wouldn’t object if it stuck around for five days or so. We so need the moisture. And aside from a staff meeting anon, there’s nowhere I *have* to be or that I can’t walk to to replenish supplies or relieve cabin fever.

The pic above shows what I awoke to; it’s just the beginning. Forgoing the coffee, I hastened into street clothes and moved my car. Away from its spot along a very steep slope (approximately 60-degree incline) and down the hill to a lower-level dirt incropping.

I discovered during the whopper New Year’s snowstorm just how un-doable my driveway becomes in snow and ice. It demands gradual and measured dual maneuvering of backing out in reverse and a precise timely sharp turn that even in the best of conditions are tricky. In snow and ice, it’s a slide down a hill waiting to happen. No thank you.

I’ve chosen to live in Arizona for many reasons and one of them is snow. I’ve lived in snow states and cities. While my Nordic genes and I quite enjoy it, I don’t care to relive it knee-deep. Don’t care for the hassles. Above all, I loathe the moronic drivers. (Don’t get me started on that vitriolic topic!) It’s really they who’ve driven me out of snowy sites. I hate stupid.

It’s nice to see weather that’s different from the usual crisp bright blue skies and sunshine! Which is not to in ANY WAY imply that I tire of them! No! No! No! No. I barely got out with my life from the gloom of god-awful Washington state / Puget Sound. That’s one state — and the only state in the union — that I’l never step foot in again. Unless I were en route to Canada. And even then I’d take the long way around. It’s a vow I made when I got out and one that I WILL keep for the rest of my life.

The snow’s building. Evidently it’s keeping the neighbors away from their workplaces. They’re up there, making all kinds of racket again. Moving furniture for across their wooden floors for the 100th time. The one downside to the white stuff today.

After living under continuous activity and noise for 3+ months, I’m truly feeling that there’s something wrong with him. Something’s off. Maybe ADD or hyperactivity. He’s unable to stop moving or doing something “manly” like reconstructing and renovating.

Were that the pretty snow that buffers sounds and silences could be dumped into Apartment A above! I’d do it. I would! Would give them thermal socks or such to protect the feet. Don’t wish frostbite upon the Noisy Neighbors. Only the Sounds of Silence.

And plenty more precipitation for Arizona and this here northern region. It’s needed like a fish needs water. Like a bird needs air for flight. Like a mountain goat needs to climb. Like a body needs sleep. Like this girl needs a shot of rye whiskey to stave off the chill. (oops, did I say that aloud?)

Salud to snow!

Salud!

Salud!