Going To the Baths at Esalen, or Shootout at the I'm OK You're OK Corral
The Above Average Rocked At Its Moorings | The Dharma Comes to Carolina
Jesus Sent Me
Indiana Jones and the Dumpster of Doom
I remember the day in Chico when Matt Mahoney and Nate gave names to the two little black kittens we had gotten from the neighbors.
"Let's call this one Black Knight," said Nate.
"Yeah, or James Bond, Junior," said Matt.
"You could call him Black Knight, alias James Bond, Junior," I suggested.
"Let's call this one Indiana Jones," said Matt.
"Yeah, Indiana Jones," Nate agreed.
So the kittens were named. Black Knight and Indy were the names that stuck. Black Knight was always more standoffish and finicky. Indy was the gregarious one, the purrer, the one who would stay around when company came while Black Knight disappeared.
When we moved from Chico to Ukiah, Black Knight freaked out. As soon as the van door was opened he bolted. He ran away from our new house toward the only major highway. We didn't see him again for several hours. Finally we heard him meowing at the corner house across the street. We retrieved him and to the best of our knowledge he has not strayed far from home since then.
Indy, on moving day, strolled into the new house, looked around, went outside, came back in, lay down and went to sleep. One thing neither Indy nor Black Knight paid any attention to that first day, but would come to know well later, was the dumpster at the apartments across the back fence. It was a place where all the cats in the neighborhood tended to congregate.
And there were a lot of cats in the neighborhood. Our yard is a dog free zone, so lots of cats tend to cut through on their way to the dumpster and elsewhere. That first Christmas, sitting at home by the fire, we decided to make a cat count, and we counted twenty-two including Indy and Black Knight. Maybe half of these cats had owners, the others were a stray cat population that had been breeding in the neighborhood for several generations. In fact, just after Christmas one of these cats decided to have her kittens under a juniper bush in our front yard. They were the cutest, fluffiest kittens you'd ever want to see. We managed to find homes for them and got to know the mother, a tough, wiry old lady whom we named Extra because she became an extra cat to feed at our house. We even managed to catch her, not an easy task, and take her to the vet to be spayed.
So time went on, as it will, for over a year, and we got to feeling pretty at home in our new environs. Like all the neighborhood cats, well-fed or not, ours had begun making it a habit to stroll over to the dumpster looking for delicious garbage. Indy was especially bad about it, though possibly his main motivation was socialization, because he always remained skinnier than Black Knight.
It was just before our second Thanksgiving in Ukiah that Indy disappeared. One evening he did not come in as usual, and the next day he was nowhere to be seen. We asked around and learned that a little white kitten owned by some people who lived in an apartment near the dumpster had also disappeared. They told us that some people had been looking at a vacant apartment the day before and had asked about their kitten, saying they would like to buy her. The next day the kitten and Indy disappeared.
Cats can't talk of course, at least they choose not to, but if Indy could speak I think his story would go something like this:
I cut through the fence to the dumpster. Some people were there that I had never seen before. They seemed pretty friendly and said, "Here kitty, kitty," so I eased over to see what they had to offer. The new little white kitten was with them too. I purred around and one of the kids picked me up, not a bad smelling kid, grape lollipop mainly. I heard someone say, "Bring that one too," and before I knew what was happening we were in a car driving away from home. I freaked out a little bit at that, let out a "Mrowwer" and jumped, but all the windows and doors were closed. I looked for a place to hide but that was a no go also, so I just crouched down on the floor and waited for my next chance to make a move.
I didn't have a lot of experience with cars, just a few trips to the vet and that one long ride when we moved, so I didn't know what to expect. This ride took about as long as one of the ones to the vet. The car stopped and someone said, "Grab that black cat." The lollipop kid tried for me again but I was ready this time. I hissed and scratched at him. Somebody opened the car door nearest me and I ran, as fast as I could, away from those people. I crossed a pretty big road, still going fast, but luckily no cars were coming. After that I ran through a couple of yards and climbed one fence before I stopped to look around.
I had no idea where I was. It was a yard with a house, a little bit like home, but nothing smelled or looked familiar. I found a woodpile with a little opening and crawled in underneath. Whew! Nothing like this had ever happened before. I lay low there for a good long while, even dozed a little bit.
When I woke up it was almost night. I was still pretty scared and shook up, but I was hungry so I wandered carefully up to the back door of the house to see if maybe there was any food around. Not much luck. All I could find were a few pretzels in a bowl on the patio. I licked and nibbled on them and found a dripping faucet where I got a drink. Then I headed back to the woodpile for the night. I slept off and on, heard a few other cats go by but didn't make myself known, heard neighborhood dogs bark now and then, but this yard seemed to be a pretty safe place.
In the morning I tried the back door again. Nothing new. Same old pretzels, now a bit more soggy and stale. It was a cool, sunny day. Everything smelled and sounded pretty safe. I jumped the fence and went out to have a look around. A few houses down the block I saw a white cat. I walked down there and we sniffed each other. She turned out to be friendly and she even had an outdoor food bowl full of dry cat food. She invited me to help myself. I thanked her and ate my fill. Well, I was still lost and confused but at least I wasn't hungry anymore.
I kept looking around. I came to the big road that I had run across yesterday. I did not want to go back across there to where those people were that put me in the car. I figured out where I was in relation to them and made it a point to stay away from there. Other than that I was still disoriented. I was in a neighborhood with houses, cars, people, cats, dogs, grass, trees and birds, but none of it was familiar. I had no idea where my brother, my people, my house, my yard and my food bowl were. I went back to the woodpile and slept the rest of the day.
Things went on like that for a while. Some days I had more luck finding food than others. Nights I lay pretty low. When the rainy weather came I found an old van with a little window I could get through. I thought about my people now and then. Almost every day I wandered as far as the big road. It seemed like maybe, somehow, it led home, but I didn't know how to get there. I stayed pretty much away from humans. "Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me," I always say. I did meet two other friendly cats that lived in a house near the big road. I got food there sometimes and their yard became one of my hangouts on nice days.
When Indy didn't show up to eat for the second evening in a row we were pretty worried about him. We walked around the block calling and looking for him but he was nowhere to be found. The next day we called the animal shelter and even went by there to look at all the sad cats in the cages, but Indy was not there. We all felt sad. Indy had been with us ever since he was a kitten. Every day for the last three years he had been part of our daily life, eating, purring, sleeping, curling up in odd places. You don't know what you've got till it's gone, they say, and it's true. Indy had been part of the happiness and contentment of our household. Now he was gone without a trace. At least we had not found a dead body, so we could hope that he was alive somewhere, maybe injured or trapped, but alive.
We made signs announcing our lost cat, his name and looks, and posted them around the neighborhood. Every car trip, walk or bike ride we kept an eye out for him. The animal shelter had his description and said they would call us if he turned up. But days turned into weeks and Indy was still gone. For Christmas we went on a trip to Chico and visited old friends. Our Christmas wish was that Indy would be home when we got back, but no such luck. In fact, when we got back Extra was gone. She had been with us about a year. It wasn't anything like losing Indy. She had always been Extra, an outdoor cat that we fed but never really new. We never did see her again. Maybe something happened to her or maybe she just wandered off when we were gone for a few days.
Black Knight was his same old self. He was never known for wandering too far from his food bowl. He had seemed to miss Indy when he first disappeared, but by now Black Knight seemed happy to have the food bowl all to himself. We were grateful that he was still with us, and not too hurt about Extra being gone, but we did still miss Indy.
Time just won't stop though. The new year came, Christmas vacation ended. We got back into the swing of school and work. By February I think, in our hearts, we had given up on finding Indy. He wasn't much in our thoughts anymore. And then, just after Valentine's Day, an amazing thing happened. Nate and I had been to the health club and had a nice swim. On the way home, just off the side of the road, I saw a black cat walking. "That cat looks like Indy," I said. "Think we should go back and look?"
"Sure, why not?" said Nate. I turned the van around and drove back to where I had seen the cat. There he was, in the side yard of a duplex, a black cat that looked a lot like Indy. We knocked on a couple of doors and asked people if the black cat was theirs. No, they said, he's been around here for a while but he's not ours. The funny thing was that Nate and I weren't really sure it was Indy. And if it was him, he didn't seem really sure he knew us. He kind of edged around us for awhile, not coming right up to us. We were in a state of wonder and amazement, saying, "Indy, is that you?" and "Here kitty, here Indy," and things like that. Finally we got close enough to him to have a look at the unmistakable white marking under his chin. And sure enough it was him. He had begun to purr, and pretty soon he let Nate pick him up. We put him in the van and happily headed for home.
Of course maybe I have it all wrong. Maybe Indy's adventures were not anything like what I've surmised. Maybe things were a lot more horrendous. Maybe he was poisoned, chased by dogs, hit by a car, almost starved, nearly drowned. At any rate, when we found him he was not in bad shape. He had lost some weight but his coat was thick and glossy and he seemed his usual bright, perceptive self.
There was a funny scene when we got Indy home. Nate carried him into the house and set him down next to his food bowl in the kitchen. Boy did Indy seem happy about that! Just then Mary came in from the backyard and did a double take. "Wait a minute. I just put that cat out the back door. How'd he get in here again so quick?"
Nate gleefully told here, "This isn't Black Knight. It's Indy."
"Yes! We found Indy!"
And we told her the story of how we found him. We all felt great.
So that's pretty much it. It has been two years now since Indy's abduction at the dumpster. He still wanders over there now and then, but I notice he stays away from people when he does. We've all gotten back into our usual routines-cats in each morning, out at night, late-afternoon feeding, lots of naps. There have been a few other interesting cat episodes-pretty soon I'll tell you about the Cute Little Kitty's wilderness adventure-but Indiana Jones survived the dumpster of doom and has not strayed far from his food bowl since.
Going To the Baths at Esalen, or
Shootout at the I'm OK You're OK Corral
I first heard of Esalen in a college psychology course in the early 1970s. Esalen by the Sea. Named after an American Indian tribe. Set in mythical, magical Big Sur, California. Famous in human potential and humanistic psychology circles. Synonymous with the easygoing, tolerant California lifestyle.
A few years later Charley Maruzius and I passed through Big Sur on our first big hitchhiking trip out West. We saw Esalen from the road but had no real desire to visit. We were more into beer and girls and electronic ping-pong at the time. Again in 1979 I hitched through Big Sur. By then I had read Henry Miller and Hunter Thompson, both of whom mention hot springs at Big Sur. A fellow hitchhiker told me about the hot springs at Esalen-"Yeah, great hot baths. Free to the public late at night." I was thinking about going, but before midnight I hitched a ride with two pretty blonde girls who were going all the way to L.A. Well, what would you have done?
In December of 1980 I once again came to California, this time accompanied by my main squeeze, Annie Miller. The baths were in a corner of my mind. I thought we'd try to stop there in February on our way to L. A. Until then we were staying in Palo Alto with friends and working temporary jobs to earn more travelling money.
Larry Donnelly, an old Forest Service buddy, was living in Petaluma, California, having moved there from Eugene, Oregon to attend graduate school at Sonoma State University. His partner, Mia, was visiting for the holidays. Shortly after Christmas, Larry and Mia and Annie and I decided to get together. We met in San Francisco, traipsed around Golden Gate Park, toured the Steinhart Aquarium, had tea in the Japanese Tea Garden, stopped by the Swiss Embassy and the Jungian Institute for esoteric reasons of Larry's, and then decided to drive South down the coast on Highway 1.
In Pacifica we stopped for burgers at the world's nicest A & W Root Beer stand. At San Gregorio we walked on the beach and saw a great sunset. We talked things over and decided we would drive on down to Big Sur and go to the baths at Esalen. Larry had been there once a few years back. He said it was free after midnight.
We took our time down the coast, stopping in Santa Cruz for bookstores and beer, and in Carmel for coffee. We got to Big Sur about 11 o'clock and went to Nepenthe, the famous bar where Jack Kerouac almost met Henry Miller. At Nepenthe we shared a liter of red wine.
It must have been at Nepenthe that things started to get complicated, although I say that only in retrospect. At the time everything seemed copacetic. We were all very much looking forward to going to the baths.
I walked outside to the patio and talked to some folks around the fire. They had been reading about fusion and fission in Omni magazine. One guy was optimistic about the future. Another guy, his brother, wasn't quite so sure. Eventually the conversation drifted to nude beaches and to the baths. These folks were going to Esalen, had been there before. They said they would see us there and turn us on to some dynamite reefer-Humboldt County sinsemilla. The baths opened to the public at one AM., not midnight, they informed me.
At midnight or thereabouts the bar started closing. It took awhile for everyone to get going. Along about 12:30 I found myself talking to a rather scraggly looking young man with a backpack. He told me he had hitched down from Alaska and that it had been his dream to go to the hot baths at Esalen. He was looking for a ride the rest of the way. I said we would give him a ride. He said, "Thanks. Would you like to smoke some purple bud?"
I said, "Sure. Can my girlfriend join us?"
He said, "Yeah."
Larry and Mia headed for the car. They seemed to be into talking to each other alone seriously. That was my perception.
The "purple bud" was outstanding. The guy with the backpack, Eddie, must have been smoking a lot of it. It took him a long time to roll one joint, and after it was lit he kept letting it go out as he told us, with frequent digressions, a story about grizzly bears at the Anchorage dump. After three hits I was plenty stoned. Annie and Eddie finished the joint. We talked awhile longer and then walked down to the parking lot where several big dogs were running around wild. A lady who worked at the bar arrived on the scene and got them under control. We piled into the car with Larry and Mia and headed for Esalen.
The road seemed to have gotten a lot curvier while we were at the bar. Annie and I found it amazing and hilarious that Larry was able to keep the car on the road by continually turning the steering wheel. Eddie appeared to be in a trance. Every once in a while he would emit what sounded like little grunts of pleasure. Mia just laughed and Larry chuckled and drove.
We arrived at Esalen and parked in the parking lot by the road. We tripped happily down the path to the baths. Signs directed us to a building where we were to check in. Eddie pulled out of his stupor and took the lead in eager anticipation of his dream come true.
We followed Eddie into a building where we encountered some official Esalen humanistic psychology types who informed us that only "locals" got in for free. For everyone else there was a five dollar admission charge to the baths. This was the first we had heard of a five dollar fee. Apparently it was an innovation designed to keep out the riff-raff. This presented us with a problem because we had spent almost all of our money. Apparently we were the riff-raff they were trying to keep out.
Amazingly, Eddie produced a rather dubious local connection, saying he used to camp on so-and-so's land down on such-and-such creek, and was allowed in for free. Without a local connection, and falling short of the requisite five dollars each, we appealed to their sense of fair play. Larry explained that he had been to the baths for free previously and that we had driven down from San Francisco for the express purpose of enjoying a midnight soak.
There were four guys there to collect money. Three of them were lounging about leisurely and seemed inclined to accept Larry's view of the situation. But the fourth was very upright and officious. In an English accent this guy said, "I'm sorry, but if you can't pay the required fee, we can't allow you in. You're not locals."
"When did you start charging five dollars?" asked Larry.
"We've always charged, as far as I know."
"Obviously you don't know too much," said Larry. "How long have you been here?"
"That is irrelevant," said the guy.
It appeared to me that this conversation was not heading in a direction designed to get us into the baths. So I intervened.
"What's your name?" I asked the guy.
"John," he said.
"Oh, like John Lennon," I said. "John, I've hitchhiked through here several times. Sort of like the guy you just let in. The truth is we can't afford to pay five dollars each, and we really would like to go to the baths."
One of the other humanistic psychology types spoke up, "Why not let them in, John? They seem alright."
"You know as well as I do, Bruce, that the reason we are here is to collect money. If we're going to start letting every Tom, Dick and Harry in for free, we might as well be in bed sleeping."
"I didn't know you felt so strongly about it," said Bruce.
"Obviously someone has to," said John.
"Couldn't you just make an exception in our case?" asked Annie.
"Why should I?"
"Because we really don't have twenty dollars and we really would like to go in," said Annie.
"Sorry," said John.
"Can I tell you something?" I asked.
"Go ahead," said John.
"The first time I hitched through here was with my best friend, Charley Maruzius. That was about seven years ago. Last year Charley died of cancer. It would mean a lot to me if you would let us in."
"We don't need that kind of shit around here," said John.
I was very taken aback at this response. My impression had been that this was exactly the kind of shit Esalen was known for. Maybe he thought I was making it up. Larry and Mia and Annie and I decided to go back outside and regroup.
"That one guy is really unbelievable," said Annie.
"No kidding," said Larry. "Maybe we should just leave."
"I'd like to give him a poem," said Mia.
We all agreed that this couldn't hurt. Mia produced a pen and notebook and wrote a short poem. We walked back in and she handed it to John.
"What's this?" he asked.
"A poem," she said.
"I can't read this," he said, not even looking at it.
One of the other guys was curious though. He picked up the piece of paper and read aloud:
Joan Baez has written some poems;
Tom Robbins has written some books:
A hitchhiker makes the world his home;
That's the way it looks.
This sounded pretty good to me, maybe not Emily Dickinson but at least an expression that we were all in this thing together and that in certain ways everyone was a "local" of Big Sur. But John was not moved.
"Look," he said. "It is very clear to me that you are not going to get in for free."
It was at this point that in my mind I said, "Fuck it. We don't need to go to the baths at this capitalist psychology institute." I didn't say "fuck you" to John but I did fire a parting volley, raising certain questions about his parentage and his cranial capacity. Annie covered me and we all once again retreated to the outdoors.
We were just about ready to give it up and leave when John came outside to talk to us. I thought maybe we had finally gotten to him and he was ready to capitulate. But he gave us a sales pitch. "This is really the best hot springs deal on the entire West Coast. You can ask anyone. Or call our 24-hour toll free number and you can hear a recording describing the facilities."
I couldn't believe it. I was really ready to leave now, but Larry couldn't resist engaging John in a bit more verbal give and take. He invoked Carl Rogers and his ideas about conflict resolution. "Just try to step outside your roll as money collector," Larry suggested.
"I've had enough of this," said John. "I'm giving you guys ten minutes to either pay the money or get out of here."
"Ten minutes?!?" asked Larry, incredulous.
"That's right," said John.
It was at this point that Annie commented on the obvious and said to John, "You are really a flaming asshole."
And that was the end of it. John went back inside without another word and we headed for the car. Call an asshole an asshole and get the hell out of Esalen.
We drove back up the road to Pfeiffer State Park where we found an unoccupied campsite, rolled out our sleeping bags, and Esalen Shmessalenned off to sleep.
The Above Average Rocked At Its Moorings
This happened down in the Florida Keys in the spring of 1980. Annie and I had hitched down there by way of Fort Meyers where we stayed a few days with Jeanne Brosnan. Jeanne was working full time on her golf game, with thoughts of turning pro. This was a surprise to us. We had known her in Louisville as just another one of the gang-going to school, partying, hanging out. But here she was in Florida with a golf coach, using lots of sun block and spending seven hours a day on the course. I think the idea was that her rich daddy back in Tennessee would pay her expenses if she became good enough to qualify for the women's tour.
While Jeanne chipped and putted we borrowed her car and drove out to Sanibel Island where we found a nude beach and a couple of good bars-Timmy's Nook and The Mucky Duck-and went hiking at the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge. In the evenings, back in Fort Meyers, we made big chef's salads and spaghetti suppers and went swimming with Jeanne at her apartment pool.
To tell the truth, I don't remember how we got down to the Keys. We tripped on acid one day out on Sanibel, so maybe I was still in a purple haze. I guess we hitched across the Tamiami Trail and then I remember getting a good ride in a white Cadillac with "Shirley T. from Big Pine Key" and her driver, John. We stopped at just about every bar and roadhouse between Miami and Big Pine Key, so there's something else to which to attribute my lack of vivid memory.
Anyway, we hitched on down to Key West and stayed several days at the Eden House. We hit the bars and beaches, drank rum coladas, ate fish and black beans, toured Ernest Hemingway's old home and met the eight and nine-toed descendants of his cats. Not a bad stay. We spent up most of the money we had made working at the Rainbow Grill in Louisville. Our plan was to hitch to New Orleans, stay with Greer and Crawfish, and try to find work there for a month or so. We hitched out of Key West on a Tuesday afternoon.
"Your penis is sticking out of your shorts," said Annie.
"That's not my penis, it's my balls."
"Well whatever it is, stick it back in there."
A white Ford van pulled over. We ran up and looked in.
"Chico, man," said the driver.
"Ben, man," I said.
"Annie," said Annie.
We got in and Chico took off driving like a madman.
"Puerto Rico, man," he said.
"Kentucky, man," I said.
"Pennsylvania," said Annie.
"Got any mota, man?" asked Chico.
Annie rolled a joint and we passed it around. This mellowed Chico out a bit and he slowed down to a less frightening speed.
Chico wasn't going very far, but he got us up to Boca Chica where we hitched a good ride with a friendly blonde girl in a little Datsun pickup. Her name was Jenny.
"You know it's against the law to hitchhike down here?" Jenny asked.
"Yeah, we heard something about that."
"Just in this county, Monroe County. After the big hippie invasion of the sixties they passed all these laws-no hitchhiking, and no camping except in authorized campgrounds. The cops really enforce it too."
Just then (we happened to be near a campground entrance) she braked and pulled over to pick up another hitchhiker. He looked in the window, and spoke with a German accent:
"Hi. I am Johann. This camping is full. Can you take me to the next camping."
"Sure. Climb in the back," said Jenny.
Johann climbed in and we took off again.
"Y'all want some beer?" asked Jenny.
"Sure. Why not?"
At the next convenience store she stopped and got a twelve-pack. We broke out the beer and passed one back to Johann. It was twenty miles to the next campground. Jenny drove right in and checked it out. But it was full too. At the exit we picked up another hitchhiker, Brad from Vermont.
"Hop in and have a beer," said Jenny.
We rolled along.
"I tell you what," said Jenny. "It's gonna be dark in a couple of hours and you all are gonna be in a fix cause there's no more campgrounds. Maybe you could stay at my place."
"All of us?" asked Annie.
"Yeah. Except my husband, Larry, he might not like it. He's kind of real jealous and kind of, you know, violent. But here's what we could do. We could tell him you're an old friend of mine that I happened to run into down in Boca Chica, and that these are all friends of yours. That should make it okay."
This didn't sound like too good of a plan to me, and I said so. Jenny lived on Marathon Key, so eventually it was decided that she would drop us at the Seven Mile Grille, just across the Seven Mile Bridge on Marathon, then she would go home and talk to Larry, and if things were cool she would come back and get us.
That was the last we saw of Jenny. Brad and Johann and Annie and I sat down at the Seven Mile Grille and ordered a pitcher of beer. After awhile we ordered chili dogs and grouper chowder, and another pitcher of beer. We started talking to a guy named Kurt, who told us he was the mate of a fishing boat. He pointed it out to us in the small boat harbor next to the grill. His day's work done, he was adjusting his attitude before heading home. Several pitchers later he took off. The grill was closing and it was decision time for our contingent of hitchhikers. We talked about hiking, hitching (illegally), camping (illegally), or maybe pooling our money for a motel room.
"What about that boat?" said Brad.
"What boat?" asked Johann.
"That fishing boat the mate works on. Maybe we could slip on and sleep there."
"I don't know," said Annie.
"We could have a look," I said.
The Above Average rocked gently at its moorings as four sloshed travelers snuck aboard. Everything was nice and quiet. Annie and Johann and I rolled out our bags near the cabin. Brad climbed to the upper deck for more air. We were just drifting off to dreamland when footsteps and flashlights rudely roused us. It was two representatives of the Monroe County Sheriff Department. Apparently the harbor master had seen or heard us and called them.
"My God! How many of you are there?"
We stood up and were counted.
"Byron, put all their gear in the trunk."
They frisked us and checked IDs.
"My God! Kitanning, P. A.," said the Sheriff when he looked at Annie's license. "Girl, I'm from Greenville, P. A. Don't you know coming onto a man's boat down here is like breaking in to a man's steel mill up there?"
"I tried to tell these guys."
She was right, of course. It had been a stupid thing to do. But we were drunk and tired. It had seemed like the line of least resistance. And really I think we were destined for an encounter with the forces of lawn order no matter what we did that night. So now we were bundled into the Sheriff's car and taken to the station. At least they didn't handcuff us.
At the station we were the center of attention. A group of sheriff recruits were in training and this was the perfect opportunity to instruct them in correct procedure. Our packs were brought in and Byron and the cadets were set to searching them. We were instructed to empty our pockets and surrender our belts and shoelaces.
"So we don't get desperate and hang ourselves," I told Annie.
"Yeah, I was just contemplating that," said Brad.
"Hush up now," said the Sheriff. "Come on over here by my desk and we'll get the paperwork done. Byron, phone the boat owner and see if he wants to press charges."
The Sheriff seated himself behind his typewriter and started copying down information from our IDs. Johann's German passport gave him some trouble. Johann, whose English had been pretty good all day, had apparently decided that being an ignorant foreigner would be his best strategy. So when the Sheriff said-"Johann, it says here you're seventy centimeters tall. What's that mean?"-Johann replied, "I not understand."
Annie, for some reason, was now tacitly appointed his interpreter. The Sheriff looked at her beseechingly. "Looks like about six feet tall," she said.
"Weight, sixty stone," read the Sheriff. "How much do you weigh, Johann?"
"Yah. Sixty stone."
"What's he say?" the Sheriff asked Annie.
"Looks like about a hundred and eighty pounds," Annie said.
"Okay. Next -"
"Hey, Sheriff! Look at this!" shouted one of the cadets.
"What the hell? Can't you see I'm busy?"
It was a fat ounce of pot in a baggie that the cadet had just pulled from Johann's backpack.
"What the hell is this, Johann?" asked the Sheriff.
"I never see it before," said Johann.
"Do I look stupid to you, Johann?"
"Yah. I never see it before."
"I not understand."
"Oh, Johann, I'm very disappointed in you. Do you know what prison is, Johann? Not jail, prison. What would Germany think, Johann, if I called up and told them you were in prison here in Florida?"
"I not understand," said Johann.
"He says he doesn't understand," said Annie.
Just then the boat owner walked in-a white-haired, fiftyish fisherman. He looked more tired than mad.
"Howdy, Paul," said the Sheriff.
Paul nodded. "So these are the desperadoes," he said, taking us in. There's no damage to my boat. I'd rather not press charges."
"Yeah. I'm going home to bed."
"Okay. Sorry we had to get you down here."
At this point the Sheriff actually looked a bit relieved. He knew he wasn't going to have to deal with us much longer. I don't think he really wanted to hassle with busting a German national for an ounce of pot. He and Byron would probably split it later. Our belts, shoestrings and pocket contents were returned and we were given a short lecture on the sanctity of private property and the dangers of hitchhiking.
"Now," said the Sheriff, "you have two choices. You can either walk until you're out of this county, or you can get a motel room for the night. Do not, under any circumstances, let me catch you hitchhiking, or camping anywhere other than an officially authorized campground. Do I make myself clear?"
"Yes sir, Sheriff."
"Okay. Now get your gear and get out of here."
We saluted the cadets and shuffled out. At a safe distance from the sheriff station we held a conference. The E-Z Rest Motel was just across the highway. Brad, feeling guilty that his move to the upper deck had been responsible for all our problems, volunteered to pay for a room. He walked over and rented a single for twenty bucks.
"Okay," he said when he came back with the key, "I'll go in. You guys come in five or ten minutes."
"Are you sure this will be okay?" asked Johann. His English was returning.
"Yeah, sure. No problem."
"That's what you said about the boat."
But the room worked out fine. Brad took the bed and the rest of us slept on the floor. In the morning we left at ten minute intervals to avoid suspicion, then regrouped at a nearby cafe where we drank coffee and talked and laughed before going our separate ways. That day Annie and I took a bus to Orlando and hitched on from there.
The Dharma Comes to Carolina
"Rocky Mount Negro Shacktown, stopped wrote this on lamp pole: 'Everything's Alright - form is emptiness & emptiness is form - and we're here forever - in one form or another - which is empty.' " ~ Jack Kerouac, Rocky Mount, North Carolina, March 9, 1956
Jim and Andrew left Mac's Chicken Shack and walked toward home.
"Lemme have another hit a that wine," Jim said.
Andrew passed him the paper bag and bottle.
"Looka this," said Andrew.
"Somebody wrote somethin' on this light pole. Look: 'Everything's Alright - - - form is emptiness & emptiness is form - - - & we're here forever - - - in one form or another - - - which is empty."
"Amen, brother. Musta been wrote by some drunk preacher."
"I reckon so. The first part is all I really understand, everything's alright. Amen to that. That's how I feel right now after all that good fried chicken and just enough of this fine wine. But what's all this about form is emptiness?"
"Hell if I know. Has a nice sound to it though."
"Yes it do. Yes it do. Form is emptiness. Yes brothers, I say unto you, form is emptiness. Jesus said to the apostles, form is emptiness. The apostles said right back, yes Lord, and emptiness is form."
"Can I get a witness."
"I can witness."
"What can you witness, brother Jim?"
"Form is emptiness."
"And emptiness is form."
"So be it."
"And everything's all right!"
"I wanna testify."
"Go on and testify."
"We're here forever."
"Yes we are."
"Always be here."
"Right here and now."
"Forever and ever."
"World without end."
"Unto the very last day."
"The very last day."
"That great day of judgement."
"There's a great day a comin'."
"A great day a comin'."
"You ain't just hummin'."
"A great day a comin. Say amen."
"We're all here forever."
"In the bosom of the Lord."
"In one form or another."
"You tell it, brother."
"Which is empty."
"I know it."
"You said it."
"Don't forget it."
"Let's get another bottle and go on home."
Jesus Sent MeTwo years in a row in the late 1970s I hitched out to Washington in the fall, then south through Oregon and California before heading back to Kentucky in time for Christmas. The first year, on the last leg of the trip, I hitched a ride from Little Rock to Louisville with a Jesus freak in a red Ford Pinto.
"Jesus told me to drive to Fort Worth," he told me. "Then when I got to Fort Worth he told me to turn right around and drive back to Louisville." I hung on to my seat. That was about as weird as it got, and he wasn't a bad driver, so I figured what the hell, a ride's a ride. And we arrived alive.
The next year I had made it as far as Nashville on a chilly Christmas Eve, just hitching and hoping for the best, when the same little red Pinto pulled over, driven by the same guy. I got in, wondering if he would remember me.
After the car heater got me thawed a bit, I said, "Do you remember me? You picked me up hitching once before, about a year ago."
"I sure do remember you."
"You told me then that Jesus told you where to drive."
"Yep. That's right."
"You bet. This time he told me to drive from Louisville to Nashville. Then when I got to Nashville he told me to drive to Memphis. When I got to Memphis he told me to turn around and drive back to Louisville."
"Does Jesus ever tell you why he wants you to drive to these places?"
"Sometimes he does. Mostly I just take it on faith."
"What about this time? Was there any reason why you were supposed to drive to Nashville and Memphis and then back to Louisville?"
He looked right at me for a long moment, with a grin on his face and a gleam in his eye. And I have to admit, what he said next gave me the shivers. It was just one word: "You."
© Copyright 2005- by Daniel Barth. All rights reserved.
Webmaster: Ace Toscano