Sunday, June 30, 2013

Ale House Tails (or love and sex in a small town)

I rolled into town after a hot day on the farm, temperatures soaring close to 100, hot for a coastal farm just two miles inland from scenic Highway 1 that brings thousands of tourists to the area this time of year. 

They come for our "unsung" Fourth of July fireworks, a spectacular display of our love for freedom and the glittery sparkle of a thousand different lights bursting over the pier and into the ocean each year. And also, our parade. They come for our parade.

In some ways, it's already a parade here long before the Fourth, days before the big weekend. Cars filled with tourists go round and round every street looking for a place to park. The sidewalks fill up and long lines of empty chairs mark territory up and down the parade route. 

I got out of my truck to grab a beer at the local ale house, hoping to cool off, and noticed how caked in grub my pants were. I’d parked in the lot next to the tavern. 

I was lucky to find a spot to park. I was filthy and it was still hot, even parked close to the ocean where’s it’s usually mercifully and thankfully much cooler.

The town was hopping and packed with strangers, some looked like circus clowns in baggy shorts and rainbow colored hair. We don’t have many people here who stand out like that. They’re easy to pick out, the tourists, even the ones who try to look like they live here.

The locals wave furiously at one another as they pass by on the now busy streets, as if they haven’t seen each other in a long, long time. It’s more of an acknowledgement of “Oh god, I’m so glad there’s still someone I know here.”

It gets crazy here on the Fourth of July, where so many people who don’t live here like to remind us that we “live in paradise.”

Oh yeah, that’s right, some will say, paradise. I know some people who absolutely despise this town. It's sad but true.

I went inside ordered a beer and realized that sitting there in those disgusting clothes wasn’t going to cut it for me. And probably not for anyone visiting who might come in looking for a place to socialize and relax, away from the stink of Fresno or LA and San Francisco. They didn't need me to remind them of it.

Sorry, I said to the beautiful and glowing pregnant barkeep, I’ve got to run out to my truck and make a change of clothes. Good thing I brought some shorts. She smiled, no problem, she said, I’ll be here when you get back.

I got into my truck and felt funny as I pulled off my pants in the midst of so much activity. “What if someone sees me,” I thought, “they might think I’m a pervert.”

And at that very moment of anxiety a fat dude with bald head walked up to the passenger side of my truck, turned his fat belly to the door, and I thought he might try to open the door.

I freaked. What the fuck? 

“Hey dad,” his kid behind him said, “there’s someone in there.”

The fat fucker looked in the window as I sat there in my “Kissing Instructor” boxers, shrugged, zipped up his pants and walked a few steps down the row of cars to piss on some other sap’s truck.

I thought about saying something to the guy but he was much bigger and I was tired and just wanted to have a beer and this is Fourth of July week when our town turns into a whirling tasmanian devil of activity and idiots, blowing up from a tiny little village of 3,500 residents into a circus of nearly 30,000 revelers.

Some love it, others hate it. I kind of like it.

Too bad I’m going out of town for the weekend. 

Seriously, once one of the local paraders and drunk matrons of the body board drill team tried to french kiss me after bolting out of her parade formation to give me her love. She pressed her bosom hard against me and thrust her tongue into my mouth. It seemed like love and it might have been all right had it not been for the reek of alcohol on her breath at 11 in the morning.

I was feeling pretty high myself as many residents are when they struggle to cope with 30,000 bodies descending on our quiet little village here.

Anyhow, I finally got myself together, forgave and forgot about the truck pisser and made my way to the ale house, a place where more often than not, someone has offered to buy me a beer. I’ve even turned down a few offers. It’s that good.

While there I ran into a gal who informed me with no question that she knew the reason why the Rogue Voice, a magazine that I’d published several years with my friend Dell Franklin, failed. 

Well, I said, it had something to do with 2008, didn’t it? The year print went out of fashion and advertising dollars dried up? When the economy crashed and everything went digital?

No, she declared, the reason the Rogue Voice failed is because Dell Franklin is a pervert.

OK, so it’s not just the tourists who can be kooks. I didn’t know what to say. I’m more of a pervert than Dell is and we’d argued vehemently on numerous occasions about the propriety of certain questionable images I wanted to publish but he didn’t.

Like the cock guns illustrated by artist David Settino Scott, who was furious at the war machine. This was during the Bush years. He sketched a horrible beast, a monster with a machine gun for a cock that spewed bullets and mayhem and murder everywhere. I loved it. It was a powerful image.

I wanted to publish it as David’s next monthly illustration, Stacking. I felt as David did that war is a racket and the beasts who run the show have guns for cocks, and cocks for brains.

Dell refused. We fought, and fought and fought. Dell won the fight.

Pervert? Yeah, right.

Well, there was that one cover image he wanted to run that I tried to dissuade him from running.

“Dell, she looks like a transvestite. People are going to get the wrong idea.”

“No they’re not, goddammit!” he said. “We’re gonna run this. She’s hot!”

Dell had come home from a visit with our friend Jack Joyce, founder of Rogue Ales in Portland, Oregon, where they cavorted and Dell had opportunity to visit another friend who ran a nightclub on the seedy side of town with the hottest little bar chick he’d ever met.

He was in love, brought home a picture of her and demanded that we run her image as a cover for our Christmas edition. I had to admit, she looked pretty good in the picture.

We shipped her image off to our favorite fabulous cover artist, Martin Shields, who gave us color and brilliance in all ways. 

His rendering of Dell’s new love, however, gave her arms of steel with hair and muscles and she looked a tad odd, if not transexual. I tried to explain this to Dell. He wouldn’t have it. Run the damn image, he said. So we did.

Barely a day after we hit the racks, I got a call from a reader who wanted to know about our “girl” on the cover.

He said he liked to “switch things up a little bit” and was curious about the hairy arms and a few other things.

Well, I assured him, she’s a she. You got the wrong idea about our cover gal. She’s a bartender in Portland.

“Are you sure?” he asked.

Look dude, it’s a painting. It’s not real. I hung up, feeling justified and a little miffed at Dell.

It’s easy to get the wrong idea about people in this town, which was recently given high marks by Sunset Magazine for being one of the best unsung coastal towns. Best unsung? You bet.

There's a lot I could sing about living here. For instance, there’s this young gal who works at the local coffee shop. Recently, as I waited for my early morning wakeup order of coffee, she stood on the other side of the counter, facing me, talking with her back turned to her friend who was preparing my drink at the espresso machine.

Her friend was scolding her for something, I was in a daze without my coffee. The gal facing me put both her hands on the countertop, put out her butt like she wanted to be spanked and said to her scolding friend, “Give it to me!”

That woke me up more than the coffee.

I couldn’t get it out of my mind, couldn’t shake it off. Later that day, on the way home from the farm, I stopped at the ale house for a beer.

A good friend I hadn’t seen in a while was there with his girlfriend, a high school health educator from “Bako,” they say, Bakersfield.

They’re easy to spot too. The people from the Valley.

Loretta wanted to know right away when was the last time I’d had sex.

“It’s been a while,” I said. 

“How long?” she persisted.

“Well, I gotta blowjob about a year ago but I wouldn’t really call it sex. I dunno, I don’t know when was the last time….”

“You masturbate don’t you?”

Well, duh.

“You have to understand,” Loretta offered, “I’m a health teacher. I talk about these things all the time.”

As I get older, I’m grateful the urge, strong as it still is sometimes, isn’t the driving force in my life.

“Fuck, dude,” a fella my age said to me recently, who had come to the ale house for a beer, “where did the time go?”

“Dontcha know it?” I said, turning to one of the 30-something locals, an electrician who works hard like me for his money. “It wasn’t that long ago when I was your age, thinking I was Picasso, reinventing the sex act.”

He listened, but was dismissive, didn’t really want to hear it just as I didn’t want to hear it when I was his age. Now, when an 80-year-old wrangler says, “Enjoy it while you still got it fellas,” I listen. 

Still, it’s hard to find love in a small town where often people know more about you than you do. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of love here. People just have a funny way of showing it sometimes. §

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A ruckus of wings

I heard a ruckus outside my bedroom window in the last bit of twilight. It sounded like someone clumsily flapping the pages of an oversized newspaper. But who does that any more?

I went to the window and peered into the shadows of sycamore trees silhouetted against the final silver light. 

In the shadows below I saw little.

In the weighty limbs 30 feet up, the wide pages of a wild turkey’s wings spread themselves black against the colorless sky as the big bird wobbled to its roosting place for the night.

The flapping pages of another wild turkey’s wings warned of its arrival as it crash-landed through a thicket of leaves onto the same limb. 

Others arrived, until there were nearly 10 big birds awkwardly flapping their wings like pages of newspapers, giving clumsy applause to another safe arrival, out of reach from those yapping coyotes, and settling in briefly for the short night that beckons another summer.

Man, what a ruckus! 

Soon, they were quiet and the frogs and crickets started their evening chorus, beeping and croaking under the same trees along the creek, bass and soprano voices lulling the birds to sleep. 

In a short while, it will be the dogs of the night hurling insults and cries of longing at the swelling moon….