Sunday, June 20, 2004

The Boar’s Head

We watched for the cab in Murray’s front room, peering from behind his drapes until it pulled up to the corner, then scurrying down his dark stairs, across the sidewalk and into the back seat before the driver could guess where we came from. On the drive over Murray was like a kid on his first plane ride, gawking out the window at the world around him as if he were gazing at corn fields 30,000 feet below him. He did a quiet monologue about the changes he saw. “They closed the hardware store…ah, no wonder a Home Depot, how’d they fit that there, weren’t there buldings there…where’s the coffee shop, I loved those guys, queer as three dollar bills, but they made a mean espresso…Death by Starbucks…this city man, it used to be real…what’s the point…I told you, what’s the point? I can see all this on TV. It’s the same everywhere. They’re even doing it here. Gap, Old Navy…they’re commercializing individualism, just pick what kind of unique person you want to be or you can afford to be…”
We were dropped off and walked into the Boar’s Head, which must have seemed a welcome antidote to Murray’s epidemic of uniformity. Quiet, dark, small, and surviving still, an anachronism amidst all the chain stores surrounding it. The hostess showed us to a booth in the back and we ordered cocktails.
“No Bud Light,” I told Murray. “Tonight try something different. Get a martini.”
“Why not?” he laughed, clearly enjoying his little adventure now that he felt he was in a safe place.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004


Murray was like no one I’d met before. In general appearance and attitude he resembled any number of homeless freaks I’d encountered - paranoid, defensive, prone to tirade, completely devoid of personal hygiene – yet oddly at peace with himself while at work. He rolled his ample frame in his Aeron chair from computer to printer with the confidence and aplomb of any ad agency art director. Give him a good scrub, a Banana Republic wardrobe (and a brainwashing), and you could have a contributing member of society. A star, actually. He was really good at what he did. Unfortunately, what he did was completely illegal. He wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Man,” he said after holding my new driver’s license up to the light, “nobody can do what I do. There is no one on this whole fucking continent – on this goddamned spinning globe – who can make people like me.”
Murray was feeling good about himself. It was hard to disagree. After spending a few hours with the guy, watching him work and learning his story, I find it increasingly difficult to question his confidence. This is not to say there wasn’t a lot to question. The man was one giant question.
“No one knows, man. There’s no one left who knows,” he said after I asked him how he got into this kind of work. He cracked another beer, smiled a staged smile, raised his eyebrows and whispered cryptically, “I’m a reflection of an image seen through a mist.”
“But, why?”
“Why? The question shouldn’t be ‘why,’ but ‘why not?’ I wonder why more people don’t check out. Look at the way this world works, man. It’s a scam. Everywhere everybody is scamming everybody else. It’s one pyramid scheme after another. To win you have to suck up one side and hammer down the other. I didn’t want to play that game.”
“But, what about…”
“Family,” he offered in a mockingly sweet singsong. “That’s the carrot to their stick, but it’s a brutal stick to my back and none too satisfying carrot for my taste.”
I let that sink in for a bit, then said, “A rather cynical view,” quietly as I, too, drank.
“I always thought it was rather romantic, to tell the truth. My big fear in life was that I’d become too much the sentimentalist.”
“You’re joking.”
“No. Look, I do what no one else can do. If I was working in some office somewhere they’d tell me what they wanted and I’d have to bend my skills to their wants. They would own me, own my work, dictate what I produced. And for what? I get to spend 10, 12, 14 hours a day working, thinking, breathing their idea of what my life should be so I can then go home and worry about whether or not I’m up to snuff, whether they will one day decide they don’t need me anymore. And, I’m supposed to be comforted and consoled in all this because it allows me to have a woman and a roof over my head and the Mort-Gauge that comes with it. Those are the modern day shackles, man, and they don’t fit me.”
“That’s a rather extreme, view, don’t you think, Murray?”
“Perhaps. I’m not saying I recommend it for everyone. At a certain point you just have to ask yourself what you can put up with and still salvage what’s true in yourself. Look at Gauguin?”
“Huh?” was all I could muster at that quick transition.
“The guy up and abandoned his family at 43, and for what? For art, that’s what. And not art like to paint pretty pictures, I’m talking about digging deep into a soul to find what’s nowhere else. He was willing to walk away from everything because he wasn’t going to continue not listening to that thing that kept telling him there was something else, that there was another thing that only he could know and if he wasn’t the one willing to do whatever it took to know it then no one would ever catch a glimpse of that thing.”
“Didn’t Gauguin die a drug addict,” I asked reaching back in my brain to old Art History notes.
“Hey, man, we all have our vices,” he said, stood, finished his beer with a flourish, and asked, “Ready for another?”
I looked at him and laughed. He was clearly enjoying himself. Indulging in a bit of rambling rhetoric for effect. “Sure. Why not?” I replied.
“That’s the spirit! Why the fuck not!?”
I followed him back into his catastrophe of a kitchen. “So, tell me, Murray, is there an abandoned family somewhere, wondering when their beloved will return.”
“No, man, I never got that far. Unlike you.”
That cut to the quick, and I guess I let it show. Murray, who must have noticed my hurt expression, was quick to backpeddle.
“I mean, I was never the marrying kind. I never had much luck with the ladies to begin with.”
The reality of my situation could disappear for an hour maybe two, but it always lurked there beneath the surface. I had done a tremendously stupid thing and put insurmountable barriers between myself and my family. And, let’s face it, I’m no Paul Gauguin. I don’t know what I am.
“Right,” I said, starting to think about what Murray had done, what he must do a lot. I mean this guy had just dug around in my past, poked around the present and found a new name, place and history for me. He created the new me, as such he was the link. He was a great vulnerability for me. Not only did he know all about me (he clearly knew I had run away from my wife and kid) he held the key to who I was now and how they could find me. Suddenly, I found this terribly disturbing. Who the hell was this Murray and how could I trust him.
“Hey,” I said, “what’s your role in all this?”
“You mean what’s to keep me from ratting you out?”
“Well, I wasn’t going to put it so bluntly, but yeah. You know an awful lot about me, but I don’t know much about you.”
“Listen, you could walk out of here right now and tell a cop what I’ve got up here and I’d be toast in ten minutes. But you won’t, because then you’d be toast, too.”
“And, if you were to make a phone call and report…” I pulled my new driver’s license out of my pocket and read the name, “then I could just send them right back here to discover those people-making machines of yours.”
Murray just raised his can and grinned grimly.
“Honor among thieves.”
“Yes,” he said, “there’s that. And, then there’s Jake.”
“Yes…there is Jake,” I said. “So, what do you know about Jake?”
“I know some things…”
“But you’re not willing to tell them to me.”
“I don’t know how much Jake would want me to tell you,” he said. “Right now, only I know who I am. There’s no one else who truly knows where I came from and holds all the strings that connect what I am now back to where I came from. Jake is in a different position. He has different roles to play. He has to be different people to different constituencies and at any minute those world’s can collide. He’s in a tremendously precarious spot. I can’t compromise any of that by spilling a few tidbits to you, who, let’s face it, don’t have much keeping you from a long cold stretch. And, my experience tells me folks facing a long cold stretch will do or say just about anything to avoid it. No offense.”
“None taken.” We drank a bit more than I asked, “So, what’s your story then?”
He just laughed, “I am what I am.”
“Like Popeye.”
“Yeah, I’m a Bizarro Popeye.”
“Swilling cans of Bud Light instead of spinach.”
“With a bulging belly instead of forearms.”
I looked out the window into the darkening space between his apartment and the one next door. It was approaching dinner time. “What do you say we go out and get something to eat?”
“What, outside?” he fairly gasped.
“Yeah, you know, like at a restaurant.”
“I don’t think that would be a good idea at all.”
“Come on, when was the last time you sat down and had a decent meal in public?”
“No, lie to me.”
“You’re joking. Are you telling me you haven’t eaten in a restaurant in three years.”
“Man, I haven’t left this apartment in three years.”
“Jesus Christ!”
“It’s not as bad as it sounds,” he said.
“It sounds pretty bad, Murray.”
“I deal with the world on my own terms.”
“That’s one way of looking at it,” I told him, “but there are those that might say you aren’t dealing with the world at all.”
“Pessimists. I have everything I need right here. Look, let’s just order in. We can have Indian, Chinese…Sushi…” he pulled a handful of paper menus out of a drawer and offered them to me.
“No way. We’re going to go out.”
“I don’t think so.”
“Come on, Murray, after three years you deserve a night out.”
“My work is it’s own reward.”
“A steak. A great big juicy steak. You can’t get a steak like this delivered.”
“Dine One One, man, I can get anything.”
“Listen it’s small place in Cow Hollow, we’ll take a cab. There’s no way anyone will recognize you.” I didn’t think I would convince him, but to my surprise there was a glimmer of possibility showing in his eyes. I played my trump card. “Why not, Murray? Why the fuck not?!” And with that the dice were rolled.
“What the hell. I’m not a fucking prisoner. I can choose to go out if I want to.”
“Damn right,” I concurred. “Now where’s your phone, let’s get a cab over here.”
“Oh no, no,” he said, “Don’t give them my address…”

Sunday, June 13, 2004

We Were Set Up

“It was a set up from the very beginning,” Jake said when I finally reached him. I spent the better part of that day finding a phone, getting change, listening to an incessant ringing, until finally on my third try, Jake answered the phone.
“Billy,” he said, “you have to get out of the country. Go to Canada, Mexico, anywhere. They’ve already got three of us and you and I are critical. If they can get one of us to talk their scheme will work. Who knows, they may have enough already.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“This whole plan, the entire operation, was a pretense, a façade, we were entrapped, recruited to set up a terrorist cell, specifically so they could arrest us and prove there was a domestic terrorist cell.”
“That’s crazy,” was my first response, but as Jake went on and as I spent the next few days thinking about it, the plot made perfect sense. This crazy administration and the lunatic right in this country are hell bent on pursuing a course of military domination. The only way they can keep up the outrageous funding for amoral preemptive warfare is to create an environment of fear, to make people believe there is an enemy, not just abroad, but right here in their own backyard. Absent any real threat, they needed to invent one, and we were just the kind of dumb sapsuckers they needed to make that lunacy a reality.
Jake gave me another phone number and a Hotmail address, and said to try him again in three days. Those three days were a blur, a void, I look back now and wonder what I did, how I survived, recollecting endless hours of simply staring blankly at the sky, across the water, at the East Bay hills; wandering, avoiding people, avoiding the cold, and the cold truth of where I was and what I’d done, and what I was going to do.
When I got him on the phone again, Jake was changed, he sounded invigorated. This was a man who had been an assistant, Max’s lieutenant, you could say, and who had been cheated and deceived more than anyone. I wouldn’t have faulted him if he said he was just going to duck and run himself, but he didn’t. He went off on a tirade that, while I can’t claim to put in quotes and recall word for word, went something like this:
There’s something terribly wrong with this country, something grotesquely out of whack. Every day there are new atrocities abroad and shocking policies implemented at home only exacerbate the problems. We are divided. There are two Americas, it’s plain that one side won’t listen to the other, and when they are talking to themselves they’re merely engaging in a self-amusing and self-abusing circle-jerk – both left and right. So, I say if there are going to be two Americas divided in spirit, we might as well make two Americas divided in geography. This One World SuperPower crap won’t hold water if there’s a division at home.
Then he gave an example from nature, Shasta Daisies, of all things. When the plant has grown and matured it reaches a natural time to decline, and it begins dying from the core. The best way to sustain the plant is to divide it and replant. This is what I recommend we do with America. The ideals upon which this country was founded have been subverted, they’ve been wound around in the dirt and are strangling the lifeblood of the nation, as long as we remain bound like this we’ll never bloom, we’ll survive as a fading brown shadow of what we once were, but we’ll never bloom again. Trimming and pruning and fertilizing will not help anymore, we need drastic measures to save this organism before it dies of its own weight.
To be fair, I was ready to hear this sort of thing. I had nowhere else to turn, and was ready to sign up for anything, strap a bomb to my chest and walk me up to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. I asked him what he wanted me to do.
Just lay low, he said. There are a lot of powerful people that have been implicated and now have their backs against the wall, Max and Bob may have won this battle, but in winning they may have started something they never could have foreseen. I’ve got to talk to some people and figure out our next steps. “Where are you?” he asked me.
I almost blurted out my location and then a pang of paranoia burst in my belly as I quickly analyzed what I really knew about Jake. “How can I trust you?” I replied. To which he just laughed and said, “Now, you’re starting to think. Trust but verify. Give me an idea, a region, wait, let me guess…Bay Area.”
“How’d you…”
“It’s logical, most people when under stress return to what they know. Listen, take down this number and then call me tomorrow, we need to get you out of there.” And, he gave me another different cell phone number. Before he hung up, though, I couldn’t help asking, “Jake, why me, why are you spending time trying to help me?”
“’Thinking we’re great
And working for good
Carries more weight
Than it probably should’”
He recited an old rhyme of mine. “We need you. You’ve got a way with words and you can connect our people with other people.” I wasn’t sure I believed him, but I wanted to and I wasn’t in a position to do much of anything else.
“I’ll call you tomorrow,” I said and hung up the pay phone. The booth reeked of urine, I reeked of sweat and dirt and me. I went to McDonalds to pee and then walked around looking for a place to spend another night.
The next day, Jake gave me the address of a guy named Murray that lived in the Haight. “Don’t write it down, just go there, he’s expecting you.”
“When? What time is he expecting me.”
Jake kind of scoffed again, “Don’t worry, whenever you get there, he’ll be there.”
When I met Murray’s I understood Jake’s amusement. He looked like he hadn’t left his apartment in years. The floors were piled high with old newspapers, magazines, mail, leaflets, books, written material towered in precarious piles lining the walls of his stifling second story apartment.
“Yes?” He asked suspiciously through the intercom, when I buzzed his apartment.
“Is this Murray?”
“Yes, who are you?”
“I was told to meet you.”
“I’ll be right down,” After a minute I heard him shuffling downstairs, his slippers appeared out of the darkness first and then a pasty, bewhiskered face peered at me through the metal grate blocking a small dim foyer at the bottom of an internal staircase. He looked past me and around on the street to see if anyone was watching or walking by.
“Billy?” he whispered.
“Yes,” I answered haltingly.
“Good,” he said and almost smiled, “Come on in.” He opened the gate and pulled my sleeve, glancing around behind me one more time before shutting it behind us. He hurried me upstairs and bolted the door to his apartment. He checked the street below from the window at the front of the flat, peaking from behind dusty drapes. “Do you want a drink, beer?” It was 10:00 in the morning.
“Umm, OK, sure.”
We walked into his small kitchen and he opened a refrigerator that was filled almost to capacity with nothing but cans of Bud Light. He motioned for me to sit down at a creaky wooden table, and we looked at each other while taking our first sips of beer. He drank with relish and let out a resounding “Ahh…” before saying, “So, we need to get you some new ID.”
By 2:30, after a morning’s work in Murray’s oddly equipped office and a lunch of Bud Light and North Beach Pizza, I was Billy Shakes no more.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Concrete is Uncomfortable

This must certainly come as a surprise to no one, but spending the night outside in a city is no fun. It’s not just the expected things like sitting on cold concrete and being exposed to the elements; it’s also the nuisance of wanting water or a place to pee. We grow used to the little conveniences and when they’re gone life becomes a little less fun. Let’s forget for a moment my emotional state at this time, which, by any measure, was at an all time low, and talk about the physical strain of life on the street. That first night was an aberration, for one, I thought it was going to be the only one. I never contemplated spending as much time “homeless” as I have in the last six months. As such, I figured I just had to make it until dawn, and then I’d figure something out, call someone and find shelter with an old friend for awhile, something, anything would occur to me as a solution to the mess I’d gotten myself into. I’d also had a decent amount of sleep on the bus, so I wasn’t as in need of a full night’s sleep. Night after night though your body gradually wears down, one poor night leads to a day seeking a place to sleep, and then another miserable night, and before you know it everything, all reality drifts into fog, the days blend into each other, the nights are woefully long dark hours of fear, hunger and uncertainty.
There’s no place to get clean. And, I was surprised at how quickly I got dirty. Even after a redeye flight it’s nice to take a shower or at least splash water on your face and change your shirt. Now imagine that same feeling after a 24 hour bus ride, and then instead of a few hours in a room at the Marriott, a night on the street. My hair was greasy, my clothes (I still had my running shoes at that point) started to smell and itch, a few days growth covered my face, and I started to discern my own body’s odor. That ever-present odor grows unnoticeable after three or four days. You may accidentally catch a whiff of yourself on occasion, shocked by an offensive smell like someone else’s fart, and then realize it’s really you. It’s more than disheartening, it’s humiliating. I became one of them. Almost overnight.
In a way the filth acts as a shield. The normal people ignore you (think about how often you looked closely at a bum on the street), and the others, the rest of the ignored, warily acknowledge you. You’re one of them, but you’re not one of them. They note someone else has joined them. If I were clean I’d be a target. That old coat I picked up in Sacramento, the growing layer of grime and the increasingly grizzled appearance acted as a badge, a pass into their world. A bit more tidy and the more than two hundred dollars I still had in my pocket would have glistened like a pearl in a pond.
Sitting here now, faced with the same internal angst (it does not diminish with time, the utter stupidity of what I did) yet absent the physical discomfort I can wonder how I was so lost, I can imagine I should have done something else, that I could have been capable of doing something else. But, the truth is, the morning after that cold, frightening night, I simply ran and hid. The sky grew lighter and real people started walking the streets, and I just didn’t want to be seen. I walked down Mission Street to the Bay and then just followed the water, under the bridge, past the ballpark, down Third Street, the sun now up over the East Bay hills. I found a boarded up warehouse down off Third Street, slipped around back to the deserted loading dock and curled up on some old cardboard to try to get some sleep.
But just as I was about to drift off, or rather after I’d had a few fitful moments of sleep, as if still in a dream I remembered Jake and the phone number. No matter how long I shifted around trying to push it out of my mind, the thought of getting some answer any answer to what went wrong prevented me from peaceful slumber. So, I dragged my exhausted butt off that uncomfortable concrete and went in search of a pay phone.

Wednesday, June 9, 2004

Welcome to Frisco

I didn’t waste any time getting out of that apartment, or out of Seattle for that matter. I headed straight for the bus station (with a short stop at the ATM. I didn’t think it would hurt me any to let them know I was in Seattle and I wanted to have as much cash on hand as I could. I’m sure, Soo, that you didn’t begrudge me those 300 dollars). The next bus south didn’t leave for a few hours, so I just killed time nervously pacing the neighborhood around the bus station (not knowing I would come to know these regions well across the country. With few regional variations these places are remarkably similar in residents, businesses and their pervasive defeated mood is offset only slightly by the hope inherent in travel).
It would be very hard for me to describe my mood then. Now, as I sit here in relative comfort (I won’t yet say where), I am still overcome with grief, the pain of separation from wife and child does not go away. And, add to that pain the realization that this division was all my fault, that it was the result of my stupid readiness to believe a pack of lies. Well, I think you can envision a distraught, nervous, agitated man treading the streets around the Seattle bus station. I was certain the cops would roll up at any minute to drag me away, and frankly, at that point, I wouldn’t have cared. I was beyond caring. The plan to get on a bus and go to San Francisco was hardly a plan at all. It was simply the first thing I could think of. I had no idea what I was going to do when I got there, but then I had no idea what I had been doing so it made about as much sense as anything else.
One thing the bus ride did give me was time to ponder. And rest. 24 hours on a bus offers very little in the way of entertainment. I had no reading material, not that I would have been able to keep my mind on it; and I certainly didn’t want to engage any of my fellow passengers in conversation. One dark road. After Seattle and Portland, that’s about all Interstate 5 is, one long dark road. I stared blankly into the night until my eyes would not stay open. My body gave out. Considering the strain I’d put myself under for the past weeks and those crazy last hours, it was no wonder. I slept hard and wasn’t roused until the squawk of a police radio sounded in my ear. Unsure whether this was my paranoid dream or unfortunate reality I quickly shook myself awake to see California Highway Patrol cars, lights blazing pulled in front of the bus. Two officers were walking up and down the bus aisle, looking at faces. I turned out the window and watched two other officers searching through the luggage compartment, one held a German shepherd on a leash.
“Drugs,” said a voice in my ear. The man sitting behind me, while not what I’d consider a reliable source was at least telling me something I wanted to hear. They weren’t searching for a faux terrorist on the run. It was only the war on drugs these cops were fighting. “They do this every time,” he went on, “People are bringing drugs in from Canada.”
“What, pot?” I asked him.
“No, no,” he laughed, “there’s more pot around here than you can shake a stick at. They actually take the pot to Canada and trade it for prescription drugs.”
“Yeah, these guys are doing the work of the pharmaceutical companies.”
I must have looked very skeptical because he went on to explain how his friend’s brother-in-law was a ChiP officer and they’ve been working with the Mounties to stop this ring. People can smoke pot in Canada but it’s expensive, there’s tons of weed here but it’s mostly illegal. Canada has socialized medicine so there’s a slew of prescription drugs they can get cheap and sell to Americans who usually have to pay through the nose. The whole operation sounded far too complex to actually work, but he told me how his friend and this brother-in-law were sitting around having a couple of beers and the cop told him the whole story. The guy (and the entire Yreka CHP station for that matter) was none too happy to be enlisted in this sort of work. Pulling over buses and rummaging through luggage in the middle of the night is not a lot of fun. The officers had been complaining, but the word they got back came directly from a representative in Congress, just shut up and do this. My neighbor on the bus was convinced the Rep was on the take from US pharmaceutical companies, that he was on the committee doing this and that about health care and big pharma was a big contributor to his campaign and blah blah blah. People on a bus will talk your ear off if you let them. I tried to change the subject. His mom lives in Seattle, but she’s been sick. He takes the bus from Red Bluff up to see her a couple of times a month. Talk of a mother’s cancer was even less welcome, but easier to respond to. A few ‘I’m so sorry to hear that’ and eventually he stopped talking.
After that I couldn’t fall back to sleep. The eastern sky was slowly going from black to gray to blue and I just watched. We switched buses in Sacramento, I picked an old coat out of the lost and found. By early evening I was back in San Francisco. The streets around the Greyhound terminal in San Francisco are filthier than those in Seattle (and Sacramento, and Tucson, and St. Louis, and Memphis, and just about everywhere else), the stench of urine, the quietly menacing street population, and the big trash serving as shelters all contribute to a general medieval quality, as if I’d walked onto the set of Excalibur. Street urchins clamoring in the darkness, peaking from behind torn blankets to eye the newcomer.
There were dozens of people I could call in the city. None of them would understand. I couldn’t quite bring myself to do it. And there it was, the beginning of my first night on the streets. As I pulled the collar of my old found coat up around my ears and prepared to find a place for the night, a voice came from the darkness. Apparently someone had been watching my movements from the door of the Greyhound station. “Welcome to Frisco,” was all he said. Welcome to Frisco, indeed.

Friday, June 4, 2004

Billy Shakes Writes Again

The following was emailed to Soo about six months after Billy disappeared, and she has entrusted it to me, asking that I let as many people as possible know what’s been going on.

Billy Shakes Writes Again

So, yeah, I’m not exactly sure how yet, but things obviously got totally fucked up. I’ve been lost for the last few months, literally at a loss, wandering the streets and trying to stay alive. Staying in Seattle wasn’t really an option. I couldn’t contact you, Soo, I didn’t know what to do.
There I go again.
No More, there will be no more of that rhyming nonsense.
Let me just tell you what happened, what’s been happening to me, what I’ve been doing for the last, I don’t know how many months. What day is it? Oh, it has been such a long time, it has been such a very long time since I got off that ferry in Seattle. I was exhilarated then, I was darn near ecstatic. It was happening, it was the beginning of a new history, it was the start of an amazing change that would transform our country and make the world a safer place. And, as it turned out, it was a hoax. I’d been lied to and cheated out of my life, my wife, my son – everything was gone in an instant, and I had nowhere to go.
Well, almost nowhere. I went to the address in the international district. I ran, I quite literally and figuratively ran to that address, my feet barely touching the ground, my heart racing, my mind abuzz with ideas and visions. What a fool, what a complete and absolute fool I’ve been. I was expecting to be welcomed into that apartment as a conquering hero, but when I got there, sweating, out of breath and grinning giddily as a schoolgirl, the two of them just looked at me in amazement and disbelief. “You,” one of them said, “You’re here.” Note the lack of exclamation points. I thought they were shocked that I had actually done it. I’m not sure who had briefed them or what they expected to happen, but they certainly didn’t have the same set of expectations as me.
“Is it on the news?” I asked them, still thinking this was going to explode into a flurry of sirens and news helicopters, and that it would all be covered OJ-style on television. In answer, the two of them just looked at each other.
“What?” I asked, “What’s been happening?” The general feeling I had was that these guys were looking at a suicide bomber, after the bombing. Slowly, those two began to realize what had happened. The truth of the matter was that they had been set up, too. There was nothing on the news and there never would be. The whole scheme was a sham, a ruse to get suckers like me and those two clowns to go through the motions of terrorism so we could be picked up and held out as proof that this country needs to be afraid. We were the enemy within, an artificial Fifth Column, recruited, trained and exploited by who knows who. Max?
Yes, Max. Or, maybe Jake.
So, all this is going through my head and I figured I need to get in touch with them, one of them, and find out what’s going on, what happened. I had no way of getting in touch with Max, but Jake had given me a number to call. I quickly scanned the apartment for a phone and dialed Jake.
“Billy,” he said when he heard my frantic voice, “Where are you? No, don’t tell me. Just run, get away from wherever you are, go somewhere we don’t know about. Don’t go home. Don’t even call your home, they’ll be there in no time.” I heard sirens then, and I wondered if I had heard them from the streets outside or if I was hearing them from the other end of the line. In the time it took to wonder this I realized it was both, they were sirens around me at that international district apartment and there were sirens wherever Jake was.
“How will I reach you again,” I asked Jake.
“You probably won’t, but remember this number and try me in a couple of days.” At which point he gave me a number and hung up.

Tuesday, April 6, 2004

Too Long

This is taking too long.
It’s Saturday and I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to get all the details down (clown, frown). I can hear Soo listening to Elvis upstairs. “We’re caught in a trap, we can’t go on together, we can’t go on together with suspicious minds.” Funny (money, honey, dripping, stripping, bare, to the core, spare, no more, war, obvious, is it? Envious? your zit, my zit, whozit, mature, fer sure, anyway, ray, hope, dope).
I met with Max like that four times (roll of dimes, nickels too heavy, Rockefeller’s levy, a self tax, relax). Always a different location, always a different meeting point. TJ’s Tavern was just one of many locations they had where there were people they could trust (this is a bust, wind gust, in dog we, oh I see). People who could watch for a car, would report anything back to their contact. A gas station, a drug store, it could have been anyplace. It was this widespread network that really started convincing me. I mean Max could have been the most convincing guy in the world, but if it was just one guy talking it would be pretty stupid of me to believe that we could pull off what we’re going to try to pull off. I was exposed to a vast network, and it went up as well as down. Bob intimated that they had connections in the State Department, the Pentagon, maybe even the Cabinet. But then how does the saying go, “Those that know don’t talk, those that don’t know do.” Bob was a bit of a weak link if you ask me. Jake called him their Pet Pachyderm. He was involved in local Republican party politics and he knew things and was convenient, but he was a bit of a chucklehead. I think Max kept him around so he could get them out on King’s Point, the Kingston country club, rub a dub dub. I asked, but they wouldn’t let me play, it was always just the three of them, Jake and Bob and Max. Private conversations on a private course (remorse, discourse).
I can hear Soo and Nathan running around upstairs. He still laughs, they still have fun together, which makes me feel good and awful at the same time (rhyme, fuckoff, we’ve done that one, fuckoff, you’re no fun). They can be happy without me, they don’t really need me, but I will miss them (I will miss you, Soo, I know you don’t think so now, I know you’ll think this is madness, but I’ve never stopped loving you. You have made my life complete and I love you so. Oh, my darling, I love you and I always will. No matter where I am or what happens, please remember that [sniff, fucker, whiff, clucker, calling me chicken, pulsings quicken, I’m not excited, are you incited, you tell me, I think we agree, we’d be in trouble if we didn’t, you need a mint, you missed, assonance, now I’m pissed, arrogance, whatever, time to sever, a limb?, a whim, then go on, anon)].

During the course of those four meetings with Max and his pals he laid out the plan and my role in it. He assured me everything would be taken care of while I was gone. Soo would get a job. Nathan would have the best daycare and they would never have to worry about their security (obscurity, purity, water, otter, totter, tater, hater). I should never worry about their security (a surety, close enough, rough). This was very important, and Max knew it was important to me, and he’s almost gone too far, perhaps he protests too much sort of thing, you know, but I believe him. I trust him and others trust him (sing that hymn, out on a limb, you know it, don’t blow it). And he’s assured me there are others above him, that he’s not alone, he hasn’t gone as far as Bob, but he’s made it clear that there are allies in important places. Certainly none of this would be possible if there weren’t.
OK, so here’s what I’m going to do on Monday. I’m going to tell Soo I have an interview in Kirkland. I’m going to take my car to Seattle and kill time until the 5:30 ferry back to Las Piedras Island. I will need to be one of the first cars on the ferry. I need to be on the lower deck so my car blocks a large number of cars. This is important, it needs to be in the way. It’s a diversion, it’s one of several diversions (excursions, perversions, your words, not mine, flying birds, I feel fine, end of the world, flag unfurled, toes curled, abuse hurled). Once I’m parked, I will leave a note on this little sculpture I’ve made. It’s just a bunch of old batteries, wrapped with clear plastic tape around a milk jug that I’m going to fill with colored water (NO FOOD DIE). The note will read: “This is not a real bomb, but it could have been.” (this is not your tomb, you walk between, leave the womb, see and be seen) I need to quickly go up to the passenger deck and leave the ferry. This shouldn’t be too hard. I just need to stay calm and walk slowly. Give nothing away with my face and actions. At this point I’m an actor, I’m playing the role of a guy who’s forgotten something and has to walk back apologetically through the crowd of commuters filing onto the ferry (merry, hardly, very, bardly, bardly?, you had one, weeple, that was fun, people, make mistakes, the fakes, judgmental, elemental, sentimental? Getting dull, a lull, please! geez).
Once I’m through anything can happen. Let me just lay out the possible scenarios (impresarios, I’m ignoring you, rosarios, y tu). I could go into the men’s bathroom, get in a stall and remove my clothes beneath which I will be wearing running shorts and a T-shirt. My pants and dress shirt are deposited in the trash can under a crumpled up newspaper, and will be retrieved shortly thereafter by someone else.
We went over several options and I want to relay them all just in case this falls into the wrong hands, or perhaps so it does fall into the wrong hands. Once I started listening to these guys and thinking myself about all the different ways to do this, I realized we have to do this just to make people aware. It would be so easy for someone with malicious intent to do something like this, it is scary (eek, this is bleak, so, go, away, need I say, more, roar, mouse, lion, house, scion, heir, air, err, away, so you say so you say). And the worst part is, the effort it would take to prevent this would be too onerous to ever implement. The only solution is to create an environment where no one would want to do something like this.
Six fake bombs on six ferries will wreak sick havoc. And, that’s just the maritime activity, I’m not privy to all the land-based distractions they’ve got planned.
I could just walk out of the ferry building and start running, just like I was a casual ordinary jogger. I could be picked up by a friendly in a car. I could run to a predetermined location where there’s a bicycle. At this point time is critical. The ferry will be loading up and will take 35 minutes to arrive at Las Piedras at which point my car will be discovered unoccupied and in the way (obstructing, self-destructing, fictionally, I see). They’ll find the “bomb” and start looking for me (us, discuss, bus, no fuss, impossible, plausible, toss a bull, given cause-ible, weak, meek, earth, worth, inheriting, ferreting, out, a lout, in the hills, without wills, intestate, ingrate). The car is registered in my name and they will alert the police, the border and the airport. I need to be far gone unrecognized before that point. I can’t risk taking a cab and public transport would be too slow and too dangerous, as well. If I take the bike I could ride the 12 miles to SeaTac, ditch the bike and change in another pre-determined bathroom. Or I could get a ride from a friendly and calmly take a plane anywhere. Or I could just run or ride to any location in Seattle and “go to the mattresses” as the saying goes, at any number of friendly locations (vocations, calling, falling, job, rob, steal, feel, real). Or I could disappear into the woods, go out to the Olympic peninsula, the possibilities for my disappearance are endless. I could run the six miles to Fountleroy and take the change of clothes out of the bathroom in the park and walk on to the ferry to Vashon Island. I could be one of the shocked, stunned people on that ferry when that “bomb” is discovered. Once on Vashon, I could stay with friendlies or get picked up by a small motor boat that could transport me to any location on Puget Sound. I could be in a remote cabin or in a big city and no one would know where. I could stay in hiding in this country or abroad for years.
Why? Why would I want to do this, you ask (task, unbidden, shell midden, treasure hidden, amidst rubble, looking for trouble). Because this group needs someone who can convey its messages, someone who can explain why they’ve done what they’ve done. So, what to explain first, why they’re doing it or what they’re doing. Well by the time you read this you should know damn well what they’ve done (or something’s gone terribly wrong) so let me tell you why.
Are they religious zealots, are they crazy survivalists? No. The people involved in this are, for the most part, just decent Americans who have been convinced that this is the best way to re-establish the principles our founding fathers had in mind when they told the British to bugger off (scoff, buzz off, lame, game, over). Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. I would say most have never really paid that much attention to politics, not on a national (and certainly not on an international) level. They may have been involved in local issues, but primarily they were just concerned with raising their kids and living decent lives. Some may have voted Democratic, maybe some Greens, but if I had to guess (and I’m basically extrapolating from the small number I have met) I’d wager that the majority belong to that vast majority of Americans, the Americans who don’t vote. I think they’ve been convinced to take part by a group of leaders that I’d characterize as Radical Moderates. They are willing to go to extremes to advance a legislative agenda that emphasizes education, the environment, child care, and basic human welfare (not “welfare” in the traditional meaning of the word, that loaded word, but really caring about the welfare of citizens). The emphasis on what could be perceived as purely domestic issues is deceptive because these are people who, like me, have been moved to action due to international affairs, due to a government that has consistently and systematically moved into international situations foolishly, blindly (perhaps with the right intentions [perhaps{mishaps, I thought we were done, ton, bricks, wicks, candle, to you, handle, shoo!}]), and with disastrous results. They are not isolationists. On the contrary, there is evidence that a large percentage is quite cosmopolitan, quite aware of the larger world. Indeed, it would be safe to say there’s a large number who (also like me) are related through marriage to what whiter people might used to have called “foreigners.” Well, to me, and to many others in this country, there are no foreigners anymore. There are just people.
Max pointed out to me that it was a rather ironic historical coincidence that my Korean-American wife and I landed on Las Piedras Island, which had many Japanese-Americans dislocated, shall we say, post-December 7, 1941. They lost their homes, belongings, dignity and were carted away to enjoy that last Great War (a Just War people pine over) behind fences in the sticks. He pointed out that there must be a few Arab-Americans right now who, while not manacled in Manzanar, are feeling, at least a little uncomfortable (if I can speak euphemistically). What is going on in Guantanamo Bay? Who are these Buffalo Five and the group in Oregon? Will we see a Christalnacht-style Mosque burning next? No, that’s just impossible today. Or is it?
And what about that Asian angle of the Axis of Evil. What’s going to happen in Pyongyang? And if we start the bloodbath in Korea are Korean-Americans going to face the same level of “uncomfortable-ness” as our Arab-American friends. You can be damn sure not every South Korean is going to be tickled about an American government that through its bellicose meddling starts getting Korean (capitalist or communist, who cares?) sons and daughters killed.
For a guy whose son (and the woman he deeply loves) looks a tad (and unmistakably) Korean, I must say I don’t like the way American foreign policy is trending. How long before federal agents come knocking on the door to talk to Soo? Or Soo’s parents, aunts, uncles…
So, what’s the answer? Pull back troops, reduce military spending, and crawl into our shell like a fat happy snappy turtle suddenly done nipping at everyone he sees as a threat? No, that’s not the idea. That didn’t work after WWI, and it won’t work now, especially in a world where any group of fruitcakes with cash and time on their hands can blow up a bus or a plane or a ferry full of Americans (shenanigans, ramekins, cooking, looking, for trouble, in the rubble).
And, there you have it. The distraction. One of them. Don’t worry, we’re not really going to blow up the ferry. Violence only begets more violence. We’re Extreme Pacifists. Pacifists have always lost because at the end of the day they don’t want to fight. A defining principle of most martial arts (and good old mutually assured destruction, if we could get nostalgic about the Cold War for a moment) is being strong enough to not have to fight, to be able to defend yourself without striking a blow, to use your opponents energy against himself. And that is what we have in mind. Use American tools of war to lobby for peace (piece, pie, try, you’ll find, another kind, peace of mind, money in bank, gas in tank, getting tanked, parents thanked, respect elders, union of welders, inner peace, no police, a new lease, life, wife, missing link, time to think, a drink, work, shirk, smirk).
It’s cheaper and more efficient than paying off all the Democrats and Republicans in power (besides, most of them are already bought). There isn’t the time to organize on a grass-roots level and go through the traditional democratic process, especially since that process has been grossly corrupted (erupted, interrupted, Florida, no duh). It made sense for several thousand or even several hundred thousand people to go out and decide what brought the greatest good for the greatest number (slumber, dumb and dumber, selfishness, elfishness, Santa, claws, grant a, few flaws, democracy, not all it can be). But when hundreds of millions of people are getting force-fed information through a shrinking media market that manipulates them, demeans their intelligence, and purposely attempts to diminish their knowledge of facts and issues, then, forgive me, but the process is fucked up beyond all recognition (admonition, act of contrition).
When smart people recognize their vote is meaningless, and when crooks and cheats prove it to them, then it’s time to take matters into your own hands, your own arms, as Tommy Jeff might have said. Why were they (those oft-lauded founding fathers) so adamant about giving us the right to bear arms? So we could get loaded and shoot cans off rocks, so we could kill those evil deer (ahem, mayhem) or was it so we’d have some spectacular Made for TV specials, ie Ruby Ridge, Waco and the Branch Davidians, 44 Minutes in North Hollywood, or whatever other crazy whack job sniper-fest comes next. No, NO, NO! for fuck’s sake, NO! We were given the right to bear arms so we could quickly form a militia that would protect the populace from an aggressive invading army OR an oppressive native government gone awry (good try, by and by, Alki, alibi, good-bye). It’s the last check in an elaborate series of checks and balances drawn up by a group of paranoid men tired of getting their pockets picked clean so a crazy man named George could fund foreign wars. Does this sound at all familiar to anyone? Did anyone else watch with Shock and Awe as their tax dollars were dropped willy-nilly on Baghdad Bazaars?
Violence begets violence. Every nephew of every “accidental” death, every cousin of anyone affected by “collateral damage,” every proud, independent citizen of the world who has seen his village or country damaged in any way by an arrogant, righteous steamroller of a superpower is a potential convert to an army committed to killing Americans. Violence begets violence.
It’s like an addiction. And once we start, once we as a people, as a nation, get hooked on this bloodlust we’re not going to be satisfied until that last gory binge (syringe, singe, fringe, element, development, arrested, attested, signed and sealed, maligned yet healed). The only hope is to stop and just take it day by day. Sometimes, it’s hard to stop, though. So, think of this as an intervention, a nuclear intervention courtesy of the Washington State Ferries, the U.S. Coast Guard, one Navy warship, and a nuclear attack submarine spirited out of Subase Bangor.
Will it work? I don’t know. All I know is I have to tell people about it. Even if it doesn’t work, I just need to contact the right people and give them the right information, and if they have the courage, if they have the integrity and the wisdom to use their skills and fight to print what they know is right then maybe, just maybe we can put a stop to this crazy landslide of violence and stupidity (serendipity, don’t get uppity, needed pity, not really, you need Sealy, posturepedic, orthopedic, bone man, biggest fan, erudite, better be right).
OK, how? How do you think you’re going to pull this off? What have you seen that could possibly make you believe what they’ve told you could come true? Good question.
During those four meetings with Max I was introduced to a variety of individuals, let’s call them the Product Managers (integers, prickly burrs, stuck to fur, fucked fer sure, pessimist, realist, people, steeple, not again, you win). They each looked me in the eyes, shook my hand, and spoke to me honestly about their belief in the feasibility of their specific product launch and by extension the overall project. These were not crazy men. These were intelligent, well-spoken, educated men who reassured me with their calm, their attention to detail, and their knowledge of historical precedence for such action (faction, traction, pull, wool, eyes, surprise). We (thee, they, us, betray, truss, herniated, disk, permeated, risk, Americans, beer in cans) casually put aside the fact that our nation was fighting a Civil War less than 140 years ago. That is a drop in the bucket, a blip on the World History Timeline. Everyone likes to think that war was about freeing the slaves, and that’s all well and good, but don’t forget there was a little matter of a few states that didn’t want to play anymore. It kind of diminishes the cachet of the United States of America when you have to kill a bunch of Americans to keep it United.
Secession is an ugly word, it reeks of quitting, and no one likes a quitter (I’m not quitting, Soo). And who knows if it will come to that. I’m not privy to all the international intrigue going on, they never tell the PR guy everything. You can’t communicate what you don’t know and rationalizing all facts whilst still being able to keep a straight face is a role for an actor of Marlin’s caliber (Marlon?, Fitzwater not Brando, solder that and go). The information I need will get relayed to me once I’ve set up my operation, and once I have the ear of prominent journalists that recognize the gravity of this situation. Let’s just say our military isn’t as parochial as we think it is. All these international operations have put senior military officers in close contact with other senior military officers from “foreign” powers who may not agree with their political leaders and who may also NOT agree with American political leaders. Not every military man is dying to die, not for a clown who never served and plays Rambo with their toys (boys, will be, noise, you’ll see).
So, I dash off and the Las Piedras Island ferry is clogged with police, bomb squads, and countless other first response units, trying to make sense of a stupid note and a stupid-er “bomb.” Similar actions are planned for the Seattle/Bremerton, Edmonds/Kingston, Mukilteo/Clinton, Fountleroy/Vashon, and the Anacortes/San Juan Islands ferries. The Washington State Police and the US Coast Guard are going to be very busy tomorrow (borrow, sorrow, grief, relief).
I’ve been assured there’s a backup press secretary on board, in case, for whatever reason, I don’t work out (I’m not sure if I’m the second string poet or vice versa [verse wiser, Budweiser]). If I don’t make it, or if something unforeseen happens, they have some other guy (or girl, I don’t know) who has been briefed on all this and who must be preparing in much the same way I am now (how, sow, sow, low, grow, oh I think you know).
Anyway, while all this chaos is going on on the local ferries, the cruise ship headed for the Inside Passage trip to Ketchikan, Alaska, is hijacked by its crew. News of this is to be radio-ed by said crew directly to the Coast Guard via open channels. The Coast Guard vessel destined to respond to this emergency is also under friendly control. Together both vessels depart the Strait of Juan de Fuca into the open waters of the Pacific Ocean.
At which point this becomes a very big deal. The Coast Guard vessel does not respond to any radio or visual contact. We predict there will quickly be helicopters (both Coast Guard and possibly press, depending on how industrious they are). We don’t want the Coast Guard vessel to do or say anything (ring, free, dumb, sea, plumb).
This will get escalated to the US Navy. This is where I’m out of the loop. I’m not sure how they are going to do this to tell the truth, they haven’t been too forthcoming with the names and ranks of the people who are going to be pulling the strings, but it doesn’t take a paranoid conspiracy theorist to figure out this goes pretty high up the chain of command (demand, reprimand, understand, position, volition). There are a few Navy warships that could be sent to respond to such an action, and they’re all out of Bremerton. They won’t officially send a sub, but there will be such a coordinated state of confusion that people won’t question the quick dispatch of a sub, and if everyone (or at least enough) aboard that sub is on board this operation, then, well then, I think you can see how, in a very short amount of time, the proverbial shit is going to be hitting the fan.
How will the world react to the news that an armada consisting of a Coast Guard cruiser, a US Navy warship, and a nuclear armed submarine are floating off the Pacific coast keeping watch over a few thousand vacationing civilians who were off to see glaciers calving and are now seeing the glacial pace of history suddenly accelerate in one giant splash before their very eyes (size, large, in charge, unknown, seeds sown, have grown, unbeknownst to, who phones you, leader, greeter, big eater, cruise king, boozing, bruising, disabusing).
What is Bush/Cheney going to do? Call in air strikes on his own Navy? For what? Just to stay in power. All we have to do is ask for his resignation, an abdication, if you will (“Bush II Gives Up The Throne”), or, at the very least a new election, and is the American public going to vote for the guys that squandered all our money pissing off people who are willing to die to kill us and our allies – AND couldn’t even retain the faith of their paid henchmen (in the trench men, paid, waylaid, employed, destroyed, fighting the good fight, righting a bad write, go on, anon).
No. Especially not after they hear what’s driving this action – a simple return to the principles of our founding fathers. Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. It’s hard to pursue happiness when your country, the military your taxes are funding is off shooting people at the direction of your president, creating new enemies who will stop at nothing for revenge (avenge, more death, wasted breath, possibly, plausibly, deniability, inability, forestalled, a world enthralled, by those willing, for more killing). Violence begets violence, but pacifism doesn’t always beget peace.
I’m sorry, Soo, if this doesn’t make sense to you. I’m sorry if anyone gets hurt. I think it’s best for us, it’s best for the country, and it just feels right. I think of all of the omens, all the little things (and big things) that have gone into this decision and I just can’t help believing it’s going to work.
As Max said to the group at the last meeting: “It’s not every day that we are needed. Not indeed that we personally are needed. But at this place, at this moment of time, all mankind is us, whether we like it or not. Let us represent worthily for once the foul brood to which a cruel fate consigned us.”
I walked up to him afterwards when he was alone and told him that little speech of his sounded familiar.
He just laughed and said, “Beckett.”
“Beckett?!” I said. “Samuel Beckett?!” and we laughed together.
“Who are you?” I asked him still in puzzled bafflement.
“Who am I?” he asked back, “I’m you, I’m me, I’m us, I’m them. I’m everyone. I’m the voice in the back of your head that’s saying something’s not right, something needs to be done, and either you have to figure out a way to do it or figure out a way to make that voice go away because it won’t stop. It will keep coming back in one form or another. So you can either get used to it or sac up and do the right thing.”
He said this all to me quietly, urgently, looking directly into my eyes, and I got goosebumps up and down my spine (fine, world, end, twirled, friend).
I’m sorry, Soo. I have to do this. I believe I will see you again, and I can only hope you will want to see me.


Monday, April 5, 2004


There’s still some sleep, thank goodness, maybe just enough sleep to get me through this, I’ll get what I need, won’t I Mick? Mick? Cut me. JV.
I went back to the range, of course. I had to. After Nathan’s fall (the walrus was Paul. Stop. Stop. Can’t you fucking stop for one fucking minute, oh you’re in it, no forgetting, it’s what you’re betting, vetting, petting, zoo, Soo, move on, move on!), and after Soo lost her job, well, it wasn’t so pleasant to be around the house, just the three of us. At first we’d take turns watching Nate, kind of tag team parenting. One of us on the computer or on the phone looking for a job, trying to connect with someone, looking at all the job boards, talking to recruiters; and the other keeping an eye on Nathan. But, the slightest noise, a cry, let alone a scream (which are quite frequent from toddlers don’t you know) and Soo would come running (you did, I know you’ll say you didn’t, but you did and that’s OK, I don’t blame you). She didn’t want to give me a panicked look, and she didn’t want to make me to feel guilty or inadequate, but she did. Or I did. I just felt like an extra wheel, a worthless extra wheel (Steal, this book, was that a look?).
So, I just sort of started excusing myself. Stepping back and then just going out. I’d go to the park, but it was awful there alone after being there with Nathan, and I’d get nervous watching other kids, I’d want to run over and stop the kids from falling. I did once, rushing off the bench and dashing to a little kid who had leaned over the side of a slide, and his mother looked at me like I was a letch (step and fetch, it, is, starting again, shit, his, parting, brain, pain, hemispheres, changing gears) like I was going to snatch him or something. And that nagging feeling that someone was following or watching me wouldn’t go away either. And I dwelt on that (felt the hat, wool and brim, on a whim, a lark, out of the park, home run, run home, not fun, stop, roam, charges, barges, largesse, success, regress, egress, OK, are you done? One, more, Boer, War, Churchill escaped, you will be draped, with garlands and ribbons, the clawed hands of gibbons). If I could get distracted by that thought again, if I snapped again, and saw them and ran after them what would happen? What if I did get a job and that still didn’t go away? I thought about it logically, and I said OK, if they aren’t real, if they don’t exist then I can just ignore them and go on, but my mind kept going back to those pictures, those blurry black and white photos of me talking with Jake at the range. If I was imagining Perry and McMahon, why would I insert images of a real driving range into that hallucination? Unless the driving range wasn’t real either. So, I had to go back. I had to go back and find Jake or Bob or prove to myself that they didn’t exist. But when I did go back, I did find Jake. It was as if he was waiting for me. He saw me open that sliding half barn door and looked at me with what I assumed was expectation, mixed with a tad of concern (learn to burn, toast, roast, you are the most, annoying, cloying, voice, I have no choice, so you say, Go Away!) He walked towards the door and looked around the parking lot, and up and down South Kingston Road. He didn’t talk to me directly, not at first. I had my clubs and I walked towards him, but he looked away and said under his breath, “Get some balls.” I remember that. I remember thinking a lot about those very words. Kind of funny in a lame macho way. “Get some balls.”
So, I went in and got a small bucket of balls and started hitting them. Just pounding balls, trying not to think too much, trying not to look around to find Jake. I remember thinking even then, did I see Jake, or did I just then imagine seeing Jake (Take, a hike, strike, that, reverse it, black hat? Bullshit!).
But he came back, he had gone off to make a phone call. He came over to where I was hitting and started hitting balls on the mat behind me. “Nice shoes,” he said. I had left the white FootJoys in the trunk, opting instead for a pair of old hiking boots. “Don’t turn around. We don’t think you’ve been followed, but we can’t be too careful. We have to go somewhere else. Hit the rest of that bucket and then drive to Silverdale. There’s a place past the mall called TJ’s Tavern. Pull in the parking lot and wait five minutes before you come in.”
He said all this over the course of a few minutes. Casually, under his breath as I reached down to place a ball on the tee (see, I can be, quiet, Try it!). It seemed a bit superspy hokie, but I thought, “What the hell, if I’m going to go mad I might as well go in style.” I did what he said. TJ’s was a dump (slump, Shawn Green’s a chump, don’t go there, I don’t care! I can’t spare, another day, Go Away!) I watched closely to see if I was followed, to see if a Lincoln Town Car rolled past me when I pulled into the parking lot, but I didn’t see anything.
Inside, I looked around and saw Jake sitting in a corner, but he motioned for me to sit at the bar. I got a beer and pretended to be interested in the pre-season football on TV. How people watch that is beyond me. After two beers, Jake sat down next to me and said, “We thought you’d never show up.” Thought I’d never show up indeed. They knew all along. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were behind Soo losing her job, if they weren’t behind the both of us not being able to get jobs. If there is one thing I have absolutely no doubts about, it is the connected-ness of these guys. They know people. And they know people that know people (steeple, weeple, weeple?, it’s a word, don’t be absurd, headdress, repress, my mind you stole, asshole, wimple, ah simple, and the point, ha steeple, out of joint, sleep’ll, help, yelp, no more, or…).
We went into a private back room. It had a pool table. It reminded me more than anything of a place out on Geary, on the Irish Mile, Ireland’s 32. I went in there once with a buddy of mine and we were greeted with all the friendliness of a couple of clowns at a funeral (ethereal, venereal, Madrid, you did, not, do as you said, rot! Or go to bed!). We went upstairs looking for a pool table and interrupted what could have been an IRA meeting for all the quick silence and dagger-like stares that came at us. Well, TJ’s back room was kind of like that. It had a back exit, the aforementioned pool table, and a conventional table in the far corner with chairs and stools scattered about, the usual assortment of chalk, cues and bar paraphernalia. The decoration ran towards Beer Distributor Gothic, no portraits of Irish martyrs that’s for sure. It was mostly stuff you could find at any other bar in any other city in America.
Max sat at the table in the corner, talking with Bob and some other guy who looked like he was military, short hair, thick (that’s the trick, pony, phony! Holly Golightly, I’ll ask politely, do you think this is helping, a whelp’s constant yelping? Uhh, sorry, are we?).
Jake and I waited until they were done and the military guy got up to leave, walking out the back door and letting in a shaft of unfiltered natural light for a moment that seemed out of place and scared quickly back outside with the fast, loud, heavy closing of that back door. And, it was that sound, that deep thud of a closing metal door that served as the harbinger (words will singe her, now you’re in danger, Airborne Ranger, life, strife, wife, not that way, not that way, go away), the tolling bell, to my introduction to Max Unglohd (it’s her that you owed, not him, I continue unbowed, dim, wit, shit).
We shook hands and he just started talking. He knew who I was, he knew how I knew who he was, or at least how I knew his name was “Max” or at least would be for me. He knew what I needed and he knew what he needed, and he knew how to push all my buttons to make me see that what I should want to do is what he wanted me to do (true, this commentary, is it necessary? Begin, again). Don’t get me wrong, he was very charming about it. I’m not going to go into any detail about what he looked like or who he really might be. (I want you to have this, Soo, I want you to know the truth, but if this does get more widely distributed, I don’t want to jeopardize you or anyone in that organization. So, the less you know the better, as far as anything that could lead back to these people [steeple, you’re on thin ice, be nice, really, quite clever, is there a lever, a switch, scratch this itch, put an end, oh don’t pretend, you don’t know, so, So! If you know I know, well, there you go, can we move on, anon, ever, clever]).
He offered me a job, right off the bat (corked, forked, tongue, mung). He said he knew my work, that he liked what he saw and he was ready and willing to compensate me generously for my services (traverses, his verses, her vices, his spices). It was an unconventional job, though. It would require a lot of travel. I may not get to spend a lot of time with my family. At least not at first (worst, burst, cloud, too loud). The job would be demanding, but after awhile, after everything panned out, Max assured me that all the hard work would be worth it (bullshit, are you on board? Chevy or Ford, Honda Toyota, why I oughta).
We didn’t talk about specifics that day. I think they just wanted to let that sink in. I tried to ask some questions, get some details, but they politely deflected them. Jake and Bob were in on the conversation, as well. Mostly as observers, listening and watching my reaction to Max, and only occasionally chiming in on their own. They just told me to come back to the Tavern the following Tuesday, and, at present, to not say anything about this meeting to my wife, or anyone else for that matter (fatter, chatter, stop, chop, hurt me, hurt you, free, blue).
I thought that would be easy enough. Soo and I were barely talking anyway. And I wasn’t exactly in the mood to go rushing out and make new friends. I think it’s safe to say, at that point, I was at a pretty low place, and going down (neat, repeat, no really I like it, your mouth is mealy, spit, sand, out of hand, grand).
But this seemed like a ray of hope. Here was someone who knew my work, that wanted to give me a job. I could turn things around with Soo, I could make it all up to Nathan, we could keep the house (grouse, I hear your complaining, I fear it’s raining, nothing new, phew).
The next few days were about as unpleasant as any the three of us ever spent together. We were in limbo (arms akimbo?, fuckoff, cough cough). All we could do was wait and take care of the kid and the house, except taking care of the house was like taking care of someone else’s house. It was as if we were preparing it for sale, not like we were making it nice to live in for the rest of our lives. There’s a big difference, that whole pride of ownership, American Dream thing (let freedom ring, there’s a lot more to say, don’t let me get in your way).
I just muddled through it. (Soo, I’ll be back. I’ll make it all up to you. I promise. [that’s sweet, heavy sigh, what a guy, done? Fun, not, thought, it was over, now we’re in clover, certain? Close the curtain]) Days just pass by when you don’t have a job, a purpose. There’s no week, no weekend, no dates or times, without that structure of the work week all the days just sort of blur together.
On Tuesday I made an excuse and went out. I spent more time looking in my rearview mirror than out of my windshield. I got to TJ’s and waited in the car for five minutes again, but didn’t see anything. I went inside and looked around as my eyes adjusted to the light, but I didn’t see anyone I recognized. I sat at the bar, ordered a beer, and thought, shit, I’m all fucked up (lost pup, shut up). I’ve imagined this whole thing. I had no clear sense of what was real anymore (close the door, you’re a bore, there’s someone there, get out of my hair).
But, Jake showed up eventually. He sat down next to me at the bar and said, looking at his watch, “In five minutes were going out the back.” So, I finished and settled up and just waited to follow his move.
He got up and walked slowly to the back room. I followed a few seconds later. In the back room he was waiting by the door, kind of listening with his head cocked. He acknowledged me with a nod. There was the sound of an engine and he motioned me towards the door with a wave of his arm (farm, not now, wow, grouchy, bad chi, tee hee). Outside, Bob was waiting behind the wheel of a large pickup truck. He said, “Get in,” which I did and Jake jumped in behind me, and we were off. They didn’t talk much. There was a lot of looking around. We got on the freeway and drove south towards Gorst (forced), past the floating cemetery of Navy ships, past Port Orchard, onto smaller roads. After awhile I stopped paying attention where we were going. There were twists and turns and I thought I might be able to find my way back to wherever it was we were going, but thinking back now if there was a chance that I could have found my way back to the place where they were taking me then there’s a high likelihood the place didn’t matter. That there would be nothing incriminating there if I did change my mind and decided to drag the cops back there instead (head, old, mold, sold, river, deliver, goods, woods).
That wasn’t likely. We pulled down a dirt road and bounced around for what must have been three or four miles, at the end of which we came to a small cabin in the woods. I looked around as we got out, but there wasn’t any view to speak of (love, really, truly, change of pace, human race, am I getting through, who says it’s you). A lot of trees, a wood pile with an ax in a stump (lump, trump, OK, you say). Smoke trailed out of a chimney. The weather was just starting to cool off. Fall was coming, and this place didn’t get a lot of sunlight, it didn’t look like it had central heating, either.
We went inside and Max was sitting with two more guys who looked like they were in the military or had been at some point. He stood up and shook my hand again (win, win).

Sunday, April 4, 2004

Going Down

So, it has been more than three months since I’ve written anything. Soo hasn’t been working. I haven’t been working, well, not on anything that pays. We’re running out of money and we’re probably going to have to sell the house unless I do what it is I plan to do. Not to be too melodramatic about this, which is really quite pragmatic, it should be automatic. So why the static? OK, enough of that crap. I don’t have to be entertaining anymore, I don’t even have to entertain myself. I’ve been relegated to the basement. Actually, I’ve taken sanctuary here. I can’t stand to look at Soo and the boy anymore. It just reminds me of how I’ve let them down and how useless I am.
We had a few unexpected expenses. Nate had to go to the hospital, and, well, oh, forget this. Nobody’s going to read this, except maybe Soo. What am I doing? Am I just killing time or is this going to be my explanation for Soo?
Max (or whatever his name is) has warned me I shouldn’t leave anything behind, that if this is going to work it is absolutely essential that there be no evidence, no more writings especially. They’ve caused enough problems already. I’ll figure something out, I just need to get this all down so I can think about it and be certain it’s the right thing to do.
So, I sit here down in our unfinished basement, the reason we were probably able to afford this house in the first place. I don’t know why the previous owners never finished it, but that was a big alarm bell for us. If they’ve lived there for four years and they haven’t had the money to put some drywall up and some carpet down then we figured we could probably lowball them and get this place cheap. Which we did, relatively so. We still got screwed on the mortgage because neither of us had (or have, did I mention that – who are you talking to?) jobs.
Whatever. I’m pecking away on an old laptop that Soo got cheap from her last job in the Bay Area. It’s amazing the bargains you can get when a company’s dissolving. I’m offline. No more Internet for me. Just this one last document, one more file on a diskette, defrag this puppy and I’m done for awhile. What was it that Max said when I told him we had a firewall on our computer? He just scoffed and said something like, “Zone Alarm Pro?! You call that a firewall. There’s better security on the ferries.”
Better security on the ferries. Right, well let’s hope it’s not too much better.
There was a lot that was creepy about that. As far as I know, Max had never been in this house, had never seen our computers. I could play naïve and say, “How did he know what software we had on our PC?” But, I know he knew. I didn’t know exactly how he knew, but I had a pretty good idea.
He knows that computer better than I do, probably even better than Soo does, and he’s never even seen it. He’s read everything I’ve ever written on it. I didn’t really think about it that way until now. He’s my most dedicated reader. He calls me the Poet NoWar-eate, more like the Poet Whoreate, I think. Whatever, he’s my biggest fan.
He and the feds. Although, none of them will get to read this. I hope. If they do, I’m buggered, Soo’s buggered and the kid, too. And that would screw everything up because he’s the real reason I’m doing all this. The reason I’ve been training, running on that goddamn treadmill over there. And working out, I’ve got to be fit. A sound mind in a healthy body. I’m the goddamn Greek ideal. Hercules, if you please.
I’ve got to admit, Max has been pretty smart, he’s played me well. He knew exactly how to get me to agree, he’s even made me think it’s the only way, the best way. It’s not the only way, I know it’s not the only way. But it really is the best way. Or am I just trying to convince myself it is?
I’ve even started wondering how long he’s had his eye on me. I mean, not to overstate things, but I am somewhat important to the larger operation. I’m on beauty duty, an isotope, another trope, the truth sooth, doin’ the hope rope a dope, soothing truths, truths that soothe, rhymes with booze (?) drinking in booths, a bar, where you are, what you are, I am what I am and that’s all that I am. Could it be possible that I was recruited without my knowing it. I mean earlier, before we even left the Bay Area. Maybe he had a hand in me losing my last job, maybe my last dickhead of a boss is actually part of the plan, part of the group that’s putting this (and who knows what else) together. But, that’s ridiculous, he couldn’t have, and he couldn’t have made Soo’s last company go out of business. He probably had a pool of people to choose from and I just became the likeliest target. Or maybe he adapted the plan once he knew I existed, once he saw my skills and calculated how he could use them (phlegm, you spit, hypocrite, the word, heard, absurd, indignation, frustration, expectoration). Then it was just a matter of exerting the right pressure and making it all seem reasonable to me (I see, hear, fear).
He couldn’t have had anything to do with Nathan getting hurt, though. Or could he? That was my fault, I can’t blame anyone else anymore. If I had been watching Nate he never would have fallen. Oh, God, I can still see him lying there, bleeding, motionless (lifeless, endless, eternity, monotony). I’m never going to forget that and I’m never going to forgive myself. And that’s the main reason I’m doing this. One of the big reasons anyway. It’s like I was writing before, in that first fucking “chapter” of my fucking book. Ha! It’s all the little things together (weather, storm, warm, getting, forgetting). Sure, buying the house was easier because of the price and they had to leave (curious that, suddenly relocated. I bet they were touched by Max and his crew, too) and the location and the omens, it all just comes together sometimes and you say, “Yes, that’s it, I’m certain this is the right thing to do.” And that’s the point I’ve come to, or I’m hoping to get to, once I can work this all out.
Let’s assume it started the moment we accessed that web page, that Las Piedras Island Guestbook, although how he knew I’d read that passage… No. He couldn’t. No one could. It was when I clipped it and sent it to “friends and family” that must have triggered them. Like a piece of fly paper (shaper, changeling, dangling, participle, principle, interest, a tryst, rendezvous, me and you).
As Max said, “There’s only one pipe going in and out of that island and if you think the government is the only organization capable of creating something like Carnivore then you’re not as smart as I thought you were.”
So they read my email, no surprise there. I mean if anybody ever thought their email was private before, well, the Patriot Act should have disabused them of any notion they might have had about their personal privacy extending to email.
They knew I was unemployed, that I needed money. They probably knew Soo was working, and how much she made, and how long we’d be able to survive on that. That was a kicker, the promise to get her a job, a good job, that couldn’t be traced back to them. (Sorry, Soo, if I do get this to you to read you may not have gotten that job based on your own merits [ferrets, out, bout, redoubt, again, when]). If they could keep us from getting hired is it such a stretch to think they could get us jobs.
That’s what they’ve given us, afterall, it’s just a job. I will be working for them, nobody will know it, hopefully, but a job’s a job. I’ll have money, security (obscurity, to a point, anoint, appoint), and the knowledge that my wife and child are taken care of, which is more than I can say now (and how, was that necessary, apothecary).
Nathan bleeding unconscious, that’s what I have to remember.
As a parent, as a father, all things change. Everyone says that and it’s true. I just didn’t know how true or how complete a transformation it would be for me. But then again maybe I’m different. I think anyone who has ever been responsible for a small child (truly, a defenseless child, honest and naïve and kind and totally fucking helpless) knows how important, how vital it is to protect that child, at ALL costs. No matter what! I mean, it got to the point with me where whenever we were out, and this was before his fall, wherever we were I’d check out the landscape, see what could possibly cause him harm, and then I’d look at every person, every fucking individual, in the eyes if possible, do whatever I could to gather information so I could make that one judgment: Is this person safe? Good or bad? In two seconds or 10 seconds or however long I had before that person was within striking distance of Nathan, I would determine if I should pick him up or not. If I should move him just on the off chance that this person might be bad, or just careless, and hurt my boy. And then you have to calculate if moving the boy might evoke a response, might that person be offended if they think you are moving your child away from them. People do funny things if they think too closely about what other people think about them. Would I have done all this if Perry and McMahon hadn’t first come a’callin (you’re stallin’, am I, just try)?
So, what happens when that one person, that one bad, careless person – is you.
I fucked up. And, what’s worse I fucked up because of some delusion, or an appearance of a delusion, the possibility of a delusion (fusion, cold, bold). I snapped a little bit. Still it wasn’t for long. I’m not making excuses (excuse me, Soo. I’m so sorry. I know I’ve said it countless times, but let me say it one more time, I’m sorry). The fact is, what scares me most, is I don’t know that it won’t happen again. I mean, we were out there in the yard, and it’s a place where I usually feel kind of safe (at least more so than in public), the fucking caterpillars were gone finally, so there wasn’t a lot of residual noise. And then I heard that rustling, not bird rustling, it was big animal rustling, and I thought it could be the deer, and I turned to look and I saw them. I know I saw them! Still, now, I know in my heart I saw them. You can laugh at me, or shake your head in disgust, but I saw them, fucking Perry and McMahon hiding in the trees. And I wanted to prove that I had seen them. I wanted to grab something physical from them. I wanted a piece of clothing, binoculars, anything, I wanted a piece of them. Really, I’m not a violent man, but I had been pushed, and I wasn’t going to have them intruding on me and my life, my family, my home, anymore. So, I ran in after them, disregarding myself, my skin (which got considerably scraped up, sniff), but mostly, for that one tragic (or nearly so) moment, I disregarded my son. I ran stupidly into the woods, thrashing about and yelling like an idiot and left my son standing on the top of a stone staircase.
I didn’t find them. I got to where they had been and there was barely any evidence that they had been there, not enough to convince Soo certainly, not enough to drag her through the trees, the stinging nettle, and point to what could have been deer tracks and say, “Here, see, they were right here.”
I got there and thought about chasing them further, they must have had a car somewhere. I envisioned that Lincoln Town Car tucked away covered in cut branches or otherwise camouflaged (triaged, selected, inspected, detected, subterfuge, rouge, blushing, flushing). I could have ran to the road and found them, but then I came to my senses and remembered my boy. And, it was in those few minutes, the time it took me to run and stumble a few hundred feet, back and forth, that my life changed forever.
Because when I came back, when I dragged my bedraggled self from those woods, I saw before me that scene I will always see, that I will never be able to forget, my son face down on the rocks, bleeding and motionless. I ran to him in panic, drops and dribbles of blood stained the rocks around him (I later found bits of skin). I just kneeled above him and stared for a moment, terrified, not knowing what to do, not wanting to do more damage by moving him, and fearing more than I’d feared anything in my life, what I’d find when I turned him over. I’m still not sure how many stairs he fell down, it was at the most seven, heaven, unleaven, bread, undead. He must have become scared when I started shouting and stumbled himself as he tried to follow me down those stairs. He had broken his arm, and “sustained multiple severe contusions around the face and head,” as the doctors recorded it.
It was the most terrible event of my life and I will never let it happen again. The doctors’ looks (books, teachers, creatures). That car ride to the urgent care, and poor little Nate coming to, regaining consciousness, just blocks before we got there, and the screaming, the screaming in pain and abject horror, at his twisted arm and the blood and what must have been terrifying pain. And I just had to drive, I had to ignore it, ignore his screaming and get him to the urgent care. And it was all my fault, salt, in the wounds, oh the Moons, you know them, end of the road, undone hem, sloppy abode.
They looked at me like I was pathetic, I was wicked, I might as well have beaten him myself. For weeks afterward people stared whenever we went out, and that pride I’d felt before when people watched him and smiled, that pride turned to shame as I saw the looks of concern and a whisper of judgment when they saw those scars, riding in cars, drinking in bars, looking afar, not a star, they’ll never see ya, Bobby Bonilla, where did you go, Joe DiMaggio?
But those scars will heal, they will go away. I’ve decided my scars won’t heal, my fears won’t subside, I will forever be plagued by that failure. Every time he’s in my care and out of my sight I will be terrified that it will happen again. I don’t trust myself, worker elf, busy bee, you'll see, do your job, nob, work, shirk, responsibility, hidden fee, reality, time, to rhyme? no, to be, me, that's what they take, a thirst you can't slake, it's all you can do, just be you, working in fear, one day you'll hear this ain't your year, you're not needed but don't feel defeated, grab those bootstraps or play some craps, this country's great so you just wait, the market's responding to all this unhiring, don't be desponding, remember, firing inspires confidence, less corporate expense, means more profit, your butt, get off it, do as you're told and when you get old, you can do whatever you want, so, join in the hunt, there's money to make, your leg you will shake, if you won't, someone will, if you don't, take the pill, you can find your own way, it's what they all say, Independence, paying rents, Liberty, for a fee, Life, strife, Pursue happiness, endure crappiness, cynical? inimical, inimitable, load of bull, must keep going, put up a good showing, no money to spare, no health care, not as successful as that guy over there.

So what do I do? Just leave? No, I can’t leave. I would never just up and leave. Maybe I’ve got this all backwards, maybe this is my plan and Max Unglohd is my tool. I doubt that, though.
Why do this? What are the reasons? There are too many to mention. Because I’m a man, because I’m a husband, because I’m a father, because I’m an American, because I have a soul, because I believe it’s the right thing to do and it has to be done, and there’s no one else better able to do it than me. And, if Max is true to his word, no one will get hurt and Soo and Nathan will be taken care of for the rest of their lives. And, they’ll be rid of me, at least for awhile. Yes, there is hope. I still hold that hope (if I didn’t I don’t think I’d go through with this, I’m not suicidal just a little stupid), the hope that some day I can come back or they can meet me somewhere. So much depends on how it all works out, it’s impossible to make any promises simply because there are so many variables.
Oddly enough, I’m inspired to do this (to some extent at least) by lessons I’ve learned from children’s television. Determine your goal, make a plan, and never give up until you reach your goal. It’s the foundation of nearly every episode of every show on TV. Not to give too much credit (or blame) to Dora and Blue, though, watch the show, all the shows, anything goes, persistent, consistent, force fed, unread, superficiality, defenseless, to relentless, televised banality. I mean there are other reasons why I’ve allowed myself to be convinced by Max and his cronies that this is a good idea, a Great Idea even. Possibly, THE Idea that saves this country and the world from the bedlam it’s headed towards, by the boards, cross-checked, train wrecked, get it done, you’re the one, Wayward Son.
It might just be the Grand-ness of the plan that makes me want to see it work. It’s the ultimate nose-thumbing at all the pricks that are calling the shots now. Think about it, stealing a nuclear submarine and justifying it using the second amendment, so, legally using nuclear warheads as part of your right to bear arms to hold the present administration hostage (North Korea style) basically until they step down or implement legislation that will educate and feed the world rather than oppress and enslave it. It sounds silly when I put it like that, like a knee-jerk liberal writing a Bond film, Catholic guilt to the hilt. But the beautiful part about it is that it doesn’t have to work to work (unsic, take your pick). All we have to do is let people know it was attempted, that this great unified undivided America isn’t all in lockstep with our omniscient leaders, corporate feeders, at the trough, (go ahead, scoff). That there are protestors, that there’s an opposition, smart enough to realize there’s a better way to get things done than stand in line to get their heads bashed in and a pair of plastic bracelets. Or worse, get outgunned and outmaneuvered on TV by pros who have all the money for ads and all the media outlets in their back pockets because of it, bullshit, don’t quit, go on, ever anon, long gone. Think about it, and now I’m starting to mimic the words of Max Unglohd, but what the hell, that’s going to be my job basically, so I’d better fully convince myself of this before I have to convince others, all the protests in this country over the last quarter century haven’t amounted to diddly squat, wars fought, more killed, free willed, into the grave, be brave, she threw that letter away didn’t the song say? The Vietnam War era protests were so successful they resulted in a generation of righteous liberals who have dislocated their shoulders patting themselves on their backs. Unfortunately, their values are dislocated, as well.
They think they’re progressive because they separate their recycleables, bad-mouth gas guzzling SUVs, and maybe go stand in those police barricade cages like critters at a zoo, do you? No offense, false pretense, good intentions are great inventions. They should put identification signs on the barricades: “60’s Style Liberal – Native to California, parts of New York, and small independent herds scattered across North America, the Liberal has been mostly domesticated. Rarely found in the wild, the 60’s Style Liberal is in danger of being marginalized into extinction.”
“Marginalized” – that’s a favorite Max Unglohd word. He paid more attention in college than I did. Some people go to school to learn what other people thought, was I the only fool who disregarded what they sought? Look instead for a way to think, a warm bed and a place to drink. I was never too keen on political theory myself. It all seemed too abstract, especially for a 19-year old more interested in getting laid and/or drunk. And, really, how was it going to make a difference to me one way or the other. Memorize it, spit it back, get the grade, forget about it because you’re going to get a job and make a family and who could possibly care if sections of society were marginalized, if entire populations were marginalized, if dangerous terrorists with access to large amounts of money and with the wherewithal to plan elaborate highly damaging attacks were marginalized. Why would your average young American male possibly care about esoteric political concepts and what they have to do with American foreign policy in the Middle East, have a feast, back sides of beasts, there you go, Mr. Costello. I didn’t think I had to care. Well, things have changed, rearranged, deranged? Move on, move along, be strong, ignore, you bore, me, whee!!!
For starters, I’m feeling a little marginalized my own damn self. Let’s face it, if I had a piece of the pie (a pretty big piece), if I were able to pay for my house and work and feel a sense of pride in what I do and who I am then none of this would ever be happening. “Aha!” You may say, “It’s just pride.” To which I say: “Just Pride!?!? JUST Pride?!?!” That’s like saying what I’ve felt about my boy’s injuries is “Just Guilt.” What is pride? A venal sin? A cardinal sin? I could never remember, faith to dismember, time for slumber, they’ve called your number. Pride is what keeps us going (he put up a good showing). Pride is the reason we get out of bed, it’s the reason we take care of ourselves and our families (On your knees! Please? Ahem, darn the hem, mow the lawn, move on, move on!). Without pride we might as well give up. Maybe it’s pride that’s making me write all this down, because I want someone to know what I’ve done, what we’ve done, and why.
But, I don’t have much time.
I have to finish this by Sunday night, or Monday morning at the latest, and here it is Friday night (spite, fight, alright). Nathan’s asleep. Soo put him down. I don’t do that anymore. I’m not part of the bathing, teeth-brushing, pajama-ing, reading, and putting to sleep ritual anymore. I can’t stand to see the scars on Nate’s little body, and I’m afraid he’ll slip in the tub on my watch (while under my care) and hit his head again (we will win, wait and see, this isn’t me, there’s so much more, you’ve got in store). I just can’t do it. I can’t stand to see the fear in his eyes (do I imagine that, the hesitation now, his uncertainty where before there was blind confidence), the mistrust, left in the dust, never sleeps, rust, yet he weeps, cries, and tries, they both do, who? There you go, silly so and so. Soo can take care of him fine without me. I’m really not necessary, so I just tuck myself away down here in the basement (abasement, pity, shitty). Go ahead and say it. Waah. Poor Billy, (silly willy, deep down you know, out of town you will go).
I know what you’re thinking, “Get over it.” Sell your house, move someplace you can afford and just get a job, any job that will meet your needs. And limit your needs (a wage that feeds, don’t berate, it’s not hate, snob, hobnob, nattering nabob, negativity, a new nativity, stop, drop, Roll, droll, Tide! hide). You still have your boy and your wife, if you’d stop sulking and beating yourself up you could get on with your life. Yeah, I could. It sounds easy (I’m getting queasy). But then that’s where pride comes in. What do we tell people? We sell and move where? And do what? And what’s to say things don’t get better (unfetter, mythic, work ethic, stored in our attic [we don't have one, son] part of our fabric, emperor's clothes, would be more precise, for if the king loathes your sound advice you'll find yourself planting rice or picking cotton wealth ill-begotten labor long forgotten beneath the surface every day [ancient history you might say]). What if I don’t get better? All that crap I wrote and sent to people (law of the steeple, opposite, stand, pray, sit, what a load of hay, all I have to say, motivation, a population, one, undone, born, shorn, unwarm form). How do I face them now? What do I tell them now? I can’t even talk to my own family let alone Soo’s. And our friends, what about our friends (split ends, bad hair day, go away), what do they know, what will they say to me, and what do I say to them? I can’t even begin to think about it. “Well, uh, I never got a job after I quit that last one and Soo was working for awhile, but we never got health benefits (spits and fits, catatonic, gin and tonic, sitting in a corner, foreign suborner). So, one day while I was supposed to be watching Nathan, he fell and the doctor’s bills were outrageous, but we couldn’t not pay them so we had to sell the house and move to Idaho (don’t you know, private, own, run and hit, bitch and moan) and I’m working at McDonald’s and we’re renting a nice apartment in Pocatello. Come visit!”
It’s just no fun telling people bad news (you choose, blues?, lord or vassal, forget the hassle). It’s no fun being a failure. Yes, pride. Pride and Guilt and Opportunity. Max, that’s where Max (piece together facts, heart attacks, Red Rover, Red Rover, this nightmare’s over) and his pals come in or came in. I’m sounding a bit like a groupie, or an acolyte, an evangelist (never been kissed, the missing list, link, think, drink, you stink, shower, power, flower, in an hour, just one more hour, breathe, deep, with eathe, thleep, lisp, a wisp, a cat, two, fat, boo, ca, ta, duh!) It’s hard not to think it will turn out well when you hear his optimism, his confidence, and the details he’s got worked out (shout, shout, let it all out, rule the world, flag unfurled). And, it’s all for the right reasons (treasons, from the Four Seasons, a middle class revolution, demanding absolution and a room at the inn, free of sin, can you begin, to understand, not on The Strand, not on The Strip, this is my trip, I want the suite, slippered feet, man of the terrycloth, a can of the sudsy froth), for principles and ideals I can believe in. I know you’re probably thinking this is a Jim Jones cult of personality step right up and drink your Kool-Aid kind of thing, but it’s not. And let me explain to you, to Soo, to me, really, why I believe this will work. To do that I’d probably have to go back to how I met them, but I’m not going to do it nice and neat like when I thought I was trying to write a book. Soo hated the way I wrote dialogue anyway.
I’ll just tell you what happened. Later. (Hater).

Monday, March 1, 2004

Editor’s Note:

The following pages contain excerpts retrieved from a diskette left, we can only assume, by Billy Shakes for his wife Soo Moon. The diskette was zipped into Ms. Moon’s orthopedic pillow. Unfortunately, its existence was not immediately discovered. For reasons unknown to us, the diskette was wrapped in soft cloth, inserted into the pillow between two layers of materials torn apart and resealed with a thin strip of folded duct tape. This Four Way Comfort Pillo-Pedic pillow was then zipped into its thin outer covering before being covered yet again by a pillow case. It is understandable then that Ms. Moon did not discover the diskette until the day, nearly three weeks after Mr. Shakes’ disappearance when she decided to put the pillow through the washing machine.
Those three weeks were highly disturbing and an extremely emotional time for Ms. Moon. Local and federal police were in and out of her home. The investigation was complicated and no doubt escalated to its fevered pitch, due to the discovery of a “bomb-like device” in the back seat of Mr. Shakes’ car, which, as was noted earlier, was left “abandoned” on the Seattle-Las Piedras Island Ferry.
It was the presence of this “device” that authorities used as justification for the confiscation of all the computers in the Moon-Shakes household, including little Nathan’s Mac. The device was never shown to Ms. Moon, and the computers have yet to be returned. These facts and a general feeling of mistrust for those in charge of the investigation led Ms. Moon to take the water damaged diskette not to the authorities, but to a friend of a friend in the Bay Area who had experience retrieving information from damaged computers.
It should be pointed out that her decision to publish these materials is solely inspired by a desire to find her missing husband. She makes no claims of belief or disbelief for anything recorded on that diskette. Neither does she make any allegations of any kind against any members of the law enforcement community. She has consulted her attorneys and we as the publishers have consulted ours, and believe we are fully within our rights to publish these materials in this way. If and when she is asked to hand over the diskette from which the following pages were extracted she will gladly do so.
If anything that follows triggers a memory or sounds in any way familiar please contact the proper authorities and send an email to Ms. Moon’s attorneys ( Residents of Western Washington, specifically those in and around the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas are encouraged to read these pages and reflect deeply on the events of August 2003 to January 2004 to determine if there is any possibility that what is written here might contain some truth and therefore any clue as to the present whereabouts of Mr. Shakes.