Friday, September 16, 2005

12/13/5 – on earlier boat. Tired. Took pill. Thinking about work, morale, reading a computer history book. Crap to do. Thinking about writing a fictional history of the dotcom boom and bust. Just need to get to Christmas. Then get through January. Totally uninspired by this job. Wondering what I can do better, where I can be better. Just getting by. No fun.
12/12/5 – Monday morning and I feel fine. Of course I had a very relaxing weekend when I didn’t think about work one whit. I should write after work some time. Need a new notebook – have to consolidate weekend writing. Work I hate gets me paid. Work I like gets me nothing.
12/9/5 – a Friday – took one last night when I got home at 7:00 and then again this morning and must admit to feeling better – again I have no idea if this is just a comfort thing if there’s a continuous stream required at regular intervals or if you achieve a certain stasis and disrupting that stasis requires more than a 12 hour variance. Or, of course, whether I just feel better because I think I should feel better. I’ve been reading a book on philosophy and am coming to the conclusion tha the answer lies in probing the inner – at least for me. The external world and scientific advancement is plenty probed by others and I can do little to advance those efforts. However, the plumbing of the mind and what has motivated/inspired/troubled man from the moment of enlightenment is a subject I can sink my teeth into. Yes, feeling a bit better today.
12/8/5 – forgot Lamictal – I don’t know if it’s psychosomatic, but am really low energy today. Not feeling well physically and had an early morning wake up call from the kid so that may be contributing. Still taking this pill every day for nearly six weeks and then missing a day can’t be good.
12/7/5 on an earlier boat.
I had an idea for the All Hands meeting – make it like a revival meeting. Make the boss into a Jimmy Swaggert or Jim and Tammy Faye Baker – do you believe!?! Have folks come up and confess they’d strayed from the path, do a laying on of the hands – You are healed! Go forth and believe in the power of Network Security. It has some potential…
I had a dream last night I was on a boat with people from work. Not sure if the boss was there. Someone else was driving the boat. I was trying to get the VP of Sales attention but he was on the phone, I went into the next cabin and there was the Regional Sales Director also stuck to the phone. There was a rocking on the boat as it made a wild turn to avoid hitting another boat. We turned around and the boat got out of the water – like one of those Duckboats. It drove to some building and then I was in a bedroom. My sister was in bed with me and then the Director of Product Marketing came in and was looking at me very confused. I said, oh, this is my sister. That didn’t reassure her.
I think I’m thinking about work too much.
12/6/5 – I was wrong, yesterday was Dec. 6th
Feeling pretty good, writing inspirational aphorisms and other bullshit for work. The sun is shining, rising glowing and reflecting off the Sound. I’ve got a tough day today and tomorrow fighting back.
Just to put something down. 17 more days before vacation. I had a dream with my friend in it last night. We were engaged in some sort of an assault on a weird mountain military installation, sneaking past guards and contacting someone on the inside. He wanted me to put on some strange orange foam headgear. Then we escaped and went to a party, but he went in first and I was wandering around backyards. There were lots of people I knew from high school and college.
So I mentioned this in the Big Black Book and a chronicle of mood stabilization might end up in multiple locations and need consolidation later, but here you go. Friday I met with the psychiatrist, last day of 100 mg Lamictal. Saturday filled the prescription, but didn’t take it until 4:00 then went out with some friends, had four glasses of wine and felt great. Sunday morning felt slightly hungover but worked through it, actually went for a run. Today is Monday and I’m not looking forward to work, but that is to be expected. And, hey I’m scribbling again which says something in itself. Meeting today about the company’s morale, had some ideas, like morale sucks because they know they’re going to get sold down the river.
(AT THE END OF 2005, LAMICTAL KEPT ME ALIVE. Not really, that was a bit of melodrama because it rhymed, but I did feel terribly shitty in that “why can’t a bus just jump the curb and kill me accidentally so I won’t be blamed for throwing myself in front of it,” sort of way. He didn’t throw himself in front of a bus, the bus threw itself behind him.)
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.

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 worlds 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…”
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 who 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
10/3/7 AM
The reflection of my butt hairs
In the toilet water has anyone ever written of this who would even bother, strange beauty of another kind or the mark of a muddled mind. What else is out there that goes unrecorded what weirdness remains (best) unreported. Is there any internal vagary, personal sickness, sad anomaly deserving no witness no publicity divulgences shitty confessions not pretty too much, information best not discussed. What benefit exists for these sick trysts flirtations with grotesquery masquerading in poetry (if you can call it that).
It gets to the larger matter of typing this chatter my dialogue with myself, best left on the shelf. The truth is I’ve removed more notebooks from their Tupperware file seeking some other looks into past style (to see if it’s still fresh). Scribble new nonsense here on the boat typing old nonsense cheating at work. No one but me has a vote, no one but me is able to shirk, with such aplomb, APLOMB? Diligently avoiding any semblance of productivity displaying this proclivity for goofing off.
Tired of this. The question is will I look at all this when I’ve finished typing and see how sordid how stupid and frightening revealing this to others would surely be. A long stream of words betraying me. Bipolar. What does that mean? Put a name to it sure, give drugs to cure, but what if in stabilizing we’re kept from realizing some other other otherwise unknown. His collective knowledge grown or will poor readers groan bemoaning my moaning, they’d just look away, silent embarrassed nothing to say, avoid him, ignore him maybe he’ll soon go away. Stop this excursion display of perversion another version of art half-assed, reflected in toilet water as gas is passed, a fecal non-starter so just let it go there’s no good cause for you to show such putrid thoughts to the world’s robots. Disclosure exposure un bon mots.
10/2/7 AM
The ferry’s just docking. I don’t feel like talking, saw three separate friends avoidance never ends must face them at some point erase them from this joint.
Wanted to write something here but didn’t know what. I was reading a book about the Vanderbilts but it wasn’t holding my attention. So, I came down and found a writing table that had already been abandoned. It’s rainy, misty gray off to work , another day, still not doing much where is the magic touch I’m a lazy such and such. How could I get fired the wife would be ired, what had transpired – just tired and bored and drifting into a frozen fjord. Dead end. My friend.
10/1/7 AM Monday
Looking down for coins when bills are falling from the sky I was going to make this a poem but with a word like “sky” I ask myself why bother to try, it’s like cheating and I’d rather be eating my bagel. Hegel?
Struck again by the absurdity of putting it all together. The end would go on while I’m still writing the beginning so it grows from both ends losing and making friends, time bends or fails to exist hard to resist this style mile after mile we cross the Sound day after day another round?
Thought about truth/fiction fact/lie no contradiction no honesty my purpose when starting was quickly departing. So, scene with psychiatrist, $185 an hour for this. “You should probably slow down on the drinking.” You think? “Afterall, it is a depressant.” No shit. Once a month and insurance doesn’t even cover it. Another two grand, three for the drugs. 5K a year right out of the gate. “Maybe you should go back to your counselor,” he says. She’s the one who sent me to you. “It would be good for you to have someone to talk to.” I can just keep talking to myself, it’s worked for me so far. Except for that occasional voice telling me to throw myself in front of a bus.
I think, no, it wouldn’t be fair to the bus driver. And think of all the people who would be disgusted by the blood, not to mention the traffic delays. Jumping off the boat would be even worse. The wife would have to move. Think about the children! I used the exclamation mark sarcastically, by the way. “Let’s keep an eye on you for a few months. I don’t want to add an anti-depressant if we don’t have to.” Groovy, more drugs, that would be sweet, how much would that cost me. 60 minutes to gauge my biochemical needs, like a mechanic checking my oil. Where’s the dipstick? Oh, wait, that would be me.
I’m going to write a book on being bipolar. You were the one who told me I should chronicle my moods, keep track of the swings. “Well, yes, for your own information.” Right because I never had this information before. God forbid, you spend a few minutes outside this hour actually trying to learn more about what’s going on in my head. Hard to run folks through here fast enough to make a good living if you waste a bunch of time digging deeper. Throw more drugs at it.
Healthcare. Healthcare in this country. If I lose this job, we would have to spend $1,000 a month for decent healthcare and insurance. That’s not including my shit. So, you’re looking at $17K before you make dollar one. That’s after taxes. Rent/mortgage, food, clothes…It’s no wonder our emergency rooms are swamped.
I’m lucky, all I have to do is put up with a job I detest, think about the poor people who can’t find jobs to detest or detestable jobs that don’t pay well or cover insurance.
Boo-hoo. Buy a ticket, a ferry pass, ill? Lick it, get off your ass.
Just another day. The first one of October.
9/28/7 AM
On boat. Woke early cuz the kid was kicking me. Also incredibly gastrointestinely uncomfortable due to large Korean meal, kimchi, dwaeji bulgogi, etc. Friday. One more day. Boss is out. Time to play. Write/type more of this crap. I’m trying to figure out how to squeeze in the stories. Why not put everything in, Goodbye Dimboola, Anything Every Day. Just mix in stories with the journal writing so I have one long doc with everything. It would make no sense except in the context of my life. It would make sense to no one but me. The story of my life told by me for me. The ultimate self-indulgence. Is it self-indulgence if nobody else knows about it? The wife would. But then she already thinks I’m terribly self-indulgent already. I need to get snipped.
Reading about it makes me nauseos. Nauseaus? Nauseous. It isn’t a pleasant thought, although I can’t remember the last time the wife and I had sex so if this helps me get some, count me in.
9/27/7 PM
Stimulants in the morning, depressants in the evening. A familiar pattern my appearance slattern-y, no flattery I’m getting fatter-y, looking at the Louvre reviewing my oeuvre, pretentious people next to me, pretend just dichotomy, a just dichotomy? What a mess I confess, tore your dress TORE? Out on the street drinking beer, I have nothing to say myself I’m just writing down what other people are saying, how it twinkles at night, that’s just magical the Eiffel Tower, burping drinking bloated I’m not that thrilled about that modern art. What the hell. Pompousdo Pompadou. What the hell do people write about these days. You know the French are so…The the the the thing is the thing is I’m just writing to write, I’m just putting ink on the page. Ink on the page ink on the page what does a pen hold what does a mind hold can you ever suck out a mind suck the thoughts and turn them into words take all in your brain and put it on the page and, well, no, you can’t, it’s a mediocre medium, I like that, a mediocre medium. Champs dElysee whatever, impossible to take all you could say impossible to convey all that’s there. Like a pen. No, not really. But, funny enough I was holding a pen and the comparison occurred to me. Ink. Ink can write anything. There’s a quantity of ink in there, it can make words or lines or a great big blob and that’s not too different from a brain.
Puddentain Puddentane Puddin’Tane
People actually live in these caves
Barrels are made from staves
We saw where Leonardo di Vinci spent the last three years of his life
No other feeding does it like the fall. I have to stop this. We went through all the vineyards. That’s when I went, during the harvest. I’m sitting on the boat, people back from France on my right young couple with small child on my left, man reading paper in front of me.
Making the turn, I want to get out of here.
9/27/7 AM
On foot barely afloat what is this expository super SUPER supra suppository diatribe viral vibe inky leakage of never speakage writing and fighting my daily drill dressed to kill took the pill for what that’s worth it doesn’t hurt call it the birth a wrinkled shirt said before an excuse so why bore what’s the use of this blue piss line after line of superfine, could it speak to those others weak also burdened also hiding another word and I’ll go on biding my time less rhyme more sense too dense to see no place for me this mess as I confess this thing it’s not so bad I’ll ring a bell, sad, hell it’s not fatal from cradle to grave I rant and rave in silence unspoken the pretense awoken my desire to share who might care there is no market you see how dark it gets he forgets the revelations are not just his, a life’s relations, the problem is who is whom and what is true from what womb it’s not just you walking to tomb the melodrama without a comma impossible to calm a committed man payment remitted I don’t understand flames are fanned a fire burns the page he turns but who else who else would care why not just spare readers and subjects people aren’t objects not characters these characters depict some other facets the glass it’s half full, moulder, mull never dull to me. Not really. There’s the other times when there are no rhymes, no desire, no raging ire the gaps in dates, the quietude, reading sates that maudlin mood. Maudlin? Hobgobblin. Enough, this stuff, I’ll type it out, the crap I spout this pathetic diarhetic. I’ll send, forfend (FORFEND!?) to whom my padded room, my second womb my tomb.
Boy, doesn’t that sound depressing.
9/26/7 Wednesday PM
I’m going backwards backwards. This path is unfortunate and I have so much more paper elsewhere.
I feel like I should write about friends, but maybe the point is I don’t. A self-absorption beyond distortion an abortion of emotion no relation too shallow friend field fallow selfish heart callow
The story that’s true is a talk of you that’s not really me in reality. The false stories are truer in the sense there’s no fact you’d want to redact, made up from whole cloth, their origins such, veracity doth not matter so much.
How many ways can you lose a friend.
It’s a rhetorical question.
The wife just called with the kid screaming in the background. It’s all loud and cluttered and banal BANAL? My aren’t we superior, feeling awful awful aren’t we. Man I wish I could make sense of me make something of my misery (WOE IS) whoa, whoh, WHO, what the hell thought my washing machine would break my hair and the sun putting on a jacket it will be a long trip home but I don’t mind because the later I arrive means the less amount of time I have to deal with the little monsters. The demons are another story. Expect miracles when you read Ann Patchett’s fiction. Does water turn to wine? Somewhere someone has written the best shit no one’s ever read.
It’s a goddamn paradise. I just wish there were fewer people I had to try not to talk to. I’ve decided to write small because I feel small (although my beer belly grows larger and larger), I feel like I’m becoming invisible. I’m a non-existent mass, I may be visible to those here babbling around me on the boat, but I know I’m not really here because I write so small no one could possibly notice me.
It makes no sense this backward route, what good I should cease to pout more shit to wit this spit I spout a whale sprays displays his ways. I sit and shout for what my gut rebut your claims and sad refrains more of the sames and Puddentanes HUH? Puddintan Puddentain
What where the hell did that come from. Ink to paper ratio will be high.
9/26/7 AM

A Seattle hat’ll
Confer on you
The prestige a fur used to
What remains unknown
Is what seeds I’ve sown
Words misplanted go ungrown
The scrawl this fall
Conveys the haze
A season passing
Mind regressing
Clouds are massing
Cranium dressing
Crown cover
Nature lover
No umbrella
For this fella
A fine chapeau
Is the way to go
Huh HUH?
9/25/7 Tues AM
Men (and women) wearing bright orange stickers with CWA on them. What’s CWA, I ask. Communications Workers of America. His mouth was full. I work in communications, I think. I used to be a director of communications (maybe I’ll throw those notes in here from 2005+). I have no union. I want to be in a union.
Must walk in the rain. This job…this job.
Thinking about stories, but there’s only mine, just different ways of telling it.
On my way to work this time in my car, going to the airport in the afternoon, well, not just the airport, going to Vegas. A rather uncertain feeling about this insurance gig.
The wife and I are already spending money and feeling comfortable, but it hasn’t even been two weeks and there’s the 90 day wait until benefits. I should feel comfortable but I don’t and I don’t want the wife to know how shaky I feel. Although I shouldn’t make too much of a week and a half.
The will to write is waning. I feel I had a window while manic but missed it. I should, hell, I don’t know what I should do. I want the first thing to be done – Billy Shakes revolutionary, convinces Korea to force US troops out of their country, western states of America secede, a Boston massacre moment as they try to haul Martin away from the SF jail, but it all turns out to be a dream as Billy returns to Soo and Nate on the ferry.
Then I want to be able to run through the second story, the cat/eagle/deer – the world faces decimation, population drastically declines as infertility strikes everyone, the Man and his family survive and must repopulate a world now dominated by the animals, except in the end the animals get outsmarted by the plants, and the world is left to vegetation.
I want these to be good (I wants to write good) I want them to be unique, powerful, funny yet lastingly meaningful. I have something to say and a different way of saying it, not convinced anyone would want to read it, and worried about exposing myself, revealing my “illness” – all that is subplot, it’s the subplot of my life.
And I have to work. I like getting paid, but am growing to believe this gig won’t last long.
WTC guy in Mexico
Timeframe. That needs to be worked out. How does he get from Mexico to wherever Billy is, and does he need to.
I’d say don’t go out at all, but definitely do me a favor, don’t come back to my place. I won’t let you in and I will deny I’ve ever seen you.,” said Murray.
Wah, what do you mean?
“You know what I mean. This is a bad idea, you need to go away now.”
“Go away? Where am I supposed to go?”
“That’s not my problem. Call Jake. But, if you think you’re going to find a safe house in my place after you go traipsing around along your past paths then you’re delusional. You’re worse, you’re a liability. You’re a risk to me, to Jake, to the entire movement.”
“Movement? This is a movement now?”
“Dude, you have no idea.”

So, Billy goes to Martin’s and early in the morning there’s a pounding on the door. Billy runs. Need to talk Murray into going out.
“Oh, if you can’t reach Jake, go to Phoenix.”
“No, Phoenix, France, dickhead.”
“Shit, Murray. Give me a break. Why the hell would I go to Phoenix?”
He leaned close over the table, the dregs of dinner, a T-bone and potato skins, “Where the fuck else are you going to go?”
I stopped and thought. He had a very good point. “So, what do I do in Phoenix?”
He smiled a bit and said, “You listen to the radio.”
He looked at me and I looked at him. “Fuck you, Murray. What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”
“Look, you’re the ass that’s about to go carousing about San Francisco when you don’t have a clue about who is looking for you, so don’t get pissy with me.”
“I think you’re being a bit paranoid.”
“Really. Me. Paranoid.” Murray spoke again after a pause. “Listen, all I’m saying is, if you go off with this friend of yours. I’m done with you. Actually, I’m done with you regardless. My work here is over, you’ve got your papers, I have no more interest in you.”
“Oh, come on Murray…”
“No. I shouldn’t have come out. I don’t know how you talked me into it. I’ll give you that, you can be a pretty persuasive guy, maybe that’s what Jake sees in you. Frankly, I think you’re not cut out for this. You are way out of your depth and you don’t even know it.”
“This is stupid.”
“No. You’re stupid. You have no idea what you’re doing. You get a few drinks in you and you think everything’s OK. Well, listen, pal, you’re life is over. The life you had is long gone and there’s no goin back, so you better figure out how to live this one cuz it’s the only one you’ve got left.”
I just sat there soaking in the cold reality of what Murray was telling me. “You can either get nabbed by your stupidity or do something real. Either way, though, that happy family bullshit is over. No wife. No kid. You are no longer who you thought you were. And, this guy, this friend of yours from your old life, he’s an illusion, he should not exist anymore. He is nothing but a path to nowhere.”
More silence and I thought I saw Murray’s face soften a bit as he watched me soak in his cold water. Then, I went into denial.
“Whatever, Murray.”
“Don’t ‘whatever’ me!” he stifled his anger, and harshly whispered, a slightly slurred admonition.
“Look, my friend is waiting.”
Finally, in total exasperation, Murray conceded. He visibly deflated, such as was possible, and relaxed, absolved. He’d tried. “Alright, alright, be that way. If there’s trouble, though, and you can’t reach Jake, just go to Phoenix.”
“And listen to the radio,” I said drily.
“Yes, listen to the radio,” he smiled.
“Why do you have to be so fucking cryptic?”
“Dude, that’s who I am.”
“Alright, yeah, I can see that, but give me a break. I’m supposed to jump on the Hound and go to Phoenix and just scan the dial 24/7, that’s stupid, why not just tell me a name or something?”
“Joe Schmoe.”
“Fuck you.”
“Fuck me again?! No, fuck you. No, it’s more than that, I don’t even have to say ‘fuck you’, you’re already fucked.”
Give me a break,” I said, slightly sobered but still incredulous.
“I’ll give you a break. Against my better judgment I’ll give you a break. How much money do you have?
I had about $40 bucks left.
He pulled out a wad and peeled off about ten hundred dollar bills.
I took the money in surprise, not even thinking to protest.
“And, if you can’t reach Jake…”
“I know,” I interrupted, “Listen to the radio.”
“Right, and one more thing,” he motioned me closer as I tried to edge away from the table. “Are you listening?”
“Yes, I’m listening,” I said impatiently.
“This is important.”
“Just tell me, Murray, I want to get out of here.
“Oh, and one other thing.”
“Another, other thing?”
“Yes, don’t worry about the check.” I said nothing, but gave him a look that said, ‘no shit.’ “You’re welcome.”
“So, what’s the important thing?”
“96.5.” I just looked at him not comprehending.
“The radio station in Phoenix, it’s 96.5.”
“Why didn’t you just say so before,” I said in frustration. He just shrugged as I turned and walked away, thinking to myself that I would never see Murray again and feeling quite pleased about that.

(NOTES) WTC guy and Billy share a disassociation with American life or what America has become and how people exist in it and how it exists in the world. The conformity gets to WTC, even when people in his circle try to be different they’re all basically being different in the same way. The escape from marriage is an escape from the whole system, there’s not much there anymore in the way of love, but it represents the bonds and limitations of that life. We are all trapped and he takes the opportunity of a tragedy to liberate himself. It’s symbolic of the larger political liberation. The west is trapped, exploited by an eastern business/financial establishment that leaves most in a position of coddled servitude. We think we’re happy, living quiet productive lives, but we’re really feeding the pockets of the corporate titans (through mortgages and the consumer machine, and graft) and funding foreign adventures with our taxes. Simple taxation without representation. Throw in a little freedom of religion (a Christian state?) and the desire to get government out of their private life and you pretty much have the reasons the American colonies seceded in the first place.
The short guy from the ferry yesterday, leathery face with a bushy mustache, battered ball cap pulled down low over his brow, a jaunty step and a mischievous twinkle in his eye. Who is he? He can be one of the characters of the road trip gang. The radio guy. Phoenix to Denver to Boise, stay in the west? The others need to remain in “society” they are the financiers or local organizers. Some of them are not involved but filled with crazy/prescient ideas. Utah, SLC, religious freedom. St. George, the irony, king George, dragon slayer. Need allies and Mormons qualify. Badlands, the missile silos. Second amendment – right to bear arms, more allies, the wild west faction, ruby ridge, waco, kazinski. How to avoid violence? Nuclear standoff, mutually assured destruction. Can’t deploy troops, it would be a disaster along the lines of Iraq. At some point this needs to go public. Like Sein Fein and the IRA. Billy is the Gerry Adams of America or Jake is. They could arrest him for treason, but that would just make a martyr out of him – an American Nelson Mandela. Somewhere there’s a Stan Goff character – former military, turned to the other side by the hypocrisy – where is he? Big military – San Diego – near the border. He’s the connection to WTC. WTC surfs the net in the afternoon and surfs the baja coast in the afternoon, sees Galt’s writing and as things get worse (Iraq, patriot act, NSA spying SWIFT) he contacts him (maybe swift fear, his money transfers may be tracked he may be found, he’s on the hook, too) and they connect. Galt is tied in with the military and he and the radio guy (franklin) end up in friendly/heated debate, much like Virginians and New Englanders. WTC guy needs a new ID when he gets back in the states. He still has big $ in his account, but that’s just a number and he’s worried about the tracking of transactions. He goes to Murray, he needs to exist in America again even if that means under a different identity.
Billy gets Murray’s back story. He’s the illegitimate son of Jerry Garcia (or some SF rock legend). There’s a prominent left leaning lawyer in SF who holds his estate. Murray is entirely under the radar. The lawyer is connected too, massive numbers of Californians are disassociated. Gays, hispanics, the working poor, environmentalists (or those that just want clean air and water) and the troops, national guard, veterans, homeless. Rabble rousing. Street demonstrations. Fiery speeches. The foment spreads.
Billy is the mouthpiece (or the organizer, this may be part three after he gets back from Asia.) Jake comes out. They are always on the edge. Could be taken out MLK style or simply disappeared. A public trial would be a disaster. Removal to Gitmo would be obvious.
There would be an icon to rally around. Somehow riots need to be avoided. How to peacefully secede?
The love interest. A return to Soo Moon. “Why did you do this? Why have you done this, what about us, don’t you love Nate and I anymore?”
“It’s because I love you that I have done this, don’t you see what’s happening? The country has changed, it’s not Nazi Germany, it’s more nefarious, more subtle than that. It’s a silent/unseen noose around us all, and it’s closing in on us. Look at the prisons. Look at immigration ‘reform’ I said sarcastically. Look what they’re doing to arab americans, muslims. They came for them and I did nothing and when they came for me there was no one left to stand up for me.”
“This is crazy. You’ve gone crazy.”
“Maybe. Maybe Tom Paine was crazy, Jefferson, Washington, Franklin. Maybe it’s only the crazy people who do anything in this world, maybe they’re the only ones capable of looking at things as they should be rather than as they are.”
“You’re my husband. Nate is YOUR kid.”
“What happens if they start interning Koreans?”
“That’s a bit extreme.”
“Is it? It’s all a matter of degrees at this point isn’t it. When does it get too bad, what does it take for people to get outraged?”

This could go on, I’m stuck.

So, Billy is in the Boar’s Head. He needs to go to Phoenix. The story goes, he goes to Martin’s apt and cops (gov’t agents?) knock in the early hours. Billy has to run – slip out the fire escape kind of cliché, but what the hell. So early morning SF Billy is on the run again back to the bus station? They might know, they might have figured out he would do that now. He takes BART to Berkeley and lays low. On the street again. Call Jake call Jake. Jake tells him to go to Phoenix, conversation re Murray.

“Did you talk to Murray?”
“Why ?”
“Murray told me to go to Phoenix, too.”
“Did he give you a name?”
“No. Just a radio station.” He gave a bit of a laugh.
“Yeah, I don’t have a name either.”
“What?” I said disappointed and shocked.
“I’ve got an idea. I have more information than Murray.”
“well, what am I supposed to do?”
“We’re still figuring things out. It was chaos, the dust is settling and information’s trickling in. We know there’s a potential ally in Phoenix and he owns this radio station, but we’re not sure of his true name or where he lives or what his deal is.”
“OK, so what does this mean to me?”
“We need you to just go and figure it out.”
“Figure it out, what am I Matlock?”
“Just do your best to figure it out. We have faith in you.”
The vote of confidence sounded hollow, but what could I do. “96.5?” I asked in resignation.
So, Billy rents a car with his new ID and credit card. But, first Jake gives him the name of someone in Oakland/Berkeley? Black America, liberal/socialist America, slavery, legacy oppressed black man blah blah blah, but with a twist. Lots of stuff that needs research, black panthers, Peebles, etc…
Drive to Phoenix, beauty of the west with ugliness of the highway culture – McD fast food nation, oil/gas, same crap everywhere. Get off the highway into the recesses of the country and you find what this is what this country really is, outside of what you see on TV and the chain world. We’re shackled to the chain world and we want something more, some people want more…

GenX did McJob and it’s more than that, the chains could actually do a lot to improve our lot. Great distribution, huge volume, crap product.

In Phoenix, I checked into a Motel 6 (paid cash thanks to Murray – or used credit card, might as well use it as I’m on the card with the car anyway), and just listened to the clock radio.

Chain, more description, perhaps a conversation in a McD with some freak or employee, generic flaws of ordinary – the burden of an oppressive sameness, lack of motivation of staff – socialist? America has bred a class of worker or imported a class of worker who pretend to work so they pretend to get paid. No Healthcare, no benefits, no future, kids and college slipping away, it’s the inverse of socialism, but the effects on the common man the same. And, what’s more we’re trying to export it just as communism was (or as it was perceived to be). Where does this go? National self-determination is key – any monolith is the enemy – hegemony won’t work. Mono-crop (crap?) agriculture won’t work, it leads to stagnation in-bred flaws, round pegs in square holes.

To the radio station, the world of radio and all the media has been monopolized, sanitized and turned into a boring stew of blandness. You could argue that there’s a world of cutting edge cinema and “original programming”, but that is only available to those who can afford to pay for it. Much like the communist party members. The rich republicans are our version of communist party members. The philosophy is bi-polar (ha), but the result is the same – one class of people who has stuff, another class that does not, but aspires to it. Distribution of wealth is a farce. People aren’t equal but you have to give them hope. If not for them at least for their kids. Religion is the opiate of the masses and those that use that may be willing to forego a decent wage/life and a better world for their kids. But, we must acknowledge that opium is also the opium of the masses. Sometimes the simple answer is right there in front of us, Occam’s razor. Drugs in America. This is the Oaktown conversation and Billy reflects on it in the hotel room listening to the radio.

It was after two days that I had a sort of revelation. I was racking my brain at first trying to detect a pattern. Then I simply got tired. The time in the Bay Area, the craziness and then the wear of the long drive produced an utter, deep, bone-tired exhaustion. I was so tired that I didn’t even know how tired I was, my body, mind, soul had entered a realm, a cloudy world of existence that in retrospection felt as if I had been made dumb or dumber than I was. It’s hard to imagine I felt overly smart after abandoning my wife and chide to follow Max and his merry crew. I was numb and I didn’t know it. The familiarity or the familiar-ness of the room also produced a comforting other-worldly effect. It was a room in Phoenix, but it could have been in Salt Lake City, Stockton, Charlotte or Canton, Ohio, any of a number of exact rooms anywhere in the country. It was familiar, it was comfortable, it was relaxing, in short, I fell asleep. After the surprise of finding myself listening to a radio station that had no commercials, and no particular format to speak of – the playlist ran the pop/rock gamut from AC/DC to ZZ Top, but it also threw in oddities from Hawaiin, classical, swing and jazz so you never really knew what to expect. One moment you could be listening to Queen’s “We Are the Champions” and before you could finish mouthing “…of the world…” Rachmoninoff’s third concerto/symphony was beginning.
I was baffled and ultimately/eventually my body/brain just shut down. The radio stayed on and with the shades drawn and the absence of any DJ, news, or voices of any sort other than the vocals of Billy Holiday, Elvis Costello (and the other one) Annie Lennox, Ice-T, et al, I was in a world of my own, and what a world it was. I searched and searched for some sort of purpose, a point, a reason, I wrote down the names of songs, artists, dates of recording when I could guess, timeframes, eras, was there a point to playing “99 Luftballoons” after Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nacht Music”? Modern German overtaking Habsburg imperialism? Then David Bowie came on singing Modern Love and fixing the English and allies against Teutonic techno-pop in a contrived confrontation/exploitation/invasion for Leibensraum and uniting all Germanic tribes was further complicated by Men at Work, “I Come from the Land Down Under.”
It was infuriating . And, what made it worse was I liked the music. It was fantastic. Like nothing else I’d ever encountered on the public airwaves. As time went on though, my bafflement infringed on my enjoyment. My epiphany came after Percy Mayfield followed Lyle Lovett followed Don Ho followed Bing Crosby. After listening to Bing croon I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas whilst sitting in a Phoenix hotel room/Motel 6 I came to the conclusion there was no hidden meaning. The answer lay in the lack of an answer. I figured I must not be the only one dialed into 96.5 and so decided to venture forth and start mingling with the local populace.

Somewhere above add – and it was against the length of the pieces, I thought of that as he/they had no qualms playing extraordinarily long songs like Inagoddadavita (sp?) or Beethoven’s Ninth in their entirety. Long short long – some sort of Morse code maybe, an SOS, but how could I differentiate between what was long enough and what short? There was that huge gray zone in the middle and isn’t that always the case. Sure, there’s black and white but those are the poles and everything else lingers above and below the equator…

I first went out into the Phoenix sun around midday. I went to a Denny’s and ordered breakfast, it wasn’t quite breakfast but as it was my first real meal in awhile I thought I’d start out at the beginning. A Grand Slam breakfast did the trick. It may be generic but damn that hit the spot. There is that benefit to the chain world of America, if you want a Big Mac you can get a Big Mac whether you’re in New York City or Tuscaloosa Alabama.
I asked the waitress as she set down my plates, “Hey, I’ve got a question for you.”
“Uh, huh.”
“Do you ever listen to the radio station 96.5?”
“Nope, I never listen to the radio anymore. iPod. Greatest gadget in the world.
“Ah, what about the guys in the back?” I used to wash dishes at a Chuck E. Cheese, horrible high school job, but we used to rock out in the kitchen (elaborate).
“It’s all Mexican music back there. I have no idea what station they listen to.”
“You taking a survey?”
“No. Just wondering…I’m not from around here and as I was driving in I dialed into this station just looking for music and they never played any commercials. I thought it was kinda cool but odd, and I wondered how they did it, what with no ad revenue.”
“That is kind of funny. Well, enjoy your breakfast.”
It was 2:30 in the afternoon.
Halfway through my short stack, she came back to freshen up my coffee and said, “Y’know I asked my manager about that station and he said he listens to it sometimes and has wondered that same thing.”
“Yeah, he says it’s like his own iTunes.”
“Where is he, can I talk to him?”
He came over and I asked him to sit down. His name tag said “Stan”.
“It’s the weirdest thing. My wife and I can’t figure it out. I think I saw an article about it in the Sun or the (check names) but I can’t remember which or when.”
“Do you think it’s some big media company just prepping the market. You know when a new station starts they always play more music at first to get you hooked. Maybe it’s a ploy to get attention.”
“Damned if I know, but it’s made my commute a fair bit better.”
I smiled and sipped my coffee.
“What you doing in Phoenix? Margey said you’re not from around here, not that anyone is.”
“Oh, I’m just passing through.”
“Road trip, huh?”
“Yeah, of a sort.”
“Well, have a good one. Sorry I couldn’t help you solve our little radio mystery,” he said standing up. “Back to work.”
“Yup, take it easy.”
I finished up, paid, said my goodbyes to Margey and Stan, and went for a walk. It was hot, scorching hot, but it was a dry heat, ahem. It was also bright, excruciatingly bright, so I put on the pair of cheap sunglasses I had bought at the Texaco station in Baker. I felt like a spy, man of mystery, private eye, cruising Phoenix to track down a musical phantom. (Should have a line back on the LA-AZ route about passing through Vegas and not stopping, nothing but trouble there. Need to check on a map and see if I’m right. Oh and take a trip to the Grand Canyon, then call Jake and have him chastise Billy for “this is NOT some touring trip for you. We don’t have time for you to go sightseeing!”
“Yeah, well that car isn’t in a real name remember, you never know when that’s going to get called in, you don’t have a lot of time.”
“Well, where am I supposed to go, what am I supposed to do?”\ “Did you find out anything in Phoenix?”

Boars Head to Martin’s apt. Go to Bus Stop. Either a conversation in a crowded bar or a quiet conversation in his apt whilst drunk, bar, then back to apt in haze and then pounding a mad scramble.

The Billy/Murray conversation – the separation – money changes hands. Martin walks over. Billy grabs the wad of cash in a bit of surprise and stuffs it in his pocket before Martin can see it.
“Thanks,” was all I could mutter stupidly, all I…in the quick exchange with Martin approaching and Murray flipping through bills, all I could muster was a feeble, “Thanks.”
“Fuck off. No, wait. Good luck, and thanks for getting me out. Despite your bullshit this has been good.”
“Yeah, good.”
“Well, good.”
“Fuck off.” I started to walk away. “Oh, and don’t worry about dinner. I’ll take care of it.”
I just looked back and smiled, gave him a quick, perhaps overly jaunty wave and scurried off to meet Martin at the door.
“Should we go to the Bus Stop for old times sake?”

Martin and I had gone to school together. A large contingent of folks from my university ended up working and living in San Francisco. As time went on they ended up in the various surrounding cities, like the scattered drops from a rock dropped in a lake. Every year a new batch of graduates landed like a rock in the SF pond, in a sort of time delay film (like in the old nature shows where you could watch a flower grow, bloom and die) those droplets rose and fell in Marin and Belmont and Walnut Creek and points around the bay, and there they mingled with past droplets from previous rocks that fell from the same source.
Martin was of the part under the rock that sank to the bottom and stayed in the city. San Francisco appealed to him and he had never found that complementary droplet that made the trip to the burbs more enjoyable (or that necessitated the move). Besides, he liked city life.
He and I and a large group of guys frequented the Bus Stop and other such establishments back in the day. It was one of the more “mature” places not populated too much by the bridge and tunnel crowd looking to hook up. Not quiet, but no pounding music and an excess of swinging dicks out for a companion. Clearly hetero, but not in an overtly exclusive way. It was a good spot and just up the street.
“So what the hell are you doing here?” He just came out and asked.
“Oh, just a quick little trip.”
“No, no,” I said quickly realizing that Murray may have been right and this was going to be more complicated than I had anticipated. Afterall what the hell was I doing here?
“Got a hall pass, huh? A boy’s trip? Are you meeting with John (new name here, or for John in Korea) or Scoop?”
He mentioned two old friends of mine who would be obvious people I’d want to connect with since I was down.
“Oh, no. I don’t think I’ll have time.”

By that time we’d walked up to the Bus Stop and had entered, the long bar on our left, wood-paneled walls, the sound of billiard balls clinking in the back room, an assortment of San Franciscans drinking, talking, watching the Giants game, the TV hanging from the corner of the ceiling.
“Anchor Steam?”
“When in Rome,” I replied. When he returned he jumped right back into the questions in the careless off-hand way old friends or now slightly less than friends who had once spent a great deal of time together, but had drifted apart yet are still capable of returning to that comfortable comraderie can. It’s my opinion this is a male thing. Martin could be blunt and honest in a way that two old female friends might find incomprehensible.
“So, how’s whats her name?”
“Yeah, you got a kid now, too, right?”
“Yup. A regular family.”
“Up in the northwest, Seattle?”
“Near there.”
“You like that?”
“Yeah,” I started hesitantly. “It’s great, we love it.” The remorse was setting in again and I was afraid it was showing. Martin was picking up on that and turned to catch the score of the game, sipping his beer thoughtfully.
I decided to avert further inquisitiveness by starting a line of questioning myself. “So, are you still with Schwab?”
“No, no, I just took a new job with Morgan-Stanley, lovin’ it. You can’t imagine the difference between a discount brokerage and a group like Morgan Stanley.”
“Yeah, I bet I can’t.”
“What you doing now?” he asked quickly, shifting attention back to me and foiling my plan.
“Oh, you know, this and that,” I replied lamely.
He looked at me suspiciously and then took another glance at the game. “We could get some free baseball.” It was tied in the bottom of the ninth, just another game, the Florida Marlins, certainly not worth taking attention away from a conversation between two friends who hadn’t seen each other in years, a game between two bottom dwellers in their divisions.
Marty looked back at me and somewhat sternly, with a trace of a wry smile, and asked frankly, “Billy, what the fuck is going on?”
It was hard to hide anything from Marty, he was a no bullshit kind of guy, and I wasn’t exactly the poker-faced cool cat hustling some scam over him. I caved. Hanging my head, sulking in my beer, I just came out with the most innocuous form of the truth I could, even though it failed to capture even a morsel of what was going on, it was essentially what I’d done.
“I’ve left Soo.”
“Wow,” a pause. “Just up and left?”
“Yeah, pretty much.”
He was silent again for awhile. We both sat quietly, looking at each other and then looking away. He, afraid of the look of depression in my eyes, and me afraid of the judgment in his.
“Got a wife and kid in Baltimore, Jack, I went out for a ride and I never went back,” he deadpanned the Springsteen line.
I thought, “like a river that don’t know where it’s flowin’ I took a wrong turn and I just kept goin’” but couldn’t bring myself to say it.
“Well, this calls for something stronger.”
He got up and muscled his way to the bar, which was crowded now with people watching the bottom of the ninth. Barry Bonds struck out and they were going to extra innings.
“A fantastic cancer,” said Marty as he set two glasses of brown liquor down on the table.
“That’s what a buddy of mine at work calls Bonds – ‘a fantastic cancer’.”
“I don’t get it.”
“He’s great, hell, he’s the picture of greatness, yet as long as he’s on the Giants they will never win. Not the whole thing. He doesn’t want it enough. Deep down it’s all about him. He cares more about himself than the team.”
I knew where he was going with this and didn’t like it. I’d left my team. This was big talk from a free agent who had never stayed with a team for more than a season or two.
“Right,” I said. “I get it.” Pause, “What is this?” I asked picking up the highball glass and sniffing two fingers of something.
“Maker’s Mark.”
We drank, sipped.
Someone for the Marlins hit a home run in the top of the tenth.
“What are you going to do?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Where are you staying?”
“Nowhere really.”
“When did this happen?”
“About a week ago.”
“Jesus,” he said quietly, shaking his head.
“Does she know where you are?”
“I don’t think so,” I said.
“You haven’t called her?”
“No. I can’t,” I said, leaving it at that as if I couldn’t bring myself to rather than I was afraid our phone would be tapped.
“You’ve got to let her know where you are, that you’re OK, she must be frantic.”
“I left her a note,” I said, referring to the mad scribbling I’d done before the, well, before the ferry thing, even though that nonsense resembled a note as much as a bird did a dodo.
He just shook his head. A waitress came by, pointed to our glasses, “Another round?”
“God, yes,” said Marty. “Two more Makers and two Steam backers.” We absent-mindedly checked the game, a reflex. The Giants were batting in the bottom of the tenth, down by one and more people in the bar were paying attention.
“For Christ’s sake, Billy. Why?”
“Oh, you don’t want to know. It’s a long story and really I’m not sure you’d understand.”
“Look,” he said as our drinks arrived, stopping then to thank the waitress, he started to pay her then stopped and thought. I was afraid he was going to look to me for money. Instead, he pulled out a credit card and handed it to her saying, “You better keep it open.” She nodded. The Giants were down to two outs.
“Billy, I’ve got all the time in the world. I blew off my date, it’s Friday night, I’m doing nothing til tomorrow night.” I noted to myself that before he said that I had had no idea what day it was. “And, let’s be honest, it doesn’t matter if I understand, it’s whether you understand that’s important.”
He was making good points. And, his perfunctory, if somewhat off-putting, questioning was starting to put this whole situation in a different light. Maybe I was over-reacting, maybe I could go back. Turn myself in. Maybe Jake and Murray were a bunch of cranks and if I ratted them out, I could save my skin.
“I don’t know, Marty.” I said hesitantly. “It’s not as simple as you may think.”
“These things never are I’m sure.” We stopped. I was uncomfortable looking him in the eyes. Marty had an intimidating gaze, fueled by a supreme confidence. Bill Mueller struck out (check lineup) and they were down to their last out.
“It’s not what you think. I don’t want to get you involved.”
“I’m already involved. For whatever reason you and I ran into each other tonight. Frankly, you and I were never that close.”
I stopped my glass halfway to my lips, “Well…” I started to protest.
“No, really, come on. John (name) and Scoop and you were always tight. I just tagged along…and we’re not exactly of the same (political, think about this) persuasion.”
“That doesn’t mean much,” I began, but he was right and my argument petered out. He always did have an understanding of power that ran contrary to mine. Not that we ever spent too much time discussing such things. It was reflected more in career choices, such as mine qualified as a “career choice.” Marty was always going to make money. College was an end to a means and he treated it with the seriousness that mindset dictated. I was never that focused, but through neglect, sloth and ennui managed to evoke an aura of disdain for that attitude. Marty’s attitude. He may have perceived me as having strong liberal leanings with a latent if not strong/apparent opposition to his life direction. It was never that pronounced. I was a bad student with poor judgment and a weakness for the easy way out. Any snide comments about ‘selling out’ and ‘working for the man’ were little more than affectation and cover for my flaws, which were many. I’d changed since then, but not in a way that he’d approve.
“My point, Billy, is that I’m just enough of a friend to be brutally honest without fear of damaging a long-term friendship. It’s not that I don’t give a shit about you or about staying your “friend”. I think you’re an interesting guy, I always have. It’s just that we don’t run in the same circles. It wouldn’t bother me if you decided I was a dick because I said something to piss you off. For instance, I think you’re being an asshole. I don’t know what’s going on. I have absolutely no background on your situation, but you made a promise. You entered into a sacred contract before god and the world and that must be honored. You brought a child into this world and you have a responsibility to raise it. If you walk away you’re nothing more than another nigger leaving a single mother to raise a kid who’ll have all sorts of unnecessary hurdles to jump over.”
I should point out here that Marty is black. He had a tendency to use the ‘n’ word as a weapon. In his mind he had the right. Of course, none of his white friends could and that gave him a sort of trump card. Regardless of this, or maybe just maybe because of it, he had lost me.
“You’re being a bit controversial about this, don’t you think.”
“Don’t get all PC on me, Billy. You know exactly what I mean. The numbers don’t lie.”
“Well, that language still makes me uncomfortable.”
“You’re missing the point, and don’t try to change the subject. This is about you, what you’ve done, what you are going to do. Forget the semantics.”
I checked the TV again, post game, the Giants had lost and the bar had become less crowded.
“Let’s have another round. Have you seen the waitress?” I said.
Marty somewhat disdainfully said, “I’ll go get the drinks,” and got up.
He was right in many ways and I alternated/vacillated/was ambivalent about trying to tell him about Max and Jake and Murray. I was afraid he would think I was crazy or just making up far-fetched excuses. It occurred to me, too, that I might be putting him in danger, but that could have been lingering/my heightened paranoia.
He came back balancing four glasses, which was quite a trick since they were different sizes.
“You do that well.”
“I was a pro.”
“No shit?”
“No shit. It paid good money. Listen, I don’t know if I’m going to have any influence on you. Plus, I don’t want to lecture. I’m not one to get righteous…”
“Let he without sin cast the first stone.”
“Right. But. But…”
“But, my ass,” I said and we got a peurile drunken laugh out of it.
“But, you’re fucking up.”
“I’m getting fucked up.”
“Yeah, well, one won’t help the other, unless…”
“Unless what?”
“Unless you find a way to say or think something that makes you make sense of this.” There had been such a preponderance of awkward pauses during the course of this conversation, and I was getting to such a state of inebriation that I was almost ready to break out and tell Marty the whole crazy story. It was at this stage that he came out and asked, “So, who was that fat guy you were with at the Boar’s Head?”
So, yeah, who was that fat guy, I thought to myself.
“Well, that’s part of the reason why this whole thing is more, is different, it isn’t as simple as me running out on my wife and kid.”
“Homosexual lover?”
“No. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but no.”
“Well. Are you going to get all mysterious on me at this point?”
“Alright,” I said with a sigh of resignation, “What the hell. You have to, though, you have to listen to the whole thing, and you have to promise to hear the facts, to note the facts and not have some quick reflex reaction, some, you know…”
“No, I don’t know. I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.”
“Alright then. Let me tell you.” And with that I ran through the entire story from start to finish, from scanning the web and seeing those crazy comments on the Las Piedras web site to Murray buying me dinner.
When I had finished, and, to be fair, he had been completely silent, although, not without facial expressions that spoke volumes, when I was done he sat there for a moment and then asked after minutes of reflection during which some invisible clock ticked in my head, “Are you done?”
“Yeah, that’s about it.”
“There’s nothing else…no flying rhinos or tin foil hat salesmen.”
“No,” I said, expecting something less than a receptive analysis.
“Well, then. You’re either full of shit or absolutely fucking crazy.”
“Yeah…that well may be.”
“Well, maybe.”
“Well maybe we should just get another round.”
“Why the fuck not?”
“If you follow every dream you might get lost
If you follow every dream you might get found.”
Bukowski’s Accountant

Floating on the periphery
I ask a question slippery:
How do you
enjoy a view
when the bay beneath the boat
is sullied with creosote?
So near the ocean
with it’s cleansing motion
There’s trapped crap
On this side of the map
Generations of disposing
And waste decomposing
Means threats posing
Danger to swimmers
Yet hope glimmers
Like dappled sunlight on the waves
We can blame troglodytes in their caves
For darkening the water
And as it grows hotter
Claim they spoil the air
And why should we care
We all think ourselves Eloi
Well ahoy polloi
We’re all complicit
In this game illicit
We can’t escape in a Time Machine
Back to an Earth idyllicaly clean
Tomorrow we’re gone
Our children’s children muddle on
With senses muted
To a world polluted.
See hear smell touch taste
Sea here swells much waste
But the beauty!
The irrepressible
Next line
A duty
To express what you can’t repress
The west has hope, this coast transcends
An American dream to depths descends
They feinted
A balk, a walk
Free pass, four wide ones
Founding fathers’ favored sons
Playing the game
Free from blame
“Farmer John smoked his own meat
He was one tough mother fucker,”
Wrote Bukowski
What do you see?
“Easternmost in quality
Westernmost in flavor.”
Do me a favor.
Standards fade or get remade,
But taste (like truth)
Don’t you see?
It is
It will be
Was a lush
His accountant an anarchist
In a bow tie.
I answered his phone
It was a job
Trudging in alone
Mr. B, a slob.
Taxes they’d discuss
Making money makes a fuss
Who do you pay today?
Ex-wives from past lives
An hour gone
He’d stumble on
Rumpled still
A government’s will
(fucking thieves)
With his CPA at midday
I’d have lunch.
“I have a hunch,”
He would say
This government may
Treat us like slaves
Past the amber waves
Sending spent fuels
And making the rules
We labor and pay
The American way.
Bukowski’d be drunk
In another part of town
Bar/cloister, patron/monk
A poet clown
An intoxicated foil
To the stocky coil
With whom I shared my meal
(or that he shared with me).
Rephrasing Tom Paine, “Here’s the deal,”
He’d wax revolutionary
Over his Reuben and fries
The State needs alibis
And cheap labor
A century of atonement
Won’t even begin
To absolve the sin
This nation’s ill moment.
A sip of iced tea
And turning to me,
“Hamilton killed by Burr
Was only the beginning
Those forces were already winning.
The ideals were corrupted!”
He suddenly erupted
Curious looks
From diners and cooks.
Now self-consciously,
“we’re all slaving
Desperately saving,
But the deed’s been done
The Federalists won.
Are Western concerns
Heeded by ANY administration?
The Constitution burns!
It’s taxation without representation
They corrupt and despoil.
It makes my blood boil.”
He simmered and stewed
His nature imbued
With unpredictable fervor.
Quickly he switched
Hailing our server
(his left eye slightly twitched)
From agitated wreck
To one more composed
He picked up the check
From billfold an old
Ten dollar bill exposed
Alexander’s smug look
“Fucking crook.”
With that we left
Hamilton dissed
Bukowski’s accountant
An anarchist.

- Billy Shakes
Outline for the rest of Part II

The World Trade Center (WTC) Guy. A rich man who survived 9/11, disappears himself because he was trapped in a loveless marriage and figured now was the perfect opportunity to remake himself. His wife would get the insurance money and he could pursue his interests which ran contrary to the life he had been living. He never wanted to be a bond trader, he never wanted to manage bond traders, he was baffled at how he had managed to accumulate wealth. He had long been cheating on his wife and socking away large amounts of money in the Caymans. He figured he could live on that. It took a fair bit of desperation and not a small bit of confusion in the aftermath, but it was done. He checked into a hotel, paid in cash, watched the scene unfold on TV and thought it all through. He would go to a Kinko’s, contact his bank and have them wire cash to Western Union. He’d head west by train, cross into Mexico and relax on a beach in anonymity. At some point, perhaps after the 2004 elections he grows tired of the state of his former country and decides that he will do something from Mexico to change things. He eventually connects with Jake.

This scene in the Boar’s Head ends when an old friend of Billy’s recognizes him. Against the wishes of Murray, Billy heads back to his friend’s place. He spends the night on his couch, but not before they engage in a political discussion. His friend is a republican and he argues the invade Iraq case, they attacked us first, we must defend ourselves over there before they strike here.
Taking the ferry home after my first day at the insurance company. I fight the desire to tell them I don’t know what I’m doing, but the boss is only too willing to tell me he doesn’t know what he’s doing either.
A beautiful day, either way, until tomorrow when I borrow thoughts and words, ideas like birds flying and flitting and shitting on pages great big turds of content, fecal sages, spouting wisdom through the anus searching for meaning will certainly pain us. Pick through the crap and call it a wrap when that kernel of wisdom like undigested corn emerges brilliant and bright, yellow and new, a baby reborn ready to replant start the journey again.
What the fuck am I talking about?
I’m just sitting in the reading room to avoid the drinking room because I have to go to the driving room to get home to my living room where I can have a beer. Day 1 done I look into the sun and all I know is I can’t see what’s in front of me, but it feels warm
Business plan, competitive analysis
Business continuity, disaster recovery
Compliance. I love this stuff.
Just a crazy person. Cho.
I’m 39, I’m a stay-at-home dad watching, OK, caring for a kid, folding laundry, listening to Rod Stewart sing “never give up on your dreams.”
OK. Second interview with the insurance company. Compliance – business continuity – somethin’ somethin’
Waiting in our elevated corridor
Rain and sleet begin to pour
The white pellets dance on window sills
Abillion droplets dance on rippling wavelets
Our lives
Descending from the sky
Or somewhere
Into the collection of everything
Or nothing.
Blah. That’s what I get for trying.
Going to another interview, a small division of an insurance company. A different sort of gig. I need to get this. I need to be at the top of my game, methinks they will be judging me on me not me on my resume, which I hope is a good thing.
After that things degraded fairly quickly. The time for cogent thought, reason, or even rationalizations, was gone. By last call we had run up a not inconsiderable bar tab, which Marty picked up with nary a protest from me. The wad of hundreds bulging, at least in my mind, like a conspicuous tumor, malignant if I were to break them out, benign as long as they remained concealed.
“Let’s go to the Palace,” he said as we walked out of the Bus Stop.
“Why not,” I said, “the walk will do us good.” We meandered down to the Marina Green, the brisk breeze off the Bay bracing us somewhat, sobering to a small degree.
Back in the day, after a night like this, the survivors often went down to the Palace of Fine Arts, the remnants of the 191? World’s Fair. San Francisco had gone all out to show the world that they could bounce back after the disastrous 1906 earthquake and fire that decimated the city and burned nearly every wooden structure in the embryonic city. Flush with Gold Rush cash and the bold pioneering spirit of the West, the citizens set about rebuilding and the idea of hosting such a high profile exposition as a goal to strive for was adopted by the entire population. The Palace of Fine Arts was one edifice built to impress, albeit built cheaply on unstable ground. Cracks were showing in the sandstone façade with large chunks missing from the underbelly of its dome. It was an elevated dome sitting on vaulting columns, walking underneath it was a poor man’s visit to Il Duomo in Florence. It was now backed by a kid’s museum and as it had been during the days of the exposition, fronted by a small lake or a large pond depending on your perspective.
We doubled back across (street? Marina?) and stumbled across the dewy grass before finding a bench to collapse upon.
“Well,” said Marty. “It’s not like the old days.”
“There’s no going back,” I quipped, tacitly admitting my position on my position.
Marty looked at me and disagreed. “Nonsense. If you think you’re going to be arrested or even charged with anything based on this fricking crazy fricking escapade because, simply because you go back to your wife, if that’s what you’re talking about, because it sounds and looks you know, like that’s what you’re talking about, then your nuts, man. You’re off your rocker nuts.”
In response to Marty’s ramble, I sat quietly and then asked, “Well, what about Murray?”
“What about Murray?”
“How do you explain a guy who on the turn of a dime can gin up fake documents, ID, credit cards, passport and then pass off a wad of cash, like he did today.”
“Wad of cash?” was all Marty said.
“A thousand bucks.”
“You had a G in your pocket and I picked up the bill. You cheap mother-fucker.”
“Hey, I’m not sure how long this is all going to last. I don’t know where to go or what to do.”
We sat silently again, staring at the rippling water, struggling to make sense of the situation. It had been good to talk to Marty about all this. I know he had hoped to make me realize the error of my ways, as the saying goes, but what he’d done was reconfirm my fears. His logical mind, candor and willingness to speak the painful truth had battered my story, yet it remained standing. Chipped in parts, a few holes showing, but there were still undeniable foundational elements like the columns supporting the palace’s dome.
After more time spent either in thought or drunken mind-wandering, Marty said, “Let’s get some food, I’m hungry.” You’d think a Boar’s Head steak and a belly full of booze would have been enough for one night, but the walk had built up a new appetite and I’d been hungry on the street for days, conserving cash, prior to meeting Murray. It had been a long day in a series of long days, and a longer night in a series of long nights. We’d passed the forehead of the eve and were well on our way to the buttock of the dawn, breakfast for the stomach of another day was a welcome thought.
“Clown Alley?” I suggested.
“Clown Alley’s gone,” Marty said perfunctorily. “IHOP.”
“IHOP it is then.”
Clown Alley was a frequent late night stomach settling spot, greasy sausage patties, has browns the fried crispy hash browns and eggs and cheese and pancakes and ham steaks all served by a Vietnamese man and his wife who seemed to be there all the time. They must have slept in the back. I hoped they had sold the place for a bundle and sent their kids to Brown.
IHOP was IHOP. The International House of Pancakes was universal, and when I say universal I mean its blue roof can be found all over the states. I’ve never heard of one being international, and the closest thing to “international” cuisine, ahem, they served was french toast, or maybe a belgian waffle. At that hour, though, any piece of pork product would do.
“I’ve got an idea,” said Marty as we got to Lombard Street.
“Do you still have your ID in your wallet?”
“Um, a, yeah, I think so,” and upon reflection that wasn’t such a good idea. I had a California driver’s license, credit cards, a passport and various other extraneous forms of identification, all in the name of someone other than Billy Shakes. I probably shouldn’t be carrying ID for two different people, it would look rather suspicious to a cop. I was surprised Murray hadn’t thought of this, hadn’t confiscated and destroyed my old stuff.
“Do you have your bank card, too?”
I stopped on the corner, the occasional car cruising along Lombard at his hour, and poked through the recesses of my wallet.
“If you really are on someone’s list, they’ve probably shut down your accounts.”

(Have to go to IHOP first, wouldn’t be able to scoot and then go eat down the street. Check Murray section, why would he still have ID? Maybe he wanted to keep it, Murray told him to throw it away and he didn’t, trying to hold onto his old life.)

“And, your point?” I was willing to follow Marty’s lead on this. He was in the world of finance afterall.
“Well, let’s see if you can get money out of your ATM.”
“I’ve got money, why would I want to tell them where I am?” Plus, I was thinking, it wouldn’t be cool to Soo to keep tapping our bank account when she was going to have enough financial trouble as it was, whether I was on the lam or had just left her, either way the house would eventually have to be sold if she couldn’t make the payments and unless a miracle job popped up in the next few months that was a very likely scenario.
It was disconcerting that I had already resigned myself to being gone months rather than weeks. My acceptance of this feeling bothered me, it made me wonder if I wasn’t in fact just running away, running away from something else, responsibility, the burden of a family, the fear of failing as a father.
So, it was in this state of mind, not to mention a bit of lingering intoxication and the brain numbing effects of a short stack and a side of links that I pondered Marty’s suggestion.
“If you try the ATM and can get cash then you are still a free man, your ludicrous tale of being a fugitive from justice is nothing more than a product of your overactive paranoid imagination.”
“and if I don’t get the cash?”
“Well…then you know for sure.”
We stood for a moment in front of the ATM. “Isn’t it worth trying, just for the peace of mind of knowing one way or the other?”
“What the hell.”

(We had to have passed an ATM and Marty stopped. Need to check ed. Note at the beginning of this section. This is all too well-written to be by a guy on the run. And, I don’t know if the Soo note was written before she got the call Billy makes from Marty’s apt.)

I stepped forward, inserted my card and then keyed in my PIN number. I waited. A message popped up saying something about contacting my local branch, but I didn’t stick around to study it. The machine had swallowed my card. “Shit.” I turned to look at Marty. “It ate my card.”
“Bullshit.” He stepped forward and read the message. “Let’s get the hell out of here,” Marty said in a panic.
He lived up Lombard on the other side of Van Ness and we speed-walked our way up there, looking over our shoulders and at oncoming traffic, what there was of it, scanning for a cab or a cop. At this hour we were just as likely to find the latter as the former. I had visions of sirens and flashing lights and kept a sharp eye out. Marty was more intent on speed. We saw nothing. Mostly cars that looked like they were headed back to Marin after a long night, a Chronicle truck stopped in front of us to put papers in a newspaper stand.
“Grab one,” Marty commanded.
We practically ran up the hill to his apartment building, sweating profusely as we stood in front of the entrance where Marty fumbled with his keys. We entered the foyer, a beautiful arabesque vault paved with terra cotta tiles, which echoed as Marty’s keychain clattered upon them, dropped a second time. Bending down, picking them up, looking over his shoulder, expecting who knows what. I remember thinking in the rush that he must be doing pretty well for himself. I tried to hurry him without flustering him more than he already was, but I was much the same as he, close to panic. I pushed the elevator button and we waited.
Marty grabbed his New York Times from the cluttered table holding the periodicals that wouldn’t fit in the mailboxes behind. We got tired of waiting for the clunky elevator and dashed up the stairs, anxious to get out of the lobby that was open like a fishbowl to the street. We felt like guppies during those 45 seconds of uncomfortable loitering, and, at one point, a car drove by slowly, turning off Lombard onto Polk, the occupants looking forward and not at us, but for those few moments they were FBI agents in our minds.
At the door to his apartment, he had calmed down, although we were both breathing heavily. We managed to get inside without further tumult. He bolted the door behind us and we lumbered into his living room, collapsing on his couch and chair with prodigous exhalations (?)
After a few minutes of heavy breathing, we started to gather our wits. Marty smiled and then burst into laughter. I followed enthusiastically and then reluctantly, my guffaws tapering to meek gasps. We needed to think logically again.
“As exciting as that was,” I said, “we are forgetting one very reasonable explanation for what just happened.”
“You’re not going to be the voice of reason, now, are you?” Marty protested.
“As much fun as that bit of excitement was, we may have forgotten in the midst of our drunken bumbling that Soo may have just locked me out of our account.”
“Oh,” let out Marty in a feeble whisper that seemed to acknowledge the rational-ness of this. “Yes. That is another way of looking at that.” Then we had another nervous laugh.
“I don’t know about you, but I could use another drink.”
“Uh, actually, I think I better not,” I said. The sky outside was going light gray, the street light slowly giving way to the natural. I felt spent. Damn near broken. My nerves were frayed, my body shattered, I was facing two unsettling possibilities again. We had thought there was some APB out on me, foolishly or not, that still existed as a possibility. The other possibility was no less settling, my wife had locked me out of our account. She was either trying to starve me home or had written me off. None of this was good. Marty went into his kitchen and pulled a bottle of beer out of the refrigerator. It was either too late to have not stopped drinking or too early to have started, but he didn’t seem to care. I was developing an alternative plan and needed to gather my thoughts. Marty had had a good point about finding out definitely one way or another. It didn’t matter that it didn’t work out that way, there now existed another way to find out one way or another. I would have to call Soo.
“Regardless…” I started.
“Regardless?...Whatever. I still think that was weird,” said Marty.
“Weird or not, it has an explanation.”
“No shit. Everything has an explanation. It just seemed to me…it felt. It felt to me like we might have proven the thing you were looking to prove.”
“You’ve come to my side now. Was I looking to prove that or disprove it?” I asked.
“Fuck if I know, man. But that was a charge. That put a charge in me whatever the hell it was.”
“What it was was what it was most likely to be.”
Deep thinking ensued. Marty sipped his beer. “But, what if…” he began.
“What if what?”
“What if you are right, what if all this is real and you’ve gotten mixed in all this bullshit as you think you have?”
“Well, then, shit, Billy, we’re fucked, I’m fucked,” he placed a bit too much emphasis on his “I”.
“What do you mean?”
“The cameras. All those ATMs have cameras. My mug is all over that, I was dumb enough to step forward and put my happy black face into view to read the screen.”
He had a point. However, we were discounting Occam’s Razor reasoning again. Soo must be pissed. She must have seen the $300 I took out in Seattle. She must think I was just leaving her, breaking away, fucking off, and if that were the case then she had every right to cut me off. I put voice to my thinking and said, “There’s one way to find out.”
“How’s that?”
“I could call Soo.”
Again a bit more silent thought.
“Yeah, that may not be a bad idea. I mean, that’s one way to know for sure, which is what you wanted in the first place, I mean besides going to the bank…”
“Or the cops,” I finished for him. Pregnant pause. “Where’s your phone?”
He stood up, pulled himself up by the arms of the big leather chair he had been slouching in. The chair matched the couch I was on, leaning forward on the edge of it closest to Marty. Everything about his apartment spoke disposable income. Marty was doing well for himself. No kids, no mortgage, good job, he had all the toys, all he had wanted. He came back with a mobile handset.
I looked at it, nervously switching it from hand to hand, “OK. Here goes,” I said and took a deep breath before dialing our/Soo’s number. It rang for a long time before Soo picked up with a groggy “hello?”
“Hi,” was all I said and she snapped awake.
“Yeah, it’s me.”
“Jesus Christ, I thought you were dead. Where are you?”
“I can’t really say, I mean, I probably shouldn’t tell you.”
“What? What does that mean? Where are you, just what’s going on, why?...why?...”
“Soo, I can’t explain right now, just know I love you and Nate very much and I’m going to try and come home as soon as I can.” I had stood up and was walking around Marty’s apartment, going into the kitchen, I stood in front of the sink looking out the window on the space between Marty’s building and the one next door.
“Billy, my god, I thought you were dead, the car, the ferry. What happened?”
“I know, I know, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, Soo, I…I just can’t talk about it right now,” I trailed off, distracted. There were two men crawling around the fire escape on the building next door. In the half-light I thought I could make out ear pieces, it could have been my imagination. They didn’t look like firemen, I’ll tell you that.
“This is crazy,” Soo shouted. “Have you been kidnapped or something? Just tell me where you are.”
“Listen, I have to go,” I hurriedly said, one of the men was waving to someone down the alley. I leaned over to take a look and the waving man looked right back at me. I ducked below the sink, squatting in Marty’s kitchen.
“No, no, don’t go. Where are you, when are you coming back?” Soo asked desperately.
“I love you, I love you very much,” and I looked down at the phone keypad and pressed “END”. Maybe a portable phone wasn’t a good idea. Or maybe they had tracked us some other way. Maybe we shouldn’t have gone to the ATM. I kicked myself as I noted that I had forgotten to ask Soo about the bank account, whether she’d locked me out. Maybe I shouldn’t have gone out to dinner with Murray or I shouldn’t have hung out with an old friend in my old stomping grounds, OR, really, not going fucking batshit crazy and getting mixed up in this stupid scam of Max’s, the lunacy. “Shit, shit, shit,” I said to myself. Marty walked in.
“What the fuck…” he said looking at me curiously as I squatted on the floor of his kitchen.
“Get down,” I whispered harshly. “Look out the window.”
He stared blankly at me, “which is it? He was now squatting next to me, “do you want me to get down or look out the window because I can’t do both.”
“Don’t…just, peak over there, across the way,” I said gesturing.
He slowly rose onto one knee and pulled himself up from the rim of the sink.
“Do you see them?” I asked, uncertainly, half expecting him to laugh at me, admonish me, to be witness to my half-baked schemes and hallucinations. He dropped and whispered, “Yeah. I see them.”
I was momentarily relieved. Then terrified. “Do you think?...”
“Yeah, I think so,” he said. “Maybe we shouldn’t have tried the ATM.”
“They couldn’t have gotten here that fast.”
“Me. It’s me,” said Marty. “They must have been watching your friends. My place.”
“Impossible. Do you know how many places in the Bay Area they would have had to have covered.”
“Don’t flatter yourself,” Marty quipped. “What else?”
“What about Soo? That question floated flat and unanswered as we clearly heard the crackle of a walkie-talkie somewhere close outside the window.
“Shit,” Marty whispered. “You’ve got to get out of here.”
“Maybe I should just turn myself in.”
“Not in my apartment. I want to be able to deny everything, you can do whatever you want but do it outside in the hallway.”
“Nice,” I said sarcastically, but he was right, there was no reason to drag him into this any further.
“Go down the stairs to the garage.”
“Don’t you think they’ll have that covered?”
“Maybe, but there’s a door in the back away from the car entrance. It’s behind the trash dumpster and leads directly onto Lombard (no back alley? But they’re in the back alley, Lombard entrance polk entrance check map) It opens further up the hill.”
“What are you going to tell them?”
“Nothing,” he said flatly. “I know nothing. Old friend, ran into him, what’s going on officer can I help?”
“Are you sure?”
“Billy, just get the fuck out of my apartment. They see me conspiring with you, this shit, this whispering and that’s all they need, aiding and abetting and all that shit.”
“How would you explain me running out?”
“I was asleep, no idea, officer.”
I looked at him closely. We were still kneeling in front of the sink. His concern, his worry for himself made me worry more about myself than any previous worry had.
“Don’t overthink this. Get the fuck out of here,” he said slowly.
I crawled to the front door, reached up to turn the knob, stood and yanked the door only to have it snap closed again as the chain held it tight. Cursing myself, I slid the chain off and tried again. The hallway was quiet. The stairwell was quiet. I descended the stairs as quickly and quietly as possible. In the garage, I could hear the soft echo of voices outside. I moved away from the garage door and saw the dumpster, a wooden door was behind it as Marty had said. I ran to it and put my ear to it. Then with a short prayer in the form of an exhalation of air, I twisted the knob and slammed my shoulder against it. It didn’t budge. I had forgotten to turn the bolt, an old rusty fixture just above the knob. I was a knob. Quickly then, again, and I was outside, a look to the left, a look to the right and I ran up the hill away from Van Ness. If they were really going to track me down, if this was going to be some Streets of San Francisco jumping over trash cans in back alleys sort of chase, I wanted to stay away from the big streets of San Francisco.
I knew (that park above there with the tennis courts, find name) was just up Lombard, with any luck I could reach the stairs before I was noticed. X Park was built on a hill, it was a hill. It was the back of the famous part of Lombard. Tennis courts on top and stairs that led off to little gardens, benches, sitting areas and bocce ball courts, long since gone to seed.
I used to run the stairs. The bushes, and there was considerable shrubbery, were now havens for the homeless. Animal burrows couldn’t be more complex than the avenues woven amidst those branches. I figured if I could make the stairs, a dive into the bushes would put me beyond their reach, for awhile. Plus, they probably would be expecting me to go downhill to Van Ness. I sprinted up Lombard, expecting I don’t know what, gunshots over my shoulder, bullets whizzing past my ears, a Nazi voice shouting “Halt!” There was nothing and that, oddly, was even more troubling. Had I done it again? Had Marty been fooled by my paranoia? Was I still rambling around in a lunatics labyrinth. No, I figured a madman couldn’t come up with a clever alliteration like “lunatics labyrinth”. With no shots or shouts issued behind me I made it to and up those stairs my thighs and lungs burning. Roughly, at the three-quarter mark, I left the stairs and pushed my way into the bushes. It was an invisible opening. I crawled, desperately, scratching and clawing my way deeper, as deeply as I could get into the shaded interior. An auxiliary channel housed a be-blanketed sleeper, twigs and trash adorned him. My rustlings did not rouse him. On I went to another alcove. I pulled in and covered myself as best I could. What did I have? Some branches? My pathetic coat? (coat from lost and found)
I hunkered down. There was nothing to do now but wait. Fortunately, I was somewhere between drunk and hungover, and I was exhausted. I drifted into and out of an uncomfortable sleep, if you could call it sleep, reassured, somewhat, at the fact that I resembled everyone other reprobate/street person/homeless helpless sod hiding out in this patch of vegetation. I slept until dark, or more accurately, I closed my eyes for unknown amounts of time, and listened in a state of nervous excitement for any suspicious activity until daylight hours had passed.
There were moments, moments when people rustled, when the bushes exploded in expletives and hubbub, but that was just the nonsense of the neglected. I was now part of them again.
Part of them, but not. There was no organization, they don’t have a union. Everyone has their own problems and the Lenny and Charlie pairings are non-existent to ephemeral, fleeting alliances were formed and broken according to whim and greed. Troubled souls abound, deeply disturbed men lurk in our streets. I had about 24 hours back in the land of the living and, with time to reflect, it was more disjointed and confusing that my first days on the street were. Miserableness enveloped me, like my miserable coat. Doubt, recrimination, worry – about myself, Soo, and even Marty, although I thought he was more than capable of protecting himself.
Darkness fell, the city came to life, and I just waited for it to go back to sleep. I could hide in plain sight and walk amongst real people, but I didn’t want to take that chance, and I didn’t feel I could stomach it. In an odd way, I was beginning to feel comfortable, well, at least capable of surviving in this underworld, as if it was where I was supposed to be, uncomfortable or not, I had to reside in the undergrowth for awhile.

(Marty could file suit against the feds…challenging the latest violation of the constitution 4th ammendment search and seizure, the west could oppose quartering of soldiers. Stop paying taxes, kick out troops, take back land and use it for new energy, innovation, farming, study [maybe a Utah guy or Boise guy rant]. Marty’s defense can be taken up by a prominent SF attorney, links up with the executor of Murray’s estate. Lawyers in high places are required [they are riled up anyway, nothing pisses off a lawyer like violating the constitution]. Politicians must be convinced, a mass popular revolt would be crushed unless someone harnessed it at the helm of power. A new state needs leaders.)

Sometime between it being really late and really early, I made my way out of the bushes, down the stairs and out onto the street. Still cagy and worried, I hurried through (Telegraph) Hill and wandered down to North Beach. I was very hungry, having had nothing to eat all day. There was a pizza place open and I shuffled in for a slice, very aware of the roll of bills I had in my pocket which seemed to glow like a hot coal in snow, unmistakeable evidence of my not being who I pretended to be and making me a prime target to be rolled. I hoped I could maintain my anonymity, although, I knew the longer I stayed in San Francisco the greater the likelihood that I would be spotted, either by another one of my friends or by some less friendly.
On the other hand, I felt were I to make a dash, either by bus or BART or ferry, I’d be pegged, like the escapees in The Great Escape, I envisioned SS guards searching the faces of folks getting on trains (I have clearly seen too many movies). One more night, I told myself. I was going to fill up on pizza, grab a few bottles of water, and then hole up for one more night. The question remained where. The streets of North Beach at that hour are littered with drunks and sprinkled with urine, the combination of seedy bars on Broadway, trendy bars down Columbus and fine restaurants scattered throughout made for a combination of demographics not often seen commingling. Specs and City Lights, its edges buttting up against the financial district and Chinatown, the Hungry I, the church (check, peter and paul?) Coit Tower looming like a protective erect phallus keeping watch. I loved North Beach when I was a proper SF denizen. Now, as an underdweller, I found the mix good cover, albeit spare at that hour.
I ate in a corner and then departed for who knew where. Some pointless ambling led me to water. I was backtracking a bit and ended up at Aquatic Park, the end of Hyde Street. Climbing over the sea wall, I pulled my raggedy coat up around my ears and settled down into the sand. I slept in the sand next to the Dolphin Club. Not exacly the Ritz, but it did in a pinch, and, let’s face it, I’m a California boy, and after years of laying about beaches growing up in Southern California, a squishy mattress of sand might as well have been like sleeping on a dream.
A few snatches of good sleep did wonders, but the sounds of a city coming to life, delivery trucks, the plop plop plopping of joggers and the early morning Bay swimmers from the Dolphin Club left me tossing and turning and anxious to move along.
No matter, despite the days that I’d spent like that, despite the dimunition of pride, I still cowered in shame from the daylit gazes of the every day dwellers. So, again, there I was on the streets, under the sun, amidst more and more real people wondering what the hell I was going to do. A vague plan took shape. Get across the Bay was on the top of the list. Berkeley or Oakland would offer more space, more room to roam and a larger derelict population to mix into. It would be more dangerous, I thought, but I had to get out of Frisco (ha). The next question was how.
I walked from my beach back to the bus station south of Market. It’s not a short walk, yet surprisingly pleasant. I’ve always been a morning person and moving my way through the city as folks went to work, the sun rising, a new day beginning, actually contributed to a state, an improved state of consciousness. I felt free. Outside of myself. Outside of the world.
South of Market, in this slightly elated state, I walked straight into the Grayhound station and made an executive decision. Forget the East Bay, I’ll pass right through and go to Sacramento. Why not, I thought, if I could make it to the capitol it would be a hell of a lot more safe than Oaktown and I could try to contact Scoop (Scoop in Bay area reference in earlier conversation with Marty must be altered, new name how to intro Scoop?)
Scoop wrote for the daily student paper in college and always wanted to work in journalism. He gravitated to the seat of state power after graduation, although I always thought he was destined for more than California politics. His world view, at least the bullshit he spouted was universal, grandiose, of course, whose bullshit isn’t in college, it’s the time for such things, but Scoop seemed to have it planned out, he saw the whole picture and you could see him working backwards to where he was now and how he could put himself into a position to effect change, to really do something with the bullshit.
It was amidst this reverie and more relaxed outlook, a momentary satisfaction with myself, that I saw what, to my mind, looked exactly like what a modern-day Nazi would look like. Lurking by the ticket counter and conspicuously trying to look inconspicuous, was either another paranoid delusion of mine or my ticket to the end of this ride. He was wearing a too new leather jacket (go back and switch coat get new hat, talk about disguise) and a too empty backpack slung over his shoulder. The crowd at bus stations use shopping bags for luggage, they don’t speak English, if they’re white their trash; I stood out in this crowd like a sore thumb, this guy was a gangrenous hand.
I decided to take no chances. I went for the drinking fountain and then walked back out the door, taking the stairs to the street two at a time. I looked back when I’d reached the bottom and saw him at the top of the stairs, he reached into his pocket, and I didn’t stick around. I heard the crackle of a walkie-talkie behind me…no gunfire. At mission I ran through traffic. There was another guy to my left doing the same, I sprinted down first, cut through traffic again at Market and did my best to saunter into the Grand Hyatt Embarcadero. I took the escalator up to their grand lobby, with its sweeping, expansive aerie of a courtyard, and hushed voices, tinkling plates echoing from the restaurant into the vaulted chamber above. It was an odd place for a chase, if you could call it such. More of a low-speed paseo (dance that starts with p pasadoble?) I tried to not look as out of place as I felt. I scurried towards the exit, crossing what seemed like a mile of open lobby feeling naked. Through the door and into the shopping area. I doubled back through (Daly plaza, what’s the name of the place with the fountain) and to Market. I ducked into the BART station. There was a train leaving for Daly City and I got on it, discretely checking to see if I had been followed. I was thinking about the countless scenes in movies where that very thing had been done. I wondered again as I saw no one following as the train pulled away, whether it was just a matter of seeing too many movies. Who had I really seen, had I really seen who I thought I’d seen? Even in the midst of the running, I wondered if I was running from my imagination, a mental mist.
I closed my eyes and tried to relax. When we’d made it through downtown (the tunnel?) and out into the sunshine I breathed a small sigh of relief. The train pulled into Daly City and I got off at the top of the hill. At this hour the station was nearly deserted, late morning commuters were rare and the few stragglers didn’t seem to notice or care about another dirty greasy bum in a ratty coat loitering about.
I saw a pay phone and decided to call Jake. Nothing but ringing. Scoop and Sacramento were long since forgotten. I was stupid to think in that direction, but east was the only choice, I was running out of west. The feeling of an animal trapped in a cage, an open cage behind me and a net or crowd of murky figures pushing me slowly into it. I was pushed further into a corner with nothing but a cage of cold deep water at my back.
I kept calling Jake.
Just before dark I got him.
“Jesus, Billy, where are you?”
“Go ahead, this is a secure line, you’re on a land line right?”
“Yeah, I’m on a pay phone in Daly City.”
“OK, OK. You got all your papers from Murray?”
“Yes,” I said, reflexively touching the bulges in my front pockets.
“What the hell have you been doing?” he barked.
“I ran into a friend.”
“You what?!” A pause. “Listen, Billy, this isn’t a vacation. These guys aren’t fooling around, have you heard of Gitmo? We’ve lost people. I don’t know how many because there are clowns like you who aren’t calling in. When they get enough of us, you’re going to see the biggest media buzz yet. We’ll make poor Padilla seem like last week’s box scores.”
“OK, right, I get it,” I stammered.
“I don’t think you do,” said Jake. “This may have been bullshit, we have been fucked from the start, but we’ve recruited a lot of smart, committed people. The question is, are you committed?”
I should be committed, I thought to myself.
“To tell the truth, Jake, I don’t know what the hell I am. I spent this morning running away from…I don’t know who. They could be ghosts for all I know…”
“Spooks,” he interrupted. “CIA?”
“No, no, at least I don’t think so. Hallucinations. I’m all screwed up right now. I’ve been sleeping on the street, in bushes, on the beach, and I’ve run away from my wife and kid. This is not NORMAL.”
“No shit!”
“So, what? You have to get a grip. You don’t have a lot of choices at this point. So, you better figure out where you stand. There’s winning and losing at this point. Winning is going to be a long hard slog. And, then there’s losing, which is quick, but FOLLOWED by a long hard slog. And, let me tell you if you’re interested in freedom, if you’re interested in doing something other than throwing your life away…Fuck, Billy…this is serious shit. You will be thrown in jail. And not just any ordinary jail, a jail you’ve never seen before, habeas corpus…well, shit, you, you…”
“OK, alright, I get it,” I said.
“Just get a hold of yourself, OK. We need you. This seems like a mess right now, but it’s taking shape, there are other people involved, influential people. This isn’t just you.”
“I’m not sure how I feel about that, but…fine. Thanks,” I added in a tone tainted with sarcasm.
“Fuck, ‘thanks’, tell me about these spooks.”
I relayed to him everything that had happened to me over the last few days and he gave me shit about the stupid things I’d done, but congratulated me on some of my escape tactics. It was small consolation. He heard the pain in my voice, he heard, I think, that I was conflicted, to say the least, and I think he was thinking about my best interests when he suggested I rent a car.
“You shoould take advantage of your ID and the credit card while you’ve got the chance. You haven’t used it yet, have you?”
“No.” I decided not to tell him about the money Murray gave me.
“Good.” I heard him typing on a computer keyboard. “There’s an Avis rental car, about a mile from where you are. Go rent a car in your new name. It will be a good test.”
“A test?”
“Yeah, you don’t want to walk into a Bank of America and take out a loan. A po-dunk branch of Avis in Daly City won’t have the same level of security.”
This wasn’t particularly reassuring.
“Right. I see. And if the test fails…?”
“Don’t worry about that right now,” he said quickly and then he gave me the address and directions. “Just go. Rent a car and drive to Phoenix.”
Again with Phoenix. After some hesitation, I told him about the ATM experience.
“What!?! Why the hell didn’t Murray take all your old shit away. What were you guys thinking?!”
“I don’t know, I think Murray was distracted. I got him to take me out to dinner.”
“OUT?! You got Murray OUT?!”
“Well, yeah.”
“Jesus Christ. Billy, if you could talk Murray into getting out of that apartment of his then you could talk a pig out of shit.”
I took his crude colloquialism as a compliment.

(The black america thing has to wait. Marty plays into it and a Willie Brown character, defending him, part WB, part Johnny Cochrane. So, more on the drive, thoughts about LA, more thoughts on the road, check map. I10, where does that run. Lost now, too man…I’m in a bit of a jam with the story. I have part of the AZ and now am bumbling up to that part in CA (sacto?) I should just jump ahead leave AZ without tracking down the radio guy or go back to the radio guy. On the phone with jake at Grand Canyon I think that’s where I left off…other notebook, “Did you find anything in Phoenix”*****)