Short Fiction

A Burner Tale

The hot wind blows relentless.

Alkaline dust blinds you and you are lost in a dust cloud. It seems that it never stops. And then all is clear and the lights and the faces and the shapes reappear. You are surrounded by some of the world’s most creative artists, but most are just people who have decided to give back to this magic place. Everywhere you turn, there is something new to explore, a new drink to try, new people to meet. Looking out over the Playa at night and watching thousands of strobing and twinkling LED lights or blast flashes from a 100 foot Octopus or a fire breathing dragon your mind scrambles to decipher what it is witnessing. 20 cupcakes in a row pass your path. The Space Shuttle ambles by. A sectional couch makes its way to the deep playa.

And you do this for 7 days, And on Saturday night, the Man is surrounded by 70,000 people and more art cars than you can count with different sounds from each one. Fire dancers like you have never seen parade, and fireworks explode that would make the Magic Kingdom cower in jealousy and then out of nowhere, an explosion that slams your chest and the flames and the cheers of 70,000 mesmerized as the towering Man burns to a pile of ash.

And on the next night, the temple that amazed you all week is surrounded again, but this time the art cars are silent and the people are silent and the spirits of the photos and the mementos and the scribbled poems on the temple wall of all we have lost, of dreams we seek, of hope we hope, burn quietly against the backdrop of a black night sky and surrounded by the silence of reverence.

Who wouldn’t want to spend those 7 days of life changing experience on the Playa in a place you never believed existed and could be so far from the world you came from?
Who wouldn’t want to take some time and find their way to the Playa, that will change their perspective on the world forever?

You want to go?

Thank you.

The day I learned the Castanet faded

The day I learned the Castanet faded

Down the road alone.

Yesterday I learned of the passing of the hand fashioner of the castanet. Another loss in evolution.

Snap

Going going…soon gone,

Castanets and flamenco.

The low pitch castanet clack of the seguirillas. Flemish themes of loves, Flemish themes of the mischievous, of the playful. Sung slow and sexy and somehow out of the fires of hell, it was borne in a Flemish hell, a Flemish Hell of Bruegel.
Seguirillas with Sentiment, Seguirillas sung in ancient folk tones in ancient poetic form…swirl of the tailed gown, swirl of the ruffled tail gown, songs sung in low pitch to the snap clatter snap of castanet.

Arms move like waves deliberate.

Eyes, like birds watching prey, never losing sight and pray, dance gypsy.

Flamenco is like a gypsy, like our true selves, no boundaries.

Just distinct deliberate movement. Movements with purpose.

Arms moving like undulating waves, intentional, conscious.

Repeat.

Repeat like a replayed song on repeat and snap flash, snap flash, flash fire :

Do not lose hope

In canto jondo

in ancient Flamenco song

from Lorca who heard

the rhythm of the birds.

To Falla

Who heard the ancient words as gypsy heart

as gypsy fire spirit?

Most pure

primitive and ancient,

and pure and then snap

snap snap.

Clap a vision.

The purity of ancient song released my visions.

And it all came rushing. The rhythm of the castanets brought a memory of a little restaurant in dark street fog of North Beach. Crowded wood tables. Their only dish of simple fish cluttered paella and full glasses of fruited Sangria were pushed back to the walls. Cooks became dancers, bartender set aside the bottela for a worn guitar, fingers snapping gut strings, hands shake clacking castanets and we were mesmerized and safe from the cool night fog wrapped in the now moment of the gypsy flamenco. The group assemble forgot all but the night and saw the swirl and the flash and all became exotic.

Vision of Hemingway rough drinking on cobbled Spanish alley streets while a war raged in burnt hills. Smash drunk, comrade battle drunk arm in arm and singing of Spanish women fighting alongside poet freedom brothers.

And the gypsy danced while they drank to forget the blood.

Vision of old friends in Barcelona watching a turtle crawl, claws clacking on textured cool concrete, slow sliding under a bush as the heart fade feeling of a lost love moves back but is never gone,

Vision of Nazi teeth clattering in lonely nights, frightened by gypsies, frightened by their dance and clack snap of the castanet that lead gypsy spirit anywhere. Heil and no respect for the state, for the line, for the boundary, for ours, for theirs. Heil and no respect for anyone lifted to a god. They only followed the ancient song rhythms of the birds. Heil and boots marched unison empty. Nazis squirmed, and forced them singing, dancing, swirling red tail dresses, arms waving overhead into fires. And the Nazis died and the gypsy slap dances and fingers pluck taut strings

But they never died.

Visions, a mind rush of thoughts about the Las Ramblas in Barcelona and parrots in gilded cages lining the street, and drunken red wine afternoons fading with friends in green spaces.

Along side the lap, lap, lap rhythms of summer slap waves, of mediterranean waters against crusted pier posts.

Today, the loss of the castanet man brought vision to me. Maybe it was the primal rhythms of birds. Maybe the next time we meet in the falling rain to the sss sss sss of the drops and splash of tires on asphalt.

The Early Hours of a Desert Festival (WIP or Unfinished)

It is a place of worship, a capturing of a new spirit.

It is Love in pure form.

It is the new way, the new light.”

Eduardo Barbudo on The Joshua Tree Music Festival

 

Thursdays drive up to the high desert is filled with anticipation and speed along the I-10.

The first climb to the Morongo is met with little resistance from my old bus. On the trails second and final climb to the high desert, a truck ,heavy laden with cement, slows our climb and prepares us for the desert.

You move slower in the desert. You conserve your energies because you know who is in control and you want to survive. After reaching the second crest, the challenge to reach the High Desert is nearly complete.

I arrive, carefully position my home with respect for the Masters I will respect for the next four days: The Masters of the Wind, the Heat and the Sun. The encampment is assembled quickly and simple decorations of whimsy set out to adorn the shade structure we have built.

Time is slow here. In time, in a molasses slow time, we meet Becky, then X-Ray David, both new escape transplants to the High Desert from the lower cities round L.A. They smile broadly and wander the campground waiting.

As evening cool approaches, we explore and find the Astronomers, an unlikely crew of Star gazers, primed with beer, butchered vans and a trailer of equipment and telescopes that looked serious, seriously more than the price of my Saab.

 

They have been working to bring the universe in full color glory to an outdoor widescreen. Promises of “you are going to see the Crab Nebula like never before.” I never seen the Crab Nebula and maybe have never seen any Nebula. If something or someone was coming, they want to know.

They make me nervous because I am not sure they will warn me if they see blood thirsty aliens heading to the Earth off ramp, looking for a snack and bio break on the way to the Crab Nebula.

I wander to leave.

Outside the fence that sequesters the merry band of desert skygazers from the festival goers, the sand path wanders past little gypsy galleries. Artists moved through their spaces silently, trying to catch some last whisper from their Muse on the right choice of color or flourish swirl or sparkle that somehow captures their soul spirit on every form of canvas laid out that evening in the desert.

Gaia sits tranquil by the banks of the tiny reed lake, awaiting just like everyone, for the arrival of the spirits, still sitting in LA traffic or behind desks in offices scattered throughout the lower lands. In silence, silvered fish glide just under a mirrored surface.
There is no L.A. in their world, just gliding and silence.

We wander through the gates where the music magic will happen. The Hydration Station is primed and ready to relieve parched dancers. As it has at a hundred festivals before, the Java A Go Go is ready to deliver a boxers upper cut caffeine punch just as a festival fan wilts under the demands to wiggle or to clear a head fogged by unknown pharmaceuticals.

The Bowl stirs with antlike activity, long-haired carpenters nervously swinging hammers, laying cables, focusing flashing lights and lasers that will soon astound a thousand bouncing heads, a thousand bouncing fists raised high over the desert floor. A bassy thrill of Boom Wow blasts as they tweak the sound system. We leave ants to their finish work and soon discover that all the gates in and out of the festival have been given gate names : Floodgate, Watergate, Tailgate, Instigate and Tollgate. Ah organized festival humor. Past the gate, we head to an area loosely cordoned off with orange plastic roll fence. A man approaches, waving us back as we have found the only grounds where the festival goers will be forbidden to tread.

As the young but gray haired man approaches he tells us that people, people actually live here in this conglomeration of tumbled buildings, left over brainstorms from fairs past.

As it was said, this is a place where things are brought whose sole purpose is to deteriorate under the desert sun and to be enjoyed as they do so, slowly but unforgiving under the desert sun. We visit exchange pleasantries, learn something of the past of Matt and move on. Later he is told, when comes to our camp, that it is likely he is being featured on America’s Most Wanted as it this a a corner of the planet they would never look. He laughed and moved on.

Friday morning begins as lavender mountains melt to gold. The last of the darks cool breezes return to hiding and the first tiny beadlets of sweat begin to appear. Coffee done, press washed, we wait in the narrowing shade for the tribe to show. All day, passerbys rumor of 3000 then 3500 people on setting their sights on this desert village. It will be beyond tight.

And then Charly walks by with pretty rocks and acid and I am struck with the simplicity of her youth and skin and Bowersox dreads. She pulls out a small black box and like a travelling nomad, carefully describes each colored stone, patient with an old man who has no intention to buy her other wares. Although I blush with feigned embarrassment in the heat of the mid morning sun, Diana tells her of her beauty and she accepts it as a child innocent. Her tiny breasts are round and unhampered and she acknowledge in graceful youth the approval of the elder women from a different age. She nods approvingly never intended to strap her body with bonds and corded girds. In a flash, she is gone, filled with free market, refreshed by a quick moment to cool with us in the shade.

Two butterflies flit dance unaware of the coming flame of the Sun. Tents stir and campers stand to escape the heat only to see the sun overhead already in control of the day.

Pop of a drum in the distance and rainbow flag flap in a narrow breeze.

As the day and heat expands, the tribe grows. Greetings are brief and all scramble to erect their homes, hoarding was shade the desert offers. In this distance, the music begins and the tribe and the other tribes begin to walk slowly towards the bowl. It is a special time when all who pass greet and share and and exchange gifts of smoke and advise of what is to come.

And with the slow parade to the bowl, the festival begins, dust rises, fragrant scents fill the desert area. The scene is primal, if you can see past the RV’s and electronic. The wind as it did in ancient times, moves the flags and carries the sounds of of the festival.

The Festival of Joshua Tree has begun and we all wait to dance in magic dust.

Sometime the next morning, the sun and the wind and the desert reminds us of where we are and who holds court. The tribe slowly gathers, eyes bleary to the smell of bacon and cold beer. They are ready to repeat what they have prepared for, they prepare for the night and the cool and the Boom Wow of the desert Festival

A friend laments

Maybe this is personal, maybe these are words that anyone might find a way to just pass the time.

A friend laments
or

Memory is not necessarily History

About the time of the turkey bake, about that special time of year when we most feel abandoned by the past and condemned by our future, someone wrote a letter.

Strange that a letter was written. It must have taken many sips of good whiskey or sniffs of unknown white powders. Strange that a letter was written that seemed to care and that a vision of a past was so chained with the heavy mud of I am the victim.

Don’t mourn me. Don’t help me. Don’t correct me. Just read a long letter and accept that I have chosen to remember and the story as I remember it.

This is about me.

And even if I speak of the pain of death of others, of suicide of others, of separation from others, of being deserted by others, this is still just about me.

Strange that a letter was written. Strange that a letter was written to whom you chose to receive the letter. A letter, an epistolary memory. A recap of your world as you peer back into the murk.

Maybe the letter would have best been written to yourself, so that you would understand and it would truly be for and about you. Maybe there could have been time better spent at a barstool, in a quiet corner of a quiet bar. Maybe a mumbled call made from a darkened room and comforted by a sip and brought back by a sniff.

Memory is funny. Memory is told though our eyes and memories are sometime muddled by times. Memories are sometimes muddled by drugs or other memories or tears or dark rooms. Even if you are corrected and told that your memory is a dream of a past, is a hope of a dream of a past. It is still just your dream of the past. A Remembrance of Things Past as surfaced by eating your own Madeline or seeing a photograph or just listening to a song play out in the echo of a distant room.

Maybe a memory is made while laying naked in a bed while the images of those reflected by the light at our back, play out on the bare walls that surround our view. In a cave, a memory created where we have no way to spin around to find out what really was the dynamic of what happened or why a man is killed in Sarajevo like thousands are but only one man brought a world to war.

Memory is funny. Maybe the difference between a memory and history is singularity and when we base the revolution on one memory we find ourselves standing in a muddy field, surrounded by the bloodied dead who followed us into our battle. They followed our memory and were trapped and now lay dead in the mud. But a memory is personal True History. A memory is true singularity and if we follow it, we end up dead in the mud and really there was no purpose to our sacrifice.

History is universal. It is a mélange of memory not swayed by a single perception.

As you recount your memory, you tend to forgive your actions, forget your motivations and remember how you were moved. But your memory was a compellation of many events, of time, of environment, of other memories of others, of others. Your memories are rarely singular, rarely born in isolation. They are just captured, swaddled in our imperfection that way. They are flawed in their creation and difficult to be used to move forward.

Fool me once, shame, on you; fool me twice, shame on me. And you continue to be fooled and to this day you are the fool surrounded by the fools. And you are shamed and you sip again and just one more sniff.

Well friend as you lament the failures of the past, as you wallow in the sips and sniff of past memories, of the pain that others brought to your door, or pain you welcomed with arms spread wide as you stood at your door and shrieked and bellowed and screamed to capture their attention so that they would join you and drink your wine and share your bread. You continue to this moment to fall victim to your same lamentations. You continue to allow those who so addled your memories to re-enter your space in other shapes and forms and manifestation and continue to fill your past with pain, your present with confusion and your future with false determination.

Those who fail to recognize history are cursed to repeat it.

I look to readers to tell me advise me, to warn me of demons and devils who would smile and take forms to eat my soul. I look to their words and like an alchemist, I swirl the words to make gold rather than just swilling the sand I bring to my magic vessel. They talk to me of Gods, they talk to me of Men and words and views into valleys and from mountaintop where my answer can be found. They talk to me of a burning plain where I might seek answer. Few remember my memories and fewer still send me back to the isolation of my past to find the paths to my future.

***