{ The Moth & The Spider }

**** Above you'll find the audio version of this : ) 

  I was reading it to juwels, and just punched the recorder ..


I found a moth and a spider stuck in the bathroom sink a while back. Not sure what was keeping the moth there since she had wings – maybe her wings were wet, maybe she was old and tired?  But I found the whole thing odd. This predator and prey, both stuck in the same situation, victim to gravity and tough footing, not enemies anymore, but strange comrades.  

Anyway, must have been warming up my hands for the morning, so I wrote this.  


"You know.." the spider said to the moth, "if you just hopped on my back for a few seconds, I could scramble us both a little closer to the rim, and then you could flap us the rest of the way right out of here.

The moth had been hiding on the other side of the bathroom sink, trying to catch her breath. She stopped breathing at the shear thought that he'd spoken to her, this great fanged creature who just moments ago had tried to kill her.

They’d both fallen into the sink when he'd ambushed her from behind the electric toothbrush earlier that same morning.

"What do you say?" the spider asked, noticeably tired after dashing for the rim more times than he could count. 

She didn't say anything but finally caught her breath from where ever it'd gone. She’d been in a panic and it was all she could do to stand on her own legs. But now she could see that he was tired; she could see the glow around him change from red to blue to green-yellow.

The spider, and impatient fellow, got tired of looking across the drain at her googly eyes and coiled tongue, and started walking slowly clockwise away from the faucet in her direction.

He tried to speak softly this time, explaining how they'd both benefit from the exchange, but he knew by his second word that he sounded cocky and taunting, so he paused to reconsider.

If he spooked her now, with the fright in her blood, she just might get enough juice to clear the rim and leave him stuck and hungry, not even having the chance to drink her tired body to a shell. And this nutrient boost could maybe give him the juice to get up and out himself. But he was too tired to catch her, so he tried to talk instead.    

So with all of this in mind, he walked back to where he'd been before, at the farthest possible spot on the sink, directly across. That's how she kept it - with every move he made, so did she. "I'm too tired to catch you and anyway, and if I ate you, I'd be stuck in here forever. Do you think I want that?" he said. "The only way I get out of here is with you, and you with me."

She started to speak softly in a voice he could hardly hear (spiders aren't known for their hearing) and was interrupted mid sentence by a drip of the faucet which fell like a wrecking ball.

"I'd never trust a spider," she said, "you're the reason that I'm in here now, because you're vicious, and you have no respect for the life of another, it's just who you are."

He started speaking over her, politely. His voice was quiet now, like a soft piano coming in behind a sad monologue. Devils advocate of sorts, spoken by the devil himself. "Moth," he said, "You've never really been in a situation where you might have to trust a spider. The only thing that you need to trust and believe is that I want to live, too."

She uncurled her long tongue and spiraled it around her bulbous eye. She always did this when she was nervous.  

   There was a lot of talking, the moth growing more bold and the spider sinking more lowly into his funk, which would soon turn to a last burst of frustration, and he knew if he got to this point, he'd surly pounce the moth, making a liar out of himself and most likely boosting his life force only to watch it fade again, endure it and fear it, shutting down.

   They came to an agreement only after he'd tried again to walk to her, and she gave him such chase that he said, "Don't do that to me again. If I lose anymore energy, I won't be able to make good on my part with these eight legs. I only have enough for one go, and I can't make any promises at that."

She came to him this time, and as she started to climb on his back, he shuttered a little, and this spooked her.

He felt her squeeze harder, and he called out, "Ahhhh .. gentile!! That really tickles!" He started to laugh, and couldn't stop. This felt wonderful, but scared him too, because he felt out of control, and he'd never really felt a tickle before. He only knew the word because he'd caught and killed a fly once as his wife lie laughing hysterically and screaming, "That tickles!!!"

He was surprised to have remembered the word when he heard it pass by his wiry mustache. "Tickles??"

He normally went blank while killing, eating, because he really didn't enjoy it to be honest. He was a curious fellow, and most times had sadly killed the actor of the play he'd just been watching. He'd try to hold back and wait as long as possible, soaking in every word that these social creatures would say, the little things they'd do. (spiders don't have friends, only competition and prey. It's lonely, but he'd always snap when the hunger came on. It wasn't him really, just the voice that kept yelling, "It's us or them! Do you want to be a suicide?? Do you?" And the spider in him came out.  

The moth stopped what she was doing with her little barbed slippers, knowing well what tickles were. Her wings kind of tickled her flanks as they'd dry out from the dewy morning and the fuzz would rise in thousands of tickely pricklers (that's what she would call them).

He caught his breath, and said, "nobody's ever tickled me before," almost to himself.

"What?" the moth said, "never?"

He furrowed his brows.

"Not even your mom?" 

"I don't really remember meeting her," he said, "there were so many of us.."

"Nobody really touches me, hell, until ... you know." He chattered his feet on the cast iron sink, and the moth thought it sounded like a little tune, an ominous one at that, like something from an old western showdown. "Plus," he went on, "The venom gets them pretty quickly, they never really feel a thing. It's actually much faster and painless than the death of a spider, that slow and painful rotting of the body and mind. Nobody takes us out with a mercy spike. Death comes slow and lingers." 

She noticed a few scratches on his spongy back, probably put there by his victims as they tried to avoid the fangs. "Wait !" the moth said before he could continue, "How do I know you're not just going to kill me when we get out?"

"I won't," he said, almost offended. "Just trust me. I can't make you believe, but what other choice do you have?" He no doubt was offended, transitioning from one of the closest and most pure encounters he'd ever had, directly to being called a murderer again. He had no choice, it was his cross to bear, but he felt able to be something else the rest of the time. He loved life in his own kind of way, not so much his own life but observing the lives of others, even if it was through these hard black eyes.

She dug into his flanks again as he spoke so animatedly, but this time he didn't laugh, he was somewhere else. "Okay, let's just do it before I change my mind," she said.

He did that little tap dance again, and she shuttered. He stepped a few paces back, closer to the drain to get running speed. She looked up through the top of her eye and saw a giant bead of water hanging just above them. "We're not going to make it," he said, "I can't get high enough, and you're not strong enough to make up the difference. Unless.... " 

"What?" she asked. 

"If I give you just a little bit of venom ..." 

"Give me?" 

"Yes, just a tap. It will spike your adrenalin, and you'll pull us right out of here."

"You want to bite me??" 

"No, well ... yes, kind of, but just a little bit .. a little bite."  

She was not interested, and tried to climb off, but he reached around with his two middle legs on each side, and held her there.

She screamed, but there was no point. She dug her barbed slippers into him, but he didn't notice. "Here's the new options, okay, and I can't keep toying with you on this .. I'm tired. You're going to make us both dead, okay? Just listen, and then make your call. What I do next happens regardless. We're either going to run for the rim, I stick you, at the last moment, and you blast us out of here, or I'm just going to eat you right here and now." (the second part was a bluff, he was a thinker, and would have moved onto some other kind of negotiation .. no doubt harder now with her heart racing so quickly.) 

She was really scared. He could feel her heat on his back, and he thought that he might not even need to stick her with this new energy that she had. And he wondered if he might just be able to pretend to get her mid scramble, tap her with his foot not fang. After all, it was a tricky cocktail that he was serving .. only once before, when he was just learning to hunt, did he stick a beetle with less than enough juice. This sent the beetle into a chemical frenzy that almost cost him two of his legs.

He did his tap dance. She grabbed on tight, and as he made the halfway part of the bowl, near vertical now, she started flapping with strong strides that left him feeling weightless. He forgot about the pretend bite, and before he knew it, they were both hovering above the rim.

He called out in victory, and just then, she let go. 

Gravity had him now, and although he swung all his legs and even cast a ribbon of silk, he fell in silence to the bottom of the bowl. It didn't hurt him, physically. He caught the slope of the bowl with his fuzzy back, and just watched her beautiful grey-white wings flap away as he slid farther down and almost dropped into the drain. 

His reflexes popped him immediately back onto his feet, and in anger, he dashed up the bowl, catching the rim with just one leg.

As he hung there for a second, he could see that the moth was still there, crying. His grip slipped, and down he went. He was confused over why she hadn't left, and what on earth she could've been crying about. She was out. She was safe. 

He saw her antennas come over the ridge first, and as she looked in, a tiny tear, which caught the full metallic spectrum of color, fell in and streaked a glossy line along the path they'd just covered on the cast iron.

"I'm sorry," she said, "It wasn't me. It's the fear that got me. I didn't even feel myself let go." 

He considered this for a moment, "Well, then just fly back in. We'll do it again, and you won't let go." 

"I can't. I'm too tired now .. I can hardly move." She couldn't look at him in there, looking so sad and scared, confused and hopeful, and she took a slow step back. 

"Wait !!" he called out. "I never stuck you..." 

She figured he meant to say that if they tried again, with the venom, that they could make it, together, but she said, "Even if you did it this time, I could do make it. I just don't have it in me. I'm not a fighter like you .. I barely have enough flight left in me to leave this house." 

"I believe you," he said, "I just wanted you to know that I never stuck you." 

She flew away just as a man with long wild hair passed her in the doorway, and as she turned the corner, still crying, she heard grumbling and the hiss of the faucet. 

The end. 


{ Seperation Roadtrip - Utah & Idaho }

alOha : )

   Here's a little travel {video} that my brother cut together from a "bro's" trip we recently took through Utah and Idaho. 

   You can watch the {home movie} on youtube, and brows a few pics below : )

It was a great time, just what I needed !!



{ Sunday Market , w/ the Goats }

Everything’s perfect.

We’ve been talking about strutting the goats around the Sunday farmer’s market for months, but never got around to it until just today. We figured it would be good to get them acquainted with more strangers, and dogs who we knew would be on leashes. Plus .. who doesn’t like to randomly bump into, and be able to pet, a pair of friendly Nubian goats?? It’s a really fun thing to see people’s eyes light up and kids come toddling over with both hands outstretched in that gimmie gimmie kind of way.

“Can I pet your goat?”

We don’t bring them out in public enough (normally just hiding off in nature … a place the girls say tastes better) .. but if we did, I’d totally make a shirt that said, “Yes, you can pet the goats : )” This way people could get right to it … 

By the way, I was smiling to myself, after the market, when the goats and I were posted up in the back of the Wholefoods parking lot (juwels ran in for sunflower oil) .. and as I watched ezzie curiously watching a raven two bushes over, I noticed that her fur was all running slicked back, from tip to tail, where people had been petting her.

But earlier, on the ride to the farmer's market, with the goats being good little babies, Juwels was complaining to her awkward view in the visor mirror.

“Ah .. I should have brought my hat,” she said, noticing the lazy side-flop of hair she’d twisted up with a chopstick.

“Nobody’s going to be looking at you,” I said, “They’ll be watching the girls.”

“My hair’s a wreck.”

She likes to hide out in sun hats and large plate glasses, like some diplomat’s wife leaving a war-torn country … can’t imagine why?

Anyway, fast forward 10 minutes in the truck, and we’re unloading the goats into somebody’s side yard for potty and snacks of wild weeds.

With leashes attached (not that they need them) we all walked off to the market. Stopping in the bright green grass surrounding city hall, which the goats would not sniff nor nibble, and the girls dropped more berries and watered the grass. “Goooooood potty, Chia .. . Goooood potty, Mez ..” 

We were ready. 

A big reason we wanted to bring the girls was to walk them up to the goat cheese booth, Fossil Creek Creamery, the farm we found them at.

“Chia … Are you ready to see your grandparents??” Juwels asked.

And another thing that ran through my mind was all the kids. All those kids who might’ve had nothing more to look forward to after the plate of melon samples, and then turning the corner to be staring eye-to-eye with Chia’s googly slit-eyes.

Our babies loVe being pet, so it would be a fun multi-sensory experience that would help show our little people that you never know what kind of exciting and unexpected thing might happen on the streets of the real world.

But it was interesting, and inspiring all the same, to see groups of adults with googly eyes and gimmie-hands. 

Passing their coffee over to their partner, they'd love it up with the babes, asked questions, talk between themselves about the goats as if they’d just discovered them in the woods, and smile like children.

From the first 30 seconds, we were like a tiny hoofed parade booth.

A guy from the Garland’s Apple stand caught my attention, “Here !! Hey, you can give your goat this apple slice,” He said, handing me one of his finest samples. 

I paused, but took it, knowing that Chia wouldn't eat an apple slice. 

I know that people say goats will eat anything, but it’s not true with our girls. Maybe they’re just spoiled. For example: I’ve never gotten Chia to eat an apple slice or an apple core, but I have gotten her to eat the tiny dried stem. She loves them. Ezzie doesn’t like apple unless we’ve given them to the chickens and she can bully them out of it .. that, or she’ll take bites out of whole apples if she’s raiding our grocery bag as we open the front door (she does this with onions, too. ) She’s a girl who enjoys the experience of getting rather than the final destination of having. Chip off the ol' block.

People stood back to watch Chia -not- eat the apple slice in my hand, but I held it under her nose anyway. She sniffed it … and I almost thought she was going to take it. Yes !! Take it !! Don’t be fickle.

And she curled her lip and turned away.

I shrugged and popped it in my mouth and walked off, thanking the man. 

Chia tried to grab the long green carrot tops from a lady’s basket while her back was turned, and I reeled her in, talking to three people at the same time. Ezzie-mez saw a dog .. a soft retriever puppy … and her hair stood up in that cool punk rock way, neck to tail, and they did their dance of mutual curiosity.

People with dogs wanted to talk and shoot pictures, and I didn’t want to ward them off just because the girls can get spooked, but this confused the dynamic as the goats looked like they wanted to head butt – ears straight forward, making the whole frontal plate look bigger.

This dog training was great, though, and they got to meet a lot of different shapes and sizes, all leashed, and never freaked but rather stood firm at our sides.  

A woman asked if she could buy the goats some carrots after I’d just told her about the old lady Chia tried to pick pocket, and then I had to explained that it was only the green tops they’d eat, and that they didn’t actually like carrots. So she asked if she could buy them some squash, and I went into a speech about their fickle eating habits and how they’ll almost never take anything from the hand unless it’s snack food.

“She likes Goji berries,” I said, almost thinking she might have some … “Or cashews or pecans ..” She shrugged, patting Ezzie’s little horn stub, thanked me and walked off. 

I have my routine set, “Yep .. they’re our little hiking babes. Best camping buddies ever. They sleep right beside our bags… or sometimes between them. They ride in the car, and they’re even potty trained.”

People want to know what kind they are. How old they are. Their names. (this question is normally first, perfect manners : ) They ask if we’re milking them, and learn that we'd have to breed them first. And if I’ve got somebody really planted there, I’ll tell them how I don’t feel comfortable just dropping my little one with some strange male goat, and how I think they should know each other first and perhaps fall in love. 

But it was fun for me, too, because I know all the answers, autopilot. The same thing can't be said about normal chitchat. And better yet, it’s all about a subject other than ourselves, and one that we can look at .. and pet : )

Even with that said, I wasn’t quite prepared for the two step, circled, performance, crowd .. growing. Exit. Two step, Dog, performance. Slide-on-dance.

But it worked for me because Juwels normally gathers the bounty in her baskets, and I have nothing else to do. At times, she’d hand me both leashes, and I’d block the aisle with these two strange creatures.

People were snapping pictures like crazy, and I’d forgotten all about juwels’ bad-hair day. But I'm sure she hadn’t. Pictures of the goats, us and the goats, their kids and the goats.

Juwels picked a good sized water melon and filled two woven baskets with apples, onions, eggplant, and other things with exceptional gravity alongside goat wrangling.

Ezzie was charging onward when juwels realized that we’d forgotten to stop at a booth, “Let’s go back. I wanted Steve and Kelly to meet the goats.” But I suggested that we just head on since I didn’t want to battle Ezzie into a wide U turn on the crowded cross section of walking traffic.

“We can do a loop and head back,” I said.

It’s true that it's possible to just cover ground and not stop to talk, but it's a thing that takes effort, and you have to actually avoid eye contact to stifle conversation, and that's an odd looking thing to do. Out of the way, people … I’m just trying to move my goats along and get my shopping done on this fine Sunday morning. Ha Ha Ha. I met a couple once sitting outside of a hip café here in town, and they had a very cute miniature pony, and when juwels and I walked up to look at it, the girl wouldn’t even look at us, and acted so rude when juwels asked the name. That girl did not deserve a pony … or maybe this is just what happens when you give a brat a pony, but in any case, if people want to talk and smile and soak it in, I’m more than happy to go through the shtick : ) It’s fun : )

So Ezzie is at the wheel, pulling us towards something … or away from something, and we’re all walking side by side, and I’m nodding and smiling but moving forward, and I notice a guy standing up ahead in the crowd, walking backwards and holding a camera to his eye with a giant lens pointed at us.  

Click, Click, Click. 

People were parting to get out of his way.

That guy’s got a nice camera, I thought. You see that a lot around here with all the tourists coming and going from Sedona and the Grand Canyon. Much more firepower than you’d really need at the farmer’s market or downtown, but I guess they didn't pack a point and shoot, too. 

And then the guy stopped us. 

“I’m sorry. I’ve gotta stop you just for a second.”

We stopped fully.

“So … are you guys from here?”

“Yep,” I said.

Juwels was frozen in her bad-hair day, and would later tell me that she knew he was a reporter. “He had his little notepad out and everything.”

I was on wind-up-play mode after the last ten minutes and didn't notice.  

“I’m from the Arizona Daily Sun,” he said, “What are your names? And what are the goat's names?”

Just then, Ezzie drops a batch of about fifty goat berries out from under her wispy tail, and they scattered on the ground at his feet.

“I’ll get those,” Juwels says, handing me Chia’s leash.


“Chia and Ezzie,” she said, digging the tiny pan and sweeper out of my backpack and then squatting awkwardly in a short dress.

“How do you spell that?” he asked me, and I half froze. 

That's not one of my questions .. 

I told him and he jotted it down.

The attendant at the information booth glared over at juwels, sweeping. At least I think she was glaring, but to be honest, we’ve never really seen her smile, so this could be her resting pose.  

“Well, thanks,” he said, “Great .. just great.” He smiled, with this scoop now officially his happening. “Local couple, Peter and Juwels, walk their goats through the Sunday market.”

We finally made it over to the goat cheese booth, and John was happy to see the girls and gave us a deeper discount than normal. Sadly, his wife, Joyce, wasn't there that Sunday, but he had us pose in front of the booth to take a picture for her. I wrangled Chia’s snoot out of his tiny trashcan full of sample paper cups. “Paper, yum!” And from there, I squeezed the girls between vendor cars and stood for a time alone in the grass. 

Beside the Bustle of old highway 66, the girls climbed rocks, while still on their leashes, and nibbled from postcard-looking aspens next to a life-size bronze statue of Davy Crocket or somebody else wearing a coonskin hat and settler’s clothes. 

I met Landen, a blonde toddler who said, “Goat. Goat. Goat.”

And juwels sent our farming neighbors back to see me. (the family from the bee hive relocation video)

Juwels finally came back, and we walked off, talking about her hair and what rotten luck she had with newspaper photographers (we’d only been in the papers once before, poached at out own wedding, and I’ll admit, the guy should have been given a good talking to over the picture he chose (must have been the only one, but boy it was awkward .. ha ha ha.).

On the way home, we saw a text from my visiting sisters saying that they were down the street at a park and playground if we wanted to hang out with them and their kids before they left town, so we cut over to the park, unloaded the goats and did it all again. 

There were more dogs and more kids and more curious adults. No more reporters and juwels showed the kiddies the magic of picking four (and five) leaf clovers in the hobbit-land green patch.

It was a good morning, but we had our hands full, and didn’t have the chance to take a single picture.

Spread the loVe, eat local, 


p&j .. & .. c&e


{ Venice Beach, behind the scenes }

** I've been digging through old Docs and notebooks as I'm working on this Winnebago Diaries book, (no point in writing something twice). But before I'd sold myself on writing this monster of a thing, I was toying with the idea of just warming up with a book of shorts from Venice Beach, that strange and beautiful place I loVe and hate.

Anyway, Venice will have a big part in the book I'm working on, but here's a rough intro to the book of shorts ... I'm sure I'll add more stories here on the blog later, but for now, here's a little taste to set the stage. 

  --- > you can see pics of Venice in this older {blog} we posted ... just scroll way down : )

But here, it's just words words words.

enjoy ! 


There’s a place in Southern California, a bohemian community on the beachfront, awkwardly sandwiched between two upscale cities like the screwed up middle child that nobody knows what to do with.
That problem child’s name is Venice Beach, and I love her for everything she is and for everything she refuses to become. When I talk about Venice Beach, I’m talking about the actual beach, and more specifically, the crowded 3-mile stretch of boardwalk.
It’s a place of a thousand, 50 thousand, faces - daily, and that’s just the background, the visitors. The real show is in the boardwalk locals and vendors, performers, cops and bums. It’s a scene that shouldn’t exist in the way it does, and in this day and age, and not only does it persist to exist, but it does so against the will of powerful people of both state and private interest.   
At a glance, you know the place is untamed..  infected with the freedom gene and carrying a spore that can spread. You need merely to sniff the air in certain spots and pickup the mixed scent of burning incense and hot tanning oil, marijuana smoke, deep fried carnival food, pizza parlors and bum piss, and you’ll know you’ve reached the freak show on the shore.
This place was built by the people, and the power behind its lasting construction comes from the year 1791, from a constitutional amendment, the first in fact, that guarantees the freedom of speech, the press, religion, and peaceable assembly.
So … over 3 decades ago, cloaked in the constitution and moving somewhat timidly, a small group of artists and thinkers, activists, gypsies and performers took up stakes on the empty Westside of the boardwalk to vend to some of the biggest walking crowds of any beach in the country.    
The boardwalk is wide and long, and actually made of stones and cement, not old-time boards. And skirting the beach side from end to end, like a linear shantytown, you’ll find hundreds of vendors staking claims beneath broken canopies and faded umbrellas.
The vendors and performers are the main attraction, consistently drawing millions of people per season. They’re the unpaid and under-appreciated city workers who show up early to design their unique 10 X 10 urban sets and provide the unexpected show that is everyday life and survival on the cluttered boardwalk.
Hollywood could never cast this revolving mix of characters. They’re an endangered wildlife that needs to be preserved, studied and appreciated, but in the recent past, the draw of progress, lazy enforcement and the fear mentality has led some higher powers to try and forcibly wash the whole scene down the storm drain and out to sea.
Most of the vendors are honest hardworking people who find themselves driven to snap and snarl between each other as a result of the intensity of hunting one’s living on the street and the lack of organization.
Territory is high on the list of things to go tooth and nail over. Some vendors have an almost superstitious view of where they need to setup, and who they don’t want to be setup beside. Some neighboring booths are too big and hide their display, and some neighbors are too loud or draw a jostling crowd that will swamp visibility, and at times, trample their display. Fortune tellers don’t want to see the like on the same block, and the craft people see China-made junk sellers as a waste of real estate and a leech on the neck of the already limited spaces where people are meant to express their art and creativity.
It’s true that there’s a lot of drama between the sellers. Most of which could be avoided with a little work. Fights breakout, people are bullied, and the police are called daily. Animal nature has a way to simplify these struggles, but a pecking order is not soon to emerge on the boardwalk, and every new greyhound bus arriving from afar, or lost job in the extended family increases the chances of new faces showing up on the scene, and a roosting spot must be found.  
Working members, for the most part, must stay put in their cubic space, and in the daylight hours, the vendors are contained, happy and occupied with the catch of the day. After morning setups, they give the city, and society, little trouble. It’s the “others” that worry men and mothers so much, the drifters and drunkards, crazies and convicts.
The crowds and unwieldy nature of the boardwalk draws all sorts of critters to the scene. Some of the most interesting people I’ve watched and met in Venice came from this subsection of the community, those not tied to any one space and not occupied with the practicalities of sales, producing their art and doing business.
Most of them have some sort of hustle in the throng of things. Some fly a sign for spare change (the younger drifters call it “spanging”), and others help vendors setup their booth, break down, or hold spots for a few dollars a day. The alleys behind beach bungalows are scoured by the more industrious, and discarded household goods are cleaned up and carted off by bike trailer or shopping cart, later to be sold on the move. I’ve collected many books, tins, wood picture frames and wine crates from these salvage hunters, and at such a deal. “Ahhh .. Give me two dollars.” Sold. But then there are others who will offer you a brand new $300 beach bike for $20 Best not to deal with these types .. I've seen angry bike owners pull riders from the crowd, "That's my bike!!" Or there are others who may lift something from a vendor’s table while they’re busy pitching a prospect.
I’ve seen “helpers” become partners in these street businesses, and partners become enemies. Every kind of royal deception occurs there, but with plastic 20th century stuff. Shakespeare could rhyme about thievery and deceit all day, but first you’d have to explain to him what a cell phone is and what one might do with such a stolen thing. 
Some are fresh out of prison and others are hiding out from going there yesterday. I’ve been told that cops from other districts dump crazed wanderers on the Venice walk in the night, hoping they’ll take to the community or at least forget where they came from. Occasionally, you’ll see mad men with bloodshot eyes wandering the cotton-candy crowds in full daylight, talking to themselves and arguing with unseen enemies all around. But besides jail, an accommodation which must be rightfully earned in the state, there is no place for these people, so roam they do, forgetting appointments at the free clinic or selling their meds for pizza and ice cream money.
Venice is an all-purpose asylum, art exhibit, freak show, peddler’s pass and bazaar, and within the reach of the constitution, this kind of thing, I’m told, could happen to any open public space if the spore caught on and people stood their ground. I talked to an adviser to the city attorney about this amidst a meeting of the “peace-keepers” and he said, “We just hope to God they won’t.”    
The next-door neighbors know all of this, they read about the most severe of cases in the local papers and talk about it in the town hall meetings. And on Sundays, they may even feel the tribal beating of hundreds of drums coming to them from across the sand as people from all walks gather on the beach to play the old week off into the sunset and welcome the new.
This is all too much, so police from upscale Santa Monica (north) and the yacht town of Marina Del Rey (south) guard an invisible fence line with the intensity of boarder patrol agents. Pushing peddlers, drifters and riffraff back to Venice through the wide holes in the mesh, they ride black, sand-spitting quads across the beach and marshal-up in dark-tinted SUV’s. And on special nights, you’ll hear them clip-clopping on the backs of tall, thoroughbred horses like leathery old cowboys on a manhunt.
If you’re one of those long-haired freaky people, it’s best not to leave Venice on foot going north or south. West could work .. if you’ve got your pirate ship on the ready, and there are some hideaways east in Culver City, far beyond the cleansing sea breeze. But Venice is a special kind of birdcage, bright and sunny and big enough for the whole microcosm of life to exist, and to be honest, most people don’t want to leave once they settle down and find their place. In the freak culture, there’s safety in numbers.
The cops and officials within Venice itself realize they’re stuck with their inhabitants and busy themselves with 24-hour damage control, casting a wide net meant to catch only the biggest of fish and let the rest alone … for now. They want Venice to graduate, so to speak, sweep the trash from the streets, put in parking meters and up the rents, but it’s not that easy.
Thanks to a small group of activists and human rights organizations, and inadvertently, the beloved Coastal Commission, all the city’s attempts at gentrification have failed, and the people persist, wild and loud and free.
The rents have gone up, so the old resident artists moved out of their studio apartments and into retired school buses, motor homes and vans.
Little by little, the microbreweries and high-end burger joints sprout up, optimistic but reserved. The independent shop owners grow tired of waking the same slumbering war vets on their front step every morning, and young women wonder what’s safe, but Venice makes no false fronts.
West of Lincoln Blvd, you’ll notice that her guts are spilled for all to see, on the streets and in the alleys … in the old man’s candlelit face, reading in the window of his homesteaded van, in the intensity of the young can collector, racing daylight, and the morning garbage trucks as he works the weekend’s stuffed trashcans by headlamp. It’s skid row with a sea breeze, a Kafkaesque sideshow with a third act bordering on Orwellian. You’ll see ..  
As I said, the most interesting and alive parts of Venice happen on and around the boardwalk. There are a few veins of action running east, away from the beach, like Rose Avenue and its intersection with 3rd street, side-show ground zero.
To some extent, the beach shuts down at night – vendors can’t sell past sundown - and a backwash tide of cars and men and pushcarts flow out into the neighborhoods, filling side streets with small camps and battered rusty autos like hermit crab shells.
By night, one must hide out, knowing it’s illegal to reside in a vehicle. With the morning comes the safe haven of the boardwalk, the place where we belong. I, too, for years was a vendor on the walk, selling my writing like a delirious sailor, sun struck and starving, and telling stories of the end of the map and swimming serpents like dragons.
But I was shy, at first, and for a long time in fact. And my lovely girlfriend (turned wife) sold my books while I pretended to nap on the grass or hide my face behind the leafed open covers of a book. “We’re doing shifts,” she’d explain, “It’s my turn to man the booth.” But I only came over to sign a book at the end, rubbing my eyes and bowing my head to them.
But that wouldn’t do, and sometimes she had other gigs that paid much better than the beach, so we’d have to split the deck and each make our own bread for the day.
So I blossomed from a shy little dandelion directly and immediately to a Venus flytrap, green and sticky and giving them the madness they were looking for in the beach, the surprise they’d heard about from friends, for everybody has a story about Venice Beach: The sea gull souring over the boardwalk, who against all odds and the mathematics of gravity, had pooped directly into their mother’s eye. The stolen bicycle and subsequent missed curfew. The random hookup below a lifeguard tower, or the henna tattoo (mixed with black hair dye) that took a month to wash away. Something is always going awry below those shaggy palm trees, and much of this book will be revisiting these points in history and studying the place as a the living breathing thing that it is.
When the places was truer than it is now, for things have begun to sway, I felt the drumming pulse. I saw it all like a child with the naïve thought that somebody had to be minding the ship, but it wasn’t so. Growing up in the middle class suburbs of Scottsdale Arizona, this place filled any boredom holes that I might have thought I’d had …  retroactively, all the way back to the day I was born and then some. We lived on the city streets, too, the wife and I, in our self-renovated 1975 Winnebago.
The daily drive back and forth from our costly apartment in Long Beach was too much to bear, and food money became gas money, and in my hunger, I grew enchanted at the sight of the street people, living in their rolling homes, beachfront, free as the pigeons, so we sold our stuff and stored the rest, and moved out of society and into the sideshow. It was the best decision we ever made, still is … 7 years later as I write these words.
But let’s get on to the boardwalk and out of this intro. I think I’ve set the stage sufficiently for now, and this whole book will be cutting deeper into the marrow of the thing, so we’ll move on. I’m peter, by the way, and my queen-of-the-trailer-park is the lovely lady, juwels. So now we’re all friends : )
More to come, loVe,
- p&j  


{ My Robin Williams Status & The Status of the World }

I could go on for pages and pages about this Robin Williams thing ..

But I don't want to make people feel even worse. Because we're all victims (and contributors) to the same darkness that killed such a bright and shining light.

All I can say is that we need to remember that this is -our world- that he needed to escape. I believe that it was exactly his electric life and energy (these things we thought would complete him and keep him here) in sharp contrast with what we've become which made him feel so alien and alone. 

As a passionate person with the tendency to overwhelm the overworked, I've felt this same thing for much of my life, and I can only thank my sweet wife for saving me and mending my broken soul. It's not lack of heart but the opposite that lets in so much pain.

It's bombs and babies and fear and lies and guilt and apathy. It's thousands of years of killing in the name of God, child solders, sweat shops, walmart, prisons for profit, blood diamonds, synthesized singers with nothing to say, sex, silence, fabricated self loathing and loneliness in the limelight. It's life being dulled down to a dial tone and nobody seeing the tears of a clown. It's parents worried sick that their child wants to take the hard road of artistic expression, and those same kids growing up with a bad taste in their mouths and not supporting others in their "foolish endeavors" and on and on. 

This was not his world, and it's not mine either, that's why I've created my own and retreat into nature, but this hiding helps the collective in noway. There's so much suffering in the name of a few wealthy families, and we're all too sick and scared and fat and tired to do anything about it.

Johnny Depp won't watch his own films because he doesn't want to look at himself ... Howard Stern has social anxiety at parties and worries that he's being boring and simply can't read people. Jim Carry cries at night, and for every Robin Williams who checks out, there are a million more who stick around, sick and lonely, tethered to this world by a ribbon of guilt for the sadness that they'll leave behind.

Goddammit - let's start letting people be weird and free and take chances and fail and get back up with a click of their heals and try again. Let's stop hating people for loving themselves and hating ourselves for what they say we should be or do or look like. Slow down. Take a breath. Lash out at your boss, not your kids. Send that message all the way to the top. We want CHANGE. We need it. 

Stop taking everything so seriously. Life is a joke, and life is a game, but we need to rewrite the way it's played because we're going around in circles in this mad monopoly. Vote with your dollar, for the almighty dollar is God in this bankrupt era, and demand that they feed us Real food and play us Real music. Let your boys cry, and let your girls get dirty. Let the wedding bells ring for anyone who wants them, and stop judging people ... starting with your self. And start loving people ... starting with yourself.

There are so many good people here in our feed. And we need to spread that goodness around, lead by example, get comfortable, have fun, live, laugh, and work hard. People will follow. Let's all march to the tune of freedom and liberation from all these distractions and expectations. This life can be heaven, but we have to try.

Let's start now.


{ Down into the Canyon/ Are We There Yet ?? }

alOha : ) 

    We took a quick trip down into east clear creek the other day, and I cut together this little video of the day. Chia was in rare form when it came to not being her perfect little traveling self (she's normally such a pro) .. but we still loVe her .. ha ha ha .. how could you not : ? 

Here's the youtube link, happy traveling, loVe !! 



{ When Sparks Fly .. part 2 of many }

alOha : ) 
  This wasn't really meant to be a blog. It's actually just cut and pasted from the rough manuscript I'm working on about the last decade of our lives. Us, the Winnie, our crafts, travels, the lessons we've learned and people we've met, all the way up to present day .. 

   Anyway, it picks up from the "how we met" blog I wrote forever ago called, { When Sparks Fly .. part one of many. } 

   You may want to read this new blog in sections .. . it's 6,000 words .. ha ha ha. Just throwing it out there for our die-hard readers who can't get enough : ) 

Well .. back to work, loVe, 

   This is a work in progress : )


   I was in a daze when I got back to Arizona. In disbelief, really. I’d been the lone wolf for a long time, and this whole deal with juwels would’ve seemed so improbable up until just a couple weeks ago.
   Juwels and I talked on the phone so much that I probably have a heart-shaped tumor on the right side of my brain, right behind the spot where I held that overheating cell phone to my temple with that big stupid smile on my face.
   We talked about all kinds of things, but surprisingly for a time, not the parameters of the relationship. Was there a relationship? Could there really be one with all these miles of barren desert between us?
   I worked through the nights typing in all the changes and corrections we’d penciled into the manuscript during our cold read in bed. And when I was done, adding many new riffs of my own, I’d email the file to juwels, and she’d print it and underline all the parts she liked, make notes on corrections, and read everything to me in her sweet gentile voice, “Oh .. oh .. yeah, I loved this line right here …”
   Believe it or not, I was actually the one to pop the, “so what are we?” question. Or I think it actually came up as a retelling of a dialogue I’d recently had. “So-and-So was asking if we were dating..”
   “What did you tell him?” she asked.
“Um … I said I wasn’t sure. Are we?”
“Yes. Are you my girl or what?”
   “Um ..” she paused. “I’ll have to think about that.”
   I thought she was joking. Think about it??? What’s there to think about?
   “I don’t know,” she said. “I’ve never seen the long distance thing work out. I mean .. you live in Arizona. How’s that going to work?”
   She knew I loved it out in California, and she wanted me to move out there, and since I was a kid, so did I, but she wasn’t going to come out and say it, that it should happen for her. Mind you, this is maybe week three or four into our soul melding.
   “We’ll visit each other,” I said. “I skate in California sometimes .. and you’ll love the parks and ramps out here. And the desert is beautiful.”
   It took me a long while to convince her of that last part.
   “Well .. okay then. I’m willing to try it if you’re willing to try it.”
   So much for romance …
   But she’d later tell me that she was just scared and didn’t want to get attached to a phone in hand and have to read into tones and texts and voice mails .. and I understood that completely.

   I’d lived the life of a hermit the past year or so, receding from skateboarding, writing my book, dwelling on what had become of my skate shop and big dream, falling asleep in the early AM to the sounds of the movie The Wall, for the sound track, or Fear and Loathing, for the spoken word, and this much disembodied talking on the phone was pulling volts from somewhere without the recharge of touch and closeness.
   But on and on we went. Having this project between us really helped eat up some of that nervous energy that can come with a new and distant relationship. So for a time .. the book saved us both.
   For seven months (“seven, exactly,” juwels says) we tickled each other’s eardrums from afar, but the rest of the relationship was a vaporous mist of letters or scrawling words on the screen.
   On two occasions, we visited on the sandy shores of her coast, and on two other occasions, out here, we danced in the dust and heat waves of the southwest desert. And in between, I continued to work in my head, sorting all the details of my writing, and recreating the whirlwind dream that had inspired the book.  
   I guess this saved me more than it did her, as I’d escape the world through the story and meditate on this fictional creation of life. I often chuckled at the idea that I could make these characters, now on paper for long enough to be real, do and say anything I wanted. Have you ever had those thoughts of … “what if I just screamed right now? Right here in the middle of this movie .. in the silence of this lecture?” You’d be surprised at how many times I’d jokingly write a whole paragraph or two .. laugh, and then hold the delete key in rewind. 
   But Juwels life always seemed like some kind of island-based fairytale to me, something with a Jack Johnson and Bob Marley soundtrack. In my thirsty desert mind of mirages and tumble weed, I imagined that many colorful birds would carry her, and her skateboard, amongst the clouds and rainbows from one empty swimming pool skate party and contest to the next.  
   She knew everyone, showed up in magazines, skated and traveled with pros, ate well, slept like a cat and sometimes wore a black and orange king snake, “nesta”, around her neck or wrist to the grocery store and farmer’s market. She was independently happy and bought herself flowers and raw chocolate without occasion.
   She lived as though she’d never found any troubles in life .. although she’d found many and overcome many. And in fact it was that trouble, and breaking free of it, that gave her such positive perspective and happiness and freedom. She was a true tribal fairy, and I was a scrappy mongoose, fighting a rattlesnake for dinner. Or at least that’s the way I imagined it.
   And with these thoughts, I hid out in my tiny, locked bedroom, avoiding the three roommates to get some writing and thinking done. A skate friend of mine, Ian, and his girl friend lived in the master room .. "You're sooo married. Why don't you two just get married.." -- "Shut up!"And he was a fun cat who spent most his time filming skate tricks or recording hip hop in the garage or standing around a keg. 

   But in the third room, beside mine, lived his older brother, the other son of the homeowner, and he was a connoisseur of  drugs of all types, but he seemed to favor the ones that sent him up-up-up and away. He broke into my room when I was out of town or at the store or library, and robbed my coin tin of everything but the pennies and nickels. And at other times, I’d find him doing manic pushups or squats in the kitchen without a shirt.
   “Hey, Peter,” He’d say, not taking a break from his exercise. “I didn’t know you were home. You wanna go to the bar .. you fly I’ll buy.”
“No thanks. I never really drink.”
   “Oh come ON man !!! I’m just talking about a beer … a beer and some laughs. Come ON man !! I’m buying. Also, I’m supposed to meet a girl there, and I’m already late for the bus.”
   There were times when I would be so imploded into myself from the writing and repetitive the music mix that I’d actually take him up on his offers for company.
   I said “no thanks” to so much that he’d offer me or try to get out of me .. mostly rides or money. And I’m surprised he didn’t just get discouraged by the no-to-yes ratio .. but he was like that old lady at the train station, the one who just wants you to buy her damn bracelet, bottle of water or roses, so sometimes out of pity .. but most times out of curiosity and loneliness, I’d listen to his fishing stories and lies. He’d bribe rides to a restaurant, grocery or liquor store. And on one occasion, I’d become the unwitting accomplice and getaway driver.

   On that night, we were walking around the store, and he wasn’t talking much, and seemed to be kind of agitated. I was saying something, but he wasn’t listening. And then, actually not noticing that we were on the liquor aisle because I was rambling on about my story or something, he looks down at me (tall guy), smiled in a way that looked like he was biting his own teeth, and says, “Listen. Peter. Now I’m about to put this bottle of Jagermeister down my pants and walk out of here.”

   “What?? No .. what ?? Bad idea. We’re like the only people in this store. Somebody’s gotta be watching you..”
   He was looking over my shoulder, farther down the aisle, and when he put those beady little eyes back on me .. and saw how flustered I was over the whole thing, his smile grew, and he said, “Get out of here, man. I’m doing it ..” And the bottle dropped down his pant leg and stopped in a bulge at his cuff.

Jee-sus … 

   I knew I couldn’t stop him .. or change his mind, and I wasn’t going to turn him in, so I just spun on my heal and walked away. The florescent-to-night transition of walking out into the dark parking lot left me with a flash in my vision, and I half-looked over my shoulder but didn’t see him behind me.

   Back in the truck, I popped the key in the ignition. I don’t need this. I don’t need this, I thought. I don’t even drink .. I don’t even know this guy. I’ve been flushed out of my room with the promise of cheap chineese food. Value. $4.99. Not enough to risk handcuffs or a police chase

   Only a minute or two had passed, while I thought of these things, and I decided that I’d just leave. Screw it. He could figure it out. Then I thought about him seeing me leave .. being confused .. maybe chasing the truck or hollering. Not being tailed or noticed by anyone, but not wanting to walk home either. This would be a spectacle both here and at home, and I just didn’t want to get into it .. my God, but what if he was being tailed … chased .. all the while I’m vanishing on the horizon.

   I started the truck and backed out. Craning my head to find out soonest if he was there. And just as I pulled all the way out, I saw him running up on me like a madman. He must have pulled the bottle out of his pants when he’d cleared the door and the front drive, and from what I could see, there was nobody following him. But in my mind, I saw floodwaters at his back, flashing lights and rolling boulders. Why the hell else would he be running?

   Laughing and tumbling into the truck, he yelled, “Go! Go! Go!” And I did. Again, I was infected by his presence, so his escape was my escape.

“Dude! What the hell!! Don’t do that shit around me!” I hollered.

   He was already taking the cap off.

“Close that shit, man. I don’t need that open container in my car.”

   He laughed some more.

“Did they see you?”

   “No! Hell no .. I’m Good!”

“Then why the hell were you running?”

   “Because it’s more fun that way!”

We hit a red light, and I studied my rearview. 

   Later, I think just to quiet the ideas in my head of cameras and plate numbers and all that mess, it crossed my mind that he could have paid for the bottle and then put on that whole show for me .. but then again, I had seen him drop it down his pants.

   I stayed away from him for a while after that … even more than I’d already been doing. But then there was another outing that I’ll never forget. And even though he didn’t have a car, he was driving this time.

   I was out of my bedroom and walking around in a kind of fog, as was customary for me in those days, and I was out in the covered storage area in the yard. And there I found him with the back gates open to the alleyway, working on a four-wheeler in the summer sun.

“Hey,” he said. “Wanna take a spin?”

   “Nah .. I’m just looking for a light bulb for the bathroom.”  

“Come ON, man !! It’s fun...”

   This was his standard argument for everything and good-enough reason for doing anything. I looked down the alley and saw old mattresses and broken TV’s and piles of branches that awaited the trash truck, an uncertain obstacle course. It was pretty narrow, and the dirt path itself was in bad shape.

   But I’d always wanted a bike or a go cart when I was a kid, although the closest thing I’d ever gotten was a Go-ped (earned by many chores and by pocketing my lunch money and sneaking a sack lunch from home on the sly.)
   I took a step towards the mechanical bull, just looking it over and taking in the smell of grease and gas, and he took this as a sign that I was ready to ride.
   Would I have to shift this thing? I wondered. Do the brakes work? I had never even seen this quad before that moment and didn’t know if it had been stored out there the whole time I’d been a tenant, or if he was just borrowing it from somebody or what.
   I guess I was contemplating taking it for a ride. I guess it could be fun just down to the end of the alley and back. And then he started it up and jumped on and gassed it.

   “Get on,” he yelled over the noise of the engine.

Get on?

   He revved the thing some more and it spit black smoke, and the smell changed from nostalgic memories of lawn mowers and my neighbor’s childhood mini bike, to a chainsaw massacre.

   “Come on ! Come On !!” He yelled and smiled that big joker smile. He was so excited about it, like a dog with a ball, and I felt bad saying no. No’s a funny word .. never liked hearing it, or the slump in energy that came with it, so I try not to use it, either. Normally, I can just tell some story about why I simply can’t do it, or go there, or help out … But not over this roaring engine I couldn’t. “Just around the block. Come on !!”

   Reluctantly, I kicked my leg over the seat and spiked tires and sat on the back-half of the squishy vinyl seat.

 God help me.

   As I said, sometimes it was pity or my anti-no awkwardness .. and many times I was just bored and needed to get away from my pen and pad, and he was the only other person home, but I probably should have drawn the line here.

   We went screaming down the alleyway, bumping and dodging things at 35 miles an hour, and I held onto the one definite decision I’d made just before mounting this horse, “I’ll hold onto the back bar. Be my own balance. I’m not snuggling up like some adoring, spooked, girlfriend and passenger.”

What the hell? What the hell?

   Bump, swerve, bounce.

   I caught the bemused expression of an old man who was standing in the alley beside his dumpster, and many dogs barked and ran the fence lines, loving us and hating us all at the same time.
   And when he took the first turn, blind and narrow turn with block and fence walls on all sides, giving up my one condition of the ride, and without even knowing I’d done it .. I was clamped onto his sun bleached, sweaty bare shoulders. This, I knew, still seemed pretty sissy mary .. but at least it took me out of the snuggling game. Silly to consider these things when the possibility of death is becoming quite real, but what can I say, the 6th grade version of myself drew up the constitution of thought in my mind, and it was backed up and justified by the big brother’s of America .. of which I was one.
   Terror .. mixed with irony. I’m going to die in a pile with this crazy person, and nobody will know until the trash truck comes around. Oh .. give me a tidal wave, give me a Great White, give me a burning building and a poor puppy dog upstairs .. but this ? I thought about choking him on a place where the road was straight .. he’d pass out or pull over, and we might get into a fight, but I’d live. And I thought about just pushing off the back and rolling in the hard desert clay and broken bottles .. but this I’d save for the end, if somebody jumped out in front of us or if the steal elephant, trash truck, appeared from around the corner.
   Faster and faster he went … going up on two wheels on turns, and spitting out onto the actual road amongst cars for a time before escaping back into the unpoliced back alleys.   
   What are they going to tell my mom ?? “He died instantly. On impact. There was no pain.” I could hear it. “We don’t know who was driving, but his friend had crack, speed, taco bell and coolaid in his system.”
   I’m too good for this, I half-thought, before breaking into a laughing fit, and then coming back to the terror, and then again still, to my poor little Italian mom. My book’s not done. I’m in love. I can’t die like this .. I can’t die now !!!!
   And then, even though I’d been trying to keep track of the fences and dogs and broken TV’s to know if we were rounding home plate .. we were there. We were home. And the motor was off. And I could hear the birds and the breeze in the leaves in the trees.
   I was too shaky to say anything of consequence. And I knew it was all my fault anyway … this, is what a crazy person does for fun. This is how they live. This is how they burn up all the extra chemical energy that they’re borrowing from their retirement fund.

   And after all that, I said yes to a stiff drink … as a medicine. And I drank it, with my eyes closed, in the pool, on a floating raft in the shade. 
   He really wasn’t a bad guy or mean in anyway, just a partier with no money and no direction and parents that let him live in their investment property rent-free. That deal went for me, too .. we just had to pay the property taxes three ways plus utilities. Crazy deal, $150 per month, and it helped me survive while I wrote, but it did come with a price. The theft, for one. But I found ways around that, like not leaving anything of value out, and even the stock from my closed skate shop fit in that little room with me.
   My bed was set up off the ground on crates filled with the skateboard invention I’d produced and patented the year before, and I’d built a wall out of boxes of new skate shoes, a hundred or so pairs, and the closet was filled with trash bags of tagged and folded tee shirts and pants awaiting ebay. Talk about caring your history around with you.

   Juwels was sort of mortified the first time she came over and saw the storage locker I called home.
   “Ummm .. there’s blood on your carpet,” she said, standing in the adjoining bathroom.
   “Oh, yeah .. I think that’s my roommate’s .. he gets a lot of nose bleeds.”
   The springs from the bed hurt her back. The light hurt her eyes. The dust hurt her nose. And when I was away on a gig the next day (I used to skateboard in TV commercials) she ran out to the store and bought rubber gloves and cleaning supplies.
   “I cleaned your toilet,” she told me just after we’d kissed hello. “It was disgusting. I couldn’t get myself to sit on it. And I couldn’t get the stain out of the carpet.”
   We went out that evening, and I bought a new memory foam bed. And although at the time I’d didn’t think there was anything wrong with my sheets, (I’d never even heard of the term “thread count” before) Juwels insisted on buying me new a new comforter, sheets, pillows and pillowcases.
   To her credit, she wasn’t being fussy, and I can see that now. My mattress did leave imprinted coil marks in your skin. My version of a fitted sheet was stretchy tee shirt material, a size too small and safety pinned to the bed’s corners. There was no top sheet to speak of, and my comforter was handed down from childhood. She should have ran away screaming .. but juwels always did like a project.  
   I guess I’d always just thought I was low maintenance … but that can turn to sloppy if you’re not careful, and apparently I wasn’t careful.   
   It was a strange place to be while California dreaming and writing love letters. Just in the peek of my creative writing, the sheriff would come knocking on the door unexpectedly. I’d see his car through a slit in my blinds, and my ol’ riding partner and roommate would plead, “Oh .. shit !! Don’t answer it.” He’d hide under the down-folded drop leaf table in the garage, or scurry up into the attic to nest with the dust bunnies until I’d tell him the coast was clear. Creditors would call and bitch me out about his debts, and parties would rage late into the night while I was trying to sleep.  
   And when he wasn’t doing beer runs or donating plasma for drug or grocery money, he’d be disturbing me with the pounding sounds of loud sex in the middle of the day or night or replacing my apple juice with tap water. One morning, I walked out into the kitchen to find him sitting at the table and doing cocaine with a well dressed bald man I’d never seen before.
   “Hey, wanna do a blow?” He asked as if it were a slice of pizza.
   “No thanks,” I said, not even a coffee drinker.
   I’ve gotta finish this book and get out of here, I thought. Also, juwels had increased the distance between us, setting off for Spain and skating in Barcelona for a while, and so the phone calls stopped. This depressed me, and feeling dramatic one day, I said through a text that I was starting to forget what her voice sounded like.
   Two minutes later, my phone rang.
   Paying by the minute, she’d rushed into a hostel and said, “You can’t do that.”
   “Hello.. ” I said.
“You can’t forget my voice.”
   “Okay ..”
“When do you get back,” I asked.
   “In a week.”  
“Well … I’m moving out there to be with you.”
“Yes really.”
   “As soon as you get back. I’m going crazy.”
   I don’t know what the holdup was, but it was finally said, and as soon as she returned, she started looking at places for me.
   “Do you want to come out and look them over,” she asked.
   “No. I’m sure I’ll like whatever you like.”
   And three days later, she’d found me a newly renovated studio in Long Beach, month to month, and I sent her the deposit without seeing so much as a picture.
   It might have taken me another week to find a good stopping point on my writing, give my notice, and throw all of my stuff into the pickup truck and tiny Uhaul trailer, and I just left.
   I’d already vanished from the scene long before this date, so when I slipped away, nobody noticed.
   I’d crossed that desert so many times before on childhood vacations in my family’s big brown van, and later in life, on skateboard tours and trips, but bringing all my stuff with me made it real. I was really, finally, going to live in California .. and I had a great reason for doing so.
   Showing up on the coast, I told juwels that the first thing I wanted to do was swim out into the ocean and wash the desert off my brow. It was a long slow drive, and I’d almost lost the trailer when the ball hitch came loose on a mountain grade.
   And so we went, picnic basket, beach blanket, all smiles and bare feet. The town Juwels lived in, Seal Beach, was a kind of paradise. The breeze was always cool and had the scent and taste of the ocean in it. Tropical flowers and banana palms stretched out past the white picket fences to kiss my cheek on the short walk to the beach. And from the pier, old men could be seen fishing sand sharks and sea bass over the chorus of screaming, laughing, crying kids in the sun. I could die in a place like this, and from the looks of it, many of the residents intended to do so.
   We found ourselves at my new studio later that day, but didn’t stick around long, just dumped my stuff so I could return the trailer. Juwels was acting all giddy on the way down to the studio, and just before I put the key in the door, she stepped in front of me and said, “Okay …. so I did a little house warming for you.”
   When we walked in, I found that she’d snuck into the studio before I’d moved out and decked the place out with everything I didn’t have: silverware, plates, cups, and place settings. The shower curtain was pressed and new, bathmat, soap dispenser .. and she trailed me around this new space like a kid on Christmas morning .. even though  she was the one doing the giving. She pointed out all the frill and lace, and it was all very sweet, but most of this stuff would be returned to the store within the week.


   Over the next few days, I don’t think I checked in with my studio-box or pile of stuff once. Juwels had kidnapped me once again, and this time it was for keeps. The vibe of her space was so great, bright, fresh and natural. She and her sister, Lily, shared a little house with a guy named Charles. I didn’t see Charles much, he mostly stayed at his boyfriend’s place. But our few interactions were awkward (I seem to make people awkward no matter what I do .. guess it’s contagious) .. so anyway, not being able to figure me out, he had decided that I must be gay, too. I laughed when Juwels told me this .. not that the idea that I could be gay was so unbelievable, but just because he’d said something like, “trust me … we can smell our own” or something like that.

   I was happy that he was there, though, for the moment, because it would really help in the premature next step in our relationship. And besides that .. he had a big cushy chair in the living room, and during the first time I’d stayed there with Juwels, seven months before, I’d fart into the cushion of that chair about a hundred times .. it was like my fart catcher.
   You see … I get a really nervous stomach around new girls, and being a new girl, I couldn’t just casually release the pressure. So it builds and builds, and so just before I was about to float away .. or self combust from an unfortunate brush with static electricity, I’d go strolling off to the kitchen under the pretense of a drink or a snack, and then I’d silently roost on old Charles’ plush sofa. Maybe he could smell me ??
   For those of you at home who may want to try this technique, the trick is not just to sit and fart, but to sit .. then ever so slowly lean back up off the cushion while farting. This creates suction, like pulling open an accordion, and your little secret will be safely stored inside. Well, just as long as somebody doesn’t sit there again in the next ten minutes or so ..
   But this farting business had long since stopped, maybe before I’d left the first time. Maybe that’s how I knew she was a keeper. And I was able to relax in the jungle atmosphere that they’d cultivated on 15th street and the PCH. The furniture was all imported teak, silk spun and gold lace, and vines and palms and other carnivorous-looking plants greeted visitors from door to door. Juwels had painted the walls in themes, and they were always having friends and neighbors over for meals and laughs, and everybody seemed so happy and open and giving. Coming from a big family where everyone fought over the last popsicle in the box, and argued over what was fair, this was unreal, and I wanted to be like them and live in this easy going beach flow.
   The beach house in Seal was so much better than the blaring traffic and the smell of hot asphalt-filled potholes and poorly tuned cars in my hood. Juwels and I were on a kind of honeymoon, making up for lost time and fulfilling promises of breakfast in bed and snuggles late into the day. We revisited all her favorite hikes and beach coves and worked up a sweat at the skate parks by night.
   All was great, perfect, and then the property manager at my new place left me a voice mail. She said something about meeting up to go over things. Things? I had the key … she had the rent and deposit. What was there to go over? It had been over a week, and I still hadn’t even slept there, so nobody could have complained about me ..
   I met up with the landlady the next day. This was a first, but Juwels had described her to me, and she was like a memory of the words I’d heard, even the same clothes. She arrived in an electrical rolling cart, but then got up and walked up the small set of stairs and into the “courtyard”. She had shiny blue full-length spandex tights and an oversized white tea shirt printed with a cartoon tweedy bird. Her hair was bleached from stark white to radioactive blond. And as she got closer, I noticed what I imagined to be stained splats of bird poop streaking her shoulder and sleeve. Juwels had been to her apartment, which the lady secured free in exchange for managing the place, and even though she wouldn’t open the door more than a crack to snatch the deposit check, Juwels said she saw and heard dozens of birds in cages, all squawking and pooping and damming their bars. 
   “So I have some paperwork for you to go over,” she said.
   And we sat at a wire mesh table beside my door.
   She slid a full ashtray to the side and opened a folder. “This is the rules of the house,” she said, sliding it over to me, and I pretended to read it.
   “Please sign it.”
    I did.
   She yammered on about this and that … and about all the problems they’d had which led to some of the more obscure policies on the sheet, and then she slid another paper over to me and said, “And here’s your lease agreement.”
   “Lease?” I said. “I thought this was month to month. You told juwels month to month, and I’ve already paid and taken the keys and ..”
   “Well …” she started, not denying what I said, “The owner wants a lease now. They don’t just want people moving in and out all the time.”
    “Ummm .. I wasn’t planning on that.”
   “Why would you want month to month?” she asked. “This is good for you. This way your rent is set, and you know you have the place for at least a year, and ..”
   I hate contracts, especially on things that I’m not head over heals about .. like this stupid apartment, newly renovated and fuming  with the smell of the carpet glue and fresh paint. “I’m a student,” I lied, “And I might be changing schools in the future, and this wasn’t the deal. I just moved all my stuff out here from hundreds of miles away, and this wasn’t the deal.”
   She patted the paper in front of me with her boney old hand, and said, “Well .. these are the terms. Per the owner’s request. You need to sign it, or move out.”
   I wanted to tear the paper up. Dump the ash stray on top of the shreds and storm off, but not knowing what else to do .. I signed it.
   That was it, a prison sentence. If a little bungalow or converted garage should open in juwels beach town, I’d be off the market. My box in this row of silly boxes, like motel doors with bright red numbers and shared walls with neighbors I still hadn’t met .. this would be my cell away from my love. Another lonely box with a lock and a window without a view. Why would I ever want to be here?
   I was irked as I watched her little cart roll away on the horizon, tweedy bird shirt flapping in the breeze and a duress-signed contract tucked away for safekeeping. I was mostly disappointed with myself for signing though. But what choice did I have? I did need a place to live .. even it if it was just a hypothetical place secured for appearances, or possibly a fallout shelter should unexpected bombs drop on the Eden of our relationship.
   Juwels was confused when I told her about the meeting. “What? That wasn’t what she said. You’ve already moved in. Is it even legal to do this to you after you’ve already moved in?”
   “I don’t know … I signed the damn paper though.”
   This put a bit of a funk on my mood, and I continued to stay away from the place. Juwels sister worked full time, and Charles was away day and night, so nobody was around to care that I’d sort of attached myself to the zip code.
   And then juwels surprised me with a question. “Why don’t you just move in here?”
   “Ummm …”
   Given the trap I’d sprung my foot in, the idea of living there with her in this endless summer seemed like heaven. But we’d only physically been around each other for three or so weeks, including our first foray. This wasn’t a worry of mine .. but it was a worry of her older sister and roomie.
   “Lil,” Juwels said, “Charlie is never here .. he doesn’t live here. He just needs to move in with Felix, and stop wasting his money on an empty bedroom. Peter can rent that room, and we’ll turn it into a studio.”
   “I don’t know ..” She said, “What if you guys break up and he moves out .. Can you pay $1200 a month until we find another roommate?”
   And she probably could .. with her talent in high demand and well compensated, but she wasn’t thinking about any of that.
   While Lily was thinking about it, juwels took the opportunity to run it past Charles. “We’re kicking you out,” she said jokingly. And in reality, he was probably happy to hear about it, only paying rent there because he was on the lease and to keep up appearances of his own. “You don’t live here .. you know you don’t live here, you don't even have any clothes left in your closet, so you might as well stop wasting your money, and Peter will take your room.”
   He agreed without a fuss, but warned juwels about moving so fast with somebody she’d just stared dating .. not to mention the fact that he thought I was gay.
   A day or two later, juwels sis called her from work and said that she wanted to meet for lunch and discuss her thoughts. I waited back at the house, not wanting to be there if it was just going to be some long big-sis talk about how she knew best, and how she was saving her from a mistake and all that.
   It seemed like she was gone forever, and I was climbing the walls with anticipation. And then finally it got to be too much, and I left juwels a note saying that I was going to be out at the beach waiting for her in our spot by the jetty.
   I took my blanket and went on foot to spend more time in transit. It was beautiful that day, as it was most days, and I lied there, listening to the waves, and thinking.
   When enough time passed, I sat up and watched the boardwalk, looking for juwels shape in the distance. And a bit longer than that, I began to worry. I laid back down again, shielding my eyes from the sun and actually fell asleep. The sound of something crashing into the sand right beside my head shook me from my nightmares of cartoon birds and contracts, and I looked up to see that it was juwels, digging the tail of her skateboard into the sand beside the blanket.
   I smiled.
And she didn’t.
  This confused me .. and I found myself getting a little antsy, probably just stored up from all the uncertainty. I hate waiting for results.
“Well …. What did she say ?”
  And then I noticed she was holding a hand behind her back, hiding something.
   This confused me more.
   “What are you waiting for?? Come out with it.”
   She finally smiled, and then from behind her back, pulled out a wild-looking long stemmed daisy and said something in Spanish, the only word I remember knowing was “casa”.
   “What ????”
   “I said, welcome to my home” she laughed .. and then I noticed that there was a bronze house key tied around the neck of the flower, just dangling there from a piece of yarn.
   It was a bit like being on a game show mixed with a hidden camera show .. but in my mind, with much higher stakes.
   It took me a second to get excited, and then we rolled around on the blanket, and the poor flower was crushed in the mix.
   From there, it was a day of swimming, and then back to the house .. our house. And I called the evil tweedy and told her that I’d signed under duress, and that I’d be taking my stuff out the next day.
 And even though I’d never stayed there, and their bait and switch had left me not wanting to keep the place at all, they stole my entire $650 deposit, which acted as first month’s rent, and deducted another $20 from my last month’s rent for “cleaning”. And I left that place without ever flushing the toilet.
   This last cash grab was a further twisting of the knife, and I even talked to one of my lawyer friends who drew up papers for small claims court, but in the end, I chose to call that $670 the expedited processing fee and dramatic occurrence that led Juwels and I into shacking up together. Well worth it, and who wants to start a move to a new state by fussing around with courts and papers? I’d let the karma police straighten them out … maybe a midnight Hichcock experience with the birds ??
   For the next year, things were almost always easy breezy. The dreaded street sweeper, trailed by the suckerfish meter maids, leached our accounts every now and again when we’d forget to move our cars, and we’d have a little adjusting to do to get our yin & yang swirling in the right direction, and then one day it all ended. The house, the beach town, unexpectedly gone … But we’ll get into all of that in the next installment.

Thanks for reading, loVe,