Thursday

{ 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, 
p&j 

  Also ... feel free to comment or message with thoughts, things you'd like more or less of, or ideas. 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?”
   “Dating?”
“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 out there in Arizona. How’s that going to work?”
   She knew I loved it out in California, and 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 voicemails .. 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 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.”
   “Really?”
“Yes really.”
   “When?”
   “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.”
Gulp.
What?
Lease?
   “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?”
   “Sure.”
   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,
p&j

{ Juwels Bee-Day Adventure }

alOha : )
 
   Juwels just left on errands, and I'm compelled to sit and write about her... and her special birthday adventure. There were talks of going to Utah, and I was open to that. The Oak Creek Canyon was on fire .. and now dusted in harsh fire-retardant chemicals .. so we put that location out of mind. And then there were the hot springs (mulberries growing fresh on the trees and the river crossing is low and easy .. but it's rather hot in Camp Verde to be soaking. 100 + degrees in the shade)  

   I knew of a little place locally called Clear Creek, and it was beautiful and secluded and hard to get down into, and as the days approached, juwels decided that she wanted to be near water and camping with the babes, so we set our sails for clear creek.


   This was new to juwels, but I had been there once before. I was told about the place, and invited to go down there on a whim with my brother, and the area was so g reen and dense and beautiful that I immediately felt guilty for not having juwels along ... I forget what she was doing .. yoga ??

   This place has a definite feeling of being down inside of something ... and away from something else. On the narrow winding path, flowering cactus pucker like red lips, hawks screaming overhead, the yucca bloom sweet and hang heavy with fruit, and below, fountains of liquid sound sing from behind the reeds, and sun rippled patterns play against the rock walls. Look away !! I wouldn't allow myself to swim without her .. it would have been first for the season, and I felt like I was cheating. I wouldn't even focus my eyes fully on any one thing, and couldn't help but imagine, even finding the exact words, telling juwels about all the things that she would soon find there. 


   So now, going back down there with her .. and the babes, complete, I could really take it all in .. slow shutter speed, time lapse, smell-o-vision. I stopped to smell the wild roses, which I had been telling the goats about for the past 2 days, and occasionally bent down a stalk to feed them a sweet rosebud or green seed cluster. It was an amazing time .. and spooky .. and indulgent in that way that a short trip has to be if it's really to be savored. And juwels was so cute and happy that I wished it was her birthday everyday, but here in my chair, juwels gone on errands and my back growing stiff, I'm ready to live in the reflection of this day for the next few pages .. and pictures, and I hope you all enjoy the view along the way : ) 


   The night before the trip, juwels was buzzing around the Hive with excitement, singing little berfday songs to herself and literally dancing in her wool-lined moccasins. Fluttering like a small white kite, she sailed a hand typed list of all the things she wanted to bring and make for the voyage. She assigned me a few duties .. juice the water melon and fresh mint. Crush and strain a chunk of honey comb, and make the ginger lemonade. But I just ran them through the juicer after she'd prepped and neatly piled the brightly colored fruit and hot ginger roots.

   I watched her in amazement, throwing herself a party, and building her own experience just the way she wanted. She's so skilled and self motivated .. and inspired. Needing nothing from me. It's a soothing thing to be with such a strong woman. 


   The next morning, she put the final touches on the menu, and in a leisurely way, we got packed and hit the road. The babes were lazy and napping in the yard when juwels said, "Okay baybees !! You ready for family times camping times ?? !!" She'd been saying this all morning, but the babes only finally got it once they saw the cooler and bags going out to truck. It was actually later in the day as we rolled down Lake Mary Road, chia and ezzie standing in the back cab with the seats folded up, and chia's little tail going a mile a minute. She wags her tail nonstop on road trips ... ahhh ... so cute. We passed ponds and pastures, and juwels picked the perfect soundtrack to match the scenery.




   We stopped for a potty break about midway down the bumpy dirt road, and the girls had their first encounter with a very inquisitive group of lady cows, sweet looking things, all soft and doey eyed : ) I was fighting the urge to chase the sunset, and juwels had to yip from the passenger side of the truck for me to take it easy on the bumps .. some of which would literally launch us all off the ground, goats included. "My head's going to hit the roof," juwels hollered, and I took it down a notch.

   After letting the babes eat from their steel bucket of organic alfalfa pellets beside the truck, I bagged a little more to pack down to camp, and we all headed off to sign into the trail register. "Peter and Juwels .. June 16th .. and the goats." I noticed many of the other sign in's were ended with victory phrases upon the hiker's return, "We made it out alive!!" or "Happy to be back on planet earth.." .. and off we went.



   The bags were strategically packed by juwels, bedrolls wound tight and taking on a new kind of gravity, and although the bags looked big already, they were actually much more heavy than the eye might report. With a backpack strapped front and back, we waddled down with pregnant zippered bellies and practiced a zen walking method of seeing the obstacles disappear from sight below our front packs, and then and letting the foot find its place with the sense of touch only. It was like a trust exercise with the universe, falling and catching, falling and catching. The fact that our legs still in hinge in all the right places after that blind walk inspires the belief in guardian angles .. or fairies .. or rock-shifting hobbits.



   We took breaks and we took pics, and I almost killed the camera battery filming clips of the ever-changing walk and cliff walls before realizing that I'd left the backup battery on the charger at home. And once we finally made it down into the belly of the thing, juwels squealed with delight at first sight of the still mossy green pools. "We're here !!"

   The trail grew verdant and cropped in softly on our shins and shoulders with new spring growth. "The plants are so soft and delicate," I said, just before finding that one pretty lady had thorns like baby alligator teeth. I studied a branch in my hand and wondered what the higher purpose must be for a plant that doesn't want to be eaten, thorned or poisonous varieties like this. Or are the barbs and poison just a way to ration its medicine to the frantic mammals that might find its graze? 



(to avoid the blowing dust on the rim, juwels wore these fly goggles) 



   There's a place where we had to cross the creek by way of a long fallen tree-bridge extending 30 or so feet across the river, and we wondered if the babes would follow us through there. We knew they could do it ... but the way their feet are setup, they'd have to consciously pigeon toe their walk to stay tightly placed and out of the water. And as it turned out, they weren't ready for the tree-bridge, and I left my bags with juwels and walked back to led them to a set of stepping stones beside the reeds. This too was a thing they cocked their heads at, but after I'd crossed, they bounced from section to section like furry, hooved game pieces. 


   The sun had fallen behind the ridge before we'd found camp .. and we actually walked through a space mid-hike where the sunset cut straight across the trail. We walked down into the darkened part of the day ... but then doubled back a second later, back into the sunny section and took a break in the fading light.

   The camp I had in mind was on a beach of tumbled stones on the water, and when we arrived, we noticed that the sun was still on the canyon floor down the way, just past a bend where the tall stone walls ran parallel with the path of the sun and still cradled the light. We dropped our bags, all but the one with the food in it, and headed off downstream to eat and bathe in the sun.

   Chia fell (in a plump and lazy kind of way) climbing a pile of drift wood, and we figured that we might as well just plant ourselves on the rock and dine. And dine we did, hidden with the fresh green plants in stands all around. I sprayed my arms and hair with natural bug spray, and chia found a cat-nip quality in the scent of citronella and rubbed her cheek, almost violently, against the side of my mop of hair. She was grunting and purring in her little goat way, and it was about the cutest damn thing we'd ever seen. 

 

   Back at camp, in this extended gloaming hour, we wadded into the cold water and scrubbed our shins and forearms, washing away all the sweat and itchy plant scratches. With no chairs for the early eve, we setup our bags and bedrolls right away, as a place to lie and star gaze, but we could tell that we'd be lucky if we stayed awake long enough to see it fully dark. Juwels struggled to keep her peepers open long enough to witness a 'birthday shooter,' and I kept an eye out too, but on the second or third time that we snapped back from the  dream world and said, "Woah .. I was totally just asleep," we knew we were done for the night. We'd thought about making a baby down there ... or at least rolling the dice on a chance to make one, but the goats had both piled in between our bags and nestled down, so we took it as a sign that they weren't ready for a fifth wheel on the family yet and just passed out.

   As I mentioned, we just had a crazy fire in Oak Creek .. burning 40 something square miles and costing millions to put out, so the idea of a fire was out of the question, and we all just lied there unguarded in the darkness. I had hopped that bigger animals wouldn't want to be down by the creek, so far below, but juwels thought that's where all the life was, and that there might be many. In any event, to the right of my sleeping bag I had my trusty flashlight, unlocked can of bear attack spray and a loaded .38 revolver.  

   Sweet dreams

   I awoke once to find the goats both standing up between us, and looking around. I slipped out of my bag and walked a ways into the brush to take a pee, and they followed close behind - scattering their goat berries along the way, and peeing beside my spot. Earlier that night, I had begun finding spots I thought a large animal might come prowling through, and I marked those spots with the thought and intention in my mind of ... "Stay away .. My turf .. I'm dangerous .." But now the goats were following me and marking their scent, "I'm tiny and delicious .. I have harmless square teeth, and I'm scared and just lying here in the dark .." 

   But I stayed optimistic.

   I awoke again later, feeling something crawling across my neck, and with a knee-jerk reaction, I grabbed it off and threw over juwels bag into the bushes. Not sure what it was .. but I heard it hit the dry leaves, so I knew it was real. Back to sleep, and then up again. Juwels was up too .. not sure why, but I remarked on the light of the moon coming in across tomorrow's swimming hole, and she made an MmMmmmmm sound. And in the next few seconds of silence, we heard a cat screaming. 

   "Cat's," juwels said. "That was two cats, fighting." It was that hellish sound you hear coming from the suburban alleys and bushes, but much louder and uttered with larger lungs and longer breath than any domestic cat I'd ever heard.

   "Do you think there's feral cats out here?" juwels asked hopefully.

   "Like .. house cats?"

   "Yeah ..."

   "Nope .. we're 20 miles away from any house. Those were wild cats."

   We both just lied there ... and the goats didn't seem to notice, just snuggled up like swans between us. I wished we had a fire, and my worst-case mind came in with ... you can't leave .. there would be too much space to cover. Too many brushy areas to walk into something lurking. There was a big slanted rock in the deep part of the swimming hole, and I saw the four of us, goats soaking wet, all huddled out there waiting for daylight .. cats hate water, right ???

    "I wish I didn't just hear that," juwels said morosely.  "Should I blow the whistle?" she asked, and I could hear the beaded chain clinking around her neck as she brought it up to her lips.

    "Yeah .. we'll do that," I said. "We could yell, too .. let them know there are humans down here. They don't like humans. We're the devil." I thought about firing the gun, too, but figured I'd save that for a closer call and spare the babes from the grief of hearing their first bullet shot on such a still and lovely night.

   Juwels blew the whistle, loud. "Is that good? Or should I do more?"

   "I don't know ... for all we know they'll think that's a dying rabbit or something."

   "Don't say that!"

   "I'm just thinking ... I don't know .. I think the yelling will work better. They'll know what that is."

    "Well," she said, "are you going to yell?"

    "Yeah ... I just need to figure out what I'm going to say." I found myself caught in this silly kind of stage fright. Stuck in that silence before the first note rings out. We were the only car at the top of the hill, and showed up late, so I was pretty sure there were no other campers, and then I came out with a scream .. keeping it baritone and bold, and I roared, "Happy birthday juwels !!!!" 

   And as I was calling her name, she yelled, "Thank you !!!"

   The goats both popped their heads up, blinking but not scared .. yet.

   My voice echoed and bounced off the canyon walls, and then I yelled again, so they'd really know they heard it, and they'd know that I was there and active and full of life. And a roared again, "Did you hear me ?? !!! I said HAPPY BIRTHDAY JUWELS !!" And juwels blew the whistle .. and then, not knowing I was gong to do it .. I barked into the night, like a snarling dog (cats + dogs = shy cats) 

   This worried the goats .. they don't like dogs either, and when I saw their little faces in the moonlight, I could tell that they feared their sweet pappa turned werewolf. I stopped just as they got to their feet, and told them it was all right, and patted them on the heads. And then they followed me off on another potty break.

   It would have been better if we'd heard that noise just before sun-up, when we didn't have much more waiting to do, but we both knew it was early .. maybe midnight, and the night was young and dangerous. 

   The next thing I remember, I was firing the gun off in the night, but the sound was so quiet, not the explosion I'd hoped it would be. And then two people appeared through the trees at the camp, a husband and wife ... and they looked confused, but I explained myself. The sky had a light tinge to it, and I asked them what time it was, and they said it was just before sun-up, and although I didn't like their mysterious presences, the fact that we were so close to daylight made me feel better .. not much more waiting to do. 

   And then I woke up to find that I'd passed out again, and that bit with the gun and the people was all just a dream. And that only maybe 20 minutes had gone by. My brain was so attached to the idea that we'd made it through the night that I found it hard to accept that I was back where I started .. and that the gun had never gone off, and that the couple I had just talked at length to were just figments of my imagination.

   I took this opprutunity to holler out into the night again, this time, mimicking the carnival barker from the Venice Beach freak show. "Step right up .. step right up .. come see the two headed turtle, the two headed snake. We've got a dog with five legs .. and a show goat, ezmerelda ... who walks upon two legs." My voice echoed off the cliff walls, and when I said ezzie's name, I heard her tail, thump-thump-thump against the side of my sleeping bag. If there was another camp down here, maybe some backpackers who'd come up from another starting point, they'd have to imagine that I was completely crazy ...  

   Chia's head was up and looking directly across my lap at a place near the water .. I shined the light over there but didn't see anything. I'd wake up a few more times to see her staring over there, watching something in the night. I hoped it was a smiling native chief, all feathered and leathery and maybe flanked with a tall and shaggy wolf guide. Chia didn't seem scared at whatever it was that she saw, so I silently thanked the empty darkness and went back to sleep.

   When I opened my eyes next, it was light, maybe 5am, and the birds in the trees sounded as happy as I was to greet the new day. I recognized a few calls I'd heard from the trees around the Hive, but others were alien, with the sound of laughter or sadness in them. I walked again with the babes to water the plants, and when I returned to my bag, they stayed out on the fringes of the camp, nibbling wild plants and sheering off the seeded tops of the tall grass. 


   We got our real sleep once the sun was up and the sky was light .. but luckily the direct sun stayed off us till maybe 7am, and by 8, we were both in the water ... actually, all four of us. Juwels had requested to see the babes swim (I'd seen this once before when my brother carried them a few feet out into Lake Mary when they were younger) but on that day juwels, somehow, had stayed back to complete a project of some sort..


   Ezzie wasn't expecting it when I caught a hold of her long neck and scooped her up (man .. she's getting heavy) .. and I had to carry her almost all the way across to get into the deeps to make sure she had some good distance to swim. Luckily, once I was past waist deep, I noticed that she was floating all on her own (that bloated belly of hers) so I was able to just guide her along like a raft. Once we hit the spot, I let her go and she swam back to the cheers and calls of her proud momma, filming on the shore. Juwels got a nice clip of her goaty paddle, and when Chia's turn came up, she bolted on me and made for the trees. I caught her quickly, and into the creek we went. Chia swam much smother than Ezzie .. she had style. And something I found interesting about both of their swimming was that once they got shallow enough to touch the pebbly ground, rather than running out of the water, they both just froze there, belly-deep in the water .. kind of feeling the whole thing out : )




   The rest of the day was spent swimming, tanning, floating and snacking .. and we even used my inflatable bed like a magic carpet to glide around the pool. The sun was amazing .. a little too amazing to ration, and we had to sleep off the heat in the shade for a while before jumping back in the water. 





   We ate stuffed grape leaves and drank melon aid, and the babes ate alfalfa pellets off the flat top of a rock. We made it a shorter second day than we'd expected because just before we left the day before, juwels sis, Rosie, called and said that she was coming out for a surprise birthday visit from Oregon (I think she saw our posts about going down into the canyon, and just a few hours before arriving here, figured she better spill the beans, so we'd know to come back to civilization sooner than later : ) Juwels changed the sheets in the winnie, and told Rose where all the snacks and treasures were hidden, and she stayed solo at the Hive that night : ) 






   We saved a jar of juice for the trek back up, and tried to get the girls to drink from the creek, and then off we went. It was a labor to the top, but we took shade breaks, and at one point, we passed another couple headed down with packs and sleeping bags. "You've got the whole place to yourselves," Juwels said, "It's beautiful right now." They were all smiles and headed down to pickup where we left off. 


   Back at the truck, we broke into the cooler which was stocked with more of what we'd been eating in the down at the creek, but cold and even more fresh. And while I was waiting in the driver's seat, chia hopped up in the front cab and lied down beside me on the bench seat. When it was time to go, I asked juwels if we should just let chia ride up there with us and give ezzie the whole back (ezzie is better about lying down if chia isn't back there stamping around and surfing the curves), so we did that. And the babes were so tuckered out and content, that they both slept the majority of the ride home, and we didn't have to take a single potty break : ) 

   Although it was less than a full day, it felt more like a week, and juwels had a happy birthday once again : ) We're already dreaming up our next mission down there ... exploring paths that lead 50 miles plus down the canyon and dump out in the desert town where our bees live, but for now, juwels is getting ready to break ground on her summer project - a vintage Streamline trailer renovation, and I'm compiling many-many words for an extended winnebago diary paperback, which I'll be posting samples of here on the blog : ) 

Thanks for coming along with us !! 

Until next time, loVe, 

p&j .. & .. c&e : )  

 

Here's two other birthday blogs I did for juwels bee-days in the past : ) 

{One} & {Two}