My Friend, Spike

I’d like you to meet Spike.

Coast Horned Lizard - Mission Creek 1


Spike is a California Coastal horned lizard. Hiking in the coastal chaparral of San Diego, I often caught a glimpse of Spike, and I think I picked him up once or twice. I like him a LOT. As you can see, he’s not easy to see (ha ha). That’s because Spike has a lot of predators, including scorpions. Spike is a furtive little fellow out of necessity. In different places — depending on the color of the dirt and the kinds of rocks about, Spike might have slightly different coloration.

I named all of them Spike. It was fun to be hiking along, catch sight of him on the edge of the bushes, and say, “Hi, Spike! Be careful out there!” Once I even picked up a tiny baby Spike. He was one of the cutest little critters I’ve ever seen.

Passing Time at the Local Coffee House


“If you’re going to ‘Go Gonzo’, you have to find some novel you like and type it over a gazillion times until you find your own style. God forbid it’s War and Peace.”

“That doesn’t make sense,” I said.

“I agree. It doesn’t.”

“If I type someone elses’ novel over and over, I’m going to be really good at writing that novel.”

“Maybe, but I don’t think Capote would’ve called Hunter Thompson a typist.”

“He was definitely a writer, though he did have a typewriter.” I thought I was funny, but Peter didn’t.

“People make a lot of noise about his drug use, don’t they?”

“So dumb. It was the times. Remember your frantic phone searches back in the day for ‘Vitamin Q’?”

“You’re one to talk, Mr. Amyl Nitrate.”

“Oh yeah.” I laughed at the memory of us in a cavernous black-walled disco passing around a bottle of RUSH. “Oh and the movies!”

“Yeah, I think a lot of young people know Hunter Thompson through Johnny Depp and maybe some English teacher.”

“That’s a laugh, isn’t it? English teachers?”

“Fuck you.” We were, both of us, English teachers.

“Hey, there’s an Edith Wharton novel in progress. Look at those two.” The couple beside us was clearly in the throes of a late morning break up.

“Oh man, I’d never go back to that, would you?” I asked, already knowing the answer.

“Not a chance in hell.” Peter shuddered. Our young love had had enough drama for twenty people.

“Yeah, and they’re always saying, ‘You’d like to be young again, wouldn’t you?’”

“A lot of people would. You sure as hell would prefer walking without a cane, but…”

“Shhh. This is good.”

We drank our coffee and watched the sitcom at the table in front of us.


“If I have to explain it, you’ll never understand it.”

“Right. Yeah, I get that. If I understood you and all your deep and meaningful ideas and your precious fucking soul, we wouldn’t be breaking up right now, right? This is all because I don’t understand you. Look, I fucking understand you. I fucking understand that this is only scene one in this stupid ass drama you’re always staging. Once a month, at least. I could schedule it. Well, you know what?”


“I do understand you, and you’re just NOT all that interesting. Hot, yes. Interesting? No.”

Brakes squealed. Glass shattered against a light post. A woman screamed. The white-noise of predictable urban traffic came literally to a screeching halt. Only one car was in motion and it was the one that should not have been. A white Nissan.

“Did you see that?”

“Can’t you pay attention to me for once?”

“I think that guy’s been killed.” Mark dug around in his back pocket and pulled out a Bic pen. He spread his left hand, palm flat, scribbled for a second or two, then wrote.

“What are you doing?”

Peter was already running to the corner. I called 911. “Yeah. A cyclist. Hit. No. The driver left. Backed away from the light post he hit and took off down 6th. No I don’t know if it was a he. It could’ve been a she. We need an ambulance here, sweet-cheeks. Not some PC gender awareness interrogation. White Nissan. I didn’t get the plate number. Vanity plates, but no, I didn’t see it completely. There’s a heart.”

Passersby formed a circle around the body, each person hoping that what they saw on the street between head and helmet was not brains, but it was brains. Peter returned to our table, clearly shaken.

“My god,” he said. “Is it so difficult to look out your car window and see a cyclist about to make a LEGAL turn? Did you get the plate number?”

I shook my head. “Vanity plates. A heart. That’s all I saw.”

Sirens screamed all around. The ambulance finally arrived. EMTs pushed the circle of protectors away from the body and lifted it onto a stretcher. Some of the spectators were so shaken they had to be helped back to the sidewalk, safe from the random horror show of life. The ambulance pulled away, no sirens, no lights. Death was no one’s emergency. Fire fighters attached a hose to the hydrant and blasted the brains down the storm drain below the painted a blue dolphin and the words “We live downstream.”

“That’s what you don’t understand,” Mark said, sighing, looking at his hand. “Any minute, any day, any time that could be me or you with our brains splattered on 6th and University, circled by strangers, and some old fag calling 911.”

“It’s not nice to call people fags, Mark.”

“OK look, honey. I was making a point. That guy’s dead. He got up this morning, god knows what happened between here and then — maybe he had a fight with his girlfriend, too, or given the neighborhood…”

“There you go again, gay-bashing.”

“I’m NOT fucking gay-bashing. Why do you keep changing the subject? Wait, I get it. You can’t handle the truth. That’s it.”  Mark — the young man — turned around to us and said, “You guys are gay, right? You’re a couple, right?”

“Yes,” said Peter. “Going on — what? Thirty-five years.”

“There, Jessica. They are fags.”

“That’s right, sweetie,” I called out over Peter’s now bald head. “We’re fags.” I looked at Peter. God he’d been a beautiful young man, this great love of my life.

When the police came by asking questions, the young man — Mark — showed his hand.

“This is the license plate.”

“Seriously? Do Me <3?”


“What was the make and model of the car?”

“Nissan. Sentra. Maybe two years old. White.”

“Anything else you remember?”

As the police talked to her boyfriend, the events seemed to finally register in Jessica’s self-absorbed little brain and she began to cry. Mark reached for her hand, leaned forward and whispered in her ear. They stood and prepared to go.

“Sorry for bashing on you guys,” said Mark. “She can be hard to talk to sometimes.” He shook our hands.
“No worries,” said Peter.

As they walked away I wondered how this smart young guy could take that girl seriously. She was wearing sweatpants with the word “Juicy” silk-screened in glitter across her ass. Peter and I sat together for a few more hours then decided it was time to go to Whole Foods. Peter helped me up from my chair.

“C’mon, cowboy,” he said.


I wrote this story in response to a prompt 3 years ago.

California’s Aching Early Winter Light

I don’t miss anything about California. I was finished with it long before I moved away. But, there is one thing, and when I see it in a photo I feel yearning, sorrow, loss and love — nostalgia. It is the light at the end of the day, coming across the ocean, reaching inland. The slanting rose and golden tones touched everything.

I did not notice it when I lived there, though I did a lot of hikes in the late afternoon into darkness, and I spent some time on hilltops watching the sun set over the ocean. For many years I drove home from school in this light, and when I lived in the mountains, I saw this light hit the distant hills with orange/pink as I headed east toward home. I took many walks on the beach in this light, cooked burgers for the kids in this light. I wrapped up art projects in my garage in this light. I got dressed to go out in this light. Walked to my car in this light. Wandered around Old Town in this light.

It meant nothing to me then, this light.


Black-shouldered Kite, hovering


Chris Bava and the existing wall between Tijuana and San Diego

P.S. The photo above is of my friend, Chris Bava (RIP). Behind him is the wall between Tijuana and the San Diego metro area. Each of the crosses you see here represents a person who died trying to get over the wall. Chris lived in Playas de Tijuana with his wife, Cat.

One Bark Family

Back when I lived in the “hood” — City Heights in San Diego — a young Navy guy and his Japanese bride moved into a house at the end of the street. She’d gotten knocked up in Japan and he’d “had to” marry her. He bought a house and a Labrador retriever puppy who lived tied up to a tree in front. The wife was named Sunny and the dog was named Shadow. Soon Sean (the baby) came along and about two years later the Navy guy was gone, never to be seen again. Sean was walking, Shadow was escaping, there was another dog, Blackie, a border collie mix, and Sunny was turning tricks to earn a living.

Shadow got little or no attention and somehow had sized me up as a person who liked dogs, so many mornings she’d slip out of the noose and come to my front porch. She would bark one “Woof” and I’d go outside and take her for a walk in the grungy canyon nearby and throw a ball for her. Then I’d take her home, refasten her to her tree, and come home. I didn’t — then — have a dog of my own.

Time passed, Shadow had a litter of puppies, one of which became my first dog, Truffle, who also only barked one “Woof” whenever she barked. A kid down the street named Shadow and Truffle the “One bark family.”

Truffle and Molly in the Medicine Wheel

Truffle, Big Red Dog, and Molly

Sean and Blackie began following Shadow to my house. When Shadow and her litter were ultimately picked up by Animal Control, Sean and Blackie (called “Brackie” by Sunny) came on their own. I very often fed them both breakfast. Blackie had figured out how to drop the bar on Sean’s crib and let himself and Sean out every morning.

Sunny, in the interval, got pregnant again but this Navy guy didn’t marry her.

Meanwhile, in Japan, her father died leaving her a substantial amount of money. Sunny, who was not a professional prostitute, started another career and began driving a popsickle truck through the neighborhood. Before long, her mother came to live with her in San Diego. They moved out of the hood and when I saw them last — two or three years later — Sunny had a beautiful akita, an old mom, a seven year old son, and a beautiful red-haired daughter.

That is the story of Shadow, matriarch of the One Bark Family.

Department Stores and Garage Doors

As a little kid, I had nightmares of being abandoned by my family. I almost think I was born with “abandonment issues” because I had the same fears in real life — especially if I went shopping with my mom and “lost” her in the (to me) tall racks of clothing. I have a dim memory — mostly colors (pink and gray) — of screaming (my mom would say, “bloody murder”) because I couldn’t see my mom.

As it happened in real life, my family is all gone and I’m still here. The fear of abandonment has not (heh heh) abandoned me, either.

I think little kids — well, me, anyway — know they’re small and relatively helpless, very dependent on their adults. It really is the worst thing that can happen to be left behind by your grownups.

Back in the day when I live in the “hood” there were a lot of illegal immigrants living there. They worked hard — three jobs were not uncommon for those people who were struggling with all their might to get a better life for their children. They risked a lot crossing the border, most from Mexico but many from points even farther south.

Unless you’ve seen the way the very poor live in Mexico, it’s pretty easy to be indifferent, but I had seen it. Here’s a clue for anyone who hasn’t. When I replaced my garage door, the man who replaced it (it was one big heavy panel of wood) told me he would take it to Tijuana where someone would use it as a wall for their shack.

A couple of these families lived in houses a few doors down from me. Lucio and his mom managed to stay long enough for him to finish middle school, but the family next to them were not so lucky. They had two little girls who, every day, dressed to the nines, hair perfect, shiny shoes, marched to the local elementary school where they were caught in the bilingual bind. The early 90s were a confusing time for Mexican kids in American schools. Should they be taught to read in Spanish, English or both? Some afternoons I helped these little girls with their homework, and I saw that they might not learn to read because of the confusion in the educational system. Basic literacy should have nothing to do with politics. “Teach them Spanish, teach them English, who cares but be sure they can READ! It really doesn’t matter WHAT language. We all learn second languages anyway.”

One late afternoon I was hanging out at home, maybe grading papers — I don’t remember — and there was a child-high knock on my front door. It was the little girls. “No one is at our house,” said the older one.

“Come in and we can do your homework ’til your mom gets home.”

They came in and we worked on spelling and the alphabet and whatever they had in their book bags. Night fell and no one came for them. The little girls were worried and so was I. What had happened? Finally, the police came through the neighborhood knocking on doors, looking for the girls. The little girls’ mother and grandmother had been picked up by “La Migra” and were in a detention cell at INS. Their aunt was coming from Tijuana to get them.

I know the little girls felt they had been abandoned when what had really happened was that their grownups had been stolen.

When I hear the presidential candidates rant on about immigration and “building a wall” and all of this horrendous cant I’m disgusted. Most of the people I have known who crossed illegally were not drug dealers or perpetrators of violent crime or out to “take jobs from real Amuricans.” They just wanted a better life for their family. They didn’t want to raise their kids in shacks made of old garage doors.

Oh, here’s a diagram made by the Border Patrol showing how effective the “fence” is against smuggling. 🙂 The red lines are lines INTO the United States. The semi-diagonal line at the bottom is the fence.


Illusion Reveals Reality; Fellini

Warning! This post contains “un-masked” language!

Everyone wears one. I’m about to put on “friendly retiree exuding enthusiasm for Valley Art Co-op Gallery and Gift Shop.” It’s a neutral face, easy enough to wear. I think (anyway I do) we even wear masks when we’re alone.

Interestingly, one of the earliest dreams I had as a kid was of a long hallway with black and white tiles and green walls. I’ve often wondered if this was the hallway in the hospital in which I was born — St. Lukes in Denver.  There were doors on both sides and I ran down the hallway afraid. I tried a door and inside was a face, and the face pulled off a mask, and another, and another, and another. It was a terrifying dream. I woke up screaming and my dad came with a glass of water, took me to the bathroom and tucked me back in. In a sense that is life. There is falsity — malicious and not; chicanery, illusion, pretense everywhere. The biggest question of my life has been, “What’s real, anyway?” I do not recommend asking that one unless you’re ready for a wild ride.

Fellini was fascinated by the masks people wear even in front of themselves. Maybe especially in front of themselves. The day Fellini died — Halloween, 1993 — I was in the midst of personal upheaval, the beginning of the ripping off of years and years of masks. That night — before I learned about the death of my favorite film director and hero — I was struggling aginst the depression that would ultimately throw me down. It was the beginning of a strange and confusing ride.



My plans for the evening were to meet a good friend at a coffee house downtown (Bassam’s in San Diego) and go from there to a Halloween party at Cafe Sevilla. I’d been out the whole afternoon with other friends listening to Tibetan monks do throat singing.

I don’t know if that comes across as surreal to you as it was to me.

I got home and realized I’d given no thought to a costume. I painted bones on a pair of leggings and put on a black turtleneck. I went into the bathroom and went at my face with makeup, painting an honest self-portrait, and went down town.

Here’s the poem I wrote about that night. The language is rather blue so be warned and the poem is pretty bad, still, it’s an homage to Fellini who strove with all his films to tear the masks away in the most loving and compassionate manner. If you’ve enjoyed his films, the poem might make sense.

To Fellini

I had done my makeup;
The top of my face, Marcel Marceau;
The lower regions, Nosferatu.
I had lost track of time,
brushing the pattern of bleached bones
on black leggings when the alarm went off
telling me to go.

My friend, wearing a slouch hat
Black eye, fake blood, looking like
a railroad bum thrown off at a lonely junction in western Oklahoma
waited outside that coffeehouse, owned by a Palestinian
who always wears berets.
“Jesus! You look scary!”
I had nothing but ennui, incomplete visions,
unfocused depression, hair in my eyes.
I felt the space already, in the places where your films inoculated me
intravenous plugs of sodium pentothal and delight.

My friend ordered me coffee, then, as small talk, he said
“Did you hear? Fellini died.”
My numbness and ennui made sense.
The cappuccino came
The tongue depressor stir-stick stood
erect in the cream.

An old, tired woman wearing a flowered, floppy hat came through the door,
Selling roses; red lipstick sliding down the corners of her mouth.
She peered into my face and jumped back.
“Dio!” she cried and crossed herself.

Your most recent, ultimate news dripped from my painted sockets.
Carnivals and sheets,
Music, tits, lusty buttocks clothed in red wool, on a bicycle,
a peacock (mechanical) in the snow, a beautiful illusion;
roller-skating feminists
Wandering rejection and sex un-sexed
thorny phalluses, spinning dildoes, desperate cunts,
libidinous balloons, children tucked in bed,
the great mass jerk-off in the old Ford,
the immortal romantic dance, the spiraling dream,
the little nun, the tall old crazy uncle,
Volpina — all that we really are, unmasked, all we will always be
the illusion and its never-ending battle.
Silhouettes on the sheet, the Japanese video journalists,
“Bere il latte!” My laughing friend, my radiant self
Gino Soccio, punk teenagers, cabbages, Dobermans,
vaginal vacuums sucking-up coins.

At the party I danced, sad-faced, bored,
to throbbing Brazilian music.
You would have won the costume contest,
dressed convincingly as someone dead.

December, 1993

The Ritual Observance of the Daily Prompt

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Daily Ritual.”

A long time ago when I lived in City Heights, a colorful neighborhood of San Diego, my neighbor, Letha, died. That left two houses needing to be occupied. One of them ended up rented to a nice Wiccan couple.

The woman was about 5’1″ and about 230 pounds. The man was about 6’5″ and roughly the same weight. The woman had a Kim Kardassian ass and frizzy gray hair. She was also missing several teeth. They had recently adopted an African refugee, a 3 year old boy named Rhys. They moved into the little white craftsman house on the corner that was surrounded by very tall trees — including a monkey-tail pine that dropped five pound pine cones at odd intervals. Those that fell from near the top made the ground shake when they hit Earth.

September 21 rolled around and they spent much of that morning cleaning up the yard. Because I only casually noticed them, I didn’t see them arranging rocks carefully in a circle or setting up a fire pit in the middle. I took the dogs hiking and came back just as dusk was falling and noticed there were more than a dozen cars parked around their house. Later I noticed there was a fire and people were standing in a circle around the fire. They wore white robes, most of them, but some of the men, including the husband, were wearing purple or some other dark color. Little Rhys stood beside his adopted mom.

“Witches,” I thought, and forgot about it.

Not long after there were sirens and flashing lights. “Yikes,” I thought, “not another shooting.”

The next day the cops went door-to-door with flyers and small envelopes that turned out to contain invitations to a tea party at the new neighbor’s house the following Saturday afternoon. The cop said, “Hi, I wanted to explain what was going on last night at your neighbor’s house. It wasn’t a Klan meeting. It was a religious ceremony. Your new neighbors are witches so there’s nothing to worry about.”

Jurassic Park

Daily “Prompt” Every city and town contains people of different classes: rich, poor, and somewhere in between. What’s it like where you live? If it’s difficult for you to discern and describe the different types of classes in your locale, describe what it was like where you grew up — was it swimming pools and movie stars, industrial and working class, somewhere in between or something completely different?

Last time I wrote to this prompt I inserted one of the stories from Free Magic Show. Here’s another one. San Diego, 1993, I was living in City Heights, a high crime, low income area of the city. 20 years later I know it was one of the happiest times of my life.


I’m home alone, bored, lonely, frustrated and a little angry. My knee is up and iced; the brace is loosened, but never off. I manage to get to and from class on the crutches belonging to Che Pablo Salvador Mulholland, but it’s very hard work. I’m running a seminar for teachers and I never look good, cool, polished, anything but sweaty and irritable and tired. It’s the hottest time of the year and the cart that’s supposed to transport me from place to place on the campus never shows up. Finally I’m cleared to drive one myself, but I don’t like it so I go back to the clump slump crash of crutch walking.

I miss the boys; I miss hiking; I miss my friend Mike with whom I’d broken up a few weeks before when he made the comment that if I had his kid, I’d be giving birth to my own grandchild. He’s only 15 years younger; it’d be half-a grandchild. I’d missed a period and was scared; I don’t realize I’m just heading into menopause.

The phone rings.

“Martha? It’s Jimmy. Craig and me had this idea.”

“Yeah, what?” Grrrrr.

“You do so many nice things for us. I know it’s no fun being on crutches and stuff.”

“No. I feel like I’m in jail.”

“Can you drive now?”


“Well, Jurassic Park’s at the dollar movies Tuesday. We want to take you to the movies and to Mickey D’s for dinner. It’s 25 cent burgers on Tuesday. That’s tomorrow. Can you come?”

I’m dumstruck. All bitter feelings vanish. I have a meeting that night of the Citizens Advisory Council for Mission Trails Regional Park, but I think I’m going to miss it.

“I’d love that, Jimmy.”

“We miss you.”

“Yeah, well I miss you too.” I’m super emotional in this ordeal and my eyes fill. “What time?”

“Come and get us at 4. The movie starts at 4:30. Oh, and Martha, we’re paying.”


I get home from school about 3 and change my clothes and get into the truck and head to IB. All the boys are at Jimmy’s house. There’s Jimmy, Mikey, Jason, Greg and Craig. They’re cleaned up and ready to go, grinning, and silly, and I expect them to start turning somersaults and I feel the same way. Jimmy breaks the spell by saying, “Nice crutches, gimp.”

At the movies, they pay my way, very proudly having each pitched in a quarter (except Mikey) and we stand in front of the candy counter and they say, “You can have whatever you want, Martha. We have five dollars.” I pick some Red Vines and Jimmy says, “You need a Coke, but we’ll get a big one and split it, OK? But I’m not sharing it with butt crust (his little brother).”

“Jimmy!” Mikey whines and sulks and stops and gets his own.

We go into the theater and sit together, two rows from the front. The movie starts. We are the audience, except for a few people scattered in the back. We love the movie even when we think it’s dumb. At the end, we leave, a lot less hungry than we were when we went in. It’s been a candy orgy, but dinner is yet to come and two doors down are 25 cent burgers. We line up.

“Arrrrgh!” roars Jason at Mikey, holding his hands up like little Tyrannosaurus forelegs.

“RrrrrrrrRRRRGH!” snarls Mikey in return, jumping toward Jason’s throat.

“Cut it out, Butt Munch. What do you want?”

“I got my own money,” says Mikey, still pissed at Jimmy.

“I’m not talking to you, Butt Crust. I’m talking to Martha,” says Jimmy, all largesse.

“Umm, I’ll just have a burger.”

“You can have fries, Martha. I got enough.” He holds out his hand.

“OK. A cheesburger and fries and water.”

“Water? Don’t you want a coke?”

“Just had one.”

“You can have another one, Martha. It’s OK.”

So we order our 25 cent burgers and sit together in a booth in this freezing cold, antiseptic, yellow and red monstrosity. They are on their best behavior, taking me out. No one sticks French fries up their own or anyone else’s nose. I feel a little uncomfortable in this formality, but I adapt and am honored.

Then the event is over. I take them home and head back to City Heights feeling loved, less lonely, less angry and anxious for everything to be restored to normal.

Love Story, Cont.?…Naw, Dude and Lamont

Daily Prompt You, the Sandwich If a restaurant were to name something after you, what would it be? Describe it. (Bonus points if you give us a recipe!)

Bad prompt, so here’s a bit more from the Love Story...If you like it, let me know and every time there’s a crappy daily prompt I’ll post more.

“Whoa, I can’t even do that.”

“Why, Lamont?”

“Everything else I’ve typed so far is X-rated. I don’t really want to…”

“What are you going to do? You have a prompt that asks you to name a dish after yourself and a story you don’t feel you can continue to post here.”

“I could…”


“I’ve only been up 30 minutes and it’s already a strange day.”

“How’s the novel coming?”

“OOOOOOOh! Good idea! I did rewrite the opening for that. I could solicit opinions! I really need them.”

“You know, coming up with some scrambled egg dish and naming it after you would be an easy way out of this ‘assignment’.”

“That’s true.”

“So? Haven’t you invented anything, you know, food?”

“I did and I was really proud of it at the time, but then I ate the same exact concoction in a restaurant in San Diego. This restaurant, The Abbey.”


The Abbey, 5th Ave, San Diego, Hillcrest Area

“Yikes. Is that the angel Gabriel on the roof? Wouldn’t it be scary to eat in a restaurant under some guy trumpeting the last days?”

“It is a little freaky, yes. Very fancy place. Usually there was a harpist playing inside.”

“Carrying on the whole ‘Last Days” motif?”

“It was down the street from where I lived.”

“What was the dish?”

“Chicken breasts, jack cheese, spinach, onions and Sauterne.”

“Sounds good.”

“It was stuff in the fridge is what it was Dude. I didn’t, you know, sit down and have a culinary inspiration or anything and then go to the store. You know I hate shopping.”

“Yeah, but maybe that restaurant thought they’d come up with something wonderful.”

“It was really good. Of course THEY stuffed the chicken breasts with the spinach mess. I just put the chicken breasts on top of the spinach and onions, poured wine over it and then grated cheese on top.”

“You just did the prompt, Lamont.”

“OK, but I don’t want this thing named after me.”