The Angelfish of Giza (Excerpt 6)

Sitting in the dry dirt above the desert floor, with legs crossed, the founder of the Church of Everlasting Super Freshness and self-proclaimed living patron saint of Albuquerque, was looking down upon Giza, New Mexico sprawled out there like a neon hothouse whore. It was a Buddha belly bowl of steaming and colorful madness, a space wizard-centric place in the broken heart of the arid Southwest unlike any ordinary civilization had ever known. And here high up and over it was like he was home in Hip Heaven, and he was some beat-up angel spreading his tattered wings and seeding the place with wishes and delicious desires for The Duke City, a ministry in fact.

For now, he was the holy man on a mission to spread the gospel of Albuquerque and all the sacred intricacies woven throughout. He had devolved himself to the man and byline simply known as Chuck Placitas and took employment at the Giza Revealer as a government reporter. For it was as he desired — to work among ordinary men in order to create an extraordinary place in paradise, to spread the word of New Albuquerque, to attain the pinnacle of hipness. For as Reverend Chuck says: “To be without hipness, is to be without a soul.”

Reverend Chuck Placitas lived in a baby blue Astro love van down by the Pinto River that ran through the salty desert flats on the edges of Giza. He bathed in the silty, brown waters there. When not wandering about town, he kept the van parked on a flat plot of hard soil as near to the shore of the gentle waters as he could without it sinking. His camp was deep out of sight, mostly shrouded by salt cedar brush and low bluffs of red earth. The area was desolate and solitary except for the occasional hiker or two wandering through on a trail several hundred yards away. The camp was comfortable enough for him and he did not want for much. He had a place to sleep, utensils to cook with and eat with. He had things to read and paper to write on. It was overall a peaceful place for him, a place to meditate in front of a night fire as coyotes prowled nearby. The sky there was expansive and bustling with bright stars smeared across the pitch of space at night as the aliens rode on their ships. During the day, the sun was a hot eye from hell weighing down on him. But mostly he was at work during these times, or inside the van with a portable fan blowing on him as he read colorful brochures, travel guides, and historical anecdotes about Albuquerque and its surrounding environs. He was beginning to take a great liking to places like Rio Rancho and Bosque Farms.

He enjoyed bathing in the river. He enjoyed being naked in the wild. He would wash his thinning and wispy hair and his large, unfit, pear-shaped body with cheap shampoo and soap from the Buddha-Mart in town, some 10 miles away by highway. He would also wash the few clothes he had in the river. There he would stand in the middle of the Pinto, at a shallow part, nude, pale and bulbous, scrubbing at his laundry with environmentally considerate detergent, then dunking it down in the waters to rinse. The clothes dried quickly in the desert heat on a wash line he suspended between the van and a thick branch amongst the brush.

On his weekends, he would often use the time to drive the baby blue Astro love van north to Albuquerque, a three-hour trip, to recharge and “refresh” at the small apartment above a garage he rented in the Nob Hill neighborhood.

He was a part-time musician as well as a hip prophet and played bass guitar in a poppy rock band called Albuquerque Motion. The band was mostly unpopular, and the gigs were becoming fewer and far between. Other members were often flighty and unreliable, and Reverend Chuck questioned their allegiances to Albuquerque. He often thought about striking out on his own and being a solo artist.

He enjoyed going down to his favorite pub around the corner, The Regal Raven, and having a few brews with his bros and sometimes performing a song or two for the crowd before returning to the apartment to strum on his bass some more and to write lyrics to songs that he was eager to try out the next time he was at the pub — songs like “Smells Like South Valley” or “Bernalillo Babes.”

His weekends faded fast and before dawn on Mondays, he would get back into his van and once again drive 200 miles back to Giza for his job at the paper and the work of his ministry.

People often questioned Chuck Placitas on why he didn’t just reside in Albuquerque all the time. “If you love it so much, why don’t you just live there?” they would ask.

Reverend Chuck would gently smile, his eyes sort of hypnotically spinning in his weird head, and he had a way of speaking where he would often begin a sentence with “Well, uh,” before he got into the true matter of what he wanted to say. So, his answer to those questioning his choice of where he lived was always “Well, uh, does one preach of the glory of Heaven solely from within the confines of Heaven?”


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