The Laguna Bungle. A golden sunset punctures a deep blue sky over the ocean.

The Nomadic Mind

I’m not sure if the woman in the pink bathrobe had just hired me to kill her husband, but it sure felt that way. And if that was the case of the case, she was getting it for a bargain. But there was no way in hell I was killing her cheating husband for 1,000 clams. I’m not in the business to kill, and I never have been, and maybe never will be. But I suppose I should let it be known that if I had to kill someone, I would. If it came right down to it? Absolutely. I pack a Walther PPK because it’s a messy world out there and sometimes you have to protect yourself, stand up for yourself no matter what, even if that means plugging a guy, or girl, who are ready and all too willing to plug you. That’s how I feel about it. You can’t just let the world cross the line and have its way with you whenever it wants.

My thoughts drift like the sands of the Sahara. My mind is nomadic, and so here I go and go again.

I always find it strange that people are born into this world completely innocent and then they get folded into it with a prodding paddle of good and evil, and it makes them hard as stone, bad-hearted or sad or full of pain for some reason or another. I don’t get why we allow that, as a society, as so-called human beings. Why do we take this simple, fresh from the womb innocence and brand it with the burning hurt of this planet just to make more hurt. Right now, it seems the whole world is so damn backward that people are digging the pain, they’re digging the hurt, they’re digging the hate. The prayer warriors out there are cheering for demons. The leaders are ripe for gleefully tossing bombs. Their goals are suffering and destruction. I just don’t get it. Sometimes I just want off this watery marble. I want to be like Captain Kirk and transport myself somewhere else, somewhere else I can breathe.

Some people would argue and say that none of us are born innocent. They say we’re all born with sin already in us and the only way to get past that is to take a dip in a baptismal bath at the church, like the one of my youthful days, the one on Erie Avenue in my hometown by the sea in a place called Ohio. Well, it wasn’t really a sea, it was a lake. A big lake. A big, cold lake. But it looked like some magical, mystical far-off sea to me. Like the Caspian or something like that.

That’s where they dipped me in, the holy water font in the church, not in the lake, although that may have been better, more real, a far more shocking electrocution of the nerves, an authentic awakening of the newly born spirit. That house of the universal god blessed my throat and listened to my sins, too. And now I’m no better than most coming out on the other end of that long ago gig. Now I carry a gun and my nerves are shot. I get lonely, too, but then sometimes loneliness tastes good and I revel in it. There’s something about loneliness that drives a man’s creativity as well as wanton self-destruction. All my ex-girlfriends think I’m crazy. That’s why they’re exes. Maybe I am crazy, but you sort of have to be in this world and with what I do. I’m okay with my shader pale of madness as I like to call it. It’s like loneliness that you just can’t hold in anymore.

Church. What a bizarre place. So ornate, so golden, so solemnly colorful as the people look up and worship some invisible being or idea. I always liked the smell of the incense burning away in the swinging thurible, always in perfect rhythm to the indecipherable chant of the white-robed holy one directing the show. That exotic scent of the incense mingled with the worshippers, their perfume and the aftershave and the afterglow of rapid morning sex of sinful lovers in heat. I close my eyes and just listen and breathe it all in.


As I drove north on the 1, the PCH, I looked to my left and saw the ocean spread out like a big ruffled blue blanket. To my right it was clusters of buildings, rectangular plug-ins with windows and porches and verandas and parking lots and yards, all of the works of the inhabitants carved into the orange and green and asphalt gray and ancient white and yellow adobe, everyone gathered for a game of real life right there at the edge of the teetering coast.

Everyone is living on top of each other here. I live on top of others in a place called Huntington Beach. It’s crowded. My apartment is small, but it works. It has big windows at least, but the rent kills. It’s hard to find a place to park. I don’t have a bedroom because it’s a studio, so the rumpled bed is in the main living space. So is the refrigerator because the kitchen is too small. I don’t have a stove, only a two-burner hotplate. I eat out a lot which is fine because there are so many restaurants pressing in on me, just like everything else. It all presses in, there’s no room, it’s jam packed here. Every space flows into the next. There are no borders here.

But I can walk to the beach, and looking out at the endless ocean gives me a sense of release, and relief. I’m on the third floor and I have a small balcony so I can sit outside and drink coffee or read a book and look out upon the hive of madmen. I can listen to all my neighbors screw each other, too. No one is ever quiet about it. Sometimes I feel like I’m living in a dirty movie but I’m always the guy on the sidelines just watching and sweating, craning my neck trying to focus in on the penetration and I’m just puzzled as to how they get themselves in such positions. I can also hear the punches crushing faces and the screams and the cops knocking on doors.

Did I mention that the air all around me smells like the ocean and exhaust. It’s weird, but I kind of like it. It first hits you out around Indio when you come in from the east. It smells different than anywhere else I’ve ever been — this carnivorous California. These endless rows of mad life.

The woman in the pink bathrobe who hired me to throw surveillance on her cheating husband has a strange name. Carola Strawberry. That’s what she told me and that’s how I got her saved in my phone now. Carola Strawberry. Before I left her house, I made fun of her name because she made fun of mine — John Smoke. She thought it was made up, so I told her I thought her name was made up. Then she told me her husband’s name and I just about lost it — Garola Strawberry. “Granola?” I asked her.

She repeated it, slower so that I could understand her because she had a strange accent, like something out of South America. I got my money and told her I’d follow up in a couple of days after she emailed me some more info and logistics. I was heading home to get cleaned up before I headed out to the desert for a night or two just to get crazy lonely and moon high and wild like a wanderer. I needed time to think about everything. I needed time to consider my future in this world.

TO BE CARRIED ON


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