Traveling With Dennis L. Siluk

Dennis Siluk has traveled the world over 27-times, here are just a few stories and articles by him. see site:

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

"The Donkeyland Bums" (a short novelette)

The Donkeyland Bums

Part Three of Three Parts

(The Fall, November of 1967)

Chapter One
The Gas Station

John was in the car and the gas tank was full, the tires were being checked and filled with air, as well as the oil, all was fine,
“I’ll start her up and see how the motor sounds,” Chick Evens said to John, getting into the driver’s seat of the car “You got the things put away?”
“Yaw,” said John L.
“Open up a beer for me than.”
“You want a full one?”
“That’s right, for the road.”
John was by the widow opening up beers and Chick was at the steering wheel waiting for the car’s motor to warm up when he heard a noise like a motor mount loose. He open the hood looked down into the motor. John saw a policeman pull up into the gas station. He had a look in his eye, and he came walking toward their car. Then he walked by him, towards a pizza restaurant, then he was out of sight. A few more folks came out of the gas station with items bought in their hands walking in different directions to their cars. John looked at Chick busy looking at the motormount. A second policeman, who was waiting in the car stepped out to stretch, his hand on top of his revolver, checking to see if it was in place, and as he closed the car door a siren in the gas station went off, John in a long breath holding, yelled and Chick looked toward the gun muzzle of the policeman aiming it at the thief running out into the street from the gas station, Chick jumped to the side of the car and heard the screeching and howling gas station’s siren.
The young man had turned to see where the policeman was and ran, the policeman ran after him, then stopped to aim and fire, firing three shots, two in the air, one at the black lean and slanted lad running, the thief, as Chick stood by the window looking in the car saying, “Damn, he must of robbed the gas station. Man, what can we do?”
John heard the siren of more police cars coming down Rice Street and one out of the side street and saw them moving toward the gas station, “We best just stay put,” said Chick, “Don’t draw attention to us.”
There were now three more police cars surrounding the streets by the gas station.
“Stop!” yelled one policeman.
“Shoot, the fool,” said another.
“Come on. Come on for god’s sake!” said John, “let’s get out of here.”
“That’s Officer Howe,” said Chick watching the event.
“Get in,” said his partner to Chick. “Get your ass in here and let’s get going.”
“Hand’s up,” yelled Howe,” to the black thief.
“You shot me,” screamed and cried the young man, who was bleeding from the left leg, had fallen to his knees.
“You were told to stop three times, it’s your own fault,” said an officer next to Howe, and then yanked the trousers up almost to the young man’s knee to see the wound…
“Get-a going,” said John. One of the police officers looked toward John and Chick.
“Come on, Chick,” he said. “Let’s go.”
“Take it easy,” said Chick. “Stop yelling.”
“Put the damn car in gear,” John said. “You’re going to get us in trouble; we got an open can of beer in the car.”
“Just wait a minute; they’re too busy taking care of the thief to bother with us…” Chick said. “I don’t want to take off yet. Let them take the robber away first.”
The biggest of the officers turned and swung his revolver and held it, aiming it at the brown 1959 Fort Station Wagon of Chick’s.
“Hey, don’t! Don’t! We’re just bystander’s watching,” Chick said. “Don’t aim that gun at us—please!”
The bust had been so close to their car that the sound of the bullets echoed in the air like five smacks.
Chick leaned back in the car seat, his eyes wide open, his mouth open and dry. He looked like he was about to say, “Don’t!” again, but the policeman turned about to talk to Howe, who had seen Chick and knew him by face; he had taken him home once when he was drunk, and another time to the police station for being too drunk, both times underage, and still underage, at twenty, the same age as John.
“Hit that gas peddle, and let’s get out of here,” said John.
“We’ll go,” said Chick, “just cool it.”
One of the police was holding a pistol against the side of the boy’s chest; the muzzle almost touching him.
As chick swung the car out of its parking spot, spinning the wheels, burning some rubber on the asphalt of the gas station platform, he looked astern to watch the last of the policemen picking up the lad from his knees, pushing him head first into the backseat of a police car, the boy falling or slipping sidewise, his leg giving out. His trousers wrapped around his ankle, his hands handcuffed, cussing the police with an unstopping open mouth. There was still more police cars coming down the street.
“Come on. Make a turn on Highway 94,” said John. “Let’s make up some lost time!”
“If I make this car go any faster, that motormount may fall right off the motor.” Remarked Chick Evens.

Chapter Two
The Highway

Chick sat quietly at the steering wheel. He was looking ahead now on Highway 94, heading for Long Beach, California, out of St. Paul, Minnesota, it was the summer of 1967. Out of the city he looked back. John looked out of the back window also—perhaps thinking of Karin, a girlfriend he was leaving behind for this road trip, one he’d miss along the way, one he’d marry, but not this summer.
Everything was now running smoothly, and they were going with the wind. Down highway after highway, across the country, heading for Denver, and over the Rockies (the Rocky Mountains); once in the Rockies, he noticed the heavy slant downwards, the sharp curves and their markers, he passed dozens of cars, but going up hill the motor scarcely made it, they all ended up passing him again, and then down the mountains with a current swirling under the car, helping the brown beast of a car along (as one looked down over the cliffs, hundreds of feet below them, you could see snow topped roofs, America at its most beautiful and loveliest, as if out of a Norman Rockwell picture: smoke coming from chimneys, and pine trees dotting the land). The motormount now clanging, and the engine’s motor starting to run rough, and the exhaust pipe, hanging loose under the car creating sparks, and police lights rotating in back of them, and a siren screeching, then over a loud speaker, “Pull that junk heap over to the side,” a voice said.
“How far are you boys going?” asked the police officer now standing along side the car, Chick with his car window open, then before he could answer, he took a quick look around the beat-up station wagon, rusted out here and there, the floorboards had holes in them, and you could actually see the road under your feet.
“What in tar nation are you boys trying to do,” said the Highway Police Officer, walking back to the window.
“Where you coming from, where you going?” the officer said to the two young adults.
John and Chick were chatting between themselves, then abruptly stopped, had kicked the few empty beer cans laying on the floor underneath their seats with their shoes.
“We came from St. Paul, Minnesota, going to Long Beach, California officer,” said Evens.
“Hum…m,” said the officer, “You’re about halfway, if I pull your car over have it impounded as it should be, we’ll have to find you a way home, if you go any further, you’ll end up being someone else’s problem, not ours, I hope you at lest make it out of this state, just wire up your exhaust pipe, and get going, and good luck.”
The Highway Patrol Officer was watching them now, even after the boys tied up the exhaust and all, he followed them for several miles, hoping I suppose they’d make it out of his jurisdiction. And evidently they did, because then he had stopped turned about, and took off as if he was the Lone Ranger, in the opposite direction.
John and Chick felt a little more at ease now.
“Look down there John,” said Chick, “it’s Denver I think.”
“Where?” the sun was bright, Chick pointed “Look!”
It was a long ways off; so far you could hardly see it, like a little oasis rising up and out of nowhere.
John now was looking quite content spoke pleasantly.
Chick could see the tiny building rise on the calm surface below him, but thought, ‘Just another city, go around it.’
“Those clouds over head I think are going to get darker and
Denver is in for a shower, let’s go around it, find a café have lunch?”
“What time is it?” asked John.
“Maybe 2:00 p.m., my watch stopped working.”
“We’ll be okay with the money, right?” questioned John.
Chick didn’t answer, they had made a few stops for beer, and John knew that, and each stop required more of the money they had, and it wasn’t all that much. John had $125.00 dollars and Chick $40. That was it, and his car.

In thirty-minutes they would be at a café eating hamburgers and French fries, drinking down a coke, filling up the gas tank, checking the oil, getting another six-pack of beer, and a few packs of Camel Cigarettes, and noticing the motormount that was before loose, was now gone, the motor had three more, but one side was lose, and that caused the motor to shake except when on a smooth road, what could go wrong was going wrong, but it was still luck holding the car in place; so—thought Chick: maybe our luck will holdout longer, enjoy it while you can; had it not been for John’s worrying out loud, he would have been a great sidekick, because he was a good fellow, but if anyone had to worry, Chick had felt, he was doing enough for both of them, so why join in on it, it wasn’t constructive.
“What’s the matter with you Chick? Can’t you figure it out; we don’t have money to buy beer every time we stop.”
“What did you ask me?”
“If we starve to death, it’s because of you, give me a beer.” John told Chick, and off they were again on the highway like two …Dharma Bums, Jack Kerouac would have said.
“Nothing can stop us now John.”
“Do you think we’ll make it?”
“Not today, it’s going to be dark soon, we’ll have to find a roadside rest, and sleep until morning, too dangerous to drive at night and if something happens to the car…well, you know what I mean, let it happen in the daylight.”
“What do you think, Chick?” asked John, his face a little apprehensive.
Chick did not answer.
“Don’t worry, don’t think about it, give me a beer?”
“How much money we got?” John asked in a pleasant way.
“I don’t know. We haven’t counted it for a while, it’s enough to get there, and we’ll have to find a job quick.”

For the first half day, most every hour or so, John brought up Karin and the money, he talked not much more than this, didn’t intensify on the subject of Long Beach, or California at all, or the ocean, the subjects Chick brought to the conversations, and John compared themselves to those two guys who drove a Corvette in the 1960s series on television, crossing the country, on “Rout 66,” the transcontinental highway (the main highway of America, which ran from Chicago to California, in which Nat King Cole, sang a song about, and later on, the Rolling Stones capitalized on). But John was referring to the two fellows: Tod and Buz, not sure who was who on their trip; the series ran for four seasons.
“Are we bums?” asked John.
“I suppose so, but mighty happy ones!”
“What’s a bum,” asked John.
“I don’t know for sure, you’ll have to ask that Jack Kerouac guy I guess, he called himself a bum and made a million I think off his books.”
“Well, you’ve travelled by train and car cross-country before, are we bums or not?”
“Kind-of I suppose, but I worked wherever I went, like to Seattle or Omaha, Nebraska, bums don’t work, hobos do, not sure about tramps, they’re more like homeless folks, we don’t have a home but we do, I mean, we got parents that do, I think willing to help, if indeed we need help, I think. We’re not beggars yet, but maybe by the end of this trip we will be.”

A light rain came down, and it got foggy, and Chick spent the following hour trying to find a rest stop, and it got a little chilly, and John huddled and meditated on the warmth of holding Karin I suppose, he flapped his arms and legs to like a duck to warm them up, the heater was not working and the windshield was fogging up. John’s teeth started chattering.
“We brought a blanket along, pull it out, it is in back of the backseat,” suggested Chick, and John did, “We’ll be stopping soon,” added Chick.

Chapter Three
The Rest Stop

It was 9:00 p.m., where the boys were, they didn’t know, they simply stopped at a rest stop when it got dark, parked the car by several others, had a few beers, and John started to fall to sleep in the backseat, and Chick up front. There was a light near their car, a dumpster nearby, bathrooms in the forefront.

“I’m sorry if we’re ending up spending too much money, I feel bad about that, but we are only spending on gas, food and beer.” Chick told John as they started to talk before drifting off into a deep sleep.
“I guess you mean well,” said John (he had a letter in an envelope in his hands).
“What’s in the letter?” asked Chick.
“Before we left, Karin gave me the letter, told me to read it later on—she was crying, so I read it when you were in the bathroom back-a-ways this afternoon, at one of the gas stations, she said she loved me, and would be waiting for me when I got back.”
“It sounds poetic; she’s a nice gal, not sure how you got her.”
“Maybe this trip will make me appreciate her more.”
“And bug me more.”
“How about you?”
“And who am I? I don’t have any girl worthwhile keeping if that is what you mean.”
“How about that girl you were taking out, called the Shadow?”
“You mean, Cindy or Sharon?”
“Whatever, whoever.”
“I’d say that we lost it somewhere along the line, didn’t see eye to eye, in both cases.”
“I think I’m pretty serious about Karin.”
“I think you’re horny right now.”
“Are we safe here?” asked John.
“Hell yes who can do anything to us, we’re the Cayuga Street Bums), and someday I’ll write a book about this?”
(Cayuga Street being the street in St. Paul, Minnesota, where Chick Evens lived, and John hung out with the Cayuga Street Gang, known by the police as Donkeyland, the police officer, Howe nicknamed it that because the guys and gals were so hard-headed, and I suppose like donkeys: there were some twenty-five young people from that neighbourhood.)
“I hope no one tries to sneak in tonight and cut our throats.”
“If they do, and I survive, I’ll let Karin know you talked about her until I got blue in the face.”
“Funny, funny, funny—pal!”
“Just be careful of the snakes tonight, they can crawl right through those big rusted hole in the back there.”
“Snakes, you’re kidding, there are no snakes here.”
“You see,” said Chick to John, speaking quietly, “this here is dangerous country, snakes kill folks all the time, bit yaw. I don’t think it’s funny either. But the best course is not to think about it, if either one of us really get bitten, just get me to a hospital as quick as possible, and I’ll do the same.”
John now looking over the top of the seat at Chick almost on the verge of laughing but holding it back, Chick looking back at him, “We got anything more to drink?” asked John.
“Nope,” said Chick “Go to sleep.”
“I can’t, now you got me worried about those snakes.”
“Their nothing, I was just kidding, kind of.”
“What do you mean kidding—kind of, you were or you were not kidding and there are or there are not snakes here?”
“Of course they’re snakes but chances one will crawl up and bite you are next to nil.”
John looked seasick and still sitting up.
“Let me sit up front with you?” asked John.
“Sure, it’s going to be uncomfortable, but go ahead.” And John jumped over the seats to set by the passenger side window.

It was about 3:00 a.m., in the morning, and there was a tapping at the widow.
“What you two doing in there,” said a voice, “Open the door up, I want to talk to you.”
“Chick,” said John, “some tramp out there I think, trying to get in.”
“We’re not in the mood for making friends tonight mister, get lost!” said Chick.
“He won’t leave,” said John. (You could smell whisky on him. The window was opened slightly.)
“What do you want to do?” asked John.
“If he doesn’t leave in a few minutes, I’ll get out here go around the car, you get out, and we’ll both kick his ass.”
Chick now straightened up from his laying position. “Wish I had a drink.”
Then Chick opened up the car door, “We’ll go easy on him!” he said, and started to walk around the car to meet the guy head on, John’s hand on the door handle, ready to open it…
“I got some trouble for yaw mister, just what you’re looking for.”
“Don’t kid me,” said the suspiciously looking stranger.
“Why should I try, you’re looking to wake us up cause trouble, you got us up now, and what you got, you got coming, let’s bring it on John!”
“Tak’e it eas-y young man, I’m for-ty-five years old, a lit-tle drunk.”
“Why do you get so tough then, waking us up?”
The stranger stepped back, as John started to open the door, and Chick stepped forward another step, about ten-feet apart, then the stranger ran off to the bathrooms.

Chapter Five
Long Beach

The boys woke up about 7:30 a.m., and headed onto Long Beach, their destiny. They figured they were somewhere around Salt Lake. Chick kicked the gas pedal to and almost through the floor of the car, it was losing its energy, its zip, its get-up-and-go: about 1:00 p.m., they hit the highway leading into Long Beach, and then onto a main road. Three girls were hitchhiking, they talked to the boys some, but left them alone, just wanted a ride, gave them some directions, and then got dropped off. They seemed to be a bit sorry; Chick and John were not from Long Beach, feeling they were not going to stick around town.
“We got any money left?” asked John.
“I tell you, we are down.”
“Oh, shut up, you’re damn drinking, how much we got?”
“Let’s look for a café, get something to eat,” said Chick, John counting the money, looking across the front of the car, the motor was starting to produce grey smoke.
“Watch that, Chick, the smoke,” then the car started to spit and sputter, right then and there by a closed gas station, it was Sunday.
John opened the devise under the hood, the hood popped open and was put into place, they were on the street alongside the gas station.
“The car’s shot, it blew a piston I think,” said John. When they started it back it, it had no compression. The car wouldn’t move. “Not yet,” bellowed John.
“Why not yet,” said Chick, “Thank God we made it this far that was lucky.”
“I suppose, what the hell difference does it make to you.”
“John, it was my car, not yours,” said Chick as John climbed down off the fender, after looking down at the motor.
“How we doing for money?” asked Chick.
“Seven dollars,” said John, “How much you got?”
“One dollar and thirty-three cents!” said Chick.
“The hell with this,” John said. “You keep drinking our money up.”
“So do you,” remarked Chick, “Let’s put the car in back of this station, and bury the license plates, and go find a room for the night.”
The boys walked down to the heart of Long Beach, bought two hotdogs between themselves, and walked along the beach; it appeared to them it was a retirement area of some kind, not much going on. As it started to get dark, it was a pretty twilight. John found a room that cost $5.00. And the hotdogs were $1.50 for two, and they had each a coke, another fifty cents. And now what had been left was one-dollar and thirty-three cents. They sat in their hotel room thinking what was next on their agenda, the afterglow of being in California for the first time had warn off of John, for Chick it was just starting to blossom.
Chick looked out the window; saw a small grocery store open, “Let’s go get a quart of beer, and some crackers. I mean we are broke, we might just as well remain broke, and what’s a dollar and change going to matter.”
“We are damned, and you are thinking of beer, alright, you go get it, while I think of what to do, but give me twenty-cents, two dimes, I will need to make a few phone calls.”
Now Chick had one dollar and thirteen cents. Went out of the one-star minus hotel, across the street, found a quart of beer for eighty-nine cents, and crackers for fifteen-cents, making it $1.14 cents, one penny less, which the good proprietor, overlooked, out of his kindness. And Chick and John had their last meal of the night, John allowing Chick the majority of the beer, John being too unsettled to drink much.

Chapter Six
Conclusion to part One

That evening, John called up his Uncle Whitey, in Los Angels, to see if they’d meet him and Chick at the bus station that his mother was going to send $140-dollars to get them back home, first thing in the morning. And Whitey, a most pleasant man, an albino, did just that, and showed them around Los Angels, and then luck was on their side, they found a friend of Whitey’s going to Minnesota, and that is another story.

Bums in a Haze

Chapter Seven
The Lead

(Chick Evens narrates from his diary :) “We were not tramps, or nomads, in that we were not drifters, perhaps more on the order of bums, in that we didn’t really have a home, and John did have to do some begging to get that $140-dollars from his mother, and we were not forgotten men, per near, but not quite; we were not hobos, because hobos seek work, and bums don’t and although John and I wanted to, we didn’t; so bums we, in that respect, bumming around, but I would have said, had you asked me at the time ‘I felt as if I was on a magic carpet, things just worked out as they did.’ And for the most part they did. But you couldn’t have told John L. that. There was no rainbow for him, and he kept thinking about Karin, and at times even with me by his side, he felt utterly alone. And so our adventure would be cut short. But we did survive the hard times, self-induced hard times of course. And we were both seemingly were always in haze, myself, with booze, and John with anything he could find, from pills, to pot, to alcohol.”

Chapter Eight
Los Angels: Uncle Whitey

(At the Greyhound bus station in Los Angels,
Sitting, while waiting for Uncle Whitey)

“I suppose we’ll have to wait for your uncle, to get here, do you think he’ll come?”
“He’s one of the few people that no matter what we did, he’d help us, so sure, I’d bet my $140.00-dollars he’ll be here.” Then John hesitated, and added, “Indecently, Chick, I do feel badly about your car, even though the policeman in the Rockies was right, it was a piece of junk.
“Very funny, it got us to Long Beach though.”
“I suppose, we don’t know how bad things could have got, had the cop pulled the car in.”
Then Uncle Whitey came in, white as a ghost, hardly could see, eyes squinting, and wavy white hair, tall and lean, with the biggest smile, Chick Evens had ever seen. Whitey looked about; saw the silhouetted of hands waving of two young men,
“Uncle Whitey!” called John.
“He’s half blind Chick, and he’s only in his late thirties.”
“You son of a guns, how the heck you been John, haven’t seen you since you were knee-high to a grasshopper!” (Then he started laughing: ‘ho, ho, ho…ooo!’ as if John was his lost prodigal son.)
As we stood up, he grabbed my hand, “And you’re his partner, Chick, I heard you were coming with John,” then he let go after a minute of shaking hands and added, “let’s go have lunch, on me boys. I haven’t any money to lend you but I got enough gas in the car and food in the house and a place you can lay your head for as long as you want.” (‘Ho, ho, ho…ha, ha, ha!’ he laughed)
(Chick and John sat in the back seat, Whitey, and a third cousin, Gene, a few years older than John, sat with Whitey in the front seat, Gene had his own car and in the following days would decide to go back to Minnesota, and thus, provided the ride for John and Chick to return. But of course at this point none of that was known, and I don’t want to get too far ahead in this story).
“So I heard your car blew up in Long Beach, that’s a damn shame, hell-of-a-thing to happen.”
Whitey hung his chin, neck and face almost over the steering wheel, as he drove, “I’m not suppose-to-be driving, but what the heck.”
He looked hard at what the stoplights read, waiting for the green. “Go, Uncle Whitey, its green!” said John, near smiling.
“That’s what I got to do, stop driving before I kill us all. The doctor says to take it easy as I can, that albinos never live long he says. Says I got a few years left then puff…I’m gone. Oh well, I’ll just try to breathe steadily.”

Then they pulled into his driveway.

(Chick Evens narrates from his diary :) “In the following days, Whitey took John and me, along with Gene on several tours around the city, up and own Sunset Boulevard, looking at the whores walking back and forth. Driving slowly, and stopping by Dean Martin’s nightclub. And then up into Beverly Hills. The police stopping Gene, who was doing the driving, and questioning him why the carload of people buzzing about these premises: and Whitey simply said, “We’re showing our Minnesota kin, how the rich folk live down here.”
The police officer said in a mild manner, “If these folks see you circling about they’ll call us gain, and if we got to come back, we’ll have pull you in for suspicion, so it is best you don’t not come back.”)

Well, they didn’t go back, but they had a number of memorable spots, or sites they saw—and they had some nice dialogue between the foursome.
It was the third day in Los Angels Gene suggested they, Chick and John, head on out into the desert to Lancaster, a small hamlet, and visit a group of young friends of his, that it was party time there, all the time there, and there would be lots of everything from grass to booze to hallucinating drugs and much more. All free of charge.

Chapters 9 thru 12, incomplete

Home for Thanks Giving
And beyond…

John and Chick had left in the beginning of November of 1967 for California, and returned a few days before ‘Thanksgiving.’ Prior to California, he had spent the spring of that year in Omaha, and prior to that a winter in Seattle, all three trips within eleven months. And in eight months to come, July of 1968, he would be going to San Francisco for one year; which he didn’t know of course at this time, and after that, to Germany for ten more months, and to participate in the Vietnam War for another eight months: all within two months less than five years (December of 1966 to October 1971). And since that time, he has added, 700,000-more miles onto his past memo.

Written 6-2-2009

Note: two days going to Long Beach, one full day in Long Beach, then a bus to Los Angels (day 3), that night at Whitey’s and two more days there (5-nights, 6-days), and two nights in Lancaster, and two days back to Minnesota, total, nights, and 10-days)

Part One

Light in Seattle
(Winter of 1966)

Chapter Thirteen
Seattle Bound

I think she wanted revenge, an eye for an eye, for some undisrupted pain her husband inflicted on her, or perhaps it goes deeper into her childhood, I’ll never knew, but whatever I said meant very little, on and during our trip from Minnesota to Miles City, Montana, onto Seattle, Washington, in our 1957-Chrysler, Jeff purchased from my mother for this trip (we were to go alone, him and I). We got stranded in Miles City for a day, blew a piston in the motor, had to leave the car there, right in Miles City. Had to let the car roll down the mountain, slowly, and it was cold, snow up to our ankles, and Jeff’s wife, who we didn’t plan on bringing with us, came at the last minute, decided at the last second to punish us all, and she brought her two kids along, I was emptier than a dry well in the Moabite desert for words when I saw this uncovering, but what could I do, and he was caught like fly in her web.
We had caught a bus out of Miles City, and Jeff had lost his billfold at the bus station, luckily an old lady found it, and my nineteen-year old bones became refreshed again, as did Karin’s twenty-three year old ill disposition. I was learning in life, bad luck comes no matter what you do, and good luck also comes the same way, and in-between, you make your luck, however you can (and where there is no luck, you pray).
Karin was Jeff’s wife and she was no happy glimpse of light, not until I saw the signs leading into Seattle. Once at the bus station, Jeff called his old Navy friend, it was about 7:00 PM, and it was getting dark quick, and it was raining, and I’d find out in time, it always was raining in Seattle, or at least for the time I was there. Anyhow, Jeff’s friend showed up, saw us all, two winy kids, a wife, a teenager (me), Jeff’s luggage, I took one long glimpse at his face and knew we were in trouble, and Jeff’s long time Navy friend at the end of the night, would no longer be his friend.
I don’t know what they said, I suppose he told him our hard luck story, whatever, he did not have much pity to give, and told Jeff face to face, shoulder to shoulder, eye to eye, he wasn’t in the hotel business.
Jeff stood silent, tightening his face, he was six-foot-three, and thin, and could be mean I heard, but seldom was. Had it not been for Karin, he might have punched the guy’s lights out, or tried, I think if he couldn’t have I would have helped. But that wouldn’t have solved our problem for the night, and so he escaped with a trashing of the mouth by Jeff, and that was the last we heard or saw of him.
“Look Chick,” said Jeff, “we got to find a paper and rent an apartment now,” we were outside by a telephone booth, getting wet and cold. We still had most of our money left, gas was cheap, and I think it cost about .30 cents a gallon back then. Karin didn’t like Jeff asking me first on what he and we should do, she felt left out. She said right after he stopped to take in a gulp of air,
“No, I had nothing to do with this, you got me into all this, and you get me a house, rent one for us!” She made her point quite clear, but we were in the process of doing it anyhow.
I figured out, sometimes you simple have to disconnect with certain people who do not want to connect, lest you tire yourself out trying in hopeless to please the unappeasable, and end up being a tightly curled wire. And that was exactly what I was in the process of doing, disconnecting. As a result, my intuition told me to have a plan ‘B’ ready, an escape plan in place, it may come in handy. And so it would.

We, me and Jeff drank a few nights in a row at a local bar, found a job and one evening Karin said, “Stop it, stop the drinking now! Do you hear me, or you both can leave.”
She made me think often, why did she come along, perhaps only to haunt me, or her husband, or was it she had no other place to go, I really don’t know. As I look back perhaps it was that she was ill, in the sense of depressed, and she had two kids, and was alone in this world. Not sure, I never asked, or perhaps didn’t care, I was young, and felt it was not my business to analyze her, nor if I tried, could I. But the adventure was turning into a nightmare.
That night she took the last two bottles of beer we had and drained them into the toilet. It caused me a little heartburn but it was no great loss. Jeff tried to reason with her, but she wanted his attention I suppose and the booze didn’t allow it. And I knew if I said a word or two, it would simply be dropped into a bottomless pot, so I remained quiet for the most part. In time, in years to come, when I’d travel the world, this would come to light, meaning, I’d remember traveling alone was better than traveling with someone who demands too much of you, or more than what you want to give. And it proved to be an asset knowing this, and saved me many a nightmare I’m sure.
You see, I was almost a drunk at nineteen years old, and Jeff at twenty-six, I suppose this was getting to Karin, who was of course, to the contrary, just a tyrant.
In a way it wasn’t a big loss, so I laughed about it, it simply was another triumph for Karin.

—Jeff and I went for two weeks straight with eating only one peanut butter sandwich at lunch for work, nothing in the morning, nothing in the night. I felt sorry for the two kids and Karin, but we only had what we had, and we were down to three dollars, and it was bread and peanut butter for everyone. But one thing got to me, or at least I took note of, and felt it was funny, or unusual, it was that the kids were not complaining, and they were winy kids to say the least. And for the life of me, I couldn’t figure it out, you know, that feeling that something is missing.

It happened in the morning, on a Tuesday, just before going to work, the milkman came early and said to us, as we were leaving, Karin and the kids sleeping, “Do you folks want the usual?”
“What,” Jeff said.
“The usual, your wife, Karin—she is your wife isn’t she? (Jeff nodded his head yes) Well I usually drop off a half gallon of milk, some butter and eggs and now and then cheese.”
Jeff and I looked at the milkman, then each other, as he handed us the usual items, and we carried them into the house, somewhat numb (dumbfounded). Jeff woke Karin up, they all had been sleeping on the floor on blankets, like Jeff and me.
(I figured she had outsmarted us again, and didn’t care if we starved to death or not, her excuse would be: “I had to take care of us, the kids and me, you two wouldn’t, you just care about yourselves, so I just cared about us.” Thus, she justified the whole charade, in one long breath of air.)
Well, there really wasn’t much we could do about it, we’d get paid soon, and there wasn’t much light to be shed upon this betrayal, matter-of-fact, with the daily rain, and the dark hostility, resentment, and secrets Karin was pushing on us, there was no light at all in Seattle. She was surely laughing again, but not so loud, this time, rather in a hushed tone, this time, not to disturb Jeff too much, he was really mad, and in three days it would be payday.
I had plan ‘B’ now, and I would soon implement it. I wasn’t going to, but I figured this had to take place now, living with Karin, was no treat at all; it took all the adventure out of the trip. I planned on getting the last laugh, if only for a high, call it over-learning, I was taught a lesson, life teaches you such, that when it looks bad, it is bad, or better put, if you see smoke, you can bet there’s a fire, and it was smoky along our path from Minnesota, to Montana to Seattle, and now while living in Seattle.

It was payday, and they, the company I worked for, a window company, paid their employees up to date, up to the last day, actually a few hours in advance. I had asked my foreman if he could have the office pay me in cash, and they did.
On our way home, I bought three hamburgers, French fries and a coke, my stomach had shrunk to the point I could only eat one hamburger and the fries.
When we got home, Karin was buzzing around the house like a happy bee, likened to a happy bear after honey, and was very kind to me and Jeff. I could see, and I am sure Jeff knew, she was up to no good again. Her intent was to rob both of us, willingly. But I was no longer her prisoner, I figured, she could go drink her milk and eat her eggs all she wanted, I was not going to go along with what I figured I knew was on her mind. (She quietly reached for Jeff’s check.)
“I’ll cash both your checks, you both must be tired.” She said with a smirk on her face. She felt, or thought because I was unspoken all this time to her nasty dealings, I was easy prey at subject to her whims, and that I didn’t put two and two together, or have a plan, she thought perhaps I was her second husband, and subject to her will.
“No need to cash mine, I already did.” I told her.
Her face turned an ill-yellow, “How is that?” she asked.
“I had the foreman cash it out for me at the company.” I responded, as if it was really none of her business, yet she was making it so.
Her smile left her face completely, and we stared at each other for a moment, her trying to figure out a new plan to get my money. It was two full weeks pay, plus two days, and overtime, it was a big check, $375.00 dollars; if anything I was now somewhat of an instrument for creating a dramatic moment in her life.
I turned to Jeff, and then back to Karin, said with a somber look, “I got my ticket for the 11:00 PM train back to Minnesota, and I’ll be leaving tonight.”
I really had not bought the ticket, but had intentions to do so soon, and they didn’t ask me how I got it, and had they, I would not have answered the question. The point being, I did not want to be talked out of leaving.
“What!” Karin said, and Jeff also looked surprised. I guess Jeff was hurt I didn’t let him know, but under the circumstances, he had no need to know, plus, it would only have given Karin time to talk to Jeff about throwing me out of the house early, for Jeff did not seem to be in charge of his family, and I’m sure would not have stopped her.
I am not sure how to describe her mouth or whatever it was that hung in front of me, like an empty furnace, but it was heated…
“You have to pay us some money for staying here.” She said in a commanding voice.
“Sorry,” I said, “but I need the money to live on, and get a place when I get back to Minnesota.”
“Jeff, say something!” Karin barked.
Jeff did ask me for some money, he was a tinge shy on the matter, knowing the selfishness, and demands his wife made on both of us, and I had to turn him down also.
“Get out of here, go on!” she yelped. And I did gladly, and to be honest, I had the biggest light in my eyes Seattle had ever seen.

Written in the summer of May 24, 2008 (ds)

Part Two

Milwaukee, Nebraska, & Omaha

Milwaukee Bound 1967 [spring]

Chapter Fourteen
Leaving St. Paul, Minnesota

I didn’t know it, but the following decade would be one of intolerance—and some growing pains for not only the country, but me. We lived in the same old neighborhood both Jerry Hines and me, only two blocks west and down a block on Jackson Street from one another—this was Jerry’s and Betty’s house I often visited, just a hop-skip-and-jump one might say to each other’s abode. Across the street from Jerry’s house was Oakland Cemetery. I was twenty-years old and I was available and usable in the sense of travel—something that was stronger than most anything else in my life for some peculiar reason, something that would stay with me all my life most variably; and so in the fall of 1967, Jerry got into a dividing, and harsh confrontation with his girlfriend Betty, and that is when it all started. Having told me about this, we both decided to go to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. And this is where the story begins.

—I had a 1960-Plymouth-Valiant [white], it didn’t run all that good but Jerry Hino and I figured it would make it to Milwaukee, and so in the first weeks of November of ‘67, a chill in the air we loaded my car, when Betty was gone [Betty being Jerry’s live-in girlfriend at the time], each of us grabbed what money we had, I having about $125.00 and Jerry about $250, and off they went.
As the miles went by on our way to Milwaukee, one right after the other, we kept drinking cans of beer, smoking cigarettes—chain smoking for the most part, as the Valiant strolled along the black asphalt interstate making stops along the roadside to go to the bathroom, buying more beer at the nearest gas station, or roadside stop, drinking more beer, making more stops to take a leak: kind of a circular motion to these ongoing events. Matter of fact, we were making so many stops, we both got tired of stopping and started peeing into cans, and whomever was not driving would throw the cans out of window into, or onto the fields along the thruway; sometimes just barley missing cars if a good upper wind got hold of it. It was party time all the way, and for the most part, all the time for us two.
Now with loose conversations, the heat coming through the windshield from our heaters, the breeze hitting our hands as we flipped out our cigarette butts, out of the window going down the highway, we felt a bird wasn’t any freer. We lit cigarette after cigarette, talked, laughed, drank and sang, and started all over again from the cigarette after cigarette. We didn’t do a lot of planning, but enough, —barely enough, but enough, our great plan was to sleep in the car until we found an apartment, then get a job, and stay in Milwaukee for a few months, then we could figure on what to do next—not a big plan or even an elaborate one by any means, but then the world and life was simply for us, and again I say, at least we had a shared plan, like a slice from a piece of pie.
Yes indeed, our quest, goal, if you could call it that, was to chum around, and that’s what we’d do, and just chum around is what we were doing. Life’s responsibilities or demands were irrelevant, if not cumbersome, and if ever one was caught in a vortex of remoteness, Jerry was, he had enough for the moment of everything in life, yes, and in a way he was running away, as I was not. That is to say, I was simply running to escape a city for the adventure of another city, whereas, Jerry never got the travel bug early in life like I had; he was running to run, and the farther the better for the mean time. I perhaps was simply available, usable, along with willing, and had an ardent desire to see how far I could go, travel, and the farther the better, and Jerry found in me a companion for the moment.

Chapter Fifteen

The beginning of spring It was a chilled night, as black as dark-ink, the moon was one-quarter lit, and if there was such things as ghosts, they seem to have been running back and forth across the moon’s light with a grayish robe of a mist. It was a little past midnight when we caught a glimpse of the highway sign that read:
“Milwaukee to the Right…turn-off 2-miles”

—and so Jerry, whom was driving did just that, took the turned-off where the arrow was pointing, whereby, we were on a one-way that lead us directly to the downtown area of Milwaukee. My face flashed with undeniable excitement, it was as if I was being reborn, my blood was regenerated, there was no logic or reason to it, it was a high: a desire filled, a craving to the top, like an empty cigarette package replenish, akin to getting drunk, a destination-high, a quest, all that and more: save for the fact that the boredom from driving helped turn the moment into a rage of excitement.
“Oh boy, I get to see the city,” I said with anxiety of not being there at that very moment. Jerry gave me a more mature chuckle to the fact we had made it; I suppose, cows often forget they were once calf’s; no disrespect intended, Jerry and I were close friends, but there was a decade difference in our age and at times it showed.
Anyway, we were specifically about to make it into the city limits; our destination. “Just hang on, we’ll be there in a moment,” said Jerry, turning the wheel a bit to the left, as he was turning onto the entrance to the city: then straightening the car out to go directly ahead I could now see lights appearing in the distance, an illumination of dotted-lights spread across a distance. We both smiled, we had almost or nearly almost gotten to our end—it was getting closer by the second. Just down and around a bridge or two now.
The one thing we did not take into consideration was the times: it was the 60’s, and neither I nor Jerry, could bridge, or even conceive the white and black dilemma that was sweeping the country, the Midwest, or at least Minnesota was not like or that engulfed with the racial issues of the day, like the West and East coasts, although Chicago and Milwaukee was evidently the showcase and exception to the rule; for the most part, we were isolated from it. Oh yes it was on TV all the time, but until you are in the mouth of the whale, one never can conceive the depth of the situation, or should I say, the depth of the stomach of the whale. There had been some café’s, stores, and tenant-buildings that had acquired damage in the black areas of the City of St. Paul, but not much, not in comparison to the rest of the country. Back in those days, every city had its riots, its racial issues, and to degrees. It was like a plague; but St. Paul, being the conservative city of the Midwest, the City of Culture as it has been called, was almost naive to its engulfing presence in the rest of the country. We also lived in a neighborhood that didn’t read books, occasionally a newspapers, it wasn’t a big deal for us, only one black family lived in the neighborhood, someplace—no one even knew when they had moved in but a few years back might be adequate: the black man had befriended my grandfather, and therefore was left alone. But no one ever saw a black man in the neighborhood before this, much less deal with riots.
In a like manner, no one came to the Cayuga Street area the street I lived on—or walked through the area without good reason, unless they lived there; there was a gang of some twenty-two guys and gals that hung out on the church steps. It wasn’t called Donkeyland for nothing; at one time it was the highest crime related area in St. Paul, and they boasted of that, and the police even tried to avoid us; matter-of-fact, they nick-named it Donkeyland because there were so many hard-heads there—and yes, it suited them. Members of the gang, beat the police up if they chased them up into Indians Hill, which was enclosing with foliage and one could hide easily behind trees and bushes, and so forth and on, which was to the south just off of Cayuga Street, right next to my grandfather’s house. But as I was about to say, as we rode down the turnoff, and into the city center, a white, a huge white car was following us. I first noticed it—a bit after we entered the outer rim of the center.
“Something’s wrong Dennis?” said sleepy-eyed Jerry, driving. I turned about for the third time to examine the white car, again seeing the car following us…then all of a sudden I produced a crisis voice you might say, a voice trembling, and decadence came to my face:
“Oh man, look at what they just pushed out the car window, the white car—there…” I was now pointing at the car,
“…looks—J-j-Jerry, a shot gun…!”
Jerry looked quickly, “What is going on?” he said, as if I knew.
Then out of another window of the car, came a voice from a loud speaker coming right from the white car, you couldn’t make out what exactly was being said though—so we continued on, Jerry driving closer to the center of the downtown area now, looking at a gathering of people on two differed corners—in a four or five square block area; if anything, it looked like a protest, if not some combat zone; —the voice over the speaker now, indubitably said—[even louder than before]:
“Move out of the city’s area, immediately, or we’ll shoot!”
I looked at Jerry, “Where’s the way out Dennis,” asked Jerry [the word shoot sticking in both our minds like a spider to a fly caught in a web, “To the right, to the right, over there man…!” I said loudly, with pointing toward a half lit up bridge: without hesitation, and responsive to my tone of voice, Jerry immediately turned the car southwest, and out we went as fast as that six-cylinder car would go.
In short, both Jerry and I temperamentally was in shock, disbelief, and spellbound, but somehow we must had caught a sign that said, “Madison, Wisconsin” for that is where we headed; and sometime down the highway we had stopped to check the map, and talk about Madison to see if both he and I agreed on the new destination, prior to this stop it would seem we were both ill-balanced, and couldn’t or didn’t want to talk about it for the moment, trying to get our equilibrium back.
When we both arrived in Madison, it was a stinky city, too small, and jobless. We went to the stockyards and they didn’t want anything to do with outsiders, it was a fruitless pursuit. We would flip a coin and figure out where next we’d go.

Written July, 2006 (Re edited 5-2008)

Nebraska Fields
(Spring of 1967)

Chapter Sixteen
Omaha Bound

So, although in a sense Milwaukee (for the few minutes we spent there, and flew out of there in our 1961-Valiant, I won’t miss the city at all), it wasn’t a good experience by far, the racial riots didn’t allow that, it was November of 1967, things were hot throughout the United States, in the white vs. black area.
Jerry was older by twelve-years than I, in actuality, this may have been his first escape out of Minnesota though; on the other hand I was nineteen-years old, and I had been to Seattle, North and South Dakota, and a few other places, and was thinking about San Francisco, but I wanted to visit Milwaukee.
In time, everything in time, I told myself. I am not sure why Jerry Hino and I picked out—of all places—to go to Omaha (other than it was on the map, and near Chicago), but I suppose it was a matter of elimination. When we had got to Madison, we were going to stay there, but it was so impoverished looking, and smelled bad from the stockyards, we high-tailed it out of the city like two cats running from a bulldog. I suppose to an onlooker, we were like some unconscious unwanted creatures torn fiercely from the roots of the world (we were unshaven, and perhaps smelled bad ourselves, from the constant drinking of beer and sweating, in the car, as we drove aimlessly here and there, looking for a nest to roost in, by the likes of others—in addition, we were dirty, and untidy, but we really were not conscious of it, half in a haze most of the time.
Jerry was escaping from a relationship, me, I was just trying to see the world, one step at a time. I perhaps thought I was like some Greek hero rushing off to Troy to battle with the Trojans. In time I would find my war in Vietnam, and go to Turkey, to the site of Troy, but today it was simply, a trip that started at St. Paul, Minnesota, and onto Milwaukee, and now out of Madison, Wisconsin; there we sat going down a highway peeing in an empty can, throwing it out the window, drinking another beer, refilling that, then all of a sudden Jerry says:
“Let’s flip a coin for where we go, Chicago or Omaha?”
It was a question, I suppose, but I simply pulled out a coin, and that was my answer, “Okay, I’ll flip,” I told Jerry, “heads we go to Chicago, and tails, onto that place here on the map called Omaha, matter-of-fact, what the heck is in Omaha?”
“Your guess is as good as mine, but it has to be better than Madison—I hope!” said Jerry.
Oh well, we were too drunk to laugh, and too tired to think of another place besides those two locations, plus we didn’t have an abundance of money to be too selective.
“Well what is it?” asked Jerry.
“We are my friend, Omaha bound,” I said, and Jerry turned onto another highway, a few minutes later, and we were on our way.
It was Tuesday, and the highway was a mere empty road widening here and there, where construction was not, and we passed several small towns, a few taverns, we stopped at one to buy a six-pack of beer, and on our way we were—intact, blocked minded, sort of speaking.

It was the first week of November, and there really was no snow on the ground to speak of, although the ground was hardening, and the fields we passed were browning with the cold weather, and the crows and pheasants were out in the fields and the dogs the folks dropped off, out of their cars, the unwanted pets, they had bought for their children, and then had to watch and take care of because the children were too lazy, and they were too lazy to teach them not to be lazy, thus, dropped them off in the fields to did, to starve to death, who would be the wiser, perhaps the farmer will be kinder and pick the dogs and cats up, even though each farmer perhaps had twenty dogs now to feed from the irresponsible folks of the big city. And I looked at them running, some even after our car, hoping we’d stop I suppose, or perhaps their memory transposed our car into the car that they were thrown out of, thinking their owner had come back to save them. These were moments of gross and simple lusts of the people, forcible incarceration into idleness of the frozen fields (or thawing out fields) of Nebraska; the newly bought dog houses, now thrown into the garbage so the kids do not get new ideas of getting another dog to feed and watch.
There was even a few deer in motion, shapes dashing across the highway, as if on an endurance run, passion and hope in their eyes, they too were on the hit list for the governments of the Midwest, too much overlapping, extended beyond their limits, that now they were drifting into the main cities, and bothering the noble people of the good State of Minnesota, yes indeed, these were the results of generations of deer, healthy, but in need of food. So the state hired hunters, killers to kill them all, vanish them from the city, this was their objective. Now they were in the Nebraska fields, like the dogs.
Anyhow, there was lots of room out here in the wild countryside, so I felt as we drove past fields that would produce corn, one after the other, almost hypnotised beneath the vast incredible and enduring land of growth of food. I had heard we fed half the world with our wheat and corn, and now I could see how. Every time I turned my head, it was empty fields, or straw bundled up for winter feeding of the farm animals. And then we got into the more condensed populist areas filled with watchful eyes and arrogance and less strays, new generations, and old ones sitting on benches waiting for buses, and asking each other unanswerable questions to pass the time of day away. We were going through Counsel Bluffs, a city next to Omaha, which was across a bridge, Counsel Bluffs being in Iowa, and Omaha, being in Nebraska. A new adventure was about to start.

Written: 5-24-2008 (see: “Milwaukee Bound,” and “Rat hole in Omaha,” for the other two parts to this story)

Rat hole in Omaha

Chapter Seventeen
The Apartment

“Come on,” Jerry Hino said, it was morning and we needed to get an apartment there was a light film of snow on the ground, it was November of 1967 and this was my second great trip. The anxiety and dilemma of the night driven through Milwaukee had passed, we had driven from Minnesota, to Milwaukee, onto Madison, Wisconsin, and here we were in Omaha, Nebraska. In Milwaukee we had almost got shot. Anyhow, we had high-tailed it out of Milwaukee, onto Omaha.
I was a little disappointed in the city; it didn’t look like much, I spotted Dodge Street right away, and we drove up and down it looking for an apartment. Jerry was running away from his girlfriend Nancy, and I was on an adventure of my own, my second one to be exact.
I looked about at the huddled set of crude buildings, duplexes and corner grocery stores, dotted around what I called upper Dodge Street, and down an offshoot, here and there (Dodge being the main branch to the tree).
In my adventure in Seattle, I ended up with Jeff’s wife coming along, and here again I got a friend who had left a love sick woman, for an adventure, and I was hoping she’d not popup into the scene, and so far so good. Anyhow, we found a Rat hole of an apartment just off Dodge street, and the duplex was side by side, so our neighbors were closer than white on rice. I didn’t really have a plan ‘B’ here if things did not work out, only hoping they would between Jerry and I, and they seemed to. He, like me, liked our drinking, and he was perhaps a bit over weight, him being about my height, five-feet, eight inches talk, and two-hundred and forty pounds, I was kidding, he was way over weight.
The duplex was grey, and I expect it was built in the ’80s, and it was as I said, 1967, so I mean, 1880s. We paid for two weeks rent, that was all we could afford for the moment, it cost us $65-dollars, and that was highway robbery if you ask me, I mean it was crude and meager accommodations. It surely was not unfamiliar with me for the times, during those years anyhow.
Jerry seemed to speak for both of us, and him being the elder, I took no insult to it, I often listened attentively during those drinking days, we had our stories to tell, and we told them, and laughed half the night. We must have gotten drunk every night we were in Omaha. And in-between I looked for work, Jerry did not, he slept the day away, as I looked; I think that was one of the reasons he and Nancy got into fights; I could be wrong. Anyhow, I went to the Omaha State Employment Office, and they asked me were I had come from, and why I was up there trying to take work away from the good folks of Omaha, who needed work worse than I. I had no other answer than, “I didn’t realize I was stepping on forbidden ground,” he didn’t like my comments, and told me to go back where I came from, and stop taking jobs away from other good folks. I know what I wanted to tell him, but I just shook my head and left the buzzard to his fields of corn.
I did find a job across the bridge in Iowa, good folks there I felt, working for Howard Johnson, as a dishwasher. It paid well, and the work was not hard, and I got a hefty discount on food, and usually they’d give me an extra portion, and I’d bring it back for Jerry, I think they thought it would be my late night supper, but supper for me was beer, not food.

Well, a few weeks went by, and Jerry sent his mother a letter, telling her how he was, not sure why he did that at first, I mean, I never did, I kind of felt no need to, we had just been gone a few weeks, not months or years. Anyhow, our address was on it, this now took away the secret of where we were, and of course Nancy got hold of the address, as you would expect. It was now inevitable, she’d someday show up on our doorsteps, but of course I didn’t know all this at the time. But it didn’t take long, and yes, she was there one evening when I came back from work, and again I was in bewilderment, but not as shocked as I was when Jeff’s wife, showed up from nowhere wanting to go with us to Seattle. I thought at the time: what is wrong with these guys, do they not have any stemma staying away from their patsy women, the ones they are running away from, can’t live with, or deal with. I had old girlfriends also, and I was glad to get away from them, and the farther the better, and the longer the better. In fact, I never went back to one I left, or anyone that left me, what for, once the bond is broken, it is broken, like my mother used to say: get off the bus, and find another.
I was perhaps their shadow the following two weeks; I think we spent a month to six weeks in that Rat hole. I went on my own, visited the museum, which had a lot of Indian artifacts, and we all got drunk at night, like always.

But to make this story more interesting, and build up the plot some, not much though, because it is really the end to the story, we simply went back to Minnesota, I lived with them for six weeks, they asked me to leave after that, since they had kids, and I was sleeping on the sofa, and you know, that gets old. Anyhow, I do remember the Jewish Store, down the block in our Omaha neighborhood. I spent some time down there, talking to the old redheaded Jew. Gold teeth, not in bad shape for fifty years old she had pretty nice curves, and I of course ripe at nineteen. Her place was a Rat hole also, but I suppose, it went along with the neighborhood. The store had high ceilings, you could see the wooden beams, and there was dampness in the place, clutter, and everything looked old, can goods with rust on them. Perhaps she was a dope dealer and this was her front, but I couldn’t have imagined that at the time. I liked her, and she allowed me to come in and out and not buy a thing, and hang around.


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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

"The Cadaverus Journey" (New book in English and Spanish by D.L. Siluk)

“The Cadaverous Journey” is an eldritch journey into the spheres of dying souls, — a forty-page chronicle, a profoundly influencing story, showing a psychosomatic revolution within the strange, ghostly, unearthly world, with a spell binding ending. In addition, here, is a hefty, brilliant collection of poetry by the legendary poet of the Andes of Peru, international poet from St. Paul, Minnesota, Dennis L. Siluk. Here you find several books in one, and the poems are in English and Spanish; also, translated into several other languages, on over four-hundred internet sites, with over two-million readers a year. The author represents three cultures here: North American, Peruvian, and German: incorporating grieving poetry, legends, to include “The Muhammad Papers”; “The Poetry of the Miners” (of: Cerro de Pasco, Peru); his old “Neighborhood Poetry” from the 50s and 60s (from Minnesota); “Stars over Germany;” “Anvil,” and “Orion’s Orchard”; confessional poetry, cosmic poetry of a theological nature—also poetry on “Death” –and two complimentary poems. Included is “The Nightmare Demon,” an article on sleep. This book is five years in the making. Integrated in the book are photos of the author with: Poet and Radio Story Teller, Garrison Keillor and Diplomat Dr. Miguel A. Rodriguez Mackay.

Dennis L. Siluk, Ed.D. is the author of 37-books, several in English and Spanish, eleven in Poetry. This is his seventh book on myths, with supernatural beings. He lives with his wife Rosa, in Minnesota and Peru, and is working on three more books. Front sketch by Clark A. Smith.

Book to be out in August of 2008

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Mantaro Valley, of Peru: Another Wonder of the World (Edited and Revised by Dennis L. Siluk)


Written by: Jose Arrieta
Translated by Rosa Peñaloza de Siluk; Edited and Revised by Dennis L. Siluk

Note: as you read through this synopses of a trip through the Mantaro Valley, keep in mind not all these locations can be gotten to by train, it may take buses or cars, but in Huancayo, there are travel agencies.

Through this brochure (by reading it, it will guide you through the REGION of JUNIN); what we hope it will do is: help you become aware, with your eyes, ears and mental images (imagination) to capture the majesty and splendour of one of the marvels of the world, the “MANTARO VALLE (of Central Peru within the magnificent Andes) which is becoming known throughout the world as another marvel.

“I wish I would be a great Shaman or a powerful Andean person to possess the power of the spell and the charm, and in this moment to transform and to transport all of you for a few minutes to see, to feel, and to enjoy the charm, marvels and tourist attractions of my majestic Mantaro Valley.”

By: Miguel Antignani.

Believe it or not, there is a restless power, vitality, energy in the Mantaro Valley that will captivate you, it is almost like magic, it draws you into it, into its Wanka history, its unconquerable legacy, with its celebrations year round, beautiful sun, and delicious assortment of foods, it is like a spell, in that it will fascinate and spoil those who try to possess her; her being, the Mantaro Valley with all its old time customs, traditions, and culture.

In the process of coming to the Mantaro Valley from Lima, you may wish to visit the Valley of Hatun Mayo also: so let’s present here an imaginary trip for a better understanding:

It is possible to get there using different means of transportation but I suggest, for the first time travellers to this area (and for a beautiful view), take the Central Railroad a portion of the way (and buses and other transportation as needed), and celebrate its 100th year anniversary of its operation and construction.

Assuming you will be taking the train a portion of the way, you come aboard at “Desamparados”; next, the train will ascend to higher altitudes ((close to 16,000 Feet)( busses will also do this)) and throughout this journey, it will also pass through some sixty-tunnels, and a number of zigzags, to include crossing forty-five bridges, thus, we end up almost touching the clouds at the famous city called Ticcllo. Beyond this point, the train will take you even higher, in the process one can see towering summits and lagoons, and then through the renowned city of La Oroya, where here lays the bowels of the Andes, and where precious metals are transformed into human wealth.

As we continue on this course (via, train)to the famous Hatun Mayo, one will see typical highlands, beautiful landscapes; and enmeshed within this excursion, one will hear the tranquilizing sounds of the flowing waters of the Mantaro River. Along this passageway, it will be somewhat possible to see Old Inca Roads, and perhaps capture some old Inca and Wanka stone walls, with your cameras.
Further on, is the dark and telluric snow-capped mountain called Pariacaca.
There at Pariacaca, one can hear the endless flow of the rivers Cochas and Pachacayo, and see the surrounding forest called ‘Raymondi’ in Canchayllo
(Check to see if the train runs this way, or you may take a trip from Huancayo to this location by car or bus.)

As we continue on this journey, there is an abundance of vegetarian and the climate abruptly changes; hence, we are now entering ‘Jauja.’
(Incidentally, this is the way earlier settlers went, when visiting, settling or seeking to settle in this country style haven; here one wakeups to a hearty breakfast of rolls of corn, hot bread, and eggs, at many of the hotels and restaurants.)

Laguna de Paca
(In The Mantaro Valley)

Still in the Mantaro Valley (in the province of Jauja) one may wish to visit the famous Laguna de Paca, it can be reached coming back from another destination (heading into the Huancayo area), or from Lima through the Andes, and into the valley. It has been said (by legend, and the editor of this article has seen one of the ghosts) there is a sunken city in the lake, and a ghost or ghosts thereabouts linger about the edge of the lake at night, and people have said they hear them howl at night, and the bells of the sunken church rings at midnight.

Also, the valley has the lake called Tragadero, which the Wanka race is very proud of.

In addition to these two lakes you may wish to become familiar with some of its legends and folklore, perhaps you will find a guide to tell you some of them; they make for a good past time, socialization, and are very interesting and entertaining.

The Monastery & Blue Valley

The next city, before the Blue Valley (a valley within the Mantaro Valley), is Ocopa, a must see place, its monastery, and library with antique books making it a most interesting historical site. Here you will see layers of culture, Christendom as it was developed in this region, and the hardships depicted on old paintings.

While in the Mantaro Valley, you are in the Central Region of Peru; here resides the Blue Valley I previously mentioned, that is, the valley within the valley, with a most handsome river running through it, and restaurants with delicious trout, and women doing their laundry the old fashion way, in the river itself, while pigs, dogs, cats donkeys pace along the river’s edge idly.

Furthermore, we must not forget the famous and rich artichokes this area is known for, and the land of the trout, a delicious fish, that will satisfy most anyone’s appetite.

The City of Concepcion
(And the Second largest Statue in South America)

In another city called Concepcion, a tinge larger than most of them in the Mantaro Valley, excluding, Huancayo, they have a fiesta in July, of the bread, and the renowned ride of the donkey who carries a number of baskets of bread through the city.
By all means, there is much to see in the valley, to keep the busy person active, and for the more tranquil person, there are ruins and museums, among other sites, where one needs not be as active.
Let me talk a little more on the city of Conception, it has what is called the Ugarte House (predating the Pacific War with Chile and Peru); across the street is the Main Church, where there was a great battle in front of it; and its famous fountain of water in the Plaza de Arms, just a few steps across the street.
“Stone-Still, “perhaps can be considered a lookout point, for the view there is overwhelming, it captures almost the whole valley, and you can rest numerable times on your walk up to the point, and there normally are a number of handcraft sellers on the ascension. On top of the hill is the second largest statue in South America, of the Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Concepcion. Perhaps if you are lucky, you can enter the statue, climb up its several flights, and look through her eyes, looking out upon the city and valley.

(City of the Wanka and the Treasure of Catalina Wanka)

Just before you enter Huancayo, seven miles to Huancayo you will pass the silver city of the world, San Jeronimo; do not pass this city up, for kings have ordered their gold carving from this little village. This also is the land of the dancing Los Avelinos, where in August of each year there is a big fiesta.
Also in San Jeronimo, the most famous lady of the Mantaro Valley once lived here, “Catalina Wanka” most famous for hiding a treasure she was going to give to the Spanish to free the last Inca King. Well, no one has found it, yet…and her house can still be seen in San Jeronimo, and so for the treasure hunters, good luck.

Now let me introduce you to Huancayo. There is a saying, and street, referred to as “The Little Way” and perhaps if you drive into Huancayo during daylight you will notice it.
Huancayo has a lot of history behind it, and you can get most everything you need there, if not in the other smaller cities in the Mantaro Valley; they even have a large hospital, and a number of good restaurants, and hotels (three Stars) to chose from, and a famous Sunday market that you can buy most anything you wish, and bargain for it, it is a shoppers paradise, a must for a hunter of odds and ends.
The Cathedral and Plaza de Arms, have a profound history. Here slavery took place, and was abolished, also it is the place in Peru, where the First Constitution was proclaimed, and that was in 1839. Huancayo dates to around 1572 AD, as a city, and predates that as far as being inhabited by the valley folks. And when you walk the downtown area, you cannot miss the famous ‘Real’ street. It is an artist haven, or poet’s corner.


As Peru is well known worldwide as a place for different tastes of food, the Mantaro Valley has its own also (for it is a world sit aside from the world). That is to say, it has a particular food called: Pachamanca, which is only possible to get in the Mantaro Valley. And also, the famous soup for breakfast “Mondongo.”

THE MANTARO VALLEY can boast of many things, but let’s simply say, it has come to the edge of its awakening age, its people wish to welcome you, and are very hospitable to strangers, and visitors. Come one, come all and join in the land of mystic, dance, songs, fiestas, foods, and the Andes, come to the Mantaro Valley, it is a different world, you may never want to leave once you see and experience its magic.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Legend of Cumbayo (The Guardian of Cumbayo, 6000 BC)

The Legend of Cumbayo (The Guardian of Cumbayo, 6000 BC)

Cumbayo, the Sanctuary (Temple, 6000 BC)

Note: Half of this account was written in flight, leaving Cajamarca (5-7-2007), to Lima Peru (a few days after visiting the site of Cumbayo (5-26-2007), the other half was written a day after my arrival back at Lima, at El Parquettos restaurant, 5-8-2007.

The Sanctuary (or Stone Castle)

(Written in Flight, diary notes: part one) It was in may of 2007 I visited the temple in the valley of Cajamarca, better known as the Sanctuary, a most impressive site, dating back to 6000 BC, and the petrography (Rock Art) dating back to 1000 BC, when I, by myself entered this most famous, but most recently discovered narrow passage of Cumbayo, likened to a natural castle like stone structure in the middle of nowhere, towering into the sky like Babel, the passage going from one side of this solid rock formation, mountain size almost, to the other side, perhaps some sixty feet long, one third of those feet in pitch darkness, and tight as two feet wide in some places. I ventured to enter and zigzag across it alone, knowing here lived a people, 8000-years ago, who used this place as a sanctuary, and this narrow passage discovered some thirty-years ago, was perhaps their hidden doorway.
The rock art or petrography dates back to 1000 BC, some 5000-years after the place became inhabited.
As I wedged my way through this curving maze, I got stuck between the walls, my arms became limp, its muscles inactive, my breath almost nil from exhaustion, I remained motionless for the moment, trying not to panic, I was in the middle of this passage way, in the dark area.
I got thinking of the great stones in front of this stone castle like structure, it seemed to have been carved into a face, a section of it anyway, perhaps of some great warrior, or king I thought. This stone structure had tower like formations around it.
I was becoming more exhausted by the minute. Cramped and caught in this dreadful thin passage, my mind seemed to drift, by purpose or force, drift I say, into a dream or visionary state, who can tell at such a moment, under duress.

I saw a figure, its eyes brighten and his breath came more quickly as He replied, saying, “What is your care?” There was some kind of infinite pride in his voice and manner, he meant what he said.
I shrugged my shoulders, I really didn’t know. I nodded. His mind was working his face I noticed; he said to me, “I am the guardian, and I sense you cannot, and I can….” It wasn’t a question I noticed, rather a statement. I think he meant, I was stuck, and he could help, if he wanted to. It didn’t seem like he really didn’t want to, but perhaps he might.
He told me to tell you of their existence “Tell the world,” he said, “and for those who come to except this as an honor to enter this ancient temple and not to touch.”
I was still into this dream or trance state, perhaps he was waiting for me to say, or agree with him, yet if he could read my face, as I did his, he would know I would write this article, or story as I am doing now.

The Captive and the Walls
(Part Two)

(Written at the Restaurant, while having Coffee) At this point the whole offer was a private one—almost personal between me and the Guardian, but with a public agenda, which belonged to the ancestors. I remember now, however, there was no energy left in me, just a sanctuary of worship and a guardian, and he felt a tinge like I was invading, and perhaps wanting me to go on my own.
He seemed to know; the world would come to this location in time, and didn’t want to deny it, but wanted to preserve it for the future use in its destined way.
And now, a few days passed, sitting down at this restraint in Lima, and this is still held in mind—and unsure if he guardian was, or is devoted to his word of ultimate undoing of me, should I not do as I agreed.
I remember asking the Guardian said, “How was it back then?” and his Reply was, “Thee came anarchy in the valley, and that brought the lack of all things—with heart-breaking persistence, we tried to overcome, and this brought our writings into existence, but we could not tell the whole story until perhaps 1000 BC, from the rock art, or as you call it, petrography!”

The Walls

(I remember staggering back against the wall, I actually had room I told myself, and still I heard his utterances, the Guardian’s)
As I looked about, I noticed hands and finger marks scratched into the wall, all the way down the wall, how I could see this in the dark area was beyond me, I must still had been in a trance or dream-vision state; it is hard to tell now that I look back at it…but I do remember the thick stone walls, the deep dust on the floor, and the marks on the walls. The walls seemed to take my breath away. The walls seemed to have impulses: that is to say, they reached to the mind of the Guardian, and obeyed him.


This narrow passage was to me not only thin, but locking me up, captive, imprisoned, caged, yet I kept my head, and now I understood why my struggles ceased, and I seized the moment and found myself moving a few more feet forward in the passage, and light, yes, light appeared, and as I moved out into the day (I don’t remember how long I was in there, but the sun was like a big lamp upon me, thus, it must had been a few hours, I rubbed my eyes). So I would tell myself at the time: never go back into this cave unless you are with someone. But still I was not sure if all of this was a dream or not, so as you can verify, I am doing my duty, by writing this, and you reading this, so no curse can befall me. Inside this cave, in the dark section I read (I do not know how, for it was in a language 3000-years old, written on stone): “For men whom come through this passage, be quiet, hands free, be like feathers, thin and masked.” The Guardian.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Three Poems from Cajamarca, Peru (While Traveling)

Three Poems from Cajamarca, Peru,

Part I

“The Black Andes”

The black mountains of the Andes
Caped in sporadic greens
Beams of light cast through the clouds
Give a haunting cadaverous scene
As I descend into this city called
Cajamarca, in the morning
Of May!...

Note: (written: 5-4-07), written while in flight, from Lima, Peru to Cajamarca. It is 6:20 AM (observing the mountains as we come into this valley city. #1807

Part II

The Mashua Lady of Cajamarca

The Mashua Lady of Cajamarca
Sits, across the street from my hotel,
Selling these potato like vegetables,
With a tall white hat (traditional)
Wide rimed—(pink blouse)
Counting her coins, checking her Mashua
(and grabbing more from her sack);
Selling them fast…dark clouds over head—!

!2:50 PM #1809 5-4-2007

La Collpa Farm (From Cajamarca)

Animals cry—and I don’t know why, in Cajamarca;
And the cows know their names, at La Collpa Farm.
Rosa and I watched this funny little escapade,
As the farmer slashed his whip, and called their names
One by one they came: Teresina and Paula at first,
Then rest of the cows, perhaps ten more:
Came and went to their stalls, with their names.
It would seem they were almost human,
With shot, weight, and medical records,
And real personnel names…!

#1808 5-5-2007

Note: At Collpa Farm, in the Cajamarca, Valley of Peru, in Northern Peru that is, they have this farm where they have names, the cows have names, like Catalonia, etc., and when the farmer calls them, they come, and the poem tells the rest of the story. My wife I think liked this part of our trip the most.

New York City: The Sleepless Neon (a Travel Poem with notes)

New York City: The Sleepless Neon

The bulky skyline danced around me
The first time I drove through its winding maze—.
Flimsy I felt in this Roman candle like city,
With grand towers, and bridges, uncountable
Side streets—cars hissing!
It is one big sleepless neon city—;
What a rush, it gives.
Here you don’t run out of people
You just run yourself down
Trying to keep in step
With the curious!...

Note: Long over due is this poem on New York City—for I’ve been there four times, equal to Paris, and I’ve never been to any city four times other than these, and I’ve been to almost every big city in the world, so, yes, New York City is special. To be frank, and honest, I feel much safer in New York City than such cities as Buenos Aires, or Santiago, Chile, Lisbon, or Madrid, or for that matter, Chicago, or Minneapolis, Minnesota, and I live in Lima, and St. Paul, Minnesota, and I feel saver still in New York City. Anyhow, as I was saying, the poem is over due. It was written while in traveling in Cajamarca, Peru, a beautiful city of 165,000-folks, in a very green valley (9:01 PM, 5-06-2007). #1808

The number one thing I love in the city is always seeing the Empire State Building, the most impressive building in the world. And I like Central Park, and the big museum next door. I like getting pizza or a sand wish brought up to my hotel room, and watching CNN at night. And I like walking down along the banks, and seeing the Statue of Liberty, actually my wife who has been around the world with me, feels that is the most precious landmark in the world, her being a Peruvian.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Horse’s Hoofs and Old Soldiers (Part Three)

Horse’s Hoofs and Old Soldiers
(November, 1969; Week Two in Basic Training) (P

Part Three, to; “Last Moment of Light”


In the barracks it was chilly. The Drill Sergeants smell worst. I knew my smell. Why be polite, it was long days in back of me and in front, long days running, and today I had to run around a field three times, two miles each lap, six miles complete, in some specified time, can’t remember it exactly. I took a number of salt tablets as I ran; some of the men were eating chocolate, to keep their energy up. I quickly learned running was part of the Army, like white on rice.
Yes indeed, running is part of a soldiers life, I told myself, after two weeks (about to go into the third) of running everyday, sometimes with our M14 rifles held over our heads, sometimes carrying our duffle backs full of cloths, and now, today, around in circles. The voice beside me said, “China, China…” a Chinese man, small in stature, who wanted to be an American. In time we would become good friends, and go on to Advance Training in Alabama together, but at this particular moment, it was of course unknown. He had come over to San Francisco, from China, got drafted into the Army, given the choice to join, or return to China, but the offer of citizenship was too great to pass up, so he allowed himself to be drafted into the US Army. He was here on a visit of some kind, originally.
The two divine Drill Sergeants were standing on the side of the circle as I passed them, going on and into my third circle, anger on their faces; they only smiled when you obeyed them. Smiley was right in back of me, my friend from Alabama. It was a hot mid morning, an insane day to be exact, and I was still somewhat drowsy, my brain that is, had gotten drunk the night before, as usual, and was paying for it now (a second time). And here were all these bodies running, running the length of the field, and China, keeping up with all (all his 110-pounds); many of the men just dropped to the ground, passed out from heat exhaustion. But us three kept going. It was the whole company today, all four platoons, perhaps 160-men in total.
One man came along by my side, said: “I say where we are?” and dropped to the ground, just like that, as he dropped I said, “In hell…!”

I think the Drill Sergeant, the older one, was faint and felt almost dead from exhaustion, he had run around the circle once to show he could; I stopped a few times, my hat had fallen off my head for the 3rd time, “Get moving,” he yelled, the old fart couldn’t do it himself, but expected me, I gave him one of his same old grimaces back.
The third stop somehow allowed me to catch my wind and I started back up after a brief swallow of air into my stomach, Smiley, had stopped, was resting on the side now, couldn’t go any further, I think cramps did him in; next, I got back into my running posture and finished the third circle. Perhaps there were about twenty of us, ready to go into a forth, but the Drill Sergeant, told us to stop, and like the others I rested, found the few select people I liked from our platoon, Smiley among them, and China. We all grunted a bit. Moreover, the young sergeant, came up to us and said, “Well,” he then struck his chin, adding (I merely looked at him) “Get down Siluk and do fifty pushups,” (for being cocky I suppose, and to show the rest of the group how out of shape I was. I said, “Fifty, is that all!” And I did the fifty in a few minutes, got back up, and he said again, “Get down and do fifty more!” And I did, and I got up and said, “I will make note of this…” implying, the necessary sum that he could make me do was at its point, and I was not afraid of him, consequently, if he wanted me to do more, I could legally defy him, this he did not want, no challenges.

Horse’s Hoofs

I didn’t make any friends this day of course, and felt a little under the horse’s hoofs, several of the platoon faces, recruits, like me, felt I was a trouble maker (for them I suppose), and I was I suppose. And this got back to the Captain, whom would confront me in time on this very issue, in another two weeks to be exact. It was mid November, and we heard we’d be going home for Christmas, and have to return to basic training to finish it, thereafter. One of the soldiers would not have enough money to go home, and we all pitched in from the platoon and made that possible, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
The young Drill Sergeant led us to the front of the barracks, and had us do several exercises, he said it was because there was a soldier with a bad attitude in the platoon, and all would have to suffer from that. The older sergeant vaguely looking at me from afar, but I read his lips, “Siluk, you again!”
“Squat, crouch, and walk around the barracks,” commanded the young sergeant. This was not only humiliating for the platoon, because we looked like ducks, but tiresome, thus, I got a few unfriendly faces, and whispers like: Siluk, stop causing trouble, straighten up…and so forth and so on. And I simply went, or said “Quack, quack…” to all this—loud!
“Who said that? “Asked the young drill sergeant, then he walked along side of me…”It’s you again, I know it’s you Siluk, another walk around the barracks,” he announced, and then I whispered to the guys, “Ok, ok…I’ll shut up (but I couldn’t help it, I did it a second time, then I shut up)) for now))”
After it was all done (the duck walk), most everyone collapsed comfortable on their beds, while the drill sergeants adjusted their smirks.
Enormous pomposity was shown in the two drill sergeants, and displayed around me, or perhaps I was the only one that saw these expressions, gestures, everyone else too busy being nervous about what was next. It was going on to the third week of November, that the Captain had called me into his office, and I asked what for, and he said, “Just wanted to see who you were,” and he kept an educated serious face about the matter, and dismissed me, yet I knew something was coming.

For the most part, I was in a new world, and having a hard time devouring the customs, the inexpressible nuance of the pretense they expected out of me, willingly—to appreciate their fine work in sculpturing a soldier out of a neighborhood bum. My uncouthness was not appreciated either.

That night, the night that followed the duck-walk, Smiley was to meet me at the EM Club, it was the end of the second week, and we were allowed now, to buy freely at the PX, and go to the Company Recruits club to drink, 3.2 Beer, that is, beer that taste like water. But I was already into the EM Club, and drank there. They, the Drill Sergeants had actually escorted us that first day to the PX, like tourists.
I gave Smiley a consultation on my EM club drinking, and told him to meet me there this evening, around eight or nine o clock; our bed time now was 10:30, lights off, or the last moment for lights, at 11:00. PM, weekends, lights off at 12:00 midnight, and now bed check, being 11:00 PM. Life was improving.
As I waited for Smiley, I thought about what the older Drill Sergeant had told the platoon, that next week there was going to be a show for us, the 82nd Airborne, whom was stationed there, would jump out of airplanes, parachuting down to where we would be sitting. I told myself, only birds and their droppings fall out of the sky, and thus, let it be at that. (But when the day came, the old sergeant asked me, sitting on a hill, “Go down there and join up, Siluk!” And I said, “I’m not a bird…!” And he kicked me, and I rolled down the hill, and waved to him, from that position. Another peeve he had with me.


There was a young female, a Froilan, German girl unmarried woman, who was the waitress at the EM club, a daughter I expect to one of the higher ranking sergeants on base (she spoke with a broken English accent but clear clean German, perhaps twenty-one, or younger; perhaps a second marriage I thought between an older sergeant and German. Anyhow, she was dangerously appetizing I thought, I never did chat with her, a long chat that is, other than, a hello and goodbye, I figured I was under observation at the club (and a few young bucks were always around her at the bar when she finished serving her drinks), and as long as I kept to my own, they left me lone, and should I try to get a date with her, they would expose me as recruit, I was sure of that, and I’d have to go to the main drinking hall, with the rest of my Company.
She was lean, perhaps five foot three inches tall, lovely in many ways, and friendly, and customers liked her. She wore tight dresses, benignant in a way, with breasts that bulged slightly out of her blouse, and had small hands, dark hair—penetrating eyes.

Written 4-1-2007

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Silhouette of a Soldier (October, 1969))2nd Day of a Soldier))

Silhouette of a Soldier
(October, 1969)

Part Two, to; “Last Moment of Light”


(It is always the sound of the bugle that awakens one in the morning, called reveille, in the Army, the sound to make formation that begins the day, a signal that it is time to get out of bed, summoned to duty. And all one sees in the morning, as one prepares for the second day of duty is shapes and outlines of military personnel in a camp; or so it was for me.)

Silhouettes, that is all they were to me when I first glanced out the window, 2nd day in the Army, soldiers rushing to get into a standing position in what was called a formation, under the autumn sky; the darkness of morning was lifting, an intense darkness it was, a haunting dark blue sky, extra ordinarily cold for a North Carolina morning, it seemed.
I had noticed in the distance, throughout the day, across a field, a club resided, ‘Enlisted Men’s Club,’ to be exact, so I was told, a bar in essence, or so it would be called in my old neighborhood, in St. Paul, Minnesota (called: ‘Donkeyland,’ by the police for its hardheaded drunks, that lived and died at two corner bars).

The EM Club

I was particularly thrilled to have discovered it so close by the group of basic training barracks (mine in particular); whereat, when our two Drill Sergeants, our escorts throughout the day were done with us, disembarking for the evening, but beforehand, let us know they’d return at 10:00 PM, to insure lights were turned off, (which was to them, the very ‘last moment of light,’ to be seen within our barracks, lest we wanted to be disciplined))it was really a curfew in essence)): in any case, disembarking for the evening, this would allow me to make acquaintance with the establishment, the EM club. In outcome, I felt a little at home now, likened to finding you are nearby a church, something familiar, if indeed I was a priest.
As I was saying, or about to say, at 10:00 PM, would be the last moment of light to be seen within our barracks, and we stopped work at 7:00 PM, a very full day; I had woke up at 4:00 AM, not much sleep, I was stiff and cold and only half awake, in the morning, and now, in the evening, exhausted, I had my Army green fatigues on, and moved grimly without speaking to anyone, now after duty hours, after having a quick dinner at the mess hall, moved quickly over the field to where the EM club was, it was 8:15 PM, when I arrived there, par excellence in my quick study of the matter, most all the new soldiers had no idea the club existed. Plus, they were too busy trying to be good soldiers, and I was the second oldest person in the platoon (I learned, the younger the easier one can be led).

As I walked across the field, I told myself, “You’ve never been in an EM club before.” How true this was, but I knew bars well, was drinking in them since I was 16-years old, fighting in them, drinking in them, and getting sick in a few, most are the same, smelly, dingy, and alive or dead, plus, I told myself, “You will know in a short time.” Hence, in a few minutes I was walking through the door of he club, yellow flares went off in my head, I acted like I belong there, I always did when I walked into a bar, a strange bar for sure, I was at the time, just turning twenty-two years old.
The insides of the club were small, and formless, nothing special; mostly square, with figures moving about, to and fro, a crackle of conversations, going on everywhere, seemingly sadly suppressed, abnormal for a bar one could say, not lively at all. I was use to deliciously insane bars I suppose, but nonetheless, I was gulping down my first cold Army beer in no time flat.
Everyone seemed to be wrapped in ghostly Army Green, this was to be, I knew the, an unearthly patch of the world, hereon, and forevermore, save, I remained in the Army. (In years to follow, I’d find bars off bases to cater to, rather than the on base Army Clubs.)
I leaned on the bar, drank down a second glass of cold mouthwatering beer, and stared at nothingness.

The Corporal

My elbows now on the bar, I got staring at and out the window, the mist had created a moisture onto the bar window, formed a fogginess on the glass; everyone seemed like talking shadows all linked together around the bar, I recognized no one, especially no one from my platoon, that is, ‘D’ Company, 4th Platoon as they called it, called us. I thought briefly about Smiley, a Private like me, a year younger than I, and from the South, I think he said, Alabama, he was easy to talk to, liked to drink, a friend to be found I pondered, a worthy friend, most people I accepted as acquaintances, and only a few select would I categorize as friends.

“You’re the one,” I heard a voice say next to me, I turned, a stranger, Corporal sat about seven feet from my stool.
“You­­ speak to me?” I didn’t care if he had twenty strips on, bar folks get a few drinks in them and try to command the world, this was neither the time nor place to play chief, I told myself.
“Yaw,” he said, a clean shaven kid, couldn’t be over 19-years old I told myself, but he had a few more strips than I.
“What you want?” I asked somewhat brusquely.
“You’re the one I asked for the time, yesterday, I work in the mess hall, and you could get in trouble for being here, because new soldiers, or new recruits, are not suppose to come here, you got a place down by the PX, and you can’t go to that until the second week you’ve been here.”
“So are you going to tell, or what?” I asked. He laughed a bit, and then smiled, “It’s your head, not mine, if they chop it off, oh well.” And I bought him a beer. In time we’d get to know each other, and he’d even give me excuses to use incase I came back after 10:00 PM, for he worked with the Colonel, often after duty hours.