Stories

Lurking off Long Island

Drunk Paper Route

Dead Grateful Dead

Hiroshima From Less Than A Mile

It's Not The Hand We Are Dealt

The Name Yoda & George Lucas

Mafia For Dinner

Sliding Into Home & The Holy Headache - (stories from Dr. John)

The Great Bambino & D-Day

The Most Beautiful Woman

The British Who Gassed Iraq

Kaiser Cult Revealed

Jokes From A Scotsman

Yankee Business - (stories from professor Adams)

The Roommate - (stories concerning Psycho Brian)

Business Through A Telescope

 

Lurking off Long Island

There were a few people whom I talked with regularly when I went to the Mount Tam Racquet Club in Larkspur California. One of them was Marcus, a long time stonemason, and friendly, very social individual. This is his fishing tale.

"My friend David Harlow, whose boat it was," said Marcus, "he's the one who got me into fishing and out of fishing in one day. He was a semi-big fisher himself, kind of competitively, and he knew that I fished... somehow, I'm trying to remember how he did..." Marcus thought about this for a moment. "I think I was talking about how I'd spent a lot of time on the water when I was a kid... and he overheard me. We were at the same party if I'm remembering right." Marcus rolled his eyes at his ability to forget things. "Little did he know I was talking about the big town pond I used to fish on with friends when I was ten. Anyways, people who have boats are always looking for people to take out on that boat. I remember after I said how much I loved being out on the water he came right up to me. He starts talking about things like his boats draft and rigging, and I don't know what he's saying but I'm nodding along. Next thing I know were twenty miles off the coast of Long Island...

So anyway, we're out there sometime in August, I think."

"What year?" I asked.

"Probably the early 80's. Yea early 80's."

"We spend the whole day bobbing up and down and we don't catch a thing. Now he's all upset that we didn't catch anything and so he says he wants to stay the night, saying it'd be better if we got up early the next morning. We did have a late start that day anyways. I haven't told him yet that I'd never been more than 500 feet from a beach, and I don't think I ever did.

 

So then night comes. It's about 1:00 AM, and I'm still up. I actually felt safer on the deck than in the cabin. Maybe because inside I kept feeling like something was sneaking up on us, and I didn't like that. Anyways, it was nothing but emptiness out there. Well, you could see the stars, those you could see forever, it was unbelievable. You're just like a plank of wood that's caught between the depths of the sky and whatever you can imagine is below you." Marcus shook his head at the very thought of being out there.

 

"David already went to sleep a while before, and I'm still working on a beer. I'm just watching the water, and you know something, it's quiet... you wonder how something as big as the Ocean can be so quiet. I remember I heard a fog horn way off in the distance. And then I went to bed.

I wake up maybe an hour or two later to a soft humm, and sort of bump bump bump, a mechanical noise. I'm sitting up in my little cot with my eyes barely open and really hoping it goes away. Then it gets louder and I think, ok I'm hearing something and it's not just in my head. I was exhausted but for whatever reason I decide to get up and check it out, probably the fear was still lingering from before, my sense of worry that something was wrong. When you are out on the water like that, you can't help I think but feel as if something is impending, maybe it's that you seem more vulnerable on the surface, or it was the abyss of silence. I spent ten years in a city, and silence is usually bad.

Now I'm up. I throw on another layer, I duck my head to exit from below the deck and it's still pitch black out but now there's fog everywhere, I could see it with the light from our boat. It's not a soup fog but there was enough of it around that more than a few hundred feet you couldn't see anything.

 

But I could tell immediately when I stepped onto the deck that the noise was coming from outside and it was moving. Whuuuump whuuuump whuuuuump whuuuuump!!!!!!! Oil tanker, oil tanker, oil tanker. That's all I could think about. But now I'm petrified in fear. What direction is it coming from? I can't stop it. They'll never see us before it's too late, and it's getting louder and louder, it's coming strait for us. Then the noise became deafening and it was right on top of us. It was all I could do to stand up when boom! A spotlight hit me that covered the whole deck, as a huge helicopter hovered above us, sending water all over the place. I can barely see a person who's hanging out of the helicopter and screaming something through a megaphone. I don't know what the hell he's saying 'daaaaaaat aaaaaave, daaaaant aaaaaaave, daaaaant aaaaaaaave' finally I make sense of it, 'don't move.' Fwwwwwoooom a wall of water explodes almost at the front of our boat as this enormous submarine comes bursting out from beneath the still water, and I'm just standing their with my eyes hanging out of my head, my hands are up and I'm just... you know, I don't know what the hell to do I probably ruined whatever bottoms I was wearing. Finally, David comes up from below, a little slower than the sub, and he's yelling 'what's going on?' over and over. And the chopper just turns... and angles away from us into the night." Marcus quietly reenacted this with his hand, showing how it had peeled off into the distance. "So, what was before us now was a nuclear sub... Those guys were probably roasting down there. They were coming up for air whether we were on top of them or not" he said with a shake of his head and a wild-looking grin.

 

Drunk Paper Route

Thomas was my first good boss and seeing as he grew up where I did, thirty years my senior, he had many good stories about the place I called home, and elsewhere. A college dropout, one of his first decent jobs came as a model for the Apple II computer where he posed as Adam beneath a fig leaf. Then he was a hand model in NY, before finally, he started a renowned wedding videography company.

During the time that I worked for him, I would sometimes show up to the office well into the night, to do a little work after going for a swim at the local racquet club: the office was on my way home. Occasionally, Thomas would still be there, either asleep at his desk, or firing off last-minute emails. When I arrived he preferred to talk rather than work. He kept a bottle of wine under his desk and could usually find a past story or two floating around inside.

This story took place in Marin County, a forested, and lush part of the Bay Area Coast, with Redwood forests, cold beaches, and many quiet towns, some of which we called home.

"I feel like this is a Marin story," said Thomas, "but you tell me," he said.

"My first job was actually as a paperboy in Corte Madera, which I couldn't think of a worse job for me to have had. You're supposed to get up early for this job. It's kind of important, but I was always just... just... trashed off my rear the night before" he said laughing. "I don't know why I had this job." Thomas recalled something at that moment as he looked distantly away. "And you know what," he said. "I think this was actually the day we all went to see AC/DC at the Coliseum in Oakland. I only remember drinking heavily in the parking lot, then getting to my seat somehow, and the next thing I remember there's a blast of lights and I wake up. So I saw maybe two seconds of the concert. I don't think I cared much that I had my first paper delivery of the morning at 4:00 AM."

"What time did the concert end?" I asked.

"10:00."

"So when did you get home?"

"2:00" he said, seeming to think about some of his choices that evening.

"2:00. The next day?"

"No, no, that night."

"Oaklands like 30 minutes away."

"Yea I know, but I think I was pretty disappointed about missing the concert so I  went to SF afterward. But I did have a routine," he said. Thomas smiled and leaned back in his seat. "I'd come home so drunk most nights I actually had four alarm clocks set up." Thomas began laughing, we both did in fact. "I remember that they had changed my paper route that week and it that morning was going to be my first time doing it. It was an upgrade I guess? Yea they were moving me from the kiddie route to a more serious seasoned route as a paperboy."

"Paperman," I said.

"Yea, right, exactly."

I laughed and asked him, "did you have one of those bikes and a satchel?"

"No, I had a car, a little Toyota. The car made things more doable. You were a guaranteed hire if you had a car. Anyways, with the windows down, and the early morning air, it was cold enough to keep me from drifting off the road."

"I'd rather you run into me on a bike."

"I know, exactly," he said. "So my third alarm went off and I was up. I went to my car, picked up the papers, rolled the window down, I could feel I was sobering up as I drove."

"That's good," I said. Thomas shrugged.

"I was starting to get a little cocky because I was really nailing it, you know sometimes when you've had a bit too much you start to focus more, well this was one of those times. I had the map, I knew what I had to do, I focused, and I was nailing it. Fheeew, fheeew he mimicked the sound of throwing the papers out the driver side window. Every house..."

"Were you on the right street?" I asked.

"I think so. Anyways have you driven much in Mill Valley, you probably have?"

"Yea some."

"Well I'm going down my route and I see I have a right coming up, and again keep in mind I've hit every house that needed a paper."

I imagined him driving through living room after living room at this point.

"I'm going along and I take this right on my "new route" and I lean a little to toss the paper out the window but whaaaaam! I hit something so hard," he said, pausing to catch his breath from the sheer memory alone, "and my car I kid you not, came to a complete stop, immediately. I would have been a hundred feet through that windshield if I didn't have my seat belt on. I mean, try running into a wall at any speed."

"You hit a wall?" I asked perplexed. "You hit a wall in the middle of the road?"

"My car was totaled, steam coming out from under the hood... the works. Only in Marin... would they be fine with a redwood tree growing right in the middle of the fucking road."

Grateful Dead

Hiroshima From Less Than A Mile

It's Not The Hand We Are Dealt

The Name Yoda & George Lucas

Mafia For Dinner

Sliding Into Home & The Holy Headache

The Great Bambino & D-Day

The Most Beautiful Woman

An invite to my friend Spencer's house is an invitation to good food and interesting conversation. His father Mark, is a computer programmer but might as well prefer to be known as a master barbequer, and his mother Amy, inspects waste sites such as old military compounds and chemical spills to assess damages and determine the environmental impact. As implied, along with the good food, conversation abounds with interesting stories. While many are oriented around their careers, this one was about family history. I am rather certain that the conversation began with a story of my own that I have since forgotten in the wake of this one. Amy, pleasantly but carefully recalled one of the last meetings she had with her father.

 

"Not long before my father passed away, Mark and I went to his house with the kids for his birthday. A day before, I was going through our garage and I found an old box that belonged to him. He had pictures in it from before the War, when he first got married, their apartment in Manhattan where he grew up, when he moved in with my Mom. Us as babies. I brought it for him to be one of his gifts. A little surprise, something he wouldn't be upset to get no matter what else we gave him." She crossed her arms and smiled as if in his embrace.

"When I gave him the box, he opened it and looked through all of the photos happily, Spencer was young, he asked why none of them were in color. 'Old' my father said. But there was a photo in there that I didn't understand. I pointed to a picture of the Statue of Liberty and said, 'Dad why do you have this one? I mean you grew up in Manhattan, you'd see this almost every day, you lived here all your life, you used to always talk about getting out of the city.

 

'It was in 45' that I took that,' he said. 'We were on a boat that had just come back from a country where that photo didn't mean what it does here. My passport meant nothing. I was in a place where as a Jew in the Allied forces, I was only a soldier fighting to keep something alive back home that I could not touch, could not see, almost forgot. When our boat was passing Ellis Island, where all our family first came in, and I looked at her standing there, she was the most beautiful woman I ever saw.'"

The British Who Gassed Iraq

Kaiser Cult Revealed

Jokes From A Scotsman

Yankee Business

The Roommate

Almost Home (Marcus hits a tree after 2 hour drive from lake, drunk).

Business Through A Telescope