Tuesday, July 7, 2020

I Blink In & Out and Awakened In the Zone

"Hope is a waking dream." Aristotle

by Zvi Baranoff

[This is the third part of a work in progress. Part one is at this link: https://21stcenturybogatyr.blogspot.com/2020/05/grace-and-mercy-if-luck-holds.html?m=1

I watched the hawks crisscrossing the sky for a while. I thought to myself how glad I was that they weren't buzzards. I then wondered why that thought had even crossed my mind. 

The sky was clear, with hardly a cloud. The temperature seemed perfect for a lie down by the river. 

I was glad for the break, although I couldn't remember how I had gotten there or how long I had been there either. I watched the hawks some more. I drifted back to sleep.

Later, I laid there watching the night sky. Meteors were raining cats and dogs. Venus and Mercury both seemed particularly overactive. Of course, there were all the scheduled satellite traffic marching across the night sky in a steady parade representing human ingenuity and modernity, or something like that. Then, I must have drifted back to sleep.

The morning sun warmed the air and the river flowed with persistence, downhill, relentlessly towards the sea. Staring downriver, I saw what appeared to be the frolicking of naked hippies. I squinted. Well, it could be mermaids. It could be manatees. It might be rocks. I probably should get my eyes examined soon. 

I was peacefully listening to the sounds of the waterfall, when suddenly it just stopped. That's odd, I thought. I blinked and blinked again. I was not by the river. I was not in the woods. I was not outdoors at all. 

I realized that, for now, I didn't know where, when or why and neither did I know how I got to where I was and I was close to clueless as to what shape I was in, as well.

I didn't know how much time had passed since the sonic attack in Chicago.  I didn't know how I got off the street. I know that I hadn't made it as far as Maxwell Street and that ribs and cerveza were no longer very high on my priority list.

I needed to do a personal inventory.

I was on a cot. From where I laid, no windows, doors, bars, guards, walls or...anything else for that matter was visible. 

No chains or ropes on arms or legs. That's a good start. Clothes are on, not torn, not particularly dirty and I didn't seem to be bleeding into them. More checks in the plus column.

My breathing seemed close to regular. I was able to wiggle my fingers and my toes, so I wasn't paralyzed. More good news. 

There were no shoes on my feet and I didn't see them anywhere near the cot. That could be problematic. Last that I remembered, I was wearing a very nice pair of boots that I would likely miss should I live through this.

So, the boots are gone as well as the thousand euros emergency cash that were stashed in them. Of course, my ankle holster and pistol were gone. So was my money belt with the Taiwan and Singapore dollars, Japanese yen and Mexican pesos. 

My ID and credit card however - and somewhat surprisingly - were still in my wallet and secure in my pants pocket. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that I still had my cell phone. I looked at the screen. Instead of date, time and location information there was a blinking question mark. How poetic.

Still in my pocket was my "lucky" Cuban 100 peso coin. Market and exchange value? Well, clearly none. It's value as a good luck charm was highly questionable as well by this point. 

I was beginning to really regret leaving the house. I am fairly well convinced that the giraffe crossing the highway was indeed a very bad omen and that would have been a really good time to turn around and go back to bed. Too late for regrets and way too late for that option.

The sound of a door opening was followed by the click of an old-fashioned light switch and the buzzing of antique fluorescent lights and I heard the clumping of boots on the tile floor, coming in my direction. 

Under such circumstances, it is wise to determine the nature of the social exchange as quickly as possible. 

One needs to calibrate in order to know if flight is possible or if fight is necessary or if a third option should be considered.

Under such circumstances, when all the multiple possible futures are hanging in the balance waiting for your decision, the wisest pathway involves scanning the other for common interests and values. 

We each, after all, are fellow travelers on a common pilgrimage. Saints and sinners we are. Most of us are some combination thereof, even in alleys and dungeons and hopefully whatever shore this is that I have washed up on.

I immediately determined that we had similar tastes in footwear and that we had similar size feet as well. In fact, I determined that she was wearing my boots. Above my boots, she wore jeans and a flannel shirt. No uniform, so this is not a jail or a hospital. Well, hope for the best.

Then, I heard those three little words that brought me hope and a touch of joy. Those three little words that everyone longs to hear.

"¿Tu quieres café?"

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Everything Was Fine Until It All Went Sideways

[This is Part Two of a fictional work in progress. Part One is at this link:

by Zvi Baranoff

"די וועלט איז אַ גרויסע און ס'איז זיך ניטאָ וווּ 

"Di velt iz a groyse un s'iz zikh nito vu ahintsuton."

"The world is huge and there's nowhere to turn."

You know, they really prefer that we don't drive at all, leaving all transport up to the all knowing over-brain. They passed all sorts of laws and instituted all sorts of regulations but…well...that's all fine and dandy for city folks in places where the web is all mostly effective and hardly ever breaks down. 

Out here in the country and particularly in the mountains, there are some sketchy spots where it just is not so reliable in spite of all the promises from corporations and the government. 

Even in the cities, things still fall apart on occasion. Everything just slides to a halt and most everyone sits around waiting for Bill Gates' Kids to show up with their cosmic screwdrivers and tuning forks and electronic gizmos to find the glitches and reboot the whatnot. 

Hardly anyone knows how to just drive their cars without web assistance so when the inevitable happens all they can do is smoke dope and drink until the web is back up and functioning correctly. Me, I like to drive.

The road towards the coast snakes through the mountains. It is a bit of a white knuckle affair and I am fine with letting the car's computer handle this particular stretch of the drive, even though I generally prefer to actually steer the car myself. Admittedly, that's mostly just old habits, but the skill still comes in handy and there are times when being untethered is good for the soul. I took a nap and let the car drive these curves by itself. My soul, no doubt, would get its due later.

If there are no glitches or malfunctions the computer can get me down the road nearly twice as fast as I can drive it on my own. It's like riding a roller coaster with lots of switchbacks and some hairpin turns into the Redwood Forest and a tunnel through one particularly large mountain.

There is a checkpoint at the border and of course I breeze through the checkpoint, no problem. It is all automated. The surveillance machinery checks my computer log, weighs the vehicle, takes my temperature, scans the vehicle for any plant material, animals or insects. A sonar probe searches for hidden compartments.

Years ago there would have been a couple of California Agricultural Inspectors looking for fruits and vegetation. 

Before getting to the coast, I once again alter the trip destination coordinates and switch back to manual control. I turned off the highway and onto a rutted dirt road. 

A few miles up this rarely used path, in the security of an electronic dead zone and a thick patch of trees is the rendezvous point and Marcel and his boys are there waiting, as I expected them to be.

Marcel is connected and he was born into the business. His family has been running contraband as long as anyone can remember. Also, protection rackets and prostitution and Girl Scout Cookies and whatever else turns a buck. 

His “boys” have been with him for as long as I have known Marcel which is at least a couple of decades, maybe a quarter of a century. Time flies whether you are having fun or not. I don't think I have heard twenty words from the two of them in all that flying and swirling time, not that I have spent any time hanging out. Just in and out for me.

The “boys” are there mostly for show, like gargoyles on the buttress of a cathedral, but armed. Marcel's reputation and family connections are mostly enough to guarantee his security and the security of his product, but you never know when some hotshot full of piss and vinegar will try to make a score or a name for himself so the boys have steady employment. 

The boys are each built for the job, standing well over six and a half feet tall and wide enough for whatever. One is as pale as the other is dark. 

The white guy has Aryan Nation tattoos up and down his arms and probably covering his torso, not that I have seen most of his bod. There is the SS tattoo on his neck. The black fellow has some of the longest dreadlocks I have ever seen and speaks with a slight Jamaican accent. 

They met in prison and probably bonded lifting weights. They seem inseparable and also seem to communicate telepathically, if communication is what you want to call it. There is no way to know. It is all somewhat reptilian, not to denigrate snakes and crocodiles. 

It is not like they have a whole lot to discuss either. Stand around and if there is a problem, fix it or break it as circumstances and mood dictate. They seem to like each other and their job as well, as much as they like anything.

I glide the car to a full stop, nodding to the boys as they separate enough to let me through. Decades of doing business like this and that's all the conversation that I have ever had with these two. That's plenty. That's just fine. That's the way it is.

I find Marcel in a somewhat more chatty mood than usual which is pretty irritating, but no point in showing irritation because there isn't a damn thing I can do about it. “It ain't like the old days,” he says to me after the ritual nodding and hand shaking and whatnot. 

“Nah. It ain't.” That's my response. Frankly, I don't know what the fuck he is talking about, but I will let him prattle on. It's no skin off my nose and this is his operation. If he wants to prattle he will. There is still nothing I can do about it, and I do know which side of the bread my butter is on. 

So, I take a yogic breath, and I listen to him drone and try to act interested and pay enough attention to see if there is anything this gangster has to say to me that is of any use to the actual work at hand. It really seems unlikely, but one never knows.

“In the old days, it was all weed. You moved one load after another…” What the fuck!?! What's with all the chattiness? He must have taken one of those pills that are so popular these days. What can he really know about the “old days” is what I am really thinking. I have grandkids older than this hotshot. I have hemorrhoids older than him. 

By the time I was introduced to Marcel the game was practically over. The “old days” were long gone before he was even born. Shit. He is STILL wet behind the ears but he is connected by birth, born into the biz and he thinks he is somebody and for what it is all worth, at this stage of my life I am somewhat dependent on him and of course I resent it, and of course I do my best not to show it. Not showing resentment was becoming an increasingly difficult manifestation and magic trick with each passing breath.

When I was his age the weed was still coming up from Mexico and Columbia. Gangsters were bringing it through the border checkpoints in semi trucks. Fast boats were dropping loads in the Florida Keys and the Everglades. Planes were flying in and dropping loads at secret fields in Arkansas and Alabama. 

I moved to an Arizona border town to be closer to the source. Somebody named Guido or Frank or Tony was the connect, the guy who the truckers worked for. He talked with a lot of dees and duhs and kind of gravely and had some visible scars and a nose that looked like it had been broken multiple times. He would drop the loads at the yoga studio. The sensei would sell the weed to me.

Anyway, I wasn't paying much attention to what that dick Marcel was saying and it was mostly background noise to my own drifting memories but somewhere in there I perceived a break in his rambling monologue and I stepped back into the  the conversion and the present just long enough to interject my one concern - that the packages needed an extra wrap or two because of the new sniffer equipment that the rollers were now using. 

So, I told Marcel what Bubba had told me and he got the “boys” to throw an extra couple of wraps on the packages before fitting them into the storage compartment so I could get the fuck out of there and get my act on the road. I Nameste oh so sincerely to Marcel, gave the muscles a nod and rolled back down the dirt road.

I needed to get out of the woods and jump on the hyperloop. Back in the day all that long distance running was on the Interstate highways but ground travel is now only for short distance and longer hops means down the tube and into the tentacles of the spider and the web. It's totally automated and mostly secure...first stop, Kansas City. 

The hyperloop plays havoc on my entire being. The speed is mind boggling. Everything blurs. Once you are travelling over a thousand miles an hour or so, the stomach and the brain and the rest of the internal organs and soul and spirit and consciousness just can't really keep up. All you can do is hold on and hope to come out the other side in one piece, because you're moving along at a numbing speed and before you can say "Bob's your uncle" you are at your destination and checking yourself for vomit and internal damage and thanking the stars or cursing the universe for being born and living in this era.

The first few years of the hyperloop, cars were being tossed about like shit down a flush toilet, but they worked out most of the bugs and hardly anyone gets flushed and splattered anymore. Besides, what choice do we have? 

Commercial flights are ancient history. Long distance private airplanes have all been grounded as well. The only things flying, pretty much, are police and military and drones and some short distance pleasure flights. The Interstate highway system is ancient history. The roads have been torn up and turned into "nature preserves" or strip mines or who knows but you can't drive long distances any more. So, crisscrossing the continent, it's the hyperloop or it just ain't happening. 

So, I am somewhere in Northern Cali and then I blink and swallow some bile and shake it off somewhere in Missouri. I definitely need a drink. I am definitely going to have one soon, but first things first.

Kansas City was once famous for Barbecue and the Blues. Now it has a thriving nightlife of a whole different nature. Quasi Asian cuisine and one techno dancehall after another, all under the glow of bizarre and disorienting artificial lighting, compete toe to toe.

The Wan Phát Phúc Noodle stands on one corner and the Fuk Yoo Stir Fried Cat on the opposite corner, each with pulsating music and weird glowing lights.

The Fuk Yoo Stir Fried Cat is a spiffy, upscale pseudo Asian restaurant and discotheque. Of course, like pretty much everywhere else all the cooking is automated and the wait staff is all robotic, except maybe the maître d’ which is way humanoid so might actually be flesh and blood but I just am not sure and it really does not matter to me. 

The maître d’ scans my biometrics, and "recognizes" me. He lets me in and nods me toward the back of the joint. I make my way through the crowded dance floor and the pulsating lights and the oh so suave good looking people and robots and quasi Chinese food and noise they call music these days. 

The office, of course, is in the back of the place. Some things never change. I find the door to the office which has been electronically unlocked for me so I can drop my first package with the yuppie prick that runs the place. The Stir Fried Cat looks prosperous and it probably is, but the business out the backdoor is likely making more than the business that comes in the main entrance. The joint is a front.

This deal is all Marcel's. His product to his customer. I am just the delivery boy on this leg of the trip, making a nickel or so on the transaction. 

I drop the box on the desk and the prick manager of this snotty upscale fake Chinese restaurant hands me a fake leather briefcase filled with, I presume, real Hong Kong Dollars or Euros or Mexican Pesos or something negotiable and gives me a fake smile and a hipster fake and limp handshake and I am really hating it all and am ready to get on to the rest of the trip which is my contacts and my profits and maybe some of it is at least a little less artificial. 

I want out of Fuk Yoo Stir Fried Cat and as hungry as I am getting, I wouldn't eat the slop from there if you paid me and I was looking forward to a second lunch at the some Roadkill Café or such - somewhere in Chi-town, perhaps, around Maxwell Street, I think. Down the hyperloop once more and resurface in Indiana.

I glided my car into the elevator and rode up to the top of the parking facility. I found a parking cubicle and secured the car. I set the biometric lock and the electronic cloaking mechanism making it relatively secure from thieves, cops and other sorts of vermin. I relieved the handgun from under the seat and strapped it into my ankle holster. 

With my cap pulled down and my jacket wrapped tight, I headed back to the streets of Chicago, about as prepared as one can be against the Chicago weather and local temperaments and ready to find some barbecue ribs and a cold cerveza. The snow is blowing sideways and I wrap the scarf just a little tighter and I am feeling like Winnie the Pooh or the Fool from the Tarot Card deck or like a cartoon character that's gone running off the cliff but hasn't looked down yet…

It starts out sounding similar to the flapping of a hummingbird's wings. And then, more like a field of bees, in growing intensity. 

In almost no time the humming changed to the oogah-oogah sound that is surely the international warning to head to the nearest shelter and otherwise you are in for deep hurt.

I heard a hiss and I heard a thud and the blast from the sound cannon and I collapsed on the sidewalk. I didn't know whether to try to protect my ears or my gonads. My brains felt like jello vibrating in an earthquake in the middle of a London Blitzkrieg attack while the  Titanic is sinking and the Hindenburg is going down in flames.

Twice before was twice too many times and I was sure that this third time wouldn't be any better. The first time, gangsters took a load off me and left me heaped on the side of the road...fortunately within crawling distance of a hospital. The second time, the Federales were wielding the hammer and I awoke where time is measured by calendars and not by minutes, hours or days of the week.

What's it feel like? Depending on your consistency, somewhere about halfway between losing control of one's bowels and falling into a black hole. For me, probably closer to the black hole end of that spectrum. If darkness can be bright and unbearable noise and even more unbearable silence can coexist, it happens at that moment right before you pass out. 

It's a nonlethal weapon, they say. It hardly ever kills anyone, they say. Nope. Probably won't kill you. It just makes you wish you were dead. I closed my eyes and hoped for the best. I knew in my heart that even the best possibility at this point would probably be far less than good.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Grace and Mercy If Luck Holds

(Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.)

by Zvi Baranoff

Enough is as good as a feast and it's all a party until the food and booze and dope are gone.  Not enough, well...the Laws of Karma determine everything. 

Scarcity can play havoc and then Karma has a way of running over Dogma and everything is up for grabs. That Three Musketeers All for One and One for All Che Guevara stuff gives way to watching out for number one. 

When there are unmet needs and unkept promises there is trouble in Paradise. Push comes to shove. If you don't have enough push you will get shoved. I was going through another of those recurring stages of shortages. I do not tolerate prolonged deprivation, so something has to happen and nothing much happens until I make it so.

Lately, I have been accused of not remembering things but it is not true that I don't remember. However, my sense of linear time has altered and is perhaps fractured. I have been thinking about a cat that used up the last of his nine lives a half century ago... 

You see, I remember everything but not necessarily in any sort of order. I remember my  past. I remember the future. I remember things that may have happened or might happen or could have happened or happened to someone else or never happened at all. Maybe it is all for the best. Maybe it is a survival technique and I just haven't figured out yet how it is useful.

Every creature has its survival techniques. Some climb trees to avoid predators. Some learn to run fast or fly. There is a bug that, when swallowed by a frog, will shit something that makes the frog barf him up. Whatever works.

My personal survival mechanism is to emulate the chameleon. I am cold blooded. I have a detachable tail. I can alter my outer appearance and I eat flies.

We each face choices and make our own compromises with reality. Everyone works, steals or deals and we all end up serving somebody. 

Eventually, even a chameleon is eaten by a bird or battered beyond survivability by a cat or simply dies of old age. No survival technique is foolproof and I am not fool enough to believe that I will last forever, but I have managed to become a very old lizard.

Back when I started out guys would just throw their shit in a backpack or a suitcase and get on a train or a plane. It was as simple as that. 

Then they introduced X-rays and dogs and sensors and drones and robotic who knows what and an interlocking computer web that serves all of our needs and fulfills our every wish and tracks our every move and most every thought. 

We adapt to the world as it is or we become extinct. I am not quite ready for extinction. This is a time of blurred distinctions and the blurring of the lines seems to be accelerated. One need be particularly flexible in such times.

Mobile uploaded reality in multi dimensional, printed formats impose the artifact creations into what we always thought of as reality. It happens at a breakneck pace. 

I did a stretch of a few years away in a box and when I got out there was this new thing called Facebook. Everyone was using it. We were all suddenly connected and sharing and tagging and poking each other. All the phones became smart and the people it seemed became less so. 

As the seamlessness of the systems improved, the web fulfilled more of our social needs and those in other cities and other time zones and on other continents and for all I know in other dimensions or other planets appeared to be as real and relevant as anything else. 

Time however lost all relevance and that proved to be a problem. Video monitors for the kids and automatic feeding stations for Fido and Fifi and a flashing signal to remind us to pee do help reduce the deaths and kidney failures. So it goes. 

The robotic cleaner mostly takes care of my living space. Weekly food delivery assures that there are meals available. The internet monitors breathing and pulse and blood pressure. If I pass out or drop dead while absorbed in Internet No Time they will eventually send out the meat wagon to gather me up. I suppose that one way of going is as good as another.

I had been on a bit of a “social media” bender for a couple of months. It was time to get off the couch and make something happen in the physical world. 

The rent was overdue and the cutoff threat notices for utilities were getting to that critical point with exclamation points and asterisks and large fonts in the oh so serious electronic messages. 

Everything changes but some things don't change much. They still insist on getting paid and will leave you high and dry if they don't get enough do-ray-mi before the due date or there will be consequences and blah blah blah.

So, I disconnected from the Internet jag and set out to see what I could still accomplish in the world of flesh and blood and humans and gods. With a clean shave and a semi cleared mind I was as ready as I ever would be, to face life head on, as much as I would prefer to just stay home and ignore it all, because sometimes that's just not a choice.

I burned some sage. I chanted and prayed. I laid out the Tarot Cards and tossed the I Ching coins. On the way out of the door, as I stepped over the threshold, I reached my right hand up to the mezuzah that hangs in the doorway and briefly brushed it with my fingertips and then brought my fingertips to my lips. I then cross myself and ritually incant my mantra; spectacles, testicles, wallet, watch. 

I hit the keyboard outside the door and engage the electronic security protocol for the house. As I walk through the garden on the way to my car, I rub the fat belly of the statue of Buddha and I scratch my current garden mouser behind his ears and he purrs appreciatively. I figure that I have all my ends covered for now about as best as I can hope. Rituals are important. Maybe it will be alright.

Then the giraffe bolted across the Redwood Highway a few miles below Cave Junction, just in front of my car. I hit the breaks and skidded off the road, bouncing against the guardrail before coming to a complete stop. 

I reached under the driver's seat to confirm that the handgun was where it always is. I checked my jacket pocket to assure myself that a flask of whiskey was sitting comfortably in its place. I pulled a reefer from my cigarette case and lit it, taking a couple of hits before pulling back onto the highway towards the coast.

The giraffe was very much out of place. I had a strong sense that the day was rapidly slipping out of my control.

I coded the O'Brien Country Store, Casino and Bordello/Hotel into the car's computer and minutes later I was pulling in at the blinking light. 

When I first came to Southern Oregon it was just the Country Store and a campground out back. There was an ancient police car sitting out in front of the place and an antique railroad car plopped into the parking lot. The store also doubled as a Post Office back then although few people now even remember the Postal Service. Neither rain nor snow! Hah.

Other than the police car out front and railroad car in the parking lot and the outer appearance of the historic Country Store, there have been a lot of changes. The luxury hotel dominates the horizon. The robot bordello off to one side and the casino off to the other. The parking lot was crowded and there were a few small planes on the landing field.

Lone Mountain Road still runs uphill past the complex. It is now a four lane rather than two. Naue Way still forks off of Lone Mountain Road and that is still only two lanes although there has been a push lately to widen it. 

I lived up that way for a while during the shantytown period. There was a lot of irregular housing and unregulated contractual relationships. Rednecks and hippies and bikers and Christians and Back to Landers and a few artists and writers and druggies and thieves and some just regular folks lived in Obrien. During prohibition they all grew weed and there were a few clandestine meth labs. 

Now the Villages of O'Brien is a gated community with high end homes. I wouldn't pass the background or credit check to live there. I couldn't pass the background checks for employment at the entertainment complex either for that matter, not that there are a lot of jobs or any jobs for a fucker as old as I am. Still, they need some folks doing actual stuff that a machine can't really do, especially in these luxury joints. 

Most of the work around there, like everywhere else, is automated. Robots and other machines keep the place clean and the shelves stocked and the customers relatively happy.

Most of the weed is grown on big farms and all the pharmaceutical concoctions one could dream of are made in big laboratories and delivered right to your door by service drones 24 hours a day.

Time rolls on and it goes as it will. I bought myself a burrito, a cold beer and an ersatz cigar from the machine and took a short break from it all. Ersatz cigars! Humph!

While I smoked the Ersatz I found my mind drifting back to those days when there was an embargo on Cuba and the boat captains in Florida would hook me up with caseloads of  Cuban cigars which I could sell to rich New York fucks that gladly paid premium prices for the forbidden luxury. I developed a taste for them and they could put a few kopecks in my pocket.

The Ersatz is reminiscent of the real thing in form and practice. I like the way the smoke drifts as my thoughts drift and it gives me something to do with my hands while I think or think about thinking. 

I should be thinking about how I am going to be pulling off this trip but all I can think about is the fucking giraffe that crossed the highway. It didn't belong there. It made no sense and it is probably bad luck. You need to watch for signs and warnings and hidden meanings and maybe it meant something but I sure did not know what. 

I doubt I was any clearer by the time I decided to get back on the road but my heartbeat was more regular and I was in as good of shape as I was going to be in. I reset the trip controls programming “self” driven to the coast, temperature settings, music and a mild hypnotic. I locked the steering wheel out of the way and reclined the seat for some kickback time. 

It still strikes me funny that we use the term “self driving” when we mean that the computer and web controlled travel. The “self” becomes the passive consumer of the service provided. I have no more control over how the language is used than I have over the technology of the day. Sometimes you just have to give in to the controls, or give up to the Higher Powers or some such shit.

So, I was just about comfortably zonked when I felt the car “self guide” to the stop on the side of the road and awoke to the pulsating strobe lights. The immediate instinctual anxiety bordering on terror that washed over me like a wave rescinded as a wave as well while the hypnotic wore off and I remembered where I was and what was going on. 

I wasn't driving and I wasn't carrying and I wasn't doing anything criminal at the moment. What the heck was this cop tossing me for? I am not even out of Josephine County yet.

I looked out the window as the cop approached my car and felt a sense of relief. This one's OK, I think while I rack my head trying to remember his name.

As I lowered the window I just start talking, loud and pushy and directing the course of this encounter. 

“What the fuck is with you and the godam lights?” I asked. I hadn't remembered his name. He turned down the strobe with his handheld from the pulsing to something somewhat more soothing.

“No problems,” he tells me. “I haven't seen you in a long time and wanted to check in with you.” I assured my old “friend” that I was not dead yet and in fairly good shape for the shape I was in. 

“So,” I asked him, “What do you know about a giraffe running around these parts?”

“I can tell you this. I don't know anything, there is nothing I can or want to do about it and any issues surrounding it are above my pay level.”

OK. At least I confirmed that it was really there and I was not being pranked and I was not hallucinating. All that was left to believe was that the sighting was potentially an evil omen. I carry a talisman to ward off evil and maybe it will help. 

“Bubba, how are the wife and kids?” I ask the cop. I still had not remembered his name, but Bubba will usually work when memory fails. It worked fine for now.

“The kids all moved to the city years ago and now have kids of their own. Everyone is fine.” I remembered the old days when he was growing weed and his kids would run around barefoot all summer long. Now he is a cop and the kids are grown and I am still running in circles. 

He leans into the window and lowers his voice. “Be careful out there. They have some new sniffer equipment that they are using in California. Keep your head down and put an extra seal or two on your packages. I don't want to be reading about you in the newsfeeds. And keep the car on self-drive until you get at least a couple of miles past that security inspection at the border.”

It pays to have friendly relationships. The old cocksucker gave me an important tip. If this trip goes well I will have to break him off a little something. That is the way Karma works. That is how I maintain some balance in the Universe, I am thinking as I let the car drive me southward.

Friday, January 31, 2020

This Is Where We Live

by Zvi Baranoff

A fire burned the house that was on this property and killed Otis. This side of the tree is blackened and seemingly dead but the other side of the tree lives. Now moss is growing on the blackened side. Grape vines grow up the tree and were full of grapes in the summer. A cat named Odie survived the fire and comes over to visit where his home once was. This is where we now live.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Photos of Takilma, Oregon

Welcome to Takilma, Oregon
Photos by Zvi Baranoff

The Takilma Buffalo

A community bulletin board in Downtown Takilma

The Frog Farm Kitchen

The Hopeful Rancho

A Very Smokey Day

     Irregular Housing          

Misty Morning

Sentry Standing Guard

A Takilma Garden 

Grapes on the Fence

A Hinge on the Teahouse