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Mount Diablo. Squat square tower bristling with antennas, infested with bulging microwave dishes. Below the tower, a transmitter building - rusty doors and dusty floors.
Key clicks, latch creaks. Dim, even once I flip on the bare flourescent bulbs. Cabinets hum all around me - radios for the FBI, Army, CHP... and Coast Guard. Dull roar of the air conditioner. Government-issue green logbooks rest atop the cabinets. Some of these units havenít been checked since 1986.
In one corner, a stained and sagging mattress, a rack of test cables. For those dark and windy nights when nothing can make it work.
Sometimes itís a certain use of words, sometimes itís a string of events. Something falls too neatly into place, replicating a familiar pattern. My ninja instincts kick in, and I develop near-psychic powers of intuition. I wonít be tricked again. I am almost never wrong in predicting the actual script... I merely misjudge the actors.
Logically, I know this. X+Y equalled Z with everyone else. But with you, it usually equals... Q. This does not compute, you see. And so I insist upon Z.
It will take a while, I guess, to learn this kinder, gentler algebra.
Somewhere beyond Bolinas, past the CAMSPAC transmitter site: This Road Not Maintained By Marin County. Dust clouds swirl behind, truck shudders to drown out the radio.
Deserted turnout. Huge spreading oak clings to the seacliff. Little trail winds all the way down to the tidepools. But I am not here to see anemones.
Respectable chunk of Franciscan sandstone - I pull it with one hand from the roadcut. Solid, banded with streaks of rust-brown oxidation. One soft tap with my screwdriver, and it splits neatly into four slivers.
Grinning down the coastline at granite mansions perched on rust-brown sandstone.
Keiu has spent over an hour on my hair. I would tell her to stop, but she is in a trance. Blowdryer, round brush, perfumed oil, ceramic straightener, texturizing wax. All I needed was a trim. But Keiu is an artist, and an artist must not be rushed.
Home, and itís another record-breaking hot afternoon. One grateful tumble into the pool, and all Keiuís careful work is undone.
Above the beryl shimmer of the water, my toenails are polished garnet, or amethyst, or rubellite. I wiggle them with delight for a moment, before twisting back beneath the surface.
Tropical Storm Hanna. Can you imagine? I finally get out of the military, I finally escape the tyranny of the shipís whims. I figure maybe, just
, I can buy plane tickets more than three days in advance.
Always gotta be a cliffhanger. So far, Hanna and I are both scheduled to land in D.C. on Saturday. At least my flight is a non-stop. If I get delayed, Iíll be home, not stuck at OíHare. Again.
If not the ship, it seems that Nature herself will try to fuck with me. Iím just waiting for the locusts.
Why am I always waiting for the other shoe to drop?
Oh, yeah - because it ALWAYS DOES.
I need to stop sabotaging myself. I need to believe. Heís not my opponent. He needs my support right now, not my batshit crazies.
But I keep seeing all those sailorsí wives on the pier, waving earnestly while their husbands slip off their rings below decks.
He's asleep right now.
From across the room I call his name, he turns his head and kisses his pillow. My heart melts.
My mental belltower-sniper yawns, letting her rifle slip to order-arms.
The plane shudders and bucks above the clouds. The main swirl of Hanna has moved off to the north, arms spreading and shrinking, looking less like a Cinnabon and more like a church-carnival Spin-Art.
The girl across the aisle from me gasps with every bump. She grips her armrest till the tips of her fingernails bend back. The guy next to me is too engrossed in Modern Marvels to notice the turbulence.
We touch down just as the skies clear. Sunlight blazes up from the rain-slick pavement of the parking lot. My glasses fog with every breath.
Still warm, my hands, but I lie awake shivering beneath the hotel bedspread. This gossamer thread, this faery filament. Something more than fascination. Almost recognition.
This place, this haunt of hungry spirits. Here the air is thick with ghosts, every brick soaked in symbolism. Itís hard to walk along these narrow streets without contemplating the inevitable end of things.
If these old stories can survive, might something of us survive, too?
Thread spun inexorably between our skulls - no distance, no silence has severed it. Draws our eyes together, willingly or unwillingly.
I think I have loved you before, and deeply.
Neo-pagans flock to Salem to commemorate the systematic extermination of women who dared to practice the ancient rites.
Some Christians visit to experience the vicarious thrill of knowing that Satan had tormented this town, and had been vanquished.
And almost everyone else comes to be spooked by ghost stories, the old gravestones, and the electronic echoes of hanged witchesí screams.
But there were never any witches in Salem. Only women - and men - who were sacrificed to gossip, spite, and competitive piety. Not demon-possessed. Certainly not pagan crusaders.
Pious themselves, I doubt they would appreciate our brand of sympathy.
Flat stones in the highlands. Rounded stones in the river valleys. Little rock walls skate along the roads and veer off into the forest. So much time and energy expended to spell one word upon the face of the land: MINE.
My usual December visits find them spooky and snow-brushed. Today they are sun-warmed, no chill beneath my hand. Banded gneiss, grey granite - depends on the locale.
I want to bask upon them like a lizard, let their stories seep into my dreams. For today I will simply follow them from Massachusetts to Maine in quiet smiling awe.
Nothing in Jonesport has changed since I left ten years ago. Same little lobster boats, same tenacious little wooden houses clinging to the cliffs above Moosebec reach.
At the tiny pizza place, a rack labeled ďFine WInesĒ. Prominently placed are two bottles of Booneís Blue Hawaiian.
On Beals Island, a small community cemetery. Five marble headstones at the north end of the lawn - a sea captain and his six children. All died within one month in 1862.
But their mother, the captainís wife, is not buried here. Locals say she poisoned them all, and ran away with another sea captain.
Shower washes off the D.C. soot, I flop down on the little B&B bed. Some small movement skates along the barest edge of my peripheral vision, and I fumble for the switch on the Victorian lamp.
. We meet again.
As Amy and I wearily pack for a midnight escape to a hermetically-sealed airport hotel, I eye the creature ruefully. Canít we just get along?
My irrational shudder says no. Thirty-legged hinge of my hypocrisy.
This is my second epiphany in as many days, my second visit from the karma-cops.
Swallowing judgement, tasting compassion.
This trip was so necessary - for both of us, certainly. The past few years have been so saturated with change and uncertainty, it was lovely to flip that instability upside-down and set out with no agenda. We did this with the Sedona trip, but we didnít have to work as hard for that.
Long miles of conversation. Hours spent with some of the people and places weíve only been able to talk about. I get to see these pages of my life - the new and the old - through your eyes. And I learn.
Letís not wait another three years.
Iím happy to be driving a stick again, and not accidentally jamming Amyís car into neutral at every stoplight.
Iím happy to see my cat again, scooping her up and pressing her diesel-powered purrs against my cheek.
Iím happy to have my Fee Verte again, losing myself in the unraveling of the oil trails as I doze at my writing.
But mostly Iím happy to tumble with you into our nest, inhaling the scent of your hair and skin, grounding myself in your arms. In a few moments our heartbeats sync up again, our faces find their familiar hollows.
Winding up Mount Diablo again, stuck behind a dump truck. I switch off my Junior Tucker playlist for a moment to take in the top-of-the-hour news.
All day Iíve been following the respective sagas of Lehman Brothers, AIG and Merrill-Lynch. Something in me sweats with an odd mix of fear and exhilaration. I listen with voyeuristic chills and wonder - how much longer can our paradigms survive their practice?
This could be the revolution. Is it really what we want?
I park the truck to unlock the gate. The square tower is alive with hundreds of ravens.
Jade or Kubler 53?
Sip or drain it greedily,
I like to watch the alchemy...
This change in our geography
fosters more anxiety
than our epistolary glee.
So you begin the melody,
Iíll join you with the harmony -
or read aloud some poetry,
dispel this odd intensity...
Is it La Fee, or is it me?
Iím blushing much too easily -
not sure how much is left to me,
The cat is staring greedily -
Iím wondering if she can see
the thread that spins from you to me?
I find Iím tuning perfectly
to your top-secret frequency...
Iím having a hard time staying motivated here. I am reluctant to give up on this month, but Iíve resorted to re-working excerpts from my e-mails and from longer poems.
I have actually been writing a lot lately. Just not anything that lends itself well to the hundred-word format. I donít suppose I should be upset by this sudden burst of inspiration. But I need to finish out the month, if only for the entries that kick ass all on their own.
Maybe itís just a post-vacation let-down. Working life tends to suffer by comparison.
The "Maze". Always gotta fight through the stop-and-go from Berkeley to the bridge, just because people won't get into the lane they need till the very last second. I mean, most of these people drive this stretch EVERY DAY. They KNOW which lane they need. They just wait to shoot over till they're halfway onto the bridge.
I think they should have a series of cones...
or big metal spikes!
... pop up from the lane-lines in the last quarter-mile. That way they couldn't get over at the last second.
Bet they'd never try that shit again.
Happiness is... crossing the Antioch Bridge on a perfectly clear day. You slowly rise up from the river levee, and the whole Delta opens up beneath you. Under a yellow sun, the waters are green-blue, and salt-shimmering just before noon. Valley grasses wave soft as kitten fur, and you can count every twisted oak on Mount Diablo.
The descent - the Amtrak winds its silver path along Suisun Bay. Power plants and refineries stretch their dreary spires above you like West-Coast Dracula castles.
You jam into fifth at the lane-split, shooting past the tomato trucks into Antioch.
My friend is going through some dire issues... and because I've got so much negativity and instability going on in my own sphere, I've been avoiding her calls.
Quite honestly, I think it's best for her - I can offer very little right now. The best advice I could muster is to SHUT UP AND MOVE ON... but she's not quite there yet.
I, however, can predict every turn in the conversation at this point. All of the self-flagellating and the rationalizing and the swearing-to-God-she's-not-gonna-let-it-happen-again.
Lather, rinse, repeat. Leave a message.
I got out a year ago, but I still work on the same base. People I know transfer out every summer... and then people I knew
transfer back in. So on any given day, I run into a few people who haven't seen me in years.
I really get sick of that
when they catch sight of me.
I don't like revisiting those days. I was a bitter, self-destructive person back then. And they take me right back to those feelings of contempt and mistrust. It seeps into my ear like poolwater and sloshes around all day.
So, it's that time of year again already?
You've already bought your tickets - and
you ask me if that will be a good week. And when I say,
- that's a
week, Beeps has his academy finals that week - you just chuckle and tell me I'll find the time somehow.
One of these years I will have the wherewithal to fly my ass to Patagonia for the week you're here.
Most times I think I sprang full-grown and armored from the head of my father... then you call, and I am sure I must have hatched somewhere.
Summer. Will it ever freaking end? Holy interminable sunshine.
I know I'm spoiled, living by the Bay with its attendant lovely fog. But anytime the marine layer breaks before noon, I get grumpy.
And if it breaks before noon on a weekend, I get homicidal. Mostly because I live on a beach road, and the sunshine draws the locals out like mosquitos to a porch light. And the locals in Alameda are, by and large, geriatric Navy retirees and their screaming grandchildren who think they're too cool for crosswalks.
Please, please - let it be November when I wake up tomorrow.
At one of my old units, the CO had hung, on the wall in his office, the poster (the actual motivational one) that says somethingalong these lines: "Leaders are like eagles - they don't flock, you find them one at a time."
Clearly the guy had never been to Alaska. They're like pigeons up there.
I couldn't resist... in one corner of the poster, I taped a snapshot Iíd taken when I was on the ship. A dingy picture of a buoy yard in Kodiak - and hundreds of sooty, dirty bald eagles hunched along the edges of the dumpsters.
Lovely grey day at Fort Baker. Squinting at the dial of my wattmeter as duotone blasts from Mile Rockís foghorn ring through the strings of my beloved harp.
Just as I am coiling my cables, the sun pierces petulantly through the fog, unwilling to relinquish the glittering glare of the Bay to autumnís merciful shadows.
So I drive to Point Bonita, park my truck beneath the shady shelter of a cypress, and wait for the decrescendo and death of the foghorn chorus. Then, by the weary Pacificís churning lullaby, I slide into the untroubled slumber of innocents and lithium-initiates.
Iíve been dreaming of Oahu. My favorite beach at Makaha - or, if that one is too crowded, Yokohama Bay.
The sand here doesnít just dry and brush away like the sand in Cali. Itís pulverized coral - flat, thin particles that coat you like reptilian scales. It practically takes a pressure washer to get them off.
Have you ever just slipped into the sea, rested upon her turquoise face, opened your arms to the sun? When you do this in Hawaii, you must understand: youíre leaping from the summit of a mountain.
Seven mountains rise from the heart of the sea.
Sectorís high-site console system had never failed before. No one in my shop had ever worked on it. I spent thirty minutes just finding the damned manual and chasing the spiders out of the binder rings. I drove to the base, feeling a bit unsteady.
It's midnight on a Saturday.
There are reservists dozing in radio-trucks on various hilltops, and surf coxswains manning their local VHFís even though they've pulled twelve-hour days already.
Oh, and various brass calling the base repeatedly wondering
when itís all gonna come back up
All of these people are waiting on ME.
I saved the world last night.
I navigated my clumsy way through the copyright-1982 Motorola manual. I had to tear eight cabinets apart to find the cards and connections, then match them to the grainy pictures and diagrams in the fold-out pages.
I figured out where all the different parts and pieces were located, then looked up the alarm code. Turned out it was much simpler than I could have hoped - I just had to reset the main-brain of the system, and suddenly it was all about green LED's.
The base brass think I'm a goddess now.
Nemesis! Phantom! How the hell are ya? Christ, I hadnít heard from you since TSTA - except for the text you sent last Christmas, telling me to die in a fire.
So your call tonight was really a stunning broadside. I didnít recognize the number; I only answered because I though it might be a duty call. You always did have that spidey-sense for finding me alone. Must be all that radar exposure.
Every Christine needs a Phantom. And no one else can fill that mask like you. Iíll be listening at the mirror... with pepper spray under my petticoat.
Dozing off at the console when the watchstander slips a fresh Diet Coke into my hand. Squinting at the array of blinking LEDís, I yawn. ďTry Pigeon Point again.Ē
Philips does a short-count on channel 16, and all the other site controllers light up appropriately.
ďCool. Now have Golden Gate try it.Ē
I hear Golden Gateís watchstander come across the local with a short-count. But none of the high-sites light up.
Damn. ďTell them weíre sorry, but they canít stand down till the ITís get in.Ē
Checking the clock, I realize Iíve ended the month without you.
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