This morning was all about my old sports buddy Ray. First I was dragging my tax info out of a shelf and found the donation envelope for “Nick's Interns” that I hadn't sent in yet. Nick was Ray's kid who was killed by a drunk driver about fifteen years ago after a night at the Caspar Inn and Ray and Marie had established a foundation to support youth working in the woods, something Nick passionately enjoyed.
I put the envelope in my priority pile, located the tax papers prepared for the Valentine's Day meeting with my new tax lady, and wrote the latest chapter of my memoirs about 1973, my nineteenth year. I knew the first sentence was going to include a mention of Ray but it was a surprise that it went on for a couple paragraphs about our sports connection.
I drove to Redway to grab the New York Times then headed down through the woods to lower Redway by the water plant to park and read the headlines, something I did every few weeks. (On one of those days as I was leaving and driving back up the hill I was stopped by the CHP and had to identify myself—someone from the only nearby residence had reported me as a suspicious lurker.)
I had noticed all the cars parked at Ray's place as I drove by to my reading spot and wondered if his land partners were visiting. I headed back down the narrow dirt road but had to stop--a Blue Star gas truck was completely blocking the way. I backed carefully to a marginal turnaround and decided to just deliver my $40 donation in person.
Ray invited me in, we reminisced about the old Gulch days, and he told me an anecdote about one of Nick's soccer episodes. Ray put the money in a folder and said that every thank you letter Marie sends out has one of her tears on it.
Then Ray told me a story I had never heard before:
They were all at Dave McCormick's 49th birthday party when they heard gunshots nearby. A group of them rushed over to the adjacent property and found Reb dead of a gunshot wound and another guy stabbed. They knew the cops would be on the way so they decided to harvest Reb's weed crop before they arrived.
After two pickups were filled with plants they debated whether to take it up the hill and stash it back in Thompson Creek or take it further down the Yellow Dirt Road and across the bridge at Whale Creek. Ray thought they should take it up the hill but others wanted to take it down and Ray reluctantly went along.
As they were driving back from dumping the plants they ran into the cops coming the other way. If they would have gone up the hill with pickups full of weed they would have run right into the police, with a shooting death and stabbing to go along with it. Ray told me that to this day when he is making a decision with others and his suggestion isn't chosen he sometimes thinks back to that day thirty-five years ago when his wasn't the right decision.
* * *
Random Boonville angle: about 20 years before the bloodshed AVA Editor Bruce Anderson was part-owner of the land in Whale Gulch where the party was. I co-owned the parcel in Whale Gulch with a guy named George Schneider who talked me into it. I met him when we were driving cab in SF and I didn't know what I was doing. I liked the area but wasn't interested in spending time there. I made one trip there with him during which I came to hate him over his treatment of his girlfriend, whose name was Kathy or something. I signed over the place to her so I wouldn't have anything to do with George again. The whole fiasco cost me about 500 bucks, as I recall. Ray Raphael was a neighbor.
Park Stage Show
After I have a memorable experience I relive it multiple times: first when I scribble it into my journal, next editing and typing it up, and finally after printing it out. I take the memoirs to the park and practice my spoken word routine in the secluded woods and open meadows stopping every five or ten minutes for another “open mic” segment and often extend the hike just to tell more stories to the appreciative bugs and the birds.
The money shot for this exercise is when I arrive at the stage to read the one I've been prepping for my two-minute radio spot on Friday but now that I've been banned from the air for protesting censorship at Kmud I read whichever random misadventure is next in the sheath of papers in my back pocket. Sure, it would be nice to have a larger audience but the reality is that I write mainly for my own entertainment.
Two or three times this summer I got to the stage at the same moment as some other hikers and generated a small audience when I asked, “Would you like to hear a story?”
Another day I was walking down the road through the shady forest when a loose dog bounded past followed by a hippie girl in tie dye and dreads.
“She's friendly,” she called out as she ran by.
When I got to the stage she was doing stretches on the front part and I told her I like to do my “show” there. She said go ahead and continued with her old-style sit-ups while I took out my stories and did my thing on the other side.
Once I arrived for the main show and a bare-chested young guy was doing his stretches against the front with his headphones on. I told him what my gig was and he nodded me onto the stage. When I read my anti-smart phone poem I wondered if he noticed.
Yesterday I showed up at the stage on a sunny summer morning, took refuge in the shady corner at the back, and started reading my latest story to the attentive lizards and snakes. Partway through the episode the young guy showed up again and without a word began his stretching regimen on the front edge of the stage.
A couple minutes later I finished reading, looked up, and he had vanished.
Do you take your phone with you when you go to sleep?
are you so connected you're like anxious sheep?
You have no free will and are powerless to go back
now you know how it feels addicted to crack
How did you change when you turned on that phone?
did your humanity tumble and become a syndrome
Some day I'll get one and then this song will change
and I'll feel how the synapses get rearranged
When I join your tracked flock I'll see what I was missin'
but rather find a sweet woman and get to all the kissin'