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Let the Spinning Wheel Fly: Joshua Pt. 2

Awake between the sleeping bodies of the two men I loved the most in LA, one who I believe will self-destruct and the other I will soon outgrow. With my eyes closed, I could see the heads of Joshua Trees spinning in magnificent color with the stars staining the sky.

What goes up must come down,
Spinnin’ wheel got to go ’round,
Talkin’ ’bout your troubles it’s a cryin’ sin,
Ride a painted pony let the spinnin’ wheel spin.

I thought about our conversations earlier in the day.

I thought about Trent on top of a rock, bringing up the Israeli Man he had an affair with again. He said, “I know it was him that gave me genital warts. He was the only one I had unprotected sex with and he was always out, calling me, talking about the boys he was picking up. He was an asshole. I remember sitting in his car with him and he answered his phone. I know he was talking to his kid, I could hear it. And he was just lying. That’s when I said this has to stop, this is wrong.”

I thought about a younger version of Trent sitting in a hoodie and jeans in the expensive car of a much older, much richer man’s car. And I could see Trent’s face change as he identified with the child on the other side of the phone.

I wondered if this man knew what an impact he had on Trent, if he thought about Trent during moments of deep reflection or with friends who are willing to listen to anything that comes to mind in the middle of the desert.

At some point in the day, I mentioned the Prophet to Trent. When I was still married (separated) and obsessed with Eric (The Prophet), I came over to his apartment in the middle of the night. When I answered the door, he had a brown blanket over his head and draping around his arms like a shroud.

He answered the door, concerned the knocking would wake up his roommate or neighbors, and just quietly lifted his arms in the air as if to say, “Why are you knocking like that right now?” In the moment, he looked like he was doing his best Jesus impression.

I like that memory. It is a ridiculous association with someone who truly believed he had a prophetic calling straight out of the Bible.

When I shared it with Trent out of the blue, it was almost as if he could see my memory too, and he laughed. Trent, “He was cute, just a cute boy.” In the moment, I felt like he could see my stories like a photo album across his lap. I nodded and smiled. He was just a boy, by now he must be a man.

As I lay still in the dark, the tent walls turning from black to blue, I wondered if these two men knew how much they touched our lives. So much so, that they wander our thoughts in the most intimate and isolated moments of the desert.

You got no money and you got no home,
Spinnin’ wheel all alone,
Talkin’ ’bout your troubles and you never learn,
Ride a painted pony let the spinnin’ wheel turn.

The dawn was coming through the tent now. I had to go to the bathroom again, but there was rustling and voices with the rising sun. I held my digestive turmoil with all my abdominal muscle until the all-American family and Mrs. Ruining Our Trip broke down their tent and left.

I left and used the bathroom again.

When I came back, I turned to Trent and said, “Hey . . . hey, Its your birthday”

Trent, “It is? Time for a birthday drink.”

We drank two more PBRs.

Then dosed again. My hands and eye glasses were huge, so the drug was still in my system.

We came up with a plan. Split another pill and a half between all of us. Break down the tent, then explore until sunset.

We poured the fine white powder into the crevice of broken oreoes and ate.

Trent also had a cube of LSD kept in foil. Abe asked to lick the foil. Trent allowed it.

Then Abe asked me to videotape him pretending to fly with the tent as his cape.

We moved fast, I didn’t want any responsibility when the drug returned again for another visit. We finished, packed and skedaddled to Hidden Valley.

Trent said, “You know this rock is quartz. Its supposed to regenerate. Maybe that’s why it was considered sacred ground.”

We lazily leaned up against the rock, trying to hide from the wind.

The drug takes over an hour to find you.

Climbing the rocks was easier than we thought. It came naturally.

Abe, “Where are we going?”

Me, “We are following Trent, he is being led by his Mexican ancestors.”

Trent would cackle and squeal at my jokes, like a car that was spinning in figure-8s. Abe was quiet, and sometimes surrendered a delayed laugh. He was late to the party and interrupting our rhythm, trying to find a way to fit in.

Abe, “Be careful! Watch where you step!”

Me, “I can climb anything with these huge hands!”

We panted and giggled, looking for the sun and hiding from the wind.

Abe, “So, I just got back from my grandfather’s place in Kern and they told me about the Muslims. Apparently, they are really trying to take everything over. Its like an assault on our culture. They actually want to be able to pray during work hours-”

Trent and I gasp.

Abe, “AND .  . . AND get paid for it during those business hours.”

Me, “UNbelievable.”

Abe, “I know.”

Abe isn’t stupid, he is naive. My father’s first impression was, “He is still molding his thoughts about life. He is very malleable.”

I know what it’s like at his grandfather’s house.

His father, his Uncle (A right-Wing Christian) and his Grandfather all sit in a small cluster of chairs in the living room and complain about Obama. The Thanksgiving I was there, I had to excuse myself, and I found all the women crunched in a separate side room, shaking their heads and asking me to ignore them.

We talked about books and women’s healthcare. Abe was in the wrong room.

Back in the desert:

Abe, “Getting paid to pray. I don’t get paid to pray.”

Me, “Next thing you know, they will want to get paid for bathroom breaks.”

Trent, “Don’t they use their left hand to wipe? Just their hand.”

Me, “Yeah.”

Abe, “Ew.”

Me, “Yeah, that’s why they never shake with their left hand. They just have sand and the one hand.”

Abe, “And then they serve those shitty hot dogs at 711.”

Me, “Muslims, man.”

Trent, “Want their prayers”

Me, “Don’t want our toilet paper.”

Trent, “Just our money”

Me, “And our sand.”

Trent laughed.

Abe, “Wait, are you guys being sarcastic?”

Me, “Welcome to the party!”

***
We drove out to the Cholla Cactus Garden. Time was expanding and we kept wondering if we passed the cactus garden. Trent’s body needed a bathroom immediately.

On the horizon, hundreds of yellow cactus sprung from the ground.

Me, “There it is.”

We got out, Trent in his sun hat, me in my heart-shaped sunglasses and Abe, looking like a regular Jewish kid.

Mini-vans and SUVs boxed us in, and as we got out, we felt the eyes leer over us. We were pleasant and wished everyone a good morning, but the white pasty folks in big sweatshirts and cheap hats only offered a brief critical stare in return.

We were closer to the other entrance of the park, where the rest of America enters the park. The side closest to Los Angeles greeted us with open arms, but now we were face to face with the America a Gay, a Jew and whatever I am . . . an Asshole with a Hatchet, prefer to forget about.

As we carefully stepped through the cactus garden, the odd colors painting the land with thorns and buds waiting for bloom, I quietly sang, “♪♫ People are strange, when you’re a stranger, faces look ugly, when you’re alone. Women seem wicked, when you’re unwanted. Streets are uneven, when you’re down . . . ♪♫”

One Asian gentleman with a camera around his neck smiled and said hello.

Trent turned to me with a big smile and arms up. I dryly responded, “Foreign.”

We drove back towards Jumbo Rocks and stopped at White Tank so we could all use the bathroom again. We were drinking water out of cheap gallons we bought at Target.

Looking ahead from behind the steering wheel, I said, “Is that a swarm of bees?”

Trent and Abe looked, “ . . . no.”

Me, “Oh. They are gone now.”

Trent said, “We are in bat country.”

We drove up the slight roll of desert, the bright yellow paint on the road leading me every mile closer to nowhere.

I said, “It’s almost like we are climbing the yellow rail of a roller coaster. Just waiting to get to the top.”

Abe, “But you are ok to drive, right?”

Me, “Well, my hands are on the wheel and we appear to be moving forward so I should say, yes, I think I am driving.”

They laughed with a light weight of concern. We were moving slow. No one was around. I knew the rocks would protect us.

Did you find the directing sign on the,
Straight and narrow highway,
Would you mind a reflecting sign,
Just let it shine within your mind,
And show you the colors that are real.

We stopped at White Tank and sprang out to use the bathrooms.

I waited outside of one until a small, Asian woman came out. We politely nodded, and I entered the small room to see there was urine sprayed all over the toilet seat.

How was I high hallucinogens and still had the common sense to clean up after another grown woman?

I sat down and watched the cracks and holes in the wall move splendidly around in harmony. Was I still high, or high again?

We decided to leave my car where it was and wander across the desert. Abe was afraid of leaving my car, he was afraid of getting lost, he was just afraid.

We assured him we were parked and the ground was level enough that we could easily climb a rock to assess where we were.

Trent leaned up against a rock, “Time to regenerate.” He let the quartz warm his hands.

I leaned back in two sweatshirts and a hat, then yawned a, “I feel right at home.”

We would take turns talking to each other, while a third tripped into a universe of quiet thought.

Me, “I can smell my own bo through three layers of clothing, that’s kind of impressive.”

***

We drove up to the Hall of Horrors, with my small container of dark chocolate covered almonds.

I parked and said, “Ok, lets see what is so horrible about the Hall of Horrors.”

We walked around, Abe fitting in quarter cigarettes here and there. Me munching on my almonds. Our laughing was taking rise again.

I held up a handful of chocolate almonds melting together.

Me, “Would you like an almond cluster? It’s something I invented with a Hyundai Sonata and sunlight.”

We wandered, calling for Mr. Rabbit.

Trent said, “Mr. Rabbit, come out.”

Me, “We just want to admire you and love you.”

Abe, “Must be easy to hit them with something simple, like a bow and arrow.”

Trent and I paused and then giggled, and I said, “Geez. Stop being such a white man. You don’t have to dominate and kill the beauty.  Learn from our ways.”

Abe thoughtfully took a drag and said, “Alright.”

Me, “Well, I don’t see what is so Horrific about the Hall of Horrors.”

Trent, “Maybe its the way the light hits it during the day.”

Me, “Yes, or we just have to use our imagination.”

Abe fought to keep up, he was running out of time to get the jokes and find his place in the fast exchange of dialogue, but the day was unforgiving, and it was time to go.

We drove Abe back to his parked car at Hidden Valley and he followed us out of the park. We stopped at the first gas station. Trent went inside.

Abe came out to stand next to my car, “I will miss the rocks.”

Me, “They will always be here for us.”

Trent returned with a pint of beer.

Abe, “You realize there is an open container in your car.”

I turned to Trent, “Oh yeah, let me have a swig of that.”

We finished the beer and decided to find a hot springs to sit in before leaving.

As we drove, Trent’s phone finally got the reception he was starving for all weekend. He checked his email and his text messages and grew quiet.

Trent, “That girl better send me those Coachella tickets I bought.”

Me, “They haven’t arrived yet?”

Trent, “No, and she hasn’t written me back about it. Its a lot of money . . . Oh, someone can take my shift tomorrow. Maybe I will do that.”

Me, “You should, give yourself a day to recover.”

He wasn’t really listening. His phone had its hand around his throat now, bending his face down and staring into his eyes. The magic was slipping away from the desert and technology introduced a new set of feelings; anxiety, time and demand.

We drove into Desert Hot Springs thinking there would be free hot springs, but there were just spas everywhere charging to sit on their property. Didn’t they know it was our property too?

Trent said, “I am hot and tired. I just want to go back.”

I leaned against my car, as Abe quietly stood by.

I said, “Well, I would like to enjoy the rest of my trip, if I can.”

Trent said, “Ok.”

He wanted to be a good tripping partner, but we were out of alcohol, out of food, and out of steam.

I suggested we hit a Thai food place nearby and regenerate. The air conditioning kissed the sun burns, and cold glasses of water were delivered to our pristine, white table cloth.

We all washed up in the bathroom and ordered food, even though we weren’t hungry.

Trent was quiet over a glass of chardonnay and Abe was attentively feeding me tea and water.

Abe’s face was changing. He looked troubled. He kept videotaping me, which made me uncomfortable. Strange for an actress.

I said, “You are going to miss me when I move back to Washington.”

He said, “Yes, I know. I fucked this up. I fuck up everything. I am worthless.”

Trent said, “Stop, stop. We like you.”

Abe’s face fell closer to the table and he said, “Now, I am going to lose you.”

I said, “Stop. Stop. What’s done is done. You couldn’t move in with me. I am moving back home now, it’s settled. I am at peace with that.”

He grew quiet.

Talk about a bummer end to a trip. Trent was spinning his wine glass around in circles, thinking about his job, his troubled relationship with Kent and his next adventure.

The rocks had kept human life out and let us roam in free thought. Now that we were around buildings, people and technology, the rocks couldn’t protect us from ourselves any longer.

Abe was fighting the emotion chemically surging through all the neurons he numbs to death on a daily basis with THC.

I ate my Thai Food and said, “We should just head back.”

Trent, “I don’t want you to drive back if you can’t. I don’t mind paying to go sit in a hot spring.”

I said, “No, now I am tired and it’s only going to get worse. I didn’t sleep at all last night. Its better that we head back now so I can just go to sleep.”

Abe and Trent asked several times if I was sure, and I said I was.

We got into the car and I said to Abe, “So, are you following me back to my place?”

Abe said, “Let me check my messages and see if I work tomorrow.”

Trent and I waited in my car, as the sun turned from hot to warm, yellow to orange.

Abe said, “Well, I don’t work tomorrow but my cousin is in town to visit me. I forgot.”

He didn’t forget. He just didn’t mention it. My heart was set on taking him home with me to finish out the MDMA with love, dogs and sex.

I said, “Great, well thanks for coming out.” I started the engine. He faltered at the passenger side and said, “Um ..  ok, be careful.”

Trent thanked him for the company and said it was great.

I drove off furious.

I was furious the phone took away my tripping companion, and furious that my lover made plans on a night perfect for confessions, cohabitation and coitus. Now, I wouldn’t have a home tonight, just a room I am waiting to move out of.

Driving, the setting sun was smearing over the sky, making it hard to see the horizon, so I focused on the car in front of me.

Trent, “You are driving over the bumps on our lane. Are you sure you are ok?”

I said, “Yeah, the wind is pushing my car a little.”

He grew quiet and molested his phone, chewed his finger nails. The sound of the tap tap tap on his device and the nails breaking in his mouth wore on my nerves.

I tried to think about what I learned. Alan said, “I always like to think about what I want to come out with before I start [tripping].” I don’t really take that approach, part of the adventure is finding something you don’t expect.

In this case, I found the asshole with the hatchet. The fight to live my life.

No more apologies. No more regret. No more profusely thanking people.

I will be less polite and allow more leeway for myself. Take what is mine.

***

I dropped off Trent and helped him haul his things up to Kent’s and then smoked a cigarette alone in my car.

Abe texted: “If you want to come back, you can spend the night here with me.”

I wrote back: “I just drove through two and a half hours of LA traffic to drop Trent off and I have to work tomorrow, so thanks but no thanks.”

When I came home, the dogsitter hadn’t secured the cap on the dogfood vault, and the dogs got into it with kibble spilled all over the ground. They found my clean laundry bag halfway full of clothes and urinated on it.

I quietly cleaned up, and the three of them stared at me on the bed. They knew that I wasn’t happy and quietly waited for me to lay down.

What goes up must come down . . .

I had to sleep. Sleep would settle my mind, and erode my anger. Sleep would align my body back with my soul so I could see, once again, what my future might bring.

Someone is waiting just for you,
Spinning wheel is spinning true,
Drop all your troubles, by the river side,
Ride a painted pony,
Let the spinning wheel fly.

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Daytripping with Joshua

There were problems with Trent and Kent. I will rue the day I unknowingly assigned them rhyming names for this blog.

They have had a bumpy year, but were in love and living together in Kent’s new 1-bedroom in Highland Park, a more economic, more Hispanic, busier neighborhood than his last place in Silver Lake.

Kent told me that Trent drinks too much, says mean things and sometimes he is a completely different person.

I said, “That’s called Alcoholism.”

On Kent’s B-Day, Trent didn’t wish Kent a Happy Birthday or hug him or wake him up with a Birthday Blowjob. He instead got drunk and told him he didn’t want to spend his birthday, 3 days later, with Kent. He preferred to be alone.

During this time, they were both texting me. Trent stating he wanted to be a slut and was tiring of the relationship.

Kent struggling to understand where Trent was coming from, acknowledging it was Trent’s first adult relationship and battling with love and trust.

We were all supposed to go to Joshua Tree together, but now Kent was going to San Diego to visit his family and asked me to nudge Trent into camping alone with me for that weekend. He thought Trent needed space.

When the day arrived, Trent resisted. He sent me texts that he “wants to be alone” and “doesn’t feel like celebrating my birthday.” I knew he was in that dark apartment, draining a bottle of wine wondering when he could find himself in a dark corner with a stranger.

He reminded me so much of The Prophet. So wonderful, generous, witty and kind when sober, and cruel when intoxicated. I asked my therapist today, “Why do the best people I know have to be alcoholics? Is it because they need to balance their own evil somehow? The rest of us carry it around everyday. Maybe they save it all for when they are drunk.”

I was rushing around, I had a call back for a commercial, Baye from work was loaning me some camping gear including a hatchet, I left my damn phone charger at work and then I zoomed (and I rarely use that word, but I zoomed) to Kent’s to sweep up Trent before he was too drunk to deal with.

I arrived and called and called. No answer.

When a minivan left the parking garage, I nonchalantly walked through the garage and let myself in.

I knocked on the door and saw a flicker of movement.

Waited.

Kent opened the door.

He said, “He is in the shower.”

I said, “Oh. I thought you were in San Diego.”

Kent, “Not yet, I have a terrible headache. I can’t do anything.”

He wandered back to his bed and laid down in migraine position.

The water stopped and I shouted, “Hey Trent, do I get to see that legendary donger of yours, or do I have to wait for the weekend?”

I heard his laugh sparkle through the wall.

I sat on the edge of the bed and smoked a bowl with Kent.

Me, “Abe said that a lot of people are abducted in national parks.”

Kent, “Why would he tell you that?”

Me, “Because he is always functioning on a high level of paranoia. Don’t worry, I have a hatchet. But the last thing I want to do is be high on hallucinagenics when someone cuts off my head and fucks it.”

Trent came out of the bathroom looking androgynously beautiful.

Trent, “Oh my God, I don’t want that either.”

Me, “Don’t worry I have a hatchet.”

Trent, “I don’t want to chop someone with a hatchet when I am tripping either.”

Me, “I think it might be easier.”

Trent shuddered, “I don’t. I would just need to go in a corner somewhere.”

Me, “Don’t worry. Abe is always talking about women being abducted and men walking around with slip ties. I mean, I am not a 12 year-old Mexican girl, I think I am gonna be ok.”

Kent laughed, endlessly. “Did you hear what she just said?”

Trent, “Yes, that’s why I love her.”

After some negotiating about what Trent should pack, how much wine he’s consumed and whether or not Kent should join us anyway, they hugged and kissed. Trent was all mine.

We stopped at Target and got beer, food, a blanket and sleeping bag, kindling and a big, black sun hat for Trent.

Then we were officially off.

My car was a disaster again- I apologized but Trent didn’t care.

The windows were down and Janis was on the radio. He said, “This is good. New energy. I need that.”

I said, “Do you want to talk about what’s going on?”

He said, “I am just bored. We haven’t had sex in 2 months.”

Me, “Because of him or because of you?”

Trent, “Because of me. I don’t know, I’m just not interested. I miss going out and just meeting guys. It’s not emotional, I try explaining that to him. When I am done with them, I am done with them. Like, I don’t even care what your name is, Bye. (silence) Just that feeling of being used, I like that. But, I don’t know, we tried the threesome thing and that didn’t work. We don’t know what to do.”

Me, “Well, Dr. Phil says a successful relationship is falling in and out of love. You have a good thing, something I would kill for.”

Trent, “I know, he is so good to me. I am just so restless.”

Me, “What’s the best sex you have ever had?”

Trent, “It was with the Married Israeli.”

Me, “Married to a woman?”

Trent, “Yeah, he had kids. We would meet in these hotels and it was so wrong. We would just have the best sex because it was so wrong. He was so hot. Sneaking around in hotels and just . . . it was really hot. But even that diminished after awhile.”

I listened and thought about how different everything seems from the driver’s seat. Would I be so desperate for love and sex if I had it every day, in my home? Or do I cherish it because I fall for men who live far away, and can only make love on scheduled days?

I said, “And the drinking, do you . . . think you have control over that?”

Trent said, quite matter of factly, “Oh, no. I know I have a drinking problem.”

I gave a half nod. I didn’t know where to go from there.

The night set in when we turned off the 10 freeway and I said, “I think I have come up with a biological reason for rape.”

Trent said, “Oh?”

I said, “Yes, the only way to insure that the man is passing off the most dominant genes available is to insure that he is at least stronger than a female, so to dominate her and rape her would pass strong genes, or at least strong enough genes to be suitable for conception. A weaker man, who couldn’t fight off a female, wouldn’t have the opportunity.”

Trent took pause then said, “That seems like a very logical explanation for rape.”

I said, “Really?”

We laughed.

Me, “Well, I have thought about it.”

Trent, “No, really. It seems quite logical.”

We stopped first for firewood and a flashlight. The first gas station didn’t have a flashlight.

We decided, if we were going to go camping, we really needed a flashlight. So we stopped at the 711 and bought one.

When we got to the gates of Joshua Tree, the ranger said all the campsites were full and gave me the following directions to over-flow camping:

Turn north on Sunfair Road and travel two miles to Broadway. Turn right (east) on Broadway. The pavement will end about 100 yards after this turn. Travel one mile to a line of telephone poles running perpendicular (north and south). This one lane, unmarked dirt road is Cascade. Turn left (north) and travel ½ mile until a single lane, unmarked dirt road is passed. This road is Sunflower. Camping is allowed for the next ½ mile on the east side of Cascade.

I read the directions at least six times as we were driving until we found two other tents.

We found a spot close enough to the other tents, so that we could run to them in the night if one of us was killed by a serial killer, but were still far enough that we wouldn’t die immediately from their illegal campfires.

I said, “How is this spot, right here?”

Trent, “Is that a buck shot?”

Me, “Looks like it. That’s what we will call our first campsite. Buck shot.”

We pitched a tent in the dark and crawled into our sleeping bags with chips, salsa and Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Me, “This is like, what’s it called crop?”

Trent, “Crop circles?”

Me, “No, where they pluck the crop?” I am used to my thesaurus.

Trent, “Harvest.”

Me, “Yes, this is where they send us so the aliens can harvest us.”

We laughed, but fell asleep to the sounds of little robotic tweeting. And I am not kidding.

We heard footsteps. Then we heard radio equipment.

Trent, “Did you hear that?”

Me, “Yes.”

Trent, “They are coming for us.”

Me, “Oh well, what can we do now?”

We waited. And I worried about my nightmares.

But I fell asleep, and slept the best I had in weeks. Occasionally, I would wake up to footsteps and weird computer sounds, and listen. Then I would fall asleep and wake up rested and pleasant again.

We woke up at 6:30am.

I googled campsites.

Me, “If we are going to grab a campsite, we have to do it early.”

Trent, “I am ready.”

We broke down our site.

Later we talked about it.

Me, “I slept better than I have in weeks.”

Trent, “I think they just came to observe us.”

Me, “I was thinking the exact same thing.”

We decided to camp in Jumbo Rock. A) Because Trent told me he heard there is a big rock where the aliens landed once a long time ago and B) It had the most camping sites, so mathematically, our likelihood of finding a spot was higher there than anywhere else in the park.

We slowly drove by the early risers, and Trent said, “He gave us a nod.”

I stopped my car and waited. A boy of about 20 approached. He was in between being a boy and being a man. Tall, with baby soft skin and ruffled bed head. When he looked tired, you saw the eyes of a child waking up Christmas morning, not the man, red, cracked and desperate for more time.

Boy, “22 is going to leave at noon. You can take that spot and we will take 21.”

We followed them to the payment post and both put in our money for the sites.

I saw the plates. Me, “They are from Massachusetts. Fucking adorable.”

We stopped at the head of the campground.

Me, “How much is it?”

Boy, “$5”

Me, “Oh wait . . . it says Senior Citizens are $5. We are $10.”

The boy turned to his blonde male companion, fair and sunburned of about the same age “Dang it! We haven’t been paying enough. I think our manual guide was wrong.”

I smiled.

Trent said, “Seal the envelope so your money doesn’t’ fall out.”

Boy, “Oh, I just close it.”

Trent licked the sticky glue on the inside of the flap and delicately pressed so that my $10 would be safe and we parted ways.

To kill time, first we went looking for Skull Rock.

We followed the path and ran into an older man, hiking alone. His skin was getting leathery.

Man, “Hey, do you guys know Skull Rock? Have you seen it?”

Trent, “No, we haven’t seen it yet.”

Man, “Huh. I have been up and down and can’t see it. Sometimes the light at certain points of the day makes a big difference.”

We politely exchanged backgrounds.

Man, “I live on the road. I have been living out of my truck for 10 years now.”

Me, “How do you support yourself, if you don’t mind me asking?”

Man, “I retired.”

Me, “You look too young to be retired.”

Man, “Thanks. I am 55.”

Me, “That is still young to be retired.”

Man, “Yeah, well, I took my severance package and hit the road. I have never been happier. Life is backwards. You work while you are young, and then get to travel when you are older, when your body is falling apart. It makes it more difficult than if you were young and still can really enjoy everything.”

Me, “That’s why I have been trying to enjoy things as much as possible these last two years I have been unemployed.”

Without looking at me, he said, “Well, enjoy it now. You will be back in the rat race before you know it.”

I stared at the back of his head, as he heavily found footing. I wanted to say, “No I won’t.” But I really don’t know.

♫ ♪ Got a good reason . . . for taking the easy way out. ♫ ♪

We all stopped on the path so he could zoom in on a small lizard with his camera, then lose where the lizard was because he zoomed in too far, then found it again and took a picture. Then we got closer and he wanted a better angle.

When we got to Skull Rock, there was no denying it was Skull Rock.

Man, “That’s Skull Rock . . . maybe . . . maybe its the way the light hits it.”

Trent pointed out the eyes and nose.

Man, “I guess you have to use your imagination.”

Not really.

We drove down to more attractions off the main road, before the sun got too hot.

The men, readers . . . the men were gorgeous. Young men, unpacking their gear, tall, athletic, too young to know what life is like making car payments.

I drove by a tall, white boy who couldn’t be more than 22.

I said, slowly, “Happy Birthday.”

We stopped and I watched a lean Asian man take off his shirt and his friend rub him down with suntan lotion.

We were sitting by my car, drinking water in the parking lot, and I said in a low voice to Trent, “Oh . . . my . . . God. Hot. And I never like Asian men.”

Trent turned to look under the large cosmic radius of his Sunday best.

Trent, “He’s cute.”

Me, “God, my sexual drive is ridiculous. Just driving my car turns me on now. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I can feel hot sweat crawling up my neck just looking at that.”

The Asian man stopped to smile at me before putting on his shirt.

Me, “Oh shit, can you hear me from over there?”

Trent, “He is only two cars away. Who cares? Its the desert.”

Me, “Mmmm hmmm.” He turned and smiled back at me.

We hiked to Wall Street Mill and Barker Dam, killing time, eating oreos and talking about ourselves, the men we loved, and where we might end up.

When we got back to the site at 12:30, the previous campers were gone and we erected a tent. I put large rocks inside the corners to anchor the tent and accidentally ripped a small tear in the corner.

Trent, “BE CAREFUL!”

Me, “Shit, sorry. I break everything.”

A woman came up as we were setting up, “Excuse me. We really need a campsite. My dog is very sick and we are putting him down on Monday. This is his favorite campsite and we just want to give that to him before he goes.”

Trent, “Sorry. I know its hard. We got up at the crack of dawn to get this site.”

Woman, “We have been to two other campsites. God . . . I don’t know what to do.”

My first compulsion was to say, “Come join us on our site. I think there are 3 tents allowed per site.”

Then I thought, “This bitch is manipulating me.”

How does she know I am a dog person? The bumper stickers on my car parked right next to our camping spot number.

I smiled, coldly, “Sorry.”

We saw the dog later, it looked like a healthy 3-yr old with lots of energy.

Then we sat down, made some soup, opened a can of beer and split a pill. He put his half in his beer and I put mine in my soup.

There was a bathroom near the campsite. Women would take several minutes in there, and, I assume, not all of them could have had a gratuitous bowel movement.

I would wait, and wait and wait.

Me, “What is taking them so long? (to the bathroom) There is no flusher. Stop looking!”

Trent, “They are looking for the vanity.”

A plain girl with glasses came out and shot us a cold look.

Then we walked behind the site, through rocks that looked like faces and bookshelves. He in his black Sunday hat, and me, in my heart-shaped glasses.

We saw a hare the size of a small dog. His ears alone were at least 2 and a half feet long.

Trent sang out, “Oh Mr. Rabbit . . .”

The hare stopped and stared.

Me, “You are so handsome. I want to grab you and love you. Will you let me do that?”

Trent, “So handsome. You are beautiful, aren’t you?”

He flickered his tail but ran off before we could get a picture.

I walked by a plant and it left one perfect puncture on my forearm.

Me, “OW!”

One bead of blood formed.

Me, “The desert wants my blood.”

Trent touched it and said, “ouch.” His fingertip sent a wave of warmth through my body. Was the drug here, yet?

It took about an hour for our stomachs to break down the fine powder and flood our brains with color.

The first symptom is mad fits of laughter. At about 50 minutes or so, we had ourselves in fits of giggling.

I accidentally swept my foot through a cactus, and the cactus fell apart into green goo. I fell down laughing, “Oh no. Oh no. (quieting down) I am sorry, cactus.”

Trent, “Are you ok?”

There were spikes from the cactus sticking out of my shoe.

Me, “Yes, but look what I did to the cactus. He is dying.”

I tried to fold the pieces of his body back together.

Trent, “Oooh. Feel how gooey it is inside. Its . . . gelatinous.”

I felt it, it was fleshy and warm.

We sat and gave the cactus a moment of silence. Then Trent said, “He understands.”

Over the rocks, the afternoon sun got weaker. A cool breeze found us up high, and a cool, rocky heat kept us warm below.

Trent, “Ughhh, I just want a man. I just want to fuck!”

I texted Abe that morning knowing that sex would enhance my trip. I started thinking about when he would come so he could touch me. Then I thought if I would ever make love to Trent, and figured I would given the opportunity.

Trent said, “I have made love to men and women. Both are nice, I just prefer men. I will have sex with a girl, if a guy is present. I have done all of that already.”

I said, “I saw your tattoo when you were drying off in the shower. I didn’t know you had Billie Holiday on your shoulder.”

Trent, “Oh . . . yeah. I got that tattoo when I was 18, before I knew portraits weren’t the best tattoos to get.”

I said, “It’s good for a portrait.”

Trent, “Yeah, its hard to do tattoo portraits. Oh well.”

Me, “I like it.”

Two men passed us with white socks stretched to their mid calf in khaki long shorts.

I lifted my nose up to catch the salt of their sweat.

Me, “I smell them. I can smell them.”

I lifted my torso up to the sky so I could fly into a cloud of pheromones.

Trent, “You know there is something on the tip of your nose to attract you to mates. A sensitive part of your nose picks up pheromones.”

Me, “MMMM, white man.”

Trent, “I just want one right now, to come along and fuck me right here.”

Me, “I don’t know about men in these parts, I would get raped and you would killed. And I am the winner in that scenario.”

He broke down laughing.

His phone was always out, he was trying to catch a signal to tell Kent he was ok. Nothing came.

We crossed the highway and discovered designs of animals and people outlined with a collection of rocks. A turtle. An endless spiral to Pi. A man with the words, “Feed Me” spelled out in rocks around his head.

Trent bent down and put his hands on the rocks that outlined a human head.

Trent, “Put your hands on him. Feed him.”

We put both our hands on him and I pushed energy into the mouth.

The sun was fading and we were back at Skull Rock.

Me, “Hey, Trent. Have you seen Skull Rock?”

Trent, “No. Maybe it’s the way the light hits.”

Me, “No, just use your imagination.”

Trent, “Let’s take lots of photos of lizards.”

Me, “Wow, my hands are really big right now.”

I held them up, they looked to each be about the size of my head.

Me, “That’s why its so easy to climb. My hands are huge. Look!”

Trent looked and laughed.

Me, “Use your imagination.”

Trent, “Maybe its the way the light hits.”

I sang, “♫ ♪ Dayyyy tripper ♫ ♪

Trent continued the tune, “♫ ♪ It took me so long to find out . . . I found out. ♫ ♪

As the sun set, we made our way back to our campsite.

Trent said, “Oh look! There she is . . .”

I said, “Who?” Then saw the girl from the bathroom.

Me, “Oh, Miss Hygiene.”

She saw us and immediately collected her things and her friends and ran down the hill. I don’t know if it was the drug, but it certainly seemed like she was running away from us.

Trent, “Look, she is running away.”

Me, “She wants to be as far from us as possible. Geez, what’s her problem?”

We scampered down the hill, Trent in his Sunday hat and me, in my heart shaped sunglasses, laughing wildly at everything.

The campers kept away from us. They cooked their barbeque, and drank out of their water bottles, put on their State College Sweatshirts and kept far, far from us.

Trent and I negotiated on how to build a fire. We had a starter log and one of those push button lighters, and eventually it got started. I went back to my car and smoked a cigarette, then realized I lit a small fire in my car.

I don’t know how exactly, but the empty cigarette box turned into one big flame. I held it up, and blew on it, but flares of plastic and paper blew into my car. So I threw it outside and stomped on it.

Trent came around the large bush supporting our tent.

Trent, “There you are.”

Me, “I stopped a fire . . . in my car.”

Trent, “You have got to stop smoking.”

There is a dry bush, found in the parts of the desert, with long arms and fingernails waiting to scratch out your eyes and make you bleed. There is no life on her, no leaves, no flower, just the bitter daggers of a naked brush we named “Bertha.”

We only bought 6 logs for the fire at a nearby gas station. As we started our fire, and the night came upon us, the winds picked up and we realized we needed more wood.

I grabbed pieces of Bertha, who was reluctant to give any part of herself to us. The woman is just a bitch.

I broke off a couple branches and dropped them in the pile with the rest of the wood. When it was time to throw in more wood, I picked up her arms, and she grabbed a hold of my new purple, fleece blanket and whipped it around like it was a flag on the mountain of Iwo Jima.

I saw her arms, and those fists of rage reach around both sides of my blanket, and I fought. Trent sat there laughing as I broke free of her violent embrace.

I threw down the blanket and broke her arms with my foot.

Me, “Bertha. What a bitch.”

I used other kindling, and decided Bertha wanted more respect before being thrown into a fire of sacrifice.

So I sat across from her and ate some soup.

Trent came back from the bathroom and pointed at the fire.

Trent, “Is that Bertha in there?”

I said, “Oh no. That’s Bertha, right there.” I motioned to the standing brush across from me, over the fire.

Me, “Its the only damn plant I have ever had to take to dinner before using in a campfire.”

I spoke to her.

Me, “What more can I do for you? Would you like some of my soup?”

She stared at me. Stubborn. Dry.

I turned away from her and saw our tent flapping in the wind.

I fought. I fought hard. But I got that nasty woman in the fire and broken down for the flames. I even heard a bitter cackle from her, as her arm disintegrated in ash.

Trent, “We need more wood. I am really worried now.”

I went over to the campers two sites over and asked if I could use their wood. What I saw was at least two trees they cut down and stacked next to the fire, and a case of vodka bottles.

The two men looked Mongolian in nature and didn’t speak English. I kept repeating the one word I thought they would understand, “Money?” “Money. “Money!” They said, “No money. Take”

So I took a piece of a tree back and it kept us warm for awhile.

We sat there.

I pointed to the lone tree next to us.

Me, “Look at him. I think he wants to be called Freddy.”

Trent, “Pete.”

Me, “Petey. He just wants a little warmth from the fire. Just wants a little hello.”

His head was bobbing in the wind, like a shy, tall kid at the school dance.

Trent, “He is so polite. He doesn’t want to intrude. Please, Pete. Join us.”

Me, “Yes, you are more than welcome.”

He bobbed his head, his bark looking like a skinny tie between hunched shoulders and just the hint of a smile.

There was no time to enjoy this. We needed to think about the future. We needed more wood.

I grabbed the hatchet Baye gave me.

I said, “Let’s do this. We have to go out there and kill a tree.”

Trent obediently followed. Giggling. Shivering. On his own trip.

I touched the edge, “Hard to believe they used to scalp people with this. I guess the Native Americans weren’t perfectionists.”

We ran up the hill and I raised the hatchet to a tree, then shouted, “Psyche!”

The tree was not amused.

I said, “You look too healthy to kill. Just kidding.”

We ran further up and I started frantically bludgeoning a piece of a tree. We had no flashlight, only the flashlight app on Trent’s phone.

Then we heard the hiss of a zipper. A tent was 20 ft away, and they were getting out!

We ran, higher up the hill.

I said, “Here, let’s do this one.”

Trent, “Aww. He looks healthy.”

I said, “But he has 6 heads, and we only have one.”

He held it steady while I decapitated one of its bobbing faces.

I looked back, panting, holding the hatchet like an animal, like a beast. Something in me changed. I was an asshole. A self-serving, tree mutilating, hatchet wielding asshole.

In the dark, under the wind, I whispered a, “Sorry, but you will grow back.”

We went back to our fire. Bertha was almost gone, but let’s face it, she is everywhere all the time. The wind really picked up and the fire whipped my blanket over flying embers.

Trent was getting frustrated, “Be careful! You might catch fire.”

I said, “The desert will keep us safe.”

After 15 minutes I said:

“We have to go inside the tent.”

Trent said, “I know, the wind is just too much.”

We crawled inside and split another half of a pill. We poured each half into the synthetic, vegan creme of our oreos, and chased it with a Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Then we fell to silence. The tent whipped. Our neighbors showed up and chatted. We shivered in our sleeping bags and I felt odd to be with a man I liked and have no sexual tension.

Car lights.

First white.

Then Red.

I looked out the open flap of our tent. Trent was asleep.

Abe was in a hoodie walking towards the small group of college kids chain-smoking over their fire.

I sent him a text earlier, before entering the park.

“Camping at Jumbo Rocks. Get map before coming.”

I didn’t think he would come.

What time was it?

I screamed a whisper, “ABE! ABE!! Over here.”

He turned and saw me, then walked around.

Abe’s big head thrust into our delicate little tent. The wind was still violent. It wanted Bertha back.

Abe, “Hey, how’s it going?”

Trent said, “Who is that?”

I said, “Abe.”

Trent said, “He actually came?”

I said, “I am staring at him.”

Abe said something to me, I don’t remember.

The stars in the sky were green, red and white. They weren’t shooting, but they were definitely moving. The whole universe was out there and alive in a rainbow of colors. I couldn’t focus on one thing, everything was in constant motion, varying in degrees of color and focus.

I said, “Oh my God, the sky is . . . moving. There are red stars.”

Abe, “You took those pills huh?”

Me, “Yes, we have been tripping since noon.”

Abe, “Cool.”

I retreated back into the tent, “It’s freezing out there.”

Abe smoked a cigarette.

I moved my sleeping bag so my body was inside the tent, while my head hung outside.

I saw Abe over the fire, he had a great fire going. The end of his lit cigarette smeared across the night sky, with what looked like a torch.

Trent, “What is he doing out there?”

Me, “He lit a torch.”

Trent, “A TORCH!?”

Me, “YEAH. He is waving it around.”

Abe leaned into me, with menacing eyes, “Bertha smells good!!”

Me, “He has Bertha in the fire and on his torch. He just comes in and dominates her, then gets what he wants. That’s the secret, isn’t it? Take what you want. Nature doesn’t want apologies. It wants domination.”

Trent, “He beat Bertha?”

Me, “YES!”

The orange from the flame on the end of the stick he was tapping left orbiting circles around my red and white stars. It was around this time, the ground started breathing white light. It lifted off the ground like fog, but it was thick, heavy like his headlights.

The manic fits of laughing ensued. Trent and I were a chorus of hysterics. Abe heard us from outside and chuckled.

It was around this time, the woman, probably around my age, who was in the tent next to ours with her 3-yr old child and husband, stomped over and said, “Its too late for this. I mean . . . enough is enough now. We have a child in our tent and its very late. You are ruining our trip.”

Abe apologized on our behalf, then stuck his big head back in the tent and said, “Ok, we have to quiet down now.”

Trent and I laughed hysterically, with our hands over our mouths and our abdominal muscles crunching with fits of gasping laughter. Tears were pouring down my face.

Me, “Ruining her trip? SHE is ruining OUR trip.”

Trent, “That’s right.”

Me, “Tomorrow morning, I want you to go see that little girl and say, “Sorry for ruining your trip, but you ruined my birthday.”

My voice lowered, almost into a bad Nixon impression, and I said, “If I want to go to the desert and use hallucinogenics, that’s my God damn right as an American citizen.”

Abe tried to reign us in.

We were laughing. The wind was blowing. The kids behind us were still chattering.

I knew we were being assholes.

But . . . come on. Its MY trip too, man.

Me, “And why didn’t her husband come out to talk to us? I’ll tell you why. CAUSE HE’S SLEEPING!”

Abe said quietly, hoping we would follow, “She won’t bother us again, ok?”

I turned to Trent, “It’s your birthday.”

Trent mumbled an intoxicated, “It is?”

Me, “Yes.”

Trent, “Time for a birthday drink.”

He opened a can of PBR.

Every 20 minutes, Trent and I were stumbling through the two campsites between us and the restroom, or, more suitably called, the big fucking hole in the ground.

Abe whispered, “You and Trent are going to the bathroom to pee a lot.”

I said, “I am not peeing. I just need to go somewhere and sit down for awhile.”

Abe, “Oh no.”

I said, “I think I have dysentery.”

Abe, “If you had dysentery on your diet, I would be amazed.”

Trent came in and collapsed on the ground. “Have you looked at the sky out there?”

Me, “I know.”

Trent, “It is so beautiful. I have never seen that many stars in my life.”

Me, “And they are all moving.”

We were lying in a pool of spilled beer.

We didn’t have the light or the energy to really do anything about it but complain, laugh, and open more.

The wind tore at the top of our tent.

Trent to the sky, “OKKKK, we get it.”

Me, “Jesus, is this about Bertha?”

Silence.

I turned to Trent, “It’s your birthday.”

Trent mumbled an intoxicated, “It is? Time for a birthday drink.”

The wind slapped on us more sporadically as the night stood still. Trent got quiet and his breathing became rhythmic.

Abe reached over and manually gave me an orgasm. When I came, I felt like white water was bursting through a door. The moment was so intense, my mind went blank in the spilling salty foam of adrenaline and serotonin. I lost my voice. My throat tickled and my body twitched in one epic convulsion. I didn’t care that Trent was right next to me. I didn’t care about the bitchy woman whining about our laughter in the middle of the night.

The floor was breathing white light, almost like a strobe but slow.

Long heartbeats of white, glowing light rising off the ground.

I said, “Do you see the white light?”

Abe said, “No.”

I said, “There is white light all around us. Its coming off the ground.”

Abe said, “Well, we are on sacred land, so that makes sense.”

His breathing slowed, and his responses stopped.

Both of them were asleep on either side of me now.

I laid there.

I couldn’t sleep.

I closed my eyes. Even the college kids were asleep now.

Voices came in my head. Male voices.

Men I never met before.

They were writers.

I could throw out names that came to mind, but I won’t claim I was speaking to them. I was high, let’s not forget.

Trent and I were discussing the beatniks earlier in the day, so Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg felt familiar.

It’s not as though I heard words ring through in their voices, it was more like a feeling being psychically communicated.

“Welcome” and “Enjoy”

Then I saw the corner of a mouth.

I knew it was Hunter. He was on my mind since my date with Buddy, and blogging about the duel suicide attempts. I never really noted that coincidence before. Of course, it connects my ego to greatness, but more importantly, he gives me permission to live the way I am called to live.

Recently, I have been writing publications in search of work and noting in my cover letters that I practice “Gonzo Journalism.” I have gotten no response.

From Hunter, this night, the message was more personal, again not in words, more in some kind of psychic greeting card I heard, “You gotta live like an asshole . . . at least some of the time.”

I thought to him, “But I mutilated a tree out there.”

He said, “Sometimes the freedom to live looks like an asshole carrying a hatchet.”

I thought about how Abe came in and made this beautiful fire in what felt like seconds, no apologies. He just took what he wanted and it made everything simpler. I have been apologizing for so long, I don’t even know what that feels like.

Now, if you read my blog, you might conclude that I am full of shit. An apologetic life is hardly prancing around Los Angeles with pit bulls and drugs, avoiding anything resembling a normal life. I have been doing what I want, but I have also been apologizing for it.

To be continued . . .

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