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Marigold

Marigold woke up on the floor behind the bar. As usual the Yucatan sun beat mercilessly into his bloodshot eyeholes. He raised a meaty hand to shade his face and brush back his bushy, dirty blonde hair.

Morning.

Seagulls called to each other on the Riviera Maya and the humid, cool morning sea breeze boiled over his limp body like a salt-water gazpacho.

Lying there, memories of the previous night, mixed with thoughts about the duties of the coming day arranged themselves in his mind, like so:


Sigh.

“Marigold, why are we here?” his brain asked. Why indeed. With a heave he flipped up to one knee and drew himself upright on the de-laminating vinyl of the bartop. Hazy morning sunlight filtered down through the palms. Due to the nature of being built on sand, the whole pallapa and related structures leaned a bit in the oddball directions usually only seen in the customers after they’d been there for a while. Sticky too.

To his surprise, he found a dwarf with a broken nose in a straw hat and bright hawaiian shirt perched on one of his stools. Looking at him, with that look that says, “I’m thirsty.”

The pair took each other in. The dwarf stuck a half-burned Cohiba in his mouth and causually re-lit it with a fine lighter, a vintage Davidoff, noted Marigold. Taking a solid draw, he exhaled and slowly gazed at the rumpled figure before him with the patience of a man who knew he came expecting to wait.

“Marigold is a funny name for a man.” Cigar stuck back in mouth.

“Yeah, ask my mom about that.” Swipe the bar. Towel, clean enough. This guy has money to spend. “What kin I getcha?” with an attempted note of morning friendliness.

Fact Finding Timmy tapped his gold ring against the empty glass to his right, which gave off a tinny ring. “Scotch on the rocks, still got ice? And some coffee.”

Marigold rattled a couple of battered coolers behind the bar – a few stray cubes swimming in meltwater, waiting for today’s delivery of the fresh stuff. He sniffed his hand and behind the bar pretending FFT couldn’t figure it out, used his fingers to fish out a few survivors into a fresh plastic cup. Scotch not being the drink of choice of the gringo surfer crowd of Tulum, the single bottle of Johnny Walker was nearly untouched.

Marigold’s sleeveless t-shirt, chest hair peeking out of every crevice, the right thing for most of the Carribean weather felt sticky and a bit cold with sweat and salt. Marigold took a moment to breathe, brushing his hair out of his face. Pulling all the professionalism a man could have under the circumstances he set the drink in front of Timmy. With something of a sorry glance he followed, “Coffee. All we have is instant Nescafe, and there’s no hot water until I get a fire going.”

“Of course.” FFT leaned back with his smoke and regarded the mustachio’d bartender, as Marigold tended to the overnight disorder behind the bar. “Things didn’t go so well in Texas, did they?” the dwarf asked, eyebrow cocked.

Texas. Headlights. Fists. Money, but not enough. A long, terrible dark ride to Mexico. Marigold reached out for a toothpick and stuck it in his mouth as a delaying action. Spinning that tiny tree around his pie-hole a bit and peering through his dirty locks he sniffed, “You’ve got cash?”

FFT looked away, smiling a bit. Tapped out a bit more ash. Leaning forward, looking deeper into Marigold’s eyes. Cock the eyebrows, cold stare. “Cash?” #DramaticPause. The camera pans back, framing both figures backlit by the sun just starting to assert itself through the verdant setting of the Gulf of Mexico, a bit of cigar smoke floating through the frame.

Cigar: Tap tap, a quick cigar stab towards Marigold’s slightly blood-shot eyes.

“I’ve got something better, Opportunity.

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A Portland Moment

So I’m returning from Forest Grove where I was visiting my lovely, talented and very fun daughter when the spirit of Watusi intervened.

He whipped past me on his single-speed, no shirt, cheeky backpack. My Yuba elMundo electric cargo bike is monumentally strong, but not fast. A few blocks ahead of me, I can dimly see in the streetlights he’s bombing towards Killingsworth, arms waving above his head in joyous wild abandon then BAM! smack into the pavement.

I pull up to his crumpled form, using my bike lights to make sure to shield him from any auto traffic coming up behind us. (COVID rules – no traffic, but still best to be careful) Of course, he’s young enough that even sans-shirt he bounced off the road and was back on his bike in 30 seconds.

If only I had my phone out and recorded it, because it was pretty entertaining.

Now here’s something kewl about biking one simply can’t get from our fine motor vehicles… We chatted while riding along. His name is Drew. Yes, he’s a Bike Nut.

#PORTLAND

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Destination: Planet Negro

Not Mars-related, but sci-fi related and timely.

Destination: Planet Negro is a sci-fi spoof and social satire from Kevin Willmott, a filmmaker with a very specific voice, and whose works we’ve previously covered here at Cinapse. I’ve tried to shine some attention on Willmott, partially because he’s local, but mostly because his films incorporate important themes that need to be a part of our contemporary dialogue. Are his racial satires preachy? Yes, undeniably. But they’re frequently insightful and also pretty darned entertaining.

Austin Vashaw

I think the film is both funny and insightful. Perhaps you will too. Read more here: https://cinapse.co/destination-planet-negro-mixes-social-satire-and-campy-laughs-66e81346dc48

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A Short Novel About the Founding of England

There’s talk on Facebook regarding fictional novels about the founding of England, so I thought I’d make it simple and write my own. Here it is:

ARRGH! It's cold and wet out! 

Would someone *please* go out and invent tea and whiskey?

Ok, now let's fight about who gets it and how much!

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What The Author Is Reading Now

Dr. Pangloss reminds us that we are living in the best of all possible worlds, so live it up, suckers!” — The Author

Flaubert’s Parrot by Julian Barnes. Quotes below attributed to Flaubert himself.

Language is like a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to, while all the time we long to move the stars to pity.

What an awful thing life is, isn’t it? It’s like soup with lots of hairs floating on the surface. You have to eat it nonetheless.

I am like a cigar: you have to suck on the end to get me going.

Tears are to the heart what water is to a fish.

I am only a literary lizard basking the day away beneath the great sun of Beauty. That’s all.

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Meanwhile, back on Earth Prime

Garlic is the enemy.

“I have another issue I need to address here, so that you have time to prepare before your next visit to the store:When you were in the store the other day to begin the onboarding process, I noticed that you carried with you a strong presence of garlic odor (?). It may have been on your clothes or something. Because there are many coworkers working with each other, as well as the customers on the sales floor, the company policy manual addresses  the policy of personal hygiene and odors such as strong perfumes, etc. I’ll have to ask you to consider if this is a condition you can resolve before you’re completely onboarded, because it is not something we can delay attending to.”

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The Author Finds Himself At CostCo

When one finds themselves standing next to a sample table in a CostCo for 8-something hours you get to really experience how being in Costco is a 2+ hour trip for many people as they wander back and forth in search of meaning in their lives. “Where are the chocolate flavored lobster tampons?” they’d ask me. “I don’t actually work here and they keep moving things around. Maybe try over by the regular lobster tampons?”

That’s all over now, but evidence would seem to suggest that I was pretty good at suggesting bottles of Willamette Valley Vineyards wine would do the trick. Several would be even better.

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Portraits of Portland in the 90’s

It’s called The Moda Center at the time of this writing (2020) but in 1993 it was still The Rose Quarter, because that’s where we quartered our roses. For $300/month (or so) we had a roach-infested studio apartment in one of the hotel buildings originally built for the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition. From our place we had a quality view of I-5 traffic. Parking was free when I found it and we had a great claw-foot bathtub, a mattress, and a mushroom shaped stool to sit on. Everything else was a cardboard box. I’d sit on that stool and bang out job applications on an aging word processing machine propped up on a box. A friendly guy named Ray ran the place. I believe he was pushing 70 at the time. He liked to spend his time at Denny’s. I’d like to believe he’s buried there today. Ray did a good job of tolerating all his low-income tenants, always in good cheer and doing little favors for us. Ray had a big soul. We all worked at gas stations and fast food joints within walking distance. It’s hard to forget the distinctive smell of someone cooking frozen peas and cheap hamburger in a frying pan, and the sound of domestic disputes echoing down the hallways. Then there were the friendly teens taking their first steps into the world, and the gang of Rose Quarter security guards who’d sometime hang out in front of the building.

Northeast Portland. Hey guess what? Black people are scary, aaiieeee!!! We’ll talk about this more as you turn these pages, but short story long North and Northeast Portland were the only places in the area where non-whites were allowed to settle from the 40’s through the 70’s. Then there were us kids just trying to find a place we could cover on minimum wage. You wouldn’t believe it looking at these neighborhoods today, but in 1994 they were pretty scruffy. Were we even going to be safe there? We didn’t know.

The day came when we decided we could move up to a one-bedroom apartment. $425/month, just a few blocks north in a house that had been fixed up just enough to be legally rentable. One day I was putting that plastic winter insulation over the windows and discovered that they were only connected to the window frame on two sides. Slight pressure from a single finger nearly dropped the window pane out onto the street. The bathroom sink faced a window. At a garage sale I bought the passenger side rear view mirror taken off an old pickup and screwed that sucker into the window frame so I could shave. Affordable Housing!

Our place was on the second floor. It had an outside space just big enough for a chair and the hibatchi we’d picked up for $5. I had to climb out the window to use it. I still carry a sense of hatred for the gas “heater” that attempted to keep the place warm and dry. It didn’t happen, but we vowed to someday have a wood-burning stove for winter comfort.

Then our big break came. The lady across the street told me she was looking for someone to rent their two-bedroom place for $650. At this point, anyone living in 2020 Portland is gasping for breath – walking distance to downtown, two bedrooms AND $650/month? Yep, that’s the fun you missed out on kids.

Other things you missed out on: syringes outside the San Rafael motel down the street. The time a friendly prostitute opened my passenger door and jumped in looking for business. The people across the way we called “The Loud Family” because their kids would be playing in the street after midnight when we were trying to sleep. The old pickup truck parked nearby with the mysterious door graphics: “Friends’ Ethical Plumbing”. I never found out what that was about, but it sounds like a novel all to itself.

Our neighbors one house to the North of us weren’t terribly happy when we took over Marsha’s place. She and her partner let them use the laundry machines… and well, they never bothered to make friends with us. Not even a hello. I guess they were under a good deal of stress. I was there when the ambulance took one of the guys away to the hospital on a stretcher for HIV/AIDS related health problems. > Insert frowny face here < Some time later with new tenants that house next store was the scene for a whole new set of unexpected drama in my personal life.

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The Ballad of Jim Skinner

Here’s where Rob Vaughn is going to tell us the story of Jim “Jimmy” Skinner.

Ask your dog for details!

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