Some Words And An Excerpt From Gully Gods

FOUR IN THE MORNING is available now….

http://www.amazon.com/Four-in-the-Morning-ebook/dp/B0084N3I1I/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1337667250&sr=8-1

It’s an eclectic collection of four entirely different dark novellas, the brainchild of contributor Lincoln Crisler (editor of CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY?) and also featuring stories by myself, Malon Edwards, and Tim Marquitz.

When Lincoln approached me with the idea for this collection, he suggested we loosely use the theme of ‘age’ as a jumping off point, as in one of us do youth, another middle age, and another the golden years. When Malon came on, he and I decided to split youth into adolescence and young adulthood.

The novella I wrote for this project is called GULLY GODS.

Pilsen

GULLY GODS started way back in 1997 with an entirely different cast of characters but a similar setting, the Lower West Side of Chicago, around the historic Pilsen neighborhood, traditionally a kind of port of entry neighborhood for foreign immigrants to the city, beginning with Czechs in the early nineteenth century and gradually becoming predominately Mexican in the twentieth.I wanted to explore late 90’s street gang culture, sort of in the way Harlan Ellison did back in the 50’s (but without actually joining a gang, obviously), and it occured to me (as almost everything I study does) to infuse it with weird fiction. Actually, the first time I heard the term ‘Urban Horror’ or ‘Urban Fantasy,’ I ran it through my outdated 90’s PC filter, when every thing ‘urban’ meant ‘hip-hop’ related.  So I set out to write this thinking I was writing Urban Horror because the whole time I had an old school hip hop soundtrack going in my mind (and I never ever write to music. But more on that in another post). Then while walking past a booth at San Diego Comic Con last year I came across an Urban Horror publisher and saw the covers were almost entirely populated by white women in black leather pants, emulating the chick from Underworld (who to me, was already a second generation Trinity from The Matrix). Open up another window and do a google search for Urban Fantasy and you’ll see what I mean. A slew of skinny chicks in black t-shirts.

But I digress.

As things sometimes do, the most vivid scene I had written wound up showing up almost to the T in a major motion picture release (the curb job in American History X), so I sort of became disenchanted with the material and the story never really took off in my mind. It sat dormant way back there for a lot of years, but Lincoln brought it back out itching.

I decided to revisit the concept (a group of hardcore gangbangers who pay homage to a dark and very real deity which grants them supernatural powers) from the point of view of Africans/African Americans instead of Puerto Ricans, as was my initial idea.

I think what made it click was my recent research into the child soldiers of Liberia, an absolutely deplorable phenomenon that’s been practiced there and in several other countries for as long as men have aimed guns at one another. My interest in Liberian child soldiers started after I’d streamed the Vice Guide To Travel’s harrowing episode on Liberia, and become acquainted with Joshua Blahyi, AKA General Butt Naked.

Blahyi is a reformed warlord turned Christian minister in Liberia. During the country’s bloody civil war, he devoted himself to a personal deity which required the blood of murdered children as sacrifice and in turn supposedly granted him immunity from bullets if he strode into combat stark naked (which he did).  The majority of his Butt Naked Brigade consisted of armed children, sometimes as young a nine years old, kidnapped from their home villages, beaten, often sexually abused, and strung out on drugs, usually ‘brown brown,’ a mixture of cocaine and gunpowder, which left them in a perpetual state of heightened paranoia and agitation.

Their former identities as sons and brothers were completely wiped away. They traded their real names for ‘battle names’ like Walking-Fucking, Rambo, Khadaffi, and Captain War Boss. They were trained to show no mercy to their enemies, and encouraged to brutalize and rape civilians at their pleasure (we’re talking rape from the time they’re first able to even attempt sex). Following Blahyi’s vision, the boys strutted into combat either nude, or wearing evening gowns, outrageously colored wigs, and handbags, which they believed confused enemy bullets.

I read Uzodinma Iweala’s child soldier novel BEASTS OF NO NATION and several positively chilling first hand accounts from ex-(child) combatants and their victims, a few of which wound up as recollections of the characters in GULLY GODS.

Joshua Milton Blahyi AKA General Butt Naked

GULLY GODS’ ‘hero’ if it has one, is an African American Houston teenager named J-Hoss, who, having been caught up in the South Houston gang culture, witnesses and promptly avenges the death of his best friend at the hands of Mexican rivals, and goes to Chicago to lay low with his aunt and young cousin.

Like Father Flanagan, I’m not of the opinion that there are natural born ‘bad boys.’ There are kids who have gone bad, sure, and J-Hoss is one of them. At an early age his father was incarcerated, and he was fortunate enough to have been partly raised by his grandfather, a hardworking ex-cowboy who instilled him a sense of personal history and a moral code.J’s family comes from the Mascogo.

The Mascogo are African-Mexicans, descended from the Black Seminoles of Florida. The Black Seminoles came about when Africans fled to Spanish territory and mingled with the Seminole Indian tribes there, becoming part of their community. After fighting the United States nearly to a standstill in the everglades during the Seminole Wars, the Black Seminoles were faced with the prospect of slavery and removal to Oklahoma (Indian Territory). A group of them chose instead to head for Mexico, where they established the town of Nacimento with the full blessing of the Mexican government, who prized them as scouts and trusted them to defend the northern borders against American bandits and hostile Apaches (how the world turns, right?).

The leader of this group was called John Horse, and it’s from John Horse that J-Hoss takes his name.

Juan Caballo, or John Horse

After his grandfather’s death in a nursing home, J-Hoss finds himself not always living up to the code he was taught, acting selfishly as teenaged boys do, but in the volatile and hostile world of the gangster, which soon makes him a dangerous individual.Expecting a peaceful sojourn in Chicago, J-Hoss strikes up a relationship with a Mexican girl from the new neighborhood, which soon draws the ire of the local Mexican gang. Pretty soon it’s more of the same, except here, J-Hoss doesn’t have his own gang to back him up, and in addition he’s made a promise to his aunt and her Muslim boyfriend not to endanger their home or the life of his young cousin with any of his criminal dabblings.But when a small but ambitious and up and coming Liberian immigrant gang called the Trip Sixes sides with him against the Mexicans and extends a friendly hand to him, it’s understandably difficult for J-Hoss to say no.

Soon events transpire to send him headlong back into the life he’s forsworn. But the Trip Sixes (led by an intense ex-child soldier who calls himself Hitler) are nothing like any gang J-Hoss has ever known.

They court a terrible, dangerous power, an old power that hungers for bloodshed.

Here’s the first two pages….

All the bad started when the Southside Cholo’s rolled up on me and Bruce Wayne in the Subway parking lot on Aldine Bender Road in Houston.

I’d been bangin’ with the five deuce Hoovers since fifth grade, mostly slangin’ weed and rock to the hypes at Haverstock Hills where I’d stayed in an apartment with my moms since my granddaddy died when I was ten.

It was all over a damn dog.

Bruce Wayne had this white pit bull named Cripto. He’d had a special collar made to order, with little pockets on the inside to keep the rock in. He said he got the idea from a Punisher comic. That was a mean ass dog and it wouldn’t let nobody touch it but him. I used to tell him I thought one of the pockets had ripped and Cripto had got a nose full of shit, because that damn dog acted like a crackhead.

Bruce Wayne loved that dog though, and he would tell me to shut the fuck up about it.

Now you know Bruce Wayne wasn’t that nigga’s real name. It was really Bruce Wayne Charles. Nigga was crazy about comic books. He went by Bruce Wayne, or B-Wayne, or Mista Wayne. Nigga changed his name more times than Diddy. I just called him B like I always had when we was kids.

After me and him got jumped into the Hoovers and he started makin’ his papes, B got hisself a big gold chain thick as a baby’s wrist with this fat ass bat signal hung on it. The bat was all in diamonds and the yellow part was gold. It was sick. Like I said, nigga was crazy about comic books.

He used to say me and him was gonna O.G. a clique one day, and all the gangstas was gonna have superhero names. Five Deuce SupaFiends, he wanted to call it. Nigga wanted me to call myself Black Bolt or some gay shit. My nickname J-Hoss though, after John Horse, this Black Seminole my granddaddy used to tell me stories about.

And anyways, I like the X-Men.

It was a real hot night. We was chillin’ in the Subway parking lot smokin’ beedies and eatin’ footlongs over the trunk of his ride (a tricked out two toned black and grey’92  Buick Roadmaster nigga called The Batmobile – had chrome bats on the dub spinners) and listenin’ to ‘Face when a pickup full of Southside Cholos pulled up and got out.

They didn’t pay no attention to us and I told B to keep chill, ‘cause I knew even though he was strapped I’d left my deuce deuce at home and I didn’t want no ‘plex.

I hadn’t never been no killa then. Sure, I busted caps in a couple fools, beat some slobs down, but I ain’t never heard nothin’ ‘bout none of ‘em dyin.’

Anyways they was five of ‘em, all bald-headed in they khaki shorts with they socks pulled up and they little mustaches and wife beaters, lookin’ all the same like soldiers. They had this trick with ‘em, hair all wet lookin’ and lotsa lipstick like they like ‘em. She had a dog in her arms, if you could call it a dog. It was one of them yappy little Mexican mutts like in the Taco Bell ads. Ain’t no fuckin’ dog. This one was black. Never seen a black one before. Looked more like a big ant than a little dog.

Cripto got a whiff of that motherfucker and stood up, and I guess that little dog smelt him too, ‘cause next thing we knew it had jumped out that bitch’s arms and was bouncin’ around in a circle barkin’ its goddamn head off.

Now I thought B had Cripto hooked to something, but that fool had just put his foot on the chain while he ate, and that motherfucker got loose and run across the parking lot, the chain just dancin’ and janglin’ behind.

It run right up to that little yappin’ mutt, right in the middle of them SSC’s. It picked that little bitch up in its teeth and bit down, gave it a shake. Thing stopped yappin’ right there. I think I heard the neck snap clean across the parking lot.

Then Cripto, big dumbass that he was, come trottin’ back to me and B with the thing hangin’ out his mouth, like he was bringin’ us a rabbit or something.

“Oh shit, ” B says, ‘cause all them Cholos come marchin’ in behind the dog, and the dog come right at us, and the bitch was cryin’ and screamin’ about her perrito.

“’Ay! ‘Ay!” one of the Cholos yelled, and they all started yellin’ at once, callin’ us motherfuckers. This big one run up and put his foot down on Cripto’s chain, pullin’ him up short. He dropped the dead dog on the ground and the bitch started yellin’ in Spanish for them to kill ‘these two niggers and their fuckin’ dog.’

The big one picked up Cripto’s chain and pulled him up to his shoulder, so Cripto was on his back legs, chokin’ and snappin’ and fightin’ to get away.

“This your dog, homie?”

“Yeah ma’fucka and you better let him go,” said B.

I didn’t like that dumb fuckin’ dog, but I hated to see him gaggin’ that way, twistin’ on the chain.

“The fuck you say, puto?”

“You heard him ma’fucka,” I say.

“What set you with, puto? You a ma’fuckin’ crab?”

Me and B looked at each other, and B pulled up his shirt, showin’ his orange belt.

It drove ‘em crazy. They was like dogs theyselves, and they started into thowin’ up they set, twistin’ they fingers up and frontin’ hard, talkin’ ‘bout they Hoover Killa Criminals and they goin’ fuck us up.

B backed up a bit, and that drove ‘em crazier, ‘cause they figured they had us faded. They stepped to us, and the big motherfucker pulled Cripto off his feet, but B bumped against me like he meant to, and I took his Glock out the small of his back and pulled it, unlocked and cocked.

I only wanted to scare them slobs off…

Gully Gods is coming soon in Four In The Morning.

There are several international charitable organizations which work toward preventing and raising the awareness of the forced ‘enlistment’ of children in combat and rehabilitating former child soldiers. Among them are:

http://childsoldiersinitiative.org

http://childsoldierrelief.org

http://www.warchild.org

The United States has its own child soldier dilemma, and it doesn’t gain much sympathy from the public. There are a few organizations out there that work with lower income communities and troubled youth in danger of becoming victims of the pervading gang culture. An internet search will turn up any number in your own area. All of them are in dire need of support.

http://homeboy-industries.org

(LA-based organization that exclusively trains and employs ex-gang members and at-risk youth. ‘Nothing stops a bullet like a job.’ Homeboy is currently on the rocks and could definitely use some help.)

http://www.catholiccharitiesusa.org

http://www.resurrectionproject.org

(works to improve the historic Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago with affordable housing, childcare, and community outreach programs)

EDIT: Gully Gods now appears in my collection With Sword And Pistol from Ragnarok Publications!

http://www.amazon.com/Sword-Pistol-Edward-M-Erdelac-ebook/dp/B0140F624S/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1441037550&sr=8-1&keywords=with+sword+and+pistol

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To Hell And Back: Yuma, AZ And Beyond The Infinite

 Well True Believers, I’ve returned from my research excursion into sunny Yuma, AZ and the old Territorial Prison.

Yuma Territorial Prison. A nice place to visit....

Getting a jump on the perennial LA traffic my intrepid partners and I sallied forth in the early hours, talking shop most of the ride. Somewhere at the edge of the San Diego County Line I watched one of those birds that divebombs in front of cars speeding down highway smack into the windshield of the SUV in front, blooming from a dingy brown into a puff of white down feathers, as if it had been some kind of ethereal creme-filled confection blown apart by a gust of wind.

Ploughing through the feathers and ignoring the bad omen, we continued on to Yuma, AZ, called ‘The It Town’ by the Arizona Star, according to a billboard.

Had a great lunch at the historic Yuma Landing Bar and Grill, named not after the steamship landing as I’d thought, but actually the first airplane landing in all of Arizona, around 1911 or so. Pictures of antique aircraft decorated the walls, along with some very interesting photographs of old Yuma itself, even a few sketches of the old, old days (1880’s). The house speakers were cycling through some classic country – Merle Haggard, Tammy Wynette, Charley Pride, Kitty Wells, Dolly Parton. Plus they made a great burger. It was a pleasant dining experience made all the more pleasant by its affordability.

Yuma prison in its heyday.

Afterwards we headed over to the prison itself. Situated on one of two rocky hills which flank the Colorado River, the prison was erected in 1876 as the brainchild of a pair of local entrepreneurs seeking to draw revenue to the area. The place was planned out not by an architect, but a local contest winner, who got a $150.00 prize for his efforts. The laborers weren’t contractors, but the inaugural seven inmates, who were put to work building a plank wall on the north and east sides of the site to contain them, and some adobe cells. The iron doors were shipped in later via steamboat and unloaded by the growing prison population, who also hauled the sternwheelers into drydock, built the stone water reservoir and guard towers, and dug the stone and clay building materials out of Prison Hill itself. Initial temporary buildings notwithstanding, security was never a problem for Yuma (dubbed the Hell-Hole by its inhabitants) Prison. If one managed to escape the guards and scale the walls, there just wasn’t anywhere to go. The closest town was miles across the surrounding desert, much of it trackless Sahara-style dunes, and a group of local Quechan Indian line riders were kept on retainer to chase down escapees. 

In its 35 years of operation only 26 prisoners ever escaped, most of them during the supervised work details. 111 died of various causes, from tuberculosis (the most common way out of Yuma) to gunshots.  While there were no executions, punishments (other than daily sharing a cell in 110 degree heat with five other prisoners who only washed one day a week) occured, both confirmed and legendary. Would-be escapees were fitted with ball and chain, ‘incorrigibles’ were chained to an iron link in the floor of their cell, or flung into the Dark Cell, a black-as-the-pit stone room with a single narrow pipe in the ceiling for ventilation and light and an iron cage in the center.

Looking up the pipe and possible snake entry of the Dark Cell

Rumored punitive measures include tales of guards dropping rattlesnakes down that pipe, or filling the cemetary of stone pile unmarked graves outside the east wall.

I brave the Dark Cell.

The inmates of the prison varied in their criminal activity, from the man convicted of  ‘seduction under the pretense of marriage (which moral grounds aside, also translated to a concrete theft of property if you think about the dowries young women brought with them into matrimony in those days), to gunman Buckskin Frank Leslie, who rode with Wyatt Earp. In later years, female prisoners were incarcerated at Yuma, like would-be stagecoach robber Pearl Hart, and Elena Estrada, who, spurned by her lover, cut out his heart and flung the bloody thing in his face.

Prisoner's eye view out the Dark Cell

The prison population represented an interesting cross-section of America. Though the majority of inmates were white (and Catholic), the prison housed Mexican, Apache (including at one point Haskay-bay-nay-ntayl, the infamous Apache Kid – who coincidentally enough also spent time at Alcatraz, and was one of the aforementioned succesful 26 escapees, overpowering three guards and disappearing into a snowstorm with two other prisoners), Chinese, European, African American, and even African individuals. A placard at the prison breaking down the demographics of its some 3,000 inmates even claims to have included a single Buddhist.

The Sallyport: Main entrance to the old prison.

As stated, only a fraction of the original structures remain. The adobe wall is mostly gone, though the imposing Sallyport which served as the main entrance remains. Pieces of the wall are devoid of plaster and have been melted down by years of weather, though its a bit of thrill to see the bits of straw and stone in the old mud bricks which must have been packed by the prisoners’ own hands. You can walk in one of the cells, though the roof of the main cell block (atop which a hospital sat at one point) is now open air. The original guard tower over the stone water tower remains, and you can still walk into the Dark Cell and see the banded iron in the floor. Spiders are the only inhabitants now, and birds nest in the crumbling padlocked cells, the walls of which are scrawled with grafitti dating back to 1929.

Looking west at the prison from amid the unmarked prisoners' graves.

A very interesting excursion, which should prove fruitful in the Yuma-centered segment of the forthcoming Merkabah Rider installment, ‘Have Glyphs Will Travel.’

From the prison we attempted to find a series of old petroglyphs to the east of town, using only my buddy’s internet phone (I am in no way a technophile -I’m sure there’s a proper term and I’m probably mucking it up) as a guide. That proved fruitless, so we headed back to Yuma and took in the site of historic Main Street while we waited for the six ‘o clock showing of Thor.

I’ve walked through a lot of offbeat towns, but even the weirdness of Quartzsite did not compare to the strange feeling one gets walking a mostly deserted business district at four in the afternoon. Shop after shop was boarded up or closed early, with some signs proclaiming ‘Be Back Next Week,’ and one memorable and somehow slightly disquieting bit of signage declaring ‘Gone Fishing For Souls.’

Gone Fishing....

 

Walking Main Street, Yuma I felt like I was passing through a Lovecraft story. Three quarters of the closed shops were hawking dusty, strange antiques. We saw a moldy quilt patterened with Egyptian hieroglyphs. There was a turnstyle display with little plastic/rubber demon headed puppets hanging limply on the pegs. Peering through one dusty glass door at a Zoltar fortune telling machine (yeah, like the one in ‘Big’ with Tom  Hanks), we saw a seven foot tall chicken statue.  Faces peered back at us from behind cracked and dusty glass frames, antique photos of people I didn’t recognize, except for one of Annie Oakley. We passed an art gallery which had a cheery ‘Grand Opening’ sign in the empty window, the curling purple and pink balloon ribbons still hanging from the corners, and I smoothed back the eviction notice taped outside. Very depressing.

The most impressive structure on the street was a high brownstone and pillared affair. It too was closed. The faded United State Post Office letters across the top could still be seen. They’d been replaced by a set of austere stone letters which gave the name of some company I’d never heard of. Inside everything was taken care of, but again, they were all long gone by four. Looking up the company name on my buddy’s phone, we read a vague, impressive sounding list of the company’s purpose. Whoever there were, they were big enough to buy out the Post Office. The high iron spiked fence protected a well-kept lawn (which as anyone who’s been through that part of Arizona knows is no light endeavor) and two plain sandstone dais (es?), on which I imagined some Innsmouth-like employees of this shadowy corporation enacting God knows what in the dead of night during the vernal equinox or some such (worshiping the giant chicken from the antique store maybe?). Chuckling about it all away (but I think, dreading to see what this area was like when the sun went down), we scooted off to a showing of Thor at the amazingly reasonable price of $6.50, my companions whispering that the price was probably so good so as to entice people in. Then the screen would start flashing a dancing silver pumpkin head or something. 

Something wierd about the theater too….in a case in the lobby, dozens of coffee mugs and tea cups, all of them different colors, shapes and styles, each and every one personalized ‘to Cassandra’ by Hollywood celebrities, ranging from Jerry O’Connel and the gal with the eye makeup on the Drew Carey show to A-listers like Clint Eastwood, George Clooney, Julia Roberts, and a big old green teapot inscribed by John Travolta.

Odd.

Well, Thor was alright. A great big beautiful FX show with some amazing art design, charismatic actors, and neat-o little asides to us Marvel-lites, but not much in the way of a coherent or engaging story (surprising considering J. Michael Straszynski’s name was on it). Oh and spolier,  to those who haven’t sat past the end credits (and you ought to know better by now), looks like The Avengers will be puzzling over The Cosmic Cube in their much-anticipated team-up movie.

We purchased a ticket for the last showing of Priest (because at 6.50 a ticket how could you not?) and headed over first to the Coolest Bar Downtown (that was the name I think) for beers, and then an impromptu excursion to a local Italian eatery (and more beers).

Night on Main Street and there were no dark tendrils reaching at us out of the sidestreets, nor fish-eyed pale skinned residents rising out of the broken old shops to snatch us off to be giant chicken feed at the big corporate bash. Not entirely complete turnaround, but it was lively. The clubs and bars opened up, spewing out endless monotonous loops of Hispanic dance music, and a crowd of teenagers dressed to the nines for the local promp diddy-bopped up and down the ave.

Once we were full of beer and calzones we’d seen all there was to see and returned in time for the start of Priest. I was engaged even in my stupor for the first ten or fifteen minutes. As soon as the hordes of vampires attacked the homestead, killing off ma and pa and spriting off the daughter, inducing the enmity of the girl’s uncle, Paul Bettany, I recognized the plot as being ‘The Searchers,’ which I thought would be interesting. Also the opening info-dump set protrayed in kinetic Gennedy Tarktakovsky (the man responsible for the REAL Clone Wars cartoon) animation had me going. But pretty soon the needlessly digitial vampires started showing up (a la the needlessly digital plague victims in I Am Legend) and it turned into a literal snore-fest for me. The last movie I fell asleep in the theater to was Patriot Games.

Well, we spent the night at a Travel Lodge and departed in the morning. The boys returned to Yuma Landing and I tried out a Mexican lunch counter serving Chivo Birria (Goat Stew). A little bit too boney.

We headed west and decided to pull over and take a look at the amazing dunes that comprise the north edge of the Sonoran desert.

Waiting for Shai-Hulud

We scaled a couple big ones, cracking wise about Arrakis and Lawrence of Arabia. I took a brief call from the wife atop a sandpile and that short exposure to the blowing grit filled my phone with so much Mexico it still grinds everytime I open it. The blow is pretty harsh, and literally gets into everything. I don’t know how the Bedou do it without goggles, but I could barely see when I got back in the driver’s seat, and had to flush out my eyes with Evian (which is all I’d use Evian for anyhow).

We drove on, and passing through the rockpile mountains outside of Jacumba on I-8, I spotted a stone tower high up overlooking the winding pass, so we decided to make another impromptu stop.

Resting on the road to Alpha Centauri.

Stopping only once more on the road up to see a Gray slumped over the wheel of his flying saucer, we stepped out of the car in front of the Desert View Tower into a bracing cold we hadn’t expected after all our time in Yuma.

The three story turret is actually a reconstruction of a similar building erected in the 1870’s to assist in ox-hauling freight. The current one was apparently constructed in the 1920’s.

Vaughn's Desert Tower

The caretaker got me with the rattlesnake eggs in an envelope gag, which was apparently an old one (but obviously not to me, because it scared the crap outta me). He then proceded to do the same to one of my companions and a boy who came in after us with his father.

Barbed wire skull on the wall

We scaled the winding staircase, observing various displays of folk art and taxidermy, cultural history, and gay love (yeah, it was some weird ascendancy thing. We went from mole skeletons and roaring boar heads, to celebrations of African and Indian Women In The West, to a pair of contruction workers suspended high over a concrete canyon deep mouth kissing), finally emerging to poke our heads out of the roof and be buffeted by hurricane force winds that swept over the rocky tops and down into the pass. It was like sticking your head out of a Southwest airlines flight.

After the tower, we explored the adjoining Boulder Park, with footpaths winding to heights higher than the tower and creeping underneath massive boulders, a good many of them handcarved and painted as if from sugar into whimsical animal shapes by artist W.T. Ratcliffe in the Depression.

Whimsy swiftly turned to horror.

We made our way up the switchback until we were overlooking the old tower, and spent a good forty minutes clowning in the buffeting wind, which you could literally lean against during the big blows.

"Be ye dumb rock or demon-born, I'll not be thy repast!"

It was a visceral, amazing sensation standing at those heights ‘surfing’ on a boulder, the wind flattening your clothes against your chest and legs, ballooning your jacket and trying to push you to your death.

Jeff lost his hat. A big surprise gust came and took the thing off and sent it turning into the wind, sailing down the mountainside. It was like one of those scenes in adventure movies, where they want you to get a sense of the danger by whipping a hat away and letting the camera follow it as it dwindled into the abyss.

Before The Hat Incident. We were innocent then.

We descended in a search pattern, building up the lost cap (a beige one at that) in each of our minds, thinking maybe if one of us actually found the thing we would be granted some unquantifiable boon for the remainder of the adventure, as if we’d pulled the sword from the stone or plucked up the Holy Grail or something.

But nada.

Lunch in Cardiff By The Sea at a beach cafe. I had fish tacos.

Then home.

Hasta pronto.

These guys were set up around the mouth of this drainage tunnel, but we dared not ascertain why.

 

Portrait of the artist as a hood.