Remembering Delissa

I’VE SPENT ALMOST FORTY YEARS riding the highways and byways of North America and Mexico. I’ve met people I liked, and some I didn’t like. Most of the people I liked were women. Some ignored me. Some didn’t. Some gave me comfort. Some gave me grief. Sometimes, but not often now, I wish the ones that gave me grief had ignored me.

They’re the ones I call my bank-robber dames.

Just about all of the significant women in my life have been dark-haired and dark-eyed, with a couple of exceptions that never mattered in the grand scheme of things. Four of them scared the bejesus out of me, and they were the darkest-haired and darkest-eyed of all.

The first, when I was twenty, was a little hippie girl with long, straight hair that she probably ironed, although I never saw her doing it. Perhaps she got up in the middle of the night to keep her secret. We got to talking about how things might be for the both of us in one imagined future or another. Eventually I figured out that she wanted to settle down with a man who had a factory job in the only game in town and start a family. I, on the other hand, knew that I had a rendezvous with the world and my future. I made good my escape, but it was a narrow one.

I learned from that, but not much, for what man does?

The second was a married woman, although strictly speaking, with her deep blue eyes, she didn’t qualify to the fullest extent. That didn’t matter, though. All the signs were there. I still wasn’t able to recognize them.

By then I was a fire pilot trapped in a small town with nowhere to go on my R&Rs. It was a hot, sunny day the first time I saw her. Her dark hair was tied back with a purple scarf. She was pushing her son down the road on his tricycle, and I remember thinking, I like that. I saw her around town a couple of times after that. Eventually I wrangled myself into position to meet her. Before long we were dancing in the dark, and in the daylight, too.

I traveled a lot with my freelance flying. It took me out of town often enough and long enough that each time I came back it was like coming back to a new and different woman. She wouldn’t budge, though. She saw me for what I really was, a footloose man without roots, who would never settle down. She was right, and we both moved on.

Eventually, I did settle down, and into a flying job on the Dark Continent. It was there that I forgot all about her. That experience was one of the best things that ever happened to me – and by that, I mean her, and Africa, too. It was just what I needed to clear my head of the experience with her, although the method certainly left something to be desired. It tempered me. I came home a changed man. Some of the things I saw and did would remain with me for a lifetime, but I would never tell anyone about them. Some secrets are best kept.

By the time Delissa came around, I knew the signs by heart and did the best I could to ignore her.

It was slow that morning in the high-desert bike shop. We were standing around, telling lies and trying to sound important. She strode through the door on her first day with a purposeful look. She knew we were paying attention. What attractive woman doesn’t? Her eyes flicked over us and then she put the lot of us on ignore.

She kept right on going in her tailored black leather slacks topped with a dark purple, short-sleeved Angora sweater. Her white arms set it off perfectly, as did her pale face and those lipstick-red lips. Long, pitch-black hair hung past her shoulders. It swung rhythmically from side-to-side with every step.

Oh, yes, I was nice and polite and joked and laughed with her, but I tried hard to keep a certain distance between us. It was difficult, because she was smart and funny and serious and when she talked her dark eyes would sparkle and her hair would shine in the light and sway just so when she walked. Her smile was wonderful and her eyes would crinkle and when she laughed, oh when she laughed…

We were only trying to make it through the nights. All the nights. For some of us need more help than others.

Then she left town, and I left town, and that was the end of that until we touched briefly for a time on social media.

I learned today that Delissa was four months pregnant when was murdered in the dark of night by her husband. He held a gun to her head in their bed and pulled the trigger. She leaves behind two children, both girls.

The news has left me devastated.

If only. If only…

But I must go on to finish what I started, difficult as it must be.

The fourth came along when I was least expecting it, for isn’t that how it usually happens? I looked through an open door and there she was, a rather plain-looking young woman. There was something about her, though. I tried ignoring her, too, but eventually she came to stand beside me and leaned back against the same wall and said hello. We never faced each other when we talked. Rather, we stared with the same faraway look, across the same open space, and onto the tarmac that stretched in front of us and led out to the world.

Then one day while we were standing around killing time and pretending not to flirt, I detected the faint odor of perfume. It was just a hint, the way I liked it. I should have walked away then. I didn’t. I surrendered in that instant and ended up captured. I asked, but she would never tell me the name of that scent. I would look for it, but I could never find it. She must have secreted it away after discovering how it had caught my attention.

I told her things I had never told anyone else, about the Southern Cross visible in the dark African nights; how the sun would rise and set fast across a flat horizon; how the dim of twilight would last for never more than a few minutes. I left out the stench of death and starvation and other things best left untold.

Eventually, she was the one to leave town – yes, imagine that, she was the one who flew away – after she caught her future mid-flight and moved on. I let her get away, my one regret so late in life. I had no choice, for it was the sensible thing to let her do at her young age. We could have held on. We both knew that, and we both knew too that it would be only for a while. I already had my life. Hers was just beginning and I would not keep her from her own rendezvous.

I miss her still, too.

I don’t think there will be a fifth.

Ah, yes, my bank-robber dames. I almost forgot. Had any one of those four suggested, out of the blue, Let’s rob a bank, I might have turned, and looked, and asked, Only one?

R.I.P. Delissa. I have always missed you, and will continue to do so.

I offer my apologies to all for my public sadness and despair at the loss of a warm, wonderful and loving woman with whom I shared many smiles and much laughter for such a brief time in my life.

Forest fires and bikers

I’ve been watching the KTLA online feed of the North fire. The fire crossed the 15 near the Cajon Pass and is traveling unhindered on its way. The wind funnels up the pass and drops down onto the flat. I don’t think it will bode well for any homes in its path.

In another life well-lived, I spent 4,000 hours of helicopter flight time on forest fires in northern Canada. A lot of it came back to me in a huge rush while watching the feed. I had to load a mapping program to follow the progress of the news helicopters as they patrolled the perimeter with eyes high in the sky. The resolution of the camera from 8,500 feet is phenomenal.

There were no DC-10 airtankers back in the old days.

But I digress.

I couldn’t resist centering the map over a former favorite watering hole.

The usual suspects were in Fontana at a biker rally. One p.m. (that’s right, one in the afternoon) came and went, and, being the irresponsible, thirsty louts we were, we saddled up and headed for the 10. At the 215 we turned south and pulled off at La Cadena. For the uninitiated, it’s the home of the Club 215, a peeler bar renowned for nothing in particular but for being two stories high, with a balcony.

It was also on the way home, if you took the slight detour I outlined.

We liked the place because we could get out in the fresh air, wander around, and watch the sights – of which there aren’t many in Coulton. The girls liked it, too. Since we were the only ones in the club at that early hour, they wandered in and out to chat. I won’t go into details, but by early evening, it was long past time to herd the lads home.

I knew that, because beer bottles began floating down from the second story balcony to explode in the parking lot. Seeing as I was the only illegal in the club (I checked – there were no Canadian girls performing), and being of sound mind, I made an informed decision.

It was time to roll.

With the able assistance of a couple of the ladies, we managed to get the boys down the stairs without anyone falling down. Out in the parking lot, it was an entirely different story.

Tommy threw a leg over his Sporty, collapsed the kickstand, put both feet on the pegs, and headed on his way, eager to be in the wind. The problem was, he hadn’t bothered to light the fire. He promptly fell over with both feet on the pegs while still gripping the bars.

Much laughter ensued.

Eventually, we managed to get Tommy untangled and out from under his Sporty. We made sure to keep him on the bike as we helped him up. Once we got him straight and level, I started the engine, put it in gear, and slapped him on the back.

Away he wobbled.

It was a simple matter to head south on the 215, hit the 60 at Box Springs, and meander on down the road on the 10 to the 62 turnoff. I got to ride sweep to clean up the debris on the way home.

It was an uneventful ride on a normal California day under sunshine and blue sky.

I miss it sometimes, but not often, now.

Life’s twists and turns

In another life, when I was much younger (well, all right then, back in the dark ages if you must know), I was gifted with a Smith Corona portable typewriter contained within a leather case. It came along with a couple of LP recordings filled with typing lessons.

El Pee? What the hell is that?

Shortly thereafter, I hied off to my grandfather’s, ostensibly to teach myself to type. I’m certain it drove him to the drink listening to those lessons, hour after hour, ad nauseam. I would have been twelve, or perhaps thirteen, a mere shadow of my more modern self.

I beat beat beat those keys into submission all through high skool, where I was encouraged to write by a forlorn English teacher with nothing to do and nowhere to go, banished as she was to a lunch-bucket town in the middle of nowhere, man.

Life got in the way, as it usually does, when I, along with several confreres of like mind, skipped town, never to be seen or heard from again. I traveled the world, crossed borders – some voluntarily, others by force of personality or some such – and generally nailed down an easy life free from the confines of dumbassery but for the inhumanity of man I encountered and may have participated in during my grand tour of sand and sun.

It was a good life. It more than paid the bills and then some. I was able to stash the cash until gross dumbassery finally caught up to me in the form of workplace morons. Eventually, in the mid-90s, I made good by means of a temporary escape. I had the good fortune to end up in an adobe in the middle of a desert oasis. Imagine my delight when I discovered it to be populated by photo shoots, wardrobe people, models, various and sundry hangers-on, and a waitress named Annette.

It was during that interlude that I deigned to take up with writing again. Cheap trash, I called it – the writing, not the women. It was good practice (the writing), though, and much needed. Everything I had learned in my early years was long gone, disappeared like a Mexican university student during a corruption protest.

I started at the beginning, willing myself to learn all over again.

Five years later, I hung up on the job and hit the road. For six years I rode North America and the parts of Mexico I liked. I had adventures. I hung out with the occasional diner waitress. I cleared my conscience. I lived life again.

I’ve been writing now for twenty years. I’m still learning. I still churn out cheap trash. Except now, there’s a small difference. People are buying it – in what I consider to be substantial quantities. Go figure.

So, I packed up one more time and moved closer to a known civilization. I am living happily ever after. I still pound away at a keyboard far removed from that first Smith Corona, alone in a room with my imagination. I still manage to hang out in diners while keeping an eye open for the occasional waitress.

Ain’t life grand?

Useless twaddle

In another life I spent six years roaming around North America and Mexico sitting on a motorcycle. I dug in in a small town in SoCal, where I became enamored of the local flora, and more than a few of the fauna – if you’ll pardon the expression. I managed to get tangled up for a brief time with someone who was working her way towards an associate degree – whatever the hell that is. (Don’t bother writing back. I know what it is. It’s nothing – at least where I come from.)

Procrastination and life got in the way of this person. Subsequently she mentioned that she needed two papers, both due in a couple of days. I already knew that the papers were only five pages, or, in my life, what I considered a walk in the park. She went off to work, and six hours later I came up with both papers completed and in the required MLA format.

I have no idea whether she handed them in, or not, because I found myself accused of having plagiarized both of them. I hadn’t, of course. Who the hell can’t pound out five pages of meaningless, original horseshit for a college in America? (If you can’t, don’t bother telling me about it. I can.)

But I digress. The reason is in the chart below, where I learned that I could have charged 40 bucks a crack. You’ll find the link at the bottom of the image.

It is official. I am bored.*

This morning, I made my very-early a.m. cup of green tea with the usual substantial infusion of fresh ginger root. I sat to do several paragraphs, and then, so eagerly anticipating that first sip of green tea nectar, reached to put cup to lips.

Imagine my shock when all I couldn’t taste was hot water. It is absolutely, terrifyingly unimaginable, is it not?

Please send condolences, cards, letters of commiseration, flowers and/or treasures to Box 13, Nara Visa.

Note to self for next time:

  1. Put ginger root in cup.
  2. Put tea bag in cup.
  3. Place cup under Tassimo.

* Or, suffering from early-onset Old-Timers’ Disease.

Jambo from NBO

News from my old stomping ground, Embakasi, isn’t looking good today. Embakasi is the former name for NBO (Nairobi International Airport/Jomo Kenyatta) before it went modern.

Back in the dark ages on the Dark Continent, I recall the approach to Embakasi some time after midnight. The first thing that caught my attention was the decided lack of lights visible across the city. (Well, all right, that’s probably not the first thing.) I summoned a taxi and was quite amazed at the number of people camped out around fires on the road into the city.

Thankfully, I had a reservation at the New Stanley. Without that, and the Israeli girl I met and got to know, I’d probably have jumped ship, so to speak. Unfortunately, I can’t locate any of my time-travel photos of the New Stanley.

Oh, the stories I am reminded of. Perhaps another time.