Thursday, July 21, 2005

Like A Duck, Smooth on the Suface, Paddling Like Hell Underneath

Pine Ridge Indian Reservation -

Long time since last entry. As they would say in the land of a billion buddhas, 'Long ti, you no wry.' Returned to US for Sun Dance in the Black Hills of South Dakota, leaving Digger behind in Thailand, where he is teaching English and happy not to be living here, 'here', being Denver, the rez, the USA, or western hemisphere.

Back here, same same as before, if you're absent for more than a couple of hours from your home, the liklihood of being a victim of theft increases dramatically in exponential proportion to a thieve's anticipation and calculation of one's time away, and all sorts of haywire things can occur, for instance, the least of which is the witch switch being forcibly yanked from its pull-chain socket, rendering the ceiling fan on-off switch inoperable and permanently set at 'low', which during these sweltering dog days of July, is disconcerting, but glad we're not out there dancing right now.

Yeah, I got ripped off, but not too bad this time, because during the second break-in, Poncho (my landlord who just happens to be a uniformed member of the local Oglala Sioux Tribe Dept. of Public Safety, read, 'Pine Ridge Cop') just happened to be checking on the place and apprehended the two adolescent thieves before their departure, a crime in-progress, with a shit-load of my belongings piled high on a Pendleton blanket in the middle of the floor.

"I asked them," said Poncho, "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

Learning this upon my return, and fresh from one-room simplistic living of the Thai, my first impression when entering the cabin was, 'Gee, this place smells like mice.' My second impression was, 'Gee, I've got wayyyyy too much STUFF.

Better to give it away to a smiling recipient friend than to have it stolen, so I began trying to give away as much as possible for two reasons; the first, theft; and the second, before I die; and the third, I've got to move, making a permanent departure from these here crossroads and this little mouse-nest of a cabin, the smell of which I haven't yet been able to eradicate with Lysol, bleach, incense sticks that Jamie or Kathy or somebody sent in here, and the introduction of a pregnant cat.


Here in the family, two nephews died just weeks before the Dance. Same-o stuff as always. More hardship and more heartache, setting a pall over this year's Dance. Many visitors here on the rez, with three Germans presently in camp, going into sweat lodge with us last night. Four or five rez dogs coming around each day, looking for handouts, tongues hanging way out the sides of their mouths, trying to beat the heat.

Many thunderstorms at night, with temps over 100 F. in the day. One of those electrical storms knocked out my screen for three weeks, predisposing me to silence for about that much time.


While traveling, I passed a small spiral notebook to the passengers down in the smoking lounge car aboard Amtrak, asking them to write anything. Some of their entries:

- "We partied so hard, it'da made Jim Morrison throw up." - Barron, Denver, CO.

- "I'm like a duck, smoothe on the surface, and paddling like hell underneath." - Biloxi, Mississippi.

- "It's all good! Your lips are moving, but I can't hear what you're saying." - Portland, OR.

-"Life's funny, if you're lucky." - Osceola, Iowa.

-"Got three apples. Take two. How many you got?" - Toledo, Ohio.

-"Don't listen to..."(scratched out) "Working with the mentally ill is a lot like pissing in a dark suit. You get that warm feeling, but nobody notices." - Arkansas

-"Due unto others, then split." - California

-"Drink your milk all down and do well in school." - Lincoln, NE.

Regular American folks down in the smoking car. It got loud and boisterous at one point, with people disobeying the posted rules forbidding food or alcoholic beverages in the smoking lounge.

Barron, the guy from Colorado who was both high and drunk, gave the frowning black porter twenty bucks immediately upon his entry into the lounge, and the man smiled, took the twenty, spun on his patent leather heels, and departed, leaving us to our continued merriment and the shock of the apprehensive couple from the UK who were stunned to know that such things could be done, fully prepared to offer an explanation of their uninvolvement in the outrageous debauchery in the car, the introduction of alcohol therein, or the tearing down of the signs from the walls indicating the management's wishes for order, conformity, and compliance with railroad regulations.

Barron, incidentally, was partially blamed for the sudden heart attack death of the large man in the Rocky Mountain tunnel that had us waylaid for two hours with all the medical people scrambling aboard, and then the coroner, later departing with the sheet-covered corpse, because, they say, he, Barron, in his inebriated state, wouldn't remove his size 13 feet from the headrest of the man's seat after several appeals on the part of the beleaguered party, resulting in the man's quickly attaining a frothing state of outrage, and grumbling about the rights of passengers, just before entering the tunnel, they said.

That was before the age of terror, before Amtrak was beseiged with dogs, and exorbitant ticket prices, and while everyone, including homeland security, had their eyes fixed on the friendly skies.


Life before terror. Life before the computer. What was it like? Now you can get a laptop for $50 bucks. On the rez. It would be a pity to ask if it was stolen.

So, we've got thieves in the neighborhood. They hit Sandy and Lupe and Uncle Joe, too. So, you may wonder, why would anyone wish to stay there?

Spiritual Family and friends. And that crest in the road on the way back from town, where all those ideas percolate to the surface, like all the iron and nails in this driveway after a heavy rainfall. And the pond.

Despite my imminent departure from the premises and Tom's continued assertion that 'Poncho ain't gonna do JACK,' I persevered toward the completion of the pond begun last fall, sealing the concrete and installing a 600 gal. per minute pond pump that has created a collosal cascading waterfall, and introducing swordfish, marlin and Albacore tuna to the delight of nearly everyone except the smallish toddler Indian children who find the fish quite frightening and won't go near the water, notwithstanding life jackets or their parents' urging from the canoes.

That huge frog appeared and came in on his own volition and willfull accord, the largest I've ever beheld, about the size of a family reunion serving platter, except for the 100-pounder seized by Mike Shoemaker from the Wabash River some 40 years ago, a cause celebre that was deserving, according to the editors at the time, a photo and special recognition in the local paper.

So, it's a tossup who'll get the fish - the frog or the cat.

'Tuna fish salad,' said Misty.

'Swordfish steaks, grilled and blackened,' I replied.

We all laughed, gazing into the pond, reflecting the rising full moon and the strands of chili lights inside the cabin's kitchen, left up since wayyyyy long before Christmas and producing a Mexican hacienda effect that Lupe just loves and insists he'll replicate over at his place across the road once Wal-Mart stocks its shelves for the holidays and he gets a chance to slide down to Taos or Santa Fe.


Moving - Not Moving

Sometimes our movement is of our own volition and willfull accord, and sometimes we require a foot up our ass. In any case, whatever the prompting, a move can cause one to 'take stock'. We can take stock in all our amazing accumulation of belongings that must be either boxed up or given away; we can take stock of one's capacities and capabilities, as in, preparing a new and updated resume'; and we can take stock of our options and relative station in life, deciding whether or not we have achieved our objectives, or maybe take stock of our net worth. Stock options, I guess you could call it.

It could be another of life's crossroads, more definitive and less obscure than the emotional or economic vicissitudes of everyday life. It also presents the opportunity of being shaken from the ordinary, causing a need within the ensuing vacuum for the creation of a new universe in which to exist, and then going to live in it.

- end