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GOLDEN GHOULS, Part Two

“Nothing gold can stay,” wrote Robert Frost, a line that over fifty years later would be introduced to me in somewhat different context by a doomed character in The Outsiders. I was in fourth or fifth grade when I discovered that seminal novel and its sequels and though these were artifacts of a completely foreign culture I connected with the theme of alienated youth to the point of being convinced I was a tragic hero waiting to happen. All I needed was the tragedy, a commodity that was not generally in short supply in that era although almost unheard of in our little suburb. Even the trashy neighbor kids, products of divorce and god knew what else, could complain of little beyond the occasional after-school detention.

And so we did what happy kids did back then—and I was indeed happy if only in retrospect—which was ride our bikes, roller skate, spy on each other, play board games, pretend to be Elvis, and tell each other stories. There were all kinds of stories from all kinds of sources and we could never keep track of what we had heard and what we had invented. Instead we swore to god they were all true, even the lies we made up on the spot, and thus began the legends that Jesus Christ was assassinated in a nearby restaurant, that Deena went away for a month and was replaced with her identical cousin Tammy, and that our neighborhood was haunted by the unusual spirit of a fallen Indian brave.

Once upon a time, there was an Indian with one black eye and one Gold. Of course he was an Indian and not a Native American because we’d spend summer vacations watching “The Lone Ranger” reruns. Back in the days when Washington, D.C. was a swamp and not a Swamp, and the surrounding area was just trees and fields and sparkling water, this Indian would hunt and fish and occasionally sweep out his teepee or whatever Indians did before the White Man came. But the White Man did come because there is no such thing as history without a honky and they did what all White Men did to Indians back in those days: they civilized him. To death. The Indian brave made his last stand on the very spot where our ranch house came to be built centuries later, and he was killed, and the last thing his White Murderer saw of him was the light fade from his Golden Eye.

The activities of the Golden Eye are unclear in the years between its death and my birth. Actually my four brothers’ births because as our family outgrew our little house my father was struck with the compulsion to build an entirely new wing onto it, a wing with a split-level configuration that would lead to the inadvertent construction of The Cave. The Cave was sort of a subterranean shed carved out of the new part of the house. It contained the compressor for the air conditioner, the steps from the old back porch, a window into the disused basement bathroom, and-most spookily-exposure to the dark and spidery crawlspace that ran underneath the entire new structure. My family used the main part of The Cave to store our bicycles, grills, and other outdoor accoutrements; the Golden Eye used The Cave as the lair from which it plotted revenge on my people, the invading murderous honkies.

I should explain here that the Golden Eye had long since shed the corpse of the Indian brave and become a solo act, a glowing yellow orb that floated through the air like a miniature Death Star in search of victims. At night, it would emerge from The Cave and . . . well we were not quite sure. Normal, non-supernatural eyeballs are not particularly dangerous entities and are fairly vulnerable to counterattacks. In the beginning our idea was that the Golden Eye would catch its prey unawares then pop out the White Human’s regular eye and take its place which would certainly be painful although not much of a revenge against an entire race. The saying, after all, is “an eye for an eye,” not “an eye for a genocide.” Later, I think after watching some B movie, we developed the theory that the Golden Eye actually had a manta-like stinger trailing out behind it which it would use to penetrate someone’s forehead and take possession of his or her body.

Looking back I love the idea that a disembodied, floating eyeball was not scary enough, that it actually had to do something more menacing. Today one of the most menacing things I can conceive of is diet soda so perhaps when I tell my nieces and nephews the story there will be a few conceptual revisions.

In any case, perhaps your own trashy neighbors told you these stories, for mythology spreads far and wide and the themes are primitive and universal. All I know is that, however they were transmitted originally—the stories of the Golden Arm and the Golden Eye—we invented them ourselves and they became true because we were the only people who existed and our legends shaped the cosmos in ways the power-mad Richard Nixon could only dream of.

Horrifyingly for the future of the world, however, I think the power-mad George W. Bush understands this phenomenon all too well for his goal is indeed to create a world where nothing gold can stay . . . unless it is in his own honky vault.

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GOLDEN GHOULS, Part One

I was born as the war in Vietnam lurched toward its unsatisfying conclusion and started to learn my place in the world as President Ford pardoned the evils of the prior administration, but I was protected from this swirling chaos by my suburban parents and the magical kingdom of our subdivision. The monsters of my life were not the realities of inflation and fuel shortages, although I think I remember helping my mother reach toward the back of the Safeway shelves for lower prices on canned soup and endlessly waiting in gas lines that circled the block; the neighborhood was so safe you could hear a pin drop, but magical lands require magical enemies and so the trashy kids next door and I wove the legends that haunted my young nights and live in my nightmares to this day, twenty years later.

My neighbors, a girl my age named Deena and her much older brothers, were allowed to roam night and day with no supervision while their mother wandered around the house naked and smoked pot, but I was supposed to be home by dark. Sometimes, though, on warm summer nights I’d be allowed out after dinner as long as I stayed in the yard, and that’s when, despite the lingering humidity, we would raise goosbumps by whispering the tales of precious, beautiful things twisted and destroyed by the greed of men, lashing back with supernatural fury.

There was a man who had a beautiful wife. Isn’t that a terrible way to begin a story? Part of the horror, perhaps, is the unconscious misogyny. Perhaps there was a beautiful woman who had an average husband who looked upon her as an object to be jealously guarded, but that is not the way the tale came to us. There was a man who had a beautiful wife, and she was so beautiful that her arm fell off and was replaced with one made of pure gold. The exact mechanism of this transformation was never clear to us but it seemed plausible enough in the days when people wore leisure suits and flocked to films like Saturday Night Fever. The wife with the Golden Arm lived her life as the possession of this man, her husband, and when she died, she was buried in a coffin with this gleaming appendage still attached. As time went on the widower longed for and eventually uncontrollably craved this thing that he missed, and so one dark night, he went to the cemetery, dug up the grave, and raped her corpse. No, of course he didn’t! Even in the nineteen seventies, love was not that liberated; he just grabbed the precious Golden Arm, went home, and hid it under his bed.

Later that night, he tossed and turned over what he had done. We cannot know if he was wracked with guilt or giddy with anticipation, but we do know he was awake when the wind kicked up and a familiar voice floated to him over the hills and fields. Where’s my Golden Arm? said the wind.

The man sat up in bed, straining to hear. “I must be imagining things,” he assured himself, but then the voice came again, closer and more clearly. Where’s my Golden Arm?

“OMG,” said the man, who was otherwise paralyzed with terror. As he cowered, he heard the back door open and shut. Its slam shook the house and punctuated the fervent question: Where’s my Golden Arm?

Footsteps crossed the floor below, footsteps muffled by the hollowness of death and the clinging mud of the grave. As they reached the staircase, the man buried himself under the covers and hoped for the best.

Where’s my Golden Arm? The question came from the stairs and was repeated in the hallway and at the bedroom door.

Where’s my Golden Arm?

Where’s my Golden Arm?

Until finally he heard motion in his very room, the rustle of a funeral dress, the clunk of a dirty heel. He smelled the smell of his wife’s coffin, which he had violated only hours before: the sweet and sour odor of mud and decay.

Where’s my Golden Arm? demanded his wife. And then the blankets were suddenly ripped from his body, and as he lie there exposed to the one-armed horror he had once controlled and lusted after, a horrible shriek filled his ears and mind:

YOU HAVE IT!!!!

To be continued…

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“Goblin River”

(With apologies to Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini. And, I suppose, to Audrey Hepburn, although she’s never looked lovelier.)

Sweet Goblin, constant little friend
Try to apprehend
That squirrel
Your ears perking, your tongue working
Stealing kisses and chickens
You fabulous girl

Two walkers, circling the land
We’re walking paw-in-hand
Carefree
And as all the seasons go ’round
I’m so glad I found
My huckleberry hound, Goblin Foo
And me

(Lyrics by me and Rob!)

Update: Do I hear another call for Goblin Songs? Submit!

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Score One More for the Capricorns!

I have a new niece. She does not have a name yet. She is nameless. I have a nameless new niece.

As this is Jaxon’s younger sister, we will have to send an alert out to the fleet.

Update: It’s Dylan Presley. Dylan Presley. Remember when those secret Cylons were singing that Dylan song and that’s how they discovered they were evil? Sort of like that mixed with Hunka Hunka Burnin’ Love. I love it!

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FRIDAY CHUPACABRA BLOGGING

Oops, no chupacabras today, just me. Although there is a strange gigantic tooth sitting on my dining room table that indicates a mysterious cryptozoological visitor or a walrus has mistaken Goblin for the tooth fairy. Do chupacabras have molars? Perhaps I imagined the whole thing because I have been hallucinating lately. I hallucinated an impossible black cat, a malevolent stare, and some wooden pillars doing a hula dance. I also hallucinated that the TiVo remote and some potato and leek soup were not in the places that they actually were, those places being right in front of my face. The other night, I also hallucinated that my eyes were open when they were really closed and that was the same night I woke up screaming, the only time I have ever been known to do that in all my days. I blame it on the mad scientist, who blames himself, as well. Now all of a sudden I don’t have to take a certain of my medications anymore, not because it helped me to transcend its assigned health issues but because whatever elusive help it did provide were by far dwarfed by wacky side effects. Let us declare 2008 the Year Without Wacky Side Effects. By popular demand, all wackiness should be direct and intentional. So say we all.

Today after overmoisturizing I dragged myself to work and boy are my arms tired. So much to do and so little time. I have friends who have decided not to worry so much about to-do lists because the world is ending in five years anyway, but I say that when the antichrist or the ancient Mayans come a-marchin in, they would like to have a tidier reception. Look at those disorganized hippies who shook their tambourines about the Age of Aquarius and then turned into Reaganites, the worst punishment of all.