The passenger

The day I got the job driving for BLS limousine service in Los Angeles, years ago, a letter arrived in the mail stating that my drivers license had been revoked. Naturally, I would not let this be a deterrent. It would be my little secret. I would have an air of mystery surrounding me when I went to pick up clients, like Cleopatra, or Mona Lisa. An air of danger. No one would know they were on the brink of not catching their flight for the first day of shooting, or missing their crucial Warner Bros meeting; for the smallest traffic infraction would call attention to my suspension and we would all have to exit the vehicle and find our own ride home.

For a long time I thought we lived “in” the world and not “on” it. Strange as it seems, I was 30 years old when I discovered that the earth is actually composed of dirt, lava, jewels, iron, nickel. And that we live on top of it, not inside.  This changed things for me, in the way that people in the Middle Ages were changed when Copernicus discovered the world revolves around the sun. I realized that the secret to anything growing was to ground it, and that would make it real. I envisioned my feet actually walking on soil. The seeds I planted began to take.  I simultaneously discovered a line by Goethe that confirmed my suspicions. He states, “Reality must give the motive, the points to be expressed- the kernel; but to work out of it a beautiful animated whole, belongs to the poet.” I was even able to articulate this concept to others, which was a far cry from my usual half formed sentences that petered out into oblivion.

We all want to know how things are going to shake out in the end, a glimpse into the future.  For example, let’s take Isis. Maybe these terrorist extremists are no more than an exaggerated version of that “not knowing what’s going to happen next” feeling and that’s hard to sit with.  It’s comforting to believe God has the storyline all planned out for us,   even if it does end in a fiery apocalypse. Jihad means “to suffer.” Maybe they’re just afraid to be happy. Talk about terror,  that’s a big one. And in terms of God, energy, whatever that means to you, it must be easier to have it all spelled out. You can just follow directions; like putting a fan together as opposed to being led, listening for signs, cues, the subtle fluctuations of magnetic fields, molecules separating and fusing, whispering to make a right turn here, a left turn there.  Birds have an inner magnetic compass that involves their beaks, inner ears, and eyes. They contain tiny grains of iron, just like the iron found at the inner core of the earth. This helps them to sense magnetic fields.

A long time ago I had a dream.  I was told I would be given the key to silver lake and the secret to death. I was shown a winding road with a purple and green house side by side.  That was it. 3 years later I had a similar textured dream that felt like part 2.  In the dream, a certain eccentric actor I had known briefly, in real life, for like a nanosecond, appeared in the dream and our eyes went into each other. Do our eyes, like birds, also have magnetic shavings of iron? I wonder. It feels like they do.  I woke from the dream absolutely certain I would be led that day to this actors home, although I hadn’t seen him in years and had no idea where he lived now. I was driving during this time, for the Los Angeles BLS limousine service, and suddenly I knew why. I would be “driven” instead of doing the driving. I would be taken to his home by forces outside myself. I simply had to interact with these forces and listen. As I drove to work that morning, my car broke down. I was ecstatic. I knew it was all part of the plan and was meant to change my timing. I arrived at work two hours late and was given an entirely different set of clients. While waiting for my next address I heard a few drivers laughing, in the lobby. One said “so I pick up William Shatner to take him to his wife’s funeral. She was found dead, having drowned in their pool a few days before. So he gets in the backseat, and hands me her urn filled with her ashes and says “She always wanted to sit up front. Here’s her chance.” They burst out laughing right as I am given my next clients information. I am to pick him up at the airport immediately, which I do. When I arrive, the client tells me there has been a change of plans and we are going to his home in Silverlake. As we approach his neighborhood, we begin to drive up a steep hill and then it hits me. I suddenly noticed the purple and green homes I had dreamed of a few years earlier. “The secret to death and the key to Silverlake” I say out loud.  “Excuse me?” he says. “Oh I had dreamed about this road we’re going on, a few years ago.” As we progress up the hill, things start to change and take on an almost animated version of reality. The leaves begin to fall in slow motion and things look brighter. We stopped at the top of the hill and the man said “It’s this house right here.” I repeated “This house right here.” He let out an exasperated sigh and said “No, this house next-door.” But I knew which house he meant. I dropped him off and watched, as he shook his head and rolled his suitcase to the house next-door. He didn’t tip. I sat in my car, debating whether to knock on this actors door, for this was obviously his home. It glowed.  I would explain that our eyes went into each other in a dream the night before, and I just wanted to say hi. And then suddenly a call came in from the dispatcher. I was to pick up Mackenzie Phillips in the valley and to step on it. This was before her story broke about having sex with her dad, the famous singer of The Mamas and Papas. California Dreaming would never sound the same again.  Our meeting was fascinating due to her beautiful vulnerability. She told me to call her “Mack.” I never went to his house. It was enough just to know.

10 years later a friend of mine was putting together an art show I was in. She said it would be amazing to invite this particular actor. I said “Oh, I know where he lives. You can drop off an invitation at his house.” So we drove there.   I told her I’d wait in the car. She got out and walked up the driveway, disappearing behind the shrubbery. And then it hit me. I was completely insane, as in certifiable. I had never received any proof that  this was his home and now it was being tested by the scientific method. Of course this wasn’t his home. I was terrified and started to sweat. Everything I knew to be true would be invalidated now, and I had no Plan B. My friend reappeared and opened the car door. She was silently somber, an ominous sign. I said “Oh..umm..what happened?” She said “Oh, this girl answered.”  My heart plummeted. She added, “She said he was out of town but she’ll give it to him.” I said “You mean he actually lives here?”  “Of course he does,” she said. “I thought you knew that.” I said “Well yeah, sure I did, it was just never really confirmed.”

And so, I was in fact, given the symbolic key to Silverlake that day. The secret to death, which is the indestructibility of the soul, not confined by space and time as we might imagine it to be. A much better feeling I imagine, than being given 72 raisins after a terrorist suicide, thinking it would be virgins. After all that beheading and it still wouldn’t come out the way they planned it. That has to be rough. But knowing is different than believing. And even when you know, it’s still hard to listen. The actor was Crispin Glover.

I met a young man of 22, who had blown off his hands and face. He said he was trying to fight evil and needed to understand what it was so he built a bomb and it exploded in his face. His mother was studying a very high level of Scientology, keeping special information top secret from those who “weren’t ready for it.” After the bomb went off in Sergio’s face, his mother threw him out. She claimed the “accident” (which he likes to call a miracle) proved that her son was a negative influence on her. Sergio Obolensky was left to fend for himself on the streets – without hands, a blown-up face, and an awkward disposition.
I met him long ago at a restaurant where I was hostessing. He walked up to me and said that my emotions and vulnerability were so strong that it hit his center dramatically.                                   Later I found out that he was the great-great-great-great-grandson of the aristocratic Prince Ivan Obolensky, of whom Tolstoy had written in Anna Karenina. Prince Obolensky helped to rule Russia with Helena. When Helena died, the prince was thrown in prison where he starved to death.        Sergio would always come into the restaurant wondering if he should be there. “I feel like I’m supposed to be here right now. Do you think I’m in the right place?” he would ask. I photographed him for a group art show and the next week he told me that I had opened the doors for him. The day after I took his picture, he met someone from Rolling Stone who decided to use his image as part of a centerpiece for the magazine’s 30th anniversary issue. Sergio said that my vision of wanting him to be seen by millions made it happen.
Many times I felt he was superimposed onto the earth. I always ran into him when I asked to see him.                                        Once when  I saw him he had twenty books piled on his plastic arms…books about fractals and air conditioner units, soil and space. He had some sort of disease and said he thought he was going to die soon. As he was talking to me, I saw Tom Cruise at a stoplight in a silver Porsche. Sergio smelled so badly that I couldn’t breathe and his eyes were puffy and had liquid around them. I gave him some strawberries and my telephone number and told him to call me the next day if he needed a doctor, but I never heard from him. He talked a lot about God and telepathy. He said that I was like Dorothy – the real Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz (but only when I didn’t wear makeup). The next time I saw him I gave him a key to my apartment and he slept on the floor. He wanted to pay me $300, and when I refused he broke down and cried. He said that God asks him to give all these gifts to people but nobody would accept them and he has so many blessings to bestow. So I took the cash. He seemed hungry and penniless although he gave me a ruby and an emerald on my birthday, in honor of “Dorothy.” The stones are real and I still have them.                                            Another time I was walking down the street having just come from Sam French and feeling like an actor. There was Sergio at the corner just waiting. He told me I was a hero and that the picture “I took” was a runner up for best photograph in a special issue of LIFE magazine (the image was, in fact, the photo taken by the Rolling Stone photographer). The issue was dedicated to the best photography of the year. We went to a newsstand and sure enough – the photos of Sergio Obolensky and the singer TRICKY were the runner-ups; the photo of Ben Stiller’s evolution from ape to man had won. Months later, the picture of Sergio was shown at the Guggenheim. Sergio said he had been at the library studying the mathematical equations in DNA and certain movie people as well. He said that when he said the name “Nicholas Cage” it just made sense, that it felt good in his heart: that he knew Nicholas Cage was a true Hollywood person because he was a good person; that he was serene and had virtue. We kept walking together. He said, “It’s amazing how all these people walking by don’t understand how special our meeting is.” I knew exactly what he meant.
I took him to a place called Dragon Talent; I’d been told that they like unusual-looking people. I introduced Sergio as the great-great-great-great-grandson of the aristocratic Obolensky family. I said that, according to Tolstoy himself, “what we look for in a work of art is the revelation of the artist’s soul, a glimpse of God” and that Sergio was loaded with pure light in everything he did and uttered. They said they didn’t need any more clients but thanks for thinking of them. Sergio and I parted ways.

Four years later I pulled out this story, which I’d begun writing after my earliest encounter with Sergio. The next day I was driving down Sunset Boulevard and saw a ragged, matted haired homeless man crossing the street. He was cackling madly and appeared to be in the throes of ecstasy. It was Sergio. I quickly pulled over and stopped him. We hugged in silence for sixty seconds. He had caked-on dirt all over his body and had lost an eye. I asked him how it happened and he said he didn’t remember. He wanted to change the subject to “more important matters” – that silver is the special quality in film that gives it the magic it contains; that HD doesn’t do that. He said we were spending tons of money on our space program because on Mars there is a metal that can be used to build very efficient weapons. He said the same thing can appear in different places at the same time and that’s why I can see him when I wish to do so; because our thoughts travel faster than the speed of light and we can project our energy.
I asked if I could do anything for him. He said no, that he was fine – he just needed a hug. Finally after much pressure he said, ” I guess a sandwich would be okay.” We went to the Standard Hotel. He had lost his prosthetics somewhere along the way and was maneuvering his food with a fork precariously positioned between his wrist and elbow. He spoke of many fascinating things – things I find difficult to articulate but somehow have become deeply lodged in my brain like a bullet. As we parted I asked him where he was going, what he would do. He said, “I’m like the weather. I know which way to blow.” As cool as Jack Nicholson, only without hands or an eye, and a blown-up face. I looked over and saw the singer from The Red Hot Chili Peppers, hugging someone in a heartfelt embrace.
Recently I was thinking about Sergio. I was having a day in which obstacles appeared on every road I took. I was forced to go off my usual path, and of course, there he was, at a street corner. I pulled over and sat next to him. He was rambling about something I couldn’t quite make out and then he said, “Tracey Keilly” and stopped, like the spell had been broken and he could come back. He said he remembered when I worked at that restaurant years ago on Vermont, and that all the stars that came in didn’t realize that I was the real movie star, even though I was in fact making paper baskets for french fries. I said, “Actually you were the star. If you remember, you were at that restaurant when you were chosen by a journalist to be featured in Rolling Stone’s anniversary issue. He wrote that he was deeply affected by your spirituality.” I was almost embarrassed to remind him, like when you see a famous person and don’t acknowledge that you know them. He said, “Well that’s because when I was born Mick Jagger came to me and said I was going to be in the Rolling Stones. It was planned Tracey, don’t you get it?” That’s when I saw that my ego was the last thing I ever had to worry about with him. All the usual insecurities that perpetuate arrested development were gone and I could have a pure dialogue. It was a case of learning important lessons about the human condition. He could project his greatness onto me but when I pointed out his own he couldn’t hold it.
Sergio told me that he could finally go now. He could leave the streets because this was our final meeting, so he didn’t need to be a bum anymore. He took his nubs and pressed them deep into my hands. I was scared; but I allowed myself to feel and say goodbye to him.
He had said he’d like to be a singer one day and to also get married. When he sang, his voice broke down molecules in the air and penetrated to the core of everything.

I don’t feel him here anymore.

Today

I was laying down on the shower floor, when I remembered a man I had met many years ago.  I had been driving down Beverly Blvd and he was hitchhiking. He must have been about 80, and I was 23. I pulled over and asked him if he needed a lift. He said that would be great, that he had a date with some foxy broad at this home for assisted living on rossmore.

We drove away in silence. Then he said “Bet you don’t think an 80 year old man can stimulate you, do you?” I protested and said I was definitely stimulated, just his thumb moves hitchhiking were more excitement than I had seen in days. Then he started humming the theme from The Wizard Of Oz. The part where the witch is flying through the sky. He said he wrote the music to that song, along with many others.  That was weird because a few days prior I had finally met my next door neighbor. She was this quiet, morbidly obese woman and the curtains to her windows were always drawn. She never left the house and no one had ever spoken to her. I had decided to knock on her door and said I just wanted to say hi. She let me in and she opened a closet where she kept her treasures. She pulled out a box and told me to open it. It was a witch’s hat, similar to one I had worn for Halloween when I was 5. She told me it was the original witch’s hat for the movie The Wizard of Oz. I couldn’t believe this woman who never left her house was holding such a treasure. I thanked her for letting me see it and then I hightailed it out of there, feeling a gag reflex from some uncomfortable smell emanating from the bedroom. So, cut forward to this 80 year old swinger sitting next to me in the car, humming the theme song to the wicked witch in The Wizard of Oz. And he wrote it! Suddenly I felt I was giving the King of hollywood a ride home. The real king. The one that dreamed this whole thing up. We arrived at his destination and he thanked me for the ride. As he got out of the car I said “wait! If you could leave this world with just one sentence of wisdom to bestow on those still here, what would you say?” He looked at me long and hard, and pierced his eyes into the back of my skull. He whispered…………………………………………………….”always always be honest.” Then he winked and was gone.

I came home and in rushed excitement told the story to my roommate. He was flabbergasted and said “that’s what he said? You met the man who wrote the music to the Wizard of Oz and he told you to always be honest?” I said “yep!” He looked at me, took a deep breath, and said “TRACEY! I’m gay! God it feels so good to say! I’m gay!!!”

So that was that day, and now, years later, the old man’s voice came to me again, in the shower, today, June 21, 2016. The summer solstice. 100° outside and I can’t even eat I’m so worked up. Just a whisper that said “always be honest”.

 

 

 

For Craig

There is shadow there is light
A magical moon in the center of night
The root of a tree is planted right here
The absence of trees would be something to fear
The absence of here can nowhere be found
There isn’t a weight, a smell, sight or sound
A telephone cord plugged into a sink..will disconnect words and all you might think
Books without bindings will fly far away but stitches and string will help keep them to stay
I fly off the edge of my thoughts on their flight
All in the hope to connect and unite
But the dream feels too real to wake from today
Tuesday in April, a year or a day
A broken clock tied to the thread of a kite
The birds are confused and are chirping at night
Somebody tell me just where we are
Where are the wisemen? Where is that star?
The maps were stolen and cannot be found but Columbus says that the world is round
Galileo says it revolves around the sun and it never will fall though it must weigh a ton
And you can see souls when you look into eyes and always feel truth though the words may be lies
Some eyes so beautiful I can’t help but cry…’cause I know I won’t see them after they die
Unless they promise far in advance to meet at cloud 9 for the mystery dance
Where we’ll sip from the grail with God and his wife
And laugh we had questioned the meaning of life

Confessions of a Food Fraud: stirring the pot

  • A true story though many names have been
changed to protect the innocent.

 

  • “So long as you have food in your mouth, you have solved all questions for the time being.”

    Franz Kafka

     

    “Every man and every woman
    has a course, depending partly on
    the self, and partly on the
    environment, which is natural
    and necessary for each. Anyone
    who is forced from his own
    course, either through not
    understanding himself, or
    through external opposition,
    comes into conflict with the order
    of the universe, and suffers
    accordingly.”
    Aleister Crowley
     ⚡️⚡️⚡️⚡️⚡️⚡️⚡️⚡️
    I ponder this excerpt frequently
    in quiet desperation while looking
    out the window of my
    Malibu beachfront property. It is
    an excerpt by Aleister Crowley’s
    ‘Magic; in theory and practice’
    I believe in magic. Or rather I
    should say, I believe that you can
    get anything you want. You begin
    with intention, and then ride that
    horse all the way to the Kentucky
    Derby. Things come together,
    people appear, and
    synchronicities collide,
    combustible molecules form that
    reduce alchemical base metals
    into gold, water into wine.
    And so it was, on that fateful day,
    way back in the late 70’s, where
    anything went. My claim to fame
    was as a dancer on the Vegas
    strip. A rocketeer, and my legs
    did the talking. But where had it
    led me? I was living in a small 3
    bedroom house, Beverly Hills
    adjacent, a single mother, with 3
    daughters to support. And I was
    pushing 40.! I’m sure I could
    have snagged some poor
    schmuck that would foot the bill
    for my current socio-economic
    status. But why? Why not think
    big?!
    As I breezed through The
    Beverly Hills Courier- a flimsy
    little magazine delivered to our
    door, graciously elevating us to
    the 90210 stratosphere, my eyes
    began to fixate on a black and
    white blurb, a small photo of a
    man playing tennis at the very
    exclusive hillcrest country club.
    Hmmmm…this might be that
    horse…I was momentarily
    interrupted by a knock on the
    door, and hurtled back into
    reality with my landlord’s request
    for the rent. He was a sleazy slick
    haired Italian and seemed to
    insinuate there were other
    methods of payment. And he always showed up when the kids
    were at school. I led him on, just
    enough to stall a week. I shut the
    door and picked up the phone.
    “Hillcrest country club? Yes, I’d
    like to sign up for tennis
    lessons.”
    !My gorgeous rocketeer legs
    were just hitting their final stride
    before their long descent and
    they went out with a bang, in
    those tiny tennis skirts I
    purchased at Fila. It worked like
    a charm. I had Frank Nicklepants in
    the palm of my hand.
    After a few weeks of dating I
    pinpointed his weakness. A
    weakness I would exploit until
    that rock was on my finger. Sex?
    No. He was past that stage and
    Viagra hadn’t been invented yet.
    No, it was very simple. Caveman
    simple. It was food. Food, a
    direct link to a man’s heart and
    stomach. And I knew just the
    little lady who would provide the
    service. Her name was Patrice and
    she owned a catering company in
    the valley called Food for thought.
    Patrice was no ordinary
    chef. She was an artist of the
    highest echelon. Her brownies
    alone could make a grown man
    whimper if denied, and she had a
    thirst for Hermes, an insatiable
    appetite for Georgio’s and
    Theodore’s. I knew she would
    chomp at the bit…and chomp
    hard she did.

    It started with cookies. She

    charged me $80 a batch,
    equivalent to $200 in today’s
    market. It was a small price to
    pay, and besides, now I had my
    own charge accounts, and cash,
    courtesy of Frank. Soon it
    escalated to breads-$90 for a
    loaf, Bastia, Tortes, mind
    blowing pies and cakes~ $1000 a
    pop. Frank would ask me to
    entertain small dinner parties and
    I willingly obliged, with the help
    of my very own Cyrano de
    Bergerac. The cash and jewels
    started rolling in~ a Cartier
    necklace for this party, a
    diamond bracelet for that party.
    We hosted a dinner party one
    night for Ted Kennedy and Frank
    introduced me as not just the chef
    but a true artist. Patrice had
    delivered the goods early that
    morning and no one was the
    wiser.
    But slowly, as the romance began
    to escalate, woven tightly in a
    thick web of lies, my mind began
    to unravel. It started with a close
    call. Patrice’s husband Henry,
    delivering food early one
    morning, tripped up the sprinkler
    system and broke the clicker for
    the garage. I had given explicit
    directions for Henry to stash the
    food in our 2nd freezer, knowing
    Frank could not possibly hear the
    garage door open from our
    upstairs bedroom. Frank ran
    outside and demanded to know
    what was going on, thinking Henry
    was a thief. Henry stood there in
    soaking wet clothes with
    sprinklers splashing his face, and
    piles of Tupperware at his feet.
    He explained that I had been
    “nice enough” to let his wife use
    the freezer in the garage because
    theirs had broken down in the
    middle of the night. That was a
    close call. Then I found out that a
    housekeeper had been stealing
    from me. I threatened to call the
    police and she said that if I called
    the police she would tell Mr.
    Nicklepants exactly who did the
    cooking in the house. So I let her
    stay, and continue to steal. The
    food kept coming, each dish
    more exciting and exotic
    than the last. Frank bought my
    daughter a house, and soon I was
    hearing those wedding bells.
    Things were finally coming to
    fruition. Everything I had set my
    mind on achieving. But there was
    a problem. I was slowly
    beginning to experience multiple
    personality disorder. My lies
    were catching up with me.
    Someone at a dinner party would
    ask me the recipe for something.
    I would become paralyzed,
    frozen, scared stiff. I would
    stutter that I didn’t recall and
    would send it to them the next
    day. And so began the
    memorization of every speck
    used in the cookies, cakes, the
    bread. I was an actress playing
    the role of a lifetime and these
    were my lines. If I could just
    keep it together until we were
    married, then I’d simply say “I
    don’t feel like cooking, let’s go
    out.” One day Frank came home
    and wondered why there weren’t
    any smells in the kitchen if I had
    been cooking all day. So I
    arranged for aromas to be
    delivered, and brought home all
    the cooking utensils I would
    need. Then he wondered how
    there was no trash. So I began to
    have trash delivered, the
    wrappers from ingredients Patrice
    had used. I was living a double
    life and started to believe it
    myself. I would tell Patrice how
    exhausted I was from cooking all
    day. And I believed it.
    The day finally came when Frank
    and I tied the knot, and I could
    stop the shenanigans. But at what
    cost? I would have to lie to Frank
    for the rest of my life, and now I
    had grown to love this man. I
    wanted our marriage to be pure
    and honest, but that was
    impossible now. It would be
    based on lies, and those lies have
    kept me fragmented, all these
    years, split from myself, from my
    center.

 

       And now, as I look out, on the
       crashing waves hitting the shore,
       I am in a wheelchair slowly
       rolling back to the sofa. I am
       imprisoned by my dark past and
       now physical limitations. I
       wonder if I really did get what I
      wanted, or was I misguided from
     the beginning? If I had truly
     listened to myself there would
     have been no room for lies or
     manipulation, and things might
     have ended differently. I’ve heard
     it said “The end depends upon
    the beginning” and maybe this
    wheel chair is my own self
    imposed punishment, the way I
   feel it should end. I ponder that
   quote again, from the beginning
  of this story….
“Anyone who is forced from his
own course, either through not
understanding himself, or
through external opposition,
comes into conflict with the order
of the universe, and suffers
accordingly.”
Did I follow that North Star all
those years ago, or was I forced
from my true course, not
understanding myself, and
therefore, not really knowing
what life was truly about?
Thinking the prize was that brass
ring…I now understand it is only
really about love. About giving
unselfishly, from the deepest depths of the
heart. And actually, I basically just paid
Patrice to do the hard part for me…and Frank
was happy…which is the bottom
line.
And so, I would say it did in fact,
all work out…. in the end, which was naturally….
based on the beginning.

rainbow suspender

  1. A true story.

I was on a bus one day, a long time ago. I saw this man, sitting directly across from me. He was maybe 60, 65….bald, fat, and special. He was wearing rainbow suspenders, like the electro-magnetic spectrum. He stood up to get off the bus and I followed him. He seemed superimposed with special colored molecules flying all around him. I asked if he wanted to come over for lunch. He said “OK” and we both took a bus back to my house. 

 My roommates were very flustered. They asked me to please make him leave. I told them that they brought friends overso why couldn’t I? They said it was different, meeting a stranger on the bus and taking him home. 

 I said that he was staying, and I began to prepare our lunch. He pulled out from the refrigerator the few remnants  I had left and began to assemble them, creating penguins with hard boiled eggs, olives for the feathers, and a tiny carrot for the beak. Then he looked at me seriously. He asked that we hum the sound “Aum” together and so we did. Then he tapped my forehead and did the same to his. I felt our minds converge on the second floor…in the same space. He just smiled. Then he took out an old photograph from the 1960’s. It appeared to be a bunch of hippies behind an old school bus, laughing. I felt like this photograph was a dream I have had before, and in it I had planted seeds to metaphorically bloom decades later. He simply showed me the photograph and then put it back in his pocket not saying a word. He took out another photo of himself with Henry Miller in Big Sur. He said they had been great friends. He said he also helped Terry Southern write Easy Rider and he took out a photo of them together. I wondered why he wasn’t on the credits but that seemed an inappropriate question to ask, and when I was with him, in that moment, it didn’t seem to matter “who got credit” for ideas generating from the same source.

Then, suddenly, he said it was time to go…and so we said good bye. 

 I watched those rainbow suspenders walk away until I couldn’t see them anymore.

 I can’t say exactly what happened that day except that it seemed to change me. It has made me less afraid of dying and is compelling me to tell you, the reader, all these years later, about that man on the bus…with the rainbow suspenders.

Chinatown

This is a true story from a long long time ago.

I was on my way to Chinatown one day, searching for red slippers. I had just come from yoga where our teacher had stressed the importance of breath. A long time ago prophets seemed to know what a special concept breathing was and made a point to cover it in the Bible. “God has made the breath to serve as the subtle link between body and soul. The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

So I was trying to remember this, and to be calm….when suddenly this enormous bus was at an awkwardly inappropriate angle in the middle of the road. I quickly forgot my peaceful state and demanded that the bus move. I was in the middle of the road turning left, with cars from the other side now approaching.  I carefully tried to slide by the bus within an inch, but something didn’t feel right. Patience. But I had to make a move, so I continued to slide by the bus.

Underneath that bus I saw a woman lying there on the ground. I quickly pulled over to the side of the road and got out. I was wearing paramedic pants which immediately gave me a backstage pass. I started to approach this woman on the ground, this small Chinese woman. I noticed a crowd gathering on the street corner, staring. I was almost at her feet when I watched the bus begin to move. Tons of people at the corner screamed “STOP!” but the bus kept going. It rolled over her stomach and legs, crushing them like pancakes. A yellow fluid (bile) rushed from her belly. A disbursement of blood and other items formed patterns around her. Frightening screams echoed in the streets, penetrating molecules in the air. I was calm. I said to her, “breathe” and took her hand, although directions weren’t necessary because her breath appeared to be on auto~pilot. It was a fast deep constant rush of inhalation, although her legs had been torn apart, and her stomach ripped open and splattered on the pavement, looking like Kung pao chicken.  She continued to breathe but I knew she would die and hoped it would be soon. I felt a stillness in the center of hysterics; and it felt natural to help her leave peacefully, with love. As I held her hand, her deep deep breathing continued for another minute, and then it all stopped. The connection broke just as the police and paramedics arrived. They asked me to step to the corner, that they would take over from there. They taped the area, leaving my vehicle inside the accident scene. I walked away to purchase the red slippers I had gone to Chinatown to buy. I attempted to act normal as all citizens in Chinatown became Chinese blurs. Red slippers. She was going home.

I wondered if this woman had led a life that somehow warranted a complete stranger to stop her car and hold her hand while she died. To feel compelled to give her the healing presence of love that I’m sure makes our transition more receptive to the changing circumstances. She must have.

I went to work that afternoon at a telecine facility called company 3. I assisted clients with their requests and no one had guessed that my hands had just held a woman who had her stomach and legs torn apart by a tire wheel. Some clients were impatient, as I had been earlier that day when the bus wouldn’t move. But I had just learned the secret of timing. And patience changes timing. And our timing is what makes up our experiences. Everything we see is because of our timing. Our choices and timing. Time and breath. “The air that I breath and to love you.”