blue crow



        We were all invited to The Katman’s Cutters Lounge cigar bar to share in his review of a new cigar.  The Katman’s daughter serves the ceremonial Clynelish 20-year old Scotch to Michael, Rick, David, and me.

        The Katman has been approached by a new client to review the Lars Tetens Cubagua cigar.  As he punches the stick and lights it, I can see revelation glisten in his eyes.  He scratches notes of his experience for the review.

…The secret infusions plus the masterful touch of a tobacco blender are at hand with each puff. The construction is very solid. There are a few veins but nothing out of the ordinary. The cigar is immediately complex…

        The Katman’s daughter Katie holds out to Michael, Rick, David, and me a tray of San Lotano Maduros that remained after The Katman’s last review.  Rick, David, and I reach like good little boys offered candy, but Michael holds back.  The Katman notices Michael’s pensive expression and asks him, “What’s up?”

        Michael reaches finally for the proffered cigar, but he says, “This is a beautiful routine, but it is a routine.”

        Michael sits back and looks at the silky construction of his San Lotano, but his ears are perked for one of us to rise to his bait.

        Rick strikes first, “You mean ‘realize that a good hunter knows one thing above all–he knows the routines of his prey’?”

        David says in an exaggerated moan, “Oh, no.  Not Carlos Castaneda.”

        Michael gives David an imperious look as if to silence a jester, and he quotes, “‘All of us behave like the prey we are after. That, of course, also makes us prey for something or someone else’”.

        David skewers back, “Well I pray for something or someone else.”  David always takes pleasure farting in Michael’s imperium.

        Michael’s comments had transported me.  When I was in college I joined a book club and chose a free book because I liked the cover: Journey to Ixtlan by Carlos Casteneda.  I started reading it and then I carried it with me class-to-class reading it on my lap.  I read it all in one day.  I don’t know why I didn’t just take the day off, but the perspective and philosophy of Journey to Ixtlan filled that college kid’s need for a new true belief.

        Starting with The Teachings of Don Juan in 1968, Castaneda wrote a series of books [I found out that Journey to Ixtlan was the 3rd book] that describe his alleged training in shamanism. The books, narrated in the first person, relate his supposed experiences under the tutelage of a Yaqui “Man of Knowledge” named Don Juan Matus. His 12 books have sold more than 8 million copies in 17 languages. Critics have suggested that they are works of fiction; supporters claim the books are either true or at least valuable works of philosophy and descriptions of practices which enable an increased awareness.

–   From Wikipedia,

        It had been a huge fad.  And even now, concepts from Castenada’s works have been used in The Matrix, Inception, and other movies and TV episodes.  I had always thought that whether those books were true or not, one could prove the principles for oneself.  Michael, Rick, The Katman, and me had taken it to heart “back in the day”.  Since there were supposedly only four kinds of men, therefore in our “warrior’s party” Michael was “the man of action”, Rick was “the man of knowledge”, The Katman was “the man who pointed the way”, and I was “the organizer behind the scenes”.

        David, who has always been a realist, even as an acid poet on a fishing boat in Alaska, does not let drop the metaphorical skewer that he has in Michael’s side as he Googles his iPhone and reads to Michael from Wikipedia without mercy, “Castaneda died on April 27th, 1998 in Los Angeles due to complications from hepatocellular cancer.  At the heart of Castaneda’s movement was a group of intensely devoted women, all of whom were or had been his lovers.  They were known as “the witches”, and two of them vanished the day after Castaneda’s death.  A few weeks later, Patricia Partin, Castaneda’s adopted daughter as well as his lover, also disappeared.  Partin’s red Ford Escort was found abandoned in Death Valley’s Panamint Dunes.  In February 2006, a skeleton found in Death Valley was identified through DNA analysis as Partin’s.”

        Ricky comes to Michael’s rescue, “The principles are valid.  They are from Native American philosophy.  We just couldn’t live that way, that’s all.  We were too self-important to change.”

        David observed, “It didn’t do the Native American’s much good, now did it?”

        Ricky countered, “Most of them were ‘average men’.  They weren’t all spirit warriors.”

        Michael sneers, “The average man seeks certainty in the eyes of the onlooker and calls that self-confidence.  The warrior seeks impeccability in his own eyes and calls that humbleness.”

        Ricky continues his support, “We have all learned to relate ourselves to our description of the world in terms of our routines.”

        Michael reaches his crescendo, “Are any of you still warrior enough to stalk the unknown?”

        David shakes his head, speechless.  The Katman asks Michael, “What exactly do you have in mind?”

        Michael challenges us, “Let’s break this routine, escape our tonal and go outside for a walk tonight, which we never do, and see if we can encounter the unknown, the nagual.

        In the warrior’s credo, the tonal is the world we see and the things we name.  The nagual is the inexplicable unknown that dwells behind all we see, the ocean surrounding the island of our tonal.

        Ricky stands up with a flourish, “A walk would be nice.  If we dare.”

        I concur, “Sure, why not.  It’s nice out tonight.  I can always use the exercise.”

        Michael slowly arises and taunts David, “Well, David?”

        David laughs and replies, “Sure, I can make time to watch ‘the unknown’ kick your ass.”

        Ricky ameliorates, “That’s the spirit, gentlemen!”

        The Katman’s eyes glow from the ember of his cigar, and he observes, “Well, well, a warrior’s reunion.”

        The Katman’s daughter Katie is nearby and she asks, “Do you cigar-store Indians all have your warrior’s walkers?”

        We all blow clouds of smoke at Katie, saying in derision, “Boooo!”

        The Katman’s Cutters Lounge is a couple blocks from the beach on Newport Peninsula.  The day had been record heat, but now in this evening the marine layer of low clouds and fog are being drawn past us into the pillars of heat that rise from the inland valleys.

        Michael gestures above with all his fingers caressing the air, saying, “Create a fog around yourself and your life.  Nobody will know for sure who you are or what you do.  How can I know who I am, when I am all this?

        David laughs, “I’ll Google my iPhone.”

        I can’t help joining the teasing, saying, “I’ll subpoena your tax records.”

        The salt air is refreshing to the palate.  My cigar tastes even better as we stroll, listening to the inhale and exhale of the rising tide.

        Suddenly there is a long lamenting cry that surrounds us.

        Michael says triumphantly, “What was that?”

        David sags his shoulders in exasperation, “That was a Sand Piper.  A common sea bird.”

        Ricky shakes his head grinning, “Or so the nagual would have you believe.  That’s the routine answer, David.”

           Michael turns around and starts striding backwards away ahead of us, commanding, “Disrupt routines.”

        On that cue, we all start clowning with silly walks from the old Ministry of Silly Walks skit by Monty Python.  Michael is still striding farther ahead of us.

        We see a car pull up to the curb beside Michael and we can hear a passenger say, “Hey, dude.”  Michael approaches the open windows of the vehicle.

        A passenger asks, “Do you know where Water Street is?”

        Michael considers for a moment and then says, “I’m not sure where it is,” as he is looking to us quizzically.

        Suddenly, the passenger hollers, “It’s right here!” and there is a volley of water thrown upon Michael from a Soaker Water Gun and a Water Gun Blaster.  Michael is drenched in an instant and the car peels away screeching and spewing laughter.

        We stop fooling around and rush to Michael’s side, saying while suppressing laughter, “Are you alright?”  David roars with laughter first, and we all twirl and collapse laughing.

        Michael forces a good-natured grin looking down at himself, and he says, “Well, David.  I guess the Unknown did kick my ass.”

        The Katman’s eyes glow from the ember of his cigar and he pronounces, “The nagual is terrifying but it is not without humor.”


journey to ixtlan cover







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