A REALITY TOO FAR

blue crow

A REALITY TOO FAR

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        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.”

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THE SILVER STOGIE AWARD

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THE SILVER STOGIE AWARD

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        We were all invited to The Katman’s Cutters Lounge cigar bar to celebrate his Silver Stogie Award for Best Cigar Blog.  The Katman’s daughter Katie served the ceremonial Clynelish 20-year old Scotch to Michael, Rick, David, and me.

        Like a conquering Julius Caesar saluting his Legions, The Katman held aloft his Silver Stogie Award and a quiver of five Padilla Edición Especial Obsidian cigars from his private reserve, “From the legendary 2006 batch,” he announced in triumph.

        I sighed, remembering, “Oh, the ‘velvet curtain’ sensation of the smoke in my mouth….”

        David asked, “Wasn’t the world supposed to end in 2006?”

        “Someone’s world is always at an end,” The Katman philosophized.

        Rick, always holding his acoustic guitar, quickly invented a Flamenco tune, singing, “Padilla, Padilla, Edición Especial…”

        Mike grinned adoringly, “Oh, my Long-Filler is hard…”

        The Katman allotted a Padilla Edición Especial Obsidian to each of us like it was a diploma.  He said, “Girls, you are going to sing for your cigars this time.  Look over there,” and he pointed to the far corner while nodding to daughter Katie who flicked a light switch and revealed a staged set of drums, two guitars, a singer’s microphone stand, and The Katman’s fretless Fender Jazz Bass guitar.  On the bass drum daughter Katie had painted a logo entitled The Brothers of the Leaf.

        “Pahr-tay!” The Katman joked, “Let us play onward.”

        Occasionally there had been jazz combos at Cutters Lounge but we had never jammed there ourselves.  We had been in and out of bands together in our glory days but this was The Katman really letting his Afro down.

        I said, “I haven’t touched a guitar in years.”

        Mike said, “Then you can play skin flute.”

        I replied with a lewd gesture toward him, “Here, let me warm up.”

        Rick intervened, “Gentlemen, no solos yet.”

        The Katman pointed out, “We need you on drums, Allen.”

        David said with apprehension, “What are we going to play?  Make it something I can still sing.”

        The Katman said to us all, “The instruments can jam first and loosen-up on something simple.  David, think of one you’ll be comfortable singing, like ….”

        “Please,” Mike said, “No Jim Croce.”

        “How about Dave Mason?” offered David.

        Rick asked, “Like ‘Feelin’ Alright’?  That’s got a groove,” and he proceeded to scratch a chukka-chukka rhythm on the electric guitar, “or maybe something from this century, guys, like Colbie Caillat‘s ‘Brighter Than The Sun’?” and Rick then segued into the rhythm of that song.

        “I don’t know the lyrics,” said David.

        Mike teased, “Know any good Hip-Hop?”

        Then The Katman just ignored us all and began to lay down some funk in E and all the instruments followed.

        Daughter Katie began mocking us by dancing The Twist.

        Our jam finally morphed into a funky version of Van Morrison’s “Redwood Tree” naturally enough, and David was happy and soulful as he sang.  The other patrons of Cutters Lounge gathered near and joined in the spirit of the fun.  It was like one of our early garage-band gigs, except that this time no neighbor lady approached the band with the back of her hand against her forehead like a tormented Ophelia, entreating us not to play so loud; I smiled in remembrance.

        Several patrons staked-out a dance floor area in front of the band.  We played and jammed and joked for an hour.  The Katman called a cigar break.  There was polite applause.

        I laughed, “Man, I am sweating!”

        Mike poked, “Yeah, good thing you don’t have a woman to hold.”

        “Hold this, spooge-breath,” I retorted, grinning.

        Michael, Rick, David, and I sat back down on the big couches.  The Katman returned to his lounge chair.

        The Silver Stogie Award for Best Cigar Blog was not a joke or a minor recognition.  The Silver Stogie Award is given for excellence that is defined as “informative, innovative, amusing, and serves the community”.  The Katman was sponsoring orphanages in Honduras and Guatemala.

        It was my turn to say something in The Katman’s honor, “My father is facing Alzheimer’s.  I took him to see the movie Act of Valor last weekend.  He really appreciated it.  The movie referenced something that Tecumseh, the Shawnee chief, said.  I thought it was very powerful and appropriate for us.  I thought it would make a great credo for our efforts here together at Cutters Lounge:

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Live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide. Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and grovel to none. When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision. When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.

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        The Katman’s eyes glowed molten red from the ember of his cigar.  We all had an itch in our eyes.  We raised our cigars in salute to The Great Spirit of Tecumseh.

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The Cutters Lounge 2: CARLA

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The Cutters Lounge 2: CARLA

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        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 served the ceremonial Clynelish 20-year old Scotch to Michael, Rick, David, and me. Rick had his guitar and was softly strumming chord progressions from different songs.

        While The Katman mumbled smoke rings to himself and took notes, David turned to me and asked “How’s work going?”

        “Oh, I’ve got one for y’all. You guys know that I work at Generi-Tech, off of Mesa Drive? It’s a glass box on top of one of those mesa hills. Anyway, in my office I can look out into the parking lot and the ocean beyond while I pretend to work. Not bad. Anyway, last Sunday I was in getting a few things ready for Monday…”

        Michael scoffed, “But mostly you were desperately writing your story for Fiction Weekend, right?”

        “Of course. Anyway, I got hungry but I didn’t want to go out for fast food, so I went out of my office to the desk of my Temp Associate, Carla…”

        “Your secretary?”

        “I wish. She’s nice. She does the monthlies. Good worker, good sense of humor, all that…”

        Michael leered, “Do you work her…hard?”

        “Please. We kid around a lot. Anyway, she always has snacks at her desk. So I opened a big lower drawer, and there in the back behind the hanging folders was a bag of chocolate covered pretzels. Perfect, ok?”

        Michael made a sour face, “Good Gawd, man. How about you share what you were smoking that day?”

        “Hey, I used to think they sounded weird, too.”

        Rick chimed-in, “Ah, employees stealing each others’ food. A classic.”

        “Hey, I buy my guys breakfast burritos and shakes!”

        David said, waving his hand impatiently, “Go on. Ignore them. I want to hear this.”

        “Thank you, Your Honor. Anyway, I lift out the bag of pretzels and I notice that underneath it is a cluster of travel-sized toiletries: shampoo, soap, deodorant, a toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, Q-tips, a bag of pink Bic razors. So of course I open another drawer and there in the back, behind hanging files, are folded towels and face-cloths. In another drawer is a couple pair of folded pants. And, get this, in her middle work drawer, behind the pens and staples and Post-It Note pads are panties and a bra!”

        David asked me, straight-faced, “How did they fit?”

        “Oh, perfectly. I’m wearing them now. But listen, all that got my curiosity up. So, I moved my car to the adjacent parking lot, out of sight. Then I set my cell phone alarm for 5:00 AM…”

        The Katman looked up from his notepad and blew a smoke ring.

        “And I waited.” I said.

        “Swinging life you got there, Allen,” said The Katman as he returned to his notes.

        Rick asked, “You slept there?”

        Michael asked rhetorically, “So what else is new?”

        Rick continued, “Where did you sleep?”

        “This is top secret, guys, but I have a tall chair that leans ‘way back and I put my feet up on my desk on top of some soft ‘Rush-Rush-Urgent’ documents. Sweet Dreams. I had the lights out and a CD in the computer.”

        “Playing what? Highway to Hell?” laughed Michael. Then Rick burst into the chorus from Highway to Hell and we all sang goofily along. Across the dimly lit room, The Katman’s daughter Katie made a face and held her nose.

        “Anyway, my alarm goes off and I’m watching the parking lot with the lights off and before too long I see a beat-up little compact car loop into a parking place near the front door. It’s Carla. And a young girl; I know Carla has a teen-age daughter. And I see a cat up sitting in the rear window. Then Carla and her young daughter enter the building lobby.”

        “There is no security guy. We only recently added a card key system because some client wanted us to. I mean, we’re out in the boon-docks. Anyway, I’m peeking out of my office and I see Carla and her daughter go to Carla’s desk and gather some toiletries and some towels. Then they head back downstairs.”

        The Katman says, “You’re a regular Sam Spade, Allen.”

        “The two of them head to the Production area and I see them go into the technicians’ bathroom. Then I can hear the showers going. It is now about quarter-to-six and pretty soon the set-up crews will be here and will be getting ready in that bathroom.”

        “Did you rush into the showers to warn them?” smiles David.

        “I was only guessing what the situation was. It would have been too creepy for me to expose… (don’t even say it) … reveal myself.”

        Rick asked, “They were homeless, right?”

        “I was pretty sure. Anyway, they did come out soon enough, wet hair, made-up and dressed, carrying their stuff back to Carla’s desk. Except the wet stuff. They took that back to the car and I saw them spread it out on the back seat. Then they left.”

        “This was now Monday morning, right?” asked Rick.

        “Yes, but Carla came back in about a half hour by herself. With the cat.”

        “You figure she dropped the teenager at school?” asked David.

        “I hope so, at least. Anyway, I didn’t say anything to her. She was a little surprised. I’m usually a half-hour late. But I headed out for those breakfast burritos and shakes.

        “Doesn’t she have a husband or family?”

        “You know, her whole family is back in Guatemala. I don’t know what happened.”

        Rick strummed and softly sang, “There was a young woman who lived in a car, her whole life was there but it couldn’t go far-ther than stories they told in the Cutters Lounge bar…”

        The Katman’s eyes glowed red reflecting the tip of his diminishing cigar. He asked, “Allen, what did you do about it?”

        “I told you guys the story.”

        So we all agreed to chip-in a get her into an apartment.

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THE CUTTERS LOUNGE

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THE CUTTERS LOUNGE

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        Tonight is Swinging Dicks’ Night at The Cutters Lounge cigar bar.  There are to be no women.  So why is The Katman’s daughter serving the ceremonial Clynelish 20-year old Scotch to Michael, Rick, David, and me?

        “My dad is running late.  He said to start with his recommended appetizers.”  She holds out a tray of New Havana cigars.

        Michael turns his head, blows a billow of smoke and converses with it.  “There aren’t supposed to be any … girls tonight.”

        Katie curls her lips at him, “Why?  That never stops you from scratching, farting, and belching.”

        Michael’s head whips back at her and he tries to give her his most foreboding stare of doom.  Katie turns and sways away to the counter out front, scratching her ass at him.

        Rick grins and pleads after her, “Everything out there in the world is for women.”

        I add, calling out lamely, “Civilization is a feminine concept!”

        Rick turns to me in seriousness, “It really is, you know.  Think about it: the highest compliment paid to the most advanced invention is ‘a woman can do it’”.

        Michael says “Yeah?  What about France?”

        “Huh?”

        “They were supposed to be the highest civilization once, and they wore powdered wigs and silk stockings!”  Michael leans back in triumph.

        Katie calls from the front counter, “Yeah, yeah.  Without women men would just fish and drink beer.”

        “And smoke cigars!” says Rick.

        “How can she hear us?” I ask incredulously.

        “She’s young,” says David, laughing at me.

        Michael persists, saying loudly, “All real men used to hunt, …seek, …endure…

        Rick interrupts him at his own peril, “Men hunt, women nest”, quoting from the old Seinfeld show.

        “…and all real women, yes, tended the campfire and the children,” Michael finishes, glaring at Rick.

        Katie shoots back, unseen from the front counter, “And women made damn sure the Men stayed away from the children.  They’ll fuck anything.”

        David bursts out with mock indignation, “How dare you insult my better half?”  He grabs my hand.

        I say wryly, “Not tonight, dear, I’m constipated.”

        “Maybe I can help?” he whispers.

        Michael makes a retching sound.  Rick chimes in, “A little too civilized, gentlemen.”

        The Katman enters.  We stand.

        I bow.  Rick curtsies.  Michael salutes smartly.  David flings his right arm out with a “Heil, mein Meister”.

        The Katman seats himself upon the massage recliner Throne and proceeds to hold court, allowing the obvious question from David, “How did the meeting go?”

        The Katman lowers his eyes and warms the foot of his cigar, revealing, “This is a Fausto.”

        I ask humbly, “Is it as good as the Avion?”

        “Better,” says The Katman as he savors the ignition.  “You’ll all try one.”

        “What about the meeting?” insists David irreverently.

        The Katman states matter-of-factly, “It’s going to be a fight.  The government is hell-bent on regulating cigar blends.”

        “Why?” asks Rick rhetorically, “This isn’t cigarettes.  This is wine tasting.”

        Michael says, “It’s what bureaucrats do.  The government can only grow.”

        “Until the revolution!” I conclude, trying to be weighty.

        David shakes his head, “The German government strictly regulates beer.  They sure haven’t ruined that.”

        “A Cigar Czar?” Rick contemplates out loud, “Quality control for blending?  Now that’s a government job I’d like to have!”

        The Katman watches and listens as his court debates, his eyes pulsing red with the glow of the Fausto cigar tip.

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