“Did you see 6’ foot Blond’s post on Tranquil Stream?”
His voice rather than the question jarred me awake. It wasn’t that I didn’t know who was speaking to me; I’d first heard his voice as a teenager, over a half century ago. The thing about Leo though, was he could/would, pop in whenever he felt like it, regardless of whatever I happen to be doing. It had caused some awkward as well as hilarious situations before.
However, this time it was of no real consequence, other than waking me from my afternoon nap, which I’d been taking after finishing 18 holes on the golf course a few hours ago.
I look around and locate my drink in the cupholder of my lounging chair, noticing that it still had a little ice in it, which surprised me somewhat because I remember the afternoon sun had been quite warm before I’d dropped off into wonderland. Taking a drink I pick up a half smoked joint in the ashtray, and as I light it, I recall ‘the dream.’
We were getting married. No, not Pup and I, but me and my second wife. My Mom was there prattling around, making sure I was dressed properly, (she was always fussing with the way I dressed when I was a kid). I remember thinking I’d sure like to talk to her since she had died almost five years ago. I was dressed in black pants of some sort, not levi’s, but exactly what I wasn’t sure, and a nicely starched, button up shirt, brown in color with a black tie. I remember thinking to myself, ‘why a brown shirt?’ After all, brown is not my favorite color.
“I’m thinking to myself in the middle of a dream,” I say aloud as I remember the joint in my hand. Taking a deep drag while looking around to make sure no one’s spying on me, I nod at Leo; he’s sitting next to me in a lawn chair.
As usual, in my tiny part of the world, (my enclosed back porch patio) it’s just me, and of course, now Leo. My ‘miniature’ Bose boom box is playing nearby but the sound is turned low, and although daylight is still strong - I can feel the coolness of the oncoming desert evening.
I take another hit from the joint and proffer it in Leo’s direction as I get up from my lounger. I’m looking for my cigar, and thinking how the PC crowd would do a “back-crawling cringe” at Leo’s cigarette, which is dangling from his mouth. Of course shortly after that they would notice the joint and my cigar, and the gig would be up. We’d probably be tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail. Yeah, I know that’s an old cliche but it’s something I can imagine easily, and actually fits my thought process at the moment.
By now I’m also processing Leo’s ‘wakeup question,’ and even have an answer to give him; but I’ve been too slow.
“You heard me didn’t you?” He says, shifting in his chair and propping a foot on my golf bag.
Before I can answer he says, “What'd you shoot?”
“99.” I tell him.
“Finally broke a hundred did you?”
“Yeah it was a good day. What did 6’ blond post anyway?” I finally ask.
“You’re not worried about punctuation today?”
“Nope!” I say forcefully, before continuing - “I decided the other day that if I ever wrote anything again, it was going to be on my terms, screw all the details.”
As my words reverberate around us - I add - “I’m not worrying about details anymore.”
“You going to dot your i’s and cross your t’s and that’s all?”
“The computer dots my i’s and crosses my t’s; I don’t have to worry about that crap.”
“Interesting.” He said.
“What did she post?” I ask again.
“A song; “Sound of Silence.”
“Great song.” I said.
Not Simon and Garfunkel’s version though, he said with a shrug, hitting the joint. Some dude I’ve never heard of - I didn’t care for it.
“And I probably won’t either I tell him as I take a drink, sucking an ice cube into my mouth.”
Chewing the ice I tell him - “but it’s a generational thing you know - she’s a lot younger than us.”
“Nobody can do it like Simon & Garfunkel.” He says.
“Yeah it’s one of those songs that will never sound right sung by anyone else. Fuck! Even Elvis and Jesus couldn’t do it.”
“You sure use the F-bomb a lot.”
“As if it matters.” I tell him, before repeating what Dad had always said; “in a hundred years nobody will notice the difference anyway.”
“Or give a damn for that matter.” I add, putting my own post script to it.
Lighting my cigar I sit down in the lounger, picking up my drink. I eye the last piece of ice floating in the brown liquid and say - “Way too many people worried about being PC these days when the truth of the matter is, nobody knows what we’re here for, if there’s even a reason. The religious crowd have their own particular brand to lean on I guess, and if that helps them, then what does it hurt that they think I’m going to hell for using the F-bomb?”
We both laugh.
“Why don’t you listen to the song, see if you like it?” He says, smiling.
“I will, later. I say, and then - almost as an afterthought, I say - Every time that song comes up it reminds me of 68, and I don’t like to go there.”
Leo dragged on the joint, passing it back to me, but didn't say anything.
“It was a wild fucking year.” I say as I retrieve it and take a hit, looking at the sky; the sun was sliding down in the horizon, and it looked to be another spectacular California sunset; one of the reasons I love it here.
Then, as had been the norm of late, my mind took it on itself - to divide reality into two paths; I took the one less traveled.
Leo laughed aloud at my thought, and pulled his cap down low, hiding his eyes, but I didn’t need to see his eyes to know he was taking the trip with me, or that he was letting me get away with the Frost comment.
It was July 30, 1968, and I was stationed at Ft. Sam Houston, in San Antonio Texas. It had been a long hot summer, and although there was still almost a half of the year left - I’d had enough of 1968. MLK had been killed in February, in early March a childhood friend had drowned in a lake back home, and Bobby Kennedy was killed in San Francisco in June. The college crowd was rioting almost every day and Vietnam was beginning to crank up really hard. Just 3 weeks ago we’d learned that my girlfriend’s brother had been killed over there.
Ironically, in between the time we learned of Carl’s death and the time it took to return his body, I’d gotten orders for Nam myself. I was to report to Ft. Lewis, Washington in early September. For now, though, I was packing my shit, getting ready to drive to Oklahoma City for the funeral. Carl’s mother had requested that I wear my uniform, and although I didn’t think too much of the idea, I wasn’t going to argue the point. As for my new assignment; I’d not told anyone - yet. I’d wait and do that once the funeral was over.
A radio was sitting on my footlocker, a song was beginning to play. It was Simon and Garfunkel, and although I instantly recognized the song, I’d never heard them do it before.
It did not get a lot of play then, nor ‘ever’ for that matter, but 6’ blond’s post had reminded me of it.
“7 O’ clock news/Silent night”
by Simon and Garfunkel
Music from the 60’s