Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Territoriiality, Part Three

I didn't get my head (or my pack) together until noon the next day.

I felt lazy and bought a sandwich from the corner store on my way out.
It was predictably over priced and under filled, but I was already nibbling on it as I rolled north across the Little Pico bridge.

I worried vaguely about the geezer I had potentially stranded yesterday.  What if he and his shiny red pickup were still there?

No way, I told myself.  Anybody able to withstand afternoon gales while extolling the virtues of elephant seals could certainly find his way out of a  shallow slot canyon. Right? 

Worst case (and boy am I good at that kind of thinking!) what might have happened to him in the interim?

Well, first of all he would be extremely hungry. I wrapped up my sandwich and put it down on the passenger seat.

He would also be extremely pissed off, maybe a little imbalanced.  Near death experiences sometimes does that to people.

I considered my dilemma during the next five miles.  What to do?

Then it came to me. Stand on the cliff and get geezer's attention.

"Hey you dumb-assed docent!"

Next, throw down my sandwich.
When he went for it, I would toss out my rope.  Then run like hell back to my car, deliberately unlocked and keys in the ignition.

The plan had its disadvantages, of course. He would no doubt keep my rope out of spite.
But a small price to pay, I thought, when you consider a life might be at stake.

I tried not to think about such unlikely events, while I focused on the jade--to-royal blue ocean passing on the left. Random groups of Mr. Hearst's painted ponies loitered on my right.  Everything was good until my car rounded a bend and I saw red.

A red pickup to be exact.  I went by it slowly enough to a see the Toyota logo and a license starting with "7".  My heart thudded with a "this is bad, real bad" feeling.   I could barely drive. A few seconds later realized the truck was on the wrong side of the road and a half mile south of yesterday's drop point.

Crisis non-existent, I concluded, and pursued my original plan to drop down a steeper and much longer ravine.

Before long I was down, resting on the sand and comfortable.  My Jack Reacher novel was in hand during a perfect surf, a warm afternoon, and pages that turned quickly.

Paulie, an enormous steroid freak, was beating the bejesus out of Jack. Things looked real bad for the retired Major Reacher.

Then a disturbing thought.  What if the blue blazered docent guy drove by and recognized my car? He could follow my trail, shimmy down my rope, and convey his unhappiness about my pulling up the rope yesterday.
Now that would be annoying...

Worse (but equally unlikely) one or both of us might get so mad that a verbal altercation became physical.

Funny thought. For a while I couldn't remember the last time I was in a fist fight.
Oh yeah, high school, junior year during spring training.  We had our helmets off at the end of practice and were lining up for windsprints.  Mark Parker, a senior and my main competitor for the position of right guard, pushed me out of line not once, but twice.
Enough of this, I thought, and hit him blindside with one of the defensive moves we'd been learning.
I knocked him on his ass!
The last thing I remember as I stood in that line, was Mark out of corner of my eye. He sprung off the ground with  a combination of momentum and cocked fist and splattered my nose.

And though I lived through the 60's, that was easily the most psychedelic moment of my life.  My best friend told me later I hit him back but that's the kind of thing best friends, no memory of it.

I do remember coach Stoney standing between us and saying something like, "You two stop this shit!" 

Then he started to walk away, but stopped. H looked back at me with a grin. 
"So, Richardson, guess you want to be on this team after all."
My competition with Mark continued during future practices in a less pugilistic fashion.
He got the first string position, no surprise there, being a senior with more experience and better skills.
We avoided each other in locker rooms and hallways.  Our spat obviously wasn't his first dance, and now both of us knew that fists, in the absence of helmet and gear, hurt like hell.

Then I remembered Mr. Docent landing on the beach.  About my age and no less out of shape.  It would take only a couple of connected blows until both of us would lose interest.

I went back to my book, read another twenty minutes or so.  Now Jack was in a worse jam.
Another thug named Harley, had gotten the drop on him and pushing a P14 (pistol, Canadian made) against the very teeth loosened during his fight with Paulie.

But what if that chilly night on beach left Mr. Docent so deranged that he down a weapon?

That would be a problem.  I tossed a few recently collected agates toward some mark on the cliff. Reasonably grouped though nowhere near the accuracy that inspired fear in lump headed neighborhood boys.

But not so fast as a speeding bullet...

I put my mind back into the book.  Reacher took care of Harley with something unexpected--he always does.  The book was good and getting better. I read for another twenty minutes.

Then a real flash of adrenaline, and not just some random idea to decorate a blog entry.  I put the book down quickly and jogged up the beach with all the casual grace of a 62 year old.

Would the rope still be there?  Nice.  What if I arrived at the drop off point just in time to see my rope drawn up from above and heard high pitched laughter keening down from overhead cliffs?

Now wouldn't that be the pits?  No, not the "pit" as in the pendulum. But the "cask" as in another Poe story, "The Cask of Amontillado"!  I still remember a few lines:       

      I would be avenged...
        [and?] forced the last stone into its position;
        I plastered it up.

Better than rapier or bullet Montresor, the narrator, devised a revenge through masonry: withdraw fellowship and food, the two essentials of Fortunato's existence.  
Like withdrawing my rope! 

I arrived at the drop point out of breath and enormously pleased that the rope still was still there.
Well there you go, I told myself, and this is exactly what happens when you violate the morning one cup of coffee rule.

I returned to my pack, laughing at my own crazy thoughts.  But, before long I was shouldering my backpack. The afternoon was a little too hot and the kelp flies intolerable.

I was half way up the rope.  A rock gave way under my left foot. My right couldn't find purchase on a slick vertical slope.  For a moment I dangled like snot in the wind. 


Worse was the vision that came to me next, arriving like a flaming sun emerging from its eclipse--the PERFECT PAYBACK. Pull out the anchor-spike, but only partially.  Half way up the sheerest and straightest drop, with the stress of your full weight, it gives.

And afterwards, a blue blazered docent would brush the dirt from his hands and walk across a field to a red pickup. No fingerprints, no footprints. Taking his time while driving south until a pocket of cell phone coverage, he would eventually punch in 911. 

"Yes, at the bottom of a high cliff.  Looked unconscious, or worse...no idea who he is, never met him.  Poor guy, hope he's okay.
What?  Oh, sorry, my phone's breaking up, no coverage here--"
Well, good thing I called. Just looking out for the other guy...

And while I hung there like snot in the wind, I decided way I'm going out like that. There's always something you can do...

Third period PE, La Colina Junior High, and I was the rope climb king.  A thick rope, knotted by intervals, extending to the high vault of the gym ceiling. Using legs or feet strictly forbidden.  I was the spider closing on its prey.  And for one whole week, with most of the student body recovering from a flu epidemic, I was unbeatable.

So forget about your feet!
Use what's left of your upper body strength.  Pull yourself to a foothold--go all the way to the top.

And a few sweaty moments later, I was standing on the cliff.  No malevolent docent hovered nearby. 
Good thing for him, too. I might've punched him in the nose.

Well, there you go.
Karma bites you in the ass every time,
Either with its teeth--or your imagination.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Territoriality, Part Two

Skies suddenly cleared and in twenty-five minutes, sand was underneath my feet.
I planned to finish my Jack Reacher novel.  But the sun was warm, my mind distracted.

A blog entry entitled "Stains" was  rough and unpublished.  I didn't like the ending, dark and depressing, a mood apart from my usual self

Lying there, I came up with an alternate ending, lighter because of its references to popular culture. 

Well, I thought in my head (which houses my most defective organ), why not provide both endings, let the reader make a choice? Brilliant! 

And all was good. I returned the unopened novel to my pack and headed out.

Twenty yards before I get to my rope, an unpleasant surprise.  Some geezer landed awkwardly on the beach, huffing and puffing. 

I noticed his vest, blue, short and bedazzled.  He's about my age, poor guy, and judging from his bad fashion choices, is an elephant seal docent looking for something else to rant about.

Not that I've got a particular grudge against volunteers.  God knows, I've spent hundreds of unpaid hours in that thankless activity, though mostly in a national park setting.  But to stand like this guy must in cold and constant wind--without even a port-potty to piss in--all because you're A Friend of the Elephant Seals?  Well, I just don't get it.

I mean, how can you wax enthusiastically about a behemoth male creature that does little else but lounge and hump?  And how about the females?  They give birth, immediately hump some more, then abandon their offspring.  Sorreeee!  Watching elephant seal behavior is too much like interspecies voyeurism.  I bet internet porn portrays better values.

Nonetheless, facing this stranger upon my beach, I brought my happy muscles to play and attempted a smile.

"Hi" we said in disturbing unison.
"How you doing?"
"How's it going?"
Damn! Was there an echo in this canyon--maybe one I hadn't noticed because talking to other human beings down here has never been my primary reason for coming?

He seemed nice enough, though.
But I could sense those recent blog ideas, momentous as they were, slipping right out of my brain, and irretrievably absorbed by sand and surf.

"Well, I'm on my way out," I said.  "Hope you don't need my rope 'cause I'm out of here."

I waited a two seconds for his response.
See?  I can be quite charming when I want to be.  At about four seconds, he answered. 

"Hey, well, no. Not a problem, man."
"Good.  It's a little slippery, I know, but it can be done.  Well, take care!"
My rope and I departed like smoke in the wind.

Crossing a field to my car, I saw a late model, red Toyota pickup.  License plate "7X..." something or other.

Now I had to drive back in the morning just to make sure his truck wasn't still there.

But again, that's just me--always looking out for the other guy.


Been cleaning carpets lately.

Carpet soil, I've noticed, comes in three categories:

1. The mistakes you remember--oh, yeah, what was I thinking?
2. The mistakes of others, no idea how or when they happened.
3. The wear of life--too many people walking the same route for too long.

Lately, stains seem darker.  I walk into a room and my eyes are immediately drawn to them
Guess I could avoid looking down but then I'd worry about tripping.

So clean the stain, right?

I've spent a lot of time on my knees doing just that. The results are never satisfactory and only three outcomes can be expected:

1. Nothing.  No brand of cleanser  or any amount of scrubbing will remove it.

2. Yes, the stains fades, maybe to the point where others won't see it.  But YOU know it's there.

3. The stain totally disappears, which is worse. It leaves an overly white border against the background dirt, a constant reminder that something particularly bad happened there.

Seems futile doesn't it?  Like trying to undo time.

                     *                      *                    *
So get a new carpet, silly!
basic replacement really isn't that expensive.

But everyone who's been there knows how much hassle it is.  You've got to move out the larger pieces, often quite heavy, and turn your life upside down for a day or two.

Easier just to live with stains from the past.

So that was my first version of this weird homily, essay, whatever.  Carpet cleaning for dummies, depressed dummies I thought.  Actually tempted to substitute "sins" for "stains" in that last line.
Get a grip!

I really didn't feel that depressed (or guilty) when I wrote it.  Carpets are cleaner now and what else are you going to do when you're at the coast and the sun won't shine?

So I wrote another ending, lighten it up.  From the triple asterisks above consider this "Soprano" ending.

In the perfect Jersey intonations of the late James Gandofini, playing Tony Soprano:

"What're you going to do?"
(with that cosmic shrug best achieved by true Italian-Americans).

Should your name be Christopher Soprano and you hesitate, you might also hear:

"So take out the f-ing carpet!
Get it done."

"Yeah, yeah, Tone, I got that. And basic replacement, well, that's not a problem.
But everyone says it's a hassle. You move out all that heavy shit, you know, then everything is all f-ed up for at least a day or two.
I'm not sayin' I like it, but sometimes you gotta live with your feelings, you know?"

Tony would then say to his nephew, Chris:

"Do I look like your mama? You got feelings, go talk to a shrink--I'll give you a number.  Meantime take care of business--and fuh-ged-about-it."

(Now Tony never exactly said those last three words, but James Gandolfini could convey them with a look.  Good advice, really, but hard to follow)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Territorality, Part One

I'm at the tricky part.
Attach the rope to the spike, pull hard, check that it's firmly implanted.

I run through my checklist, everything's good, until I notice another spike.  It's attached to a small and slimy rope that drops 50 yards straight to the beach.

Now this is a problem.  This mini-canyon is spring fed, always wet.  This rope could slip out of someone's hands, feet could lose their footing.  Nothing good can come from this.

I do the right thing.  I coil up this foolishly weak rope and secure it in my backpack.  But that's just me, always looking out for the other guy.

After my expert descent to the beach, I sit on my favorite rock, surveying the ocean and majestically posed much like Auguste Rodin's Thinker.

Peace and tranquility.
For fifteen minutes.

Then awkward movements and garish colors, 150 yards north.

I make out a T-shirted, pot-bellied geezer followed by what I suppose to be his pinkly clad wife.  Both are carrying ice chests and umbrellas.  Their route down is perilous.

Beyond earshot in the pounding surf and no place that punching 911 would produce a response, I resign myself to witness tragedy.

Yet they disappear, reroute  to appear again half way down the next ravine.  Whatever.
I expect their departure shortly.  They can't make it further down without a rope and, lacking a kayak, tidal forces will slap them silly if they try to get any closer to me.

So I do my best to ignore them but notice the husband laboriously assembling a fishing rod.  And I wish him first timer's luck in an area decimated by otters, seals and sea lions.

The wife beside him cradles binoculars that never veer from my direction. Clearly, she needs a hobby.

After a while I stand up from my rock throne and begin the business of collecting rocks.  Every time I bend down to claim one, I turn my posterior in her direction.
"Hey, honey, you like these sweet buns?"

After a few passes along the beach, I decide collecting is over the day. 

So I get out my my Jack Reacher novel, stretch out full length on the warm sand and begin to read.
"Yo, sweetie, betch ya don't need a zoom for this piece of kelp!"
(I wish)

Out of the corner of my eye, Wifey  is still watches me thru the 'nochs.  That's okay, always wanted to be in the entertainment business.

Pages turn, Jack Reacher predictably kicks ass, and time passes until I sense imminent sunburn.

Time to get up, pack up, and climb up.

And maybe now would be good time to address those snarky rumors about me collecting rocks in the nude.

Why would anyone do such a thing?

What could be more absurd than believing that more and better rocks will be collected if you prance around in the buff?

How ridiculous is that!

So watch my keystrokes:  I  h-a-v-e  n-e-v-e-r collected rocks in the nude.


I always wear shoes, sometimes even socks.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Plum Right

Just finished Janet Evanovich's twenty-first
Stephanie Plum Novel.  Nothing really new-- her heroine is again charmingly inept and hilariously funny as she works through the strange but somehow familiar absurdities of her mixed-up life.

Though she never changes, never draws big conclusions, I wondered what philosophy of life Stephanie might endorse?

I've come up with five basic tenants:

1. Disasters are temporary.  Incompetence just inconvenience.  Never Give Up.

2. Like you, everyone else is just stumbling through life.

3. Laugh often

4. Don't take yourself too seriously.

5. And if everything fails--eat a meatball sandwich, order out for pizza.

Checking My Balance

Tuesday’s child or Wednesday’s?
Well, one of them worked hard for living.
I did
though some days it didn’t seem so hard 

As the plastic chair supporting my rear
on the deck of this trailer park home
where I gaze above a laptop computer
to discover my account has been adjusted.

Above distant rooflines, within a sliver ocean view,
the splashing energy of a passing whale.
I am rich now.  Maybe I always was.
Just didn’t know where to look.

Addendum to Fisher King

Several days later I returned to that section of the coast. 

The tide was higher, throwing itself onto the beach with such force it seemed furious with everything terrestrial.
I’ve known people like that.  Some are no longer with us.
I used to believe low tides ideal for collecting rocks.
Not so.
When waves land hard and so far beyond their usual mark (mean tidal zone), they stir up everything in their wake.
Dodging waves on this now uncomfortably narrow strip of beach, I found some new stuff, rocks that, once polished, could look like nothing I’ve ever seen or done before.
Yeah, yeah, but did I find that “mother load”?

Well, I found smaller stones like it.
And once in a turbulent mixture water, air and light, I might have enjoyed a glimpse of it. 

But the answer is “no”.  I didn’t find it.
Not this time.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Fisher King

Please, don't worry so much. Because in the end, none of us have very long on this Earth. Life is fleeting. And if you're ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer sky when the stars are strung across the velvety night. And when a shooting star streaks through the blackness, turning night into day... make a wish and think of me. Make your life spectacular.

Sometimes the best way to stop crying is to start writing.

Robin Williams is dead.

and in San Simeon, California two men restock the shelves of a local mini market. 
“Get out!  He was so funny!”
“Didn't he do the 'Nam DJ movie, oh yeah, and that Doubtfire thing?” 
“Uh huh, and he probably had more money than God.  What’s up with that?”
“No freakin’ idea.  He should’ve just gone fishing.”

Indeed.  I pay for my coffee and untie the dog that waits for me outside the store.
I think of Mr. Williams' more serious roles--Dead Poet’s Society and Awakenings--and how many times I had to step outside my classroom, ostensibly to blow my nose--actually to wipe my tears--while showing these videos.

Why didn't he go fishing?
For that matter, why didn't the equally brilliant and talented Philip Seymour Hoffman join him?  Look at the ocean and feel the sun one more time.  Take your kids or grand kids somewhere, see things through their eyes, just one more time.

and I am eating a tasteless Hearst burger which I thought it would be good idea to bring down to this isolated beach.
Something kind of “off putting” about my meal.  Is it the smell of rotten seaweed that's so common this time of year?

I collect my trash and walk toward the surf.  I’m not so much into fishing these days.  But I’m still angling for some incredible rocks here, just got to find them.

For a brief moment, I see “motherload,” that one rock special enough to make long a term crazy hobby seem sane.
And there it is, just off the surf’s edge and the size of my fist.  Not just another “moonstone” agate, either, this one is clear as ice.  You can see straight through it to the wet pebbles underneath.

I reach out and lunge, but remember to look up.  Oh, no...

Hell sent from a retreating +5.0 high tide comes that seventh alternate set, the wild wave that says, “Hold on there!  I’m not done just yet…”

Running full bore toward the cliff wall, I feel a wall of 55 degree water slap my ass like a bad boy getting a deserved spanking.  I laugh.  Shockingly cold but refreshingly fun, I tell myself.

Then I go back to the water’s edge, hoping that somehow, through some miracle that special rock might still be there.

Maybe after a couple of sets.  I wait.
Nope and nothing.
Still waiting, sensing a familiar irony.
Now you see it, now you don’t.  The ocean giveth and taketh away.

Not a problem.  The rock is still out there.  Just not going to happen today. 

But from my right field of vision, there's movement.  Something big.  A few yards to my left a bloated sea lion floats back and forth with the waves, its bare ribs grinding against the shoreline.  The remainder of its putrid flesh is of vital interest to nearby seagulls.

Inevitable and not surprising, I tell myself, given the time of year and degree to which warming has affected marine life.  It's odor becomes less detectable as the carcass washes north.

I continue my vigil a while.  Eventually, I shrug  and begin to pack. Like McArthur, I will return.  I will find that rock, that "motherload".

and I listen to happy rock, FM 103.5,  musicians now gone.  The message is clear.
Don’t wait too long.

Never stop fishing.


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Promises, Promises (A Pretend Eulogy)

Robert Frost (in poetry) traversed a snowy wood.
"Dark and deep"
But he had promises he had tokeep.

I broke some promises just tonight.
Sorry Andrew, Noah, Lucas, Phoenix, Griffen, and Kay.
Any chance,  forgiveness, anyway?

My body's tired.
Many more  miles ahead before I sleep.
If I don't make it, please don't weep.


This is the darkest August day I can remember.  Sunless at 7:30 am, no lighter now and no lighter in between.  But no rain. I wonder (in the weird corners of my imagination) if something isn't building, has been building, and is now just bout to burst...

There's operation out there done by cardiac surgeons.

I've had one, and recently so has my father-in-law.  It's called cardio-version.

My understanding is that it's a short "time out" for the heart.  Stop, start again, let's try to get it right this time.

No sure thing.  Sometimes it works, sometimes not. As I write this, someone I love is sitting beside a hospital bed and watching a monitor displaying her father's vital statistics.

Me, well, for reasons not worth your time to explain it, I'm 150 miles south watching a movie.

The title is Noah.  There are several things about this movie I could make fun of.  But I've decided not to.

Go back and read Genesis again.  There are some sketchy, weird things going on about the "sons of men" and the "sons of God" and I'm not too bothered that one of latter speaks with Sean Connery's voice.

But when things get bad, irredeemably and hopelessly bad--kind of like the saying "winter is coming" (from Game of Thrones novel and series)...except now, winter is come and gone...

Well, then cardioversion, or some kind of major reset is entirely in order. and this idea that just hit me upside the head with the emotional force of a 2 x 4.

And if you're waiting to see where this line of thought is leading me, that makes two of us.


(And should you happen run into Methuselah, give him some damn berries!)

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Just Laugh (if not at this, than other things)

I had story.  Lost it.
No wait, it's coming back to me.

I was temporarily distracted by the grammatical errors in my last two attempts to write a story.

Now, I remember.

Every real man does work in his garage.  And super testosterone men have stereos and 
 cd players.  So they can control what they listen to.

Call me crazy.  My testosterone levels vary.  Some nights I listen to Alice Cooper.  Frankly, he's a dildo and most of his snide comments about famous rockers (of which he barely qualifies) are shit.

But once in a while he surprises me with a song I didn't expect and barely remember.

I do rocks. Not sure why.  Makes a little money but not enough to buy a Corvette.

But occasionally I do rocks with all the intensity my weak-assed 62 year old body will allow. 

Tonight Alice plays something that makes me crank up the volume: "38 Special" if I'm not mistaken

Waitin', anticipatin' For the fireworks in the night 
Well, I swear we were doin' eighty 
When we saw those motel lights 
And we were rockin' into the night 
Rockin' into the night, ooh hoo, rockin' Rockin' into the night Rockin' into the night, yeah

I start to laugh, a deep belly laugh.  I feel good.  So good I almost cut my finger off against the  hard edge of a diamond grinding wheel.
Blood drops down into the well, swished away by flowing water. I'm still happy.

I just learned through Facebook that I have a nephew.   His name is Andrew. 

Some things matter.  Some things don't.

Friday, August 1, 2014

What's Going On?

Every night I walk my dog.

With some deliberation. 
Which deposits, which secretions go where.  My dog and I know what's up.

Good neighbors, bad neighbors, who deserves a gift...

But lately there's something going on. 

Across the street stands a high school marquee.  Orange light flashing all night long:  "Last day of summer school!  First day, class of 2017!  GO Blazers"--you get the drift.

And every night in the lee of this otherwise wasted light, there's  are a group of teenagers, 15 to 20 of them and it sounds like they're having fun.  How, in this heat?

Some nights it's touch football, other nights soccer.  At least a third of them are females judging from their pony tails and not so flat chests. They play with intensity.  I hear charging, body slams, give it all type stuff. 

And there's no special treatment for the fairer sex.  Be there, do it, take it.
Regardless of teams, someone scores-- everyone cheers.  Go figure.

And get this.  No coach urges them on. No adult stands around telling them to do wind sprints before and after if they really want to win.

I am of an age to rightfully expect teenagers to behave the same or worse than I did.

I can't figure this out.

There's nobody making out in the shadows.  No acrid smell of burning herbs.

But there's is definitely something going on here...

and I'm afraid...

Of what?

Hope, I guess.


Let's suppose for the three or four minutes it will take you to read this entry, my name isn't John.

It's Luke, Doctor Luke if you want to be precise.
I've endured a week of sleepless nights wrestling down words to describe an incredible event that happened thirty years ago.

I'm done and just handed the manuscript to one of my acolytes, or "suck-up" as I often think of him.

He responds with a bowed head,
"Yes, Master Luke, be assured that this precious and insightful gift will be distributed to all of Macedonia, to all who regard the cross as sacred."

Whatever.  It's just a memory.

I'm exhausted, sleep through fourteen hours until the mid-morning sun starts baking my skin.  I force myself to open one scratchy eye and realize I'm under the same pitiless sun as the day before.  No brighter, no different than before the completion of my manuscript.

All that might not have mattered. 

Well, a year later it did.  Mark and John, or their adherents, are a little pissed that my words don't exactly line up with their own narratives.  Sheesh! I thought it was all about the spirit of the things.

Now let's suppose my name is Luke, Dr. Luke as in modern medical this time.  I am an accomplished cardiac surgeon and have just presided over a four hour multiple-bypass operation that should give some guy another three years on this planet.  

I know as I strip off my gloves and step out of my scrubs, however, that he will likely piss it away with bacon and eggs, alcohol, and an occasional cigarette.  Read his obituary in less than a year.

Nothing mattered.  He will die without having contacted neglected relatives, not having written a novel, certainly without making a difference in the lives of his neighbors or friends

Now let's suppose instead my name is John.  I'm in a sandwich shop, Stockton, California. A young girl fixing my subway, is telling a security guard about the man who blatantly steals random objects and reaches across the counter to do stuff I would rather not recount.

Clearly, she is terrified by this individual and indicates his race tactfully to the guard while glancing apologetically toward me.  The man disappears into the kitchen.  I imagine him with a gun, ready to bust this guy's ass after having called the Stockton police.  Was that an my second oxymoron..."Stocton police"?

I claim my bag of sandwiches and deliberately overtip her.  Not so much that she might think I want a "date".  Three dollars, if you must know, and I tell her that I appreciate her hard work.

For less than a second, I see something in her eyes that could mean a lot of things.  I will interpret what I saw as, "So you see what I'm dealing with here?"

My wife and I flee with our sandwiches.  Out of the corner of my eye I see the security guard is behind the restaurant casually inspecting some dumpsters.  He's a survivor.

The sun is coming up again, doesn't look much different. Pretty sure my name is John.  

But I remember yesterday clearly.  For the one half second it took to meet a girl's leveled gaze, I might have mattered.