Pulse

Sun’s pulse

Strong and steady

Vibrates through skin

And deeper into bone,

Awakening an emerging soul.

Sun sinking down

Heartbeat fades

Into crimson and marmalade,

Sound of colors reflected in my eyes.

In absence of pulse

Darkness grows

Shadows stretching across the land.

Moving in rhythm to faintest of heartbeats,

Silence of moon and stars soon arrive.

Gypsy Poets & Junkin’ Fever (novel excerpt)

A soft rain falls in the early morning twilight on a Thursday morning. For some reason, can’t really say why, I sit alone in the tent and scribble verses in a notebook. Words flow naturally, as if I’m tapping into a greater consciousness and soon I have something that vaguely resembles a poem. And I like it. More importantly, there’s something relaxing and therapeutic in the process and I don’t want to stop, ever. But I have to stop because Mary is standing just inside the tent, rain running down her face, staring at me like a ghost in a dream

“What are you doing here?” I ask, putting away the notebook and rising to my feet. “Thought you couldn’t make it?”

“I missed you,” she says softly as she removes her raincoat.

“Missed you too. Why didn’t you call to let me know?”

“Wanted to surprise you. Are you surprised?”

I smile and hold Mary close, whispering into her ear. “Nearly wet my pants when I saw you standing there, that’s how surprised I was. Make some noise next time.”

Mary snuggles up nice and close in my arms, body swaying back and forth in a slow rhythm. I’m thinking about closing the tent and taking her back to the trailer to get reacquainted but she has other desires. “Let’s go shopping.”

“What?”

She pulls out of my arms. “This place is huge and I want to shop. Come on, it’ll be fun.”

“Who’s going to watch the tent?”

“Forget about the tent, Jason. It’s Thursday and it’s raining. No one is going to shop today. Let’s get out and explore.”

Feeling guilty because I was prepared to close the tent anyway, I can’t argue. Besides, the show is almost over and I’ve been shackled to this tent for over a week. Exploring might be fun. “Alright, I’m in. Where do you want to start?”

“Who cares?” Mary replies, beaming. “I’ve never seen so much stuff in my life. We probably can’t get through this field in a day. Let’s just start walking and see where the road takes us.”

And so we do, just two gypsy souls walking hand in hand in the rain down a dirt road.

Hours later finds us in a booth at the back of another field down the highway. Rain still falls, ever so lightly. This booth is filled with old wooden boxes, WWII era trunks, industrial work benches, and other assorted primitive/ industrial relics from yesteryear. The gentleman running the booth, a retired factory worker from Michigan, is desperate to unload everything.

“Got an emergency in the family back home,” he says, “And I have to leave as soon as possible. It’ll take a good day to pack up so I’m looking for someone to buy it all, dirt cheap. I’m only asking what I paid for stuff. I get good deals, I buy right, and some of this stuff I got for nothing and that’s what I’m asking—nothing. Are you interested?”

Mary pulls me outside the tent. “What do you think? Should we buy this guy out or not?”

“Why would we buy him out? We sell imports, not antiques and junk. What would we do with all this stuff? Where would we put it?”

“I’m thinking display,” Mary answers and I can almost see the wheels spinning inside her head. “I hate selling imports, don’t you? How about we mix imports and antiques together to create a more eclectic mix? We’ll be the only ones doing it so we’ll be unique. What do you say?”

Before I can answer another vendor enters the tent and begins poking around. The owner of the booth lays the same spill on the new customer as he did on us. Mary spins around and confronts the two men.

“Hey, I’m buying this booth. Just give me a second to convince my husband.” She turns back to me while blindly reaching into her purse for a checkbook. “So what do you think? Are you in?”

“No checks, lady,” the booth owner says, seeing Mary’s checkbook. “Cash only.”

“How much?”

“$2500.”

Mary heads back into the tent leaving me standing in the street. “I’ll give you $2000 cash for everything in your booth and not a penny more.”

“I’ll give you $2500, cash,” the new vendor announces. “That’s a hell of a deal.”

“Shut up, I was here first,” Mary barks and steps in front of the other vendor. She reaches into her purse again and this time produces a wad of $100’s. “Fine, $2500.”

Mary hands over the money to the owner of the booth. He counts slowly, then smiles. “Thank you, Ma’am. It’s been a pleasure doing business with you. I’ll be leaving in the morning so feel free to come and pick up your purchase any time before then.”

I’m still standing in the street, looking like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car. Junking, I just discovered, is a sickness and Mary has the fever. We spend the remainder of the day loading the trailer with another vendor’s booth, then unloading into our tent. Mary wants to mix this new industrial look with our imports, and so we do, tearing down every display and rebuilding them deep into the night. We work till three in the morning, till the booth looks entirely different.

“Beautiful,” Mary pronounces as she collapses into a chair. “I just love the ambiance mixing old with new creates. This will be our look from now on. This is us.”

Mary is a genius. The final three days of the show is one long shopping orgasm for our customers. We sell everything, including the new industrial displays and Mary spends most of her time shopping, replacing everything that has sold. Mary has focus and direction, a singular mindset on what she wants to accomplish for herself and the business. Myself, on the other hand, well I’m thinking that I want to become a poet, a gypsy poet, but a conflict still exists deep within my being.

500,000 miles I have roamed,

Trekking across this land I call home.

Haggard, dirty, beaten, and wind blown,

Just another restless spirit searching the unknown.

 

I’ve seen and heard it all,

Silent screams answering Freedom’s call.

Gambling on a path the world denies,

Absorbing sunsets, storms, and clear blue skies.

 

A forgotten life left behind,

Headed for a place where no one knows my kind.

A stranger in a strange new town,

No one knows you when you’re down.

 

Soon storms clouds form, threatening rain,

And a two lane blacktop cuts a grassy plain.

Rolling wheels beneath the feet,

Complications I try to beat.

 

Thinking to myself, thinking all the time,

Running from ghosts isn’t a crime.

Asphalt crumbles and falls away,

                                                                                    Road I’m on is just another broken highway.

Warrenton (novel excerpt)

 

To the dull mind all nature is leaden. To the illumined mind the whole world sparkles with light.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I can do this.

Long ago the German immigrants that settled this area cleared the land of trees and wild brush, then farmed the raw earth with horse drawn plows. They knew nothing of crop rotation and soon the soil became nutrient poor and unsuitable for farming. By the turn of the century the land was only good for growing grass. Being the industrious people that they are, the German settlers quickly adapted to this changing situation and began raising cattle on the impoverished lands. More than a hundred years later that tradition is still carried on by their descendants. Difference is, their descendants found an easier way to earn a buck.

Twice a year, in late March and late September, they clear the cattle off the land. Then they divide the pastures into 10 x 20 lots and lease the space to outsiders to do with what they wish. More than 300 acres are devoted to this plan and the economic boom to the area is immeasurable. Most of the outsiders who come here to squat sell antiques or the close cousin of antiques, junk. A few others, myself included, bring imports.  We are a growing minority, for better or worse.

In between the twice yearly antique festivals cows own the pastures. This is their land, their grass, their grazing fields. But when the tents start to go up and vendors begin to appear, the cattle disappear. Where they go is a mystery but they leave behind plenty of fresh evidence they were recently here. The first thing I learn about working Warrenton is to always pack a shovel. No other work can be done until the lot has been cleared. It takes more than three hours to clear my lot. Apparently the cattle feasted well before departure. After I finish shoveling, mounds of cow pies line the dirt road outside the tent like some sort of bizarre retaining wall.

I can do this.

Darkness settles in as I start unpacking the trailer. If there were hoards of people hanging around waiting for vendors to unload, they’re long gone now. Maybe I’ll catch the hoard tomorrow. Demeanor is improving. Loneliness has dissipated. I’m not feeling so overwhelmed, look forward to attacking the challenge ahead. This is my opportunity to shine.

I can do this.

First thing I do is unpack a portable stereo and plug it into a t-pole. I slip in a recently burned disc and crank up the volume. Soulful music fills the pasture. Spirit soars. I go to work unloading the trailer, running electrical cords and setting up lights. Slipping into some sort of mental zone, the work load is effortless and easy. I move back and forth across the tent like a ghost on the wind, opening box after box, setting up display after display. Time becomes nonexistent. Lost in the night, the world fades blissfully away. There is only me and nothing else. Beneath the lights of a tent in some grassy pasture a million miles removed from everything, I find inner peace. Nothing else exists. I am all that there is. I am free.

Capturing a little piece of heaven, I don’t want it to slip away. No one can possibly understand and I don’t care. An emerging soul has become one with the night. Spirit grows wings and takes off in flight, sweeping over all of Warrenton, filling the voids, communicating with the ghosts that once walked these fields, taking everything in, absorbing it all into my conscious being. Warrenton merges with the soul. This is my masterpiece, my tent, my display, my work of art. I and I alone have created this. I am the artist.

As I push deep into the night a little voice inside my head continuously whispers; you can do this . . . you can do this . . . you can do this . . . And so I do, until I physically cannot do it any longer. Around four in the morning, engulfed by the darkness and wide open spaces, I pass out in a folding chair inside the tent. There is nothing left to give that day. The artist has completed his masterpiece.

Next morning I awake to find another face staring curiously back at me. It’s the contorted face of a woman, fifty-something, with fire red hair cropped above her ears and blazing blue eyes that study me closely. She’s extraordinarily thin and short, in an impish sort of way. She speaks in loud, high pitched shrills. With a stick she pokes at my rib cage.

“Hey, are you okay?”

I jump, nearly falling out of the chair.

“At least you’re alive.” Then she says, much louder, “You’re not drunk are you? God knows we don’t need any more drunks around here. Got enough of those already.”

She pokes again with the stick. She can’t help herself.

“Stop that,” I demand.

“You’re not doin’ drugs are you? We don’t need any of that going on around here, either.”

Trying to gain some composure, I sit erect in the chair and look her dead in the eyes. “No, I’m not doing drugs and I’m not drunk.”

“Then why are you passed out in this chair?”

“I’m not passed out. I fell asleep here.”

She laughs. “Fell asleep? Hell, I’ve been pokin’ at you for a good fifteen minutes. I thought you were dead or something. Maybe you were in a drug coma, I don’t know. Why are you sleeping out here?”

Her rapid fire accusations are annoying. “Who are you?”

“I’m Barbara, your neighbor from across the street.” She pauses and points with the stick toward her booth. There are tables with old glassware, the collectible kind that someone might have picked up from a gas station twenty or thirty years ago. There are colored perfume bottles of various shapes and sizes along with a wide assortment of breakable knick knacks she’s collected throughout her years. Next to the tables lay stacks of salvaged wood planks, large metal cupolas from old barns, an assortment of odd sized doors, church pews, and rows of deteriorating metal school lockers. At the back of the booth a large, bald headed man with arms the size of tree trunks gingerly scoots a cast iron bath tub off the back of a flatbed trailer. “That’s our stuff, over there. And that’s my husband, Jack. We sell Dakota primitives.”

“Nice,” I say politely, not certain what I should make of her or her booth. “I’m Jason.”

“Nice to meet you, Jason.” Her eyes dart around the tent, checking out my displays. She points at a stack of trays with her stick. “This your import shit?”

I nod.

Her face contorts with a nasty grimace. “We don’t like import shit around here. People don’t come here to see the same crap they can see in any department store back home. They want to find something different. Everybody’s looking for treasures here.”

“Do you always say exactly what’s on your mind?” The artist in me is agitated.

Barbara cocks her head sideways, sizing me up. “Why? You got a problem with that?” Before I can answer Barbara is standing over a stack of metal tiles. She picks one up, turning it over in her hands. “How much you get for these?”

“Six dollars.”

“That’s too cheap. I’ll take four.” She grabs up four in her hands. In a heartbeat Barbara’s at another stack, gawking at some metal trays. “I can make centerpieces out of these. How much?”

‘Twelve for the large, ten for the medium, and eight for the small.”

“I’ll take six, large. Do you have special dealer prices?”

Remembering that Mary always discounts for vendors, I offer the same. “Twenty percent.”

“Can I run a tab until the end of the show?”

“That’s fine,” I say, remembering that I’m supposed to wire money to our account today. Compensation can wait. I want to be a good neighbor.

Barbara collects two hundred dollars worth of merchandise and heads across the dirt road to her booth, leaving me to finish tweaking displays, waiting for the hungry shopping hordes to arrive. But the hordes never come. A wired deposit isn’t made. I dine on soup. Life is good.

I’m a free man.

Feed Kill Chain (novel excerpt)

14.

Canton.

Under a blood red sky a plan is hatched. We gather outside Lisa’s tent, one of Mary’s friends. She rents a large grassy spot between two of the long metal buildings. It’s a good spot, in the center of everything. We make ourselves comfortable in apple red and lime green metal patio furniture, circa 1950. Lisa is an artist. She paints.

Salvaged planks of wood from condemned homes are her canvas. She paints catchy slogans on the wood planks. We Are The People Our Parents Warned Us About, hangs on a metal post across from where I sit. She builds display walls out of old, salvaged front door screens, circa 1930. The wood frames have been painted in shades of coal black, bright blue, fluorescent green and hot pink. Martini glasses and pink flamingos are painted on the screens. Severed mannequin arms and legs are attached to many signs. A sign next to my head reads, Will Give For a Margarita. Between the word Give and For hangs a right arm. Beer bottle caps and car license plates are incorporated into Lisa’s art. We are surrounded by her work. This is her studio. The booth is an expression of herself, of her innermost thoughts. A huge, square banner hangs at the back of the tent. It reads, simply, LIVE FREE. Rebel road music plays in the background.

Linda is here.

Linda plays guitar, writes her own songs, and lives out of the camper she pulls behind her truck. She is a true gypsy, so I’ve been told, and has no permanent place to call home. Linda doesn’t believe in permanence in any form or definition, living in a dynamic universe where every path is to be followed and change is the only constant. She worships change, claiming stagnation is a soul killer and routines a self-imposed prison sentence. She likes to quote Buddha, Kahlil Gibran, and Bob Dylan while rolling her own smokes. Linda enjoys rolling her own smokes.

Hailing from Chicago, Lake Michigan was once Linda’s front yard. Urban professionals run in the family. A few are doctors, others lawyers. She is a podiatrist by trade and schooling. Linda had a successful practice, once. For twelve years she manned her office, day in and day out, building an impressive business. She worked it just the way they taught her to work it, diligently, faithfully, until the practice became all consuming. Life void of friends, love, or any semblance of a meaningful relationship, the business wasn’t enough to fill the emptiness growing inside her. Linda had to get away.

One day Linda left the keys to her office on a counter in her now abandoned condo, along with a note that read: Gone to Texas. Those three words summed up her entire plan. What happened after reaching Texas was anyone’s guess. Linda committed professional suicide so she could save her soul. Now Linda sells orthopedic shoes, her own design, in a traveling flea market show. She wears faded blue jeans, cowboy boots, and a straw cowboy hat. There’s a guitar strapped across her back. She sings along with the radio.

Rachel and Clyde are here. They bring beer. I bring more chairs. Mary brings the plan.

“There’s a minor show circuit, one step above flea markets, in New Orleans, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Memphis, and Houston,” she begins, staring at a notebook filled with pages of hand scribbled gibberish. There are notes written over notes, in different colors of ink. There are notes written in pencil. Some notes are in magic marker. One note is in crayon. Purple. Notes run sideways in the margins. Some are upside down. Only Mary can make sense out of the nonsense. “Each city hosts these shows four times a year and there’s no commitment beyond one show.”

“What’s wrong with flea markets?” Clyde asks.

Mary ignores him.

“And there’s a larger show circuit to be had if we’re bold enough to give it a try.” Fire burns in her eyes. Passion runs through the veins. Mary is bold enough to try anything once and this is what Mary wants, to try everything once. “Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Kansas City, Tupelo, and Denver all hold major import markets twice a year. And they allow cash & carry.”

Rachel cocks her head. “What’s a cash and carry?”

“The same thing we do here. People give you cash and they carry their purchases with them.”

“Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do?” Linda laughs sarcastically. “Is there a place where people aren’t allowed to take their purchases with them? How are you supposed to convince someone to buy something if they can’t have it after they pay for it? Doesn’t seem fair, does it?”

Clyde smiles, “I want in that market.”

Lisa agrees with a slight nod. She doesn’t say much. She’s artistic, lives inside her head. She saves her words for her art. Deep brown eyes hide the machine of imagination churning inside the head.

Mary puts down her notebook and rolls her eyes. “That market doesn’t exist. You guys need to pay attention. These import shows, they’re held in huge buildings like the InternationalTradeCenter in Dallas. Store owners fly in from all over the country to see the latest merchandise hitting the market. They visit showrooms and write orders to ship to their stores. These shows are intended for the showrooms but they also allow cash and carry vendors like us to set up and sell our products.”

Clyde is perplexed. “Why?”

“I don’t know why. They just do.”

“How do people take it with them if they’re on planes? How do you check a six foot armoire at the gate?”

Mary shakes her head in frustration. “Not everyone flies in on a plane. My guess is that a lot of store owners are local. They drive in for the day and go back home.”

“With their purchases?”

“If they shop cash and carry.”

Clyde appears uncertain. “I don’t know . . .”

“Sounds risky,” Rachel adds. “And expensive.”

“They are expensive,” Mary says. “Averages twenty two dollars a square foot for booth rental. That’s $2200 per booth.”

Rachel nearly chokes on her beer. “Are you kidding me? Why would I want to pay that much money for a show I know nothing about? We only pay $150 for a booth here and Canton is the most expensive show we work. You’re out of your mind and out of your league in those places, honey. I’ll stick to flea markets, thank you very much.”

Clyde agrees. “Bet you got to wear a suit and tie at one of those fancy-smancy shows. Can you see me in a suit and tie. World’s not ready for that.” He flashes a yellow, tobacco stained smile. “Really? A suit?”

“Calm down, big guy,” Linda reaches over and pats Clyde on the knee. “No one wants to see you in a suit. God forbid you should ever dress up.”

Mary continues. “I don’t expect you guys to do these shows. I’m talking about Jason and me. We’re going to work them.”

“We are?” This is news to me.

“We’re going to give all these shows a try. I want to see what pans out, which ones are keepers and which ones are losers.”

“I don’t have to jump out of an airplane without a chute to know it’s not a good idea,” Clyde says with a snarl.

Rachel glares at her brother. “Stop being the little drama queen.”

Mary turns to Rachel. “So you guys want in?”

“Flea markets, Mary. We do flea markets.” She opens up her arms to embrace the fire red sky above our heads. “For me, this is what it’s all about. This is all I need, a simple show for simple folk. I don’t like it when my world gets more complicated than this. Come to Winnie with us next week and you’ll see what I’m talking about.”

Mary agrees. “Definitely. I want to give every show a chance. We’ll be there.”

“We will?” I’m always the last to know.

“We’ll work Winnie for our flea market test.” She hesitates, looking at her notebook again. “San Antonio will be our minor market show and Dallas will be our large import test dummy.” She puts down the notebook.  “That’s this months’ schedule.”

“It is?”

“Yeah, that’s the schedule. I just made up my mind.”

Stomach feels queasy. I’m not comfortable with this plan. The plan is intimidating. The plan is aggressive. We’re hitting the show circuit a little too fast, a little too hard for my tastes. Then I remember all the creditors banging on the door demanding money. I remember losing our home, the constant phone calls from enraged collectors. I don’t argue with Mary. We have to do this. Feed Kill Chain plays in the background.

Lisa leans over and whispers into my ear. “Anarchy fuels creativity, baby.”

I don’t get that, have no clue what she means, but the phrase sticks in my mind. Anarchy fuels creativity . . .

Road Trip! Healing Waters, Ghosts, and the Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells Texas

There aren’t too many reasons to visit Mineral Wells, Texas. This little community of 16,000 remains quietly nestled in the hills of Palo Pinto County, far removed from any major interstate or metropolitan area. 45 miles west of Fort Worth, I never had good cause to pass through here and assumed that Mineral Wells was just your ordinary, run-of-the-mill, small town. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Travelling west on highway 180 from Weatherford, we were rushing to make a delivery on the southside of Mineral Wells. The day was hot and we were driving straight into the late afternoon sun. All I wanted was to take care of business and head back home. Passing through miles and miles of empty green pastures and rolling hills, I was beginning to think we would never reach our destination. . Mesas loomed large in the distance. There was no sign of a small town for a good stretch of highway until we topped a hill and saw a massive structure standing tall in the distance.

At first I thought it might be a county hospital until we reached the outskirts of town and were greeted with the reality that this was not a hospital at all but instead a grandiose hotel reeking of 1920’s opulence. The first thought that went screaming through my head was, this doesn’t belong here! Forced to drive past this monument of antiquity, we had to stop and investigate.

  Street View of Baker Hotel in its Heyday ( Courtesy http://bakerhotel.us )

14 stories tall, the hotel dominates downtown Mineral Wells, casting a wide shadow over the remainder of the city. It’s something one would expect to find in New York, Chicago, or New Orleans. It’s the last thing I expected to see in downtown Mineral Wells. It seems so out of place here in the remote Texas hill country. The hotel shouldn’t be here yet here it is, whispering secrets about the past to anyone who will listen.

Baker Hotel Entrance Now
courtesy http://bakerhotel.us
 

Parking at the hotel’s front entrance I hopped out of the truck and immediately began taking photos. With bottom floor windows boarded up , glass broken out from nearly every window on the higher floors, and exterior withering in decay from years of neglect, only ghosts remain at this hotel. I had to learn more about this anomaly, so oversized for such a small town, that I went back to the truck, booted up the laptop, and googled Mineral Wells. The Baker Hotel popped up number 3 in the search engine. Navigating to http://bakerhotel.us ,I was introduced to a wealth of historical information and timeless photos of the hotel in its heyday.

                                                                                                         

Lets begin with the city itself. Mineral Wells derived its name from the underground waters found in local wells that were widely believed to have healing properties. Residents, well aware of the tourism dollars that the bath houses of Hot Springs, Arkansas brought in each year, wanted to capitalize on that idea and bring a resort to their little town. So they convinced T.B. Baker of the highly successful Baker Hotel chain to build just such a place for the residents of Mineral Wells. Baker hired Wyatt C. Hendrick to construct a massive Spanish Revival commercial high-rise, the first skyscraper ever built outside a major metropolitan area and on Nov. 9, 1929, The Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells opened its doors for the first time.

Interior Circular Drive Today

               

Interior Circular Drive Then courtesy http://bakerhotel.us

Cattle barons, oil tycoons, Hollywood celebrities, generals, and political figures flocked to the Baker Hotel in great numbers. Big band orchestras and cabaret acts performed in the 14th floor ballrooms on weekends while organizations held conventions in the decadent conference rooms during the week. Guy Lombardo, Mary Martin, Lawrence Welk, and Paul Whitman were booked regularly to perform while celebrities like Lucille Ball, Pat Boone, Jack Dempsy, Marlene Deitrich, Clark Gable, Judy Garland, Samuel Goldwyn, Jean Harlow, Helen Keller, Dorathy Lamour, Will Rodgers, and Bonnie & Clyde were frequent guests.

Brazos Room courtesy http://bakerhotel.us
Conference Room courtesy http://bakerhotel.us

At the peak of The Baker Hotel’s popularity in the 1940’s, coinciding with the opening of Fort Wolters military base, the town of Mineral Wells mushroomed from 6,000 to 30,000 residents and the hotel was at the center of the social scene.

                                                                      

In a basement beneath the outdoor pool a bottling plant was erected, shipping the healing waters across the globe. There was a gymnasium, Olympic sized swimming pool, beauty salon, coffee shop, bowling alley, barber shop, a Grey Hound Bus terminal, and  restaurants located on the grounds of the hotel.

Bowling Alley courtesy of http://bakerhotel.us
Card Room courtesy of http://bakerhotel.us

                                                       

T. B. Baker passed control of the hotel to his nephew, Earl, who vowed to close the doors of the grand hotel when he turned 70. In April, 1963, Earl Baker kept his word and closed the doors of the Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells. Not only did this action ruin the social life of the local denizens but it also had a devastating effect on the economy. In 1965 city leaders managed to reopen the Baker, paying Earl Baker each month for the right to do so. On Dec. 3, 1967, while visiting the hotel, Earl collapsed from a massive heart attack and died later that day at a local hospital. His long time mistress, Virginia Brown, had a suite of rooms on the 7th floor and is reported to have leapt to her death from the top of the building. Legend says she still roams the empty halls of the Baker, her presence announced by the aroma of the perfume she once wore.

Many people consider the hotel to be haunted, given that thousands of gravely ill guests spent time at the Baker in hopes that the healing waters would provide the cure they needed. This was a last-ditch act of desperation after modern medicines had failed. There appears to be no record of how many spent their final night in the hotel but most death estimates are high. Teams of ghost hunters have spent time in the building and report unusually high instances of paranormal activity.

                                                       

Despite the city leaders efforts to reestablish the Baker as a major resort the hotel was on it’s death bed and could not be resuscitated. Advancements in medical procedures and treatments had eliminated the need for the healing waters of Mineral Wells. To make matters worse, Fort Wolters had closed and organizations found newer, trendier hotels in places like Las Vegas to hold their conventions. The Grand Old Lady of Mineral Wells closed her doors forever in 1972.

Out of time and seemingly out-of-place the Baker Hotel looms over all other buildings in Mineral Wells as a reminder of a bygone era that brought fame and fortune to a sleepy little town nestled in the Texas hill country. Rumors of a restoration project are spread by the locals and a group of investors may be serious about reviving the Baker Hotel. Estimates are that it will cost 50 – 64M to restore the resort to its original glory (cost 1.2M to build in 1929). Though doubtful that her glorious past can ever be reclaimed, ghosts still whisper in the shadows of her presence and residual energy continues to vibrate from her bricks, haunting visitors who come here to see the Grand Old Lady of Mineral Wells.

For more info on the Mineral Wells Baker Hotel visit http://bakerhotel.us

               

  

Broken Highways (sample chapters 1-2)

1.

I’ve fallen off the grid.

Forgotten highways and dirt road backstreets are my lifelines. Cow pastures, turkey barns, and asphalt parking lots in abandoned towns are my homes. Removed from the white noise of the city, Earth’s heartbeat pulsates through the skin, recalibrating an emerging soul. Silently I dance a dance of chaos to the rhythm of a dying sun.

From the doorway of a converted school bus parked in an empty pasture I sit on a step and watch as the sun sinks into the earth. An explosion of colors race across a deepening blue sky, reflected back into the universe from my eyes. Scent of rain hangs heavy in the air as storm clouds retreat in the distance.

Pasture is empty, people are gone. I’m all that remains of a congregation that once gathered here for one weekend each month. Voices of ghosts echo inside the head. Closing eyes, a thousand faces stare back but the connection is gone. Energy has ebbed. Love has evaporated. Path fades in a diminishing light.

This place is my church. In the distance trees congregate to meditate. Flowers bow heads in prayer. Against the horizon mesas rise up to witness the ceremony. Stars emerge in the east, twinkling brightly with anticipation. Wind carries a sermon and I lean forward to listen. Eyes close, soothed by the words. Weightlessness consumes the body. Mind is set free to roam the countryside, soaring across land and water, across space and time to a place where the lines of reality are blurred, a place where boundaries and labels can’t exist, into another dimension where limitations are not known. I am but an illusion in the physical world, just another soul trapped inside a host. Everything is a symbol.

I am a child of the Earth, born of the elements, grounded in the soil. My soul was born from a seed planted inside this host and took root in the consciousness of the universe. I am the darkness and the light, the rising and setting of the sun, and everything in between. Soul has merged with the force that sparks life into everything. I feel all it feels as it fills all of me.

Opening eyes, sun is a tiny red orb sinking over the horizon. Lightning from a distant storm illuminates the sky and I pretend it’s a thought passing through God’s mind. Scent of rain remains but storms have passed without releasing a drop. Fields have dried up. Vegetation is scarce. Ground is hard, deeply scarred by cracks. Ponds, creeks, and rivers run dry. The path abruptly disappears into the charred remains of the land. There is nowhere further to go. This is the end. Everything is a symbol.

My name is Jason Powell and I was shoved off the grid.

2.

Dallas,TX(Feb. 2003)

 

Maybe it was raining that morning, I don’t know, never paid much attention to such things. Rain, sleet, or snow, the weather was of little consequence in my life back then. A mechanical engineer, I dwelled inside my own head, spinning formulas, crunching raw data, never pausing to take in the surroundings. I lived inside a rabbit hole; secluded, protected, and isolated, never venturing outside to take a peek at what might be out there, never caring. I had my work, all consuming as it was, and in my spare time I have a beautiful wife to come home to. This was all I wanted, all I needed. This was my rabbit hole and I was happy. Life outside the hole was unimportant, didn’t affect me, never mattered. Maybe it was raining that morning, I don’t know, never used to notice such things.

I drove to work that day like I had for 3900 work days in a row. Vehicle of choice is a midsized two door Japanese sedan dressed up like a race car with a four cylinder engine under the hood. There’s less than 20,000 miles on the speedometer after four years. Economical and efficient, that’s me. I’m the quintessential middle class American worker. Take my picture and put it on a poster. I’m that guy, Mr. Average.

Pulling into the entrance of Intercon Semiconductor, a security guard waves me through the gate. Intercon is a manufacturing plant specializing in analog microchips for cell phones and other electronic devices. Pay is good, benefits great. This is my dream job, the high tech industry my religion. Finding a space close to the front door I park and stroll inside the building, never suspecting that today will be any different than the 3900 work days that preceded it.

Within minutes I’m alone in my cubicle on the second level, the engineering floor, reading email and responding to messages. A new email arrives with the familiar sound of a bell and I click on it. This email is from the home office inSanta Clara,CA, from our CEO, Randal Cabella.

Due to a down turn in the economy . . . lagging personal computer sales . . . the escalating costs of doing business in America . . . a foundry in Taiwan has been hired to take over some of Intercon’s chip making processes . . . new state of the art semiconductor plants are now under construction in China . . . 20% of Intercon’s workforce will be laid off . . .

Between the lines I read:

Shareholders are demanding higher returns . . . Chinese labor is cheap . . . wealthy shareholders demand more gold to line their pockets with . . . Chinese labor is really, really, cheap . . . Randal Cabella needs a raise . . . you’re just another cog in the machine . . . cogs are disposable . . .

This communiqué is intended only for the eyes of the survivors. The Corporate Carpet Bombing has begun.

“Holy shit . . .”

“What’s up, Jason?” Solomon Jones asks as he enters the cubicle. Removing a raincoat, he wraps it around the back of a chair and peers over my shoulder. “Are you reading Intercon’s latest quarterly earnings forecast?”

“No, but you need to read this.”

Solomon says nothing as he reads the memo. Taking control of the mouse he scrolls down the page and after a moment turns and states the obvious. “I don’t think we’re supposed to be reading this.”

“Do you think?”

“Someone released this email too soon.”

Gazing up at the ceiling, eyes search for the bombers I know are coming. They approach from high above, maneuvering into a strategic attack position as our little cubicle city readies for the inevitable. The bombers come from another city located on the third floor, the floor directly above us. This city consists entirely of supervisors, foremen, department heads, vice presidents, and personal assistants. They are the gods of this concrete slab and all that reside within its brick confines, answering only to a far greater god that dwells seventeen hundred miles away inCalifornia. Randal Cabella has called in the bombardiers. Above us the bombardiers are busy scratching the names of victims on the sides of their bombs.

“Says here,” Solomon begins, using the mouse to highlight a paragraph from the secret communiqué. “Says here that those affected will be chosen based on last review and, or, length of tenure.”

I breathe a little easier. “My last review was great and I’ve been here fifteen years. I’m good, right?”

Solomon smiles, “You’ve got nothing to worry about. Relax.”

Barry Smith pokes his bald head into our cubicle, eyes wide with fear. “You guys read your email yet?”

Solomon and I nod that we have.

“Well the shit’s hit the fan down in the fab. People are running around like the sky is falling in. No one wants to answer their pagers. They’re too scared of the bombers.”

The fab, or fabrication area, is where most of the actual work is performed at a semiconductor plant. This is the place where microchips are created, one atom at a time, and it operates 24/7. There are two shifts a day, each putting in 12 hours. Right now the night shift is putting in the last hour of the shift and, sadly for some, it will be the final hour of their careers at Intercon.

Families will be devastated by the loss of income. Husbands will have to tell their wives they weren’t good enough to make the cut. Marriages will be torn apart and there will be a few poor souls, too weak to cope with the rejection, who will never recover. This is the carnage left behind by Corporate Carpet Bombing. It leaves lives turned upside down, people turned inside out.

Barry is gone, off to the next cubicle spreading the tragic news. Bombs rain down upon us. From the cubicle city consuming the second floor the din of nervous chatter rises. Above the din an electronic beeping sound can be heard, sometimes near and loud, sometimes distant and faint. This sound is familiar but more frequent than normal. Chaos and terror rule the morning. Our little city of dutiful engineers is being systematically leveled by an insane corporate mind. I gaze up at the ceiling again, watching, wondering, praying.

Solomon’s hand slaps my back. “Come on. It’s time for the morning meeting.”

I look at him as if he’s crazy.

“Hey, man, we have to do what we have to do,” he says. “We’re still going to be around after the smoke clears so we need to stay focused on our jobs. Let’s go.”

Solomon leads us out of the cubicle and into the corridor. A thousand cubicles are laid out before us like some giant bee-hive maze all done in puke blue. Each cubicle is buzzing with activity. Friends and colleagues cling to one another for support. Nervously they crack jokes, doing the best they can to pretend nothing out of the ordinary is going on. And then that insidious electronic, high pitch, scream sounds again and everyone falls silent. This is how it works in the high tech world. There are over two thousand employees at this plant which means at least four hundred good people are going to have a bomb fall on their head today. Bombs are delivered through sophisticated electronic devices commonly referred to as pagers.

As Solomon and I reach the end of the cubicle city we see a man clearing out his desk of all personal effects. A security guard hired for the day stands behind the man, informing him of what can and cannot be removed from the building. Wanting to reach out, instead I turn away. It seems like the polite thing to do.

We make it to the stairwell that leads down to the fab and my pager begins alarming. It sounds a thousand times louder than ever before. Solomon and I stop dead in our tracks. We stare at the pager that hangs on a clip at my waist. Lungs cease to breath. Heart ceases to beat. The entire goddamned world ceases to rotate. Universe comes to a grinding halt. I can hear the whistling of a bomb dropping from the skies above.

Taking a deep breath I try to think of other reasons someone might be paging me at this very moment. My wife, Mary, comes to mind. She has my pager number and a knack for calling at the most inappropriate time. This would be one of those times. This would be Mary paging me. Exhaling, I remove the pager from its clip and stare at the number. I stare at it for a long time.

“Well?” Solomon demands. “Who is it? Who’s paging you?”

“I don’t recognize the number.”

Solomon turns the pager toward him and lets out an awful sigh. “Security,” he gravely whispers. “That’s the number for security. They’re looking for you.”

I cannot utter a word. All I can do is think about Mary. How am I going to explain this to her?

“Are you okay, Jason?”

Attempting to say something, a lump in the throat gets in the way. I swallow hard and look Solomon dead in the eyes, angry, hurt, hoping he somehow holds the power to make this nightmare disappear. “I thought the email said the layoffs would be based on reviews? My reviews are great. This has to be some kind of mistake.”

“I’ll go with you.”

Shaking my head, I pull myself together. “No, no, I can handle this.”

“Are you certain?”

“Yeah, I’m certain.” Awkwardly I glance around the stairwell, and then hold out a hand to Solomon. “Take care.”

We shake hands and Solomon forces a smile. “You’ll be okay. You’re made out of strong stuff, Jason.”

“We’ll find out,” I reply, fully aware that I have never been tested like this before. “I’ll be alright. Cover your ass around here and give me a call sometime.”

Solomon nods. “We’ll get together soon.”

Walking back into the city of cubicles, a security guard waits at my desk. He asks my name but can’t make eye contact. I feel sorry for him, wouldn’t want his job even if it meant saving my own. He hands over a box and I begin collecting my personal belongings.

Next I’m sitting at a desk in HR, signing papers and handing over the company pager and cell phone to some poor temp hired to process disposable cogs like myself. She can’t look me in the eyes either. It’s as if the bombs have horribly disfigured my face. No one wants to look at me. All eyes are averted. I feel grotesque walking down the hallways of Intercon Semiconductor for the final time.

The disconnection has begun.

Standing in the rain at a pay phone outside a convenience store, I call Mary. We need to talk. Neither of us saw this coming, thought all was good in our little world. We are not prepared for this unprovoked attack upon our household. The Corporate Carpet Bombings have come without warning and seemingly without justification. I’m part of the collateral damage of an internal corporate upheaval, just a disposable cog in the machine that no longer is needed. I’m disposable, and that’s hardest thing to accept. We are not prepared for this.

Mary answers her cell phone on the third ring. “Hello?”

The cold February rain runs down my face. “Where are you?”

“I’m at The Antique Store, restocking my booth. Do you want to have lunch today?”

“Yes.”

“What time? Noonish?”

“How about now?”

A long silence follows as Mary processes what little information I’ve fed her. “Alright,” she cautiously replies. “I’ll meet you at the Pancake House in fifteen minutes.”

“Thanks,” and I hang up.

Rain is coming down hard, soaking my clothes, penetrating to the skin. I’m cold and wet and somehow it feels not good, but appropriate. For a long moment I stand there, letting the rain penetrate down to the soul and still it isn’t enough to satisfy my mood. I have been betrayed, shot down by friendly fire, and there exists no cure for that.

More importantly, I notice the rain.

Broken Highways (Poem Revisited)

Image

500,000 miles I have roamed,

 

Trekking across this land I call home;

 

Haggard, dirty, beaten, and wind blown,

 

Another restless spirit searching the unknown.

 

 

 

I’ve seen and heard it all,

 

Silent screams answering Freedom’s call;

 

Gambling on a path the world denies,

 

Absorbing sunsets, storms, and clear blue skies.

 

 

 

A forgotten life left behind,

 

A place where no one knows my kind;

 

Stranger in a strange new town,

 

No one knows you when you’re down.

 

 

 

Soon storms clouds form, threatening rain,

 

And a two lane blacktop cuts a grassy plain;

 

Rolling wheels beneath the feet,

 

Complications I try to beat.

 

 

 

Thinking to myself, thinking all the time,

 

Running from ghosts isn’t a crime;

 

Asphalt crumbles and falls away,

 

Road I’m on is just another broken highway.

Fredericksburg Meltdown (or how NOT to haggle with a junk vendor)

A couple weeks ago while working a show in Fredericksburg, Texas, several friends complained of customers insulting them with offers for their wares. This isn’t uncommon but lately the problem seems to be worsening. Don’t get me wrong, junk vendors expect to be low-balled on prices. It’s not a big deal. Negotiations are part of the game and the object of this game is that both parties depart feeling good about themselves. But in Fredericksburg something went horribly wrong.

 

Before proceeding I need to provide a little background. As everyone knows, we are still trapped in a down economy that has greatly affected small businesses across America. Junk dealers, as you might imagine, are about as small of a business as there is. But they still have bills to pay, travel and show expenses, and have an investment in their inventory like any other retail store. Times are hard for most everyone these days and junk dealers are no different. We are all in the same boat.

 

Secondly, most junk dealers are passionate about their chosen profession and only carry items that they themselves love and enjoy. That implies that they have an inherent attachment to their ‘junk’. This is important and (I believe) has something to do with the meltdown that Sunday afternoon in Fredericksburg.

 

Thirdly, and probably factors in as much as the first two points, it was a SLOW and miserably HOT weekend in Fredericksburg.

 

Here’s how it went down:

 

A certain, nameless vendor has an old travel trunk that he’s fond of but wants to sell. Price is $100 but he is more than willing to negotiate. An interested customer begins the negotiations by pointing out all the flaws in the trunk, insulting the seller. Then the customer offers $20 for the trunk, $80 less than the asking price, which sends the vendor into a rage unlike anything I’ve ever heard of on the flea market circuit.

 

Visibly angry, the vendor tosses the trunk into the middle of the dirt road outside his tent. Then he produces an axe from his booth and heads for the trunk as a crowd gathers. In a violent rage he begins smashing the trunk into pieces while the customer looks on. In the background Dads grab small children and hold them close for protection while women scream and run away. Other vendors look on in horror as their friend crosses over the crazy line in leaps and bounds. Once the trunk has been satisfactorily smashed into unrecognizable shards of wood the enraged vendor looks up at the shell-shocked customer and says, “Now it’s worth $20!” The customer flees the scene while the vendor disappears into his tent and begins hacking away at all his possessions, destroying most everything by the time four deputies arrive to arrest the man a short time later. Handcuffed, the vendor is escorted off the grounds in the back of a police car, never to return.

 

In no way am I excusing the behavior of a fellow vendor who snapped and went too far. I’m embarrassed and appalled by what happened, but I’m not surprised. The last four years have been a tough road for most small business owners and the future doesn’t look any brighter. People are struggling to survive everywhere, in many walks of life, and junk vendors are no different.  I’m just putting this story out there for anyone who enjoys shopping flea markets and haggling over prices with dealers. As a good rule of thumb never offer less than 30% of the price quoted. If you believe that 30% off is still too high for the item in question then smile politely and walk away.

For more stories about life on the flea market circuit please go to http://amzn.to/yocYKs and check out my novel, Broken Highways.

Thanks for stopping by,

Wayne

Rabbit Holes (Novel Excerpt)

Everyone dwells in a rabbit hole.

Not so long ago my rabbit hole consisted of a home and the long tunnel to Intercon. That was the whole of the universe. Seldom did I venture beyond that domain. I had no need for the world that lay outside this hole. Comfort and Security were my companions. They were all the friends I required. Together we dwelled in the hole, married to a promise that could not be kept. But Comfort and Security are fleeting friends and abandoned the hole at the first signs of Vulnerability. Now I have learned that it is best to continually move from one rabbit hole to the next, before Comfort and Security attempt to settle in. They are not my friends. They are bums that hold me down. Vulnerability is the best friend I ever had. Vulnerability keeps me moving. My favorite rabbit hole is Anglin.

Anglin has its own feel and texture, unique to itself. It’s the classic flea market, the smell of corn dogs and fresh squeezed lemonade permeating through the air. This is my happy place. It’s an experiment that has succeeded. We are creative, try new things, and are innovative with our displays. Anglin satisfies the artistic side of the soul. It’s a good rabbit hole.

New Orleans had been a good rabbit hole. It will be missed.

Warrenton is a great rabbit hole. In late September of 2005, still reeling from the havoc caused by the storms of Katrina and Big Barry, I arrive in Warrenton a few days early, a few days too early as it turns out.

Summer refuses to leave. Outside temperature is pushing 107 degrees. Hurricane Rita sits just off theTexas coast, contemplating where she wants to go. The powerful storm skirts off to the east, slowly wobbling as she ponders a final destination. She is down to two choices; strike theTexas coast or finish Katrina’s work by destroying what is left of the Louisiana coastline.

Fears that Rita might strike Houston prevent the tent companies from erecting our little shantytown. These are very real fears for if Rita comes through Houston then she will come through Warrenton, packing high winds and heavy rains. The shantytown will never survive. Dealers without tents cannot set up their wares.

Clyde and I sit in our lawn chairs drinking beer and watching a thick band of clouds consume the eastern sky. There is nothing we can do but relax and wait out the storm. We’re just two random people making random conversation in a random cow pasture. My life has become a bunch of random moments strung together, in a random fashion. Time in Warrenton is measured in conversations.

Clyde, who volunteered to help set up, breaks a long silence. “Who do you take your cues from, Jason?” He’s always philosophical when he’s drinking or smoking weed. Today Clyde indulges in both.

The question confuses me. “What do you mean?”

“Who inspires you? Do you have a mentor? Is there someone you admire, that you look up to, that you pattern your life after? For me,” he pauses, taking a hard hit from the bottle. “For me it’s Willie, Jesus, and John Wayne, but not necessarily in that order.”

“That’s an odd mix, don’t you think?”

Clyde shakes his head. “Not really, if you think about it.”

“How so?”

“Well, Willie’s just Willie, you know. He’s the original Texas gypsy. There’s not much to explain there.”

It’s no surprise that Willie is one of Clyde’s idols.

“And Jesus is the original gypsy,” he continues. “Jesus traveled from town to town, on foot or mule, conversing with gentiles, the scum of the earth. He showed ordinary people like you and me how to live their lives and He told them to never be ashamed of who they are. He gave them hope and a reason to believe their lives had a purpose, despite what the wealthy, authoritarian, upper class told them.”

Clyde’s mellow mood abruptly morphs into a not so silent rage. Inside his soul he harbors deep anti-establishment resentment. Like so many of us, he is one of the forgotten members of society. He’s a spare cog in a nation of spare cogs.

“Jesus was an anarchist, brother. He didn’t believe in the status quo for the little guy. The repressed, oppressed masses saddened Him. He slept under the stars with beggars, thieves, and the diseased and never concerned Himself with the company He was keeping.  Jesus would rather hang with the poor than associate with the wealthy. He knew who He could trust.”

Many of us are searching for the perfect anarchist role model, for different and for shared reasons. We wish to change the things that are beyond our control to change. Everyone is waiting on a hero. “Jesus is a pretty good role model,” I say.

“Exactly,”Clyde’s expression alters again, the rage fading into cheerfulness, his mood swings fueled by alcohol. “All Jesus ever talked about was peace, love, charity, humility, and turning the other cheek when some moron challenges you. It’s a pretty righteous code of ethics to live your life by, if you ask me.”

“How does John Wayne fit into your mix of role models?”

Clyde turns and winks. “’Cause sometimes turning the other cheek just doesn’t work, my friend.”

Clyde has it all figured out. His holy trinity consists of a pot smoking, free spirited, gypsy poet; a hard living, no nonsense, ass kicking protector of the innocent; and the holiest of holy men to keep Clyde on the straight and narrow. Somehow he has molded these icons into a single role model that guides every aspect of his life.  It’s an impressive bout of reasoning.

Silence again passes between us.

Clyde finishes off his beer and fishes a fresh one out of the cooler while I ponder my own role models. Who do I take cues from? A parade of men dressed in expensive Armani suits flashes through the mind. A Madison Avenue inspired image of Wall Street lingers in the background. These are intelligent, charming, successful, handsome men. These are white collar professionals, presidents of large corporations, CEO’s, and leaders of industry. They are the textbook definition of success. They’re beautiful in their wealth. Gorgeous trophy wives stand by their sides. They own large homes in suburban gated communities and keep apartments in the city for their beautiful mistresses. They drive fancy German cars and keep a bag of golf clubs in the trunk. They travel First Class and dine at the most expensive restaurants. These are the high profile, influential men I have spent my entire life striving to be like. When I think of role models I think of these men. They define the American Dream. Madison Avenue has sold me this dream in return for my soul. They have programmed my brain, my behavior, my thoughts, and my dreams. I’m nothing like my implanted role models. My life runs in a parallel line in the opposite direction. Professional America never wanted me in their ranks. My breeding is nothing to boast of. My schooling is all wrong. No matter how hard I try to join their country club my kind are not allowed—but thanks for paying the dues anyway. Professional America makes their fortunes off of chums like my self.

Clyde poses his question one more time. “So, Jason, who do you take your cues from?”

“No, one,” I grumble. “Absolutely no one.”

Clyde grins, leans over in his chair, and punches my shoulder. “That’s the spirit, brother. You are your own man.”

Don’t know what that means. I dwell between the spaces, having fallen through the cracks.

“They won’t be erecting statues to men like us, my brother,”Clyde continues. He holds up his beer bottle for a toast to us. Reluctantly, I join in. Two half empty beer bottles clink in the fading light of a cow pasture. Most of my time spent with Clyde seems utterly surreal. Today is no exception.

I admire Clyde for his clear perception of the world around him. There are no illusions or delusions clouding his view of reality.Clyde’s world is raw and it is devastatingly true. Somehow, I realize, in the back of my mind I always imagined that someday the masses would be erecting statues of me. Someday I would find success and the whole world would know my name. I would smash the glass ceiling that hangs over my head and take my proper place amongst the elite class of this world. Madison Avenue has told me that this is possible and I have swallowed the bait. Reality is that I can’t have it all and never will have it all. Few have it all. There are no artisans preparing my bust. It was never meant to be.

A sinking feeling grabs a hold of the gut. Where has reality gone? I want to be more like Clyde. How sweet would it be to live a life free of self delusion? You are who you are and that’s all you’ll ever be. Acceptance of your limitations is freedom. But I’m a slave to my pride and aspirations. Something deep inside yearns to be greater than the reality of who I am. At this moment in life I don’t care for who I have become. Big Barry made me feel like a failure. He exposed us for who we really are and I don’t care for it. Our empire is crumbling. This can’t be my future. There must be something better waiting further down the road.  I’m at the crossroads in this journey. Should I accept the reality of my existence or continue pushing for something greater? Is acceptance just a polite way of admitting you’ve given up on your dreams? Do I still dream? What are my dreams? I don’t recognize my dreams any longer.

“Ever seen a sky so blue?”Clyde laments, gazing at the darkening eastern sky. “Look just above the horizon. Don’t think I’ve ever seen that color of blue before. See how it blends seamlessly into the other shades of blue? The sky is God’s canvas.”

“Think it’s just the reflection from Rita,” I counter.

“Then that makes it even more special. God can create something beautiful out of something so terrible.”Clyde turns poetic. “Blue is the color of the ocean. Blue is the color of the sky. Blue is the color of inspiration and of things that know no boundaries or limitations. Blue is the color of endless imagination where all things are possible and nothing lies out of the realm of human possibility. It is the color of knowledge, power, and integrity. Do you know that a blue aura means your soul shines?”

Of course I don’t know, but I am intrigued. Blue is my favorite color. Blue labors on the mind for the remainder of the show in Warrenton. From David and Selma I purchase old wire baskets and rusting metal buckets—and I paint them blue. And I like it. From Jack and Barbara I purchase an art deco sign, white and backlit, complete with a box containing hundreds of letters—all in blue. In my tent I hang the sign and spell out Blue Trading Company for the entire world to see. I am proud of what I have done. Accessorize This will exist no more. All that is left is for me to convince Mary that changing the name of her company is an excellent idea. I’ll worry about that when I get back home.

Novelist, poet, other things . . .