I’m sharing my new room in Hispanic Korea Town with a Demon that eats hats. I call him Horror Head.
A few weeks before I moved in I found him on the railroad tracks in Hawthorne. I’ve always loved railroad tracks, whether the landscape is rolling hills of grass, scatterd trees, deep forests, or cities traintracks cut through it like a rift. They even look like a stiched up scar. It’s a liminal zone, a boundary ungoverned by the rules of the surrounding zones. Things found there are weird, they’ve got power.
That’s where I found Horror Head, a styrofoam wig model covered inthis weird wrinkly brown skin, that tears off his face and sticks out like a mummy-skin blinder with peg teeth. His eyes and mouth have been gouged deep into his skull. I don’t know where he came from, or how many hands he passed through before finding me, but I knew when I found him I needed to take him home. That’s interesteing, you know?
When I picked him up I let a shiver run through my body. It looked posessed, and so for Chris’s benefit I acted like it was speaking through me. In an exorsist voice I spoke.
“At last! I have been awaken. Prepare yourself for the horror of a world without hat! Yesss, a hatless nightmare world is what my awakening ushers in. From now on, when your head grows cold you must use a hood to over it! Can your mind handle my horror!”
I thought I was just being weird, but soon after Horror Head came home with me hats actually started dissappearing. Three so far, but big ones, my cowboy hat, my top hat (non-collapsing kind), and Dylan’s cabby cap. Eileen says Horror Head has been appearing in her dreams. usually just as flashes. Maybe he really was speaking through me, or more likely, this is like in Ghostbusters where whoever awakens the destructor choses the form of their destruction. You all better get down on your hands and knees and blow me for chosing a world without hats. Imagine if some misanthrope like John Tesh found him, we’d all be food for his ravenous ego.
And for that reason I can’t just get rid of it. Then it will fall into the wrong hands. No, I must seal it. Plus, takening on the Horror head just seems more interesting than throwing out the Horror Head. I’m going to take it into the big Catholic Cathedral near my house and see if they can exorcise the demon that eats hats. I’ll let you know how that turns out. I almost did it today but there was a wedding going on, and I don’t think they’d appreciate my mission very much.
An old black man with hair like freshly shorn white wool sat beside me at the bus stop. He looked at my boots, then at me, then at my boots again, and in a voice as gravely as old washed-out country roads he said, “whoo, those are the boots of the resurrection Frankenstein!”
And I laughed so hard and heartily, the best I’d had all day. He smiled, revealing a single row of teeth purfled on both borders with blood, so the single row seemed to float midway through his mouth, and you couldn’t tell which end sunk it’s roots into his black gums and which had recently been snacking on freshly cut throat.
He curled his middle two fingers into his fist, so that only the frame of his hand shot out it’s thin fingers, and with pinkie and index he stabbed the page I was reading.
“Eyes,” he said, gesturing with his head to the page. “watch. these ideas splashed onto the page by some spasmodic head.”
Such poetic madness was respite on a day of mundane frustrations. Cast behind me was my dark immaterial form, the heavy emptiness of my debt, which dragged with me at every step. But when darkness projects back, light must be projecting forward, for nature obliterates nothing, only transforms it’s material. This is the strange revelation by which the heartiest, sincerest, levity arrises out of fatalism and headlong plunges into the mystery. The sun of LA beamed from my face. I can’t reconcile these loose ends, and I don’t feel I should. I was so very happy and creeped out.
“Can I be mad as you?” I asked, and that lambs wool head suck int close to my shoulder, and muttered incoherent incantations into the sounding board of my hollow chest.
My bus arrived.
And my next day was nearly perfect, rising in the morning from the intangled arms of a beautiful girl, by afternoon hard at work upon a giant robotic lobster, and into the wee hours of the morning laughing till I cried as we plotted out episodes of our sketch comedy show in the surreal atmosphere of sleep deprevation and paint fumes.
What strange creatures lurk in Long Beach midnight, and what invisble forces govern the urges that compell me to walk among them? Two nights ago, I chose to take a different route home, not expecting such a simple whim to bear such strange fruit.
On that dark and lonesome street I saw a white comet hit the ground with the sound of terra cotta keys dropped on marble. Approaching the crash site i saw a fallen angel made of white stone that had fell from its perch above the door of the church. Somehow, the Angel’s neck took the brunt of the fall, so that the head and body were whole but seperate, but the neck was obliterated, a scattering of dust and sand upon the sidewalk. There could be no recapitation. It’s not every day one finds an honest-to-god fallen angel, so I scooped the two intact piece up and slipped them into my back pack; to be decyphered later.
Not two blocks later I heard a condescending voice. “Walking, eh?” It was a large young black man in typical urban attire sitting on the steps of a building, flanked a few steps up to either side by a hispanic, male and female. Seems to me there was probably a party going on nearby and they stepped out for a cigarette or a chat. “i used to be walking, walking my mouth that is. Thing is, I was walking it so fast my soul couldn’t keep up. I just kept talking and talking, but everything I said was without soul. Now, my mouth and my soul are one.”
I mention he is black in this tale, for I am trying to give a complete description. in the short hand version i told my co-workers, I left that detail out completely, for although he had that firey and aggresive vocal style often associated with black rappers and preachers, it was far from his most outstanding characteristic. Most outstanding was the fact that he only had nine fingers.
The pinkie of his left hand ended just before he second knuckle, and he drew anttention to the stub with a large gold ring situated just past the first knuckle and occupying the entir remaining span. So, like Ahab’s ivory leg, the stump of his missing appendage had been capped not by a surgeon, but by a jeweler. And why would he want to draw attention to such a malady anyway?
This is a man with a debt, I thought. Seems the finger had been cut off in the same fashion that the Japanese mafia employees when a yakuza thug errs in such a tremendous fashion that he can never apologize, never pay it off, never make it up. The process is needlessly painful, as the yakuza cuts off his own pinkie, but it shows the depth of both his sorrow and his resolve. The severed finger is presented to the mafia boss, or whoever the debt is owed to. The practice is so widely known in Japan that Nickelodeon’s kids show “Bob the Builder” is going through computer enhancement so as not to trouble little kiddies with images of three-fingered hands. So maybe this guy isn’t Japanese, it seems like a custom that could spread to our own gangster culture.
The vigilante street preacher continued his sermon. The Hispanics rolled their eyes, though I couldn’t tell if it was in disbeleif that he was prostelytizing, or annoyance that he was doing it again. I still couldn’t tell if he was straight up or messing with me. Then he suddenly rose to his feet. he was giant man, taller than me though I am tall myself, and thicker trunked (but not at all fat)than me though I am skinny. He towered over me as though he was seven feet tall. A man made of prime numbers, counting soul and mouth as 1, feet as 7, fingers as 9. “I’m calling you out,” he said, and I thought, ‘fuck, this mother fucking apostle and his posse are going to go Azrael on my ass.’ I couldn’t fight off the preacher even if he was alone. “Calling you out for God.”
I flashed a charming smile and searched my mind for the most harmless religious sentiments I could muster. “Tis the season, for charity and goodwill toward men,” I said. “Merry Christmas, man.”
“Fuck Christmas,” sayeth the preacher. “Merry Fucking God”
Unintentionally he planted an image in my head of an incestuous biblical relationship that was, all in all, really hot. Mary looked like Catherine Zeta-Jones. but I digress, I was still was dealing with yet another Long Beach mystic who seemed Hell bent on kicking my ass, or just passionate about his faith.
“How do I play into all this talk of God and souls?” I asked him.
He smiled, big and toothy. “Do you have a mission from God?”
I thought a moment. “No, not really.” I pretty much live day to day, whims and urges, plans and ambitions, but no real mission. and then I felt the pieces of that broken angel come together and I decided something. “But I’m ready for one.”
“You’re all right, man.” said he. “Find one.”
I was rather hoping he had one in mind for me. Not that I would have out-right accepted it, but at least take another view into consideration. I’m sure I have to find for myself what that mission ought to be. Obviously, he had his mission. We smacked fists together in that California sort of hand shake, and I bid the nine-finger preacher good night, decideing never to take that route home again.
So, I’m in the market for a mission from God. Let me know if you hear any good ones.
Some nightâ€™s simply steeping out from my door propels me across a strange stage of mysteries, horrors, and delights; where the performers pull me into a world entirely apart from where I thought I was and what I thought I was doing. Other nights Iâ€™m just looking for a taco. Tonight was one of the former, and what I did not realize at the onset, was that I wasnâ€™t actually looking for taco at all. Please yield to all impending doom.
My first clue that I was after something more than delicious warm meat-bean colloid in a tortilla tube was a peculiar house I stopped in front of. True, my experience there was nothing more than a strange feeling that caught my attention in the houses presence, but I always try and indulge these nonsensical urges. As I stood there, in the back of my mind I could hear someone singing, though when I stopped and listened closer there was nothing. The only strange detail I noticed upon scrutiny was the stained glass shutters adorning all the second story windows. Curious, but that detail alone was not what set this house apart.
Several blocks later I was on a street almost entirely shops, but again I was drawn to a peculiar residential building, apartments this time. The building was roughly in the shape of a rectangular donut, with a courtyard lush with ferns and rubber trees. I say roughly rectangular, because the lot this building was built to fit was far from square, despite it being in the middle of the block. The building seemed to cut at odd angles huge wedges from its neighbors, who obviously we squished a bit to accommodate. The building was old, mission revival style with huge red tile stairs that ascended like ladders in the front and back. Odd. Most building this old have slightly smaller stairs than Iâ€™m used to, but these were immense, incredibly steep, and with a hand rail so high it bisected my torso, and Iâ€™m 6â€™2.â€ At the top of these irregular stairs a bundle of willow switches, 8 feet tall and two arms lengths around leaned against a closed door. Curious. I found an odd star case leading to the back. I was hoping for a vantage point, but the building was surrounded on all sides, though I could now see its lot had not a straight edge or a ninety degree angle to it. Foot paths ran its circumference clinging to the building as though it we the edge of a high and craggy cliff. The fence pressed against the path and followed its odd meander. Leaving the apartments, I looked at the willows and thought of the first house, were there witches here I wondered, but quickly I decided I was just under the influence of this ghoulish season and itâ€™s decorations.
The third building I stopped at had one of those chrome balls for your garden that make your reflection look all fish-eyey, so of course I started doing my Beastie-Boys dance. By this point it was nearly nine 0â€™clock and most stores were closed. I peered behind the window decorations and saw the lights were on and the shelves were cluttered with scarboroughs of all kinds of herbs. The sign on the door said â€œopen,â€ and I stepped in expecting to find some friendly hippies or young-for-their-age eastern medicine types whom I could buy the necessary ingredients for â€œbrain brandyâ€ (an alcoholic tonic containing herbs meant to stimulate creativity, memory, etc) from.
When I stepped in the shop keeper looked at me and scuttled towards the door. â€œI must change that sign,â€ the woman said. She was 60, as I later learned, with a head like a pumpkinâ€”wider than it is tall, and oddly wrinkled.
â€œIâ€™m sorry,â€ I said, â€œis the shop closed?â€
â€œIt is now that youâ€™re here,â€ she said, and cackled as she flipped over the sign. Yep, cackled. I wondered if she practiced that. When she opened her mouth I could see she was missing a handful of teeth. I looked around the room and noticed a black cat sprawled across the counter, a rack of black velvet robes and capes, and in case all the clues so far had been lost on me, a bumper sticker stuck to the counter that read â€œyes, Iâ€™m a Witch, get over it!â€
I looked around her herb shop and stumbled across a 60 year old man relaxing in a folding chair by the counter. Without a word, he left, chair and all, for the back room shortly after I saw him. â€œWhat brings you here tonight,â€ the witch asked.
â€œCuriosity,â€ said I. The room smelled of allspice and everyherb. Many of the scarboroughs contained items I had not run across before.
â€œWhatâ€™s your sign?â€ she asked.
Is she coming on to me? I wondered. Whenever Iâ€™m meeting people for the first time I undergo an intricate shadow play with them, what will I reveal of my true self, what will I conceal? I feel them out this way, but often Iâ€™m too reserved, I donâ€™t show enough of myself. This is something I want to work on. So, I wondered, Ophuscian or Sagittarian, what to answer? Since Iâ€™m curious what sheâ€™s up to, Iâ€™ll go with the straight forward answer. â€œSagittarian.â€
â€œMe too!â€ said the old lady, â€œPerhaps we can beat each other up!â€
Curious. I cocked an eyebrow and gave her a one-eyed look. Was she psychic too? How did she know about my little kink? And I really think sheâ€™s coming on to me. II said nothing, but continued examining her herbs.
â€œAre you in a relationship?â€ she asked.
â€œAre you coming on to me?â€ I asked back. Iâ€™m not used to such interrogation from a shop keeper.
She cackled again, showing her pumpkin grin. â€œDeary, Iâ€™m sixty years old, and youâ€™re whatâ€¦â€ she stopped; she wasnâ€™t going to quit interrogating me just to make a point.
â€œ24! A baby! No, Iâ€™m not. So tell me, are you in a relationship?â€
â€œUp until a week ago I was.â€
â€œFor how long?â€
â€œfour years.â€ Iâ€™m not sure why I was talking, I doubt I would have taken this from a man, but there was something so perfect about this setting. About this time I started wondering if scenes like this happen all the time in Los Angeles, thatâ€™s why they get represented in movies.
â€œIs family an issue?â€
â€œIs family an issue?â€ I repeated. â€œNo, well, not my family. Her family is moving out of the country. My family is doing what itâ€™s done for years. Itâ€™s static.â€
We talked a while longer, and she began urging me to get back together with Sofia, but after talking a while longer, she urged me to leave her. I realized then that she wasnâ€™t psychic, just perceptive, but what was interesting was her advi8se was always to take the most drastic measures, one way or the otherâ€”marry, settle down, or leave and do my career. Perhaps it was because I mentioned stagnation and lack of growth twice, once with my family, and once with my relationship. Or perhaps she was just a fan of the extreme path.
Around this time another man, younger than the first stepped into the closed store, and walked straight for the back room without a word. I scarcely noticed him, though he piqued my curiosity after I left.
She asked me if I had recently been offered an out of town job.
â€œIâ€™m meeting with the president of the company tomorrow.â€ I said.
â€œYouâ€™ve been looking for an excuse to leave her havenâ€™t you?â€
â€œMaybe I have.â€ I said.
â€œDo you want me to hit you?â€ she asked, she didnâ€™t sound as though she was making an idle comment or being rhetorical.
â€œHit me?â€ I pondered a moment, considering her offer. The scene was getting intense. A hit might feel good, but I still had the unsettling feeling this witch might be more into playing with â€œbabiesâ€ than she led on. â€œIâ€™d rather you didnâ€™t.â€
â€œThank you. So youâ€™re going to go to this job?â€ She was demanding, not asking.
â€œGood. You should go. Leave.â€
â€œGo.â€ I realized she wasnâ€™t talking about my relationship or work anymore. The time had come to leave the shop. She said her name was Jade (same as my nephew!) but her card said Cynthia. She didnâ€™t hustle me for any money, this was neither my fortune being read nor therapy, but something strange and real. Strange things happen everydayâ€¦er, even at night.
When I got home I asked Chris if heâ€™d met any witches in Long Beach.
â€œNaw,â€ he said, â€œThey all no better than to mess with me.â€
â€œWhat do you mean?â€ I asked. Chris has had more than his fair share of supernatural encounters too, after all.
â€œNothing,â€ he said, â€œI thought it was funny.â€