Strange and depressing weather, like the opening of an old horror movie. A friend calls in the middle of January and says in a voice tinged with wonder that it looks like his Rhubarb is starting to come up. Our grass is a sickly yellow and the rain continues to fall while the clouds clog the coast, for days now, weeks possibly I can't seem to remember. The only good thing to report is there seems to be more light in the evening, even if it is a weak and sickly kind.
I decided I wanted to break the mood of my last few blogs and try to write something a bit more upbeat and cheerful this week. Maybe something even what you would call celebratory, but I don't know that I can: an old friend was found dead in his trailer last week. His neighbors didn't notice him coming or going for a few days and they became concerned and they called the police. When they went him they found him dead of natural causes.
Ron was a big grumpy man. He liked you to think he was dangerous. He liked you to think he was crazy. But the truth was he was brilliant and sensitive. Since the time he laid down his memories of his service on the Mekong river in the late sixties I don't think he ever slept more than a few hours in a night. Ever since I knew him he didn't own a bed. He slept on a recliner surrounded by books. He studied Native American Literature, and U.S. History. He had been a History and Lit. teacher himself in a small college in Oregon, a lifetime ago. Like Big Daddy himself he hated all forms of "Mendacity" and bureaucratic bullshit. He didn't generate a lot of garbage and what waste he did, he recycled and took care of himself and he didn't feel he should pay his garbage can fee if he didn't need a garbage can. The losing battle was waged for years.
Ron liked to drink and make calls. Sometimes he would call to talk about my wife's whale research. He was fascinated by it. He was fascinated by her, for while Ron could be hateful about women in positions of bureaucratic authority, he was a goofy romantic about strong women who worked independently. I know several woman who took his calls as he rambled and asked questions. He was funny and doting, flirtations, I assume, but not creepy, for he genuinely admired these women. He told me so. Ron also loved cats, and guns, and beer, and Wagner, and Beethoven, and the heaviest of Heavy Metal Music. He had a radio show for a time and he would be banned from the station at times, but he was made for radio with his gruff voice and his willingness to do all night shifts and play anything from Sun-Ra, to The Ring Cycle, to Cannibal Corpse. But then of course there were some screeds which didn't find a suitable audience.
I once tried to see if Ron would stop talking on his own when he called. It was ten at night and he called to talk. I let him run, it was good stuff mostly, I'm not sure I remember all of the topics that night but surely he mentioned: The idiocy of the Forest Service, Fish and Game, City of Sitka, All Government agencies. The possibility of his running for office, advice from me on computers and dictation software, his desire to write a book, The depth that Sperm whales feed, the size of their brains, how a Sperm whale could certainly beat that fucking freak Bobby Fischer, what a great little darling our friend Lilly was, the war tactics of the Lakota, and the superior intellect of Hunter S. Thompson. The point being by 11:30 he was no where near slowing down and I was running out of juice.
Ron had dozens of friends he did this with. He probably spent thousands of hours on the telephone. I suspect it was his greatest release valve. In all those calls he probably wrote a dozen books, and gave them to his friends to distribute in their retelling.
Some men never conquer their demons, but some get close. Horrible things once experienced cannot be completely forgotten. All a person can do who has been visited by darkness is to reach out towards the light that he sees in others. That's what Ron was doing in his phone calls.
Ron was a big guy and complicated. This is an inadequate tribute to him, because I didn't know him all that well. He was hard to help, because help was not what he was asking for. Alaska was a good place for him, Montana and parts of Idaho and Washington are still good, I suppose Texas too, Big Country where men who have seen too much can have room to ramble about like the wild, big hearted bulls they became.
We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like "I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive..." And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like Huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car, which was going about a hundred miles and hour with the top down to Las Vegas, And a voice was screaming: "Holy Jesus!What are these Godamn animals?" Then it was quiet again. My attorney had taken his shirt off and was porting beer on his chest, to facilitate the tanning process. "What the hell are you yelling about?" he muttered, staring up at the sun with his eyes closed and covered with wrap around Spanish sunglasses. "Never mind." I said. "It's your turn to drive." I hit the brakes and aimed the Great Red Shark toward the shoulder of the highway. No point mentioning the bats, I thought. The poor bastard will see them soon enough." -----------Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Hunter S. Thompson
Rain on the roof
I look at my phone
but it does not ring