Dearest Joni, Pretty sure California has broken your Heart as it has mine. I love you Joni for this magical Song–and for ALL of your Magical Songs–You are such an important part of my life. And you will always remain, holding a very special place in my heart.
Until Death do us part. I hope I go first. I do not wish to live in a world without you, Joni Mitchell
Moving on–My fawning desire over Joni, for now, sated
(But trust me: It will resurface, and probably much sooner than later)
And this Saddens Me. Me, The Eternal Cock-Eyed Optimist, But Some things Are Perma-Broken and I see no Chance of Fixing Them Anytime soon:
While suffering my enforced exile in California I could often be found searching for jumping spiders. One day I captured a particularly stunning one with black and white markings, dark black-green eyes and luminescent aquamarine fangs behind the feathery appendages which covered them.
Absolutely Beautiful Spider!
I gently herded her into a mason jar which contained several wood chips of varying shapes and sizes. Jumping spiders do not build webs; they live in caves made by little boys employing wood chips. (This is what my spidery experience had taught me through the years.)
Once I had done my time we moved back to Texas, but not before I was forced to abandon my Most Beautiful Spider, along with all the others I had collected, my mother announcing quite emphatically,
“I am NOT riding in a car all-the-way-home-to-Texas seated next to five jars full of damn spiders!”
Once back in Texas, for several weeks I suffered from PTSL: Post Traumatic Spider Loss. I missed my spiders, especially the beautiful one I had named ‘Sadie’.
Not that Texas has a spider shortage, mind you; I just did not immediately know where to look: “Looking for Spiders in all the wrong places.”
One day, lo’ and behold, I found a jumping spider which looked so very much familiar to me, (or perhaps she found me)
“Sadie! Sadie! Did you follow me all the way from California?” I asked breathlessly.
“Of course,” she said. “Why wouldn’t I?”
I happily gathered her up and placed her into my newest mason jar, assuming she still wanted to be my pet.
About a month later, I proudly announced to my Grandparents:
“My spider is gonna have babies.”
“Lance Son,” my Grandmother informed me rather condescendingly, “There is no daddy spider in there. Your spider cannot possibly have baby spiders.”
Not ill-mannered enough to say it, I thought it: “Of course she can have baby spiders ‘without a ‘daddy.’ Spiders are like guppies: they store sperm until the time is ‘just right.’ But how could this old Tennessee-Baptist-Dyed-In-The-Wool-God-is-Great woman even wrap her mind around such things Darwin?”
Absolutely Incomprehensible To Her.
About two weeks later, I was up to my ass in baby spiders. I did not show grandmother these offspring. She would have told me it was yet one more miraculous example of God’s Work:
“The Immaculate Spider Conception.”
All the baby spiders slowly disappeared over time, crawling through the ice-pick holes in the lid of the Mason Jar two-by-two, or however. Fine. Neither Sadie nor I were interested in raising a passel of little spider crumb snatchers.
My Lady Spider was a huntress and she complained daily regarding my neglect of her need. She ached for something more than the flies I would daily cast into her mason jar. They were just food. No thrills to be had in the hunt, merely a harvest. She was growing morose.
“You’re killing my Spider Soul with all these damn flies Lance,” she said.
“OK Sadie! I will give you something to satiate your arachnid need,” I told her one morning.
Under the eaves of my Grandfather’s shed lived a few Black Widow Spiders. They had established some manner of ‘Black Widow Sisterhood,’ (Not unlike similar ‘Sisterhoods’ to be found on Social Media these days.) Even though I am most definitely a spider geek, Black Widows never intrigued me as potential pets, mainly because they needed more than a Mason Jar Ecosystem for lodging and accoutrements and also because of their lethargic laisser-faire approach to acquiring sustenance:
“Sit in their parlor-web all day; wait for something hapless to happen by.”
No hunt in them whatsoever. Boring.
Slightly peeved with Sadie, I decided to capture one of The Sisters. I took her to Sadie’s Mason jar and dropped her in.
“Happy now damn you?” I said.
Sadie looked about at her new roommate. Then looked up at me through multiple dark green eyes and said,
“I never thought we would come to this.”
“Sorry, ol’ Gal,” I giggled. “This is the part where the cowboy rides away. Catch ya laters. Good luck.”
I was curious and in fact, had nothing but time on my hands so I watched to see how she would deal with her new jar-mate, never really fearful for her safety.
But Black Widow was wily. She taunted Sadie, waving her long, spindly legs about in semaphore fashion, as if to say, “Come hither Little Jumper, let me demonstrate the technique that has given my kind our terrible dark name.”
Sadie began deliberately circling around Black Widow, sizing her up, her little Sadie neurons firing on and off, then seizing what I’m certain she perceived as perfect opportunity, jumped at her full force.
Her momentum caused her to tumble onto her back.
Black Widow capitalized and deftly captured Sadie and began wrapping her in web, presumably to eat at her leisure. But Black Widow made one fatal mistake:
She bound Sadie’s hind legs (all four of them) first, leaving her front legs (all four of THEM) free. As Black Widow was casually wrapping her up, Sadie grabbed her with unencumbered front legs and planted a big wet French Kiss into Black Widow’s thorax. They remained locked in this embrace for thirty minutes. (I know; I was there, timing it–for ‘science’)
Black Widow now hoisted with her own petard and quite dead, was dropped by Sadie, who watched her tumble down and land with an inaudible (to me) thud on the Mason Jar floor.
“Sadie,” I said. “Your indentured servitude has ended. Here, allow me help you out of that.”
Fishing some tweezers that I had stolen from my Grandmother’s “Lady-Bag” bag from my jean’s pocket I gently and meticulously pulled all the Black Widow silk from Sadie, a tedious time consuming effort which took at least half an hour. Then I gingerly laid the Mason Jar on its side hiding it in a pile of kindling away from the prying eyes of opportunistic birds and went on about my business.
Returning the next day, I discovered no Sadie: just a note written in Spider’ease which read:
“Thank you for allowing me to save myself. I will always love you, but I’ve had quite enough of Texas and Texan ways. If you ever make it back to California, look me up. Here is my email addy: (Redacted) Spider On! Y’all!”
And that was how she ended it.
Took me three days to get the webs out of my brain and a week to find another spider, but she was not the same. She was not MY Sadie, just an inadequately inept substitute, but I suppose that’s how it goes with First Loves lost.
“I miss you Sadie,” I caught myself saying to no one in particular few days later.
I simply MUST catch up. Below please find one of MY Personal Favorites:
“SEAL Training: Psych Evaluation”
While stationed at Great Mistakes (Errrr…Great Lakes) Naval Training Command, I did my due diligence and qualified for BUD/s (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training in Coronado, California)
After passing the physical physical and clearing all the other stuff (mostly based upon my ASVAB scores and my ability to swim like a dolphin), A Final Task faced me: I had to pass unblemished through an interview with a psychiatrist. Just a formality, right? (Last hurdle: “Lance, do NOT fuck this up.”)
“This should be fun,” I recall thinking as I waited for my interview.
I was eventually summoned and sat my ass down in front of a geeky, mouse-eyed shrink. He obviously had ‘issues’ of his own. This I could discern straight-away from his limp-wristed demeanor. And obviously the only SEAL he had ever met was in some vain dream fantasy.
No matter. I was there just to get my ticket punched.
After a dozen or so stupid questions about such things as how did I feel about my mother, have I ever killed anything (Uh, do frogs count?), the price of tea in China, ad nauseam, he came to his pièce de résistance:
“Seaman Marcom,” he broached, “If you were ordered by your SEAL Team Leader to go in and clear a room whilst on a mission, and you burst into this room only to discover an elderly lady in a rocking chair reading a bible, what would you do?”
I waited for my dramatic pause, then said,
“Sir, I would shoot the bible.”*
Smiling, I observed him take his rubber stamp out and stamp “Approved” on my papers.
And if you are new here, ya might wanna start here:Shonnie.
So there I was in a foreign bed with a foreign woman who called herself “Layla”, smelling bacon and no way to escape, save for a walk-about or a taxi, which I suspected were too damn hard to find in IB (or wherever I was) at such an early hour.
“So,” I said. “Shall we head on to the breakfast nook?”
“Sure Cowboy,” she said.
“I really wish you’d stop calling me that.”
“‘Cowboy.’ Cowboy, I ain’t. ‘Sailor’ is more to the point. And it suits me now.”
“OK, ‘Sailor.’ No worries.”
“Fine. And thank you.” (I was approaching ‘pissy’ at this moment, the booze having worn off. And hung-over kicking in.)
We went to the ‘breakfast table’ and I discovered that there were two children in the house.
“Who’s kids?” I asked. (I just had to)
“Mine!” said the breakfast launcher.
“Cute, they are,” I said stupidly.
“Yeah,” said Mother.
“Please pass me a bloody Mary,” I said back, not wanting to converse.
“There ya go, Sailor-Man,” she (momma) said.
(A kindred spirit?)
“Thanks, I have a bit of a headache”
“Of course,” she said, passing me the pitcher of Bloody Mary’s.
What am I in for? I remember asking me. (Maybe out – loud)
“We are going to the San Diego Zoo.” You wanna tag along?”
“Why not?” I rhetorically answered. “Why not? The kids coming? Of course they are….”
And off we went. (After breakfast)
And good, I thought: Y’all can park me at the petting zoo…
I like things to be linear. So we rejoin our “hero” just after his Denouement… Or perhaps, ‘Epiphany’.
So she led me to a car and we all piled in. I say ‘we all’ simply because there were suddenly three of us. Me, HER, and a smallish blonde. I remember thinking I had seen this movie before, but this time it came with a twist, I guess. I have to guess, as the rest of the evening (early morning?) is fuzzy in my memory.
After about twenty minutes. (I am once again, estimating here; could’ve been an hour or more. Or less.) After about ‘twenty’ minutes we arrived at a house (could have been an apartment). SHE took me inside and led me straight-away to a bed… room. If memory serves, we had sex. Violent sex. (Not ‘violent’ violent. Let’s just call it ‘intense.’) SHE was at least six foot and change and, as I did report earlier, ‘Big-Boned.” I swear, I saw my life’s movie flash as she covered me and had her way. (And of course, me mine)
As we lay there ‘after’ in someone else’s bed, she remarked, “Well, that should keep your self-winding watch going for a few days.”
I had to laugh, just as I drifted off.
The next morning I awoke with the sun singeing my eyes from a casually placed window (What’s wrong with these people?). I could smell bacon. I rolled over and looked at my watch: 0630. I had a start; then realized it was Saturday and I did not have ‘duty’ on my ship. I could go back to sleep, un-worried. But, oh no! SHE was stirring. (So, who was cooking bacon? I remember thinking)
“Oh. You’re awake?” She said.
“Uh, yeah. Kinda,” was all I could muster. Where am I? Who are you? (Not a proper question, I realize, but then, I was hung over and still groggy)
“I am the woman to be named later,” she said, poking me in the ribs. (Which hurt for some reason).
“I see. I rolled over to face her.” She was, indeed: Beautiful. Long dark brown hair, dark eyes, and mystery, too much mystery in fact. I was at this point, all ‘mystery-ied’ out. I was tired. I needed Gidget. Or perhaps Mary Poppins, or even Samantha Stevens…
You don’t remember my name?” She asked after lighting a cigarette.
“To be stupidly honest, no I don’t.”
“No matter. I am called ‘Layla’. Ring any bells?” (I wish I were making this up)
I’m thinking now that I had just fallen into Dante’s Inferno.
“Uh. No. Should bells be ringing?”
“So… You’re a Sailor? Yes?”
“Yes. And what are you? And are you from around here?”
“Not from around here. I’m just visiting my cousin. She is the one cooking breakfast.”
“Yeah. I can smell bacon.”
“Good nose. I like that in a man. Have you an appetite?”
“From some memory of last night, I’d have to say ‘yes’.”
“Hahahahah! Yep. You do, Sailor Man. Yep, you do.”
“So, if you’re not from here. Where are you ‘from’, and what do you do?”
“I’m from Wisconsin. I work as a bartender. I’m also a bouncer, when the need is needed. Oh, and I love to ride Harleys.”
Perfection, I thought. Now what Cowboy? Shit. Here I am again…
I had ‘some leave-days-on-the-books’ and seriously considered at that moment that I needed to take them and head home to Texas to get a re-start on my physic saki… (Well, spelling ain’t never been my thing, but you know what I mean here.)
I mean, I was still re-‘bound’ for glory. But I did have some time, eh? Didn’t I?