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Posts Tagged ‘Proctor Avenue’

WMSP, Part II, Episode X: Minutes

In Fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Sci-Fi, Theatre on June 26, 2019 at 12:06 pm

(Ongoing series; new readers, you’ll find the first entry here.)

Instead, there’s a hand-drawn map, rather well done: semi-calligraphic text, clean lines, this was made with a dip pen and ink. It’s incomplete, delineating what at first glance looks like the rough draft of the map in the opening pages of a Tolkien-derivative fantasy novel. A meandering road curves along next to a heavily-wooded area labeled Woods Primeval. Above the road, pointing up and to the right, the word Castle. Lines of blue delineate what I think are unnamed rivers.

At a point farther up the map, there’s a symbol labeled Moon Gate. From that point, a brown dotted line heads south. Amidst the trees to the east of that dotted line:

Cinderella?

Near the bottom of the page, another symbol—similar in style but in a different arrangement—marks Sunset Gate.

“Moon Gate … Sunset Gate … this feels significant,” I say.

“In by the Sunset, out by the Moon … ?” Jeremy says.

“Wow. Wait, how did the rest go?”

We sit mumbling it from memory, overlapping and re-starting several times. Finally, Jeremy says:

“’In by the Sunset, out by the Moon. Thus do we seek you, morning and noon. Looking for answers, under the trees, help us to find you, Bess and Louise.’ I think. That’s the shape, anyway.”

I’m momentarily delighted that anyone has read my blog so closely. I decide to save that for later.

Then it hits me and I say, “Holy shit.”

We both say, “This is a map of the park!

Jeremy jumps up; “Let’s go! That’s Castle Drive. I’ll drive. To Castle Drive. I’ll drive to the Castle!”

He’s very excited.

I find a map of the park on my phone, and this one is pretty accurate.

Jeremy is putting the pages neatly back together, I hand him the map, then stop. “Wait, look at this,” I say. The next page is typewritten. We both lean over it.

Sunset / Moon July 12, 1952

      1. Enter via Sunset Gate

        A. Ed & Alan, 1:22 pm

        1. No discernible signs or occurrences.

      1. Enter via Moon Gate

        A. Claire & Bill, 1:31 pm

        1. No discernible signs or occurrences.

      1. Met up at roughly halfway point, exchanged notes. Key observations:

        A. Ed: We need hound dogs to follow their scent. I know the Police say they brought in dogs. I never saw dogs. I never heard dogs. I have a friend with a bloodhound. I’ll look into it.

        B. Claire: Do we think Bess and Louise merely went for a hike? What do we know for sure they were doing here on the 4th of July? Does anyone know why they were here? Do they have journals or diaries?

        C. Bill: I think they both kept journals. I’ll ask Sadie. Let’s remember that Bess and Louise didn’t get along with Sadie—and she didn’t do a lot to discourage their feelings. I’m still uncertain about her motivations in offering to help. [Note that Alan agrees with this.]

        D. Alan: Next time we come into the park, let’s bring a picnic. Does anyone else feel that tingling? I feel like someone’s watching us. Am I just paranoid? Maybe we enter from different spots and meet at a central location, have our picnic and then exit via other trails—the idea here is that we cover more ground, under the cover of innocent picnic.

        E. Ed & Claire: Both had the same feeling.

        F. Bill: Agreed. It’s like something is turning its head to look at us, and we don’t want it to see where we are.

G. Claire: Let’s continue on our paths, I’ll pick you boys up at the Moon gate.

      1. Post-Hike Meeting, 5109 Proctor Avenue, called for 5:00 pm

        A. 4:59 pm Alan and Bill arrive together, cleaned up after their hike.

        1. Alan takes Ginger Ale.

        2. Bill takes Lemonade.

        a. Wally offers Manhattans, both boys are good boys and say no-thank-you-sir. Wally is a caution.

B. 5:05 pm Ed arrives.

              1. Bourbon. Neat.
              2. Followed by a Manhattan.
              3. Ed smiles a lot more after two drinks.
          1. 5:07 pm Claire and Betsy arrive at the door simultaneously, each from different errands.

            1. Betsy takes a Manhattan.

            2. Claire takes a Manhattan and a Ginger Ale.

            a. Wally asks Claire if she’s usually a Two-Fister Gal.

            b. Ed snorts his drink out his nose.

            c. Ten to fifteen minutes are lost to general hilarity.

            * Wally is sneaking the boys sips of Manhattans. He’s a wootzietail.

      1. 5:31 pm, Ginger Arrives all askeyXX askew

        A. Ginger: I got called into my Editor’s office for a meeting with a man I’ve never seen before. This is Saturday, this never happens. I’m being told he is overseeing my work on this project from now on. But I can’t remember his name. I wrote it down. I took notes. But I can’t see anything on the page. I think I’m losing my mind. [Note: Ginger is quite upset, there are tears. She’s clutching a paper in her hand. Claire takes it from her.]

        B. Claire: There’s a name here. Ringboat.

        C. Ed: No, that says Rhinegold.

        D. Alan: Rideout?

        E. Bill: Ragnarok. That can’t be right.

        F. Yours Truly [Lorraine]: Brightbest.

        G. Betsy: Billbagoat

        H. Ed, again: You’re right—I thought that was an R, it’s a B; it says Bringbat. What did I think it was before?

        I. Claire: Brinebest?

        J. Bill: None of us are saying the same word.

        K. Alan: Who cares, Billy? What matters is that the word is Brakbart!

        L. Bill: Don’t call me Billy.

        M. Alan: I’ll call you whatever the heck I want, Mister Young Republican.

        N. Ginger: This is exactly what happened at the paper. Everyone was arguing. My Editor left me alone in the room with that … lady. Whatever her name was. She—she—she … told me the best way to cuddle a puppy. You’ve got to do it just so.

        1. Everyone is staring at Ginger.

        O. Wally: Everybody close your eyes. Turn three times counter clockwise. Put down your drinks, leave that damn paper here and follow me. Don’t look back.

      1. Kitchen, 5:43 pm

        A. Wally: [pouring bitters into shot glasses. Even for the boys] Now you’ve got to listen to me very carefully. Ginger, wash your hands. Use the bar of lye soap under the sink. Lorraine, help her—get the apple cider vinegar. Hot water, Miss Trancas. One of the boys can take over at the typewriter, honey.

        B. Im not thw brst typest typist sorry, signed Bill. Loraine will takeover again niw. now. Now. Sorry agaon.

        C. Wally: Ginger’s hands are clean, did anyone else touch the paper? [Nobody did.] Good. We’re going to take our shots, but we need to say something together to break the link. We’re going to raise our glasses and say, Here’s when! Then we’re going to clink them and say, Here’s how! And then we’ll drink. Let’s try it without the shots first. We’ve only got one chance for this. Ready? Go.

        D. [We all do it. Bill throws his shot across the room and slaps Alan. Wally grabs Alan’s hand. He grabs Bill’s hand.]

        E. Wally: We do not strike our brothers. We do not strike our sisters. Now. Shake. Hands.

        F. [He forces their hands together. He shakes three dashes of bitters onto their hands. They shake hands, then hug like brothers. Oh my. It’s like a cloud has lifted from the boys.]

        G. Wally: Let’s toast. Afterwards, say nothing for one minute. And I mean don’t even whisper. [We all raise our shots. Here’s when! Clink. Here’s how! Drink.]

        H. Wally [He waits longer than a minute]: The man you’re talking about has a name. No, Ed. Don’t say it. Whatever you think his name is, you’re wrong. And we can’t talk about him any more today. Any of that will lead you all back to strife and rage. What you should know about him is that he has been around for a very long time.

        His purpose, near as we can tell, is to block people from knowing the truth. There are whole sections of our history that don’t appear anywhere—not even in the secret files of the Vatican—that this man is responsible for erasing. And it’s not really that he erases. What he does is, he obscures.

        Imagine our accurate history as a file cabinet. And next to it is another file cabinet called Religion. On the other side of the History cabinet is an identical one labeled Myth, Legend & Fairy Tale. What the Obscurer does is, he takes files from History and puts them into the other file cabinets. Once they’re there, that’s where they stay. And all of the traces of proof that they were actual history? Gone forever.

        Now, we know there’s history around historical figures who really existed. Jesus, for example. But there’s a lot of confusion. And some of that is natural, given the nature of faith and emotion. But there are many points that have been switched from cabinet to cabinet, deliberately, by the Obscurer. Over time, there is an increasing number of educated people who doubt Jesus even existed. In spite of corroborating historical evidence.

        But what about King Arthur? And what about the race of giants found entombed in North America by early European settlers? Myth has become synonymous with Falsehood. In spite of the fact that actual Myth represents universal truths.

        All of this is the work of the Obscurer. He uses doubt, he uses conflict and he uses pain. By inflicting these things on those he seeks to stop, he succeeds. And the first thing anyone will say to you, if you tell them that Merlin was not merely Arthur’s advisor and mentor and wizard—but also the chief architect of Camelot, the Master Mason who founded an order of Masons whose ideas eventually changed the world for the better?

        The first thing those people will say is that your history is wrong. If you have a twinge of reactionary doubt at my last sentence about Masons, that’s the work of the Obscurer.

        But if you were to miraculously find proof of these statements and try to share them with the world, people will decide that you are probably crazy. And if you go on saying these things, you’ll be labeled insane by society. If need be, you’ll be locked up out of sight.

        The admitting physician will have a name very much like the name you all struggled to recall earlier. But the paperwork will get misplaced. And the sane woman who spoke facts will be lost forever, probably driven mad by her circumstances.

        We know him of old.

        Say no more on this today.

        Honey, let’s all go for Chinese.

      2. Kitchen, 6:15 pm

        A. Ed Motions to Adjourn.

        B. Betsy Seconds the Motion.

        C. Vote: Unanimous

        D. Meeting Adjourned: 6:16 pm

Jeremy and I sit staring at the papers for a long time. We can tell, and it doesn’t need saying aloud, that going to walk those trails would be pointless right now. Nobody found anything.

In fact, the whole question of what happened just … doesn’t matter very much. And even that doesn’t need saying. I’m thinking about my revelation from Ginger Trancas’s rough draft: that Lorraine York is the name of my maternal grandmother. And now that we’ve read these minutes, all doubt is erased: Wally York is most assuredly my maternal grandfather, and 5109 Proctor Avenue was indeed their address. I want to say this, also, to Jeremy. But I didn’t say it earlier, and each time I think of it now, my mind slips away in another direction.

Jeremy says, “I’m struggling with the need to talk about … how to hold a cuddly little puppy and give it so many kisses.”

My hackles go up. We look at each other. He goes to speak, I silence him with a gesture. There’s a phrase nibbling at my brain, like a lighthouse beckoning us to safety. I can’t say it aloud. I feel that if I try, the phrase will disappear. It’s like we’re sliding down a sandy, gravely slope toward a deadly precipice. Trying to crawl up or speak slips us backwards. The phrase … it’s something someone said … I wrote it in my blog …

Opening my phone, I find the entry, enlarging the screen and holding it up for him to see Alan Campbell/Obi Wan-point-five’s last words:

Browning! Pyre! Cinderella! To bring my to outfit and now become necessary!

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Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Six — The Old Firehouse

In Fiction, Theatre, Writing on August 22, 2017 at 11:52 am

(Your confusion has a cure! Start here.)

Day Six, The Old Firehouse: Sunday, 23 July 2017

Fire has a way of finding you.

After the 1906 earthquake, there was a lot of rapid real estate development in North Berkeley. Some of those homes are still there. But not many. Because by 1923 the development had outgrown the water supply, and when a fire started in the dry grass and chaparral of Wildcat Canyon just east of Berkeley, the water mains were not up to the task of keeping it at bay. Dry and gusty northeasterly winds — the Diablo Winds — blew the fire up over the ridge and into the neighborhoods of La Loma Park and Northside. The Berkeley Fire Department found that the hydrants in that area only hissed their emptiness, and 640 structures – most of them homes – went up in possibly the first firestorm to devastate the area in recorded history.

The second – and far worse – firestorm was in 1991. I worked at the Lake Merritt Hotel at the time. By night, from the roof of the hotel, the hills above Oakland and Berkeley were a wall of fire. It looked like it was a mile away. I was standing there next to my brother, Rob, who had gotten me the job of Houseman at the hotel. (A Houseman – at least at the Lake Merritt Hotel in 1991 – is a Bellhop who cleans toilets. Or a janitor in a nice shirt who carries bags.) Rob told me that the fire’s apparent proximity was an illusion – it was still about seven miles away. According to my calculations (Google), he was correct: it’s 6.5 miles from the Lake Merritt Hotel to the neighborhoods behind the Claremont Hotel. And it was in those neighborhoods that our noble firefighters made their last stand, valiantly fighting back the hellfire breath of the Diablo Winds, saving the Claremont and – in all likelihood – much of the rest of Berkeley.

Skipping back to 1923, there are newsreels and photographs of entire neighborhoods in the smoking aftermath: chimneys and fireplaces stand like gravestones, mute sentinels broadcasting their ironic survival – while those occupants whose hands these fireplaces  once warmed in winter may well have added their own unwitting ashes to the surrounding devastation.

After the fire in 1991, driving the neighborhoods near my grandparents’ house on Proctor Avenue in the Oakland hills, I saw the same thing: a cemetery of chimneys. How many times must fires devastate these hills before adequate precautions are the norm? Certainly this question echos many voices from the time, but I’m delighted to say that my grandparents’ voices were not among them – their house was saved. This happened because of a firefighter who chose to disobey orders, staying with his team and truck to save this one house – which had caught fire near …

… wait for it …

… the chimney.

The last name of the fireman who saved their house: Burns. I kid you not.

As a result of the 1923 fire, Eldred E. Edwards of the Oakland Public Works Department designed a storybook masterpiece of a firehouse for the Montclair District. It was built on Moraga Avenue in 1927 and served the Montclair District for over 60 years – until it was closed in the aftermath of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Not because it was damaged in any way, but because it sits on or very close to the Hayward Fault – a fault which did not move in the quake that caused the firehouse to be shuttered. (It should be noted that the Loma Prieta quake also got a lot of attention for snapping the Bay Bridge in half, but got no attention whatsoever for leveling much of Watsonville and Santa Cruz.)

Standing just north of the Old Firehouse on Moraga Avenue, I was deeply saddened by its state of disrepair. That the City of Oakland would allow this architectural masterpiece to fall apart simply because it sits on the Hayward Fault makes me wonder what they will choose to save instead. Because it is a choice. And history is important. Highway 13 also sits on the Hayward Fault – it goes right past the Old Firehouse. They’re upgrading 13 as I write this. It’s just a road. It’s not a masterpiece. Sure, more people use it. But how many people “use” the paintings hanging in the de Young? Their only “use” is the artists’ expression of … whatever. And would anyone go anywhere near those paintings if they were left to the mercies of the elements on Moraga Avenue? Probably not. Hence the protection and restoration of great art and architecture.

Gazing at the sad building with its jolly flames at the peaks of the roofs, I was struck by the feeling that this building is also a temple, like Woodminster. It’s a temple of protection, a municipal temple where locals tithed through taxes to keep the breath of Diablo at bay. And the same could be said of any firehouse. But this one feels different. It feels special. These thoughts lead me to the following observation: between 1923 and 1991, there were no devastating fires in the Berkeley or Oakland hills. There were a couple in the 70’s and 80’s that started right around where the 1991 fire started – but they were contained in time. Only after this Old Firehouse was shut down did the Diablo Winds blow sparks to a storm of devastation again. I believe that if Montclair is to stay protected, the Old Firehouse must be restored.

If I had the money, I’d buy and restore it myself.

With that thought in mind, I bounced up street, meaning to head right up the front steps and circle the building. As I approached, I noticed that a car was parked very close to the front of the building – right in front of the firetruck garage door – three words that sound best when said in the voice of a four-year old boy. It was, if I’m not mistaken, a 1968 Citroen DS21 Pallas III. Maroon. Leather seats. A car worth getting arrested for licking.

I moved in for a closer inspection – and a possible tasting – when nearby voices distracted me.

“He shouldn’t be looking around at all, Bill!” This voice sounded familiar. Older, gravelly, female.

“It was just one poem, Louella – ” Could that be … Weedbeard? Who the hell was Louella, and why did I recognize her voice?

It sounded like they were coming down the weathered stone steps on the other side of the Old Firehouse. I hopped up the front steps, leaning back in the shade under the overgrown cypress tree.

Louella appeared – it was Aughra! She of the Very Confusing Anagram Suggestion. Weedbeard followed, slouching like a kid caught smoking weed next to the propane tank.

“Do you remember what happened last time, Bill?” Louella was near shouting, short but mighty. “The girl in the show? Her eyes, Bill. Remember her fucking eyes the next time you think about leaving clues in anyone’s coffee!”

Bill Weedbeard was fiddling with something in his right hand. His fingers were all black; it looked like a burned stick. “I just thought that maybe someone else should know about the danger before we’re all gone,” he said.

“How the almighty fuck did he find out about the Historical Society to begin with, Bill? Loose lips sink ships. We need to circle the wagons or get the hell out of Dodge!” Louella stumped around to the driver’s side of the car. “Get in, I don’t want to risk you leaving any more messages,” she said.

Bill Weedbeard dropped the stick as he opened the passenger door, saying, “Will we really be back in ten minutes?”

Five, Bill. I said five. What is wrong with you – too many blood thinners, or not enough?” Louella said.

Bill Weedbeard took out a handkerchief to wipe his fingers, and I could swear he looked right at me, winking and pointing at the stick as they drove away. When they were gone, I went down to the curb and picked up the stick.

It looked like hardwood charcoal. I sniffed it. Possibly mesquite.

What did she mean about leaving more messages?

I sprinted up the steps, turning on the flashlight on my phone the better to scan the side of the building, the front door, then ran around the back and down the other side. There wasn’t a card or note anywhere. I saw a piece of white paper sticking out of a shrub. It was an old receipt, unrelated and useless.

My fingers, black from the stick, left dark smudges on the paper.

messages … did he write messages in charcoal?

I ran up the front steps and stopped before getting halfway. There was something scrawled back down on the sidewalk to the left of the stairs. I returned to see three words, half covered by dry oak leaves; the leaves were old, the writing was new:

was my purpose

What the fuck does that mean? And why did he point at the stick?

they’ll be back in five minutes …

I wrote the phrase in my notebook and took a picture of it just in case, then did one final circuit of the Old Firehouse. Nothing.

I headed off to find a solid brunch and do some thinking, then run my lines for rehearsal.

As I was finishing my brunch, I wrote this in my notebook: Fire has a mind of its own, and fire has a way of finding you. But what of the Firehouse? Did I find it, or did it call to me, like Bali Ha’i? If I continue down this path, will I get burned? Or will I find enlightenment?

When the check came, I was thinking about another storybook house I fell in love with back in 1991, a house that burned in the fire. I lifted the check off the little plastic tray, and beneath was a note that read:

Beware the fog. Beware the night. She is coming for you.