Wednesday, April 29, 2009

4_Ike and Ginger - The Island

I just read Triple G's family story about the old grave yards and started to respond, but a voice in the back of my head kept saying, "What happened to Ike and Ginger?"

So I'll get back to that family thing soon

But now here is another episode of "Ike and Ginger"



Ike and Ginger – The Island

Ike didn’t think of anything but the rhythm of his breaststroke as he moved through the waves. Blinking and spitting out the salt water, he moved into the darkness as if on a mission. Each stroke was a consistent movement. His stamina did not waver.

And as the light stated separating the water from the sky, Ike stopped. He bobbed in the water for a minute to check the fading stars then looked at his gold Rolex then faced the rising sun. A quick sure nod assured him he was headed in the right direction.

Ike continued his 1-2-3-4 strokes in the warm water, but he knew he was still far from any land and depths held their own dangers.

As the sky brightened from a darken red to an orange, the waves white splashes and continuous movement helped him focus on his leg kick. He moved in powerful jet motion through the water, creating a wake in his path.

Just as the orange orb broke the surface of the horizon, in the middle was a black dot. Ike smiled then took another mouthful of salty water. He had calculated right and his rescue was in sight.

A second wind filled his chest and Ike dove his head down pulling his arms together to a hand clap, then turned the palms and pulled them around his body to his side, then with a quick jerk, thrust them forward again, barely breaking the surface of the water.

The dot at the center of the rising sun became larger. While everything around seems to have motion, this point was solid and still.

As if directed by a laser, Ike continued his strokes in the same steady pace that moved him closer and closer.

Then suddenly he felt uneasy. He felt the water change temperature. A wave grew colder than it had been. Then from the other side a cold wave.

Without breaking stride, his body tightened into a ball, then he pushed his foot out into the cold water. Thud!

Then like a ballet pirouette, his body spun in the water with a fast karate thrust into the water. Thud!

And as suddenly as he had stopped, Ike turned back to his breaststroke and continued to the spec in the distance. Two denizens of the deep were going home with bumps and bruises and nothing to show for it.

With every stroke the outline of the island lay before him. And the current was beginning to help pull him forward. Each stroke was more powerful than the last and as the sun began to bake Ike’s back, he could see the white sand. The sound of breaking waves was a welcoming call.

Finally he put his head down into the water, closed his eyes, arms outstretched and let the waves deliver him to the white soft sand. As the water receded, Ike stood up. His legs were wobbly from the journey, but as he twisted his body and waved his arms, he got back his sea legs.

Blinking in the diamond reflection of the water, Ike reviewed his watery path. His mind flashed back to the sinking, the lost grip, and the long dark night. He scanned the water but there was no signs of wreckage or any indication of life.

So with the past behind him, Ike turned to face his new challenge. The white ribbon of beach kissed the water and was interrupted by a wall of green. Lush leaves and thick stalks presented a jungle wall swaying in the constant rhythm with the breeze. As Ike scanned the formidable forest, the breeze was quickly drying his droopy clothing. It was deathly quiet except for the lapping water at his feet.

Ike turned to the right and started walking down the thin beach surveying the greenery for an entrance. He checked his watch. It was noon. He looked up at the increasingly hot sun and decided it would be cool in the shade so he plied two giant bamboo stalks apart and stepped inside.

In the shady darkness, the sound vibrated. Birds were singing in every pitch and flavor. Calls to partners and friends announcing a stranger had entered their paradise.

Ike could only see about two feet in front as he pushed back giant leaves and branches. His bare feet sank in the decaying leaves and fallen limbs. Though it new environment was protected from the sun’s rays, the moister dripping off the greenery produced a thick humid air. Ike’s clothing was wet again. He pressed forward.

As if directed, he moved between the branches lie a cat, until the thicket thinned out. Taller pines shaded the dirt floor blocking the growing warmth of the sun. The temperature dropped as Ike paused at this clearing. A two inch underbrush seem to spread everywhere like a soft brown carpet. Crunching the pine needles under raw feet, Ike moved forward to points unknown.
Then the sound of water appeared. Ike stopped to catch the origin of the sound and not the reverberation off the moist walls. Moving left, the volume of refreshing water increased. Through the web of branches and shadows, rays of sunlight peppered a path ahead.
Ike brought through into the bright sun on another white sandy beach.

“Was this the same beach?” he pondered. “Was this the entire island or had he walked in a circle?”

Across a narrow stretch of water there was another white sandy beach. And the water was moving in a different motion. The water moved away from the beach instead of toward the beach. This was a cove. This was an inland waterway.

Ike knelled down in the soft sand and dipped his hand into the clear fast moving water. Lifting it gently to his lips, he sipped a taste. The water was cool and fresh.

Totally out of character for Ike, he jumped up and ran into the steam. Lifting his hands into the refreshing liquid, he showed himself while dancing twirls, splashing waves, and letting out an unexpected call.

“YeeeeeeHaaaaaaaaaaa!”

Then he stood still. He still didn’t know where he was. He didn’t know who or what else occupied this tiny spec of land. He didn’t have any food. He hadn’t slept in days.

Ike slowly exited the water.

Standing on the beach again, he looked up at the sun, glanced at his watch, made a mental note of his surroundings and decided to move off again.

Moving inland on the beach the pace was easier, though the soft sand reminded his legs of the hours of swimming. The scenery changed little except for the occasional brightly color bird flying out from the canopy or the outward reaching leafy branch seeking sunlight.

Then a sight he did not expect. He wiped his eyes and saw a boat. It looked to be beached. He quickened his pace kicking up sand trails.

Yes, it was a boat. The hull had been cracked as if it had been driving full force into the sand. The jungle had weaved its web of vines and leaves over the bow, but Ike could make out the name. “Mai Thai”.

Ike scrabbled aboard and began searching for food. Seat cushions, fishing gear, a torn shirt on the wheel, empty cans of beer, and then “Eureka!” a treasure trove of cans. Beans, and fruit.

Without checking the expiration date, Ike pulled out his trusty knife, flipped open the blade and stabbed the lid. With a jerking motion the soft metal was no match for his sharp blade. Prying open the lid, Ike paused to smell the contents.

“Seems alright?” he though.

Pouring the contents down his parched mouth, he chocked on the first gulp. Catching his breath he swallowed. It had been the first meal in several days and he had not realized how hungry he was.

Ike jumped away from the Mai Thai’s hull to avoid the barnacles. Another refreshing drinking from the fresh water stream to wash his delicious yet questionable meal down, Ike turned back to the boat.

“What was it doing here? Who drove it? And where were they?” were the thoughts in Ike’s mind.
Looking ashore, he noticed a parting in the green wall.

“A pathway perhaps?”

Sloshing up to the shore, he made note of his location, entering into his mental map of where he was.

Deciding to explore the pathway, Ike re-entered the forest green and the unknown.
Climbing over fallen trees and scraping pass sharp bamboo, he bobbed and weaved his way every step following another’s long ago.

Then he noticed the ground had changed. Instead of sharp pine needles and soft mushy decaying leaves, it was crunchy. Crushed shells divided the rotting forest floor. It was at least a meter or two wide and curved thought the trees.

“This is a man made path?” Ike thought. His mind raced as he scanned both ways on the new road to adventure.

“Which way to go?”

He looked at his feet. The light darting through the canopy lit the left side of the path.
“Then left it is.” He said with confidence and off he went.

After several twist and turns Ike came across another surprise.

A 1928 Rolls Royce. Rusted and decaying in the middle of this forest jungle next to a seashell road.

“What the heck is this doing here?” He thought. “How did that little Mai-Thai fishing trawler get this big auto on this overgrown island?”

Ike checked out the glove compartment and found only dust, spider webs and years of bad weather.

“Better call Maaco”. He said stepping over a tiki lamp pole.

Continuing down the path his heart quicken at the next site.

Ike stepped over a fallen iron gate that maintained it padlock, but kept no one out and walked between the white stone columns topped with multi-legged lions, some missing their paws.

A large brownstone building stood before him covered in vines as if hidden from all mankind in this green blanket of a jungle.


“What kind of place is this? “ he questioned.

None of this made any since to an already baffled mind. Exhausted yet energized by his new discovery, he walked up the steps to the double doors. They were already opened, inviting curiosity of its contents.

The cool marble floors felt comforting to his bloody bare feet. As if a child in the candy shop, Ike gazed at the opulence and slowly walked down the hallway in awe. Paintings of smiling men poised together for a setting. All with a look of content, knowledgeable yet with a smile of playfulness. Huge mirrors in gold frames reflected the silhouettes of vines and branches growing out of the floor and walls.

Ike peered into several rooms in passing but did not enter. Too much to take in at one time, but he wandered on.

Then, there was a noise.

It came from above.

He backtracked down the dark hallway to the foyer and a giant stairway.
There it was again. He heard it again.

Then a sign against the wall caught his eye. It seemed to be a plaque of some kind.

Leaning over and blowing off the dust he read “The Enigma Club”. He placed the sign back against the wall in its original position and looked up the stairway.

Slowly climbing the stairs Ike pondered his deliverance to this island. A dot in the ocean if seen by only one. A savior from whatever the world was doing to itself outside. A refuge for a moment in time. But the past was gone and he had to make a new future.

Light shown out from one of the rooms. Someone was walking. The sound of a bottle and the clinking of glasses filled the hallway.

Ike shyly crept up to the doorway and peered into the room.

The velvet drapes had been drawn back to let in the light. It filled the room with a warm dusty haze. The oriental carpet strewn with dried leaves still appeared thick and lush. The walls were covered with more painting of men in suits looking very formal and poised. Dusty bookcases were full of volumes of leather bond novels with gilded gold titles.

“Ha, ha, ha” a loud cry came out, “ Where have you been?”

Ike’s head swiveled toward the voice and his face went pale. Then a big ear-to-ear smile.

“What the…”

“Come join my party.”

Ike stared in disbelief. There on a stuffed tiger about to pounce sat Ginger, a bottle of champagne in one hand and a wine glass engraved with the letters EC in the other.

“How did you…? When did you…”? Ike stammered, his smile broadening at seeing this vision draped in sunlight.

Ginger sat astride the tiger in her brief bikini panties and bra, legs kicking as if on a bucking bronco, sipping from the glass and chugging from the bottle. As she swayed back and forth, she looked at Ike and said, “Where the hell have you been?”

“I…uh…I…” Ike stuttered to speak.

“I’ve found a life boat, no thanks to you.”

“I couldn’t find you!”

“Oh sure, I’m sure you looked for me”

“I…uh…I…”

“Settle down big boy, everything is alright.”

Ike breathed a sigh of relief of seeing his dream lost and found again. He quickly walked over to her and swept her off the stuff monster.

“Watch it with the hands.”

Ike smiled and held her close. His eyes filled with tears.

“Oh come on, I’ve been here for a while and it’s not that bad.”

Ike looked up and smile, rubbing Ginger’s back as she did a little drunken dance across the floor.

“They stored some nice hooch here. Take a swig. It’s the good stuff.”

Ginger passed the bottle of 1915 champagne to Ike. He could not resist and turned the bottle up to three giant swallows.

Wiping his mouth with his torn sleeve, Ike looked up and quietly said,” I am so happy to see you.”

“You too.”

They embraced and the rest will have to remain to your imagination until we can insure the age of all the readers.

THE NEXT MORNING.

“Who is that?” Ginger said in a frothy voice looking up at a wall branching herself on her elbows under a bearskin rug.

“Peregrine Hampton” Ike said tighten his belt.

“Who?”

“Captain Enigma. The head of this club.”

“What club?”

“I did a little looking around this morning and it seems this was a waylay for writers and creative types to gather and share thoughts.”

“But why in the middle of nowhere? Besides, where are we” Ginger said as she looked around for something to wear.

“Here try these.” Ike said as he threw a flannel shirt and baggy jeans to her. “I found them in a closet down the hall and I don’t think they were ever worn.”

“So where are we?”

“ I think we are off the coast of Florida. I saw a boat before getting here. Maybe we can get it to run.”

“A boat? Where?” she said pulling up suspenders over the baggy flannel shirt.

“The Mai-Thai”

“What?”

“Don’t know where it came from, but we might be able to start the engine…. what a minute.
What about the boat you found. Where is that?”

“I’m not sure I can find it again.” She said shyly.

“We’ll find a way as a team.”

“OK, let’s get going.”

So the couple, together again, rested and ready for the future, gathered some cans and bottles in a curtain made into a makeshift knapsack.

Down the marble hall, still amazed at the sites they had shared and the history here. Ike and Ginger stopped at the door and viewed the guest book. The last entry was “H. Wornum, esq”.

"Ah, the great fictioneer. He must have been some character."

Ike smiled and had a thought.

He ran back up the staircase and back into their last residence.

There on the marble floor in the dust was a heart shaped image. Ike stood and smiled. Ginger had made that pattern on the floor during the evening.

Ike leaned down and wrote IP & GB in the dust. Pausing, he smiled at this accomplishment, and then looking around the room, hoped it would be there for years.

Turning, he sighed. This had been quiet an adventure, but it was time to return to the old world and whatever it held for the couple.

Ginger smiled as Ike slowly step down the dusty stairway, glancing back as his artwork, then turning to hold Ginger’s hand and head for the doorway.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Another Piece of History



It is amazing what you find when you go through your valuable "stuff" to clean out and throw away.

Throwing away the baggage of old titles, I came across these band cards.

From 1963 and the early Beatles, electronic music entered my imagination of music.

A friend from elementary school, decided he wanted to set up a band, but he didn't play an instrument, so he became the manager. He contacted me and gathered some other friends and we met one weekend at the house of a post deliver.

A blue collar household just off the beaten path of Patterson Avenue, my route to the country club.

The house was small and the furniture dirty and piles of dishes sat in the kitchen. Now I know why my mother looked so worried when she delivered me to this out of the way location.

Inside was a large beer drinking man at a chrome table in the kitchen, a larger girl in a mess of slips and slippers moving back and forth through the dark rooms.

Then there was the "band".

Wally, who's house we met in, was a pocked marked intense eyes and a grin that could warm a room. Paul, his buddy, a squirrely guy with grease on his hands, a Brillo hairdo and a jerk like motion that represented a puppet. A fresh faced Bill, the drummer, looked confused as I was to be in this setting. He also had the prep hair cut and clean shoes.

But Bruce has brought us together to make money. He was a typical manipulator for self profit and saw a band in the early 60's as a money maker.

So we sat down together and figured out a song list and a uniform acceptable to Richmond at the time. We didn't play any music that first meeting, but we seemed to get along.

It was a big adventure, that was fascinating every weekend as we played in the Wicker living room.

And every weekend the music got louder with more chords, guitars, amps, and laughter. The doors would open and the sound would spill out into the street.

And then it happened.

Girls started to come by and listen and giggle and smile.

So the band broke up, then rejoined and then broke up and the pattern continued.

New members play new songs, then move to another name and another manager and another printed card.

The band card showed they were to be professional.

But we were just kids with guys who would say they would be our managers and get us jobs playing dances, and parties, and would take a cut.

We didn't care. We just wanted to play rock and roll.

So local printers enjoyed the young boys wanting to be the rock and roll greats, but their only benefit was designing business cards to be handed out to each other.

Names like "The Thames", "Chapperells", "Morning Glory" and "Thursday Night".

Each with a group of different players. Each with a different song set.

So these antiques from the 60's are a smile on the past and a sign that life was much simpler then.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sunday Spring To Summer

The weather was warm today. Like summer in the spring. But it has broken the spell of cold nights and windy days.

Sunshine and light breeze. After a sunny wake up and pulling on shorts an another cup of java, it is out in the sunshine.

Oil the gears that make the winter fade and open the gate to another day.

Off to the Grove Avenue by way of a side street with a peace flag and other cyclist enjoying the day.

Shift the gears, check the mirror and onto familiar territory. Stop to let the traffic go by and a driver pauses at the cross street. Will she go? I take my hands off the handle bars and wait. She waves and turns to the East.

Rest in the shade before climbing the hill to Libbie. The driver in the truck on the phone was in no hurry, but neither was I.

The fast drift down to Patterson. Newly paved from Libbie to Willow Lawn Drive. It was already smooth, but my city dollars had to be spent for the West End complaints.

Up the hill and start to feel the breathe of the day. Green trees, shadows, and birds.

Listen to the day.

The birds.

They sing Spring is here.

Up the bumpy Park Avenue and around the park.

Stop and listen.

There are no traffic sounds.


Only the sounds of birds and quiet laughs of children.

I sit and rest and listen.

Then off again, under the shade of the new canopy which will keep me cool through out the summer Sundays.

Turn right back into the near West End which changed my life with new characters and partners and experiences.

Over the old railroad tracks which marked the acceptable territory. Anyone past this line was acceptable and for many years the only contact.

And still the limit of travel does not hinder the awaking of new possibilities. Another smile from a passing car and a wave with a smile.

25 days into the new life of freedom and the sun shines bright with drifting clouds. Blue sky fill the void of endless routines.

And a west coast friend has given a list of new challenges to venture on wood and string. Thanks.

Friday, April 24, 2009

More Freedom Than Time Allows

The day starts at sunrise. The critters awake and shake off the nightly dust.

Smell of instant coffee and eggs and soy bacon and rye toast.

The morning news and weather and yesterdays news in print.

Back door wide open to welcome the breeze and beckon to the rough wooden walk way to the new destination.

Outside in the sunshine watching the birds and squirrels eat peanut butter, bread, apples, and sunflower hulled seeds. They drink at the fish pond or the OJ bowl. Some try the blueberry bowl.

Grey Jay is back from Florida. And the bunnies are in the yard.

The weather if finally warming up. The winter garb can go into hiding for another few months.

But the NEW schedule is flexible.

This is all new. Time on your hands. Time like when you were a child and did not have meetings, classes, phone messages, to-do-list, email, text message.....

Freedom to do what you want (within reason)

All those things you wanted to do!!

No excuses.

BUT

It is totally different from what you have grown up with for years and years.

Going to school everyday. Same time. Same results. Same routine. Same amount of free time.

Going to work everyday. Same time. Same results. Same routine. Same amount of free time.

BUT

Now, there is the time of a child to explore the freedom given to each individual.

Like each of our forefathers, there is only 24 hours in a day. The sun comes up and goes down.

It is what WE do during that time that makes a difference.

Will we be remembered? It is time for the next generation to run with the torch.

But there is no other generation for me.

So do we want to be remembered? For our accomplishments, as fleeting as they are.

We make a mark on the earth for others to follow, but few, very few will be remembered.

Even those who we name streets and buildings after. Who are they?

So I end a day of riding in the sun, warming my back, viewing the green, flowers, birds, and relaxing after another day of almost getting something creative done.

Well, I am working on a song, listening to a bass CD to friends, cleaning out my cassette closet, and writing this.

And tomorrow is another day.


....stay tuned.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Free Zone

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And so on a rainy day, the life settles down.

Past the week of riding 10 miles a day. Back and forth through neighborhood known since a young child. On streets traveled in elementary school to play trains and small cars and eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

But the future is now, and the rain settles it down.

The usual routes to the fan and down to VCU and round again past the museum and up the hill to the Libbie shops, then over to the Patterson route. The original road back and forth to and from the town of Richmond.

Up by the church with a security guard walking around it.

The grand pianos cascading spring flowers on the front porch.

The young women jogging or parading their offspring in pairs.

The brick buildings line by line, with new occupants, but the same since before time began.

The cafes and small shops closed and boarded up due to the economy.

And past the mobile machines covered in the spring green dust.

But there is more....

Fill out the forms that will feed the coffers. Estimate the cost of feeding the ones in need. Evaluate the health needs and cost and feasibility. Ponder the last quarter of life as the thunder roars in the distance.

Yet the land and shelter are owned and can not be taken away. The dirt and trees and rocky walkways that have survived all the years given promise of the future.

If it be short, so be it. If it be long, my it be restful and happy and fulfilling.

So many years of doing others bidding, but now the choice is one of being free.

Like when you were a child.

Awake in the morning to find new experiences without plans or meetings or orders.

Look up to the sky and watch the birds fly. They know.


Follow them.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Fire Engines, Bow Ties, and Onions

Just another Easter weekend. Yet, like no other Easter. This Easter was free. No worries about work, except from the call by Jeff fretting about his future.

Early breakfast, after a long night sleep.

Getting over a weekend with some Penn friends who traveled down South for a venture and some old stories. There was much more to tell, but the time passed quickly.

A 10 mile travel on a windy cool Spring day, sunny yet not warm yet. No new sights except young lads in khakis, blue blazers, sharply pressed white shirts and bright ties dashing off to church. Reminded me of the lads in the Kroger parking lot the day before with their bow ties and shorts, ready for the Strawberry Hill races.

As I traveled, the sirens of fire engines filled the air. From left, then right, then behind. I paused to notice they had stopped at Monument Avenue. Something must have happened at the preparation for the Easter Day Stroll down the Avenue of Monuments. Maybe one of those bow tie lads had not recovered from the previous celebrations.

The rest of the journey was ordinary, except that I noticed the shadows on the street. Dark fingers crossed my path down and back, like a silhouette of a overhanging stain glass frame, without the color. Flying buttresses arching across my venture. Still fingers, soon to be filled with leaves creating a soft umbrella to cool my summer rides.

So home again. Burgers with huge slices of onions, dark mustard, sweet relish, and potato chip crumbs. Appalachian Brewing Co. beer and the continuous brisk wind.

So enjoy the day and remember, he has risen, has many meanings.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

OK, it's been a week now.....

....so get off your duff.

Just kidding.

It's been pretty busy.

Cleaning out my two lockers with a maintenance man watching to make sure I didn't steal any newspaper secrets or store any explosives. Continuing with the 10 miles a day rides in the lovely spring air. Watching the fish and birds and bunnies in the yard. Saying goodbye to my travel guitar. Cooking on the grill. Getting in touch with an old friend. Getting a new hard drive.

Fresh starts all around.

And trying to set a schedule. Monday for playing? Tuesday for shopping (5% discount for being old)? Wednesday for music? Thursday for writing? Friday for bills and house necessities? Saturday for litter? Sunday for riding?

Still have a pile of papers to go through and some online registering for being unemployed, life is starting to look pretty good.

Organizing projects so I can keep on track.

So let's see how it goes.


Stay tuned........

Friday, April 3, 2009

Early Early Retirement

It's a rainy day, my first day of "early" early retirement. I had not planned it this way, but I saw it coming.

In the morning I joked with another about the news of an advertising sales person being walked out the door. "We are only numbers" the truth spoken too soon.

After a brief ceremony with HR and given my pack and coat I was walked to the parking deck. Unlocking my bike and strapping on my helmet I passed the security guard who waved and said "Are you leaving early?".

"I'm done here." I replied. "I've had enough."

Moving through daytime traffic was a little different feel, but I was also wearing my "work" clothes.

At home in the sunshine I read the severance agreement. All seemed legal (I'm sure it is, I know lawyers look over everything MG does). Announcing my "early" retirement, then settled down to be fed (you always eat in unusual situations) and watch some soap operas.

"This is Opal's boy, he's having a child with Caroline, but she is really Carla from before, when Sonny was married to her, then she changed characters and hair color...."

After an unusual trip to Kroger (manly because there were so many weird families and their wandering kids) we unpacked the groceries and ate some more.

Then an ordinary evening of PDS, Obama's review of the G-20, "This Old House", and the weeny end of "ER" moistened by silver bullets and comments from friends on Facebook.

Then off to sleep. No nightmares or dreams.

As the rain falls harder, I will start to decide my new path.

Will I retire and take the pension? Will I search for new employment, including freelance or contract work? Will I start or finish some projects? Music? Painting? School??

This is the first time since high school I have been "unemployed".

I've always said you have to get up and have something to do. Now it's time to find out what that is. A new adventure is starting.

So after 38 years with the Times-Dispatch, it's over. You treated me well, sometimes better than I expected. I survived some trying times and enjoyed some wonderful memories and friends.

So long. It's time to move on.