LIFE and DEATH in LONG BEACH
“Leave love bleeding in my hands…” Hemorrhage by Fuel
Being dead is one strange trip. It keeps me busy yet still I often wonder what my life could be like beyond this earthly crypt. Some of the cruel, gossip-prone spirits inform me that my family are presently alive out there in the “real world”, yet I can’t fully rely on that as my mind has always been fond of playing little tricks on me. I wish I could go see for myself instead of lying here dead… but ignorance will always be one of the conditions of the departed.
I have a seemingly endless abundance of time now to recline here in my coffin. I try to imagine what my life would be like had I not ended up a murder victim. In my upper 50’s I’d be a Dad with two grown daughters, the thought causing my dried up old bones to rattle with laughter! Like I said “It’s a trip to be dead!” I’d in my mind be at home in the big LBC with Rosie and our daughters Lottie Bell and Mary Bea… its tuff to realize that my chicks’ seem to have forsaken me here in my eternal void.
If I were “at home,” and not here kicking it with fools, dead guys and demons, I think by now I’d have learned how to be a husband and a father. I wish I could show my girls that for many years I haven’t been the thief and dope fiend who I was when the world saw me last; right before I was killed. It’s been decades since I was the lie-chasing wastrel who existed in the dope spoon of loss. Languishing here, I picture a home I never knew with pretty Rose Mary kissing me as I step through the door. Lottie Bell would be upstairs in her room and the lil sweet one Mary Bea playing with her dog in the back yard. As a kid of the 1960s I was taught that `Father Knows Best` and now that I am dead finally I can dig such a naïve and idealistic concept of… home.
I’ve heard it said on occasion that our minds possess the inherent strength, as well as weakness, which enables us to turn a heaven into hell or transform a hell into heaven. As I wait here in purgatory I struggle with the fear that my perdition is actually a cleverly disguised version of hell, created to fool me into deeper confusion. So...I wile away my countless days spinning daydreams that will treat me kindly and I want to feel closer to heaven as those visions touch my heart.
But every coin and every face has at least two sides; and the other side of my kind daydreams is my dark recurring nightmares. When the dark comes to blanket me I dread to realize that my nightmare will be every bit as cruel as my daydreams were kind. The darkness isn’t any kind of dream at all; rather it’s only a replaying loop of memory of the final days leading up to my murder. My nightmare torments and tortures me and won’t allow me much rest. Being dead I long for the promise to rest in peace, yet the freak show of my memory won’t stop visiting me in the dark.
I was whacked not far from the place where I was born in Southern California. I fell in the beautiful and breezy oceanfront city of Long Beach California. Not an unusual place to be murdered, but my departure was unlikely due to where it went down. Returning in nightmarish memory to the suffocating and ominous dread of the Long Beach Courthouse- the House of Pain. It carries the stench of desperation caused by too many citizens turned criminal and this odious panic overwhelms everything else in the crowded corridors of this painful palace of gloom and doom. Yet, even though I grew up in this terrible monument, I didn’t have an inkling that the place would kill me.
As a child I use to literally play in the shadows of the blue and silver courthouse building. Not far from there were the tide pools where me and Pops would go dig up bucketful of tiny ghost shrimp, that Pops would use for bait on the days he spent boozing while pretending to fish. How could I have ever then even guessed that my fate would be to wind up getting killed there inside the aging building years later?
Back in the courtroom, several days before the killing of me went down and just before my physically human shape vacated my soul, I can see vividly how I sat next to my con man attorney, Stephen P who was the hack who was paid to lead me to slaughter. A classic “dump truck,” the dude would slide into the courtroom acting like he was decked out in his cheap, gray, lawyer man suit reeking of some unidentifiable cologne. Every time I sat next to him there in my lonely chair, I clung to the precipice of vomit-osity.
Then there was his lordship and high god the presumed “Honorable” Judge “Roy Bean” . This guy would strut onto the killing floor looking sage and legally proper, yet never quite able to fully cloak the insanity flitting around just behind his eyes. Most everyone in the room failed to truly see the madman for whom and what he was- because who but only the most pathetic and desperate could ever look upon another with such clarity of focus? I who was lost in my own selfish dope fiend arrogance, chose to see this judge of man as the figure present to `protect` me and maintain truth. My naïve vanity blew my own mind when Judge Beano revealed himself to be the molester of justice his fractured character had made of him.
The Los Angeles Harbor area citizens chosen to sit as my jury looked much too bored with the chore of societal “justice.” My Pops and my old Mom, along with Rosie and little Lottie Bell… they would come and slip into seats behind me. I could catch bits and pieces of words as they spoke quietly behind me, then they would smile brightly at me whenever I would turn around to steal a glance at them.
I felt already half dead every time I caught their gaze and it really hit me hard to embrace their warm smiles- because the smiles only fronted a weak attempt to mask the horrible desperate fear inside them. They were witnessing my last days and it couldn’t have been an easy thing for them to watch and realize I was about to be killed. Even if I couldn’t quite see it coming, surely they saw it much clearer than me.
My good ol country girl mother had spent a lifetime of looking at me with her beautiful yet prophetically tragic look of love. Mom always tried to show patience, love and concern for me even though I was a bad seed of a child who could have passed for the Devil’s imp. I never even had to try to cause my own family pain-heartache and pain has always been my own two hands. The very second I was born at the LA County Harbor General Hospital, right as I squealed my first breath, my delivery had stopped my poor ol Moms’ heart and the first thing the Doctor had to do was hit Mom with magic or medicine to jumpstart her silent heart.
I’d made the dramatic debut and as I lay here now I regret that my folks were forced to watch my gross exit. No family was able to get to the House of Pain the day my murder took place and I take comfort in that. It was hard enough on my own to slip into the dark without having to look back and know that the ones I love were seeing my final gasps of air.
My Mothers’ tragically beautiful face, my Pops red-flushed face, my Rosie with baby Mary Bea forming inside her stomach, wearing the look of shock on her face.
My little Lottie Bell’s sweet angel face - these are the faces of love who I remember during those last days as I inched toward death. It frustrates me that I was such a lying dope fiend and thief in life because that’s the memory of me I left behind. I never did anything to make anyone proud of me. I dealt only heartache and pain and then faded away to “exist” here in purgatory or perdition or wherever the HELL I am. Lying here in my coffin, waiting lonely, I alternate between daydream and nightmare and each stand to challenge me if not scare me to death. But, then again, I’m dead already.
I wish I could tell you how I died and why I was murdered, but my ole spirit can’t make sense of it or figure it out. Maybe I was merely a victim of my own foul karma. I’ve lain here for many years with all these thoughts screaming inside my head. I want to hope that by letting them out here they will stop chasing me around inside my crypt. Man… it’s too crowded inside of here and inside of me for all of this!
Wonder if I’ll ever bump into Pops somewhere? He passed away a few years after I died. My murder caused the old fellow to suffer a series of
strokes and the poor bastard ended up strapped to a hospital bed paralyzed and unable to speak for his last two years on earth. I bet the old Navy drunk is mad at me. Isn’t it ironic that like Pops… all I can do, is spend eternity dead here in my void… feeling paralyzed and speechless?
It bears repeating - being dead is one strange trip, but, as we all know, things are tuff all over. End