reports from the Door to Hell

by Stardaddy Dixie

His left hand on his vest-pocket, Major Garret Bledsoe promised "to never do that again."

        I couldn't hear him or read his lips, still stunned and recovering from the flash bang.

        Why had I thought Occupy Oakland could help revive my pitiable music career?

        I was axed with the inspiration to reach for the charts while at the bottom of Black's Beach's cliff, during a torrential downpour of "bongo fury". I hadn't intended to set my sandals on the beach, and I certainly had not intended to engage with its natives: surfers, dealers, floaters, lurkers, crashers, philosophers, and nudists. But one wrong turn (Expedition Way) leads to another (N Jeffrey Pine Drive) and another (Jeffrey Pine Scenic Drive):

The wheels spin and sweat in the borrowed Buick. I crack the window and ask the silhouette of a mohawk tribe, "Which way to _______?"  A scented crispation of sagebrush innervates my schnoz.  

        The leather-cracked mohawk profiles froze. It was too dark to map out the scenery, but I knew they were deliberating. The evidence had been presented: my long lost-puppy lip formation, my squinting eyes more accustomed to the Atlantic, my woodie with Frommer on the dash, my classic Corker haircut of the Smokies under my baseball cap, my Old Spice BO unlike patchouli. Despite their apparent hang-ups and haze of crack-crave, Budweiser bloating, high contrast paranoia, and combo amp tinnitus, they had me fingered accurately as an inlander.

I dreaded my sentence.

        A verdict was reached then they moved as one: dumb, graceless, and swift. The all-ages pipeline punks bricked near empty floaters at the laminated glass, creating arachnid spokes and form lines. The Roadmaster's brake pad, shoe, plate, pin, valve, and cap were gnawed down by the gangly gang's busy beaver, torqued-up teeth. Their leader Beppo yanked me wrist-first out the passenger side door ajar. Joining the ground, arriving tardily after the asphalt, the brown bottle shards, brake drum sawdust, and the diamonds of laminated glass, I received a reckless whomp about my noggin with tomes of Frommer.         

Beppo coughed chestily. Perhaps this was their "Hurrah, Boys, Hurrah!" battle cry cue, for the Beavertooths ceased their travel guide trample and vanished as one, naturally, in pursuit of a new case of brown bottles via the false horizon of a false premise.  

        My cough, though not lung-y like Beppo's, alarmed me, due to its aftermath of laminated diamonds, black blood, and litter box sized shreddings of Frommers. No scrap of Frommer could get me out of this predicament. I was lost in La Jolla, experiencing confusion from contusions.

        A shrugging sound rustles inside my achy head. The trade wind of the shrug sails me slowly, largo di molto, down to Black's Beach. As I descend the declivity, I am offered edibles for a fraction by white-gummed surfers. I decline. I land on the sand, where a laager, or casing, of drummers encircle ripe nude bodies celebrating freedom on a trust funder’s dress shoestring budget; celebrating V-J Day. The nude nubs, or trotters, dance around the drum circle's centerpiece, a bonfire as colorfully poisonous as Turkmenistan's "Door to Hell". The bongo busters themselves reach a state of collective consciousness, where they can more effectively mutilate and maim the mythical mystical void from within. Outside the casing, lie the lurkers with ill-intentions spying on the glowing curves and angles, white and red. Their rings grow darker the longer they leer.

        I work an extended shift as a lurker, hypnotized and repulsed by the grind of thieving rhythms and spoiled flesh, until a caped kook flies by and pets my shoulder, dubbing me The Sober Judge.

        Now appointed, I lifted my red gaze to the Pacific shoreline I had earlier mistook for a false horizon of a false premise. There, tight in the low tide, were the mohawks praying for surf around a corrugated case. Next to them, like a milemarker, stood tall one lonely dreadlock disguised as a giant stick-bug. And next to the dreadlock was the worst of them all, a nudist running out of the dark ocean, waving something in the air and shouting. As it got closer, I realized the nudist was scuttling right towards me, yelling my name! And in it its hand, was a steelpan.

        Clear as the California sky free from Blue Angel contrails, this clumsy nudist expected me to take my place along the bangers' mashed circumference and indulge in vomitous rhythmic libertinage armed with the steelpan. That internal shrugging sound rustled again, and I involuntarily accepted the overhammered barrel. Hung like a clock necklace, I struck the drum.

C                                                                                                                                 E                                                                                                  

G: the three notes cracked the code, opened the gate, and brushed me along shrugging into the collective consciousness. We were playing a snap tune called "Robber's Rhythm".

        It was up to bat in the melodic sequence, so I struck an F. Its edges were sharper than the others. Every time it made the rounds, it left little incisions, eventually cutting the drum's strap from my neck. Before I had time to grieve the loss of my Trinidadian necklace, the Main Hand behind the polyrhythmic clot forced a sangban upon me. I traded up for a dundumba. Then, an Anastasio-type tried to convince me his castanets and claves were a fair trade for the dundun. I shook my head no, but said that I would take the calliope off his hands. He shook his head no, and offered his cuica instead. I shook my head no, retired from consorting with the cuica pusher, and directed my attention towards the dundun.

        Time passed quickly, I suppose, as my memory cannot track down anything that transpired once short-wave sleep settled in the high-plains of my low-frequency high-dundun reality. All I know is, at some point in the measureless mayhem, I raised my head from the butcher drum void to discover that the sandy dance floor had been swallowed whole by the "Door to Hell".

        How much time had passed?

        I looked side to side like an Audio-Animatronic. The lurkers, having no meat market to window shop, had scrappled off. The only survivors of the bonfire’s 'arsonic' swallowing were the drummers, still drum hunching around the perimeter, encased in deep short-waves. The exceptions: a few klutzy nudists had survived and were splashing about in the pleasant pre-Fukishima Pacific. One nudist did the dead man's float, its 'thing' waving like a lonely dreadlock rising upward out of the false horizon. Eerily, the dreadlock disguised as a stick-bug was nowhere in sight. Yet, one could only suspect it was still out there, somewhere.

        With his expression and pose, a nude billy-goat bearded bongo buster diverted my pneumatic side-to-side scans for living and dead. The billy goat’s hands rested crippled on his conga, his jaw lowered and mouth marinated, his eyes were glued to what was evidently a ballet of apparitions emanating from my dundun. The two of us glazed-gazed at their spectral show. The aphidian apparitions were coupled off, cranking the air and tossing one another about in lurid fandangos and hustles. When one apparition’s face gestured ecstatically, I observed it had only a single tooth that occupied the entirety of its mouth. That one tooth had been chiseled by a phantom limb to resemble many teeth. Perhaps vanity was the motive behind the tooth brickwork, like a tattoo. It had one tooth and no lips. In fact, none of the apparitions had lips. When I discovered none of the apparitions had lips, they all turned to look at me and gestured agreeably.

This unexpected conjuring on my part surprised me just as much as it had captivated my open-mouthed admirer. Perhaps I had not only summoned the apparitions through my rockin’ pulsations, but also eliminated the natives: the lurkers, punks, trotters, edibles, and the rest of the riffraff. Thinking an even greater fantastical thought, perhaps, like a snake charmer with his pungi, I was conducting the nudist's rising 'thing'.

If I truly had this sort of command over the void, using the dundun as the conduit, then imagine… I could rebuild my fanbase from the ground up, one billy goat at a time. I wouldn't need to call on Namby-Pamby or pray to J. Priestley anymore. Fame would be as easy as squatting on the West Coast with my pants around my ankles, humping away on my newly acquired bass drum, pumping forth jams.

        Instant esteem pressed my ego green. I wiped the clownwhite paint that had grunged and bunched up on my face. The white smears were leftovers from my full-length LP Passion flop at the box office (my obituary had called the album “‘business as usual’ for the hopelessly talentless and mercilessly prolific man”). Cleaning my prickly face seemed to symbolize, to the billy goat , the Main Hand, and the Anastasio-type, that I was 'entering a new phase of my career'. I Quick Draw'ed the sticks and pistol-whipped the rawhide in a sequence I thought would put this Daddy top of the pops. Instead, I took a ride on the invisible cosmic transporter and plopped down right up the road at O. Oakland, CA.

        I was not immediately discouraged by the relocation. Sure, it was no Arab Spring, but a few stray TVs were floating around, carried by grips and amateur auteurs. Absent-mindedly battering on my drumdrum, I tried to make a noise over all the noise, so one of those newsies' eyes would capture me. I got a bit of screen time here and there, but I wasn't changing the game like I thought I would.

        Maybe I wasn't the propulsive percussionist I thought I was. Maybe I really couldn't alter the material world by tapping on a beached drum. Or maybe the drum had to be near that "Door to Hell" to work its magic.

        I rustled and shuddered. I sure as St. Peter wasn't going to test the "Door to Hell" theory. I had been to Hell once last Fall after my first death in the Scioto Furnace, for a couple of weekends in a row, and it was no walk in the park. Hell’s ticket-taker, Lew Lambert, might have called it the Hidden Haunt, but I called it Hell at minimum wage. I still have visitations from that blurry-rouge rogue Evil Man, waving his guilty hands at me as his Georgian cross section drifts over the marsh in Southeast Asia...

If I was going to have a proper Dixie revival, I needed guidance and I needed an agent. I hooked up with just the man for the job, my old pal Rich Bank. A tent or two down from me, he'd already been immersed in the occupy movement’s pageantry since its humble beginnings at Wall Street. His sole motive was to exchange his 'literature' for pizza. If that didn't work, he'd cadge a meal off the Beavertooths or the Badger Party. And if that didn't work, he'd pinch a loaf off of the baker.

        "Rich, help me out here. I'm trying to make a comeback. I got to see my face three-sheeted again, preened on the billboard, speak-n-spelled on the marquee. Right or wrong, it’s got to happen. Facetime! Make a dent in the pan, if not a flash. You’ll get a cut; a slice of the pie. What do you say?"

        I couldn't understand Bank's reply, his mouthed stuffed with dumpstered self-regenerating Little Caesar's.

        "Hey Rich, you're on lunch break, and that's alright. I'll wait until you finish chewing to hold a conversation with you, because I can't make out a word of what you're saying, brother." I collapsed against an overpass pier, tuckered out from the teleportation. With my spine against the concrete and my ass on the asphalt. I passed away, I mean, passed out.

        My mind spent a dream in the Georgian cross section during tea time with the Evil Man showing off his new rolls of plain paper. He won’t let me say anymore than that...

        When I resurrected, I mean, woke up, Rich Bank, my good pal with his grand Roman appetite, was nowhere in sight.

        I took a largo look around, in my usual animatronic style (a style my obituary called “mechanical”), still trying to figure out why I hadn't made the grade yet.

        I saw a bear dressed as Stalin, a smarmy banker eating granola, a black bloc'er with a Batman mask, even an Elvis impersonator! They shouted over one another greedily, hungering for meme and starpower, like out-of-touch advertisers, like impatient Christs.

        Then it struck me (the dundun, somehow. Probably lashing back, sick of my slipshod stick hits). Everyone was trying to make it at the Occupy movement! Too much personality in one place fighting for too little screen time. There were the cops, the activists, the politicians, the bankers, the journalists. All of them hamming it up for the dissecting eyes. It was like some dumbdumb Punch and Judy puppet show. All the bozos yapping in one place. Sheesh. I didn’t want to make it in a dump like this. I belonged to the smart set. I was meant to follow in the footsteps of luminaries like Harry Belafonte, Theolonius Monk, Hall & Oates, and Fred Schneider. I had to time track back to last Fall, pre-Hidden Haunt, post-Black's Beach, and scheme my path to success. Make some timetables, play some paradiddles, and fool around with that nudist a bit.

        Then it struck me (a stun grenade).

        Major Bledsoe, right hand man of Hard Law, had got me again.

Hardly conscious, the events leading up to Bledsoe’s lob “flashed” before my eyes. Between the wrong turns, the mohawks gnawing woodie, the Frommer bopping, the banging of the drums, the exchanging of the drums, the shrugging, the time travel and relocation, Rich Bank's self-regenerating lunch break, and Bledsoe's stunning ambush, I sure had had a wild couple of hours!

        "Bledsoe, dammit, ouch. You could've just cuffed me or pepper-sprayed me or something."

        His left hand on his vest-pocket, Major Garret Bledsoe pledged "to never do that again."

        I couldn't hear him or read his lips, still stunned and recovering from the flash bang.