The Best Job in the World

"Nobody under 30 know what love is or how to work." Lynn Leong

Sweat and grease had been streaming down my forehead for three hours and it was only 9:10. Nine fucking Ten. That was the time I showed up this morning. Before the maelstrom that was the Saturday dinner rush. Before eating a hurried bite here and there as I got the dining room vacuumed and set. Before the onslaught of several hundred people in the banquet room for lunch. They came in waves of 70-80 people and we battled to keep it flowing. Then there was the desperate attempt to swab the dining room before the evening rush hit around 6:00. And hit it did. We were being pummeled. Like Utah (Where the USS Nevada pummeled the German seawall softening them up for the invasion) ) , Omaha, Anzio. They overwhelmed us in an endless swarm. Ruthless, like Kursk or Dong Ap Bai. Of course it was nothing like the fury and horror those names define. Not even close.. Nonetheless, it was kicking my ass in a way I had yet to taste.  

"Lynn, Table 12 sent this back, the customer says it’s raw."

The fireplug of a man with arms thick as hogs legs and hard as steel erupted: Sonnnnaaagaaaaabiiiiiiitchhhhhh!” 

You could almost hear a snap as the pressure of the day finally overwhelmed our ability to hold it back. Lynn took the shrimp and threw it at the Stir Cook. “I serve food people can eat, Bobby, not this garbage. Every customer. Every time. Our reputation is built with every dish we serve. I know what you can do, how good you are. But if you can’t do it tonight, then give me your tools and I’ll do your job. You can go home!” 

Not having seen Lynn this pissed I tried to smash myself as far into the furthest part of the dishsink corner as I could and threw myself at drying the silverware. It was moments like these that a cloak of Invisibility or a cone of silence or something would be a great thing to engage. Bobby was shaken, shaking and on the verge of tears. I saw his mounting frustration congeal into rage. “No one is as good as you Lynn! Nobody is that perfect.”

"It’s not about me, Bobby. It’s about you. Live up to yourself, or get the hell out of here!"

Holy Shit, I thought, he is really pissed. If he sends Bobby home, I’m gonna have to pull the last stretch alone with him. And that won’t be easy or fun. He taught me how to run the deep fry Wok during prep when he made lunch and I knew I could do it, but I was pretty sure keeping up with the dishes and running the deep fryer would be beyond me. The important thing was to keep those orders going out. Just keep the food going out. Lynn had a one hell of a temper, and he wore layers of aloof coolness like a Basque Sheepherders Jacket. ThIs hearty sheepskin cloak kept the harshness of the world at bay and kept warm a kind man’s heart of solid gold quarried hardscrabble on the Comstock Lode. 

And right now that man was as pissed as I had seen him. Bobby had been lagging for the last couple of weeks; showing up late, slacking on prep and at times acting like an actual genuine whiney bitch. Some people do that as they make their way through life. They become distracted or caught up in their own personal, usually self-inflicted misery. For some this becomes a distraction they simply cannot push away. Some wander in, out and in between these distractions while others are not so lucky quite able to elude it; they spend their lives hanging on to quiet desperation. The English Way.

"Fuck this, Lynn." Bobby threw his towel and slammed his tools into the boiling oil of the deep fry wok. The spilling oil nearly ignited and the water on the utensils created one hell of a racket as the water and the boiling oil became acquainted. He shoved his time card into the machine, for the moment wholely unconcerned with aligning the card with the slot on the time clock. "This really helps the payroll lady." he gracefully showed me six weeks ago on my first day. Turning the corner, Lynn looked at me and without words between us I began to work the Wok tools I pulled from the debris. The dishes slowly grew into a smallish mountain range of plates and coffee cups, nibbled shrimp tails and the bespattered stainless steel serving platforms holding remnants of sweet and sour pork bones or Tomato Vegetable Chow Yuk. We had enough clean plates to make it, I figured. As long as I kept the inventory of silverware up for the girls, I could do it. Things would slow down in a half an hour and by 11:00 the dining room should be empty. Focus on the shrimp and the silverware. It’s only an hour. 

"Two fried shrimp two egg roll. Chop Chop" he sounded off from around the corner.

———————-

Lynn Leong came to the United States in 1932 at the height of the Great Depression. As he was preparing to board a steamship in Canton, the city itself was preparing for the Japanese invasion that ravaged the recently relocated Capitol of China, Nangking . His family determined that of his 9 siblings, Lynn represented the best hope of supporting his family in China by accompanying his Uncle to America. Within weeks he began sending money to his family in China and continued this practice until he died. The ship made its way to America and walking down the gangway Lynn Leong was embraced by the misty arms of America in San Francisco. He was 9 years old.

It didn’t take me long to realize I would never get a job working on C Street like the other local kids. Growing up a Hippie on the Comstock, the job prospects were bleak. It was crystallized for me one day when the change lady sent me packing from the Delta one day. “You filthy Hippie kids are not welcome in the Delta or anywhere else unless you’re spendin’ money. Now get your filthy hippy ass out of here!”. The only place that I would have a chance in would Grandma’s Fudge. Owned by Julie Karno, she was the only cool person in the entire confines of Virginia City. But I couldn’t see me wearing the silly blue and white calico uniforms and I never tried.

When Theo’s mom was hooked me up with the opportunity to wash dishes at the Sharon House, I knew had a chance that most of the kids I knew just wouldn’t have (or want for that matter). I realized what the opportunity represented and became determined to make the most of it. 

By the time he hired me, Lynn had been at it for nearly 45 years. It wasn’t more than a couple of weeks with him when I began to realize  this guy had it made. In a big way. Meeting him the first time, I immediately noticed his glasses. LIke coke bottle bottoms, they magnifed his eyes making them bug out even more than normal. He had tunnel vision and could focus like a laser on what was in front of him but had no peripheral vision. He could pour tea and not spill a drop, but I felt awful the day I left the mop sticking out at anke height; hearing him crash and then holler “Sonnnnaaaaagaaaaabbbbitchhhhhh!” And although he limped occasionally from the effects of gout, he would stand playing his three nickel slot machines for hours on end during the slow winter nights. Bob the bartender would, on demand, prepare any type of drink he could ever want from his fully stocked bar. And on Thursday afternoons some of the locals would spend the afternoon playing pinochle where he would routinely run the table. But beside the “Dragon Lady” (his wife, Gwen was beautiful, white and the thing I remember most; she had nice big boobs) his real love was in the kitchen. He really knew how to cook and over time he taught me this fundamental life skill all the while instilling into me an enduring love of preparing food. 

I didn’t realize it at the time, but by being observant and curious, he was also teaching me to run a business. I watched him and how he conducted himself; the tight fist of an Iron Chef, overly fair and even generous once you proved your salt to him. His businesses were well run and successful. The Restaurant was always full and I would see the woman come in the afternoon with the receipts from the Visitors Bureau he ran on C Street. Lynn smiled when she came by and some days he was even happier than others. The Visitors Bureau was a public relations operation whose job it was to bring busload after of busload packed with swarms of people to the Comstock to have some lunch and enjoy an afternoon before heading back to California. I can’t remember a person who did more for the community by getting people up the hill in numbers. (Today the locals crow about how many bikers they can shove up the town’s ass; I had the misfortune of being in town this year for a big biker bash, a ginormous fucking mess yet a telling tribute to the tastes of the town’s current chamber of commerce) And he generated the numbers. I watched as he fussed over the details of preparing the food, daily preparing the myriad different items we needed to make up all the items on the menu. I admired his clever ideas on getting things done efficiently. He took the time to explain to me why he did the things he did as he was doing them to reveal his mindset; he insisted on getting things done his way, the right way. Long before computers, he kept his cost matrix in his head and always seemed to know exactly what where his business was and what inventory he had at any point in the battle. He kept track of everything. And everybody.

The lessons he taught me were invaluable to me later when my employee count reached 50 people and had 5 different locations. Without my lessons from Lynn I would not have gone where I did professionally. I can still hear him whisper to me today.

—————

It was early afternoon one day as I cleaned the entry hall and bar as The Pinoccle players were taking a break from the festivities. Lynn was out of earshot, in the Kitchen around the corner behind the Dining Room rustling them up some grub. “You remember Lynn loaned so and so some money to fix his house a last year? Not only has he not paid Lynn back a cent, but he just lost his job and Lynn spotted him another grubstake. I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts he won’t see a cent of that money. That is mighty white of Lynn. AHHHH-SOOOOO! MIGHTY WHITE of the CHINAMAN!” As they fell out of their chairs, I couldn’t help being seared by their simpleminded bigotry. I immediately understood the sick irony of their joke. It screamed the contents of their twisted mindset. It was a mindset steeped in the fabric of the folks that  

While there are accounts of men like him during the heyday of the Comstock, there have been few, if any, since. 

Looking back, Lynn was the whitest man in VC. 

Don’t Rub It

I moved toward the door and braced myself for what I knew was on the other side. 

Every time Hammerin’ Hank stared at Bob Gibson while standing on the plate, one knew the other would begin the conversation of ownership of the white thing in the ground in an unspoken dialect of American Lexicon that is country hardball. Gibson wasn’t trying to hit you, he was just maintaining possession of his property. He owned the plate and if you wanted to lean over it, you had better be ready to get acquainted with the dirt or take one for the team. Similarly, Hank would not give an inch and would never rub Bob’s ownership claim on his way to first. Ever. Baseball’s unwritten rule number 8: Don’t rub it. An unmistakeable sign of weakness.  Don’t rub it. 

With this in mind, I faced the door. I paused for a moment, donning my most unflinching stone face. Knowing what was coming, I pushed the door open into the noise and warmly blinding mid-day Nevada sunshine. I am tougher that all these fools, I thought, tougher than this whole fucking town combined. I said this again and again, trying to make it real. Over and over until it became real.

Don’t Rub it. 

———-

It wasn’t long after I began to read seriously that I became fascinated with the Civil War. I read and read and read about it. Captivated with the romantic underdog South I imagined being in Lee’s Northern Virginia Army at Seven Pines, riding with Mosby’s Raiders, at Antietam and Cold Harbor. Slowly, it laid the first cornerstone of a structure built around my fascination with the amazing history of the human species. Although I am not as well versed as most, I have searched with wonder at our journey from Leaky’s African shoreline through the misty trails of time to this morning. Ray Bradbury said time is like a rope slipping through our hands. We can’t tighten our grip to slow it down and we can’t let go. We just feel it slipping through our hands. The trick is to hold on just right so as to enjoy the ride. (The first serious book I read was by Ray. It was the first time I felt terror holding a book. Thanks Ray, I miss you.)

After the soaking up the Civil War and finding wonder and sadness in the amazing drama of Robert E. Lee, I focused on our next best American hero, the WWI Ace. My grandpa worked at the Library in Carson City and found myself soaking up the vast collection of books about WWI Aerial Campaigns. Every Plane made. All the Aces. All the Battles. Plus there was the picture in the stairwell in Grandma Jessie’s house of her dashing Uncle who was shot down over France just weeks before the Armistice Day.

I moved on to WWII soaking up every battle from Gdansk to Nagasaki. That took a while. It wasn’t until High School that my mind began to be morbidly amazed by the notion that an entire society could be sold a bill of goods called the National Socialist German Workers Party. Every town in Germany had a workers, but they didn’t really party. Every town in Germany had work camps filled with eastern european slaves constructed on the outskirts. In the Sudetenland every German kept a few Slavs with the pigs. They all knew the game and most enjoyed the rules. By 1941 any the remaining dissenters were loudly sitting on their hands. Or they were dead. What continues to amaze me is that they, the German version of Joe and Mary Six-Pack, were not just accepting of the new rules they were living under but they were down with it. Complicit. Pretty much every last one. And after the war, after we were placated with the Nuremberg Gallows and the Cyanide Teeth, Germany was allowed to say “Damn. Really sorry about that Hitler guy, but WE are truly remorseful about what HE did and WE promise to be good from now on.” Kinda like today with our dealing with our waMoving forward as if nothing happened. Forgiveness and all. LIke today when we hear Eric Holder tell “crusher” John Yoo’s  henchmen; I’m taking specific teeth out of the guard dog that is the Justice Department, because we don’t want to bite ourselves. This is not really the best forgiveness. But it is usually the way it works out. Jail the street criminal for a couple joints and let our governments killers roam free.

The banter started the moment I stepped into the light. 

"Everybody out, the pool is about to be contaminated! Here come the Indian Girls" Fleao, Samantha and Suzie, the indian girls from Silver City. Inside I would smirk at the lack of cleverness of my moniker and felt little empathy for Theo who was tough like me. I had to admit that Fleao was pretty clever. But I felt white hot inside when they got on Bobby. Every time I heard it I got white hot inside. And the feeling was enhanced by the fact that all we could do was wear the stone face, pretending it didn’t hurt. 

Don’t rub it.

This afternoon it was the little toe headed prick leading the chorus. Typical. He would never run his punk-assed mouth without the Adams brothers in the pool. When you are eleven, 16 year olds are unstoppable because they could open a can of whipass on you without warning but with impunity. Using similar logic a seven or eight year old from will remain churchmouselke quiet without backup. But with backup, the eight year old runs his mouth with impunity. And the big kids dug it, fashioning him into a little hater feeding him insults. I had just begun my lifelong fascination with Nazi Germany trying to wrap my mind around how an entire society could so completely adopt the worst brand of evil the human race has hoisted up for the last couple of years. Then I got to see some weak sauced effort from the charmers in VC. 

Hess. It has a nice Teutonic ring to it. The little toe head was the embodiment of what I imagined the Hitler-Junge. One of the recent books I read was a pretty decent account of the why of the Junge. Arians. Blond Haired. Blue Eyed. Empowered by position and birthright but forged and honed with Evil. I swore revenge every time he ran his mouth.

Suzie Yellow Teeth

I was bloodied by the jagged edge of those words as they sliced past me hurtling at their intended victim. We knew those words cut Bobby to the bone. But you couldn’t tell. 

Don’t rub it.

The fury inside me was roiling. The way I looked at it, Theo and I kinda earned it. We chose to wear our hair long because it made us different. Once we realized we had been granted permission by the people of VC to piss them off,  we picked our headbands to make us look like little apaches and didn’t wash our hair for weeks. In fact as time went on we used our appearance to be in your face about it. Oh, you don’t like dirty little hippie kids? Awesome. I won’t take a bath until I get in your pool and I am NEVER cutting my hair! But with Bobby it was different. He never wore a headband and his hair was barely longer than the VC crowd. Bobby was the victim of a cruel reaction to an antibiotic he was given as an infant that horribly discolored his teeth. They were this awful orangey yellow, and the little toe headed prick was delighted by the pain he knew his words inflicted.

"Everyone Out of the pool! Here comes Suzie Yellow Teeth

I stood there forcing a smirk. 

Motherfucker, I’m never rubbing it.

———————

Its all about calculating risk against the reward. 

This was one of my first risk calculation exercises. I would have more later.

I saw him walking, oblivious, across the same no mans land I tried to escape the dirt bike tormentors from and my heart froze with delight. I took up a nice hiding place behind a pile of wood and I tasted the moment. If the toe head maintained his current trajectory, he would pass right by me. The streets were, as always, deserted at this part of D Street. The V & T Depot provided sanctuary before and now it would be the place where I unleashed my just fury.

His path never changed and I reached for a stick that would make a nice club from the nearby pile. I considered the consequences of what I was about to do. I knew I would get my ass kicked more than once for this and they would have motivation in administering my punishment. I also knew that even if I didn’t give this punk his deserved ass beating I would get my ass kicked anyway. Bobby’s suffering made this a no-brainer. Besides, I might never get another chance. Not teed up like this. The VC kids parents drove them everywhere so getting them singled out alone without backup may never present itself again.

I ducked down gripping the stick. The crush of dirt under his feet grew louder. Another few steps and he would be mine. I would reduce him to a the same pitiful lump of tears and blood I was a few short months ago here on these very planks. The adrenal glands released an uncontrollable monster in my gut and splinters began to bloody my grip. 

Anxious. Breathless. Bloodthirsty.

As the crunching of his footsteps became more distant I quietly began to cry. 

The moment I had been waiting for had passed. I was ready to leap out and exact Bobby’s revenge when I realized that by doing so I would reduce myself to a place far far below this shallow little child and the assholes who taught him to hate. As infants the only thing we really hate are naps. Naps. That’s it. End of story. As we grow, we are taught to observe and learn how to behave. Not wanting to disappoint we do our best to follow, practice and learn. All this little fuck did was follow practice and learn, he knew no better; it was not his fault.

And I knew better.

The stunning Nevada sky held up magnificently towering white clouds and I took note of the way I felt inside. Coming to grips with the notion that I had to let go of my hatred of these folks was like letting go of a white hot sword. The tighter you hold it the deeper and more completely it burns your soul. But letting go is like releasing a live wire, you know you must let go but something powerful prevents you. For me it didn’t really happen till later. Actually it is still happening. Right Now. You hearing my voice through this flattened arrangement of phosphor and electrons. 

Realizing what he really needed was pity and forgiveness, Bum Hess got his as he made the climb from D to C Street into the company of the other small people on C Street.

Rubbing it in Baseball is an unmistakable sign of weakness. In real life it is a sign of unmistakeable strength. 

Comes a time

Nervously, I clutched the .25 tight in my hand; I liked the way it made me feel substantial. If I just focused on the .25 everything would work out, I told myself. Across the street from the bar I grabbed the ski mask where I hid it earlier in the day. Slip on the mask, hold the .25 where everyone could see it and walk in like I own the place. That was the plan, the first part at least. The rest would work itself out, depending on how the man behind the bar would react. I just had to act like I owned the place.

As I stood across the street with butterflys in my stomach I told myself, ”This is it. You can pussy out now and no one will say anything but praise just for thinking of it. Or you can boldly go where no man has gone before and stand in infamy alongside the immortals.” I became aware of how hot is was as I crossed the street, the ski mask cloaking my identity and holding the .25 in a way to make it seem as big as I could. I put my hand on the door, reminded myself, “You own this place!” and swung it confidently, even defiantly, open.

———

It was just before noon on a July morning in Silver City, 1971. The usual suspects had been quietly moving in and out of the bar throughout the morning. Coffee or beer for breakfast depending on the condition of the customer. Theo, Bobby, James and I were all sitting on the bench in the shade idly tourist watching as Pat and Betty’s third victim of this still young day drove by. They crested the hill, slowing, seeing the bait and taking the hook all in one smooth and unsuspecting motion. The license plate was from Iowa.

Back then people drove cars across country on vacation a lot more than they do today. Gas was still cheap and air travel was not ubiquitous as it is today with it’s vouristic scanning and groping. As I roamed the Comstock throughout my youth I played a game with myself to see which car traveled the farthest. North Carolina. West Virginia. Georgia. Vermont. Texas. People would drive a very long way just to see Virginia City. At least I thought they traveled the country to see us. Well not us, because we were in Silver City, four miles south of Virginia City. The prey needed to be on the way to VC, not leaving. People leaving would rarely stop. But every day a few, heading up 342 after cutting off from US 50, would pass by and that was all the Pat and Betty’s  lines would need.

We watched as the wife saw the box that was placed so close to the road you couldn’t miss it. “Harold, would you look at that?” the wife in the passenger seat said to her husband. “That box is full of Rattlesnakes!”. Harold slowed, pulled over and while his wife tried to talk him out of going to see the contents of the box. “Honey, are you sure you think it’s safe? The baby rattlesnakes are the most deadly!” 

Every fourth or fifth car that took the bait would play out like this one did. “It will be fine Honey, I’ll go check it out, then you can bring the kids over.” Harold reassured. We all watched, carefully concealing our glee as he got out of the car and confidently approached the sidewalk. He neared the box and he slowed, then became vastly more cautious as he inched closer. The box was painted a bright white and had a rusted grate stapled over the top securing the contents from escape. In Bright Tall Red lettering it read:

BABY RATTLERS

As he closed in on the box, his wife collected the children from the back seat and began to lead them in to the box, slowly and deliberate. Harold stood just close enough to be able to see into the box from this tippy toes, maintaining the maximum distance between him and the Rattlers. His wife, with the chilren holding on to her dress or each other behind the protection of her body slowly inched to her husbands side and then slowly, carefully closer so as to peer over the edge top of the box which was on legs making it stand say 3 feet off the ground. In her mind, the reality  of the snakes began to build; at any moment Medusa would leap through the grate covering the box and unleash unknown terror down upon her babies. Just as the mother was close enough to start to peer over the side of the box, the Harold Jumped sideways and gleefully yelled,

"Good god look out Helen! There are snakes in there and they’re about to get you!” 

Helen jumped and let out a sound crossed between a squeal and a shriek. The kids were full on screaming as they scattered. As before, we all fell on the ground laughing. Although this scene unfolded at least once a day, in never once lost its magic. The box was in fact full of baby rattlers. Plastic ones. Red and White. Full of small plastic beads that make noise when you shake them. Mischievously stapled to the bottom of the box.

Goddammit Harold! You nearly scared me to Death!”

Just as she was about to pummel him with teary eyed fury, Betty emerged and carefully removed the hook from the quarry with her charm, releasing them into the cool confines of The Golden Gate Bar. Refreshments were purchased. Stories were exchanged. Betty would extract a business card from the travelers and staple it to the wall to be displayed with the rest of the victims while her husband Pat served up the fare. Another family would return home to the corn fields fresh with story to tell about the wonderful little place you should visit if you ever travel to Virginia City.

Pat Staab was a short, barrel shaped German with steely eyes. He moved to Silver City and bought the Golden Gate Bar in 1955 after a career as a Prison Guard. San Quentin. He had a sawed off and a baseball bat behind the bar that and it was understood that he knew how to handle them both. Betty was a retired Circus performer and she and Pat ran The Golden Gate Bar; the community hub in Silver City and a second home to the kids as long as any of us could remember. Pat and Betty had a welcoming manner about them and travelers who were lured into their bar stayed to swap business cards and conversation. It was a simpler time when the schedules weren’t as complicated; we used crank phones instead of cell phones and us kids adventured from dawn till midnight without the trappings that ensnare the reality of today’s kids. 

———-

I pushed through the doorway realizing how much colder it was inside. Owning the place, I strode to the bar, put my bare foot on the brass rail and looked through the eyeholes of the mask. Pat was at the far end of the bar conversing with 4 or 5 patrons who all gave me a casual glance over their right shoulders and then went right back to conversation. Pat was wedged on a stool behind the bar. He dismounted and strode the length of the bar to me where I stood, closest to the door incase I needed to make a break for it. He looked at me with perhaps the most matter of fact look to ever grace a man’s face as I stood there brandishing the .25.

"What’ll it be?" He asked, cooly.

"Dr. Pepper", I said with as much guts as I could muster.

He didn’t blink as reached down behind the bar. Slowly, he retrieved an ice cold bottle. Ten, Two and Four. The pause that refreshes. 

He popped the cap and handed the bottle to me. 

I placed the quarter on the bar exchanging metal for glass and took a long pull from the Dr. Pepper. To this day I have searched for another Bottle of Dr. Pepper that made me feel the way that one did. Like my first kiss, first love and first loss, nothing has quite the same taste.

I stood there, soaking in the moment and became aware of a sense of confidence and poise that was not in me before I put on the ski mask and walked through that door.  I took another pull from the Bottle and strode out the doorway, removing the ski mask and emerging into the blazing heat of the afternoon sun.

I owned the place. Not just the Golden Gate Bar, but the entire fucking world. 

A white Chevrolet station wagon from was passing. The woman in the passenger seat, saw me and stammered:

"Good Lord Henry, would you look at that?! That boy is buck Naked!"

They passed slowly, incredulous. I could hear peals of laughter break out from across the street where Theo and Bobby were hiding. I crossed the road with  nothing, holding an ice cold Bottle of Dr. Pepper filled with a new sense of purpose.

The Ferarri raged screaming up the long straightaway approaching the hairpin turn. We looked down from our vantage point as he braked, lost control and then followed his million dollar red baby as it became airborne. Three dirt poor hippie kids, whose parents combined lifetime income didn’t amount to the down payment on the red stallion now adhering to the Laws of Physics; Gravity, Motion and Kinetic Energy all directing the action, watched with morbid delight. The driver emerged from the car shaken but not quite stirred; it was an hour before the passenger was on his way to Saint Mary’s Hospital in Reno.
———
It was almost time for school to start again. The feeling of dread you get when you know Labor Day is looming and you will have to endure another year of public education had me all bound up. Rather than savoring the last few drops of summer I was preoccupied with this dread seasoned with a certain sadness knowing that with Labor Day’s passing came the end of the Tourists. The Tourists represented all that existed in the world outside, beyond my reach, I often imagined what it would be like to escape the Comstock Lode in one of those out of state cars. New York. Pennsylvania. Alaska. Iowa.
By the time I accepted the fact that Elston’s mom wasn’t coming to get me as arranged I was really worried.  After all, I was at the Public Pool and would now be forced to walk home through the heart of enemy territory.  If I took off toward 6 mile and doubled back I would probably make it without incident but this would put me home well after dark. If I wanted to risk the gauntlet and make it cleanly to C Street, not only would I be safe, but I stood a chance of running into someone who would give me a ride as I walked home. After doing some risk analysis and considering the variables, I headed to C Street.
I heard the dirt bikes fire up when I reached the center dead mans land; the open space between the Pool and the Virginia Truckee Train Depot on D Street. Like in the dream, I turned and began to freeze up, my knees buckled a bit as I began to run. Adrenalin entered the equation and I ran for the Depot. Not only was it cover, but Pierce Powell owned it and I knew I would be safe there. Pierce was one of the few cool people who lived in Storey County (I never really figured out how he was able to pull it off until I learned later it was a family connection… his mom owned the Depot and was considered a local so he got a pass). Hauling ass as fast as my little spindelies would manage, I realized I would be intercepted just short of cover. 
They caught up to me riding orange and yellow stallions. I recognized Goober from a distance (he was always fucking with me), but couldn’t make out his companion until they were almost on me. I knew I was doomed when I realized it was goober’s cousin Bobby Jr.. Bobby’s dad was the Sheriff and although personally messing with us (Elston, Theo and the rest of the kids not from Virginia City; the fuckin hippies) was beneath him; he was the ringleader and his henchmen were willing lapdogs when it came to messing with us. He operated with that type of cruel impunity that is born from the power you have when you know you will be unaccountable for your wickedness. Kinda like Himmler only different.
It didn’t take much to send me to the ground on their first pass as I was hauling ass in a bee line for the abandoned train depot, scared. The second pass I was able to avoid the ground but still took a solid boot to the ribs as the Bobby Jr. passed by. Before they could get to me again, I made it to the Depot and lept up to onto the elevated wooden walkway. Sadly I didn’t quite clear them, in fact I hit my shin full force and saw stars as I tumbled onto the planks of this splintery sanctuary. Realizing that it would take a little more work than it was worth to continue their fun, they pointed the tails of the bikes at me. Holding the front brake and opening the throttle, they let a twin stream of gravel shower me and then rode off laughing while I lay there assessing the damage.
It was an hour after dark that I left the safety of the Virginia and Truckee Depot; I kept myself company plotting a satisfying revenge on the walk home.
————
It happened one day that a Ferarri owner discovered the alternate 4.5 mile truck route they paved after the hundredth Winnebago smoked it’s transmission in the death grip of Griners Bend, the steepest road I had ever seen. Soon he would start a tradition with his pals that continues today; every year they get the county to close the road for the weekend and do time trials up the hill. 
By the time night fell it was all over town. Bobby Jr. was the passenger in the Ferarri and was clinging to life in Reno. Virginia City was awash in sympathy for the Sheriff and his son who would spend quite some time in the hospital. I found it difficult to be anything but a hardass. After all, this was the ringleader of my torment and karma had caught up to him in spades. Served him right. Fucking Prick.
When I saw Bobby the first time I could tell he almost recognized me. I looked him over and on the surface it seemed like there were no lasting effects of the wreck on his body but closer inspection revealed the guy who took obcene pleasure in tormenting me now had the eyes of a ten year old. He looked at me with vacant eyes and flashed a boyish smile. At that moment, when my revenge had been set to unleash all the hatred  festering for years inside me, I found myself unable to feel anything but compassion.
Refreshingly, it felt good.

The Ferarri raged screaming up the long straightaway approaching the hairpin turn. We looked down from our vantage point as he braked, lost control and then followed his million dollar red baby as it became airborne. Three dirt poor hippie kids, whose parents combined lifetime income didn’t amount to the down payment on the red stallion now adhering to the Laws of Physics; Gravity, Motion and Kinetic Energy all directing the action, watched with morbid delight. The driver emerged from the car shaken but not quite stirred; it was an hour before the passenger was on his way to Saint Mary’s Hospital in Reno.

———

It was almost time for school to start again. The feeling of dread you get when you know Labor Day is looming and you will have to endure another year of public education had me all bound up. Rather than savoring the last few drops of summer I was preoccupied with this dread seasoned with a certain sadness knowing that with Labor Day’s passing came the end of the Tourists. The Tourists represented all that existed in the world outside, beyond my reach, I often imagined what it would be like to escape the Comstock Lode in one of those out of state cars. New York. Pennsylvania. Alaska. Iowa.

By the time I accepted the fact that Elston’s mom wasn’t coming to get me as arranged I was really worried.  After all, I was at the Public Pool and would now be forced to walk home through the heart of enemy territory.  If I took off toward 6 mile and doubled back I would probably make it without incident but this would put me home well after dark. If I wanted to risk the gauntlet and make it cleanly to C Street, not only would I be safe, but I stood a chance of running into someone who would give me a ride as I walked home. After doing some risk analysis and considering the variables, I headed to C Street.

I heard the dirt bikes fire up when I reached the center dead mans land; the open space between the Pool and the Virginia Truckee Train Depot on D Street. Like in the dream, I turned and began to freeze up, my knees buckled a bit as I began to run. Adrenalin entered the equation and I ran for the Depot. Not only was it cover, but Pierce Powell owned it and I knew I would be safe there. Pierce was one of the few cool people who lived in Storey County (I never really figured out how he was able to pull it off until I learned later it was a family connection… his mom owned the Depot and was considered a local so he got a pass). Hauling ass as fast as my little spindelies would manage, I realized I would be intercepted just short of cover. 

They caught up to me riding orange and yellow stallions. I recognized Goober from a distance (he was always fucking with me), but couldn’t make out his companion until they were almost on me. I knew I was doomed when I realized it was goober’s cousin Bobby Jr.. Bobby’s dad was the Sheriff and although personally messing with us (Elston, Theo and the rest of the kids not from Virginia City; the fuckin hippies) was beneath him; he was the ringleader and his henchmen were willing lapdogs when it came to messing with us. He operated with that type of cruel impunity that is born from the power you have when you know you will be unaccountable for your wickedness. Kinda like Himmler only different.

It didn’t take much to send me to the ground on their first pass as I was hauling ass in a bee line for the abandoned train depot, scared. The second pass I was able to avoid the ground but still took a solid boot to the ribs as the Bobby Jr. passed by. Before they could get to me again, I made it to the Depot and lept up to onto the elevated wooden walkway. Sadly I didn’t quite clear them, in fact I hit my shin full force and saw stars as I tumbled onto the planks of this splintery sanctuary. Realizing that it would take a little more work than it was worth to continue their fun, they pointed the tails of the bikes at me. Holding the front brake and opening the throttle, they let a twin stream of gravel shower me and then rode off laughing while I lay there assessing the damage.

It was an hour after dark that I left the safety of the Virginia and Truckee Depot; I kept myself company plotting a satisfying revenge on the walk home.

————

It happened one day that a Ferarri owner discovered the alternate 4.5 mile truck route they paved after the hundredth Winnebago smoked it’s transmission in the death grip of Griners Bend, the steepest road I had ever seen. Soon he would start a tradition with his pals that continues today; every year they get the county to close the road for the weekend and do time trials up the hill. 

By the time night fell it was all over town. Bobby Jr. was the passenger in the Ferarri and was clinging to life in Reno. Virginia City was awash in sympathy for the Sheriff and his son who would spend quite some time in the hospital. I found it difficult to be anything but a hardass. After all, this was the ringleader of my torment and karma had caught up to him in spades. Served him right. Fucking Prick.

When I saw Bobby the first time I could tell he almost recognized me. I looked him over and on the surface it seemed like there were no lasting effects of the wreck on his body but closer inspection revealed the guy who took obcene pleasure in tormenting me now had the eyes of a ten year old. He looked at me with vacant eyes and flashed a boyish smile. At that moment, when my revenge had been set to unleash all the hatred  festering for years inside me, I found myself unable to feel anything but compassion.

Refreshingly, it felt good.

When I saw this picture, I wrote this post. In my mind. In twenty or thirty neuroseconds. The synapses connected and snap. There it was…
Actually, I wrote it forty years ago. I just didn’t taste the words until I saw the picture.
———-
When I was 8 years old, I remember growing up with the CBS evening news and Walter Cronkite. Not in Gold Hill, but when I stayed in Reno with mom for a while.  She had the little black and white, and I remember night after night of eating dinner listening to Walter’s voice describe the action in Vietnam while the screen screamed a distant glimpse and the toll of misery. 
The numbers along the bottom of the screen kept score: 
Body Count USA:105  VC: 1,697
———-
There was no tv in Gold Hill. There were a few in Virginia City, but we never had one. A couple of  stalwarts from Virginia City, tired of living so close to the seductive signals from Reno but not being able to soak them them in, drug a cable to the top of Mount Davidson and sold the connection to the hungry townspeople. The price of entry was too much for us and I grew up without television. Looking back, I am extra thankful, but at the time I was pissed because all the television sets were off limits to me. You see, even though my dad bought our house in the 50’s, he still wasn’t considered a “local” because of his long hair. We were pretty much reviled by the “locals” in Virginia City because we were different and we represented everything that was wrong with the country; unemployed long haired dope fiends. The country was still raw from what Charlie Manson showed us he could do and the locals of Virginia City treated us like we gave Charlie a place to stay once. My dad did little to help the matter, and as I look back it seemed like he got off on being a thorn in the collective ass of Virginia City. This meant that no tv for me because although some of my classmates had the jones, I was never invited into the house of a person who had one. Ever.
I remember one day we were pulled over on C Street in the middle of a Saturday by the one eyed terror UnderSheriff Jim Miller. He proceeded to sit my dad, me and Peter Laufer on the sidewalk while what seemed like the entire town and all the tourists watched as he tore every square inch of the 1965 Cadillac apart. The car was full of the accumulation of several months of debris, so this took some time. After over an hour, he produced a small clump of something that he wanted to be a marijuana seed. Sadly for him it wasn’t, and he wrote my dad a ticket for having his license plate obscured and left us to put the mess back in the car. I still see the looks from the locals that day as the excitement waned, glaring disgustedly at the dirty hippies, disappointed we weren’t headed to jail.
I went to school in Virginia City until one day in the 5th Grade. It was after lunch and one of the Del Carlo boys decided he would show off by picking a fight with me just as lunch ended.  As the bell rang we were left in the middle of D Street circling each other. I remember as the tide in the fight turned I fell down. Through the flurry of fists, I looked at the school door to see when the teachers were finally coming to get Goober Del Carlo (um, yes, Goober) off me. Instead, I remember seeing Principal Hugh Gallagher watching from his ringside seat behind his protective pane of glass with the other onlookers in the office. I don’t remember anyone coming out to break up the fight. After Goob got tired of punching a curled up lump, he went back inside to a roar cheers and laughter. I lay in the middle of the street feeling the warmth of the sun and tasting blood and tears for some time, trying to be as pathetic as possible. No one came to see if I was going to live, so eventually I walked home and never went back to school in Virginia City.
When I saw this picture, it was exactly how I would have Justice served to those residents of Virginia City. To me It seemed only fitting they be impaled with stake of the Holy Cross run through their black, ferrous hearts.
——-
They called the communists we fought in Vietnam the Viet Cong or VC for short. I always called Virginia City VC for short. 
I remember the shallow minded necks of VC as my personal Viet Cong; every night I lit up C Street with with my twin M-60’s. 

When I saw this picture, I wrote this post. In my mind. In twenty or thirty neuroseconds. The synapses connected and snap. There it was…

Actually, I wrote it forty years ago. I just didn’t taste the words until I saw the picture.

———-

When I was 8 years old, I remember growing up with the CBS evening news and Walter Cronkite. Not in Gold Hill, but when I stayed in Reno with mom for a while.  She had the little black and white, and I remember night after night of eating dinner listening to Walter’s voice describe the action in Vietnam while the screen screamed a distant glimpse and the toll of misery. 

The numbers along the bottom of the screen kept score: 

Body Count USA:105  VC: 1,697

———-

There was no tv in Gold Hill. There were a few in Virginia City, but we never had one. A couple of  stalwarts from Virginia City, tired of living so close to the seductive signals from Reno but not being able to soak them them in, drug a cable to the top of Mount Davidson and sold the connection to the hungry townspeople. The price of entry was too much for us and I grew up without television. Looking back, I am extra thankful, but at the time I was pissed because all the television sets were off limits to me. You see, even though my dad bought our house in the 50’s, he still wasn’t considered a “local” because of his long hair. We were pretty much reviled by the “locals” in Virginia City because we were different and we represented everything that was wrong with the country; unemployed long haired dope fiends. The country was still raw from what Charlie Manson showed us he could do and the locals of Virginia City treated us like we gave Charlie a place to stay once. My dad did little to help the matter, and as I look back it seemed like he got off on being a thorn in the collective ass of Virginia City. This meant that no tv for me because although some of my classmates had the jones, I was never invited into the house of a person who had one. Ever.

I remember one day we were pulled over on C Street in the middle of a Saturday by the one eyed terror UnderSheriff Jim Miller. He proceeded to sit my dad, me and Peter Laufer on the sidewalk while what seemed like the entire town and all the tourists watched as he tore every square inch of the 1965 Cadillac apart. The car was full of the accumulation of several months of debris, so this took some time. After over an hour, he produced a small clump of something that he wanted to be a marijuana seed. Sadly for him it wasn’t, and he wrote my dad a ticket for having his license plate obscured and left us to put the mess back in the car. I still see the looks from the locals that day as the excitement waned, glaring disgustedly at the dirty hippies, disappointed we weren’t headed to jail.

I went to school in Virginia City until one day in the 5th Grade. It was after lunch and one of the Del Carlo boys decided he would show off by picking a fight with me just as lunch ended.  As the bell rang we were left in the middle of D Street circling each other. I remember as the tide in the fight turned I fell down. Through the flurry of fists, I looked at the school door to see when the teachers were finally coming to get Goober Del Carlo (um, yes, Goober) off me. Instead, I remember seeing Principal Hugh Gallagher watching from his ringside seat behind his protective pane of glass with the other onlookers in the office. I don’t remember anyone coming out to break up the fight. After Goob got tired of punching a curled up lump, he went back inside to a roar cheers and laughter. I lay in the middle of the street feeling the warmth of the sun and tasting blood and tears for some time, trying to be as pathetic as possible. No one came to see if I was going to live, so eventually I walked home and never went back to school in Virginia City.

When I saw this picture, it was exactly how I would have Justice served to those residents of Virginia City. To me It seemed only fitting they be impaled with stake of the Holy Cross run through their black, ferrous hearts.

——-

They called the communists we fought in Vietnam the Viet Cong or VC for short. I always called Virginia City VC for short. 

I remember the shallow minded necks of VC as my personal Viet Cong; every night I lit up C Street with with my twin M-60’s.