Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Day fourteen...Part time lava.

I love my Lava Lamp.

It asks so little of me except consistent warmth and a safe spot on my desk. In turn it provides me with untold hours of joy and excitement. My red electric pet if you will.

It is a mammoth in the world of icons and it needs no improvement. The 60's may have been a time of turbulence in the world of politics, drugs, music, sex, art, general comportment, and morals, but the Lava Lamp emerged unchanged. Edward Craven Walker would be proud.

I remember being just a little kid staring at all the crazy psychedelic stuff at a place called Rungs which used to exist in the Swansea Mall back in the day. They moved a lot of Lava Lamps.

Today it would have been spelled Rungz. But this was the 70's. The end of times wasn't so near, comedy was not pretty, and the letter 'Z' wasn't a 'hilarious' substitution for a plain old 'S'.

Rungs was located next to Edgar's in the back of the mall. It was adjacent to the organ store with the old lady whose job it was to rock that sucka' all day long till someone dropped some serious bank on a new Hammond.

Anyway, Rungs was full of joke gifts, monster masks, disfigured Pepsi bottles filled with blue liquid, rock T-shirts, and incense. It was my special store. While inside the walls of Rungs I felt like the cool younger brother at his much older brother's keg party. I had some restrictions, but I could at least get in the door. I knew there was a whole vernacular and set of rules that went with the black lights, Lava Lamps, and hair decorations...er...I mean roach clips. Someday I would enter that world. But when you're almost eight in 1977 all you really wanted was to see Star Wars one more time.

Still, the signs tantalized. "No one under 18 admitted" warned the placard above the blue, beaded curtain in the back of the store. Whatever tidbits of fun lay behind that formidable checkpoint I could only imagine. I was sure it had something to do with girls. What else could it possibly be? I probably could have snuck by the clerk with the curiously red eyes making time with the chick wearing the "I'm with stupid" T-shirt but I didn't. I was a good boy. Whatever they were selling that only 18 year old girls were allowed to have could wait. Girls, as any almost eight year old will tell you, are gross.

At the time, all I really needed was a Rubik's Cube key chain and a pair of bunny ears. Maybe a few rounds of Missle Command at the 'Dream Machine' arcade and a can of Pepsi with a straw. God, that still sounds like a good time.

Then, at the agreed upon hour, my immediate reality would take precedence and I would meet my Mom at the penny fountain outside the Pipe Den. Sometimes, depending on where she parked, we'd get to walk by Rungs. I would smile a big 2nd grader smile re-living the adventures that had taken place just minutes before. I'd always take a big whiff of that incense they were burning. It made me lightheaded. You never get that feeling again.

These days there aren't too many things that excite me like that.

I don't have to buy a ticket for 'Benji' only to sneak into 'The Wall' and get scared shitless.
I still to this day don't know if Benji really came home. I have a feeling he was just a patsy.

My dreams still have a profound effect on me and sometimes give me those old feelings of innocence and pulse pounding excitement. Dreams are an amazing benefit to having a brain. I don't believe people who tell me they don't remember their dreams. I think they're just really fucked up and they want to keep it to themselves. So be it. I don't really need to know.

Last night I had a crazy dream that I was with Muskrat and we were sitting on some weird scaffolding high above downtown Springfield. We were smoking a jibber. A big, fat, stanky jib. A spliff, a number, a doobie. Or as they called it in the 60's, a Marijuana cigarette.

Then Erma appears.

Erma, for those unfamiliar with the people in my world, is a real person who used to be a regular at The Baystate bar and hotel. She was and is a pleasant, petite, black woman with a husky voice who practically lived in this former Northampton landmark. I saw her the other day in town and we exchanged glances that seemed to convey "You? You're still around?" And then it was over.

Well Erma pops up in my dream and says: "I'm callin' the cops on you two."

To which I reply:"Why Erma?"

And Erma says: "Cause you're smokin pot!"

Cue the blue and red lights and me freakin' out knowing full well how bad this is going to look on the 23rd and holy shit, now I have to come clean in my blog. I'm not going to cover up a relapse. Here in this world, the world we share, we don't keep secrets.

So I start flailing my hands around and pleading with Erma to just let us go (by this time she had morphed into a full fledged cop.) and she's just shaking her head and tapping her Billy club to her hand. "You goin' to jail. Mmm hmmm."

Oh Erma.

And then I wake up. Pulse racing, drooling, confused, and wrapped up in my covers. Thank Christ. Time for a big stretch. You're OK. You're not going to jail, and you are not wicked high. Could've fooled me. I felt higher than I ever have been in my life. It was 6 in the morning. My head was spinning. It was still dark. Except for a swirling red and white light enveloping the wall and ceiling above my desk.

My Lava Lamp.

I love my Lava Lamp.

Edward Craven Walker would be proud.

Well, a full two weeks have transpired since I began this journey. I've been 100 percent sober for 19 consecutive days (dreams don't count). That's a record for me. One that hasn't been broken for a very, very, very long time. Not since right around the time I was old enough to walk through that blue, beaded curtain. Past the red eyed clerk with the 'Pobody's Nerfect' T-shirt on. Which I never did do.

I'm going to light some incense and then I'm going to bed.

And maybe, if I'm lucky, in my dreams I'll travel back to that special place in the Swansea Mall. To the Rubik's Cube keychain and the bunny ears and the Missle Command at the 'Dream Machine' arcade. And maybe, just maybe, if my restless brain lets me, I'll get to stop at the penny fountain outside the Pipe Den. And I'll get to visit with the person I think about the most.

Let's talk tomorrow.



Running Hard Out Of Muskrat Flats said...

Wow - Best one yet...keep em coming Freddy.


Anonymous said...

jesus, I haven't thought of irma in ages. I forgot all about that lady.

glad to hear you're taking care of yourself, freddy. you're too smart and talented not to. good on you.


Anonymous said...

If anyone's wondering, Irma's doing well and is sober herself. she still works at fitzwillies. reader who knows of you frmo mutual friends and saw the link to this website on mark scwaber's blog. nice writing! even though i don't know you i read cause it's such good writing.

F. Alex Johnson said...

Thanks Boobie. I'm glad Erma is doing well. She looked great both in person and in my dream. I hadn't seen her in years. It was a pleasant surprise. I hope she doesn't mind my using her name though I suppose it's too late now. I hadn't even considered using a pseudonym as so many people knew her and liked her. It just felt right.

Thank you for the compliment. I sat down to write this post and couldn't think of a single thing I wanted to say. And then my Lava Lamp started to percolate and the words just came. See you around.


Libby Spencer said...

Hey Alex,

I just read this whole blog from the beginning, slowly, to savor the metaphors. Don't give them up. It gives your style its voice.

Sorry to hear about your troubles but I love your blog. It's like comfort food for a soul hungry for news from home. I'm knocked out impressed with it and with what you're doing with your life.

As for Irma, I'm in regular contact with her by email. She's doing great and has been sober for over a year now I think. She and Mike have become quite the homebodys which is why no one has seen her.

Libby from the Baystate Hotel