as many of you may, or may not know, i used to be a clown. “gino cumeezi”. that was my name. great grandson of the infamous and toothless “gums” cumeezi. a cross between charlie chaplin, jack kerouac, and grand central station. i like to think of gino as a subversive public fool. a comic outlaw. a provocateur to the max. truly one of new yawk’s “finest”. in fact, gino ran for mayor of new york city in 1977. against the recently deceased (february, 2013), one and only mayor of new yawk, ed koch. “put a real clown in gracie mansion.” that was gino’s campaign slogan. he finished 5th out of 4 candidates.
may 17, 2013 beware. this is a story of curmudgeonliness turning into beatitude. let’s start with the first. it’s the merry month of may. time for college graduations. i never go. never went to my own, never will. you know the routine: 1969… the me generation, protest, stick it to the man. my parents made me go to the college i never wanted to go to, just to save the dough. i certainly wasn’t gonna go to make them happy. i was socially inept, volcanic, and generally, i had a hard time making it out of adolescence. i didn’t need…
It ended the same way it began. On a hard, linoleum-covered wooden floor. Me lying next to Clay, the Dog. Comforting him at the very beginning. And comforting him again at the very end. Clay, my homeboy companion. My escape artiste extraordinaire. Clay, the canine outlaw of Echo Park. The cat killer and coyote enforcer. The sweetheart and heartbeat of Elysian Heights. Clay, the Dog, who is no more.
“act 3”, you know, of a play? it follows its 2 predecessors: act one, which brilliantly sets up what’s at stake for the protagonist. followed by act two, in which the play develops with tension & suspense as it builds in “rising” action, when finally, you have, “act 3”, the climax and resolution of the play. if it’s a good/happy ending, the play is called a comedy; if it’s a not so good, bummer of an ending, the play is called a tragedy. in either case, act 3, the “falling” action and… the end of the play. now being a…
about 90 seconds after my first hill climb and descent, i confront my 1st fellow motor biker, a brown-skinned local dude puttering uphill with a fellow passenger on back. i’m heading down, he’s coming up, and i pull over to the right. so does he. that is, he swerves to his left, my right. what the hell? we’re heading right at each other. we simultaneously swerve to avoid one another. in the mili-seconds before impact, my life doesn’t flash before me. i think something like, “what the fuck, man… you idiot, you’re gonna run right into me. don’t you know the rules of the road? it’s your country, you boneheaded yokel, what the…?
crash! bang. head-on. i go down. he goes down.
look to the right, exactly 90 degrees from the terraced hillside back deck of lucretia gardens, and there are — the san gabriel mountains — gently looming over the hazy glendale flats. turn 180 degrees back to the left and there’s — the glassy silver rim of the pacific ocean, dividing the big sky of another multi-colored california sunset from the slightly high-rise sprawl of snarky century city and the equally-hazy flats of LA’s toney west side. turn back another 90 degrees to the right, and there, straight ahead, is the white dome of the griffith observatory, the shrubby tree tops of tom mix hill (of legendary silent film cowboy lore), and lo and behold… the iconic hollywood sign itself.
i go out and sit on the plump, stuffed designer chair on the narrow, red-tiled front porch, in a little corner i like to call “mi rincon de memoria” (my corner of memory), amongst the low hanging creeping charlies and the wood-carved mexican religious figurines, and i notice a single white easter lily growing through the green ground vegetation towards the black wrought-iron fence. it is singularly beautiful and very alone. i know that it is way too late in the season for a white easter lily to be growing in the garden. but there it is. i look a little closer to admire it, and i see that its white graceful edges are now fading to brown. in a few days, it will be gone. it stands there entirely alone, so fragile, in its slow, elegant decline. inevitably, it will crash like a springtime flower into the cold of september.
and… i aim my RAV 4 directly at mike. he sees me coming and his eyes start bugging out of his head. captain of industry, huh, mike? mike tries to maneuver out of my way, practically falling off his tan beach cruiser. i hit the brakes to a full stop… about 2 inches from mike’s front wheel. mike looks terrified. he should be.
i’m a civilized man. intelligent, educated, compassionate, even, some might say, sophisticated in the ways of the world. i’ve traveled a good deal of the planet, survived cancer; i have a good job at a major university, i married for the 1st time at 54 years old; hell, i have a lot to be grateful for. then why, oh why, dear shiva-allah-buddha-yaweh-whoever the fuck is in charge, is my goddam temper still on a such a short leash, threatening to explode in the most unpredictable, humiliating, and inopportune times? am i a fool? or am i just cursed?