After I’d been thrown out of the house in Encinitas, for mowing the lawn regularly,
fixing washing machines when they needed fixing, shopping for and preparing
dinner almost every night, doing the dishes as necessary, taking out the
garbage before we all drowned in the damned stuff, and responding to her cries
for help when she found herself in trouble, the woman who’d asked me to leave
offered no apology. Apparently, she was glad to see me go. If anything, my
departure was herald to better things to come. After all, her precious 29 year
old, unemployed son—who did none of those awful things I did—remained
behind. He was sure to entertain her with raucous tales of repeated drunken
forays into Tijuana, and comfort her by calling occasionally from a hospital bed to
brag about driving the car she’d bought him for his birthday over the edge of a very
high cliff and surviving. Those were the things he did.
Nonetheless, I was confused. I remain confused today, and about many things—
as anyone who knows me might testify—but particularly about that woman’s
choice in that particular matter. Why would you toss out a perfectly good and
amiable dishwasher in order to keep an egotistical, ego-centric, lay-about who,
in return for his dear unshakable presence, demanded constant doting and eternal
servitude? Honestly, when I told her, “There are too many people living in this
house,” the last thing I expected was for her to say, “You’re right; you gotta go.”
It’s been explained to me, and by several people, but I still don’t get it. The
essence seems to be that blood, diluted by heavy drink and steroids,
monumental, unassailable selfishness and mind-boggling stupidity, is thicker
than water, and especially, perhaps, in southern California..
It hardly matters. I moved into Steve and Margaret’s garage and made a kind of
home of it, with a futon, a FAX machine, a computer, a bicycle, a lovely little Sony
CD player, and my ukulele. I’d taken the opportunity to quit my job at the
beachfront motel as well, so then began keeping a very close eye on my money.
It looked like I had enough to last a little more than 2 years, so experience told
me that I might last one… with strict attendance and the kind of luck I’ve never
had. But, to my surprise, luck was about to come by way of FAX, from London. In
order to understand that FAX, we’ll need to backtrack a little.
There was a woman named Mary, who stayed at the motel on the beach
while I worked there, coming occasionally, for a three or four month stay. She
was not merely British but remarkably, undeniably, quintessentially British. She
was an upright, very dignified, somewhat timid woman, I would say she was about 12
years my elder, and much more prim and a hundred times more proper than any
person I had ever met before. Eventually, somewhere about her fourth year with
us, she revealed that she’d been coming to Del Mar to ‘study’ esoteric thought of
some contrived sort, at an esoteric school of some contrived sort, as taught by a
well-known charlatan with a huge devoted following of women who had so much
time and money they had no qualms about wasting a little of both on celebrated
phonies like him. During that stay, after her daily class with that idiot, she would make
a point of stopping in at the front desk in order to gush about her growing insight into
the loftiest of all lofty matters… contrived meta-physical bullshit.
And, I don’t really know how these things happen—how we manage to establish
our position in relation to each individual we deal with (some we’re under, some
we’re over, some we become friends with, some we cannot stand from the
moment we first meet…)—but, with Mary I soon took on a cold and critical, somewhat
snide persona, and though it is not like me at all, perhaps just a little cruel. Whenever
she came into the office to ask my opinion, I was careful to cast my observations in a
pseudo-intellectualized, somewhat oblique, clearly superior manner, so that my
jackass was the perfect balance for her eager gullibility. I was always busy with better
things to do of course, but that never deterred her. She’d wait. Then, she’d mention
her ‘spiritual journey’ and I’d snort theatrically. She would follow up with some
ridiculous dictum, and I would make a snide comment. She’d assure me, “I’m quite
serious you know…” and I’d laugh heartily while shaking my head derisively, as if
what she had said might be the most absurd thing I’d ever heard, and, believe me,
many times it was.
She LOVED IT. She loved it.
She came in every evening and spoke with me for forty minutes, an hour, two
hours; and, despite my massive indifference, she couldn’t tear herself away. No
matter how viciously I attacked her thinking, no matter how raucous my horse-
laugh, I could not get rid of that very dear woman. She was fascinated by my near-
dead response to every chirpy little joyous thought that drifted from her mouth. She
couldn’t get enough of my derision.
As said, I have no idea whatsoever how this came about, I am not a cruel person by
nature and I have never treated anyone like that either before or since. I have
considered the matter however, and can only conclude that I was being unbearable
out of some weird kindness. It seemed to be what she wanted. She enjoyed it
immensely, and told me as much, in almost as many words. She welcomed the
scathing criticism, and that allowed me to take it as far as I could… and I got quite
good at it. Apparently, my non-analytical, reckless, shotgun approach to destroying
her every idiotic thought intrigued her. On occasion she’d giggle at some sarcastic
statement I’d made, and, after searching my eyes for a moment, she’d say, “I really
enjoy your mind. You really do have a way of making me think.”
“I have no idea what makes you say that,” I’d say. “But, I’m being quite sincere,” she’d
say, “you really do have a way of making me consider things in a new light…”
“What goddamned nonsense, Mary,” I'd say cutting her off. She would titter and blush
and say, “I never really know if you’re playing with me or not.”
“I’m not,” I'd say coldly, and she’d study my face for a moment. Then she’d smile and
say, “Well, good night then,” and she’d leave, skipping out the office door like a
Mary truly is one of the innocents of this world.
The fact that she was taking these day-long seminars from some guru moron
and returning to the motel every evening freshly enlightened irritated me. I had
to work for a living. So, one time I asked her, “You’re actually paying that charlatan
good money for those so-called classes in metaphysical self-deception?”
She replied, “Oh yes, and they are quite worth every penny.”
I told her, “Look, I’ll make a deal with you: pay me 10% of whatever you’re paying
that swindler and I’ll fill your head with nonsense in half the time. We’ll meet in
the morning, I’ll fill your head with nonsense, and you’ll have the entire afternoon
off to wander around aimlessly on the beach, thinking swell thoughts.”
“You really have quite a remarkable way about you,” she said.
“If you mean that I have a way of staying in relative proximity to Reality, then I
guess I do. But the offer’s still good. Abandon that idiot, and I’ll fill your head with
twice the nonsense in half the time” I thought I was offering her a pretty good deal.
Mary was not staying with us at the time when Princess Diana died (August 31,
1997) and she didn’t return until several months later. When she finally showed
up, it was for a short stay; she was on her way to China. I asked her where she’d
been and what she’d been up to and she looked at me for a very long time
before she whispered, “I wish to trust you…I wish to tell you something.”
Then, she explained that she was not just some wacky old British dame travelling
around seeking spiritual advice from any self-appointed esoteric entrepreneur
who was willing to take her money, she was actually a fairly ‘distinguished’ old
British dame travelling around seeking spiritual advice from any self-appointed
esoteric entrepreneur who was willing to take her money. I asked her to, if she
could, get to the point, and she told me that she was Princess Diana’s aunt.
Well, so, that was a game changer. I was`awash in shame. I sincerely offered her my
condolences, and somehow that lead to me telling her that I was extraordinarily sorry
about how badly I’d treated her for all the times that she’d stayed with us. And she
laughed and said, “Oh, no no no-no, no. No. I’ve truly enjoyed our conversations.
You’ve given me a lot to think about. I have always looked forward, with some
anticipation, not to mention some trepidation, to what you might have to say.”
“Wow,” I said. I was humbled.
“So, you’re off to China?”
“And what are your going to do in China?”
“Oh, travel about.”
“Yeah, and then what?”
“I don’t really know actually. We’ll start with China.”
Then I told her that I’d be moving on too. I told her that I’d given the motel three
weeks’ notice and I didn’t know what I’d be doing.”
And she said, “What would you like to do?”
So, how do you explain Reality to a person like Mary?
“What I would like to do has never really been an option for me,” I said.
“But if it were?” she asked.
“It’s not. I assure you,” I said.
“But, if it were”” she insisted. “What would you do if you could do anything?”
She quizzed me about what I’d done before in life, and then, suddenly she said,
“If you’re here tomorrow, I’d like to talk to you.” Then, she skipped out the door.
The following day she came in and told me that she owned several properties in
London and they needed renovation and, if I wished to, I could move to London
and we could form a company together. She would buy and own the properties
and I would oversee the renovations, and after a bit I could buy a property of my
own and form my own company.
I said, “What?!”
She explained it again.
I said, “Are you serious?”
And she said, “Oh yes, quite serious. You could live anywhere you like in
Europe—you wouldn’t have to live in London. Europe is quite small and you can
get around there very easily. Please consider where you might like to live. I think
you might like Amsterdam. You could live in Amsterdam, or anywhere else of
your choosing, and come into London to keep an eye on things. How does that
sound to you?”
“That sounds great, but, really, Mary, I haven’t got a cent… I mean I may have
enough to survive for a year, but…”
“Give the matter some thought…” she said and left the office.
So, I gave the matter some thought, and Mary left Del Mar the next day, on her
way to China, with my phone and FAX number in her pocket.
For several days the FAXes were flying between Encinitas and wherever Mary
happened to be at the moment. And things were firming up. Mary was
encouraging me to get a passport and let her know when I had it in hand. She
would then send me a ticket to London. As said, at that time I was living in Steve and
Margaret’s garage, and once a day—sometimes twice—a FAX would come in from
Mary and she’d be telling me that I should think about where I wanted to live, and
begin to make arrangements to fly to London. So, with no other prospects at all, I did
that. I thought about where I would like to live in Europe and I called around and
discovered where I could get a passport. I decided that I would drive up to Los
Angeles and get the passport thing settled on the following day.
That night, in the middle of the night, my FAX machine started churning out
paper, and I got up and turned on the light and found a FAX, not from Mary, but
from her son. There was a coat of arms at the top of the FAX with scrolls and
dancing lions on either side of a shield, and a motto in Latin. And in that FAX
Mary’s son introduced himself and, directly after, forebade me to ever have any
further contact, by any means, with his mother.
“I’m sure you understand,” he said. “It’s a matter of peerage,” he explained.
From that minute on, no FAX, no phone call, no letter I sent, ever got any
response. Mary’s son would allow his mother to be taken by some celebrity swindler
in Del Mar, but he would not stand idly by and watch as she offered a leg up to
anyone of a lesser class.
This, quite naturally, I understood.