The hours before dawn are, perhaps, the most uncertain of times. Commonplace objects seem to merge with the gray, pre-dawn light and it’s not always clear what’s real.
There is one thing, however, I can always count on around 3 o’clock on any given morning – if the phone’s ringing, it’s my old ’60s sidekick, Sapper, calling to explain why karma runs sideways through interdimensional gaps of subjective reality.
(Sure, go ahead, read that last paragraph again – can’t hurt…)
Sapper, forever lost in the Age of Aquarius after ingesting some unidentified herbs near Bolinas in 1968, is always ready to share his thoughts with anyone he can reach on the telephone after midnight.
Last Tuesday morning, Sapper directed his telephonic excesses my way, calling from his tastefully deconstructed crash pad in the heart of Oregon and urgently confiding one of his deepest fears.
‘Hey, bro, you ever thought about how many weird people there are just wandering around out there where they could bump right into you an’ stuff?” he asked. “I mean really, really weird – Charlie-Manson-on-the-half-shell weird. You ever wonder about that?”
(Uh-huh – usually when the phone rings before sunrise…)
“It always gets to me when I’m standin’ in line somewhere and I know somebody is standin’ in line behind me and that person could be really, really weird – like a zombified Richard Nixon or somethin’ just breathin’ down my neck…” he continued in an urgent whisper.
Getting a word in edgewise was not yet an option, although I did manage a brief “Whuh…” before Sapper resumed.
“When yer in line somewhere, anybody can just step up behind ya, and chances are they’re crazier than a road lizard. Ya can’t really turn around and see just how weird they might be, because that’s, like, impolite in this society. So ya just gotta stand there and wonder when they’re gonna start swingin’ a dead cat at the back o’ yer head,” Sapper declared.
“An’ then they start makin’ all kindsa weird sounds. Ya ever notice that? Yer standin’ in line at the post office or movie theater or someplace an’ all the sudden the guy behind ya starts making sounds like ‘Glik-glik snnnrrrk’ Oh, man…”
“I mean, ya gotta wonder what’s goin’ on back there but ya don’t wanna look ’cause ya know yer gonna come face-to-face with some guy who looks like Rasputin clutching a quart of vodka in one hand an’ a rabid ferret in the other…” Sapper added.
“Of course, it’s even worse if ya can understand some of the sounds. Then yer hearin’ stuff like ‘Aha! Vengeance…Death…Cottage cheese! Lizard, lizard, lizard! Tanks in the wire!’ hissed at yer back,” Sapper said. “An’ the only thing worse than that, bro, is silence. Then yer sweatin’ it ’cause they’re back there starin’ at the back of yer neck an’ just gettin’ weirder an’ weirder without a sound. There’s no escape…”
Silence? No escape?
Ah, there’s where you’re wrong, old buddy. Escape is as easy as, say, dropping the telephone receiver into a handy wastebasket and burying it under a pillow. And a bedspread. And some old shirts. And a couple pairs of boots. And maybe a big ol’ recliner chair…
Originally published July 23, 2000