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  • Chalk Outline...



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  • This is my Blog...There are many like it, but this one is mine...

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        Saturday, June 28, 2008

    Chalk Outline...

    Where I used to live, while I was in high school, we had this old stagecoach road that they had paved many moons ago, and it had been the primary access road up to our mountain aerie, until they made the main road up from the valley.
    Now, this old road ended up in the valley, at a covered bridge, and then petered out, and another, more robust road took its place.

    The old road went down the side of the canyon, hugged it like the murderous, twisting serpent it is, and at the top of it, you could look down, and see the violent twists and turns it took, the switchbacks, and what appeared to be a near vertical drop that would take your breath away. Still does. And I have jumped out of flying vehicles. At night.

    So naturally we kids, being immortal, and sporting freshly minted 'driver's' licenses, would get loaded and take it at breakneck speeds. I think my guardian angel developed a Valium habit back then.
    And every so often, Death would be waiting patiently around a blind curve, and then he would swing his scythe, and take one of us. Or more.

    One such was a guy I knew well, and it pains me now that I cannot remember his name.
    He was on his motorcycle, and the road slipped out from under him like a poorly secured carpet, and gravity and momentum tag-teamed him. To death. Closed casket.
    A bunch of us went to his funeral, and they all cried, and then we went off and mourned as was our wont, with beer, and perhaps a little pot. He had been a good, nice guy. And he was gone. Forever.

    One of us got the idea to go to the accident site, so we piled into cars, and drove solemnly in a column down that road. And sure enough, we found the last place on this earth where he had drawn breath.
    It was easy...just look for the spot with the white spray-paint outline of the crumpled guy, the spot with all the gooey purple and red stuff in it, and all around it, that the buzzards are circling above, wondering where the food is.

    We stood there, for awhile, just looking, and finally cars began to leave, one by one. You couldn't turn around anywhere on this road, so once you started, you were committed to the trip. As if by consensus, we all turned right, at the end of the road, and we went to a swimming hole and went skinny dipping and drank more beer.

    Now, in those days we didn't do any of that 'teddy bears and flowers and white crosses' bullshit at the site where a friend had passed on. What did happen, though, was that somebody went down and freshened the outline of him. They didn't have white spray paint, so they used another color (I forget which) and then others picked it up, and the death-scene began to look positively psychedelic. Very 70's.

    Well, years passed. Nearly two decades. I had left California and moved to Oklahoma, joined the military to get out of there, served, had children, moved back to the city at the bottom of the hill to attend University, and one day I took my kids up the hill to see my old high school. We did our thing, I reminisced, and we left.

    On our way out of town, I saw the entrance to the road described above, and on a whim, I turned down it.
    I wanted to see the place where my friend had died one more time, and I hoped that I could find it. Could I? Oh yes, I could.

    I came around a familiar curve, and saw ahead of me maybe three cars, and a bunch of high school aged kids standing around. The sense of deja vu that washed over me made me dizzy. I pulled up behind the last car and parked. You couldn't pass on that road. I got out, and my kids piled out, and we approached the group.

    A young man was bent over at the waist, a spray can in his hand, and he was freshening up the outline. Several others had spray cans, and had either already sprayed, or were waiting their turn. They were solemn, and respectful, and it looked like some kind of ritual.

    I finally walked up to them and asked them if they knew the person the outline had been drawn around. They replied no, and told me this was something every class had done for years. I could still remember his name, then, and I told it to them, and told them how he was a classmate of mine, and told them how I had been there on the first day this ritual had begun. They were in awe. And I never went back there.

    He was in good hands.