"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines, going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."
Walt Whitman (1819-92)
"When I look back now over my life and call to mind what I might have had simply for taking and did not take, my heart is like to break."
Akhenaton (d. c.1354 BC)
And now, the current weather, from some random person we pulled off the street:
Sunday, December 21, 2003
The Captain Makes His Mark
se-duce Function: transitive verb
Etymology: Middle English, from Late Latin seducere, from Latin, to lead away, from se- apart + ducere to lead -- more at TOW
Date: 15th century
1 : to persuade to disobedience or disloyalty
2 : to lead astray usually by persuasion or false promises
3 : to carry out the physical seduction of : entice to sexual intercourse
4 : what the Captain enjoyed doing most
It was the summer of 1978, and the Captain was armed to the teeth.
I don't know what it is about summers during that period that threw me so far into mania, but I can look back on them now and all the hallmarks are there. Sure, the Harliquin's melancholy would sometimes have a visit, but mostly it was the Captain's wild hunger that drove me.
I was the featured act that summer at a bar called Sloppy Joe's in Myrtle Beach. The bar was right on the front row on the boardwalk. It was run by a guy everyone knew as "Mr. Z." That's all he gave us, one letter.
I did once see an envelope with his actual last name on it, and it did start with a "Z". But he never used it, and no one else did either. He was a hulking man, with a big beard halfway down his chest and a bald head, bushy eyebrows and a huge gypsy nose, dark tan, and wore exclusively cutoffs and tank tops.
He paid us every week in cash from a different bank envelope.
When business was slow, he had a habit of crouching down on the sidewalk outside the bar. He looked like some live version of a gargoyle, and it never made sense to him why people would not come in when he did that.
By the time that summer arrived, I was sporting a full beard and had even taken to wearing a greek fisherman's cap. My stage name was "Captain Cliff." I had embraced that part of my persona and it consumed me. The captain had a way of doing that.
Now, as an entertainer, especially at a resort area, let's just say your social life can be pretty much whatever you want it to be with pretty much whoever you want it to be with. This was before the days of AIDS and things were pretty free wheeling.
I am ashamed to say that I do not remember a tenth of the girls I left that bar with during that summer.
I do know that I easily persuaded many of them to do things that they would not have done if not caught by such a persistent predator as the Captain. And by now, he was a master of his craft, and had a voracious appetite.
That year I had gotten a brand new Triumph Spitfire. That was a souped up version of the MG, and was a sweet little convertible sports car. It was a babe magnet when I cruised down Ocean Boulevard in it. And when I wasn't cruising, I was on stage. As far as the Captain was concerned, I was provided with every tool I needed to get into lots of trouble, and that's what he did, with abandon.
After a few weeks, the girl from college that I was dating, the one from the fraternity, came to visit with her family. When she walked in, I think she immediately knew that I was not the same person. It disturbed her.
That evening I took her into town, and we were driving down the Boulevard. We passed by a hotel where some girls were shouting and waving from a balcony at the passing cars. I looked over, and she was crying, just sobbing.
I asked what was wrong, and she said that she did not feel she could compete with girls like that.
I told her that wasn't a factor, there was no reason to worry.
We broke up shortly after that. For her, that was a good thing, I believe. I still had a ways to fall and she did not deserve that ride. There were other takers for that race, others who would gladly take a passenger seat with me as I plummeted into further and further depravity.
I did have some goodness left in me though. That hallmark I had of caring, that never went away totally. I remember one instance in particular.
It was about midnight on a Saturday (the bar had to close at midnight on Saturdays because of blue laws.) There was a huge disturbance outside the door, and I saw a guy beating up a girl on the sidewalk, just kicking her and pounding on her mercilessly. She was screaming and crying, he was shouting and drunk or stoned.
I was out there in an instant, helping to subdue the idiot and get him into the paddy wagon which always parked at the door to our bar.
Yeah, it was not the classiest place in town, so we had our own paddy wagon.
After they hauled him off, I took the girl aside. The sight of him punching and kicking her as she collapsed helplessly on the sidewalk is still burned in my memory, and it had offended me to my core. I had met her once or twice. She was really upset and confused, understandably. I told her that I would take her somewhere that would not remind her of him, somewhere new to her, and she could have a drink or two and relax and recover. The last thing I wanted was for some predator like me to have a go at her when she was like that.
We ran by my trailer and got her one of my jackets since it was a bit chilly, and went to Socks, which was a little private bar outside of town that only the locals knew about. We sat in there for a long time, and she told me how abusive this idiot was to her. She was afraid of what he would do when he got out of jail. She was terrified that he would beat her again or maybe even kill her. He had been shouting that when they hauled him off.
I told her that I would do whatever I could to make sure she was safe. I mean, I would have, anything, and not asked for anything in return.
The best I was able to do was to calm her down, help her get her composure and a bit of self esteem back, and talk her into getting on a bus the next day and returning to her parents, wherever they lived. I went by later that day to get my jacket, which I had left with her, and her roommate said she had already left and taken it with her.
I hope it gave her some comfort, knowing that someone just cared for the sake of who she was and nothing else. I hope every time she looked at that jacket she thought of that.
There were some other times that the caring came out, like the night a friend of mine got drunk, depressed, and suicidal. I took her keys and stayed with her for hours until it passed. She told me how years earlier, when she was young and pretty, she had driven the original Pink Panther figure all over Hollywood, because she was dating one of the producers. She was no longer young, and she was no longer pretty. But when morning came, she was alive.
You know, it's nice that the good things that happened seem to have made more of an impact on me than the selfish things. The times when I gave of myself without thinking, without wanting something in return, those times and moments are more special, more vivid.
The Captain might have been at the helm most times, but I was still able to grab the wheel on occasion. And those moments were the best of all. I wish those times were the rule, and not the rare exception that they were.
In charity there is no excess.
Sir Francis Bacon (1561 - 1626), Of Goodness, and Goodness of Nature (1625)