I see dead people......
I see the LIVE people.
This Saturday we were working (Shock!! Horror!!) a lunch for a new favorite client. She forgot to tell us how many people were actually coming to the event (Shock!! Horror!!) so we had to call Amanda at The Store to drive to town with more plates and glassware.
Amanda was hung up in The Village: a motorcycle crash with a dead guy. She eventually arrived and passed on the info that a teenager had run over a sexy Japanese rice-burner across from The Running Iron. The same place where Chrissy was killed last year. There are now European-style Day-Glo green warning signs all over the place to mark the spot. Europe's only REAL cultural influence on Carmel....the color of the paint on the warning signs.
Chrissy was a Village icon: a nearly totally disabled woman with a five-speed, fuel injected wheelchair. She could use one hand, which ran the wheelchair controls and a computer that would spit out tapes of her words. Her high-speed car crash back in the day had left her with little nerve control of her facial muscles, etc. so she was iconically always wearing a Kleenex in the corner of her mouth to stop the drool....as she blasted by at 30 mph.
When our kitchen was at Rippling River.....some 15 years.....Chrissy was the queen. She had been there since the 60's, when there was a swimming pool and a hot tub......and all that implies for disabled, highly medicated, liquid nudity.
Rippling River became a HUD, then a County of Monterey facility.....and the pool and hot-tub were paved over. "You freaks are lucky to breathe our air!" seemed to be the message from dear old Ronnie Reagan.
Even so, Chrissy was the first to get a government subsidized 4wd electric wheel chair....and she used to push that baby to the max. She usually would blast by our kitchen on two of the four wheels of her chair, hooting with joy.....her dog, Comet barely hanging on and trying to keep up.
Co-habitation was not allowed at RR, so her "care-giver" boyfriend fought a constant battle with the County Housing Authority over his residence. And, just because her body had sucummbed to her accident.....her party spirit was still strong. The docs gave her enough meds that she could stay in the zone, and share enough into the local community to support her modest life-style.
The never talked about dirty secret of our local underclass is just this issue: meds. At Rippling River the people have genuine disabilities....mental, physical, spiritual. The rent is supported by a less-than-benevolent government.....but many of the people are reduced to cat food status. In our tenure we gladly handed over any leftovers people wanted, but that was nothing. Meanwhile, the docs supervising these folks were generous with the meds. The residents were often faced with a quandry: food or pain? Sell off the "extra" meds to help the $420 a month (less rent) go further. One old guy actually told me that he found that if he just turned up the TV a little louder, he could go without his afternoon Vicodin. Thanks, Oprah!
Most of the people were just schmoes....but at least a couple were heart-rending. My friend Madeleine was a 90-something Frenchwoman who had outlived all her people. Now.....I feel about French people about the way Patty Hearst feels about the SLA.....serious Stockholm Syndrome......but Madeleine was the real deal....a Heroine of the French Republic. Her husband was a Jew, and got popped by Klaus Barbie somewhere in the Central Massif. Madeleine was a typical Frenchwoman and refused to accept any male-related reality....and rescued the husband from a transport train in Germany. She hid him with neighbors and was so pissed she went on rescuing other guys throughout the war.
Her great sin was out-living all her people. To stay at Rippling River, you have to be ambulatory and be able to feed yourself. At the end, Madeleine could not leave her room, much less get to Safeway. We used to cook her lunch every day: old school French style. Sole meuniére, boiled potatoes with parseley. And, true to her genes, she would bitch us out if we slacked in any way. The other residents and the local crack-addicted caregivers covered for her until she finally went her lonely, heroic way to........wherever heroes go.
Our other guy was Jim. He was a young hot-shot pilot in WW2. He did not need food so much as the company of other hotshots. He would fight the arthritis and hobble out to walk his doggy every day and come by the kitchen to restore batteries by hanging with Brendan and the boys and breathing the testosterone.
Jim was one of the guys at the battle of Midway. That morning, they knew the Japanese carriers were out there because of intercepted de-coded signals....but not where. His patrol went out as far as they could from their carriers.....and then opted to stay out past the point where they had enough gas to be able to return. Long story short, they found the Japanese carriers, did a suicidally stupid torpedo run with no gas and suffered 90% casualties.....but turned the war around in an afternoon. Jim got $800 a month as a retired colonel.....and had oxycontin to sell from time to time.....so he was fat.
I am trying not to be political so much......but I think the true measure of a nation's military is not the quality of the toys in play, but the quality of care those that lay it on the line for us get in their later lives. Rippling River is full of vets who will be happy to share their meds in exchange for a TV dinner.....
Anyway, back to the Dead People. Chrissy. Chrissy was a partier. She partied herself into her original crippling accident, and never looked back. One morning last year, possibly jacked on meds, and certainly FLYING in her chair.....she shot out into Carmel Valley Road and was flattened by a young guy in a big pick-up truck. Oh, well.....
There were testimonials to her courage fighting her disability....to her kindness.....to her spirit. All well deserved. There were multiple memorials....all tear-jerkers.
Meanwhile......what about the kid? This poor guy had his life ruined....and no one stepped up for him. A nice kid from a local Italian family......the killer of the poor crippled woman.
Yeah, who had a death wish for forty years......
This weekend it happened again. It turns out we knew the dead guy under the most recent pickup truck: Paul Sparks.
Paul was a total creep.....but he had a cute dog. George was an ancient tea-cup poodle with kidney problems.
We first met Paul when he moved to Cachagua and came for Sunday Brunch with George. He was afraid George would not be welcome in The Store.....but we gave George his own chair, his own bowl....and eventually George had his own dish on the menu. I hid a brand-new Teflon omelette pan for George so that I could make him an oil-free eggwhite omelette on Sunday mornings....while Paul read the paper and got schnockered on cheap rosé.
Paul was one of the weird, manipulative rude people. He would throw a shit-fit if his rosé was not available and cold. He would sit for hours and order weird dishes that even we would not cook. And under tip, or not tip at all. Paul was so weird and manipulative and creepy that we figured he was probably a serial killer. Really. Not so strange for Cachagua.....we have other guys like that.
But we loved George....and the whole idea of George. George was kind and polite and humble and appreciative. And owned by Paul....who was such a creep we actually talked about whether it was possible to sexually abuse a teacup poodle.....
Paul's last moment in The Store was on a Monday Night. He had reserved and no-showed on us a number of times....so we had charged him anyway, and took a credit card hold on his table. This Monday he showed with a date, and proceeded to show off and act like a Michelin critic....snapping his fingers and being weird. After his first glass of wine, he went south.....and grabbed the ass of my 16 year old busgirl. In the middle of the craziness of Monday night I had to stop cooking and actually stop my cowgirl busgirls from setting Paul on fire where he sat.
"Think about George, girls. George is cute.....And, it is a wood building. And you have tickets up........"
Paul was heavily 86'd.....lucky to leave alive........ and we never saw him again until Saturday....under the wheels of the pickup.
Our first concern was for George, so we put County Animal Control on the case. Turns out George died a few days before Paul.
So....we have a probably drunk, possible serial-killing, certain child-molesting 78 year-old freak who crashes into a truck driven by an 18 year old girl who stalls in Chrissy's crosswalk. And dies.
And The Pine Cone is doing a story on how cute Paul was on his scooter (he went to meetings of The Scooter Club!)......
Meanwhile the girl is a wreck.....consumed by guilt. "What if.....what if......"
OK....sad story. Not much we can do about it since we already painted the crosswalk Euro-Green.....
My heart goes out to the poor kid that Chrissy hit....and the girl that Paul hit.....and to all of us that have lost the joy that their lives might have been in our little community without this dreadful, unnecessary guilt trip over one person that was ready to die....and another that needed to die. Those poor kids.
Then, just suppose there was another situation where young people randomly became responsible for the deaths of strangers and their friends in meaningless situation beyond their understanding or control. We won't even talk about the manipulation of their ideals and goals.....
We have more than 3,300 dead in Iraq. We have more than 25,000 badly injured.....and all of their friends and comrades who trained with them, loved them, fought with them, tried to save them at the last instant. Oh, yeah.....and the families. If accidentally being the agent for the death of a drunk child molester wrecks your spirit.....what does having your friend die in your arms do for your joie de vivre? Or have your buddy wind up drooling like Chrissy and lining up for the new 4wd wheel chair?
Oh....and having none of it matter at all. Mike Gravel on the Colbert Report tonight: "There is nothing to win!" As my friend Tommy said about foreign service: "Where the competition is fierce.......and the stakes are LOW!"
How many Rippling Rivers are we gonna have to build? And will the Republicans still be there to support the troops when they come back? Who will identify the Madeleine Blackmun's and care for them?
I guess we don't have to worry about the Vicodin and oxycontin supply for the next few decades.......