Smoking in the Sky Box

Heat rises.By the time this little riff hits the presses, the smoke will have cleared. At least we can hope it’s cleared. ’Twas the “Lick Fire,” the result of an illegal debris burn far and away, south of San Jose, which tinted the local skies ash-grey. Just as rays refracting through smog makes for luminous Los Angeles sunsets, similarly spectacular is morning sun through the particulate matter of a state park gone ablaze. I overheard a barista at Barking Dog (Springs Edition) opine that sun shining through the haze looked like the world was ending. I had received a similar observation from the Contessa, who phoned me from her morning commute and goaded me to appreciate the blood-hued sunrise. Indeed, it looked like some revelation was at hand. It was downright demonic. Or rather, I should say, “daemonic,” which somehow brings with it the heft of biblical scholarship. Note, the Æ grapheme, wherefrom the “ae” vowel combination hails. The Latin diphthong made its way to the Old English alphabet where it had been transliterated from a rune the traditional name of which, coincidentally, is “ash.” I know this only because some English prof needled me over it once since the letter(s) are the second and third of my name. He also suggested that my name should be pronounced “Dee-dalus” so I dropped his class.

When I first landed in Nomaville, there was a period when I studied daemons in mythology for a project that continues to stoke my ambition. The local library was the locus of much of my research, which included ordering titles online to be delivered and held for me inside the foyer. I loved the system since it offered all the satisfaction of purchasing a title online (you even input your library card number in lieu of a credit card number) but without all the overdrafts. However, I became concerned that the amount of Lucifer-themed books I was ordering would arouse suspicions that some order of devil worshipper had moved to town. Rest assured, I’m too self-involved to worship anything other than the graven image that glowers in my own mirror, but I have had some run-ins with the old man. The most recent was at the Jack London Lodge in Glen Ellen where photo editor Flash Lely and I belted a belly full of his whisky before I recognized him. Though I’d learned long ago that the devil doesn’t mess with the press (or “messengers” as he has often wheezed through the gap in his teeth), his company always puts me on guard – especially, when he refers to the “wondrous utility of those who bridge the muse and mankind.” Yeah, glad to be of use, pal.

Some time ago, when my friend and news-game alumnus Hiya Swanhuyser and I were trawling tequila in the Mission, we were offered the contents of dust-lined, cut-crystal decanter. We each had a good slug (but smartly left the worm behind). Later, Hiya managed to stagger the stairs to her apartment and sleeping husband. I, however, stayed behind for a smoke, but soon found myself laying in the 22nd St. gutter. There, I became convulsed with laughter – the private joke, surely induced by the mescal wiping away my mind, was the stray notion that perhaps I was the devil and had merely forgotten. I recovered but was left with a lingering sense of doom, a permanent spiritual hangover, which was piqued again by the morning sun. As Flash’s grandmother once told him, “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky at morning, sailor’s warning.” Now if I could only remember the ingredients of a Tequila Sunrise.