Often, I walk around while talking to myself. Sometimes, from the outside, it may look more like a crawl. Usually, though, I am able to pretend that I’m making reasonably good sense. I try to ask and answer important questions of vital concern to no one. Do I know where I’m going? How did I end up here? What next? Do I really want to know?
Less often, the answers are convincing.
I was trolling for salmon in my small, ill-equipped boat, near the edge of the Soquel Hole, a craggy submarine canyon reaching more than one thousand feet below the surface of Monterey Bay. The morning fog was thick and the visibility truncated like a religious sword. I’ve been in that blue and gray area before. It can get spooky. A swell that originated in the Sea of Japan was beginning to twist and shout like Chubby Checker in a dentist’s chair. The small boat was aptly named YOYO. My churning, chickenshit guts had come along for the ride.
There is nothing more delectable than the taste of a fat and oily salmon steak eaten on the evening following the morning it was caught. The catching part of fishing for salmon suits me just fine. But, I dislike just about everything else about salmon fishing. I dislike getting underway early in the morning in order to be able to get out on the ocean and back before the afternoon winds arrive to thrash small boats like mine. I dislike launching my small boat amid the chaos caused by sleepy landlubber assholes not much different from me at the Santa Cruz Harbor. I dislike pretending like most of them that I know what the fuck I am doing when in fact I don’t. I dislike finessing the wriggling anchovies I use as live bait onto a barbed and often rusty hook while the boat is rocking. I dislike sucking the blood from my spastic fingers and fretting about lockjaw. And I dislike shivering uncontrollably in the chill air no matter how many clunky and suffocating layers of unnaturally fleecy fibers I am wearing.
Many of the early morning assholes at the harbor are drunk, or will be, or nearly so, very soon. That is true and will remain true no matter what the time of day. Many other assholes are smoking weed, popping pills, purging systems. Some believe that on the turbulent surface of the Pacific Ocean they are are exempt from unnatural laws. I try to maintain my own semblance of order while following in the wake of these assholes to the best fishing spots by drinking first and smoking later.
And I especially dislike puking over the side.
About an hour after launching, when I had come upon a patch of clear water that had not been devoured by fog, I cut the engine and decided to devote my full attention to puking. I was merely doing what I deemed best. I had done it many times before. It should have been no big deal. There was no land in sight. The boat was bobbing like a proverbial cork getting screwed.
And it worked, sort of. I felt better for a good thirty or forty seconds. I wiped my filthy potty mouth with a dirty rag and stuffed it back into my pocket.
But when I looked up next I saw a humpback whale rising out of the sea like an apoplectic post-modern sculpture. It was as long as a chugging locomotive, and as wide around as a political convention of vanilla fat cats. Its skin tone appeared to be a mottled, lightish taupe, unless that was more of a darkish ecru, and it looked to weigh at least an untold number of tons, at a minimum, or pounds, or kilograms, or whatever. It began to check me out with one crusty eye while noshing on a million or so yummy krill, give or take. The eye was roughly the size and color of a ripe ruby grapefruit and was surrounded by four scabby nodes that looked like washed-up golf balls. The scabby nodes seemed to be throbbing, sensing. Apparently, I qualified as a suspicious character. I’m certainly not going to argue with that assignation. I’m only saying.
Astutely, I thought, whoa, fucking whoa.
Then the whale began to swim around my boat in what at first seemed to be circles of varying diameters. Initially, I feared becoming flipped into the ocean like an under-done burger. But, before long I realized the whale was performing a series of perfect figure-eights, the basic building blocks of the multiverse. I thought back to my lessons in unfolding spatial anomalies with the tawny owl. According to the tawny owl, humpback whales are the only creatures on Earth who are as able to reach the hyper-levels that spin far out in the multiverse as top notch raptors.
I thought again, because it was the best I could do under the circumstances, and in truth a lot better than what might have been logically expected of me, whoa, fucking whoa.
The whale leaped out of the water and boogalooed on the foaming mocha surface like James Brown at The Apollo. It shifted speeds and whined like all of the Andretti’s and all of the Unser’s combined, and it played peek-a-boo in and out of the fog like a nymphet who had swallowed an overdose of time-released Ecstasy.
But, when the whale began to sing, and the ocean became mightily aroused alongside, I was sure I could feel at least some of the adhesives in the the multiverse begin to crackle and become unhinged.
It was a voice that came out of Africa and had been around the block. It was a singular voice, multiplied. Time was shredded and space became fried. Flukes flopped and flippers flied. I could hear the early plaints of Louis Armstrong, bopping as he skimmed along the surface, tooting and juking, no jive. I could hear Mingus directing traffic at unfathomable depths, praying as he aimed with a smoking pistol. I could hear but not see Monk, which is surely the way it was and perhaps had to be, moaning from somewhere dark inside a sinkhole. I could detect radical bits of Sun Ra and Cecil Taylor, zipping along like ions with the electric jellyfish and eels. I could hear the jazzy young ‘uns still swimming in schools but yearning to be free. I could hear the beginning with nothing close to an end. You never saw white water jump and shout like that and neither did I.
I not only thought, whoa fucking whoa, but I jumped it and I shouted it right along. Then, I thought, what more can be said with a bunch of silly words after that?