Saucerful of Secrets and a Sidewalk Symphony of Smells (and a postscript)

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I’ve been trapped in the southern tier of New Hampshire for more than a week, and I really can’t wait to get back to the Tiny White Box. So is Sam (is a dog), although he does enjoy the smorgasbord of smells on the city sidewalk, and the surprising number of edible substances he finds as we walk. Maybe a key to happiness is to accept “food-like” as close enough, and not be so picky.  If so, I’ll abstain.

Much has happened during this time I’ve been down, some of which I’ll be able to share with the world shortly. One thing is that I’ve had meals with six (6) (VI) of the 14 folks I named on New Year’s Day as people I wanted to reconnect with.  The resolution continues.

All this social whirl — with friends, attorneys, reporters, and a bunch of drunks — has minimized my writing time.  Once I get back to Pittsburg I’ve got a ton of material to get down, but until then I want to share something from a decades-old journal.  I release it to the world, so feel free to turn it into what you like — I could go for a double espresso if it’s not too much trouble.

“Let’s say you just dropped a hit of windowpane three hours ago and you’re just starting to peak. You know, walls are melting, you’re watching the hair grow into the back of your hands, you finally get ‘Saucerful of Secrets.’ Then you’re crossing a street and you see a giant, throbbing brontosaurus coming toward you and you know you have to fight it or you’re never going to come down. So you look around for your magical sword, but it’s gone and the brontosaurus is really a milk truck and it’s five o’clock in the morning and in the next minute you’re dead. Splattered all over the road. Lying there like a piece of firewood.”

“That’d be a drag, man,” I said, handing the joint back to Jonas. Columbian, but still not great, not at thirty-five an ounce when I was making a buck eighty five at Orange Julius for having to act straight and grind up ice and smile, smile, smile.

“I’m not finished, man,” Jonas said. “I’m not even close. The thing is you’re dead, right? You’re peaking, right? Well, what happens to you when you meet God? Are you still tripping or what? Do you spend all of eternity with acid coursing through your blood and brain and soul? Does heaven have trails when you turn your head? Let’s say you ‘re taken in to see Jesus, all healed up from the crucifixion, do you start to flashback to that Friday afternoon sun when the birds were picking at him and he was dying for all mankind? Would God the Father all of a sudden be like your own father and just seem like a colossal bummer? Since the Bible says that heaven has no time, would your trip ever end or would you just keep on forever at whatever point you were when you died?”

It’s scary sometimes how smart Jonas is. He’s always thinking about deep stuff and all I ever think about is getting into Kelly Raucher’s pants or, if she and I are on the outs, some other girl I met at the mall. Jonas, though, he’s like Socrates or Bob Dylan, just keeps churning this stuff out and not even realizing how smart he is. For a fifteen-year-old kid, he is like a national treasure, my treasure, really, because nobody else in this stupid town thinks he’s anything more than a geeky punk who smokes too much pot and who talks weird. When we were in eighth grade, he was voted class clown, yet I’ve never known anyone who was more serious when it came to important things, like feelings and God and music.

“How do you know you’d go to heaven if you were tripping?” I asked. “I mean, God probably isn’t really into acid and stuff. I don’t think he’d like to have some drooling doper grinding his teeth from strychnine and trying not to laugh or cry.”

“You’ve got to read that Bible I gave you,” said Jonas. “God only cares whether you’ve accepted Jesus as your personal savior and let him take away your sins. He doesn’t care what you’ve done, as long as you’ve sincerely asked Jesus into your heart. I’ve been a Christian since I was eight and I know God is going to take me. Just like the prodigal son, he’ll welcome me and have a party.

Addendum: Please Turn Off the Alarms:  Two Words are Just Two Words

In the two-word phrase of the immortal Phil Rizzuto, “Holy Cow!” About 90 minutes ago, I posted the above column, a relatively short one, consisting of a brief update and an old, undated journal entry.  In the update, I used two words that appear, based on emails and texts I’ve received since, to have caused great and grave concern.

Those two words were not “cancer diagnosis.”

Those two words were not “paternity suit.”

Those two words were not “suicidal ideation.”

The two words were separated by a comma and were part of an eight-word phrase describing the folks I’ve met with during my trip south: “friends, attorneys, reporters, and a bunch of drunks.” Friends and bunches of drunks aren’t the issue, but the two words in between them seem particularly powerful.

attorneys, reporters.”

Before my friends, family and bunches of drunks have a meltdown, let me offer assurance that I am in no trouble, legal or otherwise, and that the conversations with reporters are related to the Tiny White Box, writers’ retreats and my plans for the future — not to any legal issues.  The conversations with attorneys were completely hypothetical, and in one of them we spent way more time discussing warfare tactics used by the Romans than the hypothetical.  Regular readers will not be surprised we also discussed the history of Durham, NH, the Washingtonian Movement of the 1840s and ’50s, and the importance of the First and Second Great Awakenings.

I do apologize for conjoining two words that together seem to have such power, but I’ll admit to having a blind eye and ear to some things. Now that we’ve all calmed down and had a nice cup of tea, let’s just enjoy the weekend.  Sam (is a dog) and I are looking forward to returning to the deer, the cold and the Tiny White Box.


About the author: Keith Howard used to be a homeless drunk veteran. Then he got sober and, eventually, became director of Liberty House in Manchester, a housing program for formerly homeless veterans. There, he had a number of well-publicized experiences – walking away from federal funds in order to keep Liberty House clean and sober, a contretemps with a presidential candidate and a $100,000 donation, a year spent living in a converted cargo trailer in Raymond. Today, he lives in a six-by 12-foot trailer in Pittsburg, NH, a few miles from the Canadian border with his dog, Sam. There, Howard maintains tinywhitebox.com, his website, works on a memoir, and a couple of novels while plotting the next phase of his improbable life.