There is much I could write about Asa Allen: The charges filed against him, the odd Probate Petition, and more. But I just don't have the heart to do that. Ace surely had his demons, like everyone else. He probably fought them the best he could. No doubt, Asa had a good side; one I may have missed. Asa, wherever you are, rest in peace. My writing about you is done, and I plan to delete the previous posts.
Excerpted from Surreal Bounce: October 2001 I want to mark the passing of another year with my best friends around me, at Lucky’s, an aroma of seasoned pine as Montecito nights grow chilly. We lounge on the front patio beneath a pair of palm trees, smoking Cohibas, sipping martinis.
“So what do you do?” Van Stein asks Reek Pisserin. The Englishman hems and haws. Finally he comes clean. “I’m a private eye.” “I knew it!” Van Stein howls. “You’re all spooks.” He looks around, lowers his voice. “Sorry. But what are you doing here?”
I wink at Floater and puff my cigar. “We didn’t want to get into it so soon. But you brought it up, so here goes. We’re here to recruit you.”
Van Stein is chewing an olive; a sliver of red pimento dangles from his lower lip before he slurps it in, better than spitting it across the table, like last time. “For what?” “An assignment.” “What kind of assignment?” “We need you to paint a nude woman playing a violin.” “What woman?” “Doesn’t matter. Young. Good-looking. Nice figure—you do figurative work, don’t you? And playing a violin.” “When?” “After we visit the Lights of Marfa.” “The what?” “You don’t know about the lights?” Van Stein shakes his head. “They appear out of nowhere,” I say. “Dancing lights, in the west Texas desert. Near Marfa. Perfect for a nocturnal artist such as yourself.” Van Stein pulls out a stick of dry vegetation. “We need to celebrate.” “Are we supposed to smoke that?” I ask. Floater looks around nervously. “Nope,” says Van Stein. “It’s supposed to smoke you.” “Excuse me?” Reek Pisserin, jet-lagged, isn’t sure he heard right. Me, too, for that matter. “It’s sage,” says Van Stein, as if that should settle it. “You’re going to cook ravioli with cream sauce?” asks Floater. “No. The Chumash use it for purification.” “Who?” I ask. “Purify what?” asks Reek Pisserin. “The Chumash are our local Native Americans,” Van Stein lectures. “They were here—in Santa Barbara—before anyone else. There’s a lot of ancient stuff going on around this area. They used sage to purify their souls, by smudging it on themselves.” Van Stein lights a match and begins burning his dry vegetation, which he waves around, then purifies each of us, one by one, right ankle, up the leg, thigh, torso and shoulder, over the head, then down the other side, sage smoke filling the air around us. After snuffing the flame, he smudges our foreheads with ash.
We depart Lucky‘s before they insist upon it, shift our party westward to downtown Santa Barbara, the Palace Grill, to re-commence our communal brain-oiling with a quart of Cajun martinis “for the table.”
I opened my eyes feeling somewhat serene—and immediately faced my old friend, Eddie the bartender, in Wonder Bar, Asbury Park, New Jersey. He looked at me with sore eyes, flicking them back and forth between a person to my left and myself. I turned. “Whoa! You’re really here!” Jesus looked around Wonder Bar in, well, wonderment. The bartender shook his head crossly at me. “You can’t bring him in here!” “Are you kidding?” I said with incredulity. “Do you know who He is?” “Doesn’t matter. I’m under strict instructions not to allow homeless people in this bar, under any circumstances. I’ll lose my job, boss.” "But... but He's mot homeless. He's..." The bartender cut me off. “Where do you live?” he demanded of the figure. “Wherever the will of God takes me.” The bartender glared at me. “Ya see?” “Go ahead, “I said to the figure. “Introduce yourself.” “I don’t have time for this!” snapped the bartender. “Okay, I give up, who the hell are you?” “I am Jesus of Nazareth.” The bartender rolled his eyes. “Okay, Jesus—time to go.” “But He really is,” I said. “I just brought Him back with me.” “Oh, really? From where?” "The Last Supper." “I give up.” Eddie turned to grab something and plunked a pitcher onto the bar. “If you’re really Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior, turn this water into wine for me.” He poured water into a glass set it before the bearded figure. Jesus closed his eyes and moved his lips in prayer. He opened his eyes and nodded. The bartender put the glass to his lips, sipped. “Water.” The figure shrugged. “I guess I’m a little rusty.” “That’s good.” The bartender snickered. “A little rusty. You could do stand-up, man. The ocean’s that way.” He pointed with his thumb. “So please leave quietly and go walk on it.” A minute later, Jesus and I stood on the corner of Fifth and Ocean. It was just past three in the morning. He plucked a shot glass from his robe. “You took that?” I said. The figure nodded. “I always said I’d arrive like a thief in the night.” He looked up. “Thank you, Father.” I looked up and saw a moon face with a toothy smile, a cross between Howdy Doody, blue eyes and high arched eyebrows, and Alfalfa—the middle-part haircut—from The Little Rascals. “I’d like to take you to meet Dr. Stendahl, my psychiatrist.” I said. “You think I’m crazy?” said the figure. “No. He thinks I’m crazy.” “What do you think?” “I’m not sure what to think anymore.” “Do you believe you are real?” I looked down at my feet, checked the palms of my hands and held them to my face, not unlike Bizarro in The Scream. “Yes.” “Do you believe that what you have done is real?” “Should I?” “Without you, I would not have arrived here." “Does that make me sane?” “Maybe, maybe not. There are principles of the universe we are not clever enough to understand. You should look at this—you bringing me here—as a miracle that cannot be explained.” “But what if you’re not real?” I said.
“What if you’re not real,” He replied, “but just a character in a book that’s supposed to guide me to my Second Coming?”
I shook my head. “Your proverbs, your parables your prayers—they work to your advantage right now, among your crowd, the apostles—and, I can tell you, your wisdom endures for very many centuries, at least twenty—and you are one of the most enduring figures in human history. But if you showed up in my time, as promised, I don’t know if your wisdom and spirituality would cut it.” I paused, considering this, spawning a new idea. “Why don’t you come back with me? Save yourself from the horrible death planned for you, return with me to my time.” Judas, nearby, stirred. He wanted his thirty pieces of silver. “I must accept my fate,” said Jesus. "What are you, some kind of masochist?" “No.” Jesus drilled his eyes into mine. “I had a vision of your arrival. I cannot allow you to change history. I know what we must do.” The apostles twitched with excitement. “But we will do this after my crucifixion,” said Jesus. “So if you don’t mind, I have a Eucharist to conduct.” When Jesus was done with His last supper and His Eucharist, I watched His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane; I watched as Judas betrayed Him with a kiss, and then as one of His disciples drew a sword and cut off the ear of one of the Romans on hand to arrest Him. It reminded me of when Paul Gauguin severed Vincent van Gogh’s earlobe. Jesus turned on his disciple and rebuked him for violence. “All who live by the sword shall die by the sword.” And I watched Jesus led away. The next thing I recall was Jesus standing before Pontius Pilate, who adjudicated the matter. Pontius announced that Jesus had done nothing wrong and was innocent of all charges brought against Him—and then condemned Him to death by crucifixion. Next thing, I looked up and saw Jesus nailed on the crucifix, a crown of thorns upon His head to mock His claims. The sky began to darken, and the earth rumbled, as if experiencing an earthquake. A voice instructed me to look down. I did, and saw a silver cross about four inches long on the ground beside me. “Pick it up,” the voice instructed. “All twenty-one grams of me.” I did so. “Put me in your pocket,” said the voice “You were declared innocent,” I said. “So why did you get the death penalty?”
“People in authority don’t like to be challenged,” replied the voice. “Church and state prefer status quo hypocrisy—it’s more comfortable for them. Plus politicians always play to a crowd. Ready? Let’s get on with power and glory.”