Ch. 2

It's spring time. Each day is a little bit warmer than the day before, here, in the Prescott National Forest, Arizona.

Living in the Veterans Integration Center & working part-time in the kitchen of the VA hospital, back in Albuquerque, New Mexico ~ these honorable pursuits were having a hard time competing with the approaching spring of '08.

"You've got a permanent job. You can work until its time to retire. You've got it made!" quoth Quest, my roommate, a slightly rotund Afro-American ex-military-man with a bad back & no pension.

His side of the room, crammed with worldly treasures & satelite-radio antennas, was organized in such a way that only he could figure it out. For example, under his bed, under an empty grape-juice bottle, there might very well be an important court-document awaiting an important date, and under that a slice of cheeze to be siezed for a midnight snack that very night. So sat Quest in his underwear on the edge of his bed at two in the afternoon ~ like Buddha, like Ghandi ~ a free-moral agent of the community & the tenacious ruler of his narrowly-confined realm.

Each day of spring is warmer than the day before, but not warm enough until summertime, here in this half-rotten Ponderosa Pine forest of Arizona. Seeing as I was born & raised in San Diego, jewel by the sea, in southern California where the weather is always mediterranean, nothing in these here parts seems to be warm enough until summertime.

Back in Albuquerque, there stood I by the door, on my side of the room, which was, of course, sparse & spartan. There stood I lean & ready in my black & grey VA food-services uniform. And said I to my sedate roommate, "I sure would like to get the fuck outta here."

And left.

That is, I left to go do my daily chores on the evening shift at the VA. As I ambled thru the last biting winds of winter & down the long Veterans Integration Center porch to the bus stop on Central Avenue, the eternally thoughtful Quest stuck his head out the door behind me, many doors away now. "You forgot your badge," he chortled.

I trudged back, a cursing yo-yo. I pulled my VA employee's badge off a wall tapestry above my rack ~ stood there for a moment blankly pondering a Douglas Johnson painting felched from a calendar, tacked to the tapestry. The tapestry in actuality was a piece of rug-mat tacked over a door-sized hole in the wall.

The calendar painting, before which I stood a-pondering, was of two Indians the size of crickets lounging around a pottery vase in front of a window. The little Indians were painted white & decorated. Strange hieroglyphics were all over the place. I had not a clue what the famous artist had in mind when he painted this.

"So if you were to leave Albuquerque, where would you go?" said Quest, curious & once again perched on the edge of his rack.

"Prescott, Arizona," said I.

"What's in Prescott?" said he.

"Nothing," said I as I stepped out the door. Before I shut the door behind me, I poked my head back inside the room long enough to add, "And everything."



top photo:

Mule deer in Prescott National Forest by John McCormack

bottom photo:

Veterans Integration Center, Albuquerque, New Mexico