I Saw It Coming, Part 15

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     I could barely see the Home Depot parking lot through the soupy mist as I watched Skinny make his way off to becoming a boss.  I had told him to take his time, that he should engage as many of the guys as it took to find four of them he felt he could trust to work with.  His head was high, his shoulders back.  I was pleased at my choice.

     Ned had fallen into the rhythm of things and was willing to oversee the remainder of the demolition of his old dreams and the construction of a new one.  It was what he needed to halt his descent into bitterness.  The sense of purpose would serve to make him ambitious and young again.

     I headed toward Market Street.  I had to put my attention back on the Vulture.  It was important to pull him out of the dirty water before he got himself in too dark and deep.  Guys like Two Fingers Kim didn’t let go easily.  I needed to find a way to get leverage on Kim or I’d have to orchestrate getting him arrested with the goods.

     It was a busy Saturday on Market Street even at 9:00 in the morning.  The fog was not a deterrent for the tourists, it was part of the ambiance of San Francisco.  I figured I’d catch up with Two fingers if I just parked myself somewhere inconspicuous and waited.  I chose the bus stop near Fourth, it was busy enough for camouflage and I could keep an eye on both sides of the street.

     I wasn’t disappointed, only twenty minutes had passed when Kim and the Vulture ambled by me without even a glance.  The kid looked out of it, he was either hung over or he had already indulged for his Saturday deliveries.  For the moment, the two of them were empty handed, so I figured they were headed up to the apartment building in the Tenderloin to fetch the dope.  I still didn’t have a plan, but I was hopeful of catching a flash of brilliance on my way to grabbing a doughnut and coffee at the Tin Man’s.

Richard Rensberry, Author at QuickTurtle Books®

I Saw It Coming, Part 13

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     Skinny could have cried foul and leaned on his cane, but he didn’t.  He followed my lead and was industrious.  He methodically went about dismantling his handy work board by board with a pry bar and a hammer, careful not to split the old wood.  I liked his quiet demeanor and finesse.

     I paused and looked across the property to the Home Depot, it was quit busy.

     “See those guys hanging out in the Home Depot parking lot?” I asked, pointing to a group of Mexicans milling about near the back entrance.

     Skinny looked up, nodded his head and went back to pulling on a stubborn nail.

     “You speak any Spanish?” I asked.

     “See, street talk.  I grew up in Oakland near Fruitvale.”

     “Good.  They work hard,” I said, “but most of them fake it when it comes to English.  If we hire a few of them you could speak your way around their jive, right?”

     “No problemo.”

     “Then that’s what we are going to do.  We have a whole work force right here on our doorstep.   I will pay you what I offered if you can get them to dismantle the rest of these buildings with the same care and finesse that you are using on your artwork.”

     The kid looked from me to the Mexicans, then back to me.  “Bossman?” he asked.

     “Bossman.”

     He grinned and dropped his hammer.

     Bossman was going to fit him like a shirt.

Richard Rensberry, Author at QuickTurtle Books®

I Saw It coming, Part 12

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Skinny hobbled into the Tin Man’s at about 11:50.  He had ditched the crutches for a cane.  He gave me a little smile and a tip of the head.

I was delighted to see another small break in his armor.  I stood and gave him a knuckle tap.  “How’s the ankle?” I asked.

“Chillin,” he said.

“Skin,” I said, “this is my partner, Ned.  Ned, Skin.”

They guardedly shook hands.   Ned wasn’t a knuckle guy and Skin wasn’t a shaker; awkward.

“You up for a nice beefy hotdog down at the Costco?” I asked Skin.

Skinny looked around and seemingly finding he wasn’t the center of attention, he shrugged his shoulders and gestured.  “After you, old man,” he said. Continue reading

I Saw It coming, Part 11

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     Friday rolled down Market Street dripping heavy with fog.  I was a little reticent about the future after being sucked into the underworld of Two Fingers Kim.  I blew on my fingers and raised my collar as I hiked  up Market street to meet Ned and Skinny.

     I shook Ned’s hand out in front of Tin Man’s Doughnuts at 11:30 AM and it was still bone chilling and damp.  When we walked inside out of the cold Skinny was no where to be found, so Ned and I got a cup of coffee and sat at the table near the window where Two Fingers had met with the Vulture.  While we killed some time, I decided to fill Ned in on my little foray into detective work.

     “The heavyset kid is a runner for Two Fingers.” I said.

      “That Korean is bad news,” Ned voiced and took a sip of hot coffee.  He shook his head and pursed his lips in disgust.

      “I agree,” I said, “he’s seasoned, mean and smarter than I first thought.”

      “Smart wasn’t the adjective I had in mind,” Ned answered.

      “But he is.  He knows what he is doing.  He has some business savvy and he’s got it figured out so that others will take the fall when the heat shows up.”

      “The fat kid.  You have a talk with him?” Ned asked.

      “We have an ongoing relationship you might say.”

      “What the hell we getting ourselves into Sugar?” Ned asked with true concern.

      “Life,” I said, “we’re too darn young to just fold up or walk away.”

Richard Rensberry, Author at QuickTurtle Books®

TBone Ditty, creator of the QuickTurtle® Band (continued)

Golfing Turtle

When the Buzz Cuts disbanded, TBone joined the golf team.  He quickly established himself as a scrappy competitor willing to take the risks to win.  He became less serious and more happy-go-lucky.  His performances on the golf course seemed to be a placebo for his need to entertain.  He was soon dubbed with the nickname, Turtle Woods.

Musically, TBone journeyed more into himself.  He wasn’t particularly in a funk, he was just very introspective after dealing with the difficulties of trying to hold together two bands at such an early age.  Yes, bands were fun, but they were all encompassing entities that were as fickle as the weather.  He had needed a break and golf afforded that outlet.

While working his way up the leaderboards, TBone spent his downtime focusing more on song writing.  He learned the piano.  He dabbled in the blues and had developed a special liking for punk music, but in the end his tendency was the down home feel and sound of folk.  His lyrics were oriented around the social issues of the day and the escapades of falling in and out of love.  He would often pull out his acoustic guitar and play a few ditties for the golf team while they were holed up in some cheap motel on the road.  It was his first foray into what it would be like to be out on tour in a touring band.

On senior ‘Skip Day’, TBone hauled his guitar and an old banjo down to the park.  He soon became the focal point for the more artistic crowd as he played some of the popular hits of the day.  He interspersed the hits with some of his own creations and got lots of compliments especially from the girls.  His song writing had matured along with his performance skills from the hours and hours he had seemingly spent in front of a mirror.  Having the attention of a rapt crowd rekindled the performance bug and his dire need for a band.  He didn’t have the makings of going it alone; he considered it just too lonely.

Fortunately for TBone, Robbie Slade had decided that he’d had enough of Algebra and skipped off to the park with the seniors.  It was a very brave thing to do as a sophomore, not only because he was going to get detention but also because he was traipsing into senior territory where no male sophomore had a right to go.  Robbie looked like a geek.  He was sarcastic and strong willed with a short fuse.

It was a blessing that TBone had everyone’s attention when Robbie showed up in the park because Robbie walked unscathed and ignored.  No one saw the need to confront him or chase him off as he slowly edged his way to the front.  He listened attentively to several songs before he latched onto one of TBone’s originals.  He had brought along his harmonica and boldly pulled it out.  He skillfully bent some notes and folded them subtly into the second verse of TBone’s; Too Fat Shuffle.

TBone was quite impressed.  He quickly taught Robbie another of his songs and once again Robbie wove the harmonica in superbly.  They intuitively began to play off of each other with skill and comfort.  They played for over an hour, egged on and applauded by the gathered crowd.

As the seniors finally wrapped up their ‘Skip Day’ in the park, TBone didn’t hesitate to invite Robbie over to his garage for a little jam session.  He was intrigued by the skinny sophomore and not only did they hit it off musically but they were also bonding as friends.

The seeds for the QuickTurtle Band sprouted that day in TBone’s heart.

Richard Rensberry, Author at QuickTurtle Books®

I saw It Coming, Part 6

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Two fingers Kim had been sitting at a table near the door to Tin Man’s doughnuts when the old Indian walked passed and out the door.  He had watched the Indian and the kid with the cast do their little dance and it didn’t add up.  Why would the old guy write a check to a punk kid?  The little prick had actually smiled and kissed the check.  Something was going down.

Two fingers slipped out of his chair and followed the Indian.

Richard Rensberry, Author at QuickTurtle Books®

I Saw It Coming, Part 5

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Skinny didn’t need to turn around to know who was standing behind him, but he turned anyway and stood up to face me on his broken ankle.  We were about the same height.  He wasn’t a bad looking kid.  He had long eyelashes that any woman would have envied.  He also had high cheekbones that gave him an exotic look.  His downfall was his perpetual sneer.

“I knew this day was comin,” he said quietly.  “I have a rep, old man.  You planing to step on me?”

Our noses were almost touching so we were virtually privately engaged in our conversation.

“Not today,” I replied, “I want you to keep your rep, so no, I won’t stand on you.”

“That be cool,” he said and relaxed noticeably.

“I’m interested in making a deal with you,” I said.  “Care to hear me out?”

Skinny looked around Tin Man’s.  Several of his peers were having coffee and trying to keep their pants from falling all the way to the ground.  They were oblivious to our confrontation.

“Shoot.”  Skinny said.

“I’m offering you a high paying role in my new venture,” I explained, “It involves being a leader.  I need one.”

Skinny looked at me perplexed.

“You’re a natural,” I said.  “You have what it takes.  You have charisma.”

“Don’t know much about none of that,” he said.  “Besides I already got me a job.”

“I ain’t offering you a job.  I’m offering you a life.”  I said emphasizing life.

His eyelashes twitched.  “You want me to be an actor?”

“You’re already one of those, so no, I want you to be yourself.”

Again that puzzled look.  I hoped that I hadn’t overstepped myself with my sarcasm.

“You want me to be myself?  What kind of BS you talkin here anyway?”

“Not BS, I just need you to be yourself,” I said.  ‘You interested?”

Skinny stared at me with his sneer in place.  “This high pay, how much you talkin?”

“If you are in, I’d say $1,600.00 a week to begin with.”  I said.

“You deal’n drugs or what, old man?  I’m not into being served up as jail bait.”

“This has nothing to do with selling drugs or anything else against the law.”

“What is it I got to do for this money?”

“Meet with my partner and I.  We’ll fill you in.  I know it’ll be a bit cumbersome with your foot in a cast, but we’ll work it out.”  I extended my hand.

Skinny stared at me long and hard then tentatively shook it.

“You have a bank account?”  I asked him.

“Of course,” he said.

I pulled out my checkbook and wrote him a check for sixteen hundred dollars.

“First week’s pay in advance,” I said.  “We’ll meet this Friday.  Be here at noon and I’ll come and get you.”

Skinny almost gave up his perpetual sneer and snapped the check.  He stuck it under his nose, took a long whiff and kissed it.  Then in a flash it disappeared into his pocket.

Richard Rensberry, Author at QuickTurtle Books®

I Saw It Coming

.    image           I Saw It Coming, The Series.  Part 1

I hike everyday.  It is energizing and allows my spirit to open up to my surroundings.  I am able to observe with the spirit’s eye and see universes beyond the physical reality of things.  I am delighted to take photographs and collect artifacts like feathers and wood for use in recreating what I have seen in my imagination.

On my many wanderings I have come to find hidden and secluded places where almost no human ever ventures anymore.   I am not talking about the wilderness, I am talking about within the city limits of San Francisco.  Most of The City is a massive tangle of abutted structures, but not all.  There are forsaken copses of trees and open spaces in this bustling cityscape.  Some appear forgotten as the now condemned Berlinski’s Hardware that sits forlorn with its boarded-up windows next to a twenty-first century Home Depot.  I used to frequent that old Hardware Store and it was way more interesting than Home Depot could ever dream of being.

My name is The Surest Sugar Maple.  The Elders christened me with the namesake as a young child because of my propensity to take calculated risks that none of the other kids could wrap their wits around.  I was the one that climbed the railroad trestle and tied the rope so we could fly out over the cliff and fall into the river.  I hunted and snared the rattlesnakes that were fodder for our moccasins.

If I wasn’t sure about a dare or a challenge, I wouldn’t take it on until I had it figured out to where the odds were in my favor.  I couldn’t be swayed but I could be bought.  It served me well in Hollywood where I spent many years working with the likes of John Wayne, Fess Parker, and Jimmy Stewart.  I was one of the Indians falling off horses, cliffs and bar stools.  I have an abundance of physical wounds to show for it, but I am alive and a very rich man because of it.

I am also old, but I am not as decrepit as the cocky little teenagers think.  They have begun to follow me at times and are over-confident, foolish and blind.  Their bodies are full of fast food and drugs.  They lack the power of observation.  They only see an old man, they do not see beneath the surface where I am fleet as a gazelle when and if I need and want to be.

The Skinny One and The Vulture had been waiting to ambush me when I came out of the Wells Fargo on Biscayne Street.  The Skinny One sidled up to me on my left while The Vulture nervously poked something implying a gun into my ribs.

“Gotcha old man,” The Skinny One hissed.  He was their teenage lips, their fear and their bravado all mixed up into one.  Of all the little gangsters that I had noticed he seemed like the one that was dangerous.  “Just do as I say,” he said, “And maybe you’ll live to tell your chess playing Bros about shitting your pants down at the Wells Fargo.”

What he didn’t have was the gun.  It was The Vulture that had the weapon in my ribs and I had  since surmised that he had no business as a hoodlum.  He was too sensitive, weak minded and a coward.  Besides that, I had purposely bumped him with my elbow and there had been no weight behind the supposed weapon.  It was either his finger or maybe a plastic water pistol.

They ushered me down Biscayne.  An old man and a couple of teenagers out for a stroll.   As they did so, I quickly concluded that I was probably in no real danger.  That’s the luxury of having made  a calculated risk,  the odds are in your favor.  When I added it up, one way or another they were destined to lose.  They were high on adrenalin and probably cocaine.  They were having visions of how they had already won.

To be continued.

Richard Rensberry, Author at QuickTurtle Books®

PineApple Ukulele

image      The QuickTurtle Band’s PineApple Ukulele

Howie Burn of CCB Radio caught up with Robbie Slade, guitarist for The QuickTurtle Band while surf fishing in Hawaii.

Robbie is an avid surf caster and not that hard to locate if you know where to look.  You just need a fishing pole and some patience.

Robbie was enthused and happy to share a fish story and answer a question or two regarding the band.

“Last week I hooked an albacore right there off that outcrop and the sharks went crazy.  Almost lost her but managed to weave her in through a maze of those hungry buggers.  That’s what I’m hoping to hook into today.  Nothing like a nice shark on the other end of the rod for a worthy battle.”

“Not too sure about the shark business,” Howie remarked and looked around suspiciously.

“Never seen one try to take a bite out of me,” Robbie chided, “suppose there could be a first time though.”  He shrugged his shoulders and made another cast.

Howie took one more anxious look around and asked, “How many instruments do you own and play, Robbie?”

“As many as I am given,” he joked.  “Really.  Over the last few years at least a couple of dozen for our shows and another couple of dozen when we’re just messing around.”

“I noticed you had something new on stage last night.  Will you be pulling it out of the bag soon?”

“As a matter of fact, yes.  Tonight.  We’ve been working on a new version of “All of That”.  It will feature The PineApple Ukulele.  That was what you were looking at.  It’s a great little Uke that TBone recently put together on the North Shore.  I…Whoa!  Fish on!”

“Wow!  Is that a shark?”

“Hammerhead!”  Robbie exclaimed and grinned.

The reel screamed as the shark made a run for deeper water.  Robbie laughed and played her like his guitar.  A real virtuoso.

Richard Rensberry, Author at QuickTurtle Book®