I used to work@ a very Prestigious Museum of Contemporary Art and met some good folks. There were times that I liked to get together with friends on occasions, and being near the beach , free food and free ride, was to mean-any occasion that came up. One of my brother’s friends-Brian- who, also was an aspiring artist, worked there, together with Heather his girlfriend. I was the person that had the beach more in mind, and any way to pack my surfboard , skateboard, get some rays in; I was all over the idea, bringing the beers @ times – my brother and Brian invited me over to His girlfriend’s duplex near the beach for a little BBQ. (and I didn’t have to drag a nag- my girlfriend).
After getting high and drinking a couple in the afternoon, it is time to hit the beach; really, anytime during the day you could do this, afterward, it is time to hit the surf- I am more of a body surfer, than a Surfboard Surfer; I wanted to learn more how to surf- I am not a- ‘HODAD’- A term typical to California- being a name called in school from other rugrats that live near the beach and say they surf- but don’t know how to surf. Brian knew how to surf pretty good. I kept noticing Heather, although she was very attractive, I knew her and Brian had a big spark of a connection, even drunk, I knew my bounds- we were good friends- No- It was something Heather was doing, from in-between the duplexes that caught my attention-There were plates and food going in and out of another duplex @ the end of the BBQ feast we had. We were all laughing @ each other @ the beach, especially my attempts for standing on a surf-board.
After sitting and opening up even more beer, I met Billy. This was one of the folk I noticed too, making the liquor store runs from time to time; throughout the times we were there, before or after work- the idea is, that there were many times Brian needed a ride because Heather was already @ work, and it was on the way to get, yet, another free ride from my brother who could pick both of our non- driving asses up. (ideally, if we were going to work we didn’t really drink, because drinking, and reading didn’t mix very well, but…shhhh.) My first impression of Billy was Busy, and concerned with a lot of beer and liquor bottles and soup cans- Billy was , in fact, a “Framer”, and a damn good one, Brian would keep showing me and my brother some of “Billy’s” jobs @ times as he was also showing us the next bud he was getting ready to roll and we were getting ready to smoke. This is what was coaxing all of us during the Triumphs of Purchases that were getting few and far between- I was impressed with Billy’s Jobs, and the bud.
This time it was my time, with Eugene- I don’t know how else to put it. We were the Museum types. Maybe, this is what Billy was referring to, when talking to Brian about in a hint of conversation, that somehow, brought about angst, between Billy, Brian and Heather, when they were together inside Heather’s duplex. My brother was very good @Listening- he was excellent for listening, though, I was good @ listening , too. I think Brian and Heather knew I was also a conversationalist. I would come off the Bat with dialog i.e. ‘Which way do you place your toilet paper roll?’, was my ‘thing’ question @ the time…..Without having to go through this, the conversation led me to meeting or @ least talking about this Eugen. It wasn’t going to be that night, it was going to be another time, during the day, I was focused on the beach and activities, waiting before or after work, and then when I would finally meet Eugene.
Before going to the Duplex @ the end of the court, where Billy kept coming in and out of; where Brian and Heather kept running in and out of; where all of the latter and now, including my Brother, were having a conversation about, I noticed what I had remarked about that night we were drinking. THE MASK. It was a very remarkable image of beauty, that even, perhaps Patrons of the museum could remark. There was depth and the face was impressive figure of a man’s face, with a heavy beard that flared as a flame being blown around the figure face. It was marble and cut, and I never knew if it was something that Eugene had bought or cut- it was unique. It even had a energy that shown and asked out for some remark, and we were all talking about it as being ‘Eugene’s Art’ and how impressive it was- There also was an Eyeball from Billy, because I was attracted to the piece, and as with Heather and other Museum artwork, this was out- of- bounds, regardless of the worth according to Billy.
I was expecting to see artwork before I met Eugene, because, I was being introduced by both my brother and Brian to him. When I walked in , it was the afternoon, I was wanting to go through the routine of rolling one and then hitting the waves, but I also wanted to meet Eugene, now, I was anticipating the meeting. I wanted to talk to him about the MASK, and if there was another piece like that he knew about or, whether he had in fact, sculpted it, and wondered of the worth. It was mostly just a list of things, conversation-wise, that I could muster up in my head ahead of time to engage Eugen. As I walked through the door, my brother and I were silent, and Brian’s first comment to Eugene was loud and, Brian knew that I would pick up his gesture and follow along the line that Eugene was hard of hearing, his vision was weak, he was committed to a wheelchair, 2/3 twelve packs of beer and a bottle of Seagrams or the equivalent whisky on sale that week, and the occasional can of Campbells Cream of Chicken soup. His bed was an old hospice bed, and the kitchen was in disarray, the trash can was full of beer cans.
This occasion, all three of us were on Eugene’s bed- it was an old hospital bed, perhaps he got from the VA; we were all facing Eugen in his wheelchair- We all talked to Eugene about this, a better bed, and the medals and awards from his exploits with the Army Corps of Engineers which kept interrupting the Bed topic. We wanted to find, Eugene a better wheelchair, and we talked about it in between Eugene’s ramblings about his wife and the war. We talked about his awards with him, as we wanted him to eat something, besides ask one of us to go back to the liquor store, because he was getting low on beer- This seemed to push his frame of mind from completing his topic for conversation, as if the shiny bottles and cans and the company were a reason for us to continue to engage in more camaraderie and more beer. The liquor bottle was similar around the end of the afternoon, half full, with a shot waiting, till Eugene finished an “Old Soldier” as Eugene would call them. Then it was simply, another beer.
I knew now what Billy was doing, and what Brian and Heather had just inherited, and they were trying to make better plans for Eugene- Eugene was alive- But Eugene was dying, too. His faculties were alive for just the moment of having a gleam in his eye that looked @ you with the cutest of a Baby Koala bear, his voice was gentle and pure as if he was a child, hoping to have anyone go and endorse his dying request. How could someone compel you to let him win, this was Eugene’s appeal to me, now, it was a Lamentation for all of us now. I couldn’t go surfing, I couldn’t even drink around Eugene- I wanted to pass him a joint, because he allowed us to light up and wanted us to enjoy ourselves , too. And many of the first greetings to him was to ask if YOU had anything to eat, then ask for extra change.
Billy had to have been the one to stop Eugen from going on his own to the Liquor store, because I alway heard Billy say he will just roll over there as he used to- I really never knew the early beginnings of Eugene, except the dusty certificates they used to hand out in the day on the small living room wall, and the old pictures of his wife, that passed, and we all assumed that Eugene was done, He was probably done because, the cognizant loops of thought were about this and @ times about the war, which usually faded to his nodding off, and we learned to gage his sleep time to the end of a bottle. We wondered if this nod was the time, that Billy kept reminding all of us- If we were the last to see Eugene, slumped over in his wheelchair, and the liquor bottle was low, that it was our turn to buckle his strap in the hospital bed, take out the trash and close the door behind us. We wanted @ least to be able to do this ONE thing for Eugene.
This was certainly a hard thing to pass, the rides, walking in and out of Eugene’s house, wondering what to do for him. Billy was committed , but, Brian was looking for a way out, and the Couple were having a rough time. I didn’t know if this was the reason, their decision to move out of the duplex because of Billy and Eugene. But, Heather and Brian were back into a different apartment, we were once again, back and forth to Eugene’s but on less occasions- I never knew if another couple or person moved into the duplex near Billy’s and Eugenes. But ……
It was the one day that Brian was not answering his calls, and no one was around, and it seem a bit odd that Brian and Heather were not home around this time after work. About a week later Brian told me when I finally talked to him that someone forgot to strap Eugene in one night, and Billy found Eugene on the floor- Brian, was the one that Billy gave THE MASK that Eugene had on his front porch, because he was the ‘Museum type’ and what Billy was arguing to Heather and Brian about- What could we have done for Eugene? Everybody! – To Eugene! – He won!