June 5, 20 

First of all, I hate it that I’m hip and I use words like “besties,” but hey, I’m knee deep in the Zeitgeist (look it up, Ted S.) and the kids love me. LOL.

Second of all, I’m in a funk this morning, as my friends Dave and Linda are on their way back to the California desert and “we all had a real good time.” The three of us have been together for forty years, starting in Chicago in the hippie days, and on to California, where Dave got his master’s in social work and never left. Their house in Atascadero is my house. You can’t name a mountain in a forty mile radius of their home that I haven’t climbed. It would take twenty Genehouse Chronicles to tell all the stories of my adventures in the Salinas River Valley.

Most often, we are a trio, though I’ve had two wives and assorted girlfriends, all of whom were welcomed in the Mulvey home. Dave and Linda figured marriage out, a miracle considering I was the singer at their wedding. Their children D-3 and Suz (Suz married a David, murking up the already Dave-heavy roster) have spouses and children of their own, the splendid Ellie Belly and Davey and Abigail. In that family, I am Uncle Blue (my nickname is Blue—don’t ask), surely the greatest title I could ever have received.

In the last few days my besties and I stood on the top of Monk’s Mound, the tallest man-made earthen structure in the Americas, and the site of a king’s thatched home, with its forty foot high ceiling, built on or about AD 1140. We toured the fabulous Cahokia Mounds museum and interpretive center, with its astoundingly beautiful bronze entrance doors depicting scenes of Mississippian Indians and the prairie, sculpted by my friend Preston Jackson. (Preston is now working on the Miles Davis sculpture) We walked for miles, around the City of the Sun.

We stood at the confluences of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers and the Mississippi and Illinois. We rode a ferry. We hiked a lot of miles. Dave loaded my Kindle with apps  and fixed my computer and showed me how to use a cell phone I’ve had for three years and never bothered to figure it out. We ate heavenly barbeque at Mel’s River Dock on the Illinois River, in Hardin. I found an arrowhead and Dave shot the photos. We toured the Treehouse Wildlife Rehabilitation Center and got up close with coyotes and fox kits and owls and hawks and eagles. We relocated box turtles off of highways. We watched American white pelicans feeding at the Alton Dam. We visited the sites of many of my short stories, including the peaceful ElsahCemetery, high on a hill over the river, the setting for my story, “Ghosts.” In my teen years, I hid out in that cemetery from the tyranny of my father.

And, last evening, Dave and Linda met Farmer Orville and Reba the farm dog and the barn cats. And they insisted on seeing my childhood house, a home of terror and tenderness in equal portions. I pointed out a basement window, inside of which was my bedroom, from where I could look up to Libby B’s bedroom window, next door, and watch teenage Libby parade around in her bra and panties.

Dave is a master recorder of history, recording all my original songs, archiving all my writing, designing my Indian website and ever photographing. He is retired from social work and knee deep in union organizing. We hopped out of the car so many times in the last few days, as Dave shot rivers and cliffs and animals and flowers and Orville; his final photo last evening of the sunset, taken from the cliff top across from the Piasa Bird. Linda is a Montessori teacher and a dedicated guitarist and folksinger. Many times has she organized folk music parties in their back yard, in honor of my visits. She is a walking encyclopedia of wild plants and a tender of roses and apple and plum trees.

On my first visit to Atascadero, I got a warning about earthquakes, what to do in case of earthquakes. On my first night, me asleep in little Suz’s bed, the house began to shake. I awoke and rolled to the floor and crawled to the door frame. Suz was huddled there. Is this an earthquake? Uh-huh. There hasn’t been an earthquake since. We have visited the San Andreas Fault many times since, have stood in its massive ruts exactly halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles and watched roadrunners and elk herds and been awestruck by its terrible beauty and never felt a tremble.

I take nothing for granted anymore. If you are tired of me telling you I love you, we need to break up. I am a hurtling satellite headed for oblivion; I see the vivid end. And I smell the roses.

And I want more trips to Atascadero, more time with Dave and Linda, more Mexican food and Thai food and cervezas and Linda’s French press coffee and Caperone Vineyards’ unfiltered red zinfandel, more Pinnacles and Big Sur and Pacific Ocean and Salinas River and Carrizo Plains and City Lights Bookstore where the Beat writers rocked America and Ellie Belly’s belly and star gazing at the Milky Way and Frisbee Golf with Dave at the park by the insane asylum and old time music with Linda and laughs and lunacy.

I’m not worthy—I’m not. You have to turn a blind eye to all my faults and frailties, to be my friend. I’m talented, but I’m not easy.

My besties, thank God, don’t give a rat’s ass.




About Eugene Jones Baldwin

I am a writer: non-fiction, fiction, journalism (Alton Telegraph), essays (The Genehouse Chronicles) and have a website: I've published a couple dozen short stories and had eleven plays produced. Current projects: "Brother of the Stones" (available on Kindle), a book of short stories; "The Faithful Husband of the Rain, short stories"; "A Black Soldier's Letters Home, WWII,;" "There is No Color in Justice," a commentary on racism; "Ratkillers," a new play. I am an avocational archaeologist and I take parts of my collection of several thousand Indian artifacts (personal finds) to schools, nature centers, libraries etc. and talk about the 20,000 year history of The First people in Illinois. (See link to website) I'm also a playwright (eleven plays produced), musician, historian (authority on the Underground Railroad in Illinois, the Tuskegee Airmen) and teacher.
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