Al on Arcataby Author / Mike Bozart
another pSecret pSociety pshort pstory
AL on ARCATA by Mike Bozart (Agent 33) | June 2017
Al on Arcata
by Mike Bozart
© 2017 Mike Bozart
On a showery-from-remnants-of-Tropical-Storm-Cindy June (2017) morning in near-uptown Charlotte (NC, USA), I texted my late-40-something, dark-haired with some salty patches, suave, always-quick-with-a-quip Caucasian pal, Al Niño (Agent A~O). I wasn’t sure of where he was on the globe at the moment.
Are you awake?
Fifty-nine minutes later, at 11:10 AM EDT, he replied.
Hey buddy! I’m awake now.
I tried to reply to his text with a call, but for some odd reason it just would not go through. Thus, I decided to send him a terse imperative-mood text.
He rang me three minutes later. His slightly modified name came up on my phone’s tiny screen.
“Hello, is this the amazing one?”
“Al Niño here – live – not a recording.”
“Well, how lucky can we be?”
“You tell me, Mike van Tryke.” [my art-name]
“Well, Al, maybe not so lucky. We’re off by a minute.”
“What do you mean, Michael?” Oh boy, he’s already on with that darn Michael shtick. He knows how it grates on me, and he relishes it.
“Al, I texted you at 10:11, and you replied at 11:10.”
“Yeah, so what? I was asleep. I was up late last night, thinking about my next life-changing invention, which I certainly won’t share with you at this juncture, when I realized that of the seven days of the week, only Tuesday has seven letters.” Wow! I thought the same thing three nights ago, but I won’t tell him. He would never believe me.
“Woah! You’re getting as bad as me, Al. Anyway, the texting times could have been 10:10 and 11:11 if I were quicker and you were slower by sixty seconds.” What in the world is he talking about now? / Zeros and ones: binary, too.
“Yeah, well, there are pills for that, Michael. Please tell me that you are not still sweeping leaves off the back deck, raking them up, bagging them, then dumping them back on the deck, and – ” Oh, brother.
“No, no. That High Peak [near Etowah, NC, USA] daze is over and done. So, where are you?”
“Back home.” [a posh penthouse condo in lower Manhattan, New York City]
“So, how was Italy?”
“Nice. We had a fantastic fortnight in old Italia. [sic] We stayed mostly in the north, in the Lombardy region.”
“Ah, Al Milano.” [sic]
Al chuckled. “We did a day in Rome, and trust me, that was enough.” Probably suffered a gaffe.
“You weren’t a roamin’ Roman?” How cheeseball.
“No, just a-roamin’ with ramen. Cup in hand, mon.” [sic] Al’s already in not-so-rare form.
“Did you get canaled in Venice?” Tryke’s so corny.
“No, we passed on Venice this go-round. Too many tourists this time of year.”
“How was the weather?”
“Splendid. It was your classic Mediterranean dry-season weather. Sunny, but not too hot. Low humidity. Nothing like Charlotte or New York City in June. How was the weather in coastal Humboldt?” [County, CA, USA]
“Great! Pleasantly cool and overcast for the most part. Misty mornings, but no rain. Castle weather, as we call it. Oh, speaking of Humboldt, I was wondering if I could ask you some questions about your time in Arcata.” He’s recording for another short story. I’m sure his graphic depiction of me will be quite bizarre.
“Sure, fire away, 33. [my psecret psociety agent no.] You’ve got ten minutes. I have a conference call at noon and must organize some notes beforehand.” Organize some notes? On what? Maybe he’s already baked.
“Ok, excellent. I have ten questions, A-tilde-Oh.”
“One minute per question. Hope you don’t have any three-parters.” Free farters.
“No, they’re all single-sentence-answer questions, Al.” Good.
“Go! The clock has started, Michael.” Ughhh.
“Question one: Why did you pick HSU [Humboldt State University] for your junior and senior years of college?” [Al took his first two years at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte.]
“My best friend’s – well, at the time – brother was going there. He said that it was pretty cool. And, it being in the weed [marijuana] capital of the United States was a big plus.” I’m sure it was.
“Ok, question two: When did you start at HSU in Arcata?”
“Oh, it must have been August of 1999 or 2000.” He forgot the year? Yeah, he’s stoned.
“Ok, moving right along. Question three: Where did you live?”
“I lived on campus the first semester. However, being an older student, I didn’t really like it. Thus, I moved to an off-campus apartment at Sunset [Avenue] & Western. [Avenue] It was only a seven-minute pedal-pumper on the bike.” Pedal-pumper? Perhaps Al knows that I’m recording.
“Very good. Question four: How long did you live out there?”
“Let’s see … I graduated in December of 2002. So, two and a half years, I guess.” He guesses? Yeah, he sparked up a bowl for breakfast.
“Ok, question five: Where did you hang out mostly?”
“I mostly hung out around Arcata Plaza.”
“Oh, we stayed next to it.”
“Oh, yes. Good pick. Very convenient.”
“It was. We walked to Humboldt Brewing one evening. It was a cool scene.”
“Ah, yes, Humbrews. Been there many times.”
“Ok, question six: Did you ever go to Trinidad?” [15 miles (24 km) north of Arcata]
“Dude, I went all the way up the coastal highway to Vancouver, Canada. Trinidad Bay is very scenic. Sea stacks aplenty.”
“Did you hike Trinidad Head?”
“I wrote a short story about our hike on Trinidad Head, Al.”
“Oh, what’s the title, Michael?”
“The title is – are you ready for this? – Trinidad Head. It’s about 3,500 words. The tale lopes and loops.” Lopes and loops? Tryke’s been sniffing glue in the office again.
“You’re wasting time, 33.”
“Question seven: Did you ever go to Old Town in Eureka?” [8 miles (13 km) south]
“I endured it a few times. Too many spangers.” [sic]
“Bums asking for spare change. Not sure who coined that portmanteau.” Portmanteau?
“We stayed in a two-star motel [Town House] on the edge of Old Town for two nights. Monique [Agent 32, my wife] was thoroughly freaked-out by all of the tweakers [methamphetamine addicts] on the sidewalks.”
“The new mayor of Eureka is a tweaker.” Wow!
“Yeah, there are now so many of them that they were able to vote one of their own into office.”
“Unbelievable!” It’s just too easy to fool him.
“Not! Jesus Christ, Tryke! You are still as gullible as ever.” He’s right.
“Question eight: How are the winters in Arcata?”
“One hundred and twenty-one – if it’s not a Leap Year – consecutive, sunless, chilly-ass, agonizing, rainy days: December, January, February, March.” Nice quick math. Maybe Al’s not totally toasted.
“Exaggerating a bit, aren’t you?”
“Maybe a hair. But, it’s almost as bad as Seattle. Mold would grow on the walls if I didn’t run the dehumidifier. It was the only place that I ever got jock itch.” Lovely.
“I think I could deal with it, Al. I’m not a sun person like you. I’ll take a damp, gray winter in exchange for mild year-round temperatures.”
“It’s only mild if you’re within four miles [6.4 km] of the coast. Even Blue Lake, which is just six miles [9.7 km] as a crow flies from the ocean, is much colder in the winter and warmer – and much sunnier – in the summer. The marine-layered coastline is dank all year.”
“But remember, Al, we like that castle weather.”
“I like some, too. But, trust me, Tryke; the winters in Arcata will try your mind. People go batty. Everything has to be inside. It gets claustrophobic. Therefore, lots of over-medication. New addicts every May. There’s a saying that I will never forget: ‘Arcata winters are so drab that atheists begin to pray.’ Yeah, it’s that bad, bud. Believe me.” I bet that he just made that up.
“Ok, question nine; it’s a bit personal: Any girlfriends while at HSU? You can hit the Skip button if you like.”
“I only got laid twice in twenty-nine months.”
“No way! Not a hip hepcat like you. Don’t underreport now.”
“It’s the cold, hard-on truth. Most of the women out there weren’t my type. The stripper in Eureka was almost a relief. At least she shaved her legs and underarms … and, yes, her pubes.” What candor!
“Ok, Al, we’ve somehow made it to question ten, which is: Would you ever move back?”
“I go back to visit every year. But, only in mid-summer. The place pulls at your heart and mind when you leave.”
“Yeah, I hear ya, Al. I already want to go back.”
“But, as for living out there year-round again … No, can’t say that I would. I certainly would love to buy a small pad out there. It’s a cool summer place. I just can’t four-season it.”
“I think that Monique and I could do the winters just fine.”
“A lot of easterners say that before they actually live inside a cold, waterlogged sponge. And, hiking in 39-degree [Fahrenheit; 4º Celsius] rain is not much fun.”
“I guess that my tolerance for cool, wet weather is higher than yours, Al. I’ll take those kind of days over 97-degree, [Fahrenheit; 36º Celsius] sun-scorching sauna-steamers.”
“Whatever, Tryke. Those limited-to-the-interior winters drive people incrementally insane.” What a ridiculous remark. Oh, just let it go.
“Ok, that’s it, Al. Thanks for your time, jetsetter.”
“I have one question for you, Michael.”
“What did you think of Arcata Bay?”
“Underwhelming to be honest. I like rocky shorelines. So, how’s that screenplay going?”