The Other Door

Some of my better prayers are asked and answered while I’m in the shower. It’s as if the echoing sound of the water rushing from the spray head acts as a masking agent for a soft voice that otherwise is a feeling and not heard.

This is where I was talking to God about a recurring dream event that includes the imagery of doors, both hidden and in the open. I have sought the Lord’s interpretation of this and if it has any real meaning.

“Father,” I asked stood under the water, “What is the meaning of ‘other door? Is it a new beginning, something I’m overlooking or does it mean absolutely nothing?”

As I asked this, I passed gas – a loud, long, sneaky squeaker that made me laugh so hard that I did it two more times involuntarily. Because I was laughing so hard, I breathed in a snoot-full of water, which caused me to gag and begin coughing.

My laughing fit, coupled to my coughing jag, was so intense that I dropped to my knees in the tub. That’s when I heard that quiet voice hidden within the soft patter falling from the shower nozzle whisper, “The back door?”

Laughing even harder, I cried out, “No, God – the other door – not the back door!”

Sometimes the answer we seek isn’t the answer we’re given and sometimes we learn that God has an unexpected sense of humor.


The Night Amos Moses put the Lime in the Coconut

Last night as I laid in bed and failed to go to sleep, I decided to listen to some music from my nearby device. My taste in music covers nearly every genre available, so many times I end up hearing strange combinations of songs falling back-to-back.

Megadeth  pounding in to the mellifluous Platters, anyone?

Case in point, Harry Nilsson’s “Put the Lime in the Coconut,” played and was followed by the song “Amos Moses,” by Jerry Reed. What is so meaningful to me about this is that this isn’t the first time these two songs have played one after the other in my life.

It was mid-summer, 1971 and the family was visiting my cousin’s at their cabin along the Mad River in Trinity County. My older cousin’s Gary and Steve and my younger brother Adam and I were still awake listening to KATA 1340 AM blasting out of Arcata as we lay in the upper loft of the barn, which had been converted to a sleeping area, when the two songs came on.

Since it was an AM station, the signal came in like a powerhouse after dark, while fading to nothing more than static during the day.

The four of us sang as much of each song as we knew at the top of our lungs, laughing and giggling all along the way. We ended up getting so loud that Uncle Adam had to come out and remind us that we were supposed to be going to sleep and not engaging in horseplay.

“Turn off that radio and good night, guys” he called up to us. Steve reached over and the music came to an abrupt end for that night.

And I as I listened to last strains of ‘Amos Moses,’ fade from my device, I couldn’t help but marvel at the knowledge that I would one day spin records for that same radio station in the 1980’s.

The Dent Beneath Your Nose

Sue Skaggs was one of our many babysitters when me and my siblings were young. In fact, I was one of the only teenagers that I know of that had to have a babysitter because it was hard to trust me to not get in trouble.

While she smoked cigarettes like a chimney, Mom and Dad could trust her to discipline us when we got in trouble. Furthermore, if we were too out of hand she’s call her son, Vestal to come a set us straight – which if I recall only happened once — which was enough.

As a youngster of ten or 11, I was a chatterbox, even though I stuttered. Because of this, I drove Mrs. Skaggs crazy because I rarely finished a sentence without her feeling the need to complete it for me.

And no, I didn’t think of this as rude because it happened all the time – so if it didn’t happen, like in Mrs. Clauson’s speech rehabilitation class I got terribly frustrated and would shutdown. She would tick me off so badly at times that I would refuse to talk for a couple of days – mostly weekends since I saw her every Friday afternoon.

Finally frustrated with my constant jabbering and broken speech, when I was 13, Mrs. Skaggs told me that the little ‘dent under your nose,’ was a reminder to be quiet. I remember reaching up to feel it and realizing I had really never paid much attention to it before.

This caused me to slowdown and think about what I was going to say before saying it and is probably the reason I still have what radio commentator Paul Harvey referred to as ‘pregnant pauses,’ in my speech. Thus, I have never forgotten what she told me.

Three years later, as I studied for my Emergency Medical Technicians certificate, I learned that little dent below the nose and above the lip had a name: the philtrum or medial cleft. Medical science claims it is a hold over from an earlier time and serves no real purpose now days.

Jump ahead 23-years, as I was studying for my degree in theology, I learned where Mrs. Skaggs got the idea that the philtrum was a reminder to be quiet. Like most informant passed along by word of mouth the story changed in the telling.

In Jewish mythology, each child has an Angel teaching them all the wisdom in the world while they are in the womb. Once shared, the Angel lightly touches the infant’s upper lip to keep the them from telling them to the world and that this is the cause of our medial cleft.

Personally, I like the idea of keeping a secret better than I like keeping quiet.

Up All Night

In recent days it was suggested that I write about my experiences in the radio broadcast industry. This isn’t the first time such an idea has come up as a few years ago it was recommended and I took it so seriously that I even developed a title for a possible book, “Up All Night.”

Sadly, the title is a play on words. First, I spent much of my career doing swings shift and overnights; secondly, my career was also filled with a lot of debauchery, that I can honestly say is of immense embarrassment now.

So, needless to say, this tome would be filled with tell-all-sex romps, wild nights drinking and stuff that would cause my grandmother to disown me. Happily, all of that is behind me and I shutter at the thought of revisiting that part of my past.

Suffice it to say, I have done things no one should do. It has left me open to become the blame for things I didn’t do, and somethings I knew were being done – and that is damage that at this point seems irreparable to my earthly reputation.

Throughout my career, I have seen people who acted exactly as I did get promoted (one woman works for ABC News these days,) to better positions that came with better pay and other perks. I even know a guy who stole an entire sound/production board for which I got the blame of taking and he continues to prosper, making money hand-over-fist.

Between programmers, consultants and managers I’ve seen some real stupidity. In one case a lid of marijuana was found between the cushions of a couch in the station lounge and the General Manager decided to deal with the ‘drug issue’ by getting rid of the couch.

Sadly, the business is tough on some people. I’ve watched addiction get the better of people who showed real talent while others have taken their lives due to the heartache of a perceived failure.

No, I don’t wanna write such a tell all as I have no ax to grind with anyone in the business and I figure there has to be a better way to make ‘my bones,’ than grinding other people’s bones to dust.

Have a Shoe

The story I’m about to tell happened today and a part of me wishes it had not happened. It takes me back to a saying I heard once, “To love the world is easy – it’s the jerk down the road that’s the problem”

When I first saw him, he was at the far door, asking anyone who came out if they had any spare change. This man was what one may consider an aggressive panhandler, as I could hear him trying to shame people as he followed them to their vehicles in the parking lot.

Praying to myself, I hoped I wouldn’t have to deal with him. But true to God’s nature, he tasked me with exactly that the instant I opened my mouth and asked for deliverance.

My sense of humor is nowhere close to God’s and his idea of deliverance is a far cry from mine.

“Gotta quarter?” the panhandler said in a loud voice.

“Sorry,” I answered, trying to match his volume in both speech and character. “I don’t have any cash on me.”

Undeterred, he continued, “But you jus’ bought something – so you gotta have some money.”

“No,” I shot back as I readied my key to get in my truck with the idea of a quick escape.

“You’re a liar,” the guy declared.

Caught off guard by such an accusation, I glared at him and replied, “Tell ya what, I’ll give you one of my shoes – but only one.”

“What the hell do I want with a shoe?” he asked with great incredulity. “That don’t make no sense.”

I smiled, though I felt more like knocking his teeth out of his head, and stated, “I don’t know. It makes as much sense as calling a man a liar when he really doesn’t have money.”

There was a long pause before I added, “Like most folks, I only have a debit card. That’s all I carry.”

Angry with me, he snarled, “Fuck you, then!” He stomped off leaving me alone to get in my truck.

While I don’t know if my treatment of the panhandler was right or wrong, in the end his reaction did remind me of Proverbs 9:8, “Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you; rebuke the wise and they will love you.”

Del Norte County’s Black Dahlia Case

The name written on the cover page of this address book was Lucille Blair, 4981 N. Jersey, Portland, Oregon. It was that of an unknown woman whose badly decomposed and mutilated was was found north of Crescent City on March 1, 1957.

Ten-years earlier Elizabeth Short was found murdered, her naked body sliced in two pieces, earning her gruesome death the infamous moniker, “The Black Dahlia.” The 22-years old’s murder is one of the oldest cold-cases in Los Angeles’ history.

The Del Norte County victim, without hands or feet, and cut in two, was discovered clad only in lingerie by a 15-year-old boy. Coroner Norman Wier said the woman had been dead for about a month before being found.

Among other items found in the swampy undergrowth were a woman’s purse and shoes found near the spot where the unidentified brunette was discovered. Also found were a pair of glass frames with without the lenses, believed to have been worn by the woman.

Del Norte County Sheriff Deputy James Smallwood was assigned the task of tracing the serial number on the frames to a possible manufacturer. Meanwhile, Sheriff Harold E. Scott inspected the purse while deputy William Mooney looked through the address book which contained the names of five women and one man from Denver, Seattle, Portland, Stockton, and San Francisco who may have been friends of the dead woman.

Using the address book Scott left or Portland, Oregon to interview Rhoda Nolestine, who had befriended the victim during a bus ride. Scott took Mooney along and Crescent City school art teacher Robert Harper went to the Rose City to to investigate and draw composite picture of the dead woman from a description furnished by Nolestine.

Nolestine was the mother of Ella Collyer, one of the names listed in the address book. When originally questioned, Collyer could offer no explanation about how her name came to be in the dead woman’s booth.

Then she received a phone call from her mother. That’s when it was learned that Collyer had given her daughter’s name to the then unidentified woman because she wished to order a purse she admired that the daughter had made.

The new lead was expected to set off a chain reaction, revealing the dead woman’s movement prior to the bus ride, who her friends were, and eventually lead to a solution of her murder.

“This is really a good lead, “Mooney stated, “Because bus passengers usually talk a lot during a long trip we’re sure to get many tips which will help tremendously.”

Unfortunately, Nolestine, was unable to recall anything concrete during the five-hour bus ride she shared the dead woman. The 73-year-old was able provide a reason as to why her daughter’s name came to be in the dead woman’s address book.

“I told her my daughter made them and sold them for $2.50”, Nolestine told deputies who were at her Seaside, Oregon home. She added that the woman told her, “I’m going to Crescent City but I’ll be back in a few months. I should like to help her market them. I think she can get more than $2.50.”

She then gave the murder victim gave her daughter’s address. Collyer’s name was the only one in the book which had the correct address.

Even the address of Lucille Blair found in the book and on the Surf Hotel register, where she stayed the night of January 2, proved to be false. Both the hotel clerk and manager stated they remembered the woman.

The hotel manager, Douglas Hepburn told investigators that he was certain the woman who registered at the hotel and the dead woman were the same. Douglas said he remembered chatting with her at check-in, adding she didn’t go out or have any visitors while she stayed the one night in the hotel and had a small suitcase with her.

R. C. Erickson, who was the clerk on duty when the woman checked out about 1:30 the morning of January 3, described her as between 35 and 40 years old, a neat dresser, about five-foot seven-inches tall, and 140 pounds. He said she was wearing a dark skirt with a while high-necked blouse and a dark a gray short coat.

A dark gray short coat and dark skirt were found in the area a few days after her remains were discovered. The items were later identified by the Erickson as those the woman was wearing when he last saw her.

Attempting to trace the her movements after she checked out of the hotel, Erickson recalled she had breakfast and left for the Greyhound depot presumably to catch a bus.

“She did not say what her destination was, but about 7:30 she inquired if she had sufficient time to eat since she had to catch an early bus,” Erickson said.

A part of a bus ticket was found inside a purse believer o have belonged to Blair.

During a Grand Jury probe a year later, it was learned that an Arcata couple were also questioned. The couple, only identified as Mr. and Mrs. Harry Albright were asked about an old letter addressed to Harvey which had similar hand writing qualities as were as found in the address book.

It was later learned that letter was written seven-years before and that the woman who wrote it and was using the alias “Lucille Brown” not “Blair.” It remains a mystery how the letter ended up in the possession of the dead woman.

There was also evidence provided that showed the address book may not have belonged to the murder victim as the hand writing in a letter was written by the woman found to be alive elsewhere. Handwriting experts in Sacramento said there was a 98-percent chance both the address book and the letter were written by the same person.

Albright later alleged that during questioning, an attempt was made to pressure him into admitting he had more than “a passing knowledge of the murder.” He accused Arcata Police Chief Arthur Larson; William Bowen; a Del Norte Brand inspector and former deputy under Scott; Daniel Nations, a Crescent City policeman; and Colan Henninger, a former deputy under Scott of coercion.

No charges were brought against four men.

The Grand Jury’s investigation also uncovered the fact that the dismembered body at one point believed that of Yvonne Conley, the “sweetheart” of George Cole. This came after San Francisco Police tracked a Cole to the Del Norte area during the preliminary days of the murder investigation of SFPD Sgt. Joseph Lacey on December 18, 1956.

Authorities believed that Cole, who had grown up lived in Orick, California had killed Conley rather than risk having her divulge his whereabouts to detectives. Furthermore, investigators learned that the address book, which gave a fake San Francisco address, also provided a name that was “genuine.”

Cole was placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted List on February 25, 1957. He was eventually captured two years later in Des Moines, Iowa after some identified Conley from seeing a wanted poster.

Lucille Blair was born June 11, 1916 in Cowlitz County, Washington and is believed to have died around February 10, 1957. She was buried as “Jane Doe” by the county in the West Lawn of the IOOF Cemetery, Crescent City, Del Norte County, California.

Like Barbara Short’s murder, Lucille Blair’s murder has never been solved.

Puppy Stuffing

It was right after New Year’s Day, 1965. Warm temperatures, continuous rain showers and snow melt has washed much of the township of Klamath away before Christmas.

By the time Dad decided to take Mom, Adam and I down to where our little house sat behind the Three Seven’s and Tony’s Market, men with heavy equipment had already began clearing away the mud, the logs and the debris of home’s that washed down from the Klamath Glen.

“Don’t leave my sight,” Dad warned as I scampered over a pile of fractured cement walls and sidewalks.

At only four-and-a-half, nothing looked the same to me and I had no real idea where our house had once stood. All I could do was remember back to the day I saw the water rise up, lifting the two room building off it’s foundation.

It took Mom and Dad standing near a low-laying crumbled wall for me to understand that this was once where the house stood. Mom was carrying Adam as I ran around inside the square outline of our former home.

Soon my parent’s were walking around, picking items up, looking them over then tossing them aside. I had no idea what they were searching for, but I figured I help by looking too.

That’s how I came to find the white stuffed dog that had been on my bed when we left in such a hurry. The dog was a gift given to me by my God-parents when we were still in France.

Excited, I raced back to Mom and Dad, to show them. Caked with mud, still wet, it smelled like mildew.

Dad immediately directed me to get rid of it, “It’s no good.”

Perhaps it was my bitter crying that prompted Dad to change his mind. That evening Mom pulled all the batting out of the toy and put it in a bowl of hot water and soapy suds, letting it soak over night.

Over the next few days Mom worked on cleaning, repairing and eventually re-stuffing the dog with clean cotton batting Ma Sanders had come up with. Then one evening when Adam and I were getting ready for bed, I climbed up onto the feather mattress, pulled back the covers and found my stuffed dog already tucked in.

And though I no longer sleep with it as I did as a child, I still have it tucked in a wooden box where I know it’s safe.