..................................FAR OUT, MAN!
................NOW THE MEANIE IS A BOOK
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Friday, June 21, 2013


(Note from Allan: This is the last episode of Tales Of The Blue Meanie. A new blog - Lucky In Cyprus - will debut next Friday.)

I was sitting on the front porch of my new abode on Carroll Canal, looking over my tiny but productive front-yard organic garden as the quacking ducks floated by on the ebbing tide.

Out of the corner of my eye I also kept watch on the stark-naked hippie chick who was sprawled on a surfboard – tits, and other nice stuff, turned to the sun – getting an all over tan as she floated on the gentle waters.

I had a joint in one hand, a cold beer waiting patiently near the other. In the house, Hoyt Axton was on the stereo and he was singing in that fabulous, whiskey voice of his: “… I wish I may,/ I wish I might;/ Had the money that I spent last night…”

Just as Hoyt started on his rooster crow, the phone rang. I almost didn’t answer, but what was the point of possessing something so modern as a very long telephone cord that could reach you no matter where you were? The Funk brothers had paid for a pretty elaborate phone system in my house – for the early ‘70’s, I mean - so I could be on constant call as their city editor.

I answered the phone. “Allan,” the voice said, “Bill Cohen, here.”

Damn. My old boss.

I was sorry I had answered. I mean, I liked the guy and he had always been straight with me. Pepperland's short existence was do to the freedom he'd given me to run it. However, I was now on to new things as well as some very heavy responsibilities and I was loath to interrupt my Sunday reverie. But there nothing to do but be polite and see what was up. I excused myself for a second so I could go inside and switch off the stereo.

I returned to the porch, pinched out the joint and swigged a little beer to get the pot roughness out of my voice.

“What can I do for you, Mr. Cohen?” I asked.

“It’s about Roger Gagne,” he said.

My heart sank. Oh, hell. Of all the things that were delicate in Mr. Cohen’s empire, Roger needed the most careful handling. I’d said as much when I turned over the keys to the new manager.

I’d explained to the guy who replaced me that Roger basically kept more than fifty units running, in locations that included not just the Ocean Avenue complex Mr. Cohen had bought up, but some rather exclusive buildings he’d recently purchased on the Marina oceanfront. Not only did Roger keep everything working, but he also very cheaply renovated each unit as the old tenants moved out, so Mr. Cohen could justifiably hike the rent.

I had explained all this to the new guy, but I could tell that he wasn’t listening. I immediately summed him up in my mind as more than a bit of a jerk, but what the hell, over? It was his job now, not mine.

“What about Roger?” I asked Mr. Cohen.

“He’s moved,” Mr. Cohen said. “He’s no longer working for me.”

I knew that. Jack had told me that Roger had gotten pissed off at the new guy and had moved out. Nobody knew where just yet, but not to worry – he was somewhere on the Venice Canals. He’d hunt us up by and by.

“Yessir, I’d heard that,” I said.

“Have you seen him?”

“Nossir,” I said. “But I’m sure I’ll run across him soon. He’s still in Venice – I know that.”

“Well, Allan,” Mr. Cohen said, “I’d like to ask you to do me a favor. See if you can find Roger for me, please.”

“What for, sir?” I asked, my curiosity starting to cut through my reluctance to get involved.

“Tell him I’d like to get my floor back,” Mr. Cohen said.

I almost said, “Fucking what?” But I buried that outburst with a small gobble, covered by a sip of beer.

Mr. Cohen explained, but never mind his explanation – he was way too businesslike to really tell the story properly.

Here is what happened: The new manager was an overbearing control freak. He continually fucked with Roger. So Roger fucked back. He warned the guy flat out, I learned later, that he’d better “get the fuck out of my face or I’ll remove your face, you dumb mother fucker.”

Now, when Roger said he was going to “remove the face” of a “dumb motherfucker,” it usually meant that he was about to go into high gear. But Rog liked his job and his apartment with its bomb shelter so he backed off a bit, trying to give the guy a little room.

Despite Roger’s best diplomatic efforts – meaning he hadn’t ripped the new manager’s face off - matters continued to go downhill. What really pissed Rog off was that the guy had apparently mistaken his attempt at diplomacy for weakness.

Their mutual piss-off escalated.

Eventually, it reached the point where Roger really was considering removing the “mother fucker’s” face, but sweet Nancy intervened and convinced him that maybe it was time to move on.

Roger was doing damned well at that point. He’d paid off his fines and attorney fees for the marijuana fiasco and had a helluva business going doing upscale work for upscale people. I mean, when Roger went to appointments to check out new jobs in Beverly Hills, he wore a very nice jeans outfit, picked out by Nancy. No paint spots. No grease. They were clean, clean, clean. And she never, ever, let him forget his two false front teeth when he went out on a bid.

In short he was at a point where he didn’t really need the free rent at the Blue Meanie Apartments. Especially when it meant that he’d have to take shit. Truth be told, when Roger was broke – I mean sleeping in the streets, broke -  he wouldn’t have taken shit from anybody for any reason. So why in hell would he start now?

Anyway, Roger told the new manager to fuck off, but let him keep his face. He moved his family out – leaving a very desirable single unit vacant that the new manager could rent at a much higher price and preen before Mr. Cohen.

The manager immediately posted a sign and got an immediate response. Within twenty four hours of Roger’s departure, the manager took a young couple over to view the apartment. Being a lazy SOB, he hadn’t viewed the unit himself before the showing.

Anyway, he talked up the place like a storm. Sure, it was a single, but it had an enormous kitchen – a kitchen as big as his own – a walk in closet large enough to be a small bedroom and a main room that was not only very large but had been completely refurbished, down to gleaming, newly renovated, hardwood floors.

Do you remember the floors?

I ask again, Dear Reader, do you recall the episode where Roger was under fire and found it necessary to cut out the living room floor? The very same floor that he’d cut out to create the bomb shelter bolt-hole beneath his apartment just in case Mrs. Mad Bomber started shooting at junkie whores who were coming on to her husband again.

Remember that?

Sure you do.

So, Mr. New Apartment Manager approached the unit, waxing large about the marvelous amenities the young couple would encounter. Plus, he emphasized, this was a perfectly decent complex, with very nice people – upscale people – mostly their age and with interesting jobs in the music industry, the arts, and so on and so forth.

He unlocked Roger’s door and threw it open.

“Come see,” he said, striding into Roger’s old apartment.

And he fell face first, seven feet or more, onto the sandy floor of Roger’s bomb shelter.

It seems that when Roger left, he’d taken the entire floor with him.

The only things that could vaguely be called flooring were the six-inch borders that Rog had left all around the room.

“I left all of the joists too,” Roger told me later. “I didn’t want to be a butt wipe for the guys putting in the new floor, so I left them something to tie into.”

As kind as Roger was with the joists, the manager was totally demoralized. Humiliated before his potential tenants, who at first reacted with horror when he plummeted into the room, then laughed their heads off when they realized he was uninjured and just spitting sand, instead of his teeth.

They laughed even harder when he tried to lay the blame on a former handyman, and they wisely walked away, still laughing, but having no intention of paying rent to a guy who was such a son of a bitch that the previous tenant had removed the entire floor.

I gleaned all of the above while Mr. Cohen was politely, and succinctly, relating his problem.

Finally, he said, “It’s going to be really expensive to put in a new floor, Allan.”

I agreed. Carpets are expensive. Tiles are expensive. A whole frigging floor has to be really expensive.

He said, “You would be doing me a big favor if you could find Roger and tell him that I will pay him to give me back my floor. I won’t even consider pressing charges.”

That was a laugh. No way could I see Mr. Cohen waltzing into the Venice PD and filing charges to get his floor back. He’d be laughed out of the station, and humiliated to boot. The Venice PD did not like black people, Hispanic people, young people with long hair, and they had a particular hate on for gay or lesbian people. If you were a member of any of those groups you were basically putting your life into their hands. Given the slightest excuse, they would club you half to death.

But he was a really nice guy, even for a landlord. So I said, “I’ll see what I can do, Mr. Cohen.”

Time passed. Not a lot. Weeks, maybe a month and a half - no more.

I walked to Shanahan’s Market. It was a nice walk, going through all the canals, stopping at each bridge to see what you could see.

Did I mention the naked chicks on surfboards?

Well, it wasn’t always like that. But one could hope, couldn’t one?

Besides, the canal waters were peaceful, the few row boats upon them making an Impressionist painting, and there was music everywhere, pouring out of hundreds of stereo speakers. There was Rock ‘N Roll, of course. But when I reached the last canal I could hear a wonderfully live Flamenco guitar number - each plucked string clearly defined, each strum a waterfall of classical musical colors. The guitarist was a noted musician who just happened to be the president of the local Communist Party. In order to eat and pay rent to the “Capitalist running dogs” he played and taught music on the side. I never got the nerve up to ask him for lessons. Stupid me.

As I listened and watched, I wished Steve Lenzi was there to limn the scene in a poem. But he wasn’t so I walked on.

Eventually I arrived at Shanahan’s, bought a bag of groceries and exited.

Roger came out at the same time. He was carrying a 12-pack of beer.

“Hey, Rog,” I said.

“Hey, Allan,” he replied.

I said, “Got a minute? I need to talk to you.”

He grinned, that malicious smile of his curling up. I’m certain he knew what I wanted to talk about.

“Sure, let’s talk,” he said, easing down on the curb.

I sat next to him and he freed a couple of beers, opened them with his key-chain opener and handed me one, kept the other for himself.

He took a long pull. I did the same.

Roger said, “So, what’s the haps, man? What do you want to talk about.”

I said, “Mr. Cohen called.”

Roger took this in. Sucked up more beer. Nothing more in the way of explanations was required.

Even so, he wanted to grind it.

“What’d he want?” Roger asked, giggling and knowing very well what Mr. Cohen wanted.

“He said he wanted his floor back.”

Roger laughed and laughed at this. He laughed so hard that he couldn’t stop for a long time. He asked about the discovery of the missing floor and when I told him about the manager doing a sky ground into the basement he laughed some more.

I thought it was pretty funny too, but I was on a mission of mercy for Mr. Cohen, so I didn’t join in. I smiled in a friendly manner, but sipped beer whenever the humor of the situation threatened to overcome me. I must confess, that when I related the scene of the asshole manager doing a sky ground into the sand, I nearly snorted beer through my nose.

When I judged that Roger was laughed out, I said, “Mr. Cohen told me to tell you directly that he will pay you one hundred dollars if you return his floor. No questions asked.”

Roger got suddenly serious. “No, shit?” he said. “A hundred dollars?”

“No questions asked,” I said.

He chewed this over and I could see his attention fading.

“I’m pretty sure I could get him up to a hundred and fifty dollars,” I said.

“Sonofabitch,” Roger said. “One hundred and fifty dollars for a floor.” He laughed. “It’ll cost him more to replace it, not counting the down time on the apartment rental.”

“Okay, okay,” I said. “He authorized me to go as high as two hundred and fifty dollars.”

“Fuck,” Roger said, very much in awe. “That is one helluva temptation.”

He paused, opening us some fresh cans of beer. “I’m just down the canal from you, Al,” he said. “Old place I’m fixing up. Two stories, but small, you know?”

I nodded. I’d seen the place on one of my walks. It was a small house, painted bright Mexican blue and set upon an enormous lot where someone had started an elaborate vegetable garden.

Roger said, “If you saw my place, you saw the floor.”

And I remembered seeing this enormous wooden object leaning against the side of the house. It was odd, not just because of its size – it reached nearly to the top story of the building it was propped against – but because it was so well finished. Stained oak, varnished and finished to a gleaming masterpiece. But with an apparent purpose that I could not fathom at the time.

“Yeah, I think I saw the floor,” I admitted.

I took a slug of beer. “So, what do you say? Will two hundred and fifty dollars do the trick? Hell, I could maybe even boost him to three hundred. Christ, Rog, you could do a lot with three hundred dollars. Return the floor, no questions asked. Collect three hundred dollars. How can you go wrong?”

Roger nodded, tipped back the can, and swallowed the contents. He burped, opened another, but this time he took careful sips, small sips, as he considered.

Finally, he raised his head and looked at me, that crazy Roger smile creasing his face.

“Fuck his three hundred dollars,” he said.

“It’s too good of a fucking story.”



Venice Boardwalk Circa 1969

In the depths of the Sixties and The Days Of Rage, a young newsman, accompanied by his pregnant wife and orphaned teenage brother, creates a Paradise of sorts in a sprawling Venice Beach community of apartments, populated by students, artists, budding scientists and engineers lifeguards, poets, bikers with  a few junkies thrown in for good measure. The inhabitants come to call the place “Pepperland,” after the Beatles movie, “Yellow Submarine.” Threatening this paradise is  "The Blue Meanie,"  a crazy giant of a man so frightening that he eventually even scares himself. Here's where to buy the book. 



During the Vietnam war, GIs who managed to survive their tour of duty were flown home in chartered airliners, which they called “Freedom Birds.” This is the story of three young men – from  wildly different backgrounds – who meet on such a plane and make a pact to spend three days together in San Francisco. Their goal: to spend every cent of  their mustering out money in a party of  a lifetime. And they’ll get more than they bargained for: because when they land, it is July 1967 – in a time that would come to be known as “The Summer Of Love.” A place and time where each young man will have to confront the ghosts who followed them home from the jungles of Vietnam and contemplate a future none of them had imagined. 


The entire 8-novel landmark science fiction series is now being presented in three three giant omnibus editions from Orbit Books.  The First - BATTLECRY - features the first three books in the series: Sten #1; Sten #2 -The Wolf Worlds; and Sten #3, The Court Of A Thousand Suns. Next: JUGGERNAUT, which features Sten #4, Fleet Of The Damned; Sten #5, Revenge Of The Damned; and Sten #6, The Return Of The Emperor. Finally, there's DEATHMATCH, which contains Sten #6, Vortex; and Sten #7, End Of Empire. Click on the highlighted titles to buy the books. Plus, if you are a resident of The United Kingdom, you can download Kindle versions of the Omnibus editions. Which is one clot of a deal!

Here's the Kindle link for BATTLECRY
Here's the Kindle link for JUGGERNAUT
Here's the Kindle link for DEATHMATCH




Two new companion editions to the international best-selling Sten series. In the first, learn the Emperor's most closely held  cooking secrets. In the other, Sten unleashes his shaggy-dog joke cracking sidekick, Alex Kilgour. Both available as trade paperbacks or in all major e-book flavors. Click here to tickle your funny bone or sizzle your palate.  






Diaspar Magazine - the best SF magazine in South America - is publishing the first novel in the Sten series in four 
episodes. Part One and Part Two appeared in back-to-back issues. And now Part Three has hit the virtual book stands.  Stay tuned, for the grand conclusion. Meanwhile, here are the links to the first three parts. Remember, it's free!

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