Saturday, January 24, 2004

Captain Kangaroo and the history of leather

I tried to get something down in writing on the day Captain Kangaroo died, yesterday, January 23, 2004. But waylaid as usual by well meaning friends and the need for a meeting, I missed my chance. I just want to go on record as admitting I liked Mr. Green Jeans better. I don't remember why, probably the bangs. Bangs on a man is just plain wrong. Loretta says so, and she knows everything about men. That and the uniform. Many women are intrigued by a man in uniform. I, personally, am not... Unless black leather can be considered a uniform, which, I maintain, it can't. The better part of my life has been spent avoiding men in uniform. Thus arriving at the brief history of my soon-to-be-former leather jacket.

Sam gave it to me. I don't remember his last name. He said he found it (found, in this instance, a relative term) in a crank lab somewhere on the west coast. He gave it to me because I had admired it, he had admired me, and knew I was hitchhiking down I-5 to rescue my son from his father, who at the time, was a preferable parent to me. At the time, I was big on rescue and escape. My husband was big on intimidation and violence. Being married to Mark was like having my own personal terrorist. It went both ways though, and was, when turned in my favor, a peculiar form of protection... I always felt special. Select. In danger. Prince said, "life without danger is death." I took that one to the bank (long before he said it, and it is a little bit pathetic that I am quoting prince in public...) anyway, I digress...

So, Sam gives me the jacket. I hitchhike around, do the things I do, for many years. The jacket wears and wears, keeps me safe in many storms. i.e. There I was, standing on a steep stretch of I-5 in the rain, strung out, again uncertain where my kid was. The only thing between me and semi-trucks throwing rooster tails of muck as they blasted past me in the cold wet dark (night of my soul...) was that ragged old jacket and a plastic garbage bag of dirty laundry. I prayed, "please god send me a ride." So this old man stopped, and pretty much said, "I'll take you to Grants Pass if you'll take me to paradise." Well, I wasn't up for that, so I got out at Azalea, which is nowhere. So I prayed again, something like, "Nice try God, would you please lay off, get serious. I swear I'll always/never (insert promise here)...." So, this van pulled up, filled to capacity with ferocious Christians begging me to join them. Live with them. Work for The Lord with them. Now, I know God. I can see right through this one. He's seeing right quick if I'm going to make good on my promise, which, of course, I am not. I don't see any reason to prolong the agony by getting in neck deep with fundamentalists AGAIN.... "Naw," I tell them. "Y'all have fun with God, I'm bailing out in Grants Pass." So I did. Jacket and all.

More time passed, as it will, and I found myself mired again in the muck of heroin, or more to the point, still mired. Nothing changes, nothing changes.. ... Whiskey, heroin, who cares. Many road trips later and one short but memorable nap a little too close to a woodstove and that jacket had nearly as much road rash as my soul.

One night I was tending bar in Jacksonville (the infamous Jubilee Club) and this sweet, young girl came in. She said something like, "if you ever want to sell that jacket, let me know." Well was she ever in luck... me with that old jacket and no heroin. So I sold it for a handful of magic beans. Honestly, I handed her the jacket, she handed me forty bucks, and I bought two bags. That was that...... Again, time passed... I cleaned up. Had about two years sober, and I ran into the girl again.... and she was all strung out herself. I didn't really remember her, (or much else) but she remembered me. "Hey, didn't you sell me that leather...." blah blah blah... and I said, "yeah. That was me." She said, "Wanna buy it back?"

So I did. 75 bucks. That's the story. And I still have the jacket. She had had it reconditioned for her boyfriend-- brown satin lining, patched the woodstove hole. I figure I had 35 bucks into it, so by my math, which always works in my favor, paying 875 for the Langlitz ain't so bad.

The world will not miss Captain Kangaroo. Its too busy now to know he was ever here. It reminds me of photographs at yard sales. Who are those people? Who were they....? Blips on the geologic screen, one and all....

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