Snake, love and facial hair (column)
June 27, 2015
"Hey man, do you remember Jake the Snake?"
In a past life I spent summers in a small town in Northern California. The only remaining contact from that time is my buddy, Chuck Seater. Chuck and I were involved in a few ill-conceived enterprises back then. We also worked at the same bar called the Rendezvous. He calls me a few times a year and we'll catch up on our old friends and our current circumstances. When I pick up the phone there is neither greeting nor introduction; he begins the conversation as if we spoke a few minutes before.
When I told him I couldn't recall anyone named Jake the Snake but for some reason I had a vague recollection of a waitress named Witty Kitty, Chuck (unnecessarily) informed me that Snake and Kitty were two different people. He also felt compelled to mention that snakes sometimes eat kittens (Chuck is prone to go off on tangents).
Trying to get him back on track I reminded him, "No I don't recall Jake the Snake. Why do you ask?"
If I hoped it would be that easy to get an answer from my old friend, I was mistaken.
"Man, you must remember Jake! He worked in the kitchen — had a Harley chopper — bunch of tattoos." (This was back in the day when tattoos weren't found on bankers and school teachers.) Chuck added, "And his wife had a mustache."
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The mustache got my attention. "His wife had a mustache?" I asked.
"Yeah, remember her, her name was Maria. She hung out at the bar and had a mustache."
The truth was I had no idea who Jake was but I did kind of remember a gal that used to spend time at the bar and did have a mustache. Now I know that lots of ladies have a little facial hair that they deal with various ways. Some wax or laser, some even shave and some don't bother. But this gal was one of those who didn't bother. Actually I think a little peach fuzz on a lady can be cute but Maria had much more than fuzz; she had a real-life Burt Reynolds or Frito Bandito lip warmer that would make any high school kid proud.
With my recollection of Maria, her husband Jake came more into focus. "Yes I do remember Maria and I kind of remember Jake, what about him?"
Chucky ignored my question and once again, headed off into the stratosphere. "I always wondered why she didn't just wax or laser that 'stach. My wife does that. But then again it didn't seem to bother Jake, they really seemed to be in love."
"Chuck!" I said, "I beg of you, come back to earth. Why did you call me? What about Jake?"
The line went quiet, "Oh yeah right … sorry … he's dead."
Chuck added that Jake was found leaning against a tree on a mountain road, his bike parked next to him, dead from a heart attack. He was 64 years old. He told me he had just returned from Jake's funeral and the parking lot was packed with way more choppers than cars. "It was a beautiful service," he said with emotion. "The guy offering the eulogy had one eye and wore gloves."
I offered my condolences but I had to add that peacefully dying on the side of the road isn't a bad way to go. Chuck thanked me for my sentiments by saying, "It's so cool that he didn't crash his bike. That thing had a killer paint job."
Whenever I talk to Chuck I feel like I've been taking crazy pills and I had to get off the phone. "Hey man I got to go, but I'm sorry about Jake, seems like you guys stayed in touch." I added that Jake's death, though premature by modern American standards, when compared to the other options of the great inevitable, didn't seem too bad. Of course I was sorry for Jake's friends and family left behind. But in truth the only thing that all of us have in common is death.
If you believe in an afterlife, Jake is fine; if you don't … well Jake is fine. As I age and become more cognizant of the inevitabilities and possibilities my perspective has evolved and, along with it, my appreciation. "Enjoy every sandwich," said Warren Zevon. We don't know where, when or how but we do know it's inescapable.
As if reading my mind Chuck said, "Jake was a happy guy, lived a good life. He died quick, loved choppers, and loved his wife. Do you remember his wife? She had a mustache and he didn't care. He loved her for what was both inside and out. That was so beautiful."
If you listen long enough Chuck is bound to say something profound …
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on TV-8-Summit and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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