On The Pondering Pig’s Unexplained and Really Quite Mysterious Disappearance.

For a long time I thought the Pondering Pig might be sort of like King Arthur. If I looked, eventually I’d find him in a cave over in Cornwall somewhere, thinking deep thoughts for two thousand years, and then he would come out and explain everything to everyone, including the whereabouts of the cheese.

So I waited around until one day it occurred to me he might just be taking a very long afternoon nap up on the slopes of Mt. Tamalpais, while his readers waited hopefully, and those snooty little dwarfs pitched their bowling balls down the mountainside.

So I decided to go looking for him.

It didn’t take long. I knew all his haunts from the old days. I figured he’d be over on the west side of the mountain, where it’s sunny and breezy and you can look out over the Pacific as you doze off. But he wasn’t around anyplace, so I wandered up Bootjack Creek toward Laurel Dell and those jolly camping spots above the fog line.

1974 05 SF fr Mt. Tam_edited-1

Being as it was a warm day, I sort of sat down to think some deep thoughts myself, and, when I awoke, I distinctly heard the sound of typing nearby. Somebody was using an old-fashioned manual typewriter and was going blue blazes, except for the occasional shout of "Oh Fiddle!"

Ponderpig has built a little cabin in a clearing up there, or, more likely, he moved into one that happened to be available, and he is up there even now, working on everything he always wanted to write. He’s writing longer pieces that won’t fit on the blog, and, as I figured, they will finally explain everything about everything to everybody.

While I was sitting there he knocked off 11,000 words about his old friend Solveig Rimkeit, and her adventures in the American South during the freedom rider era, and how she hitchhiked across America in 1962 and how Piggo used to sit around and eat pickles with her when he wasn’t moaning on and on about his mean girl friend, Carmen O’Shaugnessy.

He actually gave me a copy.  I have it here in front of me and I’ve been wondering who might publish it, because it explains exactly what it was like to be young in San Francisco in 1962. Pig calls it "Solveig Hitches Home."

Then he showed me the novel he’s been working on.  It’s about three Haight-Ashbury kids in 1965 who find an old-fashioned kitchen radio in a dumpster at the corner of Page and Clayton Streets and when they turn it on to see if it works, well, the results are unexpected, to say the least.

I scanned it while the Pig was out rooting up his dinner. It’s already 35 chapters long and it’s funny and exciting and really deep, but the Pig said I couldn’t tell anybody about the details until he’s finished it.

So he is actually working on a lot of projects, none of which he is yet is ready to publish. The next time I go up to Mt. Tam, I will ask him if I can post a few pages from “Solveig Hitches Home,” so you guys can take a peek at it.

Oh, that reminds me. He also asked me to say thanks to his readers, who continue to log thousands of views each month at his site, even though it has been untouched by porcine hands for quite a while. And a special thanks to all the fans of Grace Slick, who refuse to believe that was really Linda Ronstadt up there with the Jefferson Airplane at Woodstock.

Crybaby’s Birthday Party

One Saturday in 1950, our boss, the shadowy figure known only as ‘Crybaby’, called a meeting of the 47th and Balboa Gang. He disguised it as a simple birthday party.

That’s Crybaby sitting at the head of the table.  You’d think he was throwing a tantrum but he’s just gnashing his teeth.  He always did that after he ate some of Ma Crybaby’s special angel food cake.  His true fiendishness would come out.  Pretty soon it would be, “Bring me the head of Jerry Garcia!”  And then we’d have to do it.   It would take all day,  we’d have to take the streetcar all the way out to the Crocker-Amazon and try to find Jerry and then I’d have to think up some way to get him to give us his head.   And we still had to be home by six o’clock or we’d catch heck! That’s back when Ma Crybaby was experimenting with special recipes.

This is Jimmy Walker, cigarillo dangling from his lips.  ‘Jimmy Coolguy’ we called him.  He’s stoned out of his mind as usual, digging those happening Happy Birthday sounds.  When we were little kids, we were sex fiends together.  Now we were tough gangsters.  Funny how things work out.  If only we hadn’t played doctor with that little girl up the corner that afternoon everything might be different today.  You wouldn’t know it to look at Jimmy, but he’s a dead hand with a BB gun.  A good man to have by your side when the Anza Street Gang shows up.

This sad-looking kid is Gus, Kenny the Pest’s bodyguard.  His one role in life is to stop us from killing Kenny.  It wasn’t much fun cause he didn’t like his little brother either.  Gus wishes he was anywhere else but he doesn’t have anywhere to go because no one wants to be friends with anybody related to Kenny The Pest.

 

This kid with the dopey expression is Kenny.  Kenny was four and so annoying!  We never could ditch him no matter how hard we tried.  We tried to sell him to our allies, the 44th and Balboa Gang, but even they wouldn’t take him.

There we’d be, out fighting our war against civilized society and everything decent, about to crack the ice cream cooler at the Pacific View Market when Larry the owner wasn’t looking when suddenly Kenny would walk in.

“Hi everybody, whatcha doing?  Can I watch?”

“Getoutta here Kenny before we beat you up!”

“Is that ice cream? I want some!”

“Go away! Can’t you see we’re about to pull a job?”

“Huh?”

He’d just look at you with that dopey expression like in the picture.  Wherever we went – there he was, sneaking and sniveling behind us.  How could you commit cool crimes with a four year old always pestering you?  It was so hard being a big kid!  Finally his mother got worried we’d bump him off and told Gus he had to go to the party with Kenny. So all Crybaby’s plans to lure Kenny were for naught.  No wonder he was gnashing his teeth.

Next to Kenny – here’s Chris, the Pestiferous Pig, the demented brains of the gang.  He’s the only one who knows what ‘pestiferous’ means, which proves how smart he is.  He’s clearly gone out of his angel cake laced mind in glee at his foolproof but mad scheme to conquer the universe!  Wait’ll he tells Crybaby!  Wait, maybe this is too big for Crybaby!  Maybe I should rule the universe myself!  Heh Heh Heh Heh Heh Heh

Looking like he’s about to be tommy-gunned by the Anza Street Gang, here’s Peter Walters. We called him Peter Pain because of the suffering he could wreak on our enemies simply by painting rude remarks on their neighborhood’s walls when nobody was looking.  Like “The Anza Street Gang Are A Bunch of Fraidy Cats!” Pestiferous had to help with the spelling usually.  Otherwise he might write ‘Friday Cats’, which wouldn’t really bother them that much.

Peter was our warlike and crafty art designer.  However, at the moment, he is stoned out of his gourd and incapable of moving.  That’s how it was at Crybaby’s meetings.  You’d have a great time, but there was always this nagging feeling that next you’d have to hand over your head.  And how would you explain that to your mother?

But I knew a way to stop Crybaby. He’d never guess it was me.  Heh Heh Heh Heh Heh Heh.  Kenny, come over here a minute.  You wanna make an easy nickel?  Go tell Crybaby’s mother Crybaby just said she was stoopid!

A Walk To John Carter of Mars


I’ve always thought the best plan for writing or making a film is to first decide where you’re trying to get to, then strike out for it in the most direct way. That’s the ticket to success. Of course, you need a hook to get people interested. A hook is kind of like an invitation…”Hey, want to come on a walk with me? I’m heading for John Carter of Mars and it’s going to be fun.” Don’t waste a lot of time on exposition and backstory (deciding what to bring and packing it nice and neat) but just get out there and see what happens along the way. It’s a beautiful morning and we’re together and what the heck!

(Careful readers may notice this is not actually the best plan for getting to your destination in the most direct way. Shouldn’t that pig have a GPS unit and compass and maybe a map?)

Truth is, I often don’t much care where we’re going. We’re just out for a walk. Maybe the beach. Maybe the top of the hill. Maybe John Carter of Mars. What I know about John Carter can fit into a thimble with plenty of room left over for extra trail mix in case we get hungry. I don’t see why that should detain us a minute. We’ll find out together as we go along, right? Unless we get sidetracked! (Put in scary music stab here)

So off we go. We’re having a good laugh about silly science fantasy figures of long ago when suddenly there’s a snake pit, and I fall into it!

“Help, Help! I fell in a snake pit! There’s squirmy things down here! I hate this! Yow! Get me out!” So then you have to run a find a ladder and get me out before I have a conniption fit.

Phew! That was close! Fortunately for me, they turned out to be garter snakes.

So we’re walking along again and I happen to mention the first time I ever heard of John Carter of Mars. I was about eleven years old and there was a new Dell comic book for sale at Wincott’s Fountain, the kids’ local hangout and supply center. Dell made the best comics so I bought it and it was this great story about a guy who gets teleported to…YOW! Suddenly we’re both not on Mars but on Balboa Street in 1953 San Francisco and here comes the ‘B’ line streetcar racketing and ricketing down the street outside Wincott’s Fountain and – hey, there’s my brother Gary getting off the streetcar in his blue Air Force uniform and he’s coming home on leave and – wow, he looks so cool, I want to be a soldier when I grow up and the air is as crisp and bright as it can only get at 45th and Balboa on a sunny afternoon in September when you’re a kid and I got a Rocky Road candy bar, chocolate with marshmellow and nuts inside its crinkly red metallic wrapper, and you got an Abba Zabba, dusty nougat with peanut butter inside in a wrapper that looks like a big yellowjacket and we’re going to go climb the ladder and sit on the platform of the big signboard in the vacant lot and eat candy and read comic books and talk about what happened on the Jackie Gleason Show last night and…you’re starting to think “Why did I ever go on a walk with this zany pig?”

Back on the path, we pass some interesting little trails going off into the brush. One says, “Edgar Rice Burroughs and Willa Cather – both nearly the same age. Both lived through the same times and both were passionate about writing – what would they have talked about?”

Then a little further here’s a path that leads to “Is it possible to write a serious modern novel, a work of literature, about a bold, brave hero who must save a beautiful maiden from a wicked villain?” That path looks pretty good. I bet there’s view out there. Then, even crazier, we both suddenly think “would it be possible for such a story to be lived out in reality in our time?”

When we finally get up to the hilltop, there’s that incredible view – our time, our century, our world, that little kid down in the village crying. And no matter how beautiful it is you keep hearing the sound of her crying. And it’s distracting so you start talkng about that. Why does that kid have to cry anyway? Isn’t there something we could do? What if she’s all alone and deserted and there’s tigers? Maybe we should go back down and see…”
And that’s the end of our walk because now we’re on the run. What if it’s too late? I hope not. Let’s go faster!