A contagious confluence, metaphorical hydraulics in chronofluidity, multiple rippling effects.

Location: Lawrence, Kansas

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Report from Bread Tray Mountain

He had known about Bread Tray Mountain even before “Madame Blavatsky”’s Web link had sent him into the Ozarks. The ghost lights had baffled generations of southern Missourians and generated a variety of explanations. They were ghosts of lost Spanish explorers, UFOs, teenagers with lanterns, each generation taking its turn at perpetuating a hoax. They were caused by foxfire or some earthly gaseous seepage like that from the fissure over which the Pythia perched in ancient Delphi. They were products of mass delusion, angelic visitations. A camera crew from the “Haunted Highways” television show once spent a week in the area, shooting a documentary on unexplained phenomena in rural America. They heard lots of stories but saw no ghost lights. And every year, there would be new sightings on Bread Tray Mountain.

When Lenny went underground in the Ozarks, he grew a long beard and shaved his head, not that very many people in the area around Bread Tray Mountain would have recognized the keyboardist from the defunct Fecal Matters anyway. He put all of his keyboards in storage, but kept the Hammond B3 in his Toyota pickup, under the camper shell. He rented a trailer in a trailer park in Cabool and started working gigs at several venues in the area under the stage name Ali MuHammond. It was a living, and during vacation season at the lake, he did pretty well on tourist dollars. Mainly he performed instrumentals of “classic rock” tunes like “Light My Fire” and “Satisfaction,” stuff his aging audience would recognize and nod to while carrying on conversation over the B3’s warm, smoky harmonics.

He was doing his usual Saturday night gig at the Holiday Inn on Tablerock Lake. The room was about half full, mostly people in bright print shirts and blouses, khaki shorts or slacks, tanned or burned, winding down after a day of golf or boating. Ice was clinking in glasses, voices and laughter ebbed and flowed across the room’s surface, and Lenny was building to the “feed your head” crescendo in “White Rabbit,” when he noticed a rugged looking middle aged man enter and take a table in front. Lots of grey in his hair, leathery face and hands, and hard eyes that focused on Lenny, in what felt to him like a cross between meditative gaze and psychotic stare. There were little slap-slaps of applause as he finished, and he acknowledged his audience with a quiet thanks. The man got up from the table and leaned toward Lenny, propping one rough hand on the B3. “Do you know ‘Music from before the Beginning of Time’?” he asked. “I don’t think so. How’s it go?” His eyes pierced Lenny’s, but almost quizzically. “It’s a verrrry slow blues,” he replied. Then he reached into his shirt pocket, retrieved a fiver, slapped it onto the B3, turned, and was gone.

Lenny played the rest of the gig but was preoccupied with the stranger and the five dollar bill. He’d noticed a piece of red tape on the back of the bill, with Japanese characters and, presumably, their English translation: “Scan for origins.” It was familiar, but he couldn’t quite place it.