On the following day, Friday 11, the eve of the October New Moon, Toby Jay awakened just minutes before his parents expected time of arrival and got dressed in a clean, but nonetheless timeworn pair of 501’s, with a St. John’s Bay thermal under his dark chocolate Polo shirt and trusty Timberland hiking boots.
As expected, his parents arrived right on time. And, although Toby Jay enjoyed the kind, loving presence of his mother, it wasn’t until she was dropped off at her sister’s home in Okemah that the road trip became truly memorable.
“Hey,” his father suggested, “I want to take you by the old Seminole farmhouse.”
“Heck, I can hardly wait,” Toby Jay said anxiously, as his senses heightened at the prospect of returning to the red dirt grounds where he had caught his first catfish and fired his first shotgun.
Amazingly, although it had been well over twenty years since the last time he had stepped foot on Seminole soil, Toby Jay instinctively sensed that the Golden Taurus was drawing near, when he noticed the old monolithic sandstone pillars on the right-hand side of the road, as well as the rusty barbed wire fences on which his grandfather, Charlie, used to hang the corpses of dead coyotes.
Sure enough, in what seemed like one continuous motion, the Golden Taurus glided by the old Seminole farmhouse, which still stood tall in all its rough and rural glory.
“Man,” Toby Jay marveled out loud, “talk about sacred Oakie agriculture.”
“Here, let me show you where I was born,” quickly his father responded. Hence, he steered the Golden Taurus down the road some fifty yards, then pointed to a now barren plot of land and said, “that’s where I was born, on a cold January night, in a little yellow one-room house, we all called Little Yeller Heaven.”
“Wow, now that’s a gold connection if I’ve ever heard of one,” Toby Jay remarked in a state of euphoric humility.
Right then, his father turned the Golden Taurus around, pointed over to the right-hand side of the road and said, “see that plot of land over there? Charlie used to rent that out to the Indians.”
“Hey dad,” Toby Jay spontaneously suggested, “how ’bout we go to Ada?”
“OK,” his father agreed, gladly. “If you want to go to Ada, we’ll go to Ada.”
Consequently, within what seemed like no time at all, the Golden Taurus rolled into the small college town of Ada, Oaklahoma. Soon, they turned onto Main Street, passing by the Sonic and several other local hangouts, until eventually, his father tightened the reins on the Taurus, and said, “see that little garage apartment over there…the one behind that house? Well, that’s where your mother and I lived in our heyday in 1957, with our little dog, Sugarman.”
“1957,” Toby Jay thought out loud. “Wasn’t that the year you and mom bought the racy red Chevy?”
“Yeah, that was the year,” said his father, with a sparkle in his eye.
. . .
Later then, the Golden Taurus approached perhaps the greatest lost gold connection of them all; that being the golden geodesic dome resting atop of the University of East Central Gymnasium.
“Hey look,” his father pointed out, “there’s the golden dome.” Of course, his father knew the golden dome symbolized all the sacred hoop dreams in the Golden State. He knew, in other words, that the golden dome had led to the purchase of the Medart basketball backstop, the same backstop that the Los Angeles Lakers used in the Fabulous Forum all throughout the 1970’s.
“Dang, it feels like we’re actually travelin’ back in time,” Toby Jay remarked in amazement. Needless to say, the heritage of the Grapes of Wrath never felt so alive, as Ada, Oaklahoma, circa 1957, coalesced with Norco, California, circa 1977.
“Hey dad, let’s drive by my old apartment.”
“OK,” his father agreed.
However, much to his chagrin, the sight was not at all what Toby Jay expected. Instead, it was downright disturbing. For what used to be an apartment complex painted dark brown, with tan bricks, was now painted black, with orange bricks. And as if this wasn’t awful enough, the wrought iron railings had since been painted a sickening shade of Exorcist green. So now, at his old college apartment, where he did more girls than the law allowed, it was like Halloween everyday.
“There’s hell to pay for that change in color frequencies,” Toby Jay reckoned silently, as the distinction between black and brown never seemed so immediately vital. Indeed, wood painted brown and wood painted black was the difference between Life and Death, Thanksgiving and Samhain; just the sort of difference that made all the difference in the world.
. . .
Eventually, some thirty miles up the road, the Golden Taurus finally rounded the southern outskirts of Goldenville. Wondrously enough, the lake never looked so magnificent as its abundant waters glistened radiantly with Oakie grandeur.
“This used to be a paradise,” his father said, glancing toward the lake, “with little log cabins along the shore.” But then, he said in a defeated voice, “but now they’d just be raided by methheads and thieves.”
“Yeah,” Toby Jay nodded. “Now we’re livin’ in the Age of Wile E. Coyote.”
In turn, his father just grinned, as if to say, without the use of spoken words, that he too understood the force and accuracy of one of Gold Connections’ most powerful prophecies.
Then finally, the Golden Taurus reached the top of the hill on which Charlie and Opal Eva’s home stood, at which time Toby Jay was immediately struck by the cleanliness of the aura surrounding their home. In fact, it looked as though the blood-red roses that were arranged on the front porch on the day of Opal Eva’s funeral had somehow managed to leave a residual afterglow.
. . .
So, by and by, the Golden Taurus descended down the Main Street hill, gliding by the Diary Queen, the Church of Christ and then turned onto the main drag.
“Dang, Goldenville looks downright dead,” Toby Jay sadly observed, having noticed that many of the great towering elms that had once shaded the streets in his halcyon high school days had since been razed, with no trees planted in their place.
Ominously enough, this rather bleak pattern was further defined when the Golden Taurus approached Lindsey’s convenience store, as well as the local movie theater, both of which were boarded up with haunted Grapes of Wrath abandonment.
“Here, lets go grab a bite to eat,” his father suggested in order to lighten the mood. So they stopped off at the local Pizza Hut for a late lunch and ordered a medium black olive pizza.
Roughly half an hour later, right after Toby Jay selfishly reached out and grabbed the last piece of pizza on the tray, his father said, “Well, if you plan on taking pictures, we’d better get on with it.”
So, shortly thereafter, they both hopped back inside the Golden Taurus and headed to the wealthy Country Club part of town to photograph the sinister Ursula Agnes conspiracy.
Right away, Toby Jay noticed that Diamond Street, (the street on which Ursula Agnes had lived and died) took the shape of a big, black tuning fork, with the historic Diamond Mansion built directly in the center of the vector V crossroads. “So, Diamond Street is naturally polarized,” Toby Jay noted like some sort of John Earnest Keely detective.
Right around the corner, the Golden Taurus slowly approached Ursula Agnes’ old haunted house, which, curiously enough, had been renovated since the day of Opal Eva’s last rites.
Unfortunately, however, the little rotten squalor shack, which Ursula had strategically placed behind the Diamond Mansion, was still standing in all its provocative iniquity.
“Out front there is where Ursula used to park her old Hearse,” said his father, pointing towards the decrepit front porch, which looked virtually identical to the one on the cover of Boys for Pele.
“Say,” Toby Jay silently realized, “this is like an actual extension of the Lost Somewhere Between the Earth and My Home concept,” having noticed that, exactly like Principia’s dreadful dungeon, Ursula’s little rotten squalor shack had creepy, mutant trees emerging from underneath the very foundation. In both instances, there was no separation between house and trees.
“So this is another telltale sign of witchery,” Toby Jay further figured, as he focused his camera in on the scary little shack.
Afterwards, leaving the shack behind, the Golden Taurus rounded the south side of the Diamond Mansion, where, from a distance, Toby Jay noticed a strange sculpture located on the front lawn.
“Stop!” he shouted. “I think I’ve just discovered another relic of the legend of Ursula Agnes.”
“Well, hurry up then, before you get us both thrown in jail,” said his father with a straight face.
Immediately, then, Toby Jay jumped out of the Golden Taurus and made a mad-dash towards the strange sculpture. “Shit man, it’s Halloween everyday at the Diamond Mansion,” he eerily reckoned, while zooming in on the grinning, fiendish image.
“What was it?” asked his father.
“It was a sculpture of a little hooded gnome, holding a scary mask over his face. And I know it’s got everything to do with Ursula Agnes. If she hadn’t lived here, that sculpture wouldn’t be where it is today.”
. . .
So, later on, for old-time sake, Toby Jay suggested that they drive by the Goldenville Gymnasium.
“OK,” his father said, gladly.
Consequently, turning the car in that direction, the Golden Taurus soon approached yet another great gold connection in the shape of the United Methodist Church, the church in which Toby Jay’s parents, and much later, his sister were married.
“I couldn’t have said it better myself,” Toby Jay thought, having locked onto the Methodist Church billboard, which expressed an aphorism by NBC anchorman Tom Brokaw: “It’s easy to make a buck, but it’s a lot harder to make a difference.” Of course, nobody was more aware of the financial sacrifices that true missionary work required than Toby Jay himself. No job, meant no money. But hopefully, someday, his majical diary would make a real difference in the world.
Eventually, then, in one majical motion, the Golden Taurus glided past the Goldenville High Gymnasium, the same gymnasium in which Toby Jay proved to be one of the most prolific scorers in the history of Oaklahoma high school basketball; a feat that ultimately led to his being voted Most Athletic of his senior class. Yet, only now did he see the synchronicity in the fact that the gymnasium was named the John J. Daugherty PE Facility. “So who better to rack-up the most points ever scored in the John J. Daugherty Gymnasium than a guy named Jay?” inwardly he wondered.
But then, as the Golden Taurus rounded the north east corner of the gymnasium, Toby Jay was startled by the sight of an immaculate California-style Super Beetle, parked directly in front the Baptist Church.
“Since when did Goldenville, Oaklahoma have California-style Super Beetles?” Toby Jay wondered out loud to his father. And it wasn’t just any VW Super Beetle, but rather one designed along the exact same lines as the Golden Bug. More specifically, whereas the Golden Bug was painted alchemical gold, sporting a black convertible top, and gold eight-spoke EMPI wheels, the Mystery Beetle was painted druid white, with a black convertible top, and silver eight-spoke EMPI wheels. A curious set of similarities, indeed.
“Look,” his father quickly pointed out, “there’s the Goldenville marching band,” the observation of which meant that the Goldenville road trip was taking place on the most sacred of all days at Goldenville High School – Game Day. The day of battles, victories, legends, and All-Stars.
. . .
Shortly thereafter, the Golden Taurus passed by City Hall, then the building in which Toby Jay’s senior prom was held, but now had a large sign out front that read in big red letters, “Indian Council.”
From there, the Golden Taurus approached the Goldenville Cemetery, where Toby Jay and his father wished to pay their respects at Opal Eva’s gravesite.
At first, however, they tried to locate the tombstone of Paul Kennerly, Toby Jay’s maternal grandfather, who was an accomplished cartoonist and writer, but who died prematurely of a heart attack in 1957.
Although neither one of them had any luck at locating Paul’s headstone, it was the process of searching that made all the difference. Indeed, in doing so, Toby Jay listened to his father talk about people he once knew, but who were now resting six-feet underground. In particular, his father spoke highly of a man named Leonard Bias, who was always willing to lend a helping hand and never asked for anything in return.
“Gee, that’s awfully strange,” Toby Jay was shocked to discover, when he glanced down and noticed that Leonard Bias had passed away on December 12, 1957.
. . .
Later on, his father steered the Golden Taurus toward the south side of the cemetery to try to find Opal Eva’s gravesite. Finally, just when it looked as though their search was going to prove fruitless, his father hollered out, “I found it! It’s over here.”
“Heck, if it was a snake, it would have bitten us,” said Toby Jay, with a grin, since his father had located the gravestone next to where the Golden Taurus was parked, right across from where Opal Eva’s last rites were read. She, indeed, received a special burial, as her tombstone rested beside one of the few trees on the south side lawn. And yet, it was the pair of praying, Christ-like hands, etched on the face of the tombstone that struck Toby Jay by far the most. Since, like everything truly sacred, they conjured their polar opposite, namely Sneaky Puss’s profane “Hand.”
“So Sneaky Puss has made a mockery of my grandmother’s grave,” Toby Jay reckoned in an abysmal state of betrayal. But then, he experienced an ecstatic, spontaneous brain nova when he put two-and-two together and realized that Opal Eva was born on the same day as Leonard Bias, May 22.
“Whoa, what are the chances?” Toby Jay wondered, as he and his father continued to try and locate Paul Kennerly’s gravesite, but still to no avail.
. . .
So then, shortly after the Golden Taurus exited the cemetery gates, Toby Jay quickly pointed to the right-hand side of the road and said, “Look, there’s that Bug again.”
Curiously enough, the Mystery Beetle made a right-hand turn and headed straight towards the Goldenville Cemetery. “What are the probabilities…what are the chances?” Toby Jay wondered, inwardly, until eventually, the Golden Taurus approached the great stone gates in front of the Goldenville public swimming pool, the place where his father once served as manager after returning home from the Korean War, decorated with a Purple Heart.
“So I guess I’m not the only one who’s hip to the connection between the Spirit of `76 and the Year of Mysterious Synchronicity,” Toby Jay gathered, given that someone had cryptically painted the numerals `76 on the face of one of the great stone gates.
Suddenly, however, the almost unbelievable occurred. For right as Toby Jay stepped outside the Golden Taurus to photograph the cryptic Spirit of `76 numerals, the Mystery Beetle zoomed by before his very eyes. “Man, it’s like that Beetle is hardwired to the path of the Taurus,” he marveled, while sensing quick in his heart that he was being directly spoken to by the Great Generator itself.
But then, moments later, Toby Jay spotted another inspiring gold connection in the shape of a metal trinity sculpture shaped into the figures of Man, Woman and Child, with a holy Calvary cross standing erectly above the Sacred Family.
“Hey dad, check it out…that’s us…the power of the Trinity.”
“How did you see that?” his father asked, squinting his eyes, since most of the sculpture was shaded by a cluster of great towering elms.
“Well, I guess when it comes to intriguing sculptures, my eyesight gets a lot better,” Toby Jay replied in jest. He then proceeded to take photos of the Sacred Family sculpture.
“Say,” he asked afterwards, “can we drive by the gymnasium one last time?”
“OK,” said his father.
Only this time, the Golden Taurus approached the gymnasium from the opposite direction, moving north to south, instead of south to north. Surprisingly, this novel perspective revealed that there was a haunted house located directly across the street from the Goldenville High Gymnasium.
“Hey dad,” Toby Jay quickly pointed. “Check out that haunted house.”
In turn, his father just nodded in agreement, and steered the Golden Taurus down the road a ways, turning onto a small deserted street. “There’s where another witch used to live,” said his father, pointing towards an old white A-frame house with ancient, chipping paint; the exterior of which looked virtually identical to Principia’s dungeon. Unlike Principia’s dwelling, however, the home in question was black as coal inside due to an internal fire. From the looks of it, someone had attempted to burn the ghost of the old witch out of the house, so as to leave a sort of spiritual signpost for all the Goldenville citizens.
. . .
Yet, later still, as if there had not already been enough witchcraft revelations, right as the Golden Taurus was poised to leave town, his father pointed toward an old, abandoned store, cluttered with heaps upon heaps of junk metal. “See that store over there?” his father asked.
“Yeah, sure do.”
“Well, that used to be Ursula’s antique shop.”
Naturally, Toby Jay turned totally aghast.
“Why, there’s no tellin’ how long all that Bad Karma metal has been cursing Goldenville!”
“Well, it’s been there ever since the day she died, years and years ago…just like that old shack she placed behind the Diamond Mansion,” his father said in a grave tone of ultimate indictment.
. . .
Much later, after they finally picked up his mother in Okemah, the ride back to Stillwater proved to be a most surreal experience as Toby Jay’s parents played their favorite cassette tapes, all of which sounded like a cross between Disneyland melodies and the big band era of Glen Miller. Never before had he heard so many repeated references to words like ‘love,’ ‘moon,’ ‘stars,’ and ‘kisses.’
And yet, to make things even more surreal, the entire time, all Toby Jay could think about was the collective psychology of Boys for Pele and Lost Somewhere Between the Earth and My Home. In fact, the more he thought about it, the more convinced he was that the Goldenville road trip was not only sympathetically connected to Tori Amos’s upcoming concert in Oak City, but was also proof that he was not crazy, after all. Quite to the contrary, he had been right all along. That is to say, the state of Oaklahoma really was infested with witches. “Well, if you go namin’ a place Home of the Oak, you can bet witches will make it their home,” he reckoned esoterically, as his parents’ favorite Glen Miller-like cassette tapes continued to play softly around him.