Last Call, California

Pirates roam.  That is fact.  And that is what is happening with me.  Time to sail and take Six Ft. Swells Press national.  Julie will hold down the home base, Matt will woo the late night waitresses in the Northwest , and I will stomp into uncharted waters.  Six Ft. Swells will continue across this land.  Please continue to support us.  Exciting times.  This is my love letter to California…see you down the road…catch ya on the flip side, xoxoxo Todd

Last Call, California

I had heard about you
from across the mountains
and over the plains
on the shores of Lake Huron.

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I listened to the songs
and stories
that filled the record players,
books, poems and minds.
Everything cool started
in California.

You had free love, drugs,
muscle cars, Hell’s Angels,
movie stars, hippies, homosexuals,
earthquakes, surfers,
illegal aliens,
trees as big as the sky,
organic food and beach boys.

When I was thirteen,
I announced to my Ma
that I was moving to California
and more important than the announcement
was that I meant it.

That golden land
was the place for me.
I believed the promise
of picking fruit right off the trees,
a land of plenty for all.

Birthday Road Trip July 18-21, 2009 057

I hitched a ride with Tom Joad
and headed West
once my boring midwestern obligations
were complete.

I arrived in your arms
and immediately
fell under your spell,
everything I had thought,
read, felt or heard was true.
Even the giant Hollywood sign
was there.

The golden west,
end of land sadness,
end of land gladness.

I was a hay seed,
fresh off the bus,
who believed the first man I met
that told me
I had something special,
could really make it here
and had pretty eyes.

I walked right up
to your front desk
where you told me
I could check in any time I like
but could never leave.

Welcome to CA sign

I entered California
for the first time
at your northern coast border
backpacking with my two
best friends
in freakishly sunny weather.

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Since that day
I have spent nights
shooting out your stars
and getting my lights
punched out
underneath them.

I have passed out
on your beaches
and puked in parking lots.
Ran up tabs
I could never pay
in country bars in the Trinity Alps
and paid $70
for a six-pack
at 4am in Los Angeles
because that’s what
the city of angels called for.

One Christmas day, I drank tallboys with bums
in Ocean Beach, San Diego,
laughed with illegals
while playing pool
and drinking Budweiser
in Downey,
chased bears in
Sequoia National Park,
met best friends everywhere,
some of which still
talk to me,

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insulted hippy kids
in Arcata
when they demanded Carey Floyd and I
give them money
to feed themselves
because they were
“just being, man”
and we suggested
if they were that hungry
they should eat their dogs.

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I hallucinated in the goddamn desert
after being lost for four days
on the suggestion of my friend
who told me I would find answers there.
Instead, I found hunger, heat
and border patrol.

Birthday Road Trip July 18-21, 2009 076

Hitchhiked your northern highways
in sunshine and rain.
I was your Jack Kerouac
and became your Neal Cassady
stealing everything you had
on our Highway 99 adventures.

Broke hearts and streetlamps
in the foothills
laughed at Elephant Seals
and Sea Lions,
watched your orange poppies
grow each spring
and camped under
your 8,000 ft Buttes
completely happy.

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Got stalked by a mountain lion
in the Ventana Wilderness
outside of Big Sur,
met Will Staple
in Nevada City,

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lived with Buddhist monks
in Tassajarra
but skipped out on
too much work
to stay,
got stoned under Mt. Shasta
and slept in a landslide
on Highway 1,

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fought and fucked
my way
north, south,
east and west
within your 900 miles.

Your Pacific waves have crashed
upon my heart
more times than
I can count
and some moments
I thought
I would drown
in your depths.

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I’ve stood in roadways
in the middle of the day
in awe of the rolling hills
around me
in every direction,
breathed in the left coast air;
cool and crisp in mornings
filled with ocean spray
and hills lined with gold,
been completely directionless
but always found my way.

Birthday Road Trip July 18-21, 2009 002

Your sense of humor
has placed me in twisted positions
like one girl
that I have been with,
sitting at one end of the bar
and another,
that I have also been with,
seated at the other end of the bar
with the only one seat left
right in the middle,
thanks.

I have fallen in love
in the shade of your Sequoias,
on the 101,
cabins in the woods,
condos in San Fransico,
canoe trips on crystal rivers,
kissed underneath your Redwoods,
hell, I even got head in Bakersfield.

Sequoia's & CSN 022

I have broke up
and broke down
everywhere from
Barstow
to Redding,
and can tell you
that both towns suck;
break ups or not.

I’ve had one night stands
that lasted three months
and one night stands
that didn’t make it through
the night.
Cheated on you in a Safeway parking lot
and been cheated on
at the Yuba river.
I swear to christ, You must have more insane
women than any other state,
but hey,
I wished they all could be
California girls,
and I got my wish,
I took them in
and slept with all of them
because that’s what
I thought you wanted me to do
and they were so beautiful,
just like you;
plus, I’m, how do you say?…
a slut.

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I have blacked out
from Chula Vista to Crescent City.
Written my poems
on your streets,
in the dirt,
on mountaintops
and ocean piers.
I’ve stood on your stages
and tried to give you something
extraordinary
with words and soul
as golden and eternal
as those writers
before me;
Steinbeck,
Kerouac,
Synder,
Jack London
Allen Ginsberg,
Annie Menebroker,

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Hunter S. Thompson,
Julie Valin,

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W. S. Gainer
and of course
Bukowski.

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My black boots
stomped the same ground
as theirs.
Some nights it worked,
others it wasn’t even
a love story–
just a train wreck.

Your eternal promise
always held out
just beyond reach
but hey,
the sun always shines
here in California
so who cares.

Now, I say goodbye California
to all of your thousands
of god-awful poets
and millions of horrible poems
each longer and more spiritual
than the last.

I’m getting out,
leaving,
it is not you
but it’s not me either,
I’m pretty much the same
as when I arrived;
just years of
too many drugs,
too many deaths
and divorces,
in between
and too many bars
are closing early,
the city of lights
have dimmed.
The music doesn’t
play as loud
as I need it to.

To you I leave
multiple broken bones,
bottles, poems,
marriages,
pieces of my heart
scars
and lost loves
everywhere,
and even my best friend.

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I want you to know
that everything
I ever heard about you
was true;
the beauty,
the freaks,
the love,
the surfing
and now that Last Call
has been shouted,
give me
one for the road,
but who are we kidding,
I’ll need a sixer
at least
to get out
on an early morning
while the sun
comes up over
your golden hills
and my truck rolls toward
the state line.

And on my way out
I will see many more
coming in
and I will wave
and blow them a kiss.

Maybe we are not leaving
on the best of terms but
California, I still believe in you,
you are just as beautiful
as when I met you
and more importantly,
I still love you
and hope that you
will still love me
even though it was I
who decided to leave
you
behind.

—Todd Cirillo, 5/4/13

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10 Comments

Filed under Drinking, Poetry, Small Press, The Writer's Life, Uncategorized, Writing

10 responses to “Last Call, California

  1. carey

    ..and I thought would never write a long poem. it sure took you long enough.. see you in the house of the rising sun .

    Like

  2. Michelle George

    NOLA’s music is playing loud & waiting for you with open arms!

    Like

  3. bill dober

    A sterling tribute to the lady we call Cali. She is a bit tarnished, but still putting up a good fight. Thank you Todd for our 13 years of friendship. You are missed. We will meet up again. Safe travels. Bill.

    Like

  4. Stace

    Good luck Todd. California will always be here. Hope you find more of what you’re looking for out there..hope the music is louder and the last call doesn’t come too early.

    Like

  5. AnnieMenebroker

    I’m trying to get through this damn thing to leave a reply, but the replying end is not opening up its arms. The poem, a wandering gem, honey. I loved it, and how you brought in everything of your years here like one glorious homerun! Love, Annie

    Like

    • Todd Cirillo

      Dearest annie. Always my shining North Star. To receive such high praise from you about my poem mean a lot. “A glorious home run”!! Yeah. I usually go for doubles!! I’ll miss you. Love always, me

      Like

  6. Michael Williams

    Indeed a fantastic tribute to California life Todd. We will all miss you dearly. Hope you find what’s missing in your life NOLA. Can’t wait to check out the new digs! Safe travels brother.

    Like

  7. Todd Cirillo

    Thank you for the kind comment. I can manage the safe travels, it’s the good writing part that’s the unsafe part.

    Like

  8. Todd Wylie

    What a fantastic poem and tribute to a state I miss. California’s loss is Louisiana’s gain. Safe travels and Good Writing.

    Like

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