Sunday, April 26, 2009


There was this guy called Mike. We called him "Medicine Man" because he was always spewing all this razz-ma-tazz that never made any sense, but he said it fast, so you were always caught a bit off guard by the verbiage. And it kind of sounded like it was gospel, but it was just more of the old shuck and jive. He wore an old bone around his neck, which was the real inspiration for his name. Scott-- my best friend-- christened this guy Medicine Man. Scott was always giving people nicknames like that. He had a wicked sense of humor. There was a DJ who would play at a local club called Mekka, who wasn't very good-- Scott gave him a really derogatory nickname, which I won't repeat, but trust me, it was pretty funny.

Anyhow, Scott-- who had (and likely still has) a high tolerance for crazy people and assorted weirdos-- kind of took a shine to Medicine Man Mike, and would invite him over, which was annoying and alarming. Give the guy dinner, let him crash out. The guy stole stuff, and he never knew when to leave. Eventually, he'd get into all this UFO conspiracy stuff and you'd have to kick him out.

Scott lived on the top floor of a 3 story house, and that room was a masterpiece of youth. It was glorious. LP records and paintings and stuff, it was an oasis for a 21 year old. We were in art school then, and did the kinds of things art school kids did. We would crawl up to the roof and light Roman candles and listen to old Bowie records and argue about art theory. Stuff like that.

One time, out of sympathy or something, Scott bought this strange old idol from Medicine Man. It was like an old Tiki idol or an imitation Easter Island carving, about as long as your leg and made out of ebony wood. Medicine Man Mike made his money from selling old junk which he would find or acquisition. Sometimes he would sell pot. He always had a big bag of stuff which was for sale. He told Scott this long story about the history of the idol, where it came from, all this stuff. Told us that it was haunted by the ghost of a tribesman or something. Total BS, but it made for a good story and it somehow added to the purchase, so what's the harm? Mike told us that one day, the spirit of this old tribesman will return to our realm, that he will come back to Earth because his work isn't finished yet, yadda yadda. Standard, stock B movie stuff.

So Scott kept this thing, and it became a regular feature in his room. It was handsome in a garish way, which is how it always is with kitschy stuff. And time went by.

Once in a while, Scott would tell me he heard weird noises in his room, a kind of scratching sound. As if there was a rat in the wall. Which was a real possibility, of course, since the house was an old one. But Scott never found any evidence of pests. Over time, the sound persisted. It began getting louder. Eventually, Scott would say he thought the sound was coming out of the idol which he got from Mike, which seemed ridiculous to me. But Scott would insist that was the case, it was the one and only place where the sound could be coming from-- a kind of scratching, gnawing sound. Scott said it was random and infrequent. We were coming on summertime, and as it got hotter, the sound got louder and more noticeable.

So Scott is in his room one time, one night. It's summer. He says by now, he is certain that the sound is coming from the idol, and it's kind of freaking him out. When it makes that noise, he shakes the thing, and it stops. Only to start again later at some off hour. He puts the idol over by the window.

And sure enough, one night a big greenish beetle gnaws its way out of the wooden idol. Green and irridecent, like the hood of a Cuban convertible. I have no idea how it could have survived over all those months, but I believe it's an absolutely true story, because Scott has never had any reason to lie to me, especially about something as inconsequential as that. The beetle flew out the window and disappeared, and that was that.

For some reason, I am thinking of Medicine Man today. It's the first really nice Spring day in NYC and it reminds me of those times and those days.