Abraham Lincoln: Advice from the Ghost Hotel

So, here I am, crashed out in the Ghost Hotel, the empty shell of some developer’s dream, and the walls are beginning to glow whiter…the straight edges of doorways and windows are starting to waver like sinuous dancers.  I should never let the Philosopher Red cook…or at least, eat what he cooks.  I go to the concrete chunk and wood scrap pile we call the kitchen and look at the recipe he used.

1 bunch of spinach, chopped

1 1/2 cup sour cream

1 cup mayonnaise

1 package vegetable soup mix

3 green onions, chopped

1 cup roasted chapulin (or other insects)

Squeeze spinach until dry.  Combine ingredients.  Refrigerate two hours.  Serve in hollowed bread.  Scoop using crackers of vegetables.

Now, Chapulin is a Spanish slang word for grasshopper, or a young thief or troublemaker.  A bag lying on the counter has a few of the large black ants which The Philosopher Red has discovered cause a slightly hallucinatory effect when dried and eaten.  He becomes a troublemaker when so intoxicated…I regress into my self – past the area where the Rude Red Dude rules.  A Chapulin, indeed.

A Lincoln penny on ground

I walk out onto our rubble of a patio, and find, of all things, an American penny.  The wind sounds like the hum of an audience waiting to be entertained.  “A much better image had he, before the weight of wisdom and responsibility brought him to un-sightly ends,” I pronounce in the best tragedian voice I can muster.  I would have flopped in Shakespeare’s Globe.  The wind seems like muffled applause.  These ants do the job.  Note to self: never eat anything The Philosopher Red –

“My father taught me to work, but not to love it,” came a deep-chested voice, world-weary and monotone.  “I never did like to work, and I don’t deny it. I’d rather read, tell stories, crack jokes, talk, laugh — anything but work.”

“A talking penny,” I mumbled.  This was beginning to take on a religious feel…projecting words on to idols, although the smallest American idol – but one any Televangelist would worship.

“Don’t criticize them; they are just what we would be under similar circumstances,” the voice replied.

“But they all look so good while doing so much disservice to their faithful,” I said, feeling a bit silly talking to a penny, but so alone in the Ghost Hotel it didn’t matter.  And look at Lincoln’s image…not the skeletal mug of his photos during the war years, but the grand features of a born entertainer, a teller of stories, maybe.

“When a young man in Illinois I was riding through a wood and met a woman, also on horseback, who stopped and said; ‘Well for land sake you are the homeliest man I ever saw.’ ‘Yes, madam, but I can’t help it,’ I replied.  ‘No, I suppose not,’ she observed, ‘but you could stay at home.'”  The Lincoln voice sounded playful.

“Might have been a good idea, in your case,” I said to the image on the penny.  “Too late to learn from history though, or advice from friends.”

“All I have learned, I learned from books,” the voice answered.  “My best friend is a person who will give me a book I have not read.”

“Well, you know,” I started, thinking I might as well play along with my distorted senses.  “America hasn’t not done so well since people like you…last president raised in the Age of Reason, left before telling us how to clean the mess up.”

“This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it.  Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their Constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember it or overthrow it…”

Now this fantastic voice seemed to be rising to the occasion…a little bit of good old stump oratory…some frontier wisdom.  I sat down.  The effects of eating these black ants might last a while.

“…America will never be destroyed from the outside.  If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

“I hope you wrote some of this down,” I said, flipping the penny aimlessly. “This common little copper disc reminds me of common people.  They serve a purpose for a while, but in the end   they’re expendable.”

“The Lord prefers common-looking people.  That is why he made so many of them,” the voice said, a light-hearted air starting to become apparent.  “And writing, the art of communicating thoughts to the mind through the eye, is the great invention of  this world…enabling us to converse with the dead, the absent, and the unborn, at all distances of time and space.”

English: John Wilkes Booth.

English: John Wilkes Booth. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Plain and not honest is too harsh a style,” a new voice echoed through the concrete walls of the Ghost Hotel.  I looked at a darkened corner where it seemed to have originated from, then back at the penny now lying head up in my palm.  I must have looked a bit baffled.

“That is the corner where presidential assassins seem to congregate,” the Lincoln voice said.  “That Booth – always quoting from Shakespeare…Richard the third.  A beast of a man when ignored.”

“No beast so fierce but knows some touch of pity.  But I know none, and therefore am no beast,” the assassin’s voice rang out.  A voice trained for the theater…projection.  Looking into the corner I see the spectral shapes of several people.  I look to the penny.

“John Wilkes Booth…but I suppose you knew that,” the Lincoln voice said.  “And…Giteau, Czolgosz, Oswald – claims to fame, presidential assassins.”

“Sin, death, and hell have set their marks on him, and all their ministers attend him,” Booth’s voice boomed.

There were more than four spectral bodies in the corner.  A female voice began muttering, as if talking to herself:

“Am I sorry I tried?  Yes, and no.  Yes, because it accomplished little except to throw away the rest of my life.  And, no, I’m not sorry I tried, because at the time it seemed a correct expression of my anger…my thoughts of -”

I looked to the penny for an explanation.

Sandra Good, and her cohort Squeaky Fromme,” the Lincoln voice said.  “I hear they tried to assassinate a President Ford, and the joke around here is that he was stumbling down stairs and slipping on wet streets so often he was more of a danger to himself than these attempted assassins were…the management allows their failed company to mix with the successful, for reasons – ”

“Dispute not with her: she is a lunatic,” chimed the Booth voice.  Does he know anything except lines from Shakespeare?

I could hear a squeaky voice arguing with the surer voice of Sandra Good.  “Chapman, shut up…” they said in unison.

“This has to be harder on you than hallucinating on black ants,” I said to Lincoln’s profile on the penny.

“When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on,” it replied.

“Good advice,” I said, looking in at The Philosopher Red rifling through my shirt pockets…probably looking for more ant money, “Very good advice.”


10 thoughts on “Abraham Lincoln: Advice from the Ghost Hotel

  1. I’ll try the recipe…minus the chapulin (not hungry for grasshopper, young thief or troublemaker–though I love how you wrote this!)

    • coyotero2112 says:

      Thanks. Like playing literary dress-up…taking the words of others and placing myself in their midst as an antogonist or mediator. The Philosopher Red is a series of posts, one of the first being how he discovers all the hallucinogenic properties of many insects here, and often doses me. Weird World. Thanks for reading…so many people won’t if it’s more than 400 words.

  2. The picture of the ghost hotel is amazing: a balance of the decay from abandonment alongside the possibility of transformation.

    You’d have been fine in Shakespeare’s Globe. What you might feel you lack in declamatory gravitas would be offset by the magnificence of the place. Much like the ghost hotel itself, in fact.

    • coyotero2112 says:

      yeah…the wife and I went there, took a bunch of B and W photos of this whole abandoned set-up for tourists. The beach has a lot of rocks…wonder if they everr wondered why they got in so cheap, before the lawyers and locals started extracting their small, yet numerous, trubutes and “gifts” para saludos a la familias. Think you’re conected to my wife’s blog, shimmyshark, with her pics of rock towers and deserted dreams. Thanks for reading…so many people don’t when it’s more than 200 words.

  3. What I never appreciated about John Wilkes Booth was just how famous he was in his time, as in world-famous, as in being the highest paying actor in America. Also how inept he was at long-term planning. Long after he had given up the idea of doing something in revenge for the South he more or less happened to hear by chance that Lincoln was going to be in the Ford theater that night. He had no escape plan except some vague idea of fleeing to Europe or South America. During the 12 days it took the federals to catch him he evidence shows that he probably could have actually gotten away if he just pushed south but he spent most of his time hiding with a friend out in the Virginian swamps, reading about himself in the papers because if history teaches us anything it is that vanity and hubris will be our downfall at every step of the way.

    • coyotero2112 says:

      I worked in the Rockefeller Building in Cleveland, the old Weddell House, where Lincoln gave a speech on his way to inauguration. Used to be Bank Street, also home to Cleveland’s play house where Booth performed Richard III many times. Another one of those ironies from “Dog Food” book. The Weddell House used to be the place to go for a room or a meal between Chicago and New York…I lived in a rooming house built on the site of the old Weddell mansion. They served their meals on square, wooden plates, and people started saying things about square meals. I could go on and on and on, but I’ll be good.

      • I use to have a cook book called Square Meals. Someone had gone to every church basement potluck and family reunion picnic in the Midwest and collected all the grossest recipes they could find. My favorite was “Floating Twinkee Surprise” … which was a series of Twinkees suspended in layers of jello. Surprise, dear arteries!

        • coyotero2112 says:

          Ohhhh. And I’m sitting here drinking my daily dose of banana, red pepper, carrot, cas, guayabana, spinach, and pineapple blended into pulpy juice. Should I be tossing a Twinkie into the mix to keep my American citizenship in order?

          • Too late, my friend! I heard last year that Hostess had stopped making Twinkees. But perhaps you could just toss a handful of tar or maybe asphalt into your drink, it would probably have the same effect.

            • coyotero2112 says:

              Think their last production plant was in West Cleveland, if I remember a strike there scaring a few addicts. Weird how many of the iconic names of my childhood – Kirby vacuums, Huffy bikes, Sherwin Williams paint, were all from the Cleve…til they moved to Mexico and China.

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