He wandered about aloof from reality. Whether or not he knew where he was going was hard to tell. When that raucous laugh assaulted your ears, your body tensed in anticipation. He spoke with an irritating nasal tone and his face was often fixed in a stupid smile. He could call you his “best friend” and get away with it because he lived in another world. There was no avoiding him if you owned a public place. To dispute his right to be there would be like arguing with the unseen forces of nature. We endured his presence. That was how it was done. There were times we were rewarded and times best not remembered, but every time became a story.
Outrageous was the only way to describe him except when his mother periodically came to town. Then there were brief moments of self-enforced sanity. He dressed with uncharacteristic care, trimmed his beard, saw that his hair was combed, toned down his voice, and behaved as normal as possible for someone for whom normal is impossible.
Alan cherished his connection to the IWW, the Industrial Workers of the World, fondly called the Wobblies. He idolized Harry Bridges whom he called “a principled Socialist.” In his funny, engaging and pleasantly strange book Captain Fathom’s Fables, Alan wrote that Harry Bridges “talked the talk, he walked the walk. The world is a better place because he lived.” Once Alan got the idea to write to Harry Bridges telling him that Alan and some friends were going to put a bust of Harry over the harbor at Albion to honor him, a crazy idea and never carried out. Alan received a response and thank you from the labor hero that he framed and gave to me to hang in the Sea Gull Cellar Bar. It hung there until the restaurant closed.
One quiet afternoon between the lunch and dinner rush, Alan walked into the restaurant, past the register where I was working, and out the back door. I assumed he was going to use the restroom like many people did since there were no public restrooms in Mendocino in those days. When he didn’t return, I grew concerned and walked out the back to see if I could find him. He was sitting on the stairs leading down to the garden leaning against the railing.
At first I thought he’d passed out. He was usually high grass or booze. I shook him and he slumped over into a horizontal position as if he were dead. I panicked. Luckily our chef that night, Carol, was a trained nurse. I sent a waitress to summon Carol from the kitchen, and she rushed out. She tried to revive Alan without success. She used her thumb and forefinger to open one of his eyes and with her other hand waved a finger up and down close to his eyeball. Nothing.
“This doesn’t look good. We’d better call the Fire Department.”
In Mendocino the Volunteer Fire Department was the fastest way to get rescue and CPR services. Since the Fire Department was right next door to the restaurant, half a dozen men showed up almost immediately. They went to work on Alan who remained in a comatose state for several minutes. Suddenly he miraculously opened his eyes and gave everyone a bewildered look.
“What’s going on?”
I explained that we were concerned he’d had a stroke or worse as he was completely gone to the world around him, and that we’d called the Fire Department.
“Fire Department !” he exclaimed. “I was just meditating. Nothing wrong with me, gentlemen, other than being in D … E … E … P meditation. But, thanks for your concern.”
We all looked at each other and just laughed. That was Captain Fathom.
The last time I saw Alan, he accosted me on the street. He’d inherited a substantial sum in gold coins from his mother, or so he said, and wondered if I had any idea what to do with them. He was going to get them out of his safety deposit box because he didn’t trust banks given all the shenanigans they’d been pulling.
Whether the story was true or not was hard to tell, but I wasn’t biting.
“Probably best to leave them in the bank, Alan. That’s a lot of gold to just be carrying around.”
He laughed boisterously as was his style and walked into the bank. From what I’ve heard, he’s been in and out of jail over the last few years. He’s alienated many of his friends with behavior that Harry Bridges would not likely approve of. Whatever Alan chose to do would not surprise me. He always marched to his own drummer and never worried about consequences, the devil be damned. I’ll remember him for many things, his savage honesty, his disarming laugh, his wild and crazy behavior, and especially for this Abalone Recipe published in a cookbook of Mendocino Cookery by Gail Levene.
Abalone Recipe by Alan Graham
The best abalone you’ve ever eaten in your life.
Remove the beast from the shell and take the guts off the abalone. Wrap the abalone in a burlap sack and swat it 6 times on each side with either a 2 x 4 or a 4 x 6. You pulverize it somewhat. (A hammer is acceptable but it is better to get a flat surface like a board. Others use a broker oar or paddles.)
Then serrate the abalone; you slice it about halfway through. Soak it in lemon for about an hour. In the serrated slots, stuff the abalone with onions, garlic, parsley and (optional) sinsemilla bud leaf. Place in oven, wrapped in foil, and bake for one hour.
You will have an abalone with the consistency of cheesecake.
In his Fables, Alan spoke of Leo Tolstoy whom he admired. There were some similarities. I can connect the two although Alan was just crazy while Tolstoy was crazy like a fox. Or maybe not. I can’t really know. Tolstoy’s What I Believe appeals greatly to me and I think it appealed to Alan as well. I’m not sure if he’s still with us, I’ve lost track, but if he is, be well Alan, be well.