PART II

 

 

 

When I first started reading the journal of the man who has become our favorite bead salesman (admittedly, there’s probably not a lot of competition in that category), one of the first things that attracted my attention was the journal originating in Ohio and somehow making its way across the country to Seattle into this very house.  That was exactly my journey as well.  I wasn’t born near Nastoria, however, where we first read of Mr. Louviere’s bead selling.  I was brought up much farther north, just outside of Canton, which, as you may or may not know, is the home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

            My father was an ardent football fan, and I was probably 11 or 12 when I first learned he had never been to the Hall of Fame.  Why not?  Because it was so close he could go whenever he wanted.  People planned trips from all over the United States, probably all over the world, to visit the shrine dedicated to the heroes of the gridiron, but my dad just never got around to going.  Every time we’d see it on television, or read of the new inductees in the newspaper, Dad would just say, “I’m going to have to go there this year.”

Year after year went by, and he never did…all because he could go whenever he wanted.

            One day late in the summer before I went away to college, I told my dad,“we’re going to the Pro Football Hall of Fame today.”  I gave him no choice in the matter.  He seemed rather perturbed by my forcing him to make the 10-minute drive that day because he could make the visit any time.

            Why am I bringing all this up?  Well, it’s exactly the state of mind I had about trying to learn the name and fate of the woman who had lived in this house before my friend and coworker, Bob Dartman, who I assumed was the same person who had hidden Mr. Louviere’s work in the wall.  I was curious to learn anything I could about her, but as it would take so little investigation, it was incredibly easy to put the whole thing off.  And so I did, time and time again.

            However, being curious about not only the journals’ author, but also of some of his acquaintances, I did a little bit of Internet research.  I hit all the search engines, entering Mr. Louviere’s name, and came up with nothing.  I was slightly angry that up until this point his journals hadn’t mentioned the name of the bead company he’d inherited from Helen Solange, his great-aunt.  A search on her name resulted in as much as the one on Louviere’s had.

            If Sage Parker’s The Eye of the Rainbow Dragon is still in business, she’s strictly adhered to her love of that particular time period, and has not delved into the ubiquitous marketing possibilities of the Internet.  Mary’s Painted Wagon apparently broke up two years after Mr. Louviere traded a leather flask and a handful of beads for some spiritual guidance at one of their concerts, and no record label had thought their work worthy of transfer to compact disc for the current generation to enjoy.

            I did find a site that posted poetry supposedly penned by Moondagger, but I’m hoping that it wasn’t, for I was kind of fond of him and the poetry was downright awful.  I clicked on the “contact us” button, and wrote the Webmaster asking if he knew of Moondagger’s whereabouts, but as of yet I’ve received no reply.

And, of course, I’ve searched the internet for beads.  I’ve been to sites that tell the historical significance of beads, the spiritual properties of beads, and have been to plenty that simply sell beads.  I’ve found these sites helpful in that I now can put a picture some of the items that Mr. Louviere writes about, but they’ve done nothing in assisting me in answering any of my deeper questions.

            My wife, Nicole, has also spent some time surfing the web for bead sellers. Though her interest was spawned by my retelling of Louviere’s tales, it has since spilled over onto the writing desk in the guest bedroom and is fed by what has become at least twice-weekly visits by the U.S. Postal Service and other parcel delivery companies resulting in even more beads fueling her new hobby.

            About a week ago I was thinking of reasons to continue putting off looking deeper into the background of the Widow E., and came up with little when the front doorbell rang.  There’s my out, I told myself, let’s hope this visitor takes up most of my afternoon.

            I answered the door and found a short round man dressed in a stew-colored tweed suit with a bright, wide tie on which was a hand-painted palm tree.  He wore a fedora, and his image was one of a comic- relief sidekick in some old hardboiled mystery --  the still photographer assigned to work with the square-jawed, no-nonsense reporter, who would always tap his fingers together quickly and look around the room with a devilish grin every time he found himself alone with a liquor bottle.

            This man, however, lacked that spark in his eye, and the corners of his mouth refused to point to anywhere but the floor.

            He said my name in the form of a question, and when I confirmed he had found the right person, he told me he was called Katsoulakis.  Then he raised his eyebrows and cocked his head as a way of asking for an invitation into the foyer.

            Once inside, he took off his hat that exposed a sweaty forehead advancing on a retreating hairline.  Nervously fidgeting with the brim, he asked if it was I who was posting the journals of the Bead Man.  When I answered positively he went on to wonder if I had yet found out anything of the woman who hid the diaries in the wall.  I told him that I wasn’t sure it was a woman who had hidden the books, and he assured me that it was, and that her name wasn’t Emerson or Everson as my friend and business associate had guessed, but these guesses weren’t far off the mark. 

            The entire time we spoke he never made eye contact.  He looked around the house, sometimes leaning forward hoping to sneak a peek into an adjoining room, and once even leaned over in an attempt to find out how far he could see up the main stairway.  It was as if he had been here before and was checking out the renovations Nicole and I had made.  Or perhaps this was a place he had always wanted to be, and like an Egyptologist discovering a lost tomb he’d heard legends about, he was slightly overwhelmed that the place really existed.

            As he studied my house I made a mental note not to invite him in any farther, and also not to use my real name when posting any further strange true stories on the Internet that I might come across.

            Attempting to not make my reservations obvious, I inquired as to what the woman’s real name was, and by letting out a slight guffaw he betrayed the fact that the concept of humor was not completely alien to him, though I sensed it was a darker kind of wit that had made him laugh.  He then went on to say he could get me some information that might be useful if I so desired.

            Being in business myself, I’m always wary of the opportunist; the person who promises something for a price with no intention of delivering.  And since I couldn’t get a bead on this man’s intentions (pun intended?), I immediately felt I should approach his offer with caution.

            I made up a lie about my daughter’s riding lessons stretching our budget a little thin, but he immediately brushed off my excuse.  He said he didn’t intend to charge me for his time, but if there was anything I’d like to know, he’d do his best to provide it, asking in return only that I continue to post Louviere’s writings.

            I still smelled a rat (to use the vernacular of the film noir genre I felt I had been suddenly thrust into), but my curiosity was getting the better of me.  I decided if I kept my eyes open around this man, the whole thing just might be rather fun.  So I accepted his offer.

            He told me he would be back sometime in the future, and then tried to change the subject by asking a barrage of questions about the house.  Though they were rather innocen, I took a certain glee in not giving him any information.  I had no doubt he saw through my dishonesty, and he wasn’t enjoying my cat-and-mouse game nearly as much as I was.  I told him I was extremely busy, and that when and if he had some information, I’d be happy to see it.  But for now, of course, I’d better get back to work.

            Katsoulakis took another look around and and then made his exit..

            I once read that the human brain looks for patterns in things even when they don’t exist.  That’s why people sometimes see an image of their favorite religious personality on a snack cake, or the charred area of a potato chip looks so much like a chimpanzee playing ping-pong, instead of being something to nibble on, it gets framed and hung on a wall.  When I first began reading Louviere’s journals, I wondered if perhaps I was doing the same thing.  Was I only imagining a connection between the bead seller’s adventures in Nastoria and his odd experience at the Mary’s Painted Wagon concert?  Was the strange yet alluring woman who visited him in his hotel room so late at night -- supposedly looking for beads -- connected with everything that was going on?  Or was it all just a chain of interesting but isolated incidents?  If this was the case, why had his entries begun when they had?  If he were the type of person to keep a journal, wouldn’t there have been other events that had taken place before those we’ve been reading about, or was it just that the earlier diaries were of no interest to the Widow E.?  Or did the buried journals start with the day and time they did because that’s when “it” all began?

            These were questions that I kept changing my mind about.  Sitting at a traffic light, I might flip between my thoughts on the subject 10 times or more.  Yes, because they were found buried in a wall, I wanted to romanticize the journals.  I wanted them to be something bigger than mere tales of a man peddling beads, charms, findings and crystals.  But I often doubted that they were.  I felt I would just keep reading about relatively unrelated, day-to-day happenings in a man’s life.  And this man just sold beads!  He wasn’t a soldier, a politician, a criminal or an adventurer of any kind…he was just a salesman of pretty, shiny objects.

            But after my visit from Katsoulakis, I was sure there was much more to the journals and the stories they were telling than who bought which semi-precious stones and which customers preferred faux pearls to freshwater.

After my strange guest left, I immediately ran back to my study, hungry to devour the next pages   I wanted to know the details of the events Samuel Louviere had thought important enough to record.

            Wouldn’t you?         

         

                                                                   -- Albert Thestle.

                                                                       March 2006

 

 ..................to be continued

 

© 2006 Brightlings Beads and M. Robert Todd