Bonding With A Blue Angel
Jon Gregory Presco
I and my three siblings have been cursed, and blessed. Within a hundred yards of our front door on San Sebastian Avenue, lived three Hags, old Crones of renown – and ill repute! Up the street, on Hollywood, lived Ms. Smith and Kay Coakley. To get to Mrs. Smith’s front door, one traversed a veritable Fairyland. Her yard was over-grown. At one time it was a showcase. But now the rose bushes meandered into the fruit trees. Everywhere was a bouquet of runaway flowers, that were once maintained and well-behaved. Now, they go and grow wherever they want to, they seemingly suspended in midair, clinging to vines to get the best sunlight. In the center of this maze was a bronze sundial on a marble pillar. We stopped here before we knocked on the big oaken door.
My sister Christine was a proverbial know-it-all. She pretended she could read what time it was. She explained the shadow to me in that special language she owned. I held back, knowing we would soon know for sure, after Mrs Smith let us into her antique home. Looking like Mrs. Santa Clause, she wrung her hands with glee as we performed for her ‘The Timeless Ritual’. We took turns sitting in her musical chair in the foyer that would tinkle away as she held out her crystal bowl full on M&Ms. We were experts and taking a big handful without dropping a one. We did not want to appear as greedy little pigs. She had raised us to respect a Higher Porpous.
Clutching our reward to our innocent bosom, as one we turned to the great grandfather clock standing proud on the landing of her grand stairway next to the stainglass window. We beamed as we watched the minute hand come together with the hour hand at high noon. Our concert reached a crescendo with the chiming of this wooden wonder that told us the days of our youth were important ones. Mrs. Smith knew how vital our celebration was, as her time was running out. We sensed she was trying to leave us something before she raised into the sky by the Zephors. When she shut the door on us, we gobbled down our M&Ms lest the other children behold our good fortune, and its source. We owned her! She belonged to us!
Now, down the street from us, lived the other Mrs. Smith. She called the cops on us all the time for playing ball in the street. The cop would talk to her for almost two hours. We sat on a wall waiting for him to go away so we can play ball some more. That was our job description. Finally the Oakland Cop would emerge and saunter sideways over to us. We got the same old lecture.
“Listen up my lil Pilgrims. Ty not to have so much fun. You know how she is!”
Years later when I talked about the mean Mr’s Smith, my mother laughed. She told me the truth. She was a famous madam that was driven out of San Francisco. Those cops were getting laid by her young girl who lived with her. The Wild West wasn’t completely over.
Now it all made sense. Susie and I had dared knock on her door, when she opened it we were amazed. Her walls were painted Chinese red. There was Chinese decor everywhere. She was wearing an oriental bathrobe. Her face was chalky white. Her lipstick was Chinese red. Susie had told me she glimpsed a pretty young woman looking out the window at her. We hoped she would open the door. Five years later I saw her. I was thirteen. She got off the bus and walked down the path constructed by the WPA. I was right behind her. It was raining. She was wearing a French trench coat. Being an artist and poet, I was in Paris wanting this creature of the night to make me a man. Then, there is the Blue Angel my two sisters saw – and the old crone who lived three door down from grandfather clock. Are you seeing the big picture here. Add it up.
The garden fairies, the Greek sundial, the musical chair, the grandfather clock, the hedge of thorns, the madam and house of ill repute, the fallen young Jezzabel, the Chinese decor. Whats missing?
Our bond with the Blue Angel began early one Saturday morning when Christine
and my younger sister, Vicki, came rushing into the Boys Room at the
first sign I was awake. I was ten years old at the time, Christine
nine, and Vicki, five. Getting them to calm down, their faces lit-up
with excitement, they told me one of the strangest things I have ever
heard in my life. They told me in the middle of the night they had
woken to behold a powerful blue light filling their room, and in the
middle of the light, was a beautiful woman standing at the foot of
Christine’s bed looking down on her. She was in a long flowing gown,
and if she had wings, my sisters did not say; but they reasured me,
begged me to believe; “She was an Angel!”
Some of us are never called upon to believe in anything so
extraordinary, and as the morning progressed I had trouble with, her,
I not being a witness – and if I had been? In studying my sisters, I
saw they did not quite know where to put it, her, and I felt sorry
I then got a call from Kay Coakly who lived just up the street, and
who had befriended all the Presco children. She was stricken with
Parkinson’s disease when she was young, brought on by a car accident
at her coming-out party, she the daughter of a famous Judge in
Oakland Claifornia. The Coakley family owned large tracks of property
down by Lake Merrit where Jack London used to sail. Kay was a real
life Crone, and she wanted me to come fix her radio, the atenae that
she attached to her bedsprings prone to come loose. After seeing it
was still attached, I saw her looking tentively out the window. I
asked her what was wrong. She told me she was awoken in the middle of
the night by a powerful blue light – so powerful it burned holes in
her lace curtain; “Come take a look. I think it was those bad-boys
across the canyon shining a spotlight in my window.”
With the hair on the back of my neck, up and alert, I went over to
the window and beheld a ring of tiny burn holes about the size of
one’s head, and no bigger then the tip of your baby-finger. I looked
out the window, stood on my tip-toes, and told Kay; “You can’t even
see the canyon from this window. It couldn’t have been the boys.”
Kay did not say anything, repute my innocent deduction, she already
figuring this out, and, somethings in life do not have an
explination, and defy all attempts to clarify and classify the truly
extraordinary. Such is the nature of this story, and my Family, no
one quite able to believe. But, they did, and they still do. This
story is for them.
Coakley the Cailleach and the Oakland Cops
Having read all the Grimm¡¯s Fairytales when I was eleven, I can say
the best stories begin with the appearance of an Old Hag. Most
children of my generation expected to be approached, or beckoned by
an Old Hag, or Witch, at some time in their life, thanks to Walt
Disney, the darling of Rightwing Conservatives who had the hots for
Davey Crockett, who would give the Republicans ‘Frontier America’
back after disappearing most of the other folks, somehow. So when
Dear Old Kay called to me from across the street, I must admit I was
startled, for she looked every bit like the classic Witch. Was she a
good witch? She had course black hair, a large nose, and perhaps my
youthful imagination and memory put a wart on that nose?
¡°Young boy!¡± she called to me in a garbled voice. ¡°Cumb bere!¡±
Being the only young boy on the street at the time (I was eleven) I
surmised it was me she beckoned to, and curious I came across the
street so I could hear her better.
Kay was slumped over and had a rather large hump on her back. Her
face was very pale, and wore bright red lipstick that was not applied
properly. It was hard to tell her age, for up close she did not look
as old as I first surmised. Having my full attention, she now spoke.
¡°I brandt yoob tos take deez bobbas to da store andb cabsh dem forb
me, den brug da muzzy brack and guv it ta me.¡±
¡°What?¡± I said, cocking my head to one side.
She gave me a look, having encountered dummies like me before, and
with disgust, turned and beckoned me in the house.
¡°Fallub me.¡± She said, and my heart began to race. Do I dare cross
¡°Fallub me!¡± She said a little louder, and I could not resist.
Kay walked with a stutter-step that propelled her forward. Some said
she had Cerebral Palsy, but she told us kids she was in a terrible
automobile accident when she was young and beautiful that had
obviously caused some brain damage, as well as crippling her.
Turning into the kitchen, she opened the door to the garage, and
pointed to several bags of pop-bottles and repeated her instructions
that I did not follow correctly, for I was distracted by the sight of
the most beautiful car I have ever seen. It was a 1930¡¯s Super Stutz
Bear Cat as I would later learn from a friend at schools whose uncle
purchased it. Jay Johansson was the son and grandson of famous
explorers who helped found Oakland¡¯s Snow Museum. He told me Kay¡¯s
Bearcat had hardly been driven.
I would hear from my mother, after all the Prescos got to know Kay,
that her father gave her the Bearcat on her coming out party, when
she turned twenty one. Kay¡¯s father was the famous Oakland District
Attorney J.Frank Coakley, an associate and friend of Ed Meese and
Earl Warren. Kay had gone driving with a boy, or another couple, and
if there was some drinking going on, it got covered up. No one got
the full story of what happened when the beautiful daughter of
Oakland¡¯s Top Cop got turned into a witch, a very young witch, who
was the only witness to the visitation of the Blue Angel that came
into Kay¡¯s room and my two sister¡¯s bedroom, and stood gazing down at
Christine at the foot of her bed. Seeing Angels, Pixies, and Fairies
was the Disney Dream that Leftwing Democrats adopted and adored, they
wishing that the Capitalists, the Conservatives, and the Cops would
disappear somehow, or, just the Fairy Folk whisked away to Never Pay
Your Duesville where the eternally young live off the rich ¨C forever!
¡°Tabe de boddas to da storb, and ged sum mummy for dem. For doobing
dis I wool gib yu ten cents.¡±
Being a Democrat and lover of the Brothers Grimm, I alas understood
Kay was my benefactor, a Good Witch who wanted to rain good fortune
down upon me, a poor Presco child.
¡°Hey thanks!¡± I said, and bent down to pick up the bags. And off to
the store I skipped.
Walking home, I woofed down my Hershey bar, and soda. Passing Kay¡¯s
house, I glanced her way, my pocked jingling with heavy coins. Life
was good to me that day. If Kay was looking out the window as I
passed, she might have been wearing a puzzled look as she wondered;
“Bear da hell is dat lil brascal goink wid my sooda-pop munny?”
Later that evening, the phone in the Presco home rang, and Rosemary
answered. Being an executive secretary, my mother had a professional
voice, a calming reassuring manner. Now she let out her famous laugh,
and hung up. With a smile she approached me and asked me if someone
had given me some pop bottles to take to the store. I told her I had.
Rosemary then told me I had absconded with the money I got from these
bottles, and had been tracked down ¨C somehow!
Giving me the money to make up for what I spent, my mother sent me on
my way to revisit the Old Crone, our beloved Irish Cailleach who
would give all the children around San Sebastian Street a taste of
Pathos. From our dear Crone we learned life was a tradgedy, even
unfair. Standing in Kay¡¯s tennis court in her over grown backyard, we
studied the weeds that broke through the playing surface. Touching
the decaying net, it crumbled like a spiders web. On this court Kay
served and vollied in her pure white tennis outfit, she the child of
Oakland socialites who lived on the very border of the wealthy
No one is certain if she ever drove her Stutz Bearcat, but it became
a hereditary job, a good source of incame when we Prescos came to
clean the dog shit Kay¡¯s black Cockerspanial dropped all around the
Stuz when she let it out in the garage to do her business.
Whenever Kay had to grocery shopping, or go to the Doctor of Dentist,
she would call her father downtown. In minutes an Oakland Cop Car
would pull up in front of Kay¡¯s house on Hollywood Street, as if it
were a Taxi. In Kay¡¯s dining room was a very large painting, a
panorama of Lake Merrit. It was rumored the Coakley family owned half
the property around this lake, and Kay was a millionaire.
The Coakleys came from Ireland, and one legend claims they descend
from Fair Rosamond. When I began to do a genealogical research of my
Rosamond ancestors, I wondered if Fair Rosamond was the angel that
appeared before my sisters, and Kay. If so, was she the entity who
was guiding me in my study of the Holy Grail?
The Black Panthers thought Kay¡¯s father was a ¡°racist dog¡±. My
Godfather was a sergeant on the Oakland police force, and he would
sometimes pull up in his squad car to pay a visit. Some of the
Oakland Cops who took Kay to the doctor would come down San Sebastian
street, stop in front of Ms. Smith¡¯s house, and pretend to be
answering her complaint that we kids were disturbing this other Old
Hag with our ball-play in the street. The truth was, Ms. Smith was an
Old Madam who was run out of San Francisco. Finding sanctuary in
Oakland, she kept a very young and very beautiful prostitute shut up
in her home, whose interior was filled with Chinese d¨¦cor, her walls
painted a deep cadmium red. The Oakland cops were there for two
hours or more, while we young boys waited for them to hear Ms. Smiths
tiresome complaint – yet again -and leave!
¡°What in the hell is taking him so long.¡± We would exclaim, tossing
the football in the air and catching it.
One raining evening I got off the bus, and found myself walking
behind the young prostitute through a walkway. She was wearing a
trenchcoat. The sound of her high heals and rain hitting the
sidewalk, put me in Paris, I a young artist from America, wondering
if I should purchase the pleasure of her company, or buy an empty
canvas. She felt my presence. We were all alone and lost in the
world. She and the world beckoned to me.
“Make me a man, for I have many things to do, places to go, and
wondersous thngs to see. To be a Man. Would this be a crime.”
Kay was one of us, a child who had no money of her own, and depended
upon a higher authority for a ride in automobile. Like us, she senced
there was a force that dealt out a dark attribute to the good and the
bad, the black and the white, the young and the old, with equal