OK. It’s 1998. I had just moved to LA. My brother is living in a room no bigger than a jail cell for two. In the span of a month I had lost all faith in everything I was doing but the hell if I was going to leave and not watch it all crash like a beautifully lit train wreck right here in LA.
Thankfully, a close friend of mine moved here a couple years earlier and offered me his loft in Santa Monica for the upcoming Labor Day Weekend as he was going to New York. “It’s all yours, man…” I happily said yes I would love not to sleep on a piece of upholstery foam from unknown origins near my brother’s feet. But that’s the only thing I was happy about. I was doing the same lousy work I was doing when I left Tucson. Through a temp agency. Digital Litigation Support. See: Scanning and coding docs used in lawsuits. Good times. Down in the OC. (Yay. The OC.) At Arthur Anderson. (Yay. Accomplices in the Enron scandal.)
So I volunteer to come in on Saturday morning to make time-and-a-half. And I do. And when I got to my buddy’s place afterward with a 6-pack of beer, I was pretty much in a full blown rage. The commute was brutal (as I was a newbie to Driving an Hour to Go Anywhere) but more importantly, I wasn’t getting any calls for a better job. That would change soon after — yet at that moment, I was a glowing orb of hate.
With a sweaty beer next to me, no A/C to speak of and a cozy 90-degress outside, you could say I was ripe for doing something unlawful. Instead, I cursed. Out loud. Combing through whatever job site was in vogue at that moment. Swearing almost uncontrollably at the winds of fate and how they were blowing me in ways I only had began to know. I could not stop cursing. Smacking the desk. At one point I watched the bottle of Rolling Rock wobble after a particularly impractical bitch-slap on the Ikea desk. As I squinted through the endless scroll of shitty jobs, I felt a sensation on the back of my neck, below the hairline. Like an ice-cold housefly that felt like a glove had landed on my neck. I brushed it away thinking it was just that. An ice-cold housefly.
And I continued to swear. And swear. And at one point I stopped, looked at the still-capped beer and noted how much it was sweating. What happened next was no sensation. It was *something* pressing straight down on my neck. And it was cold.
Goose bump cold.
This time, I turned around because I had just been touched. Someone had done that.
And standing there, 75% opaque, was an old man wearing red flannel shirt and beige chinos. His beard was as grey as his hair. He wasn’t big. 5′7″. And there was something about his appearance that immediately made me think he resembled someone from the early 70s. Nothing distinct. But his look just seemed like it was from that time. Doesn’t matter.
What does? Is that he’s staring at me. Angry, sweaty, non-believing-anything me. But not at me. More like “beyond” me. And he doesn’t look happy. More like a combination of irritated and semi-threatening. And because I’ve had many life experiences experimenting with the opposite sex and magic mushrooms, I knew what I saw, but w/in a moment, I shook my head, looked back at him, and laughed. Turned back in my chair. Out loud: “Jesus, Schaef…Now you’re seeing things…” I opened the now tepid bottle of Rolling Rock.
FLASH FORWARD TO LABOR DAY NIGHT
My friend shows up in the middle of a Monday Night game. Pretty sure the Giants and Dallas were playing. Doesn’t matter. I’m on the couch facing the TV, drinking another Rolling Rock. (I bought more.) My friend: “Schaef…Glad you’re still here…(smiles)…any more beers in the fridge?”
Him: “Cool. Who’s playing?”
As he’s entering the kitchen, I without knowing why, yell out: “Dude…why didn’t you tell me this place was haunted?”
He reappears without a sound. Opens the beer, takes a sip and says: “Oh, man…I’m sorry…I should’ve told you…” He leans back in the kitchen, flips the cap on the counter and quietly joins me on the couch.
My brain is melting down.
“What?” I said.
He looked at me, cocked his head just enough and shrugged and focused on the game.
Me: “Old man?”
He looks at me and nods.
Me: “Flannel shirt? Red?”
Doesn’t look at me. Nods.
Me: “Chinos? Khakis? And a beard?”
He picks up remote, turns it up, pauses, then looks at me and says: “Hit the beach at all this weekend?”
Me: “Are you fucking kidding me? He was real?”
His smile disappears, he fake-flexes his knee and says: “Sweet! Dallas is on.”
My friend and I had a certain threshold we didn’t cross up to that time regarding anything too personal. He didn’t want to talk about it. I somehow understood.
I drive to my brother’s that night thinking I had indeed seen a ghost two days before. My friend was not a prankster and I know people. He wasn’t “playing along”. He got serious real quick. So I tell my brother the story. I introduced the two when I visited at one point. They had become friends. My brother said he had felt “vibes” there before t0o. I chastised him for trying to bandwagon on my ghost story. But now he was obsessed.
Two weeks later, my brother comes home from work, us never talking in the AM because I left much earlier. “So I met ____ last night and got wasted at ____ in Santa Monica. Get this, man…”
MY BROTHER GOT MY FRIEND DRUNK (not hard to do back then) AND STARTED INTERROGATING HIM ABOUT THE RESIDENT GHOST AT HIS PLACE AND MY FRIEND HAD FINALLY RELENTED and said he and the ghost had a mutual understanding.And…the ghost didn’t like me being there And that he didn’t want to talk about it anymore. In fact, he left the bar. Despite my brother driving them there.
This is all true. And I saw what I saw. I was not intoxicated, I knew nothing of the “Flannel Man” before that weekend. This is not the account of one person but the account of two. One reluctant to speak about it.