Chapter 4: Heart on Camera Lens

“Vail Blues”

Fiction. Based on a True Intrigue. 24 minute read

“Lord, I was born a ramblin’ man
Tryin’ to make a livin’ and doin’ the best I can
And when it’s time for leavin’
I hope you’ll understand
That I was born a ramblin’ man”

– The Allman Brother’s Band

“Vail Blues”

Fiction. Based on a True Intrigue.

This journal entry is inspired by true events. Some of the characters, names, businesses, incidents, and certain locations and events have been fictionalized for dramatic purposes. Any similarity to the name, character or history of any person is entirely coincidental and unintentional.

by Mingjie Zhai

Angelie had to leave early as Wayward sang his Waylon blues. She saw a girl with dark brown hair, puffy cheeks, lips full, and eyes wide and sharp. It had so much depth. Something from the deepest part of her soul stirred when Angelie saw this five year old girl. She looked at Angelie and Angelie looked at her. Then looked away because she noticed that Angelie was noticing her. That’s how sensitive and sharp she was. It was in that moment that Angelie knew that this would have been what her first child would have looked like, been like, loved like had she not had the abortion.

They could both feel each other’s sensitivity, sharpness, and depth, and those energies were all the two felt in that room. Had her marriage been salvaged, her young girl would have been around that age, and she would have looked just like her. Eyes wide and bright. Beautiful on the inside and outside. Sensitive. Knowing. It was as if Angelie was also looking into herself when she was a little girl.

This realization struck her hard, right when Wayward sung Waylon’ and Willie’s “Mama’s, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.” Wayward was checking the time on his phone in between sets. It was then Angelie noticed a beautiful blonde girl kissing him on the cover photo. Shame crept over Angelie. She was heavy with intrigue, hoping that she could have this one night stand with said Wayward, knowing that there’s no future between, only one night of vodka, sweat, and lust. Wayward was eager to get home Christmas Eve. His girlfriend, Peggysue, would be waiting with his present and he with hers. They would exchange love letters that came with the presents. This year they decided to write letters to each other. He was anxious to get home to embrace her soft curls and soft skin. This resort and restaurant was another gig and another dollar, each day a stepping stone towards getting his music sharpened, while he could still have the comforts of home cooked meals and a lady who curls up by his side. He is a fulfilled man.

From the first time she met him, she had this fantasy that he would invite her to their inner circle for the Holidays, and perchance, in a moment of weakness, he would take her to his home after the Christmas party and she would be one of his “woman of the night” lady friends that would fade into the background of a fourth step inventory one day. She was willing, so willing, until she saw the picture of him with his beautiful blonde girl. Reality struck Angelie. She was the seductress now, she has become “the other woman” she so resented in her heart, for she still could not forgive the other woman, and the many “other women,” who try and seduce taken and married men.

Those women were desperate, insecure, and envious.

That’s when it hit her.

It was the Labatt Blue in her system, the high altitude, and the crooning Wayward singing on the solo guitar: “Mamma, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys”–Waylon Jenning’s song.

Who am I?

What am I really doing here?

Why am I still acting like silly high school girl when I’m really just a middle-aged divorce traveling on my own, pretending like I’m someone special when I’m just like the rest of everybody else?

Waking out of a Powerful Spell

Angelie’s sexual intrigue of connecting with him was entirely inappropriate in that moment that she saw the picture. She needed to leave. On her way up the gondola, she started crying, shaking and embracing Roxy close to her. She knew she was way over her head. Delusional is the word. Perhaps, outright foolish. She’s alone. Traveling with her dog. On her way down the mountain of Vail, she listened to Weston Smith’s first album. It was deep and perfectly reflected the icy cold expanse of the dark space blanketing her heart that evening. It was void.

She drove an hour from Vail to Lyons, Colorado, buzzed the whole way.  While back at her two months writing retreat in Lyons, she still had enough liquor in her system to write the urges down.

Perhaps what I tend to do in most of my interviews with men who are soulful in their shares, the kind of men who have the chutzpah to will their lives in the shape of artistic expression unapologetically, courageously, and sacrificially, is gift a piece of my heart to him, at the intersection of conversational intimacy and melodic lust revealed in rhymes and bars.

I’ve been guilty of falling in lust with the souls of many artists. And the devil would have it that these artists are mostly taken and tempted by my presence. At the threat of the woman they’ve given their hearts to, the devil wants me to become the temptress, a character role that I would abhor since witnessing my mother broken in tears when she found out that her man and the father to her children is in the arms of a temptress.

The devil knows the details and plans the setup in such a way that it makes it almost too easy for the sin to be committed. I am very aware of this, as much as I am aware that I hold a dense energy, that my walking into the bar that evening almost sucked all the energy from others. Perhaps, you are amused that I would take on the level of detail and interest in you and your craft, perhaps my wanderlust spirit and soul stirs you because it is a mirror of yours, perhaps you are attracted to my spirit because I have shown you a level of elevated appreciation for your craft. I observe you like one would approach art history. It is about appreciation from afar that cultivates the austerity of its time.

A Letter to an Artist:

Perhaps, I understand your blues because I, too, have that cowboy spirit of riding off. Now that all the cows are in the slaughterhouse, where do we appreciate the process of herding? Only in pockets of America, as you say, you have found it in Vail, but I believe that perhaps you really wanted to say, in the arms of a woman who could accept you in your entirety.

Home is where the heart is.

“Hypothetically,” I asked, “if you were to be rich and famous from your music, what would be the fear of success?”

You had said something to the tune of not wanting it to consume your entire life. I understand that fear, but I also heard something that was unspoken. You were afraid that you couldn’t defeat the devil’s temptations.

They say that money doesn’t change a person, it only amplifies who we already are.

God knows that both you and I still have our vices that if unchecked, will one day become our own ball and chain. For us, it is the booze. We would both drink ourselves to death with so much talent we both have, because without the booze, then we’ll have no excuse to really show up with our talents and deliver.

Imagine fulfilling our destinies in this lifetime. You touching souls the way Willie, Bob, Waylon, and Merle have. My touching souls the way Robert Mckee, Kevin Kerslake, Annie Leibovitz, and Stephen King has touched mine. All great storytellers in our respective mediums. Imagine if we could actually impact that many people.

It’s too fucking scary knowing that there would be so much responsibility. Like not picking up the bottle when we just want to calm the nerves and keep the racing thoughts and ideas at ease, and that may be the reason we both told the universe, “not yet,” when it comes to fame and fortune, was because we were afraid of our own light.  

Perhaps we both know that we are living at 80% of our full potential and that 20% gnaws at us and keeps us wanting to grab a beer, to shut out the voice that says, “You could be doing 100% but you chose to stay at 80%.”

You articulated it beautifully in that interview when you answered my question about what fears you have when it comes to being successful. You even surprised yourself. You didn’t think you’d be that open and honest. Perhaps it was something in my sincerity.

You were afraid that your soul would not be strong enough to withstand the powerful temptations of the devil when you’re already at the level where enough people have already fallen in love with your soul. That level of power and the simplicity of your humanness creates a cognitive dissonance that you are not yet ready to handle.

You’ve been uncomfortable many times but this gap in humanness and iconary is a place of magic and miracles, and that requires faith, fortitude, and sheer willpower to surrender it all to God.

It requires of us the ability to have a stare down with the devil, knowing full well that we would resist the temptation because Jesus has our back under all circumstances.

Faith.

Perhaps that is the one thing you and I are both struggling with. Perhaps, we are still doubting the omnipotence of God and that is why we still run in circles with our vices, effectively telling God that we are not yet ready to play a bigger game, because what if the alcohol drowns us? What if so many people are disappointed to find out that we are still fallible humans?

For me, it’s not buying that bag of Flaming Hot Cheetos and taking that drink, essentially injecting poison into my body knowing full well it’s poison and that it would slow my writing, my program, my possibilities down.

For me, it’s not calling the guy who I know will sleep with me, knowing full well that the next few days I’ll be worried about STDs, risk another Urinary Tract Infection, and feeling creatively drained to do any writing.

For me, it’s not picking up the drink so I know I can work out for that day, whether it’s hiking, yoga, or doing muscle training. It’s knowing I can eat well so I can perform well with my possibilities given what I’ve been gifted with.

The devil is after my hands and arms because I need my limbs to keep writing, transforming, and bringing the Good news through the revealing of the hero’s journey, just like the devil is after your vocal cords.  

My bad eating habits and sexual appetite and your drinking and smoking are all obstacles that we must conquer in order to level up and do God’s will.

Perhaps the act of writing this letter is an act of accepting this truth–the good, bad, and ugly of it all.

The truth is that our Lord and Savior wants to bless us with success. It’s not the success and the blessings that are inherently evil or self-destructive; it’s knowing that the higher we level up, the more temptations we will be confronted with. The more we are effective in our transformational powers through our respective gifts, the more the devil will want to come for us, knowing that we not only have chosen a side but that we also have chosen a side for Christ.

Storytelling is the most effective form of spiritual warfare. It’s taking reign of the leadership, the powerful transformations we can effect in the battle for souls, whether it’s keeping a stranger from tying the noose, or inspiring a stranger to tie the knot, those powers are all within us to harness through our respective crafts.

You and I are both all too aware of the shadows behind the gifts we’ve been given. We’ve been both gifted strong gifts in this lifetime, and that sword we carry, we sometimes think we are unworthy, or perhaps too weak to carry it, but know that God did not design us to be inadequate for the weapons He’s given us to wield. We were perfectly made in the image of God’s design. His timing is perfect, and our paths crossing is perfect.

I was hit with the dart of confusion, shame, and regret that evening. My tears were coming on like ripples before the oncoming tsunami, and I left because I did not want to make a scene in the restaurant.

As I walked out, the sister of the five-year girl made a comment to me, “You’re dog is so beautiful.” She smiled and I smiled. I knew it was a sign from God that He has the blessing waiting for me at the door; keep the faith. Keep faith.

By the time I closed the door behind me, I was in full guffaws. The pain hit me like a stray soccer ball at my esophagus, knocking the air right out of me, and I was mourning in grief. I said to the air, directed at apparently no one, “I miss you.”

I missed the girl I could have had because I saw her and saw what possibility I had chosen to forfeit. Deep regret sunk in and tears were the only help given to me so that I may wash away the pain of love relinquished. And as I was riding up the gondola back to the parking lot, with Roxy in my arms, I heard another voice, albeit a tiny one.

“Jesus says you are being hit, but hold fast, it’s all an illusion. Stay still, and keep Roxy close to you.”

I felt her soft hair. Those golden browns and whites, hair that sparkles under the sunlight. She usually shakes up on that cold icy gondola, but that evening, she was steady and calm, anchoring me forward to present moment awareness.

Then faith wrapped me in a vision.

I saw images of my future family. Like Angelina Jolie’s journey with Maddox, Pax and Zahara, I will one day meet my daughter and two sons, in different places of the world throughout my journey. I’m a traveler. That is my destiny. Two will be adopted, and one will be born from my genes mixed with the soul of a cowboy.

I held onto the faith for the rest of the evening and remembering your story of having a strong father figure that left a deep impression for you to pursue music the way my dad’s entrepreneurial spirit propelled me to go for my dreams. Big ideas for such a small girl.

Rendezvous

Strangers you and I. Yet,

the darkness of the winding icy mountains became a blanket of faith whilst your soul comforted me while I drove the slopes of ice mountain–perhaps a sign that I was on the path God has intended. Leaving Los Angeles and coming here, a rambling girl, partaking in the discovery of the cowboy spirit, whilst I found in a man singing the song, “I Was Born a Ramblin’ Man.”

It was the boundless unknown that I sought solace in, thinking I would be lost to oblivion, surprised to find that God has been walking alongside me all this time, shining a light, like Gandalf for the hobbit when he was crossing the mountains, saying “You Shall Not Pass,” to the dark lord.

Perhaps it is the walk of every soul who seeks to ascend their consciousness in this lifetime who will be both guided and tested.

Perhaps it is the walk of every soul to find solace in the one God who lays a table before our enemies and makes sure that our cups overfloweth, and perhaps green pastures is a state of mind and spirit. For I found the green pastures that evening when I arrived at home and took a warm bath.

I may be a sucker for temptation, but I realized that evening that I just passed a few temptations that very day. No flaming hots, no guys to hook up with or relationships to destroy, one beer and I stopped.

A miracle. Though small, and it is my father who says to me, “Great things come from taking small actions.”

And this is the love letter I write to you. Not a love letter as in “seduction” letter, out of respect for your girl…

I mean this letter as an agape type of love, from one artist to another, to say to you, keep conquering the small things, like climbing up a mountain, it takes one small step at a time. We are two rabbits mastering the discipline of a wise tortoise.

Let’s win the race. Sure we may lose a few battles, but in the end, we’ll win the war.

Blessings,

Angelie

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