"What happens in LatteLand, stays in LatteLand."
- Tacked on a LatteLand wall by Mac Tonnies
Anyone who knew Mac Tonnies knew of his passion for coffee. And, anyone who knew Mac also knew that he was often found - day or night - in the various coffee-shops in Kansas City, MO. He'd often email me at these times - from places with names like "Central Perk" and "The Daily Grind". I always tried to picture him in those cafes... especially at night, with visions of Edward Hopper's "Nighthawks" going through my head. I never really got the coffee "trend", though. When I lived in Manhattan in the 80's, the same purpose was fulfilled by the local bar. But then, I came from the tail end of the previous generation - whatever Mac's peer-group was trying to remember, my peer-group was at great pains to forget.
During the last months of his life, Mac found solace in the company of a group of Kansas City "LatteLand" regulars, kindred spirits who appreciated his humor, his perceptions, and his quirks. One of them, Lane Van Ham, an English teacher at the local Community College, was inspired by Mac to start a small LatteLand-themed magazine, in the autumn of 2009, entitled "Chair".
Mac's response? "Perfect, that's the first thing you do when you come in: look for a chair."
In the second (May, 2010) edition's introduction, Van Ham continues: "The contents are fitting tributes, depicting and celebrating Mac's many facets. Of course, they are bound to come up short, for Mac's prodigious curiosity evaded summary judgement and, even now, resists confinement to a single place. That untamable abundance still effects all of us who knew him. I am certain, therefore, that if and when future issues appear, they will somehow be infused with his presence."
Below is an exuberant, very "beat" memorial essay - in its entirety - penned by one of the LatteLanders, David Peeples, whom some of you may remember from a Radio Mysterioso show with Greg Bishop commemorating Mac this past October.
MAC “Attack” TONNIES
Tucson Phoenix Peeples
Came walking down like some tornado spiral straight line aiming for, honed in on, laser precision with black boots, loose denim jeans, black leather jacket, black hat blowing stream line flowing by, whoosh on his way to who knows where, maybe Eden on his mind with eggplant lasagna with extra grated Grana Padano Parmesan, You Dig. Ain't no time to dilly-dally with the willy-nilly when you need a bite to eat, Okay. This dude is on a mission no doubt, a precision unlike the rest of us watching an anomaly in action, no hesitation, no desperation, no friction applied, resistance denied. This phenom could motate, Man. This man could move, and a mind on light speed mode. You can't move fast enough to keep up with his snappin' synapses, No Way! And all the time, “The Cats of B-2” in charge, running the show, arranging the game, calling the shots. Who knew? Yet there was that sense of “Other” in Mac's eyes, that disparate dissonance in his voice, that verbal labyrinth he nimbly negotiated, manipulated, applied with such ease. He appeared to be going somewhere, yet he was already there, here, there, and everywhere. I have no doubt about that. Looking back on it now, it's almost as if, almost a dream.
Sometimes convergence happens, certain planets align, magnetic fields stretch out across light years time, harmonics occur, transformation blossoms, evolution transpires, fungus emotes, root-beer floats, what can I say. And once every now and then, you get a genetic anomaly showing up seemingly out of nowhere, like spontaneous combustion, out of distant horizon comes walking, out of the shadow-land, beyond the borderland, the parallelogram, the continuum, You Dig? Comes walking, gliding, floating like a vapor, a mist, a fog, a pale glowing ribbon, a mystery of history bundled in an entity, with tentacles spiraling off in radiance lightness, “Who goes there?” or “Who was there?” or who knows where it goes or for what purpose propose, like an invisible man transpose, I suppose. Sometimes that otherness comes, communes for a time, then goes too soon, you might say, or assume, before it's time, who knows. Each spirit charts it's own path, time traveler, unravel-er, mind baffler, then fade from view, leaving me, leaving you, imprinted, touched, nothing but a whisper left, echo bereft, memory's breath. “Hey, Mac, where you be, out in that galactic sea, watching sea beams glitter off the shoulder of Orion, memories forgotten in time, like tears in rain, then it's time to die.” Been here, then gone, Sunset to dawn, natures pawn. That we could all go out in full stride.
Darkness shut me down, went scampering for a safe haven, watch out for the black Raven. “Go where the lights is”, they said, “Where the peoples is.” So I did, down to the light show, to the Feine Machine, the Scene Machine, where the drama peaks early and over with by 6:00 PM most days. I'm here to write, though I often end up in conversation. Maybe it's best for the time being, ease the shock of the thing. Spiritual willy-nilly times, my head contains all sides, outlandish and divine. Living is not memorizing scripture or some ridiculous litany, not a group event, but an inner trip, full of characters vying for time to bend my inner ear, sometimes severe. Always adjusting, re-evaluating, redefining, outlining, altering, thrusting, pulsing, revulsing, digesting, reinvesting, trying it on to check out the fit, altering or rejecting it, Get My Drift. Oh, Baby, it's a troubling thing, always flying, on the wing. Who knows where it ends, down some alley way, or dead end, like a blind man against the wind, walking a spiral labyrinth, spin spin spin, “The answer, my friend, is a blowin' in the wind,” or blowin' out whatever.
So I was sittin' down for a meal the other night, television on one of my favorite programs, “Bizarre Worlds”, and static began affecting the screen, thinking it might be the cable, when a face began to emerge in the static, and to my great surprise, shockingly so, Mac's face appeared.
“Hello, Tucson,” it said.
“What's this”, I heard myself whisper.
“Hello, Tucson. Please talk to me.”
“Mac,” I heard myself say, “Mac, is that you?”
“I'm not sure. I remember Mac Tonnies, and everything about him.”
“Mac is dead!” I replied.
“All Mac really was is still a part of me,” the face said.
“Why are you here?” I asked.
“I don't know why. I think to say good goodbye. Do you still go to the Feine Machine?”
“Sometimes,” I replied.
“Is it still a great place to go?” he asked.
“I'm glad,” Mac said. “Goodbye, Tucson.”
“Hey, Mac. What's the deal?” I spit out.
“Goodbye, Tucson,” he said. “I'm already there.”
“I don't understand,” I mumbled.
“Something is going to happen, and I wanted to say goodbye.”
“What's going to happen, Mac?”
“Something wonderful”, then his face faded, faded, then disappeared, and “Bizarre Worlds” came flickering on again, and here I was frozen in place as though waking from a trance, not sure if I was dreaming or staring blankly at the screen, blanked out or blanked in. I looked to see what time it was, though I don't know when I had sat down to eat, yet it was dark outside, Moon high in the western sky. I sat there for some time, face fixed in a glazed state, staring at the screen. Then the next thing I knew I was brushing my teeth.*
I remember having long and interesting talks with Mac about many concepts, 4th dimensions, 5th, 6th and 11 Dimensional Space, Parallel Universes, Quarks, Quarts, Quirks, Jerks, Event Horizons, Quantum Mechanics, Quantum Fanatics, Quantum Hispanics, Quantum Fantastics, Quantum Germanics, Fabric Softener, Stool Softener, Fool Softener, stuff like that! Broadband Webery, Strawberry Alamogordo Arie, Worm Holes in Redwood Trees, String Theory, String Bean Query, whatever and whichevery, Cyber Space, Hyper Space, In Your Face, whatever! You can't say too much or too little about Mac, maybe just think it, see it, be it, whatever and however a Cryptoterrestrial might communicate, the subject of Mac's latest and last book. I would not be surprised to discover that Mac was a Crypto himself, living more fully and faster in his seeming thirty-four years than the rest of us. Thirty-four years for a Crypto could be three-hundred-forty years to the rest of us, You Dig? And if you don't, Why Not? Be there or be square-or-y! It's a the-or-y!
I loved Mac's sense of humor, off center, like mine! While talking, we could easily slip off into some scene dialogue of the movie “Blade Runner”, one of our all time favorite movies, without skipping a beat, makes as good sense as most conversations I have had in my life, making life more fun! One example of Mac's humor is one cool Autumn evening, he came walking briskly into the Feine Machine, wearing his baggy blue jeans, black boots, black leather jacket, black rimmed transition glasses and black hat, carrying a long, black umbrella like a shotgun, pointing it at Michael behind the cash register, pumping the umbrella like a pump action shotgun, like he was there to hold up the place, fired off a shot into Micheal's chest. Little did he know, that that very morning, the Feine Machine store on State Line Avenue had been held up, the manager locked up in the back office. Actually, the joke was on him as well as the rest of us. He was much apologetic when he found out, but we all got a good laugh afterward. Then the paddy wagon came and hauled him away.
Another, even better example of Mac's humor is printed in “The Cryptoterrestrials”, page 34, and the paragraph starts like so: “In paranoid moments---and there can never be enough of them-----”. Paranoid moments indeed! Nothin' like them to make a my day worthwhile!
Some time later, in 2012, to be exact, at dinner once again, watching some program on the Science Channel about, of all things, “Bling and Fashion Theory”, the screen went white and a voice began to speak, a deep, gravely voice with, perhaps, something of a British accent:
“Umm, people of Earth, this is Prosteticvogan Geltz of the Galactic Hyperspace Planning Council. As you are probably aware, plans for the development of the outlying regions of the galaxy involve the building of a hyperspace express route through your star system, and your planet is one of those scheduled for demolition. The plans have been available for viewing at the Galaxial Planning Center for some time, so you should be well informed in advance of this action. So, So long, and thanks for all the fish.”**
* based on a dialogue from the film, "2010"
** actual dialogue from the film "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"
My thanks go out to Dana Tonnies who kindly sent me this issue of the Chair, and to Lane Van Ham and David Peeples who allowed me to post the excerpts.
Update: Dana Tonnies has just informed me that there are actually two "LatteLands" in KC. The quote I had of Mac's - since deleted - and the photo I had on the sidebar (also deleted) were, apparently, in reference to a different location than the one sited in the post. Sorry.