Monday, August 3, 2009

Klaus Kinski takes aim

Speaking of maniacs, as a near neighbor, Klaus Kinski was no friend—taking aim at children on horseback or lone hikers and old lame dogs...

Because when Klaus moved up to the ridge above our house on Mt. Barnabe in the early 1980s, he appointed himself sole God and decreed that no man, woman or child should have the right to trespass unto his newfounded kingdom (our fireroads), no matter that our family had a long established Spanish custom of fireroad right of way since 1904...

I was taking my aunt's fat old beagle, Becky, for a walk. We crossed Barranca Creek at the summer place across the way, and hiked through a forest of oak and fir up to the spring on the knoll that looms above our house.

The path was overgrown from lack of use. Once I was able to ride my horse up the knoll, but this time I had to bend and bushwhack through the overgrowth‚ prime tinder for another forest fire, but at least the cattle kept it open.

We took a drink from the spring, surveyed the view. To the right, Nunes' Ranch still had cattle milling around the barn. Below my feet, Les Stone's rambling house, once a log cabin, nestled beneath buckeye and bay trees, next to the turquoise eye of the pool, that Ralf the cow fell into. Asus—the horses in the upper pasture, and beyond, the old Bianchi place where my own beloved horse—love of my life—had died from spring grass colic, all was well, and bucolic as it should be.

Whatever was troubling me, was banished, my spirits lifted, my soul restored. The mountain always had that effect on me.

We hiked to the summit of Mt. Barnabe's north ridge and revisited the limestone outcropping where I used to spend hours playing as a child. I would pretend I was King Arthur on his throne, the valley of Arroyo/Barranca Road, my empire, until the cold discomfort of sitting on craggy rocks wore out the patience of my behind.

The ridge was one of those "The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music" kind of places. It made you want to dance and sing with nature like Julie Andrews. I'd spend hours playing with wild flights of fancy in that limestone outcropping. It was a miracle I was never bitten by the scorpions in the scree. But I soon found out there was a venomous creature in the garden of my earthly delights.

In our family, there is a tradition that rocky outcroppings and springs needed to be regularly visited and tended to as they were sacred places or portals to another world. In my case the land itself was the natal home to my creativity and imagination. I was making the appointed rounds, so to speak. We were spoiled having free reign and access to the mountain all those years. We took it as our birthright.

I was walking on the fire road past Van der Ryn's place, a self-sustaining A-frame cabin, as I always did, in order to circle back down the ridge and return home via the ridge that faces Forest Knolls. We lived in a box canyon within the long arms of Mt. Barnabe. It was like a maze; turn right at each ridge junction to find the way home.

But I didn't know Jerry Brown's innovative State Architect, lanky Sim Van der Ryn, founder of the Farallones Institute, always worth an interesting visit, had moved down from the mountain.
I no sooner said hello when our new neighbor, Klaus Kinski came exploding out the door. As he spewed expletives, and his German shepherd mirrored his rage, I remember how in the films, the unsuppressed rage contorted his face, carried forth the venom of years...and I realized that he was not merely acting. That explosive temperament he so famously portrayed on the big screen was the real deal.

That's how Klaus Kinski took the solace of my mountain from me. Poor Becky the old dog was too tired to do much other than to waddle off, no amount of urging could get her to move. I plunged over the crest of the hill into the undergrowth and waited for her to catch up.

What would I say to my aunt if he shot the dog? I'm sorry but a famous actor shot your dog? He was within his right to shoot an unleashed dog as there were freerange cattle grazing on the ridge. And she was running free (though she could no longer run) as I had abandoned the leash and plunged down the mountain like a startled deer.

Luckily Klaus didn't take it upon himself to actually shoot us. Not like the equally crazy Mr. Orr living in his castle up at the Lookout. The irony was, we could've given a flying fuck about Klaus or his fame or his obsession for privacy—we were just passing through on our rounds. Same as we had always done.

We were respectful, we weren't banging down his door, seeking autographs or wanting to be groupies, we wanted our daily fix of the beauty that is West Marin, same as him. But he bought up the land, imposed exclusivity on it, and irrevocably changed our lives—and not for the better.

On that mountain he was truly the reincarnate of Aguirre: The Wrath of God. We heard wildfire rumors that Nastassja Kinski came to visit him on the mountain as he lay dying. Others say she wouldn't come to visit him at all, not even on his deathbed, only his son was allowed to visit him, that he died peacefully in his sleep of a massive heart attack, but that wasn't possible because, for most of humanity, Kinski had no heart. And certainly there was no peace in his life, from what I can tell.

But even his legendary wrath couldn't save him from the Big D.
They also say that only his son Nikolai and Werner Herzog, with whom he had a hate-hate in Hades relationship, attended the funeral. The sea itself must've turned tide and ran from shore when they scattered his ashes upon it. I will never forget the rage in his eyes as he yelled expletives and took aim. And not with his shoe either.

I regularly cursed him, sole proprietor of all that beauty, but too soon after he moved onto the ridge, lock, stock and smoking barrel, the grim reaper took him...permanently stealing his exclusive access code to the view. I don't wish to speak ill of the dead, but I recall I was uncharitably unkind when I'd heard the news that he had died—ironically, on the eve of my birthday. I said, "Served him right."

What is it that when newcomers move into an area, they bring their foreign baggage and neuroses with them, treading on the customs and rights of the locals with impunity—because they can? And there's no recourse or justice for the locals because money and power is the god of might. Maybe's he's learned to share better in the Great Beyond. But then, who would want to eat Werner Herzog's other shoe anyway?

May he find his shade in Hades.

1 comment:

Kosho said...

Moved to Forest Knolls last year and enjoy hiking the fire roads with my little Lab mix. Also watch a lot of films and recently remembered that Klaus Kinski had lived out here too before he passed away, so I did a little poking around on the net and found your blog. So sorry KK was so rude and aggressive towards you. He had the reputation, of course, and Hertzog documented the actor's volatility. But your experience somehow brought home the truth that no matter what form art may take, as an artist you are are still a human being and live in a community. It saddens me that I will never be able to watch or recall KK's film with the same respect or appreciation.