"Why should I care? I'm Dozo Maserati!" That's what I loved about Dozo: he was his own superhero. The group discussion had been on who should become President and nothing could have bored him more. Nothing outside his immediate span of attention interested him. He led a rock star's life, time was his own. As far as he was concerned, the rest of us were migrant workers toiling in futility down on master's farm. Unfortunately, he was right about that.
First, let me explain the name: I can't. I can tell you it was on his driver's license but I'll be damned if I ever saw it on a birth certificate. He'd just grin when we asked him about it but with the money he had I assume it would have been easy enough to change his name to the Japanese word for "please" and that of a famous maker of supercars. Funny part is, it fit him. But then again, if he really was the one who picked it out I guess it should.
When he was alive, much was a mystery. He did nothing for a living we working class suckers could discern yet he did not want for money. When he spoke of his family it was clear he did not come from money. We knew he wasn't a drug dealer. Press him and he'd only reply, "I'm Dozo Maserati!" Part of me knew better but by God I so dearly wanted to believe in him!
One thing I do know was he liked to draw and create. He had his own little shop down in Deep Ellum, Dallas' nightclub and bohemian arts district. He showed it to me on occasion and I loved it. It was like his own personal gallery showing. One piece in particular I liked was called "Fuck you! She Said". He'd taken a coffee cup full of coffee and thrown it against this white poster board. No human hand could ever match that impact. He told me it actually took several attempts to get it right because the coffee kept flying out before it hit the poster. When I foolishly asked how he managed to overcome that problem I got the standard reply: "I'm Dozo Maserati!"
I told him he should open the shop up to the public, see what people had to say. He asked me what for. I (finally) got to say, "Because you're Dozo Maserati!" He tried to flash his usual smile at me but I saw the pain in his eyes. That's when I knew for sure his life was one big masquerade, an act no one could crack. Being independently wealthy shielded him from many evils of the world while also releasing him to do and say as he pleased. Wasn't that enough? I do have to admit he was certainly pleased with himself in some regard. What that regard was he'd never reveal but I felt it had something to do with how he got his money.
Sometimes he'd pay me to spend the day with him, or rather, he made up for the wages I'd lose for taking the day off. He'd go off and buy these two, three thousand dollar Italian leather shoes. Salesman said they took ten months to make! I'm sitting there watching this spectacle, laughing on the inside. Dozo would ask if I wanted a pair but I said I had no use for them. It was ethereal spending a day in his world. Others have wealth, but he never had to answer to anybody for his. "What's the point of being rich if you're some cocksucking CEO?"
Damn. Damn, damn, damn. That's certainly how I'd play it if I could. I was definitely envious of Dozo but not to the point of bitterness. There just had to be a price he paid somewhere for living what I called the perfect lifestyle. He never stayed with any one woman for a long period of time. I suspected what he was hiding from us he hid from them too. When it came time for revelation he'd quit and start all over again. But I glossed that over saying he just hadn't met the right one yet.
"I'm empty, man." We were driving along in Dozo's latest Maserati (a classic Bora, in fact) and he knew he was supposed to be on top of the world. He'd beaten the system yet again. Always so anxious to prove he was somebody! So I couldn't believe my ears when the smile disappeared and he uttered that line of futility. I gave a quick laugh waiting for the punch line. Then he looked over at me with a sober face I'll never forget. Something had him worried. Something he couldn't trick or buy his way out of.
"If you think the hell and drudgery of my job gives my life meaning you're sadly mistaken," I tried to console. I'd lose myself in Dozo's world when we were together, sort of like going to the movies. But he'd halted the film projector and the light of day brought me back to daily suicide and gaping, ceaseless regrets. I had to believe independent wealth would solve my problems. Last thing I wanted was him popping my bubble.
"No. Sure as hell don't want that, either. But it's one thing to find answers for the world, another finding answers for me. I just don't know what the point of anything is. Beating the world isn't the same as beating life. I feel like there's this wall or something between me and what I want and I just can't get around it. I can get every thing that I want, but I can't get what I want. Maybe I'm not as smart as I thought."
I didn't want to hear this depressing talk. "But you're Dozo Maserati!"
That forced a smile on his face and he spoke no more of his woes. Later, I felt guilty about cutting him off, my own misery and pain getting the best of me. I see this a lot, so much possible constructive dialog lost down the drain of sorrows.
Only other time I caught him being snippy was when I saw a Keith Moon biography on his desk at his Deep Ellum place. "Hey, that's you!" Dozo had told me of his tearing up a hotel room once and I thought he'd be flattered at the comparison. His eyes first looked at me, then the book I was pointing to. "No. Moonie had talent." Then he turned his back to me. Fuck, I was just trying to play along. I never quite could put all the pieces together.
Then he stopped coming 'round. A year later, I get a knock on my door. It was Dozo. He looked at death's door - which turned out to be the case.
"My blood is poisoned, there's no going back. I have to tell someone before I die. I want to tell everything but you can tell no one. They'll be laughing at me forever."
I was honored he'd chosen me and not held a grudge for my previous rude gaffes. "Sure thing, I'll protect the legend of Dozo Maserati!"
Even then that caused him to strain a smile. "It's like this. You know how I always like to go out camping and hiking. I do that because I like to be alone. I don't like having to explain my life. I can't do what you and the other guys do. No way can I hold down a job - ever. It would kill me."
"Trust me, it's killing me too. World doesn't care if you live or die, though."
"Exactly. People are shit. All I wanted to do was sit around and draw. That's it. I was facing getting out of school and being on my own. I found this cave way out on this rancher's land with a sign warning of hazardous gas inside. I figured what better place to commit suicide? Let the assholes wonder what happened to me. No one ever listened when I wanted to talk anyway."
Shit, that included me. God, what I wouldn't give to grow up. Dozo continued. "I get inside and it's dark and damp, the perfect place to die alone unwanted. But this thin layer of water is running down the sides in the back. It was shiny so I went over to investigate. I couldn't believe it but it was gold! I felt like the Count of Monte Cristo finding the treasure chest. One minute you think you're doomed to die the next the world is at your feet. With the water washing away for God knows how long the first nuggets were so loose I could get them out by hand."
Dozo continued speaking in this voice I'd never heard before. "Yeah, I know. Shocked the shit out of me too. I couldn't tell anyone. They might horn in on me or tell the owner and I'd be screwed. I figured I'd been handed a death sentence in life, what did I have to lose taking the gold? The owners only showed up to get away from wherever their real house was. Was easy to get the gold out. I started feeling...destined."
Dozo started coughing. He held up his hand to motion me to not to try and give aid. His fate was sealed. Nothing anyone could do. The façade was dead.
"I dunno. I don't know what I was thinking. I was so angry. Getting the gold seemed like my just reward, ya know? For making up for living in this crummy world. I was dead, man! No way out. Even if that poison gas did kill me, what difference does that make to a condemned man? Plus I figured that sign was from way back and the cave was OK now. How was I to know it was a slow poison? Took seven years to catch up to me."
I went over and locked the door and lowered the lights. "No one needs to know anyone's home." I knew Dozo didn't want anyone to see him in this condition. Superheroes aren't supposed to die. He was motionless but I knew he was grateful. I sat back down. I knew my role as Father Confessor wasn't over.
"What gets to me now is how sure I was finding that gold at that exact right time...that meant something. It had to! Couldn't be coincidence. I felt it in my bones. But, shit, with this death sentence...what did it do? Just delayed the inevitable. What was the point, godammit! I just die seven years later. So fucking what!"
The air in the room of my cheap apartment was explosive. I sure as hell couldn't answer his pleas. I would have thought the same thing. Still, I felt something was missing from the equation. Exactly what I could not tell. Faith. That was the word that came to me at the time. But I didn't have the nerve to throw that in the face of a dying man. Truth is, if you ever need a coward, look me up.
Dozo had only one thing left to tell me as he exited the door never to return. "My real name is Lupton Pittman."
"Thanks, Dozo," I defiantly replied. I think in the corner of his mouth I spotted one last faint smile of a lifetime.
EPILOGUE: The tragic irony came later. Almost too painful for me to tell. In going through Dozo's Deep Ellum gallery, his work got noticed and a showing was made at Zhulong gallery (recently closed, damn it, but some pieces are for sale at Griffin Trading). Prices for his work skyrocketed immediately, over $7,000 for the coffee cup piece alone. The gold really was a savior. It bought him time to blossom into an artist.
But he'd let the gold mine possess him. Dozo's argument had been he wasn't allowed to do what he wanted - what he needed - in this world. But when he got the gold he still clung to that notion, keeping his blinding anger alive. He so badly believed he was screwed he made it come true even when he wasn't. That's what really killed him - and stole a much needed artist from a hurting world.
Dozo's favorite song