By Phillip Ghee (US)
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The craft of the storytelling will be the telling of Mr. Rudolph.Kovar’s ascent from degradation and debauchery to Atonement and Godhead by way of allegorically inferences and references, using the Jewish Tabernacle and the sacred Chakras as templates.
By Phillip Ghee
Rudolf Heimlich Kovar left his native Germany to come to America. As a young man he was determined to make a break from the past and forge out a new life for himself on the cherished shores of the United States.
Rudolf has a family secret. His grandfather played a major role in the boy’s upbringing both culturally and in his craft. The grandfather was the primary contractor on two of the most notorious concentration camps during World War II. This, despite the fact that the grandfather himself was, as so he thought, a quarter percent Jewish.
Rudolph is a licensed building contractor, proficient in all phases of building design and construction. He is now forty years old and has managed to create a nice life for himself as a sub-contractor. He has his own company which employs no fewer than 10 employees. They are mostly undocumented skilled craftsmen from Mexico and Central America. Because they are undocumented he pays them below scale; Rudolf is thus afforded a greater share of the profits from projects. The majority of his contracts are from Hollywood studios where his precision to detail and construction skills have earned him plenty of repeat business contracts.
Away from the jobsite Rudolph leads a fast, licentious and, high roller lifestyle.
He dwells quite fashionably in trendy Venice Beach CA. This locale avails him to many women that with his charm and prosperity, he is able to add to his formidable list of sexual conquests.
In the deep hours of the night Rudolf is often troubled by his behavior, yet the pleasure derived from the sensual liaisons is too pleasing and his carnal desire is way too much for him to deal with on his own. He is reluctant to seek help.
Many of the Hollywood sets that he is asked to construct are only superficial shells, not demanding enough of his talents, but he is paid extremely well and will rarely turn down a project. Rudolph is bored with many of his projects and spends less and less time at the worksite - that is until he receives a most unusual request.
Rudolph sat at the local Venice Beach watering hole and with his friends. He was usually the high strung one, the life of the party and the commander of conversation. Today however, he is more contemplative than usual. He takes a backseat and lets his friends run the course of the conversation. The banter going around the table is the usual faire: idiot bosses or employees, sports, alimony and hot and cold dates .The conversation amongst the meeting of the minds is topped off with concern for what they perceive is an assault on their neighborhood by the homeless and lower social-economical groups. The men have prime seating at the beachfront establishment which offers them an unobstructed view of the boardwalk and the ocean. At times, a strategically placed woman in a bikini or similar form fitting adornment will cause a short circuit in the conversation.
The establishment is primarily presented in Dutch theme but, there is also a smattering of influences from other Scandinavian and Nordic countries. They serve a variety of the European beers which Rudolph favors. During one of the aforementioned bikini breaks, Rudolph diverges from the communal stare down to take inventory of the beachside bar. He pays more interest in the shoddy construction than do the current occupants. He notices, for the first time, a plaque almost buried from view in a distant corner. He is amazed that he has never seen the plague before nor the pleasing adorned waitress who just wafted right past it. It has the builder’s referenced symbol of The Freemasons. From his vantage point, the phrase surrounding the symbol appears to be in German, no less.
Rudolph excuses himself from present company and makes off for the men’s room. He took a path that brought him into closer proximity to the plaque. It was mounted behind the bar area of side bar that is usually closed until the larger nighttime crowds arrive. Taking advantage of the near isolated area, Rudolph gingerly stepped over the swing door separating the bar area from the patron area. The phrase is indeed in German. It is not the modern German spoken but an older version which he is still able to translate. It reads " Vor allem dieses: Sei dir selber true which translates as “To thine own self be true” He was just about to touch the obvious quality craftsmanship of the plaque.
“Ummm hhhmmm.” Someone in the background cleared their throat. It was the waitress that he had been admiring just seconds ago.
“Sir, I kinda new here but I am pretty sure that you’re in a staff only area.” Rudolph was a bit startled. He tried to offer a lengthy and unnecessary explanation to deaf ears. The waitress just politely nodded, over the music. She pointed to her tray and with a condescending tone added’
“I’m really busy here, so if you don’t mind.” She nodded her head in the direction of her tray and then in the direction of the main section of the restaurant. Embarrassingly, Rudolph got the hint. However he was observant, on his way out, he took two things. Her name, by way of name tag, was Laila and there was an accumulation of well earned dust surrounding the top of the plaque.
Rudolph returns several days later. He is alone and seats himself in an area that will avail him to having Laila as his waitress. He is not sure that she recognizes him but a playful sarcastic quip from her proves otherwise. He apologizes again. She detects the accent and asks if he is one of the owners secretly checking on security. This time she is not distracted and he launches into more explanation regarding his actions. He informs her about the plaque and the reasons for his curiosity. She confirms that the plaque has been there for at least a month, the whole time she has been employed. Between her rounds attending to other tables she carries on a sporadic conversation with Rudolph. Although not sure of the exact nature, she knows that the symbol on the plaque has some mystical or religious significance. He explains that it belongs to a group known as the Freemasons and that much of the symbolism used in the logo as well as in their rituals take root in the building trades.
Now in turn, Rudolph detects something Californian yet not quite native of the Los Angeles tongue. She informs him that she is from Ojai, born and raised. Rudolph had never been to Ojai. He has heard brief rumors about it, but mostly about its novel and groundbreaking architecture and green-friendly designs. He had been told that everything from sustainable Tree Houses to Biosphere inspired glass bubble houses can be found there. Ojai is to Southern California what Sedona is to Arizona. The enclave is rich in alternative lifestyles. Ojai hosts hippy-dippy settlements, co-ops, communes, and a boutique of retreat grounds, mystic temples and ashrams. Unlike their first meeting she appears to be quite the talkative girl. She informs him that she opened that morning and that if he hangs around they can chat later, when she gets off.
Rudolph occupies the in between time by checking in on the crew. The crew is involved in revamping sections of the New York City stage to look more like Detroit. Geraldo, the crew’s foreman, gives him a detail account of the day’s progress, obstacles and adjustments. He then excitedly tells Rudolph the Mr. Shmuel Avraham Merguedithian stopped by to personally view the site. Rudolph is flabbergasted. He had heard somewhere along the way that the great director was one of the several, behind the scenes, co-producers for the film. So why would he be interested in the set design? In the past, Rudolph had worked on sets where Mr. M was the director. Yet on those projects he dealt with an army of underlings and just sighting of Mr.M was rare and momentary. Imagine Rudolph’s further surprise that when he went on to check voice messages, there was a personal message to him left by the director himself.
Laila was not as naïve as aura and mannerisms would dictate. She decided that once she got off she would continue the conversation in a safe environment. She chose to stay right there in the restaurant where she could remain in view of watchful eyes. Agnes, her new best friend at work, had seen Rudolph around the establishment on many occasions and had given Laila the thumbs up. He seemed decent enough but just to be safe, Agnes positioned herself to be their waitress. Laila had rearranged her hair and refreshed herself just enough to make a distinction between herself and the girl who had been waiting tables just a few minutes earlier. The player in him interprets this as a good sign. He, unashamedly, pre-calculated score time within the next couple of weeks. She seats herself and gives Rudolph a broad all encompassing smile, flashing a brilliant row of teeth. She had been too busy to eat during her shift and welcomes Rudolph’s invite for snacks and drinks. Rudolph estimated her age to be around twenty-four, twenty seven at tops. He had no intention of prying any further into the matter, not wishing to elicit for himself a corresponding query. Rudolph is a very youthful forty and could easily pass for a decade younger. He had dated younger, without any pains of consciousness, but, those girls were very ambitious. They knew the territory well and had no problems negotiating the terrain. They were ready to order. Agnes made her way over to their table, armed with a tray and a host of excuses just in case Laila gave the signal to bail her out.
The conversation flowed freely, unforced and lively. Since Rudolph was sincerely interested in the Ojai lifestyle, he did the most perfect thing a man can do on a first date, although this wasn’t technically a date. He engaged her in conversation that allowed her to substantiate her self-worth as opposed to vice-versa. He was actually quite impressed. She exhibited more than just an average perspective. She was able to offer tidbits and at time historical commentary to some of the sights. The only time things went amiss was when she caught Rudolph nervously glancing towards his watch. The weekend was upon them yet Rudolph really wanted to get his act together for the 9:AM meeting the upcoming Monday. She was the one taken off guard when he informed her that he would have to call it an early night. He just as well eased the moment by informing her of his upcoming meeting. He did this without an ounce of pretension. Nevertheless, Laila was fascinated. Ojai, hippy-dippy, communal raised or not, like any young woman her age; she was fascinated with the aura of Hollywood. He gave her a few additional minutes and summarized the nature of his business and went more into detail about what type of projects he has worked on. For her benefit he highlighted some of the more notable Hollywood projects he had worked. After assuring that she was fine being left where she was, he gave her a gentlemanly hug. He made sure his embrace was not too forward or invasive. Confidently, he bade her goodnight. Eyes told what words need not; they would see each other again, soon, very soon.
Once home Rudolph played the message again for more intense scrutiny. The message was precise and left no room for leeway. He was instructed to meet with the director at 9: AM sharp on Monday. Why would anyone arrange a meeting at 9: AM? Directors, like many in the Hollywood crowd, are a strange beast so Rudolph took it in stride. An address was given with no accompanying directions. There was no return contact number and no hint as to what the meeting would be about. Rudolph was intrigued. He tried to figure out the nature of the message.
Messages this clandestine usually suggested something off the record, some request that would somehow be called upon to circumvent or elude building codes or zoning. Rudolph was not in the habit of honoring such requests that would put his license in jeopardy. However, as anyone in construction knows, sometimes you have to fudge the details to get things approved or allowed by the inspectors.
He Google-mapped the address. It was just as he suspected. It was a residence and not a business or commercial locale. Although judging from the satellite image, it was one mammoth of a complex; it could have very easily competed with either. He went on to do a computer search to see if he could ascertain what new projects Mr. may have been working on. He search was inconclusive. He performed an IMDb search for the director. He thought it best to at least acquaint himself with the director’s prior work.
The drive up the coast to Ventura County worked well for Rudolph. Since the meeting was so early he was driving against the flow of traffic headed in for Los Angeles and points south. He lived on the beach but still he was refreshed by the different consistencies of the ocean as he traversed the different shore-side cites. Point Magu is a little over an hour outside of Los Angeles yet seldom do Los Angelinos avail themselves of a simple day trip up the coast. Shmuel Avraham Merguedithian had deviated from the Hollywood saturated enclaves of Beverly Hills, Bel Air and Malibu and staked his claim in the hills of Ventura County.
He found the director’s palatial hide-away precariously perched on a mountain plateau. The Westside of the estate had a wonderful view of the Pacific. From the eastern side you could see inside the adjacent Point Magu Naval Air Station. The fact that the air station was so close made the exclusive property less valuable than comparable locations. The constant roar of jets and sonic booms would prove too invasive for the usual self-centered rich and famous crowd to want to build there. It was exactly because of its adjacent proximity to the air station that Mr. M decided to build there. He liked the business of, and all the activity and going ons down at the Naval base. He welcomes the early morning roar of jet engines just as readily as most would the daybreak chirping of birds.
The butler escorted the promptly arrived Rudolph to the outdoor patio that offered the ocean view. The director was already seated in anticipation of his breakfast guest. Rudolph had believed himself over the jitters around Hollywood types, yet he had a momentarily of flux of stomach butterflies as he approached the man. He walked over with hand extended and was surprised that the director actually rose to accept. His handshake was un-Hollywood, firm and sturdy. The director insisted that Rudolph call him Sam, Sam was not short for Shmuel but rather an amalgamation the initials in his name. The director was a robust man. He had a stern analytical gaze and delivered his measured words quickly and with appropriate purpose. He brought more to mind the classic great directors of a bygone era: an Orson Wells or a John Houston. He reflected the golden age of Hollywood, striking a statuesque image rather than the shaggy haired, baseball capped, flax jacket wearing directors that is so often seen on today’s modern sets.
The director was dressed in a stately paisley print bathrobe and bold broad stripped silk pajamas. Yet his sharp eye and quick wit showed he was quite awake and ready for business. The director informed his guest what items were readily available for breakfast and hinted that other items would be obtained per his request. Rudolph made a modest request of two eggs, sunny-side up, toast and coffee. The director ordered a more substantial and hearty breakfast. The butler graciously accepted the request and let the two men attend to business. He engaged Rudolph in light conversation as the two men waited for breakfast to be served. The conversation was mostly biographical in nature, aimed at some of Rudolph’s past Hollywood projects. It seemed that the director had also done his homework. Once breakfast had arrived the director came straightway to the business at hand.
“Mr.Kovar, are you familiar with the Tabernacle in Desert as told
In the Christian Old Testament Bible and in the Hebrew Torah?”
“Please Sam, if I have the honor of calling you Sam, then
I insist that you call me Rudolph.” Rudolph interjected quickly.
“Very well Rudolph. Now about the Tabernacle?”
“I’m sorry SAM but…I am not very…”
“Oh you younger generations.” The director cut him off and with a
laugh continued. All you know comes from Hollywood and Youtube. Rudolph joined him in the laugh, mostly because he found it amusing to be still thought of as one of the younger generations.
“OK Rudolph, what about the great movie, The Ten Commandments?
Are you familiar with the great film ‘The Ten Commandments by Cecil B. DeMille?"
“Yes sir.” Sir slipped out. I have seen it twice in English and once in
.“Ausgezeichnet, sehr gut” The director showed that he was a man of the world. “Now let us continue.” The director went on to recap the storyline of Moses after leading the Jewish People out of bondage in Egypt. The film was drawn from the Book of Exodus. It tells how Moses leads the Israelites out of Egypt and through the wilderness to Mount Sinai where Yahweh reveals himself and offers them a Covenant: they are to keep his torah. After several mishaps and setbacks in terms of the relationship between God and his people; God nevertheless succumbs. He proposes that He will actually dwell with the flakey lot miscreants if they build him a dwelling place [Hebrew: משכן , mishkan,] according to his specific instructions.
Sam informs Rudolf that he is secretly in production of the
sequel of that grand film. He will begin with a recap of Moses receiving the Tablets of the Law and continue throughout t the dessert odyssey and up until the settlement of Canaan. He proposed that Rudolf construct for him a Tabernacle, as authentic as possible. Mr. M. commands a big budget and money was not an object. Whatever he wanted in his films, the studio okayed. Every aspect, material used and ornament is to be as true to the original as possible.
He reached into a basket on the far side of his chair and retrieved a poster of sorts. He unfurled it and handed it over to Rudolph. He continued to talk as Rudolph inspected the artistic rendering.
His staff would be paid three times over scale and receive a hefty bonus if completed on schedule.
“My dear fellow, you know we directors are sometimes
Prima donnas, with our special requests, conditions, our
The director carefully buttered his toast, never breaking eye contact .while He kept his analytical glaze sternly on Rudolph, measuring his every response. Rudolph took in a deep breath. “Now here it comes.” Rudolph though. “The weird stuff. I know it was sounding too good to be…”
“Her are my terms Mr.Kovar”. First names had been dropped; it was down to straight business. “You, personally, will be on site, with your staff, each and every day that work is performed. I would prefer that the work be from Sunday to Friday. Work will start, much like this breakfast, at 9:AM sharp. I would also like for you to be familiar with the essence of the project.” He reached again into the basket and pulled out a worn English/Hebrew Torah.” All the instruction you will need you will find in here. He handed him the Bible. “Do you think we can work together and under those terms Mr.Kovar?”
“Yes very much so.”
“Here is your assignment, I must be leaving now.” He reached into the basket for the last time and retrieved the blueprints and construction contractual agreements. He informed Rudolph that his butler had authority to conclude the rest of the day’s business. He then left.
The drive back to LA was triumphant for Rudolph. He had secured a lucrative and challenging project. Underneath that was the expectation that Rudolph was about to pay off some awful debt. Rudolph felt that he could finally make right a family wrong.
The most influential person in Rudolph's life had been his grandfather. He loved his grandfather yet there had been a stain on the relationship. Otto Kovar had passed away many years ago while Rudolph was still in his teens. Otto had been the solid fixture in the boy's life. It was he that had essentially raised Rudolph. Both, the boy's parents, were upward mobile and college educated. They were committed to making their mark on the burgeoning German economy This meant that they spent much time in the cities and on business trips. Meanwhile, life at their country villa was managed by Otto. Otto, now retired, was a Master craftsman among master craftsmen. He knew a little something about everything, when it came to buildings and construction. He saw the same enthusiasm he held towards construction evident in the young toddler, Rudolph. He nourished the boy's building skills. The two of them would spend hours in play; be it Play Dough, Lego’s or simply sand and mud. As the boy matured so did Otto's engagement of his skills. He introduced the boy to the real tools of the trade. By the time, the boy was ten; he was able to build minor blue printed projects all by himself.
The parents fared well in the invigorated German economy. In lieu of their presence at home, they compensated and provided Otto and Rudolph with any tool or building supply that the duo may have had need of or desired. The two of them often would take on community projects just for the sport of it. Rudolph's parents were fully cognizant of his construction skills and had hoped he would one day apply for Architectural College. However, Rudolph showed no real desire to earn scores in the academic subjects pursuant to Architectural College. Rudolph was more comfortable with being the builder rather than designer .He liked hands on, tactile stimulation. He did not care so much as to theorize about building and designing. He would rather do it. He liked the way things felt and got lost in their construction, a building, furniture, a woman. Rudolph was quite satisfied with the notion of someday growing up to be a contractor, like his grandfather. Rudolph life was right on track until the day of the whisper.
Even as an adult there were times when Rudolph was taken back to that darkened classroom of his youth. These many years later he could still imagine hearing the rhythmic pattering of the 16 mm film as it rolled through the projection reel. The grainy black and white images appeared on the screen. The film was mish mashed, part propaganda as seen through the Nazi political machine. The film showed the parade of vanquished Jewish masses as they are herded through the different processing stations with the highly praised German efficiency. Here they are deloused and shaved. Here they are fitted with uniforms. Here they are assigned to barracks. The defeated and dehumanized moved liked marionettes, devoid of emotion, through the macabre nightmare of what had become their reality. The film then showed the true horrors of the camp. From the liberator’s point of view it showed aftermath, the final solution, of the camp’s activities. Here were the gassing stations, here the crematoriums and, here the survivors. Each student was spellbound, watching what once passed as human beings now vaguely distinguishable from the dead. Each imagined in his own mind living the role of the vanquished, the role of captors, and the role of liberator. Then came the whisper.
The words were moist, hot and vapory as the slithered from the mouth. The anonymous mouth was so close that it brushed ever so slightly against the fine hairs of Rudolph’s outer ear. Rudolph turned neither to the left nor to the right. He stared straight ahead at the projection screen, unmoved by the spontaneous intrusion. The liberators were now shown using bull dozers to push the mounds of emaciated skeletal bodies into mass graves. The words oozed thick and syrupy slow as they traveled the length of his ear canal. They eventually perforated into his skull cavity, spilling like red dye, staining the slivery grey tissue within.
“Ich hoffe, dass ihre Opa aufzubauen. Wir müssen es ein Tag für die Türken.”
“Let’s hope your grandpa built things to last. We might need it someday for the Turks.”
Now nestled firmly in his mind, the words continued to vibrate, winding down the spinal column. Rudolf felt a churning, an ache deep inside his bowels. He excused himself and exited the classroom brushing aside the murmurs that crossed his path.
That night, Rudolph was fortunate enough to find both parents at home. There had always been the rumors, fast fleeting references and hushed outbursts that raced just slightly ahead of a child’s comprehension. That night Rudolph confronted his parents. He demanded to know exactly what it was that grandpa did during the war.