Published on January 20th, 2014 | by Daniel Rahe7
Raymond Lucas: Monkeyshines Smasher
In Tacoma, the coming of the Chinese New Year is anticipated with a glee that might be unexpected in the average American city. Although there are no parades or fireworks, a more clandestine celebration takes place: in the dark of one February morning, scattered search parties desperately root amongst shrubs, roadsides, parks, tree branches, and local landmarks. They seek small, delicate glass balls emblazoned with intricate zodiac figures.
They seek the Monkeyshines.
This city-wide treasure hunt began years ago, when mischievously generous artists first began hiding the glassworks for locals to find. Posters created by Beautiful Angle announced the commencement of the event, and over time, it seemed the whole city came alive every Chinese New Year, discovering new and beautiful corners of the city we share.
But this sense of wonder and curiosity is not shared by all Tacomans.
Raymond Lucas does not approve of Monkeyshines, and has posted numerous comments (now deleted) on Exit133 and in the Tacoma News Tribune which emphatically decry the unique Tacoma event.
I sent Lucas an email, hoping to be able to speak with him about his opposition to Monkeyshines. I wasn’t altogether surprised when he replied, but I was a bit taken aback by his eagerness. His response came within five minutes of my inquiry. It was insistent:
“Daniel: Thank you for reaching out to me. I would very much like to discuss this important topic with you, on the record. Can you meet this week? I have a feeling Monkeyshines-time is approaching again, and I’d like to put in my two cents beforehand.”
We arranged to meet at Knapp’s, in the lounge section, last Sunday night. The place was quiet, and we took the booth in the furthest corner. Raymond Lucas is tall and bent, his middle-aged bones bowed by years of schlepping mattresses to and fro. He claims to be a mattress salesman, though he would not disclose his employer.
We got down to the business at hand, forgetting to order drinks. I would come to regret this oversight.
“I have read a lot of your comments about Monkeyshines,” I told him. “I understand you have a problem with the religious nature of the glassworks. Is that true?”
Raymond straightened a bit. “I am not a bigot, or anything like that. Don’t get me wrong. I just think it isn’t fair to be putting zodiac paraphernalia out in public places when I can’t leave my Gospel leaflets at the police station without finding them in the trash the next day.”
He feels there is a double-standard that applies to public expression.
“How come everyone practically poops themselves with joy when they find communist Chinese zodiac propaganda in our parks, but gets all uptight about my Bible fliers?” he asked.
I did not know how to respond. I told Raymond that I doubt there is any religious or political intent associated with the Monkeyshines balls. Raymond was skeptical.
“What kind of a society do we live in when it’s ‘art’ if it’s communist zodiac stuff, but not when it’s the Bible – which is the foundation of our nation?” he asked me. “And do you really think it’s good for CHILDREN to have these – these – unsafe, fragile glass propaganda pieces, but not prayer in schools? What if one of those kids accidentally swallows a monkeyball. Tell me – then what do we do?”
I was having a hard time getting a word in edgewise.
I told Raymond Lucas that he was free to not participate in Monkeyshines.
“Evil triumphs because good men do nothing,” he replied.
I reached for a drink that wasn’t there, and tried to think of what to say next. Once again, Raymond did not give me the opportunity to speak.
“Daniel, listen. I haven’t told anyone this, but I’m telling you. Every year, I go out and I try to find every last one of those Monkeyshines balls, and then I take them to the nearest sidewalk and stomp on them. Smash them to bits,” he said.
“Are you kidding?” I asked, wondering to myself, “Is this why I’ve never found a single Monkeyshines ball in my three years of searching?” This guy has been thinning the herd.
“No. I’m not kidding. I’d rather get a little glass stuck in my boot heel than try to sleep at night knowing that some child out there is becoming desensitized to a foreign, communist religion,” Raymond replied.
He went on to describe what might be called a “Monkeyshines Smashing Kit”, which includes boots with reinforced shanks and soles, various rubberized hammers, and a backpack to stow a small hand-broom and dustpan for concealment of evidence – if necessary.
“So… you smash Monkeyshines balls… every year, Mr. Lucas?”
“Yes. Every year but the first. I didn’t know about Monkeyshines the first time they did it,” he answered.
“How many would you say you typically smash each year?”
Raymond stopped to think, maybe for the first time since I’d met him. “In the ballpark of 20, maybe as many as 25 some years. I’m a trained small-game hunter, so I know how to find things like that.”
I thanked Mr. Lucas for his time, and told him I had no further questions. I stopped the recorder on my iPhone and made my way to the bar. I desperately needed something to drink while I thought about what I’d write. My subject stepped out the door, waving and nodding at me as he left.
I have reported on community events in Tacoma for three years, and am accustomed to a certain level of discomfort when approaching some subjects. But never during those three years have I felt as perplexed and dumbfounded as I was after Raymond Lucas walked out of Knapp’s. The man was an enigma of indignation, the kind of guy who might dump sheep’s blood into the water at a pool party to tame the mood. I was relieved to see him leave.
Just as I took my first sip of a cold Rainier tallboy, I heard the front door open again. It was Raymond Lucas.
“You know, if you care to join me, I could use some help stomping this year. I have a feeling there is gonna be a lot of commie glass out there next week,” he said.
I told him I’d consider it. Instead, I went home to ponder my own Monkeyshines search plan. I’ll find one this year, and maybe Raymond will find fewer.
*Post Defiance does not guarantee the existence of Raymond Lucas.