Issue 12 : Spring 2007







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Dr Yes and the Mystery of the Mission

by David Cox

23 Feb 2007

Part Two

Dr Yes The Mission sleeps.

The neon and signs are off on Mission Street. Eventually with an incessant drone, a lonely street sweeper fires a powerful jet of water at the place where the street meets the sidewalk, its yellow revolving light cutting a beam through early morning fog. There is nobody awake, nobody around. A blanket of milky fog has descended over the city, the Twin Peaks tower invisible. It is cold. A police car here and there crawls around, seeking anything, like a dosy cat, bored and wanting to go home. Mirror-windowed low-rider car crawls by, its deep subliminal hip-hop bass rattles windows as it passes.

Dr Yes wakes with a jolt at exactly 6.00 a.m. An irritating ‘80s beeping sound accompanies the glowing red readout of his clock radio. Yes had only a second prior been deeply involved in a nocturnal vision involving walking on islands made of hot metal film cans amidst a vast and endless sea of boiling slow-moving magma.

“The conquistadors are still with us, Doctor Strayker” said Dr Yes. “Only today they use illegal and corrupt real estate deals, corrupt local politicians and the police to clear the land of undesirables.”

Yes had found himself cinematically hopping from one can to the other as if walking through a minefield until the cans became smaller and smaller and then only cell-phones and small bits of sidewalk trash offered a foothold and he had to use the balls of his feet on this volcanic flotsam to avoid being burned alive. It was one of those scenes which Sharon knew how to do probably using blue screens and difficult-to-master software.

This nightmare had been definitely “R” rated. In this dream state vision of slow-bubbling sulphurous molasses-like lava floated strangely still-moving dismembered body parts, and at one point he had seen that woman, the one who had fallen from the burning building and broken her leg last night on Shotwell near Sharon’s studio.

In the dream the fire victim had landed on a real estate sign, which acted as a barely big enough makeshift raft protecting her from the lava. Only in the dream she had no face, and could not scream, only wave her arms at Yes directly gesturing to her face with her hand as if asking him silently what had happened to it. Her leg was broken to form a kind of arrow shape, pointing north.

Sharon Paillard herself had even appeared at one point in the dream flying or floating three feet above him like a glowing angel, naked, silent and beautiful, holding her Bolex film camera up to her breasts. It was a classical vision, and apart from the 16mm camera, something from the Renaissance. Like Ophelia floating, but from below. As he had scrambled to stay away from the burning fires, the floating Sharon had ushered gracefully for him to join her in floating up there where the air was cooler, calmer and above it all. She had said “Its all right Doctor, there’s no film in the camera.” At one point he remembered her resembling the Botticelli Venus, emerging from her clamshell, blond hair flowing like silk in the breeze, a vision of beauty, youth and everything that was good in life. These visions had somehow skipped from his waking life into his dreams. He would have to consider getting help about it.

San Francisco de Asis--Mission Dolores Yes prepares coffee and shuffles over to his five-year-old Linux-box computer. The desk is covered with books, notes, papers, found objects, and antique geometry tools. He’d found this computer on a corner sitting on the corner of Folsom and 20th only a month ago, carried it the several blocks to his home under his arm and it had started first time with a version of Windows 2000 and an embarrassing amount of somebody’s personal writings about love, life and what it was to be addicted to crack and on bail. But now it was running Linux directly from a UNICEF funded bootable CD-ROM a student had given him. Funny how media circulate like that, thought Yes, from one person’s life to another’s. Like cars, bikes, and romances.

Yes sipped coffee and read his email: requests for extensions from students whose papers are due at the end of the week. Spam. News (more on that sniper – another victim at that yuppie hangout, the Café Artemis a day ago – and that was only a few blocks away) Invitations to various art openings, book launches, speaking events. The phone rang.


“You and I have not met, Dr Yes, but we are colleagues. I head up the Archeology and Cultural Studies Department at Berkeley and I believe I have some findings, some information which I think may very much interest you.”

“I’m awfully sorry, Mr ...”

“Strayker, Doctor Aldus Strayker, Professor Emeritus in Archeology and Cultural Studies at the Berkeley Interdisciplinary Program”

“Sorry Doctor Strayker, I’m extremely busy at the moment and ...”

“But this is very important Doctor. A real one-of-a-kind thing”

“Well Doctor Strayker, can I ask what it is that you think might interest me?”

“I’d prefer we meet in person actually, and if its all the same to you. Only this is special enough to warrant this kind of – er – discretion”


“Meet me at the Mission Delores Cemetery at two p.m. today”


“Well – er.”

“Believe me Dr Yes, this will be worth your while”

“Alright. I suppose I can make ... I’ll see you there.”

Yaxchilan Divine Serpent He’s seen it from every angle. The amazing Mission San Francisco de Asís on the corner of 16th and Delores was no less impressive this morning, as the sun cut through clouds and the throng of traffic moved in both directions next to the building. He walked to the very spot where sixty years prior, Jimmy Stewart had walked up the steps in Hitchcock’s masterpiece of Bay Area paranoid obsession “Vertigo”. That utterly amazing film was about another parallel San Francisco. One where the streets were more like something from a mid 1970s Disney Theme Park, all white, all controlled, all managed. To Doctor Yes, who grew increasingly cynical with age, watching Vertigo while living in today’s San Francisco was like wearing a coat which was worth ten thousand dollars while knowing that it been worn by a man who had committed suicide in it, and so the latter fact somehow always outweighed the former.

The whole of the city sort of looked the same, but had gone through too much for anyone to pretend that Hitchcock’s Mission was anything like Dr Yes’s.

Overhead crisscrossing MUNI bus cables intersected the thin white contrails of a passing bomber, miles above in a patch of blue sky as Yes climbed the steps to the Mission Delores. Inside the church was home to several people praying, and near the door to the cemetery Yes saw him. Strayker was in his early forties, a two day growth peppered a handome but well-worn face. He wore a full length black coat over a sleevless jumper and check shirt. His glasses framed a pair of intense eyes. Smoker’s breath accompanied a close and sincere “Dr Yes, I presume”

“The Very Same”

“Follow me please, Doctor Yes”

Yes negotiated the passageway from the newer church through the original Mission Delores structure itself.

“You are aware of course that this building was the first European structure in the entire west coast of what we now call America. It was a fortress, originally, and built in such a way as to repel what were reported to have been wave after wave of attacks by the local native population”.

“It seems the Mission has seen much violence ever since. Actually forget the Mission. The whole of the continent.” Said Dr Yes, quietly.

“Indeed”. Whispered Strayker.

Yes and Strayker walked out into the cemetery area. Inevitable DVD replay visions of Jimmie Stewart following the entranced Kim Novak between the tombstones came to mind. Near one corner of the yard a five man team were digging. The area was sealed off with wide yellow plastic tape.

“What’s all this, Doctor Strayker? An exhumation?”

“Nothing of the sort. I’ve received permission from the Mission staff and the relevant city authorities to perform an archeological dig at this site”

“What are you looking for?”


“Spanish Dubloons? The gold coins from the Spanish Colonial era?”

“Correct. My post doctoral research at Berkeley, which has occupied every day of my life for the past twenty-five years has led me right here right now. A manuscript I uncovered deep in the city’s archives, combined with the myriad myths and stories of the descendents of local natives resulted in cartographical lines which converge right here at the old Mission Delores.”

A short man yelled “I’ve found another one!!!”

The man brought the small clump of dirt to Strayker. He washed it with a hose to reveal a two-inch wide disk of bright gold metal, embossed with a creature that looked like a lizard with wings. Dr Yes thought “Phoenix?” On the other side of the dubloon was embossed a hexagonal shape with jagged lines extending from it to the left.

Strayker’s face lit up

“Yes!! Yes!!! Proof!! This is all the proof I need”

“Strayker, Just what are those symbols?” said Yes.

“Surely Doctor yes you recognize the emblem of what we today call Halley’s Comet?” whispered Strayker, his cigarette breath overwhelming.

“And the creature flying on the other side? – the winged god of ancient Mexico”

“Exactly, Doctor. Quetzalcoatl”

Berkeley, The Next Day.

Assembled in a small classroom, Dr Yes sits amid an array of various city officials, academics, and some people who Yes suspects are federal agents from one department or other. NSA? FBI? CIA? Their impassioned faces and body language spoke of something hidden, dark and probably involving weapons, secrecy and the so-called “war on terror”. The men were passing the dubloons between each other, feeling their weight, lifting their glasses to look at them more closely.

Strayker’s face is illuminated by the bright blue and red light from a Toshiba data projector. The thing’s fan hums loudly with a whirr. Behind him on a screen is a powerpoint presentation. It features Aztec pyramids, conquistadors, conflict, massacres, and images of the winged serpent in stone, in painting and in weavings.

Strayker’s voice soon filled the room with the calm and slightly arrogant self assurance which only a fully tenured Bay Area academic can deliver.

“The coins in your hands prove to me that the Spanish colonialists it turns out exploited the myth of the Quetzalcoatl to their own ends and used the arrival of Halley’s comet to convince the population that they could control and govern the very heavens themselves. Basically they told the Indians that when Halley’s comet is brightest, the Quetzal will also appear. It was “Do as we say, or we will wipe you out with the winged serpent as our ally.”

The powerpoint shows a close up of one of the dubloons. Strayker went on:

“The dubloons found yesterday at Mission Delores were used as a kind of infomercial campaign for this story and to promote the notion of the inherent supposed ‘superiority’ of the Spanish colonial project. Just as Christianity had co-opted paganism in Europe fifteen hundred years before, turning standing stones into sites for churches, so here in the New World, ancient myths of birth and rebirth and retribution used against those who held them most dear. What was the point of this co-option? Or as Public Enemy ask ‘Who Stole the Soul’”.

A patter of polite laughter.

A video sequence from a mid-1980s documentary on ancient Mexico started playing. An analogue synthesizer provided a cheesy background against the emphatic female voice over:

“Quetzalcoatl (‘feathered serpent’ or ‘plumed serpent’) is the Nahuatl name for the Feathered-Serpent deity of ancient Mesoamerican culture. In Mesoamerican myth Quetzalcoatl is also a mythical culture hero from whom almost all mesoamerican peoples claim descent. These myths often describe him as the divine ruler of the mythical Toltecs of Tollan who after his expulsion from Tollan, travelled south or east to set up new cities and kingdoms. Many different Mesoamerican cultures, e.g. Maya, K’iche, Pipil, Zapotec claim to have been the only true lineage of Quetzalcoatl and thus of the mythical Toltecs.”

Strayker stopped the videotape and went on:

“Even today, in some rural parts of Mexico, there still exists a belief that in some caves, near certain towns, there lives a monster, a great feathered snake that can only be seen by special people. The monster must be placated for there to be plentiful rain. The feathered snake is also still worshipped by Huichol and Cora Indians. The cult of Quetzalcoatl has been more or less idealized, and the image of a ‘white god’ has become part of the popular culture.

“Right here in the Mission, some modern esoteric groups, sometimes called ‘Mexicanistas’, have mixed the cult of Quetzalcoatl with modern esoteric practices. This much is certain, and the dubloons prove it: the Spanish exploited native myths to their own ends.

“The conquistadors are still with us, Doctor Strayker” said Dr Yes. “Only today they use illegal and corrupt real estate deals, corrupt local politicians and the police to clear the land of undesirables.”

The room fell silent.


Two black hair-thin lines, one vertical, the other horizontal meet at the center of a bright circle of light. An eye peers close and edgy, as if into an obscene and secret keyhole. One by one the sniper carefully frames people two blocks away and below him. They are at ease, chatting, laughing, answering cell-phones, rummaging through well made bags and backpacks. The Café Artemis, the sniper can see, is very busy this afternoon. The lunchtime crowd has filled the place to absolute capacity. Black sports utility vehicles and luxury sports cars are parked at every other spot along the street.

Groomed dogs of all sizes lie tethered here and there around the outdoor tables patiently for their owners to finish their baguettes, lobster bisque, bruschettas, salads with sun-dried tomatoes, their Napa Valley red wines and bottled aerated water. Waiters in white shirts, polished black shoes, black tunics and starched white aprons dash about quietly as the well-dressed clientele chat, read, answer and make phone calls or peer into expensive portable screens of varying sizes, tapping at them carefully with styli. Overhead, a red biplane lazily drags an advertising banner behind it, and an array of birds sing as if on cue in the plentiful trees along the recently renovated 24th Street stretch of upscale urban development.

The sniper adjusts a small knob on the gun-sight. This Soviet made cold-war era Draganov rifle is heavy and cold this morning, the cheek rest cuts into the sniper’s face like ice. Its scope completely flattens all perspective of what it sees. Trucks, cars, buildings all appear roughly the same scale, all sheer hazy flat panels of detail; faded distant cutouts like those in a children’s pop-up book. The bluish atmospheric filter of what is left of the fog drifting down from Twin Peaks further adds to the distancing effect of the scope’s view of those it frames. A disk of death, the lens lazily scans the scene for a target.

In silence they sip coffee and water. They take quick bites of what is, it seems to the sniper certainly very nourishing, healthy food. The whole scene pans and tilts quickly up and down and left and right, until one single man, is centered in the sight’s crosshairs. The sniper makes a mental note:

Designer retro 70s shirt and khaki pants. Rolex watch. Mont Blanc pen. An iPhone.

A black-gloved finger gently applies pressure to a small polished piece of trigger metal no bigger than a door key.

At the Café Artemis at ground level, the man bursts into laughter at his female companion’s joke – the one about the stock exchange man who became homeless and had to stock up his food court vouchers instead of vouching in court for his food market stock.

As his head tilts back in deep belly laughter at the joke his head suddenly explodes in a three-foot-wide roughly ovoid cloud of fine, dense bright pink mist. His companion is suddenly sprayed and is awash in a finely atomized light-red blood shower. A hideous squishing sound accompanies a spray of dark crimson which jets from the man’s now headless neck. Then the appalling detail strikes everyone there: a loose mass of flopping hairy flesh-and-white-bone that was a second ago a laughing head now hangs back from his shoulder like a ten-inch shredded chewed-up steak. In slow motion, the man’s body lunges forward, then slides messily onto the pavement, twitching in post-death spasm. A cocker spaniel backs away from the shaking corpse in alarm, whimpering, trying to get away, looking around for its owner.

Fragments of skull and brains have neatly spattered the elegantly painted gold leaf sign-painted window in a large fan shape. A few seconds of silence before the whole scene turns into muted gasps which then turn into shrill shrieks and panicked gaggle of cries, screams. Pandemonium as the clientele get up and run, walk, fall over each other. Soon the inevitable sirens are heard, reverberating from every corner. How fast they come in this part of town.

A half-mile away, atop a billboard sign for iTunes, a tiny figure moves amid the sign’s footlights. The very long and very heavy Russian sniper rifle is taken apart and replaced into its green felt-lined varnished wooden box. The brass bullet casing is gingerly collected and pocketed. Into a small notebook a calm hand writes the date, the time and the conditions of the weather. The figure then calmly climbs the ladder to ground level, and jumps swiftly onto a bus which has pulled up at a stop at the corner on Harrison street. Gone.

David Cox is a writer, film maker and artist who lives in San Francisco’s Mission District. His work can be viewed at this blog: email: