Sunday, June 19, 2005

This is a log of private investigations into loss, absurdity, and the IS of "it is what it is", as seen from the big time and the big self of childhood, before we knew enough to stop wondering, before the banality gang got to us and told us how to be chained to our daily selves. The investigations are conducted by Joe Potatoes because he has a lot of private eyes and they’re all on the ground. Joe was the second character in a one man performance piece called Big Time Big Self. This piece was about a gang called The Banality Gang (which aims to get all our brains before we’re done). The piece itself was taped over, all except for one last segment, by a videographer who needed a tape to record a soap opera one night and Big Time Big Self was the lucky winner. Death by inanity. And you thought Don Corleone was bad!
the deaths of children
I remember when I was 12 my cousin hung himself from a tree. He told his friends to go on ahead and he’d join them later. When they came back looking for him, they found him hanging there. I remember the inconsolable wailing of his parents, and the first tears I ever saw in my father’s eyes. I remember wondering what this loss thing was.
My grandfathers both died that year. My maternal grandfather had remarried while he was in the hospital with diabetes. He married a nurse named Beulah, who got half the farm when he died. I remember her trying too hard to cry at the funeral.
A band director in a nearby town committed suicide.
The son of the band director in our town drank himself to death in Galveston. There is a knowledge which can’t be spoken which slowly sinks in on you when these things become the facts of our lives.
The suicides I got to know were perfectionists, a violinist who played experimental improvisational music and it was never good enough? How could something improvisational not be good enough? That kind of thing HAS to be what it is. And a guy who used to dress up every Saturday night like a fop and walk the streets. A kid who had an addict for a dad, and made up a perfect one inside him, which he shot full of holes.
We rebel against this knowledge in various ways, but those are still just ways, and probably not very good ones, of living with it.
Marvin told me today his friend was water skiing at Lake Tahoe, got some kind of rash on his buttocks where the spray was hitting him, got a fever that night, had to be taken to the hospital, was diagnosed with some flesh eating virus, his liver and pancreas and kidneys were failing, and he died shortly after that. Marvin said it was difficult. Yes, I said, so sudden. He said he had to go move his friend’s stuff. Sad duty. I said,
and thought about Creely dying & wondered often what he thought, if he thought at all now, about the lives & deaths of artists & writers whose time & energies were so taken up in the struggle just to live, that their voices & images couldn’t get out to whomever it may concern
as it all moves, plants moving down the aisles at Home Depot, or little houses just lying there under the stars in little towns in New Mexico, but we cannot SEE, not really, not ever
the inseparable motions of death and life in our lives
the deaths of children
something about that fact is so balancing to every joy a person can experience, something about it is so true to what goes on inside us daily, and how we survive that fact, each in our own fashion, is what makes us who we are. It feels to me the way watching my father’s death and scattering his ashes felt, that I was privelidged to suffer and priviledged to be present at a mystery.
My neighbor stays in his house more & more these days. When the subject of his ex comes up, he starts swearing and generalizing the evil she did to him. Seems like she got to a place where nothing can ever change inside him. He has the same level of anger & depression as he did when she left—after several affairs, which he never stops bragging about, one of them a live-in. If his ex was that bad you’d think he’d be grateful he’s not in love with her anymore and she’s gone. He says he is glad, but he acts otherwise. She could have had half of everything for living with him a few years but she settled for the vacant lot between us. I suppose she had to get SOMETHING for her contribution to the marital community, but he says,
"When I met her she didn’t have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of...and now she’s got that lot, see what I get for being a nice guy."
Or for needing a mother, and then rebelling when you got one? I wonder. Because it was like a mother son argument, she, a historically known control freak, probably 20 years his senior, and he, like me, with so much stuff piled up everywhere, that it would suffocate even another pack rat. She kept nagging at him about it, and he made feeble efforts at controlling it, then when she made an ultimatum, he said, don’t threaten ME! Then she moved out and left something like a dozen cats for him to take care of. They said when they agreed to live together that their home would be a haven for homeless cats, but none of the neighbors whose yards they would piss and shit in were invited to the meeting. He still loves the cats, but now he’s bitter about having them all by himself.
His real mom found his next girlfriend for him and when that romance died, he found other women, beautiful, hot women, he said, but not emotionally available—not like mom? And at least the first few must have felt like there was a whole crowd in bed with them, a madonna, a whore, a mom, a slut, an angel....
like the grassrooter artist I read about who had his front yard full of signs cursing his ex wife, and had his house full of little shrines to her angel like love
and now he’s alone with his anger at the past, and I’m alone with my fears of the future, the new neighbor who’ll move in & possibly harass me thru the building department, or bring in some gangbanger tenants, or whatever. I could sell and move farther out of town, but that’s what causes sprawl. My principle for ecological living is a return to the medieval walled garden and I’m sticking with it. I just need money to build a big fat, tall, medieval wall.
We think things are over, we think we are done, but as John Donne said, we have not done. My ex says she may have IBS or colon cancer. I need to know what’s going on and she doesn’t feel like talking, because we’re not that close and the fear sucks it all in. If we’re not that close then what’s this pit of despair doing in my stomach?
I’m scared too. I have this skin that won’t stop making pre cancerous melanomas even in places I keep covered with long sleeves. Obviously the sun’s rays penetrate even steel & wood, why not cloth? And then I screwed one up by trying to self medicate. Well I was between doctors and I was scared, so beat me and scream at me, maybe It’ll make me smarter. That’s always worked in the past.
Life and death, one process, roiling & tumbling inside us daily.
Last time the family trust that takes care of my mother & sister had to sell some apartments, Sarah, one of the tenants, lost big time.
She took care of the landscaping, grew beautiful rose bushes and desert plants. She had a bird feeder and binoculars. These things were her only relief when she’d come home tired from transcribing court records of trials of rapists, murderers, dope dealers, the endless parade of human detritus that goes before the bench—the birds and the landscaping, and taking care of Aimie who was the nicest person possible and was dying of brain cancer.
When we sold, by the time I saw for sure what kind of people the new landlords were going to be, it was too late. They drove out a gay architect, just by being abrasive and intrusive, they didn’t pay one tenant for work he did, said rent had to be paid by five o’clock on the first of the month or they’d start proceedings, installed exterior lighting which the tenants had to pay the electric bill for, cut down the landscaping and put in gravel everywhere. The birds were gone, so was Sarah’s car, so was her peace of mind. She was miserable. I tried to give her jobs in landscaping and offered her a place to rent at my house but it never worked out. I told myself, you’d think you could just marry someone you loved & respected like that, but it’s never that simple. It’s almost like real life, because you can’t make it up. (And the fidelity is amazing. Sometimes it’s almost like being there.)
Now it’s starting to look like we have to sell again. I have a duty as trustee to make the trust grow and to have it benefit my sister & mother. Those are two separate duties I was told by a lawyer. I don’t feel that a duty to an abstraction, like money, divorced from human benefit, can stand. It’s just a bunch of words. As far as I’m concerned, in social and legal matters, the best advice I ever got came from an old etiquette manual to wit:
"A kind heart is the best manners."
It isn’t good currency in some circles, but I’m OK with it. And I’ve always relied on the still, small voice of individual conscience over big words, and laws and what Charles Olsen called,
"The myth of mass." because, even if they are all in one room, and even if that’s a courtroom, and everybody’s dressed up, speech and all, they’re still just a bunch of idiots, after all. Or collective intelligence must always be calculated against collective stupidity.
But how DO we live with death, since like the poor AND the rich, it is always with us? The originator of cognitive behavioral therapy says when we get to the point of accepting IT IS WHAT IT IS then we’re THERE, which we have on good authority, is a better place than DENIAL, internal temper tantrums turned to depression, anxiety, dissipation, suicide? Yeah, it’s probably better, at least until we die ourselves, assuming of course, that we really KNOW anything. It feels better to me, anyway, to just be here, with the birds singing in the morning, shouldering the burden of happiness in the face of all possible adversity, and remembering the dead—yes, even the suicides, even those lives virtually stillborn--- with gratitude for what they tell me about life.


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