Cathedral

 

“Who are those guys” – Butch Cassidy 

Met my old sidekick, the charismatic dreamer Butch to my cool and dangerous Sundance, at the Hotel Mac in sleepy fog drenched Pt. Richmond yesterday for an early dinner. Duncan Hines proclaimed the joint, built in 1911, the best dining room in America way back then. It’s still pretty good.

We regret the things we didn’t do and the only thing I regret about the occasion was we didn’t start our feast with some alcohol. But through the warm bread and butter, the ice tea, the calamari and escargot, the pot roast and mashed potatoes, the gooey baked fruit and gelato deserts and cappuccino; we burned.

There’s that one friend you have that feels like home. The one born around the same time as you who you share history with and when you connect it’s like church. The only one you can talk to that has a clue what you’re feeling. We traveled the nostalgia road all the way back to where we started, some few years after Truman dropped the big one and made all the returning soldiers feel safe and secure and optimistic enough to create us.

We reminisced riding our bikes, free, daydreamers, explorers on the new frontier, dismounting our magic time machines like the horses the cowboys we stared at with awe and fantasized being that we saw on our black and white TV’s, back when our mom’s kicked us out of the house early and didn’t expect to see us again until a quick pit stop for lunch and then finally again for dinner.

We felt safe back then, ensconced behind sheltered suburban walls like Siddhartha’s. We slipped through the cracks barely noticed, just our fathers sons; but watched over by the entire village, with the big guy himself, Ike (Eisenhower: “steel masher” in German), protecting us from Nikita Khrushchev’s shoe pounding rants at the U.N. saying how he would bury us.

Freedom was our birthright and we reveled in it, believed it true and righteous and holy just like our parents, the nuns, priests, cops and our teachers told us it and we were; while all the time secretly, even to ourselves, we were plotting to one day take over the world. We shared our first mysterious and glorious encounters with women; his, a local nymphomaniac and mine the girl I’d end up standing next to with our baby in arms at ST. Joseph’s church while Father Bill married us.

What we didn’t know was the real world was closing in. While our contemporaries rushed to qualify for a slot, standing dutifully asses pressed to crotches, in a line waiting for their turn at Ozzie and Harriett lives; all the time wondering what we were thinking when we opted out; not willing to drink the Kool Aid and join the group tearing headlong in their suicide machines; we pushed ourselves away from the dinner table saying “no more Jello for me Mom!”  

We shared the angst uploaded from our own spawn’s resentment from having to leave them, protected by women we’d bonded with, while we followed our hearts and ventured out to find America and our own destinies. Many years later he would stay fixed on the path of the dreamer desperado while I took a hard right and spent a few decades proving a point and getting a paycheck. And as it always does, the conversation came to the now and what the hell it was we were going to do next.

Our paths had caused to freeze us out of the main stream where the mob struggled with mortgages and tax bills and that river of conformity that drove them all to the same place. We searched, unfettered by the fierce dilemma we now met, for the perfect question that would answer itself and tell us which way to go. The fact that we felt anything but safe was a silent acknowledgement that lay between us, ascending and wafting all around like the smoke that filled the room.

We passed the peace pipe as had the renegade Indians that laid everywhere beneath our feet in graveyard streets America. And as the sun set we knew nothing had been resolved, nothing affirmed, only the knowledge, unspoken, that while we may well end up like the last scene in the film of Butch and Sundance, we will keep doing as much as we can, for as many as we can, for as long as we can. We shared a feeling; not of remorse, but of honorable contentment, that in the end it won’t be the destination where we arrive that will be remembered by those we leave behind. It’ll be the the courage it took to take the journey we chose.

Heartbreak Warfare

“Truth is, everybody is going to hurt you, you’ve just gotta find the ones worth suffering for.” Bob Marley

Dropped a gift off for my Muse Lisa today and while lovingly preparing my lunch she shared a story about her first real passion filled fight with her new lover. This gave rise to the question “why do we hurt the ones we love” and that conundrum was on my mind as I left the Deli and met a dapper looking gent who announced himself “from New Orleans” and the plea that he needed money.

I passed him a fiver and in doing so, unknown to me when, while fumbling with my hot lunch bag and digging for the cash, I must have dropped my car key. It used to cost 35 cents to get a key cut but, thanks to space age technology the new programmable ones that open doors and truck and set the alarm, they cost $250.00; so much for Karma.

I guess we hurt the ones we love because they let us. Gandhi said “Nobody can hurt me without my permission.” The Mahatma got that right. The only people who are allowed to hurt me are those I care about. If we don’t care about them they can’t hurt us. Mostly they don’t know us anyway so when they sling an ad hominem I just figure it’s got nothing to do with me. I don’t own it. Let them take responsibility for the realities they intercept. Simply put; I ain’t emotionally involved.

The more pertinent question generally answers itself. We discover the length, breath, width and depth of a relationship based upon how much stress it will endure before it becomes fatal. Family is sacrosanct and no hurt is big enough to remove them from my protection. After family, everyone else is just strangers, with those exceptional few that we circle into the fold. We don’t have to make the evaluation intellectually, trying to decide if they are or they’re not family. It’s instinctual; you know it when you feel it.

I just try to remember if someone who I love is hurting me that they must be hurting real bad inside and appeal to my better angels, don’t take it personally and revert to my default position of compassion. I’m not saying I’m able to do so in the moment. I’m known for hitting back when struck. But given time for reflection I usually, hopefully, do the right thing. But sometimes, if it doesn’t feel worth it, I do the hardest thing to do, just give up. When this happens, and it does, I don’t feel like I’ve lost anything; since we can’t lose what we never had.   

Goin’ Mobile

 

“Gotta do what you can just to keep your love alive. Trying not to confuse it with what you do to survive. In sixty-nine I was twenty-one and I called the road my own. I don’t know when that road turned on to the road I’m on.”  Running on Empty; Jackson Browne

The hardest thing a man can ever do is regain the heart of a woman he has betrayed. I knew it was a suicide ride but I took the mission anyway. What the hell else was I gonna do? 

Noon the first day; I locked up my bedroom and stepped into the cool air with nothing I needed left there behind me. I stowed the gear in the spaceship and opened the door for my co-pilot-nurse and pointed us south for the desert. She was taking me, once again, to a place I’d never been before; no more Oakland. She is the desert; calm and still and clean; even the clouds are her; they refuse to move. She is smart and classy and intense with a heart that reminds me of home; a place I can no longer find.  

The tires sing a tune on the highway while John Meyer and Bobby Dylan, Van Morrison and Elvis Costello serenade us with tales of love lost and found. On the road again where I first found freedom and longing and the wanderers joy of chaos; where every step is brand new and I am tumescent; in a state of grace. She looks at the scenery and reads her magazine as the sun bakes over the open fields. I look out ahead to find America and redemption.

Midnight the first day; I leave the hotel to catch the full moon in Aquarius rise over Bakersfield; the Sun in Leo, our hearts in limbo. We start out where we left off; clashing like knives. Our conversation both spoken and silent is an eclectic modern dance with Thelonious Monk style jazz in the background; a pure anarchic equilibrium searching for rhythm.

There are people who stay in one place and people who move and laws are made for the former. We travelers are all the same out here on the road; our mutual plights make for a perfect camaraderie; all of us Magellan; space age cowboys entombed in climate controlled dream machines; moving and stopping together-alone in pre-designated oasis to fuel our beasts and our bodies; we’re all from somewhere but all that matters now is where we’re going.

Towns are made for people who stay put. For those that move; the outlaws, outliers; pathfinders, open-roaders, roamers, sinner-saints and saddle tramps, we are beyond rules and cops and tax men. We herd our turbo powered stallions free; air-conditioned gypsies blasting out over the concrete pioneer trials of graveyard streets America; Zoomin’!  The sky belongs to the stars; I pull back on the joystick of our rocket ride and we blast into space; star voyagers.

Las Vegas means the fertile valleys but only god knows why. In this blast furnace heat and desolate terrain only snakes and scorpions live comfortably. People roast, boil and cook in a passion and melt into nothing in 113 degree heat in a matter of minutes and nothing else grows or lives here without water and shelter. How the pioneers survived these barren expanses in covered wagons is some kind of magic. I feel a bit of fright as I sense us untethered, surreally floating, lost in space. We are stars on the crust of a planet hanging in the sky.

My body begins to rebel; unaccustomed to all this light and motion and open space and this throws off my internal workings. She springs into action; my guardian angel, all confidence and competence and saves me from myself. I am at once vulnerable, tender and needy. Her dark hairs are in constant anarchy and her sublime smile lights the night; her eyes as black as Ravens eggs.

We pull into Nazareth. My son greets us where car and luggage are whisked away while natty dressed servant’s open doors with joyous smiles and welcoming gestures. My boy is back from the crusades a conquering hero. His sword glistens from fresh victories and his shield is stained with the blood of his vanquished foes. He was born a man with a past; a suspect with a five o’clock shadow when the other boys his age played with balls. He is both my revenge and my gift to a world fought head on; but he will win another way; he will outsmart them. 

The ATM’s dispense 100 dollar bills and everything here is VIP for us; even the elevators. My son is a member of the .0001 per centers; geniuses that can make a living beating the odds in a place built on making it nearly impossible. So my name is gold and I only need to sign it to pay for all the pleasures we desire. The air smells of money, so much money you could build a house out of Krugerands with only one nights take from one broken dream palace. My room sport a TV the size of a refrigerator and the bathtub is marble roman slendor with a phone and remote control at my fingertips while I soak away the road weary days. Room service is rocket fast 24 hours a day and we are ordering off-menu. We’re not in Oakland or Kansas or reality anymore. We are Alice; down the rabbit hole in OZ. 

We leave a fiver in the casino; a gift to the gods of chance. Edgy gamblers full of hope, while friendly, reveal pained faces; a palatable desperation hangs in the air above their heads. Bells, buzzers and chimes from slot machines sing manic, a wall of sound for atmosphere rings out shrill music like a Calliope gone mad. I am eyes closed in the desert at night; a modern-day Carlos Castaneda seeking the demon. 

We arrive on Monday when all the squares split. Come Friday the entire world beats a path to this psychedelic carnival midway. It’s a night town and when the sun goes down the pimps and hookers and bad boys sling packets of false dreams that overflow the sidewalks. They are like inmates locked down in an Alcatraz far from the beauty and decadence of San Francisco with all the glories that beckon just out of reach. The streets are full of midnight murders.

It wasn’t thus when the hard guys ran the city; when drunks could stagger down the devils’ Strip at four a.m.; cash overflowing their pockets in perfect safety. It’s a corporate town now; a DreamWorks gaudy fantasy, Hollywood-Disneyesque and Tijuana dangerous. The locals know better than the tourists and stay indoors far from the Strip after sundown. 

We luxuriate; spa-out in cabanas, swim in cool pools, soak in hot and cold tubs sweating out acquired aches, pains and troubles in saunas and steam baths while nimble, nubile girls in white clingy uniforms, medical maids with firm, loving hands, massage, knead and stroke us with oils, powders and potions and speak musically in soft endearing tones. We pour out like the bubbly Champagne that flows like Evian. The days pass packed with magic memories and as I speed up a little to meet her she slows down just a bit to meet me until finally in one perfect moment we meet in the middle.

The restaurants are French Riviera grand; the best foods available anywhere in the world are flown in fresh daily, even the breads, since there’s something about the water in the desert that frustrates even the best bakers. Our meals fit for gods are topped off with the best home-made grappa this side of Greece. We dine honored guests in one famous restaurant after another while attentive tuxedo clad waiters offer us orgasmic delicacies the moment our asses hit the plush chairs; seven courses for lunch and each one more wonderful and delicious than the last in taste, style, quality, temperature and presentation. 

Days slip by, nights pass quickly and after a week that seemed one run-on day we are pulling out of Xanadu. She pilots us back to Oakland and I tolerate the trip better with her in control. I could stay; I still have time left on my “get out of life free” card but her communal life filled with noble work, close friends, family and lovers; with a vocation that contributes to ending war, eliminating poverty and eradicating disease, calls. Her mission gives me a pride contact high. 

I was ice-cold when we parted, vampire dead, until she touched me and set my heart afire burning blue. The trip has achieved its purpose and on the drive back we are homogenized and no longer joust like siblings though we still love like family. We talk a lot about small things that are deep and complicated; things that stress contradictions; like the confusing dynamic between men and women. We both burrow deeper into mind and soul searching for truth and this calms and stimulates me; she manages to never bore me.

When she says I am inconsistent with small intimacies I have confessed to her, I want to tell her that its lies that make perfect sense; lies that are planned out, consistent and symmetrical; that it’s the truth that is messy; that you have to read the words behind the words behind the words to find the truth; that the truth may not sound right but it feels right; but she knows it.   

She’s mothering me now; telling me to plan ahead, to plan a future now before I’m forced to; one that is pragmatic and secure and safe; but I’ve never planned a thing in my life. I’m not moved by the dull tools that one uses to map out the how, what and where of things. I need the danger and the spontaneity and the “in the moment” reaction to what life brings when I dare it to “give me all you’ve got” or else I fear I’ll disappear from all the god damn tedium. I’m only interested and stimulated and intrigued by the Why of things. I figure once I know the why; all the rest will make itself known.

Our embrace; shared in that last moment; full and complete felt more like a beginning than an end. She is leaving on a walk away; leaving me in disarray; but that warm caress finally brought us back to where we started and though she hasn’t held me that way in a millennium it conjured up a sense memory that felt like it happened yesterday. I could have quit then while I was ahead; declared victory and departed the field; instead I leaned in, filled with desire, wanting more of what I brought her with me for, gave up the high ground and told her the truth. What the hell else was I gonna do?

 

 

Relativity

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AE3kKUEY5WUPaul SimonAmerican Tune (1975)

The secret of life is to grade on a curve. If you’re reading this you, probably like me, have a standard of living blessed to be in the top one percent of the 8.7 billion living on the planet. Yet, as Einstein said; “It’s all relative”.   

As I shake off an epically shitty day; the kind you can just smell coming, I think, despite the knowledge that I could be waking up in Damascus dodging kill crazy Syrian storm troopers; despite the fact that an angel prepared for me more food for my noon meal than a Somali eats in a week; despite the new full size luxury car and the Italian cashmere top coat and more cash than most families of four earn in a year stashed in the vault; I feel like the last chapter of what the fuck’s the use.

I woke at 6am for god knows why to the sound of rain and it was cold as ass. I had to check I was still in Oakland, CA in mid-July. I called home to find my son was making funeral arrangements for his mother and she’s still breathing; though barely. And I heard the news that my sister is dizzy from traversing the turnstile at the hospital; as a result she lost her job.

Chances are ripe I’ll have to move back home, a couple thousand miles from paradise to live in the frozen tundra of northern Wisconsin where it was a humid 100 degrees yesterday and six months out of twelve it’s way below zero. It’s an idyllic spot on a lake and the one benefit is I get to hang out with my 90-year-old mom who is my favorite person in the world; but still the crib is 14 miles from a two mule town where everybody looks, talks and acts the same.

Billboards dot the highway with people size letters proclaiming “Fudge, Cheese and Videos Next Exit” every few miles alongside others that simply say “Vacationland”. It’s not quite hell since the northern lights are visible from the back porch; but you can see it from there. For icing on the cake I also had to jettison two friends.

A gentleman never leaves a woman. Instead, we act up until they leave us and let them have the high ground. It’s the noble thing to do. I probably shouldn’t reveal that man secret and I’m sorry to be the one to tell you ladies but I do like to make my words educational; apologies guys. She left me but it wasn’t until today that I said goodbye. I don’t normally cast off people like dead skin but she committed the one sin that’s unpardonable; she stopped being fun.

In the “no good deed goes unpunished” category, I loan a “friend” $500.00 bucks for what he promised would be two weeks so he could pay his rent; that was over three months ago. It’s not the money; I felt like I’d never see it again when I gave it to him. But he’s put me on his “pay no mind:” list and the slight, much worse than a blow, has me dreaming of driving over there and tossing him through his front window. I don’t want to hurt the guy. I just want to get his attention. If and when she becomes fun again and he pays up I’ll welcome them back in the fold. I’m not psychotic about it.

I thought I’d just veg out and go view the new Oliver Stone flick at 7pm since I like to watch movies about people whose lives are worse than mine. But I forgot that normal people with jobs are out and about at that hour and there was an atrocious line. One of the quirks I picked up from my Dad, who stood in one to many lines when he was in the army, passed on to me detesting queuing up for anything. The only lines I enjoy are white, flakey and expensive and originate in Peru

I was feeling blue when I opened a message from my Muse, the angel who assembled my comfort food. I’d shared my angst with her earlier in the day and for my health and sanity she sent me a poem about all the things I ought to have gratitude for and while reading it I felt the pain flee. It caused me to dispel all that heinous shit and I suppose I’ll just let it go; for today anyway. So instead of breaking something valuable and having to pay for a new window, I gorged out on ice cream and wrote this lament. Love that girl.

Balance

“You should not believe in me, cause’ when everybody loves you, man that’s just about as fucked up as you can be” Adam DuritzCounting Crows

A comment landed in my Spam folder today; one of unknown origins. It was from what the administrators of my Blog, and other Blogs as well I suppose, deem “followers” an unfortunate term I heartily dislike. Better if they were designated “auditors” to take the cult of personality stink off the distinction.

It said simply “you are a very intelligent person”. I quickly un-spammed it and sent thanks to the author. Just as quickly I had a vision of Michael Jackson opting for a turkey sandwich and a glass of warm milk instead of the needle and the propofol; and then Elvis selecting an Ex-Lax tablet instead of grunting and buying the farm on the crapper. Whitney Huston also came to mind. And so, not altogether happy about it, I just as quickly permanently deleted the message. Too much can do us in as quickly as too little.

My Muse told me yesterday that she’d like to know more about my last Muse who she affectionately called “that woman who sucked you dry”. I missed a couple of good one liner comebacks surrounding the sucking dry comment and missed the chance to say “me too”, meaning I like to know more about her as well. I wasn’t as clever as I’d hoped but being too cute by half is a passing fancy.

We all ought to have someone who tells us how our inherent perfection beams through and makes the world a better place but too much praise can easily turn from sweet to sour when we begin to buy the accolades. The two kings; one of Rock and Roll and one of Pop bought it like mother milk and never let go of the tit and we see how that ended; more recently the queen of ballads went similarly.

We’re all susceptible. That’s why I kept my old Muse around long after she inspired me. Why would you continue to sign up for being knocked down when what we crave is to be built up. Some questions, the best ones, answer themselves. She never blows fairy dust up my ass and conversely I always could and still can depend on her to remind me I’m just like everybody else; no better, no worse.

As far back as the Roman Empire, Pages were sent to stand behind returning generals in their chariots, freshly victorious from world conquests, to whisper in their ear as the crowd’s chanted praise; “all glory is fleeting”. Those that have the courage to keep us humble are valuable allies and true friends even when they make us crazy trying to win their approval.

Each of us gets passed the baton from time to time; that moment when everyone turns to us and asks what we should do next. Each of us has in our time that epiphany; that prescient moment of clarity when we hold forth some solution anchored in an ancient truth; that fifteen seconds Andy Warhol gushed about. Best not to dismiss any advice too soon, remembering what Einstein said; “If at first, the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it”.

Figuring out how we are meant to live is a team sport and every player at any time who’s still in the game can score. Thinking wrongly that any one of us is any better than the next is folly and leads us to follow; not the idea or the solution, but the seeming genius of the person, who, same as us, simply had his turn at the lectern.