My wife wanted a “Big Sur fence” for her veggie patch. Here’s my stab at it. Today my mom told Ed Begley Jr. that my wife grows all our own food. That was generous. We’ll see if the gophers allow us a lettuce this year. But “Big Sur” will at least keep the dogs from rooting in the freshly laid horse shit. There’s something about the smell of a sodden garden, it’s so alive.
Archive for January, 2007
Ruminations on death.
The message reads, “He was your teacher, you were a good student. Your note came just as the call to prayer echoed out over Kerala. I’ll say a prayer to the waters from our houseboat.” That’s a perfect scene to me just now. The sunset, gold and awash in subtropic warmth. It’s the kind of prayer Joseph would have completely appreciated. I’ve been to waters like that with him. Seen that kind of summery gold at dusk, coming from both sky and water, marveled with him, as lens-men do, at the majesty of magic hour.
It’s all such fancy, to be able to share these confidences thus. Age old urgings for the gods to ply their beauty and wisdom in amongst the small and interminable strugglings of man and his stumblings about on the saber’s edge until it flays him. It is the old way, ancient, for a brother in arms to be pious for another brother when a Godfather has been lost, and this has been so well served by the shooting of epistolary electrons around the globe tonight. I wrote to RTO earlier “You once sent a note to India about Charlie. Now it’s my turn. Joseph sings with Siva…” All the power of that pronouncement, all the finality sent off to the great land of wildest mortality, that great reckoning that would affect a blood brother of mine to kneel down before the still sunset waters as though for an Imam, the call for Gangic rights, the piety toward The End, all went out from the little piece of glowing plastic in my hands. I texted such prophetic news, fancy that. And I had been so impressed to be floored by the news of Charlie’s OD seven years ago in what at the time seemed like the ultimate in instant postcards: an email. How awkward it was to cry in the glare and un-private setting of an Udaipur email shop. The Israeli next to me was buxom and young and worldly and probably knew a lot more about death for our comparative years. Her small smile helped a lot. And the next day I was able to tell Joseph about it, on a marvelous pillow filled veranda overlooking the sunset waters and their magic. We ate and drank and shared stories about the crazy ones and how much they bring to our lives. Joseph was there with us, laughing and hearty and full of as much life as that entire mad continent.
Yesterday I watched the sun go down from my perch above Los Angeles. It was the same gold as in India, always all that gold. I thought, “That’s the first sunset in 65 years to go down without Joseph here to enjoy it.” And enjoy it he would have. He would have liked that chilly fireball in the glass of wintery downtown and especially our vantage on it. He would have laughed and said, “You sure got it right.” And I have, because I’ve been a good student. It’s exactly what he taught us to be, and we’re not such fools as not to listen. It’s some fine technology he left us; the ability to look and laugh, and own it all by making it yours.
What pain to have seen Joseph today. Things so beautiful around me in life just now, and momentum under full steam. Things coming so easily. And then to come through the door of my sister’s house, the broad beam slow swinging door through a curved portico into thick walls and to hear reverberating through those halls and rooms that voice, that rich voice of delight and fascination with each new turn. The full voice of Joseph, so thick and happy and full of life. Calling out to my daughters in their blue ball gown finery. Low and beholding their fanciness with accolades and hoots. Pure Joseph enjoying the stuff of life at hand. And then to come around the corner to find him in his room, the revamped dining room, in his bed, a mattress and box springs on the floor, his legs propped up onto a giant wedge of orthopedic pillow, some big green castor to keep his none circulating legs, thick like elephant trunks elevated. His cheeks puffed with it too, with whatever was slowing his blood – his own ill heart – and then here he is turning the weight of vastly immanent death into a cherubic rosy cheeked, puffy eyed look of Santa-in-a-slow-spell. The mirth was into total swing, unmitigated by rot of the corpse, the soul is so free in its play – he loves the things he finds amazing and makes each sweet moment with him poignant. That’s his kingly advantage, you give him he importance of magic man relevance and he hands it back as full sage anointed. His seal is the fine and bold imprinture we’re all wanting, because it carries such easy proof of validation, he knows the good shit and admires it unvarnishedly, when it’s good, from the simple moment of seeing the child, to the many well bound bits of photography I shared with him, when it’s good he lets you know in the best terms possible. He gives you such strength in this way. And thus it’s amazing to see his body ravaged, because the giving soul is so perfectly undiminished.
God love him. He’s on a road trip, and seemingly enjoying every minute of it. There’s more bravery there than a thousand Evil Knievals.
There’s something about the West that calls to Hobo’ing. It al makes me think of Kerouac. I have this vision of Kerouac’s creative process. He looks out on everything. And in the midst of it, anywhere he looks, he casually discerns a hole, it doesn’t obscure anything, but it’s there always waiting and available. The hole’s a headphone jack and anytime he wants he can just plug in and the phantoms sing to him. They tell him everything. They allow him all reconnaissance on every angle of the street corner he perceives or the sailors or Dean’s particularly perfect abilities as a parking attendant. He just plugs in and the sounds of the rest of the world fade away. All he can hear is this amazing steam that he takes to be his own consciousness. He just scribbles furiously, getting it all down, from where ever he points his eyes, these sonar locators. He can know everything, because everything is to be know by plugging into this jack, all revelation from every seed kernel to curb stopper, every bit of grit sings up to him, and he transcribes the song. I like to think too that he was handed these special headphones as a courtesy from Henry Miller.
O! to sit in a comfortable private car with you half-sleeping daughter quietly there across from you beneath the window that holds all of dry winter, slightly snow drifted New Mexico out it.
I had the most amazing dream. I was being put into a special school because I was slipping into a vegetative state. The classroom was in my beloved Red Barn classroom from Apple School days. But the room inside was different, institutional, like public schools with no windows, for patient’s safety. I realize now it was a dream about my shirked duty to write. How I’ve been retarded in my efforts to get it down for the past few years. Even now, I’m challenged, I should have written about Joseph last night, but opted for trying to get some rest. He’s leaving this world now, maybe even gone by this morning. It must be heralded, the loss of this great man. A word must be kept as a memento of prayer at this time of such a passing. I look up into the dark clouds of the pre-dawn sky and realize that there’s a broken patch of the faintest blue. Day is coming, a renewing savior robed in baby pastels. But they glow! And ever more so! And it must be recorded for others that Joseph did this amazing gift for all of us; taught us to do exactly what we wanted to do, and to do it very well and with tremendous balls and that in the end that will lead to creative fulfillment, sagacity, and the ability to inspire others. “There’s a lot of room at the top,” he once told me. And then the cat jumps up beside me and sneezes muck on my hands and the keys. But I’m too loosed to effort now, and the dream runs thus:
I’m being checked into the class. I’m answering a few questions like name, date of birth. I can feel my head plastered over to one shoulder in that strange palsy of a slow boy. Then the TV tube of my vision starts to go dark at the edges, and then it’s all black. When the lights in my eyes come back on it’s two years later and I’m being checked out of the class. I have this feeling of amazing clarity, and a real sweet taste of satisfaction in my brain that is a direct result of having my brain back. I’m realizing that I’ve been a mush pot for the past however long and that I’ve checked out completely in that interval. I run over to one of the teachers desks and ask him to show me some of my class work. He holds up a page of big block letters in some obtuse sentence. That’s not so bad, I figure. But then I realize that I was just filling in a couple of words in the middle and those have been pecked in such chicken-scratch that it’s barely legible. That just about breaks my heart, it’s then that I realize how handicapped I’ve been. The sentence is something about a human being a stump of wood.
Out into the light we go, a glorious day on the old Apple School campus. I’m with my mom and my youngest daughter, Mette. She’s still two years old though, lovely that. And there’s an amazing blond. Young and vivacious and with great trestles of hair. She comes as an amalgam of some of the girls from a recent casting for The Blond Book. In the dream she’s the teaching assistant and I’ve got an inkling she’s the one that’s sprung me from my chambers of darkness. I’m still coming to and just getting a grip on things. She’s hustling a ride from my mom to get to lunch and now she’s climbing into the back seat. Her summery dress rides up a bit high and I get a peak of panties and then those fall a little loose to one side and there’s the curlies and even the quickest glimpse of pink. I know I’m back. She getting in the back seat of the white Volvo. She’s getting into the baby seat. What a goof. What a glorious goof. I’ve got to see this. I’m putting Mette in and have to convince this lovely to scoot over out of the kid seat and I’ll just stay back there and query her about my absence.
We’re all strapped in and going. The drive is like the float of a low flying plane. There’s an exuberance in my head as I look out at the billowed clouds and blue, a glorious day. This is when I find out it’s been two years. I cry a bit at that, the loss of such time. But it breaks into laughter as I remark that for the first time in as long as I can remember I feel truly rested. I dawns on me that I must have just taxed my brain too much, that it just shut down to heal itself. A great sleep. I ask the lovely blond when it was she knew I was coming out of my moribund state. “When you looked at me. All of a sudden there was this look, and it was so deep and so warm and so scary. You looked to me like a man.”
That was certainly satisfying enough to reassure my resurfacing. I felt full of power, like I could look anyone in the eye with such force and persuasion.
Just then we passed a place, perhaps a liquor store, with cartoonish figures and a boat outside. I seemed to recall the place as a warm childhood memory. I asked my mom in the front seat if that was indeed important to my youth. She said no, not that one, but one like it. I wanted to share its whimsy with my young daughter there in the seat beside me none the less. And then we pulled into McDonalds. Another childhood goodie, an early taboo that was only for special occasions and that much sweeter for its inferred licentiousness. Again, I was eager to share this special thrill with my little girl.
Inside was a small and laughable miracle, Starbucks had merged with Micky-D’s and the tenor of the place was transformed. I had been out of it for a while and this whole-new-day business was really egging in from all sides. Burgers and coffee, what could be more American than that. But this, with high ceilings, high expectations, wooden convex counters and cellophane food was so Euro-American. And you didn’t quite know where to line up. I felt satisfied and hungry, and dispossessed of some piece of my childhood all at once. Funny that two days later, on the Black Dalhia Bus Tour we would stop way down Crenshaw at Krispy Kream and find that Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf was safely tucked inside. All is history, all is new reality, all is my drift through my city, remembering what little bits I can. And my lovely daughters. And my love of blonds.