If you have just arrived at The Library in Purgatory, the first chapter is here.

"I never found the girl, I never got rich. Follow me."

~Leonard Cohen

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Chapter II.7

The Two Chapters that Have Never Been Written

I’ve wondered for years why nothing is important to me, why nothing seems to matter, why nothing interests me, and I haven’t had a clue.
In ’92 my life was thrown into turmoil and I ran from my mom, fearing for my life in an unexplainable kind of way. Everything in my life that I had believed in died and I found myself in a mental wasteland. It was here that I began to dig and search for what I was about, how I had gotten there, how to get out, and what to do after that.
For years I’ve felt like I had to protect my friends from something in me. For years I’ve felt different from everyone else.

In counseling that summer I realized that I didn’t know who I was. One night after a particularly terrifying dream, on the verge of full-blown, blind panic, I touched briefly the fact that my whole life had been a lie. I backed away from it at the time, it was too big to handle, too terrifying; to admit that would have been to destroy my whole life and for a little while there, it was the little things to hold onto that got me through. The idea was just too big to handle then, all at once. I felt that I was teetering on the edge of a bottomless chasm and if I didn’t pull back I’d fall in forever; that to fall in would be to go insane and I couldn’t lose that much of my sanity at once. I had to lose it a bit at a time, had to hold some back to look after me ‘cause there wasn’t anyone else who could/would.
I realized after reading a part of Women Who Run with Wolves that my soul had up and gone sometime when I was a kid. Mostly my parents beat it out of me and partly I sent it away to save it. That’s why I haven’t felt anything, believed in anything, seen somewhere for me in tomorrow.
A brief definition of soul is in order here I guess, or at least in my own words: Soul is that part of a person that is creative, knows instinctively, that gives meaning to life, that is the driving energy behind everything, the source of wisdom. That’s what I think soul is, the fire that energizes everything, action in stillness.
I guessed, and I still, believe that my mom stole my soul and replaced it with the “Beast”— that dark, cold, angry, mean, petty voice in my head that constantly belittles me, tells me what I can’t do, says I’m worthless, that my ideas are childless childish, wrong, and misguided, and generally saps my strength.
When I rolled out on my mom and my job and everything to go to Arizona I was running for my life, literally. My mom had already robbed me of my soul/spirit and if I’d of stayed there she would have robbed me of my life. Yeah, it sounds melodramatic but it’s true; it would have killed me to stay there.
And so I went to Arizona and I was terrified when I went and terrified when it was over. I was looking for something in Arizona; my soul’s a good guess, though I’m still not entirely sure what. Whatever it was, I didn’t find it and came back feeling like I’d missed something, missed everything.
The Bravest Thing I Ever Did
I went home after spring semester ’92 for the summer, though it felt more like, in the words of Morrissey, “…it's not my home, it's their home, and I'm welcome no more…” I was miserable, hopelessly lost, and drowning a day at a time.

One night I had a dream that I still mostly remember to this day. I was walking down our street with my family, back towards our house. A Cessna approached us from behind, flying low and slow. In it, on the left side, was me and I was coming to kill myself. I sprinted away from my family in a panic, back towards our house, and once inside ran downstairs while my sister ran upstairs I think. I was hoping to lure my father away from my sister to protect her…and then I was being smothered, lying on my stomach, by a cow. There was more but that is all I remember now. I woke up terrified and it was one of the few dreams that, at the time, I actually wrote down immediately, while still in bed.

Looking back on it now I’d say that it was what Joseph Campbell would call the hero’s call to his quest or Clarissa Pinkola Estes would say was a dark man dream; same difference. At the time, it was just one more thing in a long list of things that didn’t make any sense…and scared me.

I had been kicking around the idea for a while of driving out to Flagstaff, AZ, and seeing where I was born. I don’t know why I had the urge but suddenly it seemed to be terribly, terribly important. I was trying to get a buddy to go with me but no one would commit. I managed to lose my job by taking too much time off and suddenly found myself getting up in the morning and pretending to go to work to avoid answering questions from my mother that I didn’t have answers to. I was tired of being a hopeless fuck-up, couldn’t stand another day of being judged without mercy.

Who Cares
I might have been fired.
I might not have.
I think it would be possible to get my job back.
I don’t know if I want to.
I’ve thought about going to school and getting a loan.
I don’t know if I can.
I still want to go to Arizona
I don’t know if I will.
I should be scared shitless
and sometimes I am.
More often than naught though,
I feel like laughing
‘cause I’m holding four aces.

Finally, after three or four days of pretending that I still had a job, on a Thursday morning, I loaded up my cooler, little Weber Smokey Joe, some books, some clothes, my shotgun, a sleeping bag, and a frying pan into my 1982 Toyota Celica GT hatchback with 104,000 miles— the Anarchy-Mobile; left a note for my mom and took off for Arizona. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to live at home when I came back; and honestly, I didn’t care. I was dead there, if not to my mom than to myself. I hoped that maybe I could get my old, old job back in Kalamazoo and was actually ready to camp out of the back of my car at the rest stop just west of town on I-94 if I had to.

I don’t remember too much of the drive west till I got out to New Mexico I think, New Mexico or Texas. I didn’t have a lot of cash and was paying for all my gas on my Amoco gas card. I was several hours into New Mexico when the realization sank in that there were no more Amoco’s. I had crossed some invisible east/west line and that was it. It was almost lunchtime and I pulled into a rest stop for lunch. The routine was to fire up the charcoal Weber, grill some hotdogs and then take a nap while the thing cooled off enough to throw back in the car.

I was a wreck as I ate, perched on the razor-edge of a knife. I didn’t have enough money to get to Flagstaff AND back out across this line where my Amoco card would work again. I didn’t know what I was going to do. If I turned back now, after coming so far and throwing so much away, with nothing to show for it…it would somehow, in a way that makes no logical sense whatsoever, be worse than death. I had to get to Flagstaff but now I didn’t know how I was going to be able to. It was like being stuck, unable to move while your soul is ripped apart. Just utter and abject failure. Everything my mom thought, or at least said about me would be true.

I cried myself to sleep, torn, not knowing what to do. The only other thing that I remember were the lyrics from Bob Marley’s No Woman No Cry, one of the tapes I had with me, which I have always misheard as, “…my fear is my only courage so I’ve got to push on through…” When I woke up from my nap I put my grill in the car and kept on heading west. I don’t remember how I came to that decision but it was one of the bravest things that I have ever done.

I have no idea what I did in Flagstaff. Spent the night in the back of my car and headed east the next morning to see Meteor Crater, just west of Winslow. Picked up a kid hitchhiking as I was pulling onto I-40. Damned if I can remember his name though I’m sure I’ve got it written down somewhere. He’d been road-tripping around the country with his brother and cousin but they had been hitting all the tourista spots and it was making him nuts. He’d bought a Gray Hound ticket back to Ohio and had received a significant discount with a five-day advance purchase. He was taking those five days to see how far he could get before getting on a bus for home. He rode up with me to Meteor Crater and as we were sitting in the parking lot grilling hot dogs he asked me where I was headed next. I told him that I was planning on driving north, through Indian country (there are no roads on the map) till I hit Monument Valley. He asked if I minded if he tagged along and I said that I’d enjoy the company.

I remember driving along these dirt roads, taking left and rights at random, sometimes the road simply a washed out, sandy run-off wash, and thinking to myself that driving out here in this car, with this many miles on it, with some dude I’d picked up hitchhiking probably wasn’t the best idea in the world. And then Led Zeppelin’s When the Levee Breaks came on and then it all just seemed right in the world and I drove faster…with a big shit-eating grin on my face.

We arrived in Monument Valley with no problems and spent the night there. The next day he suggested that we drive up further north into Utah and check out Canyonlands National Park; I’d never been and he had an entrance ticket that was still good for a couple more days. We got up there, stopping in Moab for some more supplies, and ended up at the Island in the Sky campground which looked out over the White Rim Trail. I made dinner, spaghetti, on the Weber, no mean feat, and we watched a near-full moon rise over the canyons, listening to music and drinking red wine. It was just amazing and I promised myself that someday I’d come back with a vehicle that could make the trip and would drive the White Rim Trail.

I spent most the next day up on top of some giant, domed rock, which was perched on the edge of this sheer fifteen-hundred foot cliff. I think I took my clothes off for a while, before the sun got too hot. I thought about jumping off the rock/cliff, wondering if the immediacy of the problem at hand would remind me of how to fly (just throw yourself at the ground and miss). I watched a raven flying about in the updrafts rising up the cliff face, looking for all the world like Jonathon Livingston Raven, much to the annoyance of several swallows who didn’t take kindly to the intrusion of the old, black bird. I tried to write about Colleen. I wanted an epiphany, a semblance of understanding, the bolt of lightning out of the sky that struck me dumb with an insight that I was lacking. I tried so hard the need oozed out of my pours, eyes squinting in the blinding sunlight, pen clenched tightly between burnt fingers. I wanted to cry, to laugh, to something, anything that bordered on cathartic. It never came. I gave up. I’d driven all this way and nothing, or so it seemed.

I remember swimming in the Green River just outside of Moab the next afternoon and that evening we rolled into Denver. To this day I’m still not sure where we were exactly but my best guess is that we were out on west Colfax, just off of I-70. We spent the night in a Kmart parking lot and the next morning we were off for Chicago. I made the trip from Denver to Kalamazoo in something like twenty-three straight hours; I was ready to be home. I dropped off my passenger at the Gray Hound station in downtown Chicago in the wee hours of the morning and rolled into my old apartment at about 0600. My buddies were still sleeping so I sat on the top of my car in my beach chair listening to Bob Marley and started drinking. The trip was over and somehow I’d survived, though I don’t know that I felt much the wiser for it.

On the Road to Damascus
In July or August of that same summer I flew out to California to see my dad; not even sure when the last time I had seen him was and I wouldn’t see him for a number of years after. On the way back I had a window seat and as the plane took off I remember feeling sad, like I imagined that Luke Skywalker had at the end of The Empire Strikes Back. I had been unable to save, redeem my father and the thought occurred to me for the first time that he would never be truly happy till the day he was dead.

My flight landed in Chicago sometime in the late evening and I started the drive back to Kalamazoo. Somewhere on I-94, before I hit the Indiana border, I heard a voice, crystal clear in my head, might as well have been right there in the car with me, “You are not who you are supposed to be.”

Holy shit! What was that all about? Jimmy Buffet’s A Pirate Looks at Forty or Last Mango in Paris was playing on the stereo and it felt like a ton of brick had fallen out of the sky into my head.

And looking back on it now, it strikes me that I didn’t brush it off, ignore it, or even question it. It was just ridiculous but I was shattered, it breaking my already-fragile world even further apart. The idea, the picture that I had was that somewhere in the past, something had happened, something went wrong and I, me, the guy sitting behind the wheel in the car, somehow got split off of whoever or whatever I was supposed to be. And whatever, whoever that was was the right thing while I was the wrong one.

I pulled over and called my Coast Guard buddy in Oakland who I had just seen, beside myself in despair. I don’t remember what he said and somehow I made the rest of the drive back to Kalamazoo that night.

I don’t know that I saw it at the time, but this incident showed that there were things going on for me that were not related to Colleen and Kim. I had really dealt with Colleen when I finally made the trip to her grave, but what had lingered on and been confused in with everything else were heretofore-unknown things that Colleen and Kim broke open within me. And it was to these that this event spoke.

For all the hopelessness and despair, this was at least a place to start. It would be very simple, all I had to do was go back, reexamine, remember and I find the place where things went wrong, where the split took place and then I could fix it, whatever it was, mend the rift.

And it is there that Twenty 2 The Hard Way started, as an attempt to tell a story, my story— I didn’t even know what it was at the time. If I could just pull together the different pieces and assemble them in the right order they would point to something, a wounding, a break, and I would be able to move intelligently and with direction from there to set right what had been set asunder.

For sixteen years I’ve carried this grouping of stories around with me, and they have been, if secretly, the best description of who I have really been, at my deepest and innermost. Yet, I have not been able to point to a why or anything beyond that. It has been, seemingly, incomplete.

That said, in going back and assembling Twenty 2 The Hard Way it has been hard to not change things, to not edit, add, delete, or try to explain in an effort to make it better, more ‘user-friendly’. I have left it alone though, out of honor and respect for the twenty-two year old kid that survived through those times and his voice in writing down the things he saw, thought and felt. Who the hell am I to come along and change or alter those things now, some sixteen years later?
And lastly,
Scotty shoots up
and the moon beams down
this time he’s going places.

AZ Road Trip Mix Tapes

One (Play it Again)
Bad Luck, Social Distortion
Wave of Mutilation (U.K. Surf), The Pixies
Cruel, Public Image Ltd.
Family Man, Nitzer Ebb
Stigmata, Ministry
Allison, The Pixies
Head On, The Jesus & Mary Chain
More, Sisters of Mercy
Kick out the Jams, Bad Brains w/Henry Rollins
Somebody Put Something in my Drink, Ramones
Let Beauty Loose, Nitzer Ebb
We Shall Cleanse the World, Revolting Cocks
Subliminal Fascism, Fishbone
Let Your Body Learn, Nitzer Ebb

Until the End of the World, U2
Why Can’t I Fall in Love, Ivan Neville
Wave of Mutilation (U.K. Surf), The Pixies
Girlfriend, Mathew Sweet
Making Believe, Social Distortion
Holding You, Naked Raygun
Acid Drops, Public Image Ltd.
Guns of Brixton, The Clash
Operating S, Front 242
Smear Body, Nitzer Ebb
99 to Life, Social Distortion
Born to Lose, Social Distortion

Two (Road Trip Vol. 1)
Purple Haze, Jimi Hendrix
Won’t Get Fooled Again, The Who
Mommy’s Little Helper, Rolling Stones
Aqualung, Jethro Tull
If the Levee Breaks, Led Zeppelin
Roadhouse Blues, The Doors
Dream On, Aerosmith
Immigrant Song, Led Zeppelin
Hoochie Koochie Man, Jimi Hendrix
Bike, Pink Floyd

Lucy in the Sky with Diamond, Beatles
Locomotive Breath, Jethro Tull
Wind Cries Mary, Jimi Hendrix
Black, Rolling Stones
Going to California, Led Zeppelin
Too Old to Rock & Roll, Jethro Tull
Love Reign O’er Me, The Who
Are You Experienced?, Jimi Hendrix
You Can’t Always Get What You Want, Rolling Stones
Thick as a Brick, Jethro Tull
Hey Joe, Jimi Hendrix
With a Little Help from My Friends, Beatles
Radio One, Jimi Hendrix

All Along the Watchtower, Jimi Hendrix
Gripped by Fear, Front 242
Heartbreak Beat, Psychedelic Furs
Fascination Street, Cure
Wish You Were Here, Pink Floyd
Ball and Chain, Social Distortion
Three Strange Days, School of Fish
Ziggy Stardust, Bauhaus
Tie Dye on the Highway, Robert Plant
Destination, The Church

Reptile, The Church
Red House, Jimi Hendrix
Nothing Shocking, Jane’s Addiction
All Love, Ziggy Marley
Pretty in Pink, The Psychedelic Furs
Exodus from the Underground Fortress, Geinoh Yamashirogumi
Break My Heart, Baby Animals
A New Machine— Part 2, Pink Floyd
Sorrow, Pink Floyd
Misty Morning, Albert Bridge, Pogues
High Wire Days, Psychedelic Furs
The Storm, Big Country

Heartbreak Beat, Psychedelic Furs
I Go Crazy, Flesh for Lulu
Metropolis, The Church
Wave of Mutilation (U.K. Surf), The Pixies
Somewhere Down the Crazy River, Robbie Robertson
Why Can’t I Fall in Love, Ivan Neville
Temptation, New Order
Anniversary, Robert Plant
Antenna, The Church
The Snake Pit, Cure
Long Breakdown, Oingo Boingo

Englishman in New York, Sting
Under the Milky Way, The Church
Fearless, Pink Floyd
Sleeping Dogs, Flesh for Lulu
Break My Heart, Baby Animals
Broken Arrow, Robbie Robertson
Monday Morning, The Church
Love My Way, Psychedelic Furs
Sister Moon, Sting
Reptile, The Church
Pretty in Pink, The Psychedelic Furs
Lost, The Church

A Toast
To the warrior fallen
To the warrior risen
To the foe vanquished
And the victory gained
To my blade
And to my friends
May it not be I
The last to die

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