Happy Birthday Babybaby

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The lightest shackle I’ve ever worn

We talk all the time, but I seldom write to you anymore. You know how I am, better than anyone; I need to see things written down once in a while, and as you know you’ve been all over me lately. So here are a few of your favorite songs and an update from planet Earth.

It’s been five years. I say this to remind you, I’m not sure how time works over there. One thousand nine hundred forty six days on this side, since last I kissed you. I’ve felt you since, but I don’t know what you can feel from me. I know when you have guided me, kissed me, and slapped me on the back of the head. You can take that last bit a little easier, I’m developing a bald spot.

Autumn is doing well, she’s been outside a few times but prefers her perch at the window. After you left she allowed other people to see her, Abby came up for a drink and Autumn walked right up to her just a week after you left. She’s been sleeping with me the last few weeks (Autumn silly), I’m pretty sure you put her up to it.

 

 

Everybody else has moved along, Carlo just moved to North Carolina, I can’t believe he’s in his forties now and already semi-retiring. Coop is incredible, I saw him last year. Mark never showed up for the things you saved for him (I still have them), but I’ve kept an eye on Gino, he’s doing great, you would be so proud. Kyle is getting by, he had some problems but seems to have pulled out of them. I haven’t heard a word about Dominic, he only wanted to harass you, not me. I saw Uncle Tommy a few times, he’s been with you a couple of years now. Rocky called a few times, but I don’t think Catherine liked what I said about her in the book. My kids haven’t changed, Nolan would still be your favorite, he’s grown into a solid man, with a bit of his dad’s crazy. I spent a few weeks with my Grandson Tommy a couple of years ago, you would love him.

I started driving again, living in Jersey makes it a requirement. You know how I feel about Jersey babe, but I’ve met some nice people, you would love this place (not the town, but the property is wonderful). This weekend I was planning to drive to upstate New York, taking some time to see the leaves change and visit Karen, the woman whose husband passed of pancreatic cancer the November before your surgery. That trip has been postponed, so I’ll probably just drive North until I see some nice trees. I get down to Delaware County occasionally, my friend Buddy plays at Tom and Jerry’s on Fridays, and I see glimpses of you there. I drive past the old place but haven’t stopped to see if Jen still lives there, but Jay’s is still in business. I stopped into Mazza’s a few months back, Mimi and Baba have moved back to Lebanon,  they sold the place to some Asians, probably the same family from the 10th St. Cafe. Tarik is living in Jersey somewhere. Last time I saw Mimi I had put on some weight and she said how happy you would be. I’m down under 130 today. I talked to David and Jackie a few times when I was thinking of moving back to Philly, but there’s nothing there for me. There’s nothing anywhere without you.

I’m not Doctor House anymore, but I still carry the cane you gave me from time to time; I get to board first when I fly if I’m using it that day. The MS has stayed in the background, I’m a little wobbly lately but there has been a great deal of stress. I don’t wear ties anymore, and haven’t been called at “the most inconvenient moment” by a technician in a different time zone since you were here.

I’m working meat into my diet again, I’m sure being a vegetarian had you scratching your head, although I did eat a horse steak in Belgium. I developed some vegetarian recipes even you would have liked though, and everything you taught me carried me through cooking for Lieve’s family.

You know how my relationships have gone. Don’t slap my head again, you know I thank you for everyone you have sent. I knew there was no one like you, yet you realized I must fill the vacuum you left with something, it’s not working. They don’t understand, saying “I can’t take anymore” where you would have said “more.” Apparently I love “too much.” I couldn’t believe it either but it appears to be the consensus, other people don’t love each other the way we do, and apparently most people are not as open about it as we are. We never did anything halfway. Except for now, I’m here and you are not. I see glimpses of you, and am confused.

I’ve been listening to different music, you live in the chords of the music we shared. I’ve been playing more this last month, you know what that means. Buddy plays a lot of our songs, making Tom and Jerry’s all the more spooky. And no, I haven’t heard from any of those people lately, but I have been considering a change of scenery. I found a new vocalist, Sharon Van Etten, not your style but I think you would like her, she has your edge.  I saw Neil Young over the summer. I wonder, with all the lives out there, if mine were the only cheeks running with tears through “Hurricane.” I’m in this weird place, feeling a loss most unique, a “you don’t know how I feel” anger, and alternately knowing others must have similar losses from their own perspectives. It’s not the kind of thing you talk about. Except to you. We talked about everything.

There have been so many beautiful moments I wanted to share with you. There have been dark ones during which I needed you to lean upon. The parts you left behind got me through each. Your faith was well placed, I am still the man you loved, I have remained a gentleman and gentle man. There is a field nearby I can wander through, the wildflowers up to my chest, I think of you saying you wanted to run through the tall grass and I am with you, the sun on my face like the warmth of your kiss. This time of year the tops of the flowers have an unearthly purple tint, it is what called me to the field originally.

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I don’t drink much anymore, I switched to beers while I was married to the Belgian woman, she was a lot of fun, I know you sent her. I’m moving back to wine, winter is coming and you would love the fireplace here, accented with a hefty St. Emilion. I don’t think I’ll be drinking Chateau Margaux without you, but there will be some of your favorites in my cellar. Stop by and hold me by the fire.

I don’t often think of you in the hospital, but I did the other night. It was worse than reality, in my memory you are yourself, your body’s health mirroring your spirit’s. Why are these things happening to my babybaby? I know what the images actually were, but I don’t “see” them in my mind. I recall the radiologist thinking I was your son, but the memories I see are of my beautiful girl in pain.

We discussed life apart at length, and sometimes I think you wanted me to appreciate you more through your absence. I could not appreciate you any more than I already did, and although I’ve done some good things and touched some lives since you left, we always did better work together. Everything was better together and I’m getting a little tired of that fact being thrown in my face repeatedly. I still look both ways before crossing the street, but I’m ready to be with you anytime. Just hold out your hand.

 

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Suicide notes

 

 

 

Suicide notes are the final statement, last words for someone who doesn’t believe anyone is listening. They are the message someone wants to share which sums up their life (as viewed through the depression which has led them to end that life). They can be filled with blame or despair, or they can simply be an explanation of a rational decision (Yes, it is my belief suicide can be a reasonable choice). I’ve read a few suicide notes, some celebrities, some acquaintances, and of them several have been quite rational.

When I say suicide can be a reasonable choice, I am not speaking about euthanasia for the terminally or chronically ill. I am speaking of circumstances in which the reasonable expectation of a satisfying and productive life have been removed. And no, I’m not suggesting a permanent solution for a temporary problem, I’m saying it is indeed possible to be trapped in a meaningless life, the problem is permanent.

As a chronically clinically depressed person, I can identify with the suicidal. I’ve certainly considered the act. I’ve been honest enough to admit it and been placed under observation. If there is a doctor out there who can explain how being incarcerated in a hospital room with no contact is supposed to return the will to live, I’m listening. It just teaches you to lie when asked if you’re going to hurt yourself. I did not, in fact, wish to kill myself, I just had no desire to live. I refer to it as “passively suicidal,” I still look both ways before crossing the street. My decisions about my life are no one’s concern, no one’s responsibility, until I decide I no longer wish to suffer. Then everyone has an opinion, usually an uninformed opinion. Speaking for myself, you do not know how I feel, you are not me. You have not survived over two dozen years with my case of Multiple Sclerosis, you have not watched my wife die, you have not watched the collapse of my dreams from my vantage point. I keep these things in mind about you when considering your choices, please extend the same courtesy to me.

A couple of noteworthy authors come to mind, and while they were active participants in ending their lives, they had given the act a good deal of thought and just ran out of reasons to stay alive. Ernest Hemingway’s note, written after months of illness, expresses many of my current feelings. He was disappointed with his legacy, and disgusted with the poseurs of the world.  His summation was (of course) classic Hemingway, “But here’s the beauty part. Forty, fifty years from now, when all the wanna-be Hemingways are old and fat and their chin-fuzz is fried to bristle and their huevos are dried up like figs in a dusty street… But they still want to do it all like Hemingway…They’ll have to eat a shotgun too.”

Hunter S. Thompson wrote a note I can identify with, even though I don’t care for football. Titled “Football Season is Over;” No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No Fun – for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your old age. Relax – This won’t hurt.

It doesn’t have to hurt. It’s all a matter of removing the central nervous system from equation, understanding the life process and how to interrupt it.

So here I am, a birthday looming on the horizon (only seven years past fifty), glory days in the past, and a series of disappointments in everyday life. I had made every effort to be out of this country before the election cycle began, but here I am, faced with two absolutely scary prospects as presidential candidates, and a populace torn over which sociopath to rabidly support. I had really hoped to avoid this. There’s a television at work, and I have to concentrate on not laughing out loud at the news in front of my co-workers. They actually take this stuff seriously, which highlights just how out of touch with reality the majority of people are. I find myself unable to relate to people, lots of people, the overwhelming majority of people. There are so many more issues, but this is not my suicide note.

Suicide is ostracized, making life difficult for those left behind, if they care what other people think. The fact is, all life ends. It is random, you could be hit by a falling aircraft while eating dinner. Your friend was not going to live forever, so it doesn’t matter if it was suicide or cancer that took him. Actually it does. Suicide is an act of ownership, taking responsibility for ending a life no longer worth living. It is not cowardly or an escape, it is an act of control, a conscious choice of path.

All of my religious influences have been strongly opposed to suicide. “Life is a gift from God, suicide is throwing away that gift, an insult to God.” We each have our own vision of our judgement day (Emma’s was cartoonish), I see it as an acknowledgement of my life to my creator. You can visualize it as a straightforward exchange across a desk (or a child begging for mercy, depending upon your temperament), but the conversation is taking place every moment, at the end we just make contact and I find out if my beliefs are correct (or not). Perhaps such a responsible point of view is unusual. This could very well be why suicide is so misunderstood, people who live their lives never actually taking responsibility for anything, judging those who have taken responsibility and faced the consequences.

You don’t know how it feels. Even if you have walked along the edge, it was your edge, you don’t know this one. Carry that lesson forward, apply it to all of your judgements.

 

 

Dancing about Architecture

It has been a rough month. My typical approach to such times is to embrace the mantra “When the going gets tough, the tough go dancing,” but this has provided little comfort this time around, the wounds I have received are far deeper than any logic would predict or dance could remedy.

I have yet to prove to myself any purpose in continuing to exist, and such thoughts cause me to define existence. The definition, of course, returns me to the dance, the depression staining my interpretations cannot obliterate the beauty of the performance. I remember, and try to convince myself of what I once held as truth. One does not travel the paths I have without making connections in the matrices which serve as a foundation when life attempts to remove one’s soul.

One footing of that foundation is music, which has sounded sour to my ears these last few weeks, another is writing, which requires more thought than a mind filled with self doubt can provide. Another footing is human connections, and despite the betrayal these connections have faithfully provided, little sparks of hope occasionally illuminate a bridge. Knowing I must pull myself together, the universe conspired to bring me to a minuscule venue over a fabric store in Philadelphia, the irony of the side street sharing the name of the woman who has torn my heart to shreds is not lost on me.

A string of obscure introductions led me to meet Ritchie DeCarlo, a local musician who plays in a couple of bands. I’m going to call him a “drummer” rather than “percussionist,” although his kit contains some fascinating percussion instruments, because he also covers synthesized sounds which are only percussion in an examination at the quantum level, such as his use of a theremin.

 

Ritchie on theremin

 

Playing theremin always reminds me of someone conducting an orchestra. I had explained to my second wife (the Conductor) how a conductor was the only person allowed to dance at a performance; she was not amused. So I guess it is time to explain the title of this article to those unfamiliar with the phrase. It is from a quote by Frank Zappa, “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” In my world, “Dancing” is a metaphor for life. The matrix of meanings and metaphors choreographs a sequence which supports my soul, even when that soul is in tatters.

One of the lineups Ritchie is involved with, the “The Trio from Hell,” more commonly referred to by the names of the band members; Percy Jones, Scott McGill, and Ritchie DeCarlo, performed at TTR Studios last night to a crowd of about fifty. Ritchie introduced the band, categorizing the music as “Not so easy listening.” It is a fusion of styles, most noticeably Jazz, “New Age,” and Electronica. Here’s a taste from last night;

 

 

 

Funny the things you notice in a video, I would have never noticed that bald spot developing on the back of my head. Back to the dance.

I find the music very easy to listen to, soothing with just enough twists to keep me from lulling into a trance. The guitar work of McGill was fascinating, his use of fretless guitars and midis, combined with a left hand that floated over the neck delivering lightening strikes reminiscent of a gulf thunderstorm, must be seen to be believed.

 

Scott turns chaos into order

 

In an industry in which the term “legend” has been overused to the point of meaninglessness, Percy Jones demands a personal adjective. His playing not only has influenced my musical directions, it has influenced many of my other influences. He effortlessly propels his line from “rhythm section” to “lead instrument” and back, creating sounds many people might not associate with the bass. This type of thing warms my heart, having been ridiculed for some of my arrangements; living within the definition of “improvisation,” yet not improvised at all.

 

 

Percy Jones

Percy Jones

 

Ritchie’s drumming glides between the styles fused in this band, again demonstrating the strengths required to play in a trio, the ability to effortlessly transition from lead to rhythm. In the case of a drummer, changing rhythm can be difficult, the mind (approach) is altered with time signatures and style. I recall trying to teach a drummer a particular passage which he envisioned as a waltz, or 3/4 time. It was not, it was a sequence of triplets in 4/4 time. The guitarist (whose ego dictated he believe “RMS” was a reference to his initials) scoffed at the explanation, but the drummer got it and never missed the beat in that piece again. Ritchie played a rather large kit this evening, but far from being gimmickry each piece fit the arrangement in which it was used, from his tympani tomtom through his eclectic collection of cymbals.

Most of Ritchie's kit

Most of Ritchie’s kit

 

Perhaps the most fortunate part of the evening was my friend bailing out at the last minute, leaving me with no one to share the experience. Because I do have someone, you.

Writers write, musicians play, and chefs cook. I’m ready to do all three today. I’m not back yet, I still need to make the “Lovers love” part work again, which rests with that woman named with a side street.