The End

Cells of him merging  cells of me.  But—wasn’t there already something new happening in us (I am now telling you about the period before, maybe even just before he died)(even before he died)? And now the two of us are kind of entity together, floating higher and higher into the skies, higher and higher yes—but  where?   Just as this can’t be answered in words neither can a concept be formed of an us-entity?   It’s self-canceling and beyond the realm of perception, sensation, consciousness and besides, there’s no hereafer, just a nothing.  Nothing in our earth terms.  And so on, I think to myself, trying to sum things up…but it doedsn’t work.  Nothing’s summed, there’s no bottom line, no total. Just a knowledge of what’s felt or experienced of this experience of our merging entities will always remain on that plan, only, unless of course…The unless?  What can we experience of the reality of the thing that is now?  Beyond comprehension, though not experience.  Goodbye, Jamie.

This is the velcro experience isn’t it?  But if not comprehended is there a possible window into the experience of its reality?   Something electric.  Something very commonplace.  A compass.  A road.  Beyond that—am I at a loss?  No, something—and something good in fact—has happened.  It doesn’t matter what I call it.

The number of valiums to put me to sleep is—at last! thankfully!—plummeting.  I no longer wake up at night and reach over for HIS body but just because it’s not there—is that a minus?   Touching him is touching me.    I’m not along.  I’m not an I any more.  It’s a we.  Even in nothingness, Bruce?  Yes, even in nothingness Jamie.  Like for instance I don’t have to take near as much valium to got to sleep now.

How do these combine?   I’m a single unity, Jamie and me being the same now.  Still—looking out the window on the inexorably sunless San Francisco mornings—am I not alone (as Jack Spicer would say) “as a stone in Australia.”  Once I had a very crude Australian room-mate—during that time in Munich after completing the language instruction and before actually beginning first university courses.  I began to suspect alone-ness, stone-ness, Austrialness.  Will you let me rewrite St. Paul?  “If you drop me in the water, do I not sink?”  If anyone were ever to write anything about me, in friendship, say—would they not have to count my faults as blessings now?  I mean that in any account of me after Jamie’s death there would be little—no, nothing—to say.  Before my life ended, it ends.  That is what I’d have any writer friend say about me.  Though in place of recognition, would there not be something calmer, more tranquil to have to tell people about when you discuss me after Jamie?    been going on over two years now, it’s like a hot-water baloon—afloating up the skies higher and higher, but to where?  Velcro-man.   He’s the opposite of Teflon-man.  I lock into whatever is touched now.  Is that not better?

So I never told you the funderal.  Davd, the monk-gardener, performed the most solemn memorial zen services that can be imagined, after I had appropriately accountred my front room with Jamie stuff, with draped sheets on a couple of boxes that made up the ersatz altar (i.e. table).  David directly addressed Jamie as Jamies Holly and then there were some serious words.  Following this guests who had been provided with copies of the Heart Sutra and invited to chant along were once again given to understand the basics: all form is emptiness, all emptiness form. So though Jamie was gone, completely and utterly gone now, to the place of emptiness he was gone—still, that emptiness which he was had not place to occupy other than the very forms of this world.  All emptiness is form.

 

About a year later—for after all did I not have to await the right time?—David and I had planned to take Jamie’s ashes (ugh! “cremains” is the name they give to this in the trade) to the right spot.  See?  It’s always a question of finding the right spot.  After saturday zazen and the dharma talk by Myo one saturday, guess what?  With Jennifer tagging along David and I walked up the back forest path—of the Mt. Sutro forest I think, in back of UC Med Center? and going up toward the high landing overlooking the medical students housing and the palace given, at tax-payer expense, to the frickin Chancellor of the frickin Med Center, damn them!

But best not go too far from our trail here.  Picture the three of us climbing up among the ivy and fallen trees and eucalyptus and whatnot toward the top—when we come to this cute little fork in the path, very near the top.  It was a cute place, and I was glad.  And what do you know—it seemed, yes it did, to have a snug little cut-off tree trunck about five feet tall or so and a hallow on the side, of which the inside too could be cousidered merely an extension of the hole on the outside that we called a hallow.

Perfect!  Just the right place to put the rest of Jamie’s ashes.  With David on one side, and Jennifer on the other, we performed a ceremoney.  Acting as priest, I scattered a plastic bag that I had carried all the way up the hill inside a Ming-type Chinese vase so it would be dignified—well I just went and poured it all out, shaking the plastic a little sometimes hard becauses the ashes stuck to the side of the plastic in places.  All of Jamie’s remains now were inside the hallow.  Now there were verdant plants all around us.  So we ripped off several branches that nobody would miss, I hoped, to provide a temporary cover over the ashes because scattering “human remains” as the state calls your honey’s ashes is definitely a crime.  We were criminals—and amidst the solemnity of putting Jamies’ ashes where they would be for eternity, or at least until all the next rain came we also had to tee-hee a little. At the idea of us being criminals for goodness’ sake.   It was sad and serious and funny all at the same time.

You know me by now, readers.  And my hobbyhorse of riding all the time into late antiquity.  I’ve been reading those Latin (especially) but also Greek books for just about the same length of time I’ve been with Jamie, which is a long time.  So I’m old.  And someone soon I hope some people, zen people and friends maybe if I’m lucky, will be hauling ME up that same hill to spring parts of my ashes there in the same stump—or else possibly piping my ashes down a straw leading underground near a nice bush in the zendo backyard.  Isn’t that just totally awesome, and I mean cool?!

So please let me end with a poem I wrote that uses some imagery from all those books about the Greeks and the Latins.  Here it is.

                                

                                                                  Time’s Dodona Shrine

                         these   white Doves

at Dodonna,                         bright groves     the       

                                unshadowed piestesses

                                                                                    chasing  holograms for us.

Once there was White sands           sweeping

                                                               clean           and in summer

          of 1947                at Roswell               near Texas

                                                                                               the projection

of my lover/partner                                      then as a child.                                                         

                                      OIE ZEUS OIE!    say the sand

                                                                                                 particles in

malevolent joy.                 

 

                                                                                          On the road home

           we eat salt and pepper

           cucumbers and cream,  yumm!     Jamie come back,

 

                            son,   come back!                        Tomorrow picking

         kumquats               from Grannie’s

                                                                                       tree

——————————————————————————————-

 

This marks the end of this blog.  Additions and subractions to it will  alter it I hope, producing both the both that is the testimonial of our love and something else,

perhaps a book of oracles.

                                                               THE END—plus

 

                                                              Badlands—for Jamie

 

The holes alkaline or bad

Hard Riding on the springs

One is ass, a tattooed secluded desert

nooks and crannies are us.

Between the two of us,

Only a can of Chef Boyardee and

The native skills of painted Indians

Cardboard figures. Take it in stride.

He pricked himself with jokes

To make sure my heart was full

Of love. A Can of Chef Boyardee to survive on, while

painted Indians burn the homestead.

As soon as I laid eyes, amongst cathedral

Cactus I pricked myself against to make sure

he is real, I thought—my heart’s desire can flourish

Only with jokes

From abundant springs

He took his spring. In stride. He

Took me for a ride. Two of the dumbest cow-

boys can’t imagine that can they?

Is that you,

Jamie?—came the question. It re-echoed among

dreary mile upon mile of greasewood seas

As far as their horizon could let them see, had they eyes

Enough not to let the dust storms cover them.

Carbines white carnations and chile

Pies were what he hurled in my face as I

Smiled. There were no photographers

That day. Till death may us part. There

Are no flying fish in the desert he said

But if there were some I wouldda grabbed on

Hard to you, honey, and never let go.

Only a wilderness ocean of sour breath,

The stink weed to the sea’s horizon.he pushed in my face.

Love, wherever you are I will find you.

And our first act was to snuggle up

Close for comfort like the young palaminos

Frisking all about us. If this is heaven, what

Is hell, it asked, as if on paper to confirm

Validity. We bought a house. It got stole.

What the hell. You can’t rebuke a bubba

For tryin’ hard enough to bust. Or can you?

I told you—this is the smartest act of my

Life and after that spurt spurt spurt across

My fact it came, one load after another.

Can you read me dearest asked my Love?

In the stillness I answered but could not

Be heard. I looked like Jack Gyllenhall

And he that pore boy who died completely

Dead, pore boy.

We were in the house of happiness but

Vigilant the others made wagon trains

Around in circles. His grandmother’s

High Indian cheekbones told him

The worst: a bullet came through and

Just never stopped till it busted out the

Other. One look said I love you. The other

Said love is blind. Jamie boy if you can still

Hear did you hear me say that last thing

To you?

In the house I had was a pallet on

It—the floor I mean. Whose to say. I

Sure didn’t. But day by day, backload

By backload he furnished his spouse in

The latest fashions of the day for

Ought six that year. We got up to complain

Rolled into beds of sorrow, of spiny

Cactus love-birds chirping sweetly.

Hit was a-jar. The door I mean. And now

These dead bones have wandered out

Six feet under seeking the cool never

That I had in life. With everything, little

Worms, phorescent bugs of all kinds,

Scorpions and things that rub their legs—

All had a piece a me. But me? I remembered

My partner’s word: he would come looking

Even after death—and I waited. Here I

Now stay still waiting. Three stones mark

My grave, two at the bottom to hold, and

The third put on top as a warning flag.

Each bone watched the other like rattlers.

The white just gleams but no end to the

Cold was in sight. Up came the sun and

Traversed our mortal skies, then down again

It fell between mesas and in dark resemblances

To sound. One bone held back and the

Other came forth and where they met

To kiss again, once a year though every

Year, gave good hope to the tiny green

Greatly dispersed grass glades we cows

Could graze upon.

Jamie Jamie I love you thank you I will

Love you forever said what was now but

A tiny splinter of that bone. Yet snuggled

Together two splinters against one another,

There was quiet, silence in that great Sonoran

Desert. The cars on the freeways stopped

Hearing each other. Slowing every more

Slowly even the clouds now ceased and all

Was glad in its way. And now where they

Like is a single pine twined through the two

Blades of white bone that never yet had

Returned again. And when the moon came

Out they were curled up fetal style one

Against the other. And no driver in the

Car stops any more. For eternity had

Already stopped once for us and that

Was enough for the two now one from

Which a great tree sprouted long long

Ago—never again to blossom.

Seabee James kissing Bruce the Thief,

And that is all there is to tell. Till the sun’s

Long rays took even this away. Goodbye

My love the echo said among boulders

Corncob cactuses and squishy tarantulas.

Goodbye—and we kissed again our

Last kiss of all.

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Entering the Dark Side

What’s a dark side anyway?   Is it mean, is it naughty, is it nasty, is it evil?  All?  Some?  Sometimes?   It’s pretty vague, that’s what I get out of this.  But how many things in life can you think about that are better NOT vague, but pinned down, defined up the wazoo, etc.?  That’s what I certainly want to avoid.  Hold up your skirts, ladies, since you are now entering Hell—is approximately what Dr. Williams in a preface to Ginsberg’s (first?) book said in that introductory stuff. 

You go, Dr. Williams.

OK this dark like all dark isn’t really attainable—like Buddha-mind that way—because intentionality cancels it out.  You can only be on the dark side with a laugh.   

Which means, in that vast array of vague, I’m included. 

Here’s an example.  I said over and over, Jamie I love you but if you ever start using dope again….etc followed by whatever: threats, demands, all kinds of uptight stuff.

For instance Jamie’s Seabee tatoo that I told you about, well its hornet (or whatever) that’s zooming down means business.  It’s beak is sharp and it has an angry look on it.  It means watch out for me!

Now at night getting ready for bed I was always first in.  My prudishness.  I didn’t want him to see my body—until ncessary.  He on the other hand.  That’s just it.  He on the other hand.  So he’d undress in front of me, about two feet away and I could see him as good as anything.  I looked with lust at that body, up and down and nothing escaped me.  That is but what did.  And what did was his tracks.  C’mon now, you all, you know what tracks are, don’t you?  I mean I’m not writing to grade schoolers am I?  I for one learned about, that is first saw and remembered how drug-tracks look on a guy’s arm.  Once seen, unmistakeable.  From then on.  Also I did shoot up a few times in my hippie times—and the it seems like just everybody, except prudish me, had tracks on their arms. 

As did James.  But here’s the thing.  I never even saw ‘em.  Not once.  Can you believe that?  Well for starters: I am a dualist trying like hell to be a non-dualist (Buddhist).  Did you get that?  Well skip it then.  Just say I was all about denial about a whole lot of Jamie’s wild side—as in, take a walk on the.  I was just with the Colored Girls going do duh do duh do do do on the sidelines as the Reed-song ominously provides the thread the Colored Girls are doo-wopping about.  That’s denial for you.  I was in it—in the deep doo-doo or deep shit of it.  I did every but eat it I guess.  How in the world can someone who knows what tracks are and is not otherwise a denial kind of person (or am I?), how can they just lie there in bed while their man gets undressed and see on his arms, both arms, track marks from the use of needles for gratification with, hell, I don’t know—but guess mainly his good friend Tina.  OMG!!   (Tina or meth: for those of you not as kool as I be right?   I mean as kool as I THOUGHT I was.)  

And I know the reason.  For not seeing his tracks I mean.  I had always swore up and down the only thing that would make me leave you is if you got into hard drugs again.  But I wanted Jamie.  I just wonder how many suburban moms whose kids shoot up in high school use exactly and I do mean exactly the same trick as I was using: DE NILE, not a river in Egypt.  It’s just—I didn’t think I could be that deep in denial so I’d, umm, well just see the damn things in front of me—and retreating to my mom-me just NOT SEE.   When you do a lot of not-see or even a little but important not-see, then what we got ourselves here is, um, as I think Paul Newman put it, in that movie of his about the chain gang?  He said what we got here is a failure to communicate—just before being almost killed by the shot gun blasts that almost hit him before he reached the end of his sentence—and I guess a sentence has always got two meanings.  Is a pun, isn’t it?   Punishment, crime.  Oooops I mean the opposite (or do I) crime, punishment….???

I found one of those little glass things in the bathroom once, you know those little glass vials that you use shooting up…what?  Is it cocaine.  Well I guess I’m not as cool as I was earlier maybe.  I woulda knowed that thang when I sawed by golly I sure would.  You betacha I would.

So I finally kicked him out of the house, very self-righteously.  Jamie I told you the only thing I wouldn’t….etc.  I know, you’re tired of hearing me preach—how do you think Jamie felt about preached at?  So he left.  And didn’t have much money.  And was in the Tenderloin etc oh I don’t know maybe X number of months—who knows?  We hadn’t stopped seeing each other or loving each other and would meet on corners and talk talk talk…then silence…then an awareness of love.  How much we loved each other.  Which was a lot. 

So the day came and there was a doorbell ringing and it was him, Jamie.  He came up and we talked.  Or he did.  He said, with the same voice and same expressions as always that he had to go someplace but would I please take care of…I forget which of your Yorkies, but I think that damn bitch Grasshopper (who hated me as much as I hated her: she was Jamie’s bitch that’s all, just for Jamie so why don’t you take a powder, Bruce).  He had her in his eyes and they were eyes that were saying goodbye.

Suddnely everything in me just collapsed.  I knew what was happening.  He was drawing me a picture.  Everyting in his demeanor saying he had to go someplace and would I mind taking care of Grasshopper only meant one thing, I realized.  I knew it meant he was on his was to the Golden Gate bridge to jump off.  And would I kindly keep his dog—for sentimental reasons.  

Then I started crying and he started crying.  He just kind of moistened and I did the same but we knew.  What do you think?  that I didn’t love him?  that I’d let him die? 

“Jamie,” says I.  “Lets sit down and talk.  We can work this out.  Just come back that ‘s all.”

And so he did, and we never parted again.  But I felt like a Martian, cause after that I had –to develop another set of eyes that’d see things that weren’t there and not see what was there, you know what I mean?  I mean, I wanted him more  “integrity” (is that denial or its opposite?  Meaning:  I’d rather be schizophrenic and blind to my beloved’s faults than live without him.  I couldn’t live without him—it’s that simple..  

That was my introduction to the Dark Side.  Take a walk on the dark side, Bruce. OK, I don’t mind.  It’s better than being without love.  Love—why, that’s the same as life, isn’t it?  ( And the Color Girls go do duh do duh do do do)  

                                                                                    *

There’s some other—not really dark side stuff but dark side in quotes maybe?   When I met Jamie he was dealing.  He also hung around with biker guys.  The biker guys went and so did the dealing (though it came back—I think—though I’ll never know for sure because of mom’s best lesson of all to me: denial).   There are a couple of funny anecdotes here.

First if Charlie, I’ll call him.  He was Jamie’s friend (when he wasn’t in the pen) and a collector.  Y’all know what a “collector” does?  Take a big deep breath and sit down.  There are people around who make loans—you follow?  Maybe there mafia maybe something else but they just make loans is the point.  Now say you take out a loan with them.  Time goes by, but oh my goodness!  I can’t pay!  Oh I’m sure they’ll understand (tears streaming down face) oh they WILL don’t they?  

This is where Charlie the collector comes in.  He knocks on your door.  “Iit’s time to pay me the money!”—that is on behalf of the criminal lenders.  It’s all as simple as ABC.  You don’t have the dough?  He breaks your bones—legs mainly.  How do you think having your legs broken would make you feel, reader?  Extrapolate.  Not good.  So does this make Charlie a big thug?

Well duh!  

But you know—and here’s the point—he’d come over ever so often when he wasn’t in San Quentin and shake my hand and ask me how I was and tell me it’s always nice to meet a friend of Jamie’s etc. etc.  Well you get it: we’d invite him upstairs to our flat and Jamie and he’d talk while I made some coffee and cookies—then bring them in and join them in the talk.  And get this: he was so polite to me it was really flattering.  Sort of like being his lady. 

Or—and this gets us into another anecdote dealing with more or less the same material—and here I have to tell you that Jamie always thought it was a good joke, because lets face it there’s a kind of prissing uptight upper-middle class side to me (thanks mom, tons!) and Jamie saw this and it’s not that he thought it was attractive or unattractive, it just was what it was.  So Jamie, knowing I knew of his biker past, would joke about making me his biker’s bitch. 

This didn’t exactly amuse me—too close to reality?  Anyhow the day came, one day down in New Mexico at his mother’s house.  The car just wouldn’t start despite J’s repeated efforts.  What to do?  “Hey Boone, come on over her and help me!”  He’d got the car, without engine turning over, down the drive way and into the street at least.  “I’ll sit in the driver’s seat and you get behind and PUSH! OK?   Frankly it was not exactly OK.  After telling me to push he said he’d finally done it and made me his bitch.  Ohhhhh I was furious at that.  It was more than jokingly being called his bitch, it was more than pushing an old beat-up car in the middle of the desert—what he was really enjoying was seeing me being taken down a peg or two.  Me?  Push a rattletrap car on a dusty dirt street?  Excuse me?  Do I seem the type for that to you?  

And of course—this time it was less stepping into the Dark Side than doing what regular people have to do all the time and learning not to be so stuck-up about it.  Actually it was more a push to the Light Side.   

Please excuse the repetition, a the Merging of Unity and Diversity puts it: In dark there is light but don’t’ see it that way, in light there is dark, but don’t regard it that way.  Elementary zen, that’s what the whole thing struck me as being—you follow? 

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Return to San Francisco

First just listen, readers, and later you’ll see why

 

Listen to this, “Ground Control to Major Tom,” ohhhhh  in’ that great?!  You can’t hear it though I realize because of them taking away the song I just embedded for you.  Nice huh?  I embedded this favorite just for you so you’d know my feelings for Jamie.  Too late.  They’ve removed it, not eight hours after I put it here.  Too bad.  But it’s just a (audial) image that’s all.  These things are in your heart first—or not there at all.  Anyway.

 

(Later 🙂  In other words above two black rectangles above represent my momentarily successful embedding of David Bowie’s  “Ground Control to Major Tom,”  a great star in its day and still one now.  And kind of a tribute I thought you know?  though ghostly enough—for J.  Consider the effect on y0u listening to it.  The fading of Tom in bleak black outer space growing ever more infinfitely away from every hint and touch of what human used to mean for him.  For from us wanting him back.  Face to black, then out.

But just to keep this thing in perspective.  Since I want this to be a set of alerations between longer narrations, like the story of us in Rome—and then something else, the bits and snatches of him remembered that make something more like a scrapbook.  Like his sister’s quilt, all crosspatch of whatever materials were at hand—and that still is one our/my bed even today.   Little anecdotes and stories, little koans—about J.

But scrapbook doesn’t that carry the meaning of “random”?

Chile pies, as Jamie called them, that he’s make on special occasions, m-m-m-m-m! (you fry up a bunch of tortillas, then layer them in a casserole with Texas Longhorne cheese inbetween and a can of consdensed milk too, and also with each level laying in green peppers: then baking till done.)  Man oh man what a great dish!  And always on the occasion in J’s mind at least–a love-dish for me.  Just like I’d every so often, when I’d be up much earlier than him, bring him in great coffee from the French press, and maybe a piece of pastry.  With a paper napkin, to show courtesy.   That was our food life.  Our food/love life I guess I mean.  And it just came now from nowhere, out of nothing?  Talk about your random.  Random is the way spirits live, something in it makes them thrive.     When you pluck random out of the air in front of you at the computer—it’s an angel brushing you.   C’est un ange qui passe.  (Though in French that means an ackward dinner-table silence, I want to change it into what I just said and will—OK?!).     Like this too:  Remembering the time about, what eight months or so into grieving, I physically HEARD him, J, in the hallways waking me by calling my name two times, the second more forcefully than the first.  I guess that links with the empty bed syndrome: in the middle of the night reaching out for the body of the beloved—and grasping exactly nothing. I have forgotten nothing of the Chile pie recipe.  And he’s with me every time I make it.  Though now a ghost, a nothing.

About this time my zazen began to lapse.  For a year or two.  It’s was HIS offstage presence in the wings, the glimpse of emptiness as he is white as a ghost, that’s what got me to start practicing again: Cross legs, straighten back, concentrate on breath.  And that’s all.  Simple.  As if at the behest of the randomness Agency that removed out of this blog my embedding of “Major Tom”.  Isn’t that simple?  And random?   So too, sitting cross-legged or drifting out like Major Tome—what could be simpler?   You just breathe in.  And out.  That’s all there is.

Speaking of which—ever hear this?  Once there was a zen master in the Tang, in China.  He students noticed a banner  blowing in the breeze.  Their questions follow as night follows day: is it the banner that’s blowing, is it the wind that’s blowing?   The roshi answers: neither. “ It’s neither the banner nor the wind.”this be?  Which makes the students return to their questions with a vengeneance.  “Then WHAT is  blowing then, roshi?   And the roshi tells his students that it is the mind, bending this way or that—that’s all.

Enlightenment doesn’t concern me or I wouldn’t be wasting my time writing this.  Love does.    And love has nothing to do with truth.  That is the realm of enlightenment—the real.

Flute music for Antony.  The memory drifts like Major Tom.   Deluded.  Major Tom remains where he is just as the beloved does simply awaiting your commmon human attention as he does.  

In front of me, or the computer: an array of photos of him, Jamie, from times and places.  You think they’re leaving you as they left Antony.  Then there’s this one I never notice because he’s been captured in a bubble with water fillling it up and you see him only thru this veil darkly.  Half lying, half sitting (you can’t tell), that funny tacky black top hap on him that he used to wear and looking very weary, looking down down down—to someplace I can only speculate on.  Head propped up it looks like crying—but isn’t.  Just sad.  One moment of sad out of a million of cheerful.  I almost cherish it the more.  A black shirt with two white stripes on which I can imagine tears rolling.

                                                                                               …And they begin to dampen the edges of my eyes too.  Hadn’t I been done with all that?  Don’t you grow away from even your most beloved memories’ beloved?   I thought so.

Am not sure.  Any more.  

That was the joker of the pack.  The other cards are the ones that drift away with Major Tom, like him too.  As they leave Antony, the gods.  With flute music.  Songs off.   Songs off.

“Ground control to Major Tom”—why come back  when we thought you gone forever?  This is just an idea I am using to divigate on the my loss and refinding and re-loss etc—of J.

Up there (where?  don’t know.  sky?  no.  where then.  don’t know.)  us the Agency.  Possibly it’s slightly gnostic, though who can be sure of this.  We are its puppets.  He dangles us for the pleasure of his laughter at us.  We are set up—from the beginning.  For instance J and B—living our life, happy, all the time never suspecting everything would come to a screeching halt.  The rug’s pulled out.  He pulls the rug out.

That’s what happened with Orpheus.  Returning up the path from Hades only without—without, mark you—his beloved, the same that he had gone to fetch—then what?  Naturally (who wouldn’t?) he totally loses all interest in women—gains proportionately a huge interest in men.  This infuriates the women of the place.  Coming together in council they make their decision: off with his head.  And that’s what happens to poor Orpheus.  But throughout their many pratfalls the gods all the same take a real interest in justice.  What can we have justice here?  they think.

You can’t repair a lost head even if a god.  Too bad, tant pis and be on your way soon, I urge you!  That’s what they say.  But as if in recompense they give this (now floating in a stream somewhere) Head, formerly Orpheus a divine functioning: singing.  Singing, they say as beautifully as Apollo.  There is a variant on this.  According to the variant the head actually IS Apollo, in one of his avatars.  There’s what I think.  There’s a big Big up there, the Agency—not of anything in particular but just the slightly gnostic Agency—and it uses us as puppets to laugh at.  It dangles a very living likeness of Jamie and excites my feelings almost to believe that he might appear again—then pulls the rug out.  It’s Yaldabaoth and Samael.  It’s the projector of the holograms about us, in the universe and elsewhere, that appear to be what they seem.  It once more reminds you that all forms are emptiness—though faililng for some indefinable reason, to recognize the reciprocal proposition, that all emptiness is forms.  Either way, so sad.  It is the Agency fucking with our minds.  It is Mind fucking with mind.  With minds.

So… what?   So-what is me, looking intensely now at a small conical plastic thing, like the things that you used to shake to make snow fall down on a snowman.    Bruce, look, look at your own version and you’ll see why this is suddenly emerging from your writing won’t you?  Yes I will because the current one on my computer desk, with an image of Jamie inside, has its own snow-like mica falling falling, when it’s shaken, falling all fall down.  If you come to my house to visit me I’ll show it to you—if you don’t believe what I just said.

Something  sparkles—it’s mica falling to the bottom.   To what can I compare thee, plastic mica-shaker with the image of Jamie pasted (by him—he made these little nugatory je-ne-sais-quoi’s you know, don’t you?  Jamie has pasted a photo of him in a sad mood inside. He is singing by not singing.  Though of course everyone knows that besides singing, Orpheus’s head also will predict.

There he is, as I am turning the object around, shaken, the mica despositing themselves lightly at the bottom.  He wears an old-fashioned black hat.  His raiment is similar—all cross-hatched of black lines and white.  His little button nose big, and ruddy, as if he has been drinking too much.  But he hasn’t.  It’s just he’s sad.   I can tell you that because I am as certain of this as I am of a kee-wee.  The beginnings of a beard stubble him. Why oh why would this normally cheerful, even uber-cheerful face be caught just this one with so sad an expression.

Is he thinking of his coming extinction?  No.  He completely accepted his about-to-arrive death, you know.  I’ve told you that—don’t you remember?   He must be sad because of me—because of knowing that for two full years my life would be one long stretch of sad, following his demise.  As it was.  Poor Jamie.  Poor me. 

Songs off, the gods are deserting Antony.  Major Tom can no longer be reached by Ground Control.  And Dave’s space-man partner?    Oh the heart leaps does it not to see how he tumbles like a toy soldier head over heels getting smaller and smaller until just a dot: then nothing.  Randomness.  Another word that means death.   This all happens two years ago.

But time has passed.

The mind turns to more happier subjects: how Michael Jackson though dancing fast forward at terrific speed can remain in one place.  His moon-walk.  Why is everything leading me back to the various visible signs you can see in the sky?   There must be a reason.

                                                                            *

He wrote the most lovely—and loving—love notes to me—all thru our near two decades time together when suddenly I”d find, on my pillow for instance, a piece of paper—and it’d be this love letter to me, and after so many years, so totally sincere and moving.  All my papers all still packed by the guy who’s doing my new bookcase for me, because it’s blossomed, not at my request but I think because he needs a full room re-do for his resume, which includes not just furniture, finely done, but a paint job of the room in addition.  He started before letting me know and now I’m stuck with my whole library and most of my papers that were lying about all pitched helter-skelter by my worker-guy into about thirty boxes.  You don’t know how much I want to reprint one (or reproduce should say since the originals of Jamie’s letters, scattered alas, are mixed in with all the boxes in the boxes which, unpacked at some future point, will become my library.  But readers, all I’ll say is—if you could only read them, reproduced here, oh!  (eventually sifting thru all the junk that meth had made him pile randomly into boxes and bags that’ll take me months to sort out—eventually: I”ll come to the first thing I’m looking for, my Cowboy Jamie poem, and then, doubt me not, oh readers, don’t me not: I’ll stick it in exactly HERE (or if not exactly then approximately just randomly on account of it’s this other artifact you should see.  See?).

His body.  His smile: that made me more happy almost than sex.  No it did.  It was better, that smile: how to describe it.   It was usually close-mouthed but unlike most other close-mouthed smiles, non-open ones, J’s suggested not any sense of forced-ness but a feeling of an extremity of benevolence: as if here was a man who felt utterly secure in his bones.  As if he lived continually—in addition of course to his living continually in pain—in a state of inner bliss which he was sharing with you.  Or even—conferring on you too?  And like me usually in some state of disorder—the one-to-three day’s growth of beard, for instance.  His casual and, utterly unconcerned with social proprieties, should I say the “antic” dress usual to him.

Now the eyes.   A particular form of hazel, which his son Darren inherits, as Darren’s often reminded me, just before trying to hit me up for money.  Or maybe hazel-azure would be closer—angelic just this side of satanic.   I can’t betray my awareness of J’s dark side.

The eyes came from his Indian grandfather, with their deep-set  ominous-look: they looked like what they were, eyes that never missed a trick, prepared at the drop of a hat to launch into physical combat.  Like father like son. Darren, when squinting his Indian eyes looks like a rattler ready to strike.  Jamie’s eyes, though a deep-set, gentler.  But beady when he got wary—like with a drug deal.  Wary like in getting ready to tear their hearts out.  I attribute this to his grandfather’s Indian—probably Comanche—courage.

Once I asked Darren why he always tried to intimidate with those eyes.  He said to see what he could get from them—how to use them, exploit them. I rarely saw that, if eve, in Jamie.  Jamie’s azure eyes were only warnings—not attempts at exploitation.  But Indian power is snake power—which both had.  One to warn off, the other to take you for all you’re worth.

The high cheekbones.  His mother had them, but from what side I don’t know.  Jamie had them and as he got older they came out more: very Indian.  

And one more thing—Jamie’s tatoo.  He only had one.  Funny for a guy like him, a rough and tumble guy I mean.  It was there, though faded, on his bicep.  It had a picture of an enormous ferocious bird coming down at you.  Under it the words “James—Seabees.” On account of his being in that branch of the services of course.  He said he was in Nam, but someone else in his family said not.  I don’t know. 

 

 

                                                                          

When I”d nag Jamie previously about going to the doctor he’d say, “Why should I?  I know already what they’re doing to say.”  And then there’d be the argument.  I’d say that even in a worst case scenario he’d at least be able to buy himself a few more months or even much more.  Everybody knows that lung cancer is among the least treatable of cancers.  “Isn’t that worth it, Jamie” I’d ask, partly insincerely.  I mean wasn’t the point really would all the misery of chemo etc be worth going thru for Jamie, not for me?  In retrospect I can say that my form of being in denial took the shape of wanting to equate my own views on what was best for Jamie with Jamie’s own.  Looked at now—I wonder why I couldn’t respect his reluctance to go to the doctor at all?  I mean, who was I to say what was best for Jamie?   Nobody likes being nagged—I was taking Jamie’s choice away from him—without realizing.

But coming home, it became different.  A lot different.  Skinny as a wraith, not much more than skin and bones, Jamie was soon pale as the ghost he would very soon in fact become.  As this blog or book progresses you’ll notice, as Jack would have said, Jamie more and more becoming a ghost.  So what else is an old man going to write about—but his ghosts?” I ask you.  The only other advice I have is start early, the earlier the better on the world of ghosts because that’s where you came from and where you’re heading, ole pal.

Countless ages ago this same Sumedha, a Brahmen by birth, retiring one day

 

                                                                                           *

But the interlocking tale of Rome, Jamie’s diagnosis, sickness and then death is already starting to look too long.   I want to take another break, assemble a collection of Jamie memories haphazardly, just as they come to me.   I want to assemble a collection of Jamie notes just as they come to me I want to assemble a few notes on Jamie, notes made about his character, preferences and the like, like a table-top presentation of photos of a loved one now gone

We went in together.  Jamie’s doctor had a Mission area practice, on Mission St. itself and the other patients were for the most part Latin.  When he’s called, I watch anxiously as he head in, to get his sentence—and is out in less than fifteen minutes!  Uh oh, such a short amount of time—that didn’t bode well.   When he exists the doctor’s exam room his face is set and he strides purposefully toward the door, with a short unsmiling glance toward me: as if to say, follow me if you want to, it makes no difference any more.

We drive back home: no words spoken. I lead him to the bedroom and pull him down with me putting my arm around him.  Honey, what did he say, what did the doctor SAY?   Jamie’s face is rigid: it’s lung cancer and I only have a few months.  What can I say, do?  I just put my arms around him and give him little kisses and say “lets just lie here together for a little, Jamie, we don’t have to say anything at all, YOU don’t I mean, we’ll just be together, that’s all.”   And that’s how it goes.  I don’t know how much time goes by—and we’re just lying down on the bed holding each other.

I get so many flashbacks.  The weirdst kind, the don’t even make sense for the situation.  Like, for some reason that crazy motel made out of boxcars, somewhere on the Arizona/California border.  A rinky dink hotel, with a bar on the first floor filled with loud hard-drinkin’ good ole boys.  A gas station.  And that’s all.  We get checked in and get our made-over box-car with a window poked thru and I can tell Jamie’s interest is very piqued.  All those good ole boys, all drunk—and him, Jamie, not there to do his thing.  You know how Brick in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof keeps talking about drinking till the “click” when the bright lights are turned low, and how then the dark goes on?

That was Jamie, only it was fighting, and fighting hard, that was his click.  I sat there on the bed beside him remembering how literally I was holding him back by his shirttail from going over to get drunk and pick a fight—a fight like he liked them.  He wanted the aftermath to be littered, just littered that’s all, and in pieces, of what before, just like a torn taken over by a giant twister, a tornado—so that after, you don’t find nothin but itty bitty pieces of wood, plastic chairs in what’s left of trees, and flattened houses.  That impulse in him was as elemental as a volcano–

                                                               –and when my mind mentally pronounced that, the word volcano—everything about those umbrella pines in Rome suddenly made sense.  Their prophetic omen-like quality.  If that’s what the big smoke columns coming out of Vesuvius looked like to Pliny and I kept seeing these same trees everywhere throughout Rome, and on our Ostia daytrip—damn!—it was a strong predictive signal I’d missed—a sign that presages some huge disaster if you kept thinking of that Pliny letter like I did.  Why didn’t I have the sense to realize it was a real omen—announcing a less public this time and more person disaster, true—but wasn’t it all the same an oracle that was just practically begging me to read correctly?  hinting at the bad news we’d get going home to San Francisco after our Roman jaunt?

Jamie really was a volcano himself.  He’d flirted with disaster all his life—starting with motorcycles he rode too fast and recklessly, resulting in numerous road accidents with bones that had been fractured by the time of his last days—with uncounted numbers of things that hurt him.  A body that still bore the results of the beating he’d gotten from the highway police together after he’d completely whipped the one highway cop that had pulled him over for nothing at all, tied the man up—but forgotten to cut the wires that enabled the beaten-up cop to phone up ahead to have a dozen of his buddies waiting to give beating the worst beating he’d ever got.

But now here he was in a very different condition, finally defeated by everything his internal demons had always propelled him with, during his life—and now there was no getting around them.

 

His dying and death burned his face so deeply into the c.d. of  memory for me that it has become never erasable, forever inscribed, and irrevocably.  The searing memory of him as he was then, in those last days, pale, gaunt, full of pain, but still accepting.  Yes accepting—always that.  Never frightened, not reject, but taking even the greatest suffering with an acceptance that would forever leave me in awe of him—and I hope would give me help when my own time comes to follow the path he set for me.

Today day Darren called, his son, who’d arrived at the deathbed with a self-described desire to his his father before he died—and who left, a thief just as he’s always been, a con man even in his father’s dying moments, just as he’d been in his grandmother’s dying moments (when for drug money he went even to the exent of stealing her oxygen tanks—a preview of the thefts at the last minute he made in our house of the very morphine drugs that were the only thing between just a reasonable amount of pain for Jamie—and the hell he was plunged into by sudden withdrawal of these crucial and very addictive drugs.  This seared into my mind forever that sudden agonized deformation of the features of Jamie’s happy face—reversed it and for the next day and a half, until I could get substitute morphine for him turned all that sweetness in a mask of horror whose image will never leave my soul.  (Is it true that Darren is changing, has changed?  His voice says so.  His holding a job says so.  His not calling me for money any more says so.  But it’ll take a long long time before I permit myself to trust him, to leave myself open for further con-man displays of evil such as he permitted himself as his own father was dying—oh it ripped my heart out when not more than two minutes after the van had left to take Darren back from visiting his dad to get his plane and I looked around just to see that everything was still there—that moment of realization when I knew that he’d left with all of Jamie’s drug supplies not only came very near to bringing Jamie an early death but taking me along with Jamie.).  He’s in Phoenix now working as a roofer, making $10. an hour.  Poor and ripped off by his girl-friend, abusively treated by her in fact—treated, in short, the same way he had treated his dad.  Part of me wants to be nearer Jamie by helping him, but the other part is very cautious: it’ll take a long time before he can truly regain my trust.

(I can’t find my voice to say what I mean. Draw a picture from the features on my face—which will be truer.) (Also I talked with Ehsan by phone today and he talked about the many and frequent feelings of homophobia and plain social ill-at-ease he and his beloved feel when going out in his university town, outside Detroit.  No wonder about Detroi!  But I think I remember (or is this a false recollection?) saying something to him about how much the opposite it is here—for me.  If there’s homophobia out there I so rarely encounter it—and what a soothing balm the awareness of that makes me feel on my skin, so to speak.  And the more so when Jamie was alive.  He was one of those naturally dominant people who just, in all good will and from motives that exclude anything aggressive at all, seem nonetheless to be the center of all attention, and respectfully so, and seem natural conversational “leaders” if I can put it that way.  For all those years remembering then how much of a buffer Jamie was—for me.  By his taking charge—of everything really—he made all our social participations feel to my skin, my own skin anyway, like the feel, without underthings, of watered silk directly applied to my flesh.  He made me feel that confident.  And if there was homophobia in the hearts of some, all he had to do was open the magic flute of his mouth and begin emitting vocables, which in turn then shortly would become a story, and then a monolog—and so on—with all present, far from yearning to escape, enjoyed as you would enjoy a rare occasion whose chanted fairy-like qualities you never wanted to see come to an end.  I felt as safe in his company—from homophobia, from loneliness, from discomfort of any kind—as a babe in arms would naturally feel being held by its mother.  Ehsan on the other hand had a continuous sense of nagging un ease when going out on social occasion—we applied this feeling to the lurking, unseen hatred, a burning utterly unforgiving feeling, of Clark Gable’s negros in the French Quarter in his beautiful house he would soon lose, along with all his property including the slaves with the coming of Grant’s armies—and the startling sense you have of the most pampered of all the house slaves, the young black he adopted seeing seem as a baby sitting among the flying bullets of the Africans and the white invaders.  The point of comparison was the rage that may have been banked like an ember but still remained present and ready at any moment to come to life and flame again—given other circumstances.  Is this not the same as Susan Sontag’s misunderstand when in her noted essay on “camp” she spoke of gay people as “a gentle people” and “filled with kindness,”  the sort that expresses itself, she thought, in the form of “camp.”  A stupid woman—even in the 60s of the last century, to so hugely misunderstand that as much as the pampered black “son” of Clark Gable, there removed a few feet back into darkness—are the cocksuckers, sodomites, faggots and so on, who would gladly stick a knife in you if only given the chance to do it without risk of being caught. )

A warning in short: to not be taken in by the silkiness of my writing if you are straight—you are all the same—my target.

 

And now—the memory of the first signs of Jamie’s illness.  The time that goes by, me nursing him (was there any less meanness and cruelty in Walt Whitman from nursing his Civil War veterans elongated on their camp beds in foetid tents? 

The smells—and what if not that—would take me back again to the time when my lover lay ill in the Palliative Care Unit of the hospital near us.   Smells of human waste, the stink of hospital decay, that nauseating mix of chemicals with body odors and fluids.    And in the middle, in the middle of what could only disgust me, though not from any emanation coming from HIM certainly there he would lie, peaceful as a lamb.  What shocked the most: it was all as if he was lying flat still, on the marriage bed of our bedroom at home—the home with the huge corded work of a white St. George and the Dragon standing guard over us, where at any time when I woke, as I did often at night, I knew when I reached my hand over to probe for him I would find him.  Which made the hospital bed something foreign and repugnant—and utterly unfamiliar to the ways our love had thru the years slowly shaped that mattress and bedclothing to give back to our wandering eye the very shape of the person-with-two-bodies, which is what we were.

But now how different from that.  Coming into his hospital room to meet something simmilar to  an ancient gnostic ascetic,  in the loss of all that flesh, the shocking sight of the bare bone-age, which image being cancelled only through occasional motion of his that showed this spirit, this pneumos, about to cast off what’s left of the flesh, was on the verge of some high Dualism I could barely piece together successfully, grasping—against all the non-dualism I’d made my home with for so long now in Buddhism only—left room for occasional questioning.  Ah might there then be from the chrysalis of what’s left of this flesh a soul, a butterfly about to spring forth in its self-spiritualization?   No.  This is not possible.  And I cast aside as unworthy—of either him or of him—such delusions the weak remains even now only too fond of.    

Right now his son has just left. The next two days were pretty awful.  But he SEEs, you know?  he SEEs what I look like.  And what do I look like?  Bent over from the weight of doing this all myself, taking care of him.  He sees this.  And decides against his express wish to die at home—to for my sake get himself into a hospital, by what ever means necessary.

That turned out to be waiting for me to get out of the house.  The day came soon when turning around to head back home after a short walk with Sadie, our dog—from a block away there’s this nightmare scenario out of some Hollywood standard ending for horror movies—when after the monster has done his worst he’s finally felled and in the movie’s last scenes you see all the emergency responders converging at the site of the old house, the sometime scene of murder and mayhem.  All those police cars, fire-trucks, ambulences blinking their red eyes and sounding their sirens in a formal device that now signals the end, of horror flicks.  That was the scene that greeted me already a block or two away—when I saw the same thing, in front of our apartment.  The same trucks ambulences, and so forth, with the same blinking red eyes.  Whaaaaaaa? I go.

Running now and closing in I see them bringing Jamie down the stairs in a stretcher and am told he dailed 911 to report having attempted suicide by taking all his meds..    Oh fuck that—I mean the smells hospital smells right here in/on our MARRIAGE BED that throw up, from body cavities and chemcial bottles the STINK of the SICK.  I’m disgusted.  He doesn’t disgust me—my body and his do—or it’s the opposite, I’m attracted very strongly to them, I don’t know.   His face burned looking sweetly up—eyes stating from gauntness all sketetal.  I’m his attendant and we’re at home in an arrangement with Hospice now—we owe all the shit to Hospice, thank you—their paranoid withoutholding of Jamie’s morphines.  He needs them goddam it but it’s the beginning of the even more horrible smells he’ll get when he escapes this—our home, his home—and gets himself with amazing generosity into the Palliative Care unit—so that I, bent-over from being attendant 24/7, cook, house-cleaner, oh you know the drill and trying not to—be bent over I mean.  But I am, Blanche I am.  Way way bent, tired exhaustion that doesn’t escape him so diabolically Jamie now prepares his escape.

(Oh in between Darren’s been flown up supposedly, the creep, to see his dying dad but really?  when he leaves he steals everything he can get his hands on, a laptop, all Jamie’s morphine supplies, which puts Jamie immediately into unbearable agony.  But does the son, Jamie’s son Darren, does he care?  Does not.  Is a sociopath.)    

The face of Jamie suffering: now burned into the disk of my brain, forever.

 

There’s a long river of faces I see.  Each bobbing up from the water  passing by me as it will pass by you too, a face such as you too will become for others—when the times comes, glowing—or maybe not really a face but a long streaming effect that tails off at the end that at first only seems like a face you remembered.   The stream with its weird luminosity,  faces together in a glowing silver ribbon slowly unspooling before you, in front of us—the streaming faces you know you will yourself become when the time is right.

All spoken or even written words become magic spells and turn back on you. Jamie’s always telling me, in case he died first and I was fated to come after I remember (that is I repeat) his telling me that he would find me “even if I have to sniff you out.”  Eternity is like a double: it keeps on repeating you, just as all the faces in the stream it makes up will keep on repeating themselves every time a human mouth pronounces their names.  Eternity is a fairy tale.  On made up to aquit us of death.  Probably only the denial of death has enabled the world to arise for us.  A dog barks in the street.  Instead of silence I hear the increasing whoooosh of cars taking their drivers to work.  But not yet.  Before the whoosh when you can still hear nature there’s not gentle susurrus of the wind in the trees.

 

The last year—the year following Jamie’s death—I went back to Italy, only this time with Travis.  One day I decided to take the ferry that goes to the island of Capri, with its blue grotto and its Villa Jovis, the main villa of the emperor Tiberias’s either other villas that bestrewed that rather large island.  Travis wasn’t interested in coming.  He told me that he relaxed best, when not doing his intense job as a psychiatrist, only when he could lie around reading: specifically reading the entertainment literature he brought with him.  We had an argument.  He said he was beginning to believe in God.  This unleashed a fury in me.  How DARE he?  None of my friends from decades had been believers.  I told him the world’s worst genocides have all been caused by the clash of the monotheisms.  He told me I was an anti-semite (because his god is a Jewish one).   Later, stepping onto the Capri ferry I forgot all this and then when we landed began making my slow way up the  huge mountain that Capri is, bathed in  glorious sunlight and warmth and olive trees and open fields of  country strewn with little rocks and big ones and nearing my goal, the top, realized I was absolutely alone now.  All the other tourists had been put off by the very steep and difficult climb and in clumps, had retreated, gone back to go shopping in the group of luxury stores lining the street just above the ferry landing which the maps and tourist information referred to as Capri Village.

Without company now I continued.  There were the the occasional small and large rocks in the pastures I past.  Then came the villas of the cosmopolitan rich, then a long stretch of yet more fields and the beginning of a pine forest.  The road had become just a path by now and I noticed again I was all along climbing the last stretch to the top.   There was no noise of planes above, just silence.  Here was the pagan ruin that was once Tiberias’s Villa Jovis, the main villa he kept on the island, though there were a good eight or nine others.  Sitting atop one of the huge displaced rocks of Tiberias’s villa I felt alone with the huge sward of grass opening before me on the downhill slop I had just climbed.  To my left, a fence, and on the other side a group of goats peacefully munching the briars and weeds.  In front of me what must have once been an immense lawn.  In the warm sunlight I fell into a trance, in which there was the same nothingness of bobbing heads in a river, then nothing at all, and this for some reason brought on soaring transport.  I was away from myself somewhere that was nowhere.  Coming to, I looked out on the scene before me.  There were the goats, only now, having munched there was across the grass and crossed the right hand fence, they were once again peacefully munching—on whatever was to be found, under the pines, on this other place I hadn’t visited yet.

I felt a soaring sense of transportI basked in the sun and began to fall into reverie.   —a place h occasional both small and large rocks there, I climbed for about an hour.  I felt alone with a pagan spirit that still existed on the topled blocks of Tiberias’s villa, on the huge sward of grass immediately before it streaching a good hundred yards downhill—and most of all that sweet sound of the wind blowing softly thru the pine trees.  Were they standing there in Tiberias’s time?

At the beginning of that mountain-top reverie at the top of Capri there were goats on the other side of a fence muching at the briars and weeds.  Watching them to the left, looking at the grassy slope directly before me breathing in the scented smell of the pines, gazing up at the sky I fell into a kind of swoon or transport during which time was erased and there was only eternity—that silvered river of emptiness from which we came and to which we will return.  How long the trance lasted I didn’t know.  But from seeing that by now that goats had munched their way across the sward, crossed the fence on the right and were eating whatever vegitation there was that they found there I could only guess.  Was it twenty minutes?  Had I been gone longer than that?  Or less.  became time-less transport. In the realm of eternity not only is repeating allowed, it is demanded. Hence repeating what I already told you about Jamie’s promise to find me…

 

…and I remember a story about a face that Jamie once told me—can’t recall how many times, but a lot.  Talk about being burned into the memory disk.  Well anyway Jamie’s driving his truck all unawares in the Texas night somewhere with nothing much around, since it, the road, ‘s a two-laner and then suddenly upahead there’s this other truck on fire, its driver trapped inside somehow.  When Jamie stops, gets out he joins a cop looking on—but without doing anyway.  Jamie told me that this face was burned forever on his mind—for the unforgetable tortured look on that man on fire, inside the cab.  “Shoot me, shoot me, please!!” screams the young man and his voice pierces Jamie’s heart like an arrow.  Seeing the cop Jamie’s in a fury—Goddamnit, man, shoot that boy in there!  Shoot him!  You have a gun—do what he says, put him out of his misery!”    The cop does nothing.  Explains that if he did he might be liable to murder charges.   Jamie’s own face always went pale at this point not just for shame for the cop’s inaction but for shame of his own, Jamie’s.  “I know I could grab the cop’s gun if I wanted and then shoot the burning guy in his truck, I knew it would be easy, just grab the cop’s gun and shoot!  pistol whip the cop if necessary.  I know I could have done it but I didn’t—probably for the same reason the cop had, for fear of being legally prosecuted.”   The story usually petered out there with Jamie, the shame in him renewed because he did nothing, growing paler, more quiet.

I’d listen to the story in silence—which I guess, in a way, makes me a co-conspirator.  You body burns up and is it the head the flames get to last?   I picture that boy’s head rolling off the skeleton of his body—rolling onto the same silver-ribbon river all of our heads’ll tumble into sooner or later.

 

It must have been important for him.   He’s on a job driving a big truck eastward somewhere in Texas on a two-lane highway when he’s pulled over by the scene before him.  There’s a smaller truck than Jamie’s and it’s on fire lighting up the whole highway and the desert brush to one side, the tumble weed on the road, and this cop just standing there watching as a young man inside the truck, caught somehow when the fire broke out, can’t get out of his truck—and is burning alive.  Faces burn into you.  Faces that go with fire.  Doesn’t that account for their luminosity along the silver ribbon of time unrolling before you own face joins those bobbing up and down like human head-ballsjudge by Jamie’s repetition compulsion to play and replay the story of that face, by this you can judge how important it must have seemed to him.  The story that Jamie told and retold goes back to his trucker days.  He’s hauling a huge 18 wheeler behind his Peterbuilt along a dark two-lane highway in Texas somewhere.  If I put myself in his place my emotions are pulling me every which way—like the opening of that Cohen brothers film, you know?  BLOOD SIMPLE? the noir effects beginning to go hyper on you.    mory.  Like my face will be soon, for any who know me now while I’m still alive.  But then another generation arrives, and this one knows about the one in question only His face burned, now and forever, alas,into the hard disk of  memory, that pale, gaunt-looking face so filled with sweetness and hardness, it’s the hard in him staring, looking not to the right, not ot the left, just straight on—as if to meet his destiny in no way dismayed or frightened but as a simple fact, the natural fact he saw forever in the desert staring back at him telling the program: out of nowhere that we know here is something and it is beginning and now watch its arc as it grows, reaches a zenith, and declines unto—nothingness, death, gone-ness.  Gate gate paragate bodhisattva the chant ending most off zen services and meaning you have reached and totally reached oh enlightened one the other side.  And that’s where Jamie now is—the other side.  On the other side. 

I’m just a mouse to him, his mouse running puff puff all out of breath because of my emphysema trying to keep up, apace with him and asking him in desperation in sheer desperation “What DID the doctor tell you Jamie honey?”   Jamie, at last giving me the doctor’s report: “Says metastasized lung cancer, and won’t last but just a few months maybe 3, 4.”   “Jamie, Jamie…” I say still running after him and feeling like Big Mama always trying to placate Big Daddy (in Tennesee’s CAT).  I need him to slow, so we can talk or what?  Don’t know.  Silence to the parking lot.  In the car going home, silence.  Silence going upstairs, where I gently point him to our bed and we flop down together, holding hands.  “I’m here, baby, I’m here.”   And for a long long time he is silent just hanging on to me with our coupled hands together that bind us as one now.  Really is there anything more, can there be anything more now—to say—really?  But comfort, talk.

His  turned downward—accentance?  rage?  Who can say at this point—though I already know that in the long run, however short that is, it’s be…just acceptance.  That’s all.  Acceptance pure and simple and that’s all sweetly greeting instead of raging against—that dark night.

Soothe soothe.  Baby I love you.  I love you.  I love you.  You can never say that too many times.  And first I’m just lying there next to him, one skinny stick next to a slightly plumper other stick.  Two old men, just sticks without buds, goners, don’t for—and we know it.

Saying as many soothing words I can think of.  Hand passing over his brow, hand passing over the little declivity, the small spot that babies have that never entirely goes away (the
Tibetan buddhists of the opinion that the soul exists through this top hole, as I can imagine looking upward at the grand occulus, the great opening at the Pantheon’s top), I pass over them and back again, soothe soothe.  Can words ever be needed at such times.  Soothe, soothe.  Then instead of two sticks

                                                                 he takes note of my need for comfort too and into the curve made by his birthing posture on that bed, the knees the top of a hemisphere that scoops inward to the belly and then turns out again up at the top, shoulder-level or such—and into such a curvature he gentle begins to fold me so that there I am with him, folded into his body like a child about to birth itself and his dry stony face looking at me, for the first time, begins to become soft, the skin soft to the touch, the soul and self of him soft to my helpless hopeless desire for his sheer physical self that both of us now know will exit this world before my equally hopeless self is called upon to do the same—after or in some way perhaps instead of or simultaneously with—him.   Jamie, and this feels like the last time and in some ways its is.

Because after that the house becoming a sick house—for hospital they say sick-house in German—with hospital fittings, the hospital table next to the bed to which he will now retire never again to walk freely as free persons do—and oxygen tank with plastic tubes to now bring in, to this oxygen-deficient lung-cancer patient the stuff of life, of living things that burned in the mitochondria make motion possible and after that—all life.  This to be from now on his one and only life till the end.

And after that the parade of medecines from the Hospice doctor  in charge now.  Together with me, now become orderly, nurse, cook, housekeeper as his and official care-taker in one fell swoop—signing legal papers, signing this, signing that—oh can’t you just leave us alone to BE with each other, don’t you understand we aren’t patients but human beings, please?   “Oh please please, you’ve got to get his medication up, his medication is inadequate for someone who’s been taking 12 or 13 oxycotons each DAY?   Can’t you realize, you idiot, you’ve just put him into sudden and severe decompression down to only two or three?    Goddammit WRITE YOUR PRESCRIPTION FOR AT LEAST 13 oxycotons a day and more.  Don’t you HEAR me?  Write out the goddamn prescription to the level he was used to!”

I call Travis since these idiot incompetant hospice people can’t, or won’t, listen and understand.   As you have eyes in order to see what do you have ears for if not to hear?!   Who is you?  Not Travis.  Travis understands and writes what’s needed and the whole insane carneval commences—the one that’ll end only with his death, Jamie’s death.  I bring him cokes.  He wants little else.  Apply soothing compresses as often as possible.  Apply kisses and words of affection and love and loving carresses as his head looks up helplessly, just like Rocky my dog’s did when the man from the killing-place came to deliver the death-angel’s needle—as he hopelessly watched my face.   I get them mixed up.  At night I dream of the time we took Rocky’s body down to the rose bushes in back to bury him, though the two other guys next door were partying on the steps and didn’t understand and kept up their made yelling and screaming until I screamed at them back: Can you not SEE what is happening here, that in this blanket are the remains of my own special dog my Yorkie friend Rocky?  who we are now trying to burying with decency.  Can you not leave us, at least now, finally leave us to what we must do by ourselves in quiet?    And suddenly sober, apologetic, they got up, went back up their stairs and closed their apartment door on us to give us the time we needed to do what we had to do.  Saying a prayer to a god neither of us believed in and gently laying his body in the hole Jamie had dug with a borrowed shovel for him, the the doggie I loved.

I can’t help it,  I can’t help now but mix things up and get the order wrong because everything now is so important.  I will try to be calm, maybe I will make mistakes, mis-telling some things or leaving important out or inserting instead those that are trivial.  In such cases as this the mind is a micro-universe as herky-jerky as the other, macro one where from the silent utter dark from which all light is banished suddenly a meteor will speed down upon you.  Suddenly the spacecraft is confronted with another ship that surely will look more or less like the grand other, all storied heights of chandeliered light retreating one level refolding into the next as it bears down and you must accommodate one way or the other—one thought going this way, another the other and all at once feeling the scoop of the remaining parts of you like the dirty in a huge gas-powered steam-shovel taking as it wishes endowed itself with a kind of life that knows like all other forms to devore the heaped alien or other lifed stuff into its all encompassing maw to re-power it to continue at this until a larger piece of metalic life-form scoops it up to posses it as it earlier had had the power to posses what it had taken, where and when.   Instead that blackness of consciousness the constant carooming of thoughts tasting of such mysteries and tasting as I considered them swishing back and forth within me not unlike the taste and smell of raw Safeway hambuger.  As degraded and degrading each of our crisis thoughts must be in such a situation.  

Standing beside my beloved in that bed despite myself becoming a machine, a CAT scan, a DOG scan, shoved down a tunnel (and I am unable to know if I mean my own mental exposures or his, Jamie’s) around which with an uncountably high number of decibels screeching as the magnet goes round and round and the disembodied voice of the operator yells: Be still!  or we’ll have to repeat the whole thing.  The machine needs you to be completely still!  it insists, metalically, mixing its own thoughts with his, or mine, into the tunnel into which we all are plunging now.   I cannot remember if this is my own experience or Jamie’s body and experience inscribing themselves onto the paper that slices human tissue into a thousand different slices from a thousand different angles.  Re-mixing themselves again and again until at last the Yaldabaoth, the gnostic
Blind One’s consciousness has, without our realizing, blinded all machines and all the machines’ beaurocracies into the carroming balls of information that instead make up the Lord of Delusions that become the alternating macro, micro self-experiences you now recognize as your own consciousness.  

Do you think there is a therapy for this?

You must be mad.

                                                                          

                                                                                               *

 

And so the days went by.  Interior madness meeting exterior until one strange experience.  But my throat chokes suddenly, bring back a time before I could talk.  That period of time conceals another world—one that will always flee as I seek it.  Think of it now a kind of dry sobbing suffocates my whole upper body.  As his thoracic cavity more and more decayed into a bundle of floating or misplaced ribs, and bits of his blacked lung tissue became brittle and broke off to float on a sea of body-chest liquids that sooner more than later would require, in another place, at the Palliative Care Center of the local hospital, the care it needed in the form of endless suctionings day and night in a forest of hanging vines whose only intent it was of course to occlude while what presented to the gaze remained as if the same, Jamie whom I know and loved, Jamie…but that will come shortly enough to merit the short completion of the story as it bears upon the events taking place in our own marriage-bed, on top of which was his sister’s crocheted (with extra twine about the house—her house in Carlsbad I mean?) St. George and the Dragon, from a treasured 19th century paradigm.  Meantime time went on, as did the interruptions of time with its predictable crises AD MORTEM NON EST DISPUTANDEM because the curving of the arc downward can’t be prevented, each day another rupture of something inaudible, something you cannot even put on a spoon and taste to recognize what it is.

 

                                                                                  *

We have nearly reached the end-point of Jamie’s residency in his, our, own bedroom.  I have medicated, swept, replaced catheters, cooked for what little he could be tempted to, curled up against him, against his cracking back which bore the burden better than the other way, curling inside his arms and legs and placing myself against his chest, his loins.  And this reached an end in the following manner:

On a certain day Jamie had asked for a cold Coke.  I brought it to him.  A look of pure madness crossed his face, of cunning and of plotting—a look that was as foreign to that great and good nature as would be any deliberate unkindness (to borrow for once the set of Tennessee Williams’ only set of ethics he ever articulated—though as it happens the mouth of his character Blanche du Bois)

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A Mispent Roman Day

Where was I?  In that apartment, the new one, a penthouse, that’s where.  Jamie and me in this luxury falling “en abyme”—into infinity—looking at the other looking at the other—don’t you do that sometimes with your own lover, reader?  (Something in me now thinks of the hyphenated Jamie-Bruce entity as an ontological version of this and the other, the visual one as a psychological version.

Anyway to get on with it.  The day was lovely, all blue and just the tiniest touch of clouds.   All that apartment space,  birds like we were a-building their nests way up in the aether, or practically there way up in all that asure.  Jamie and Bruce looking at the world spread out before them in Rome where once from the Palazzo Venetia the thug Mussolini looked down with a dominating but false look—but this is all ghost history isn’t it?—at his adoring throngs.  We hadn’t the pleasure of adoring throngs though I more and more year by year am conscious myself—and guessed as much in Jamie with his many stories of a much loved past that always clung to him ready to speak again, like revenants speak.  

Revenants.  Such a lovely word in French because meaning returners—and I like that.  Everything returns and must not we too?    For the past two years Jamie has been returning to me—waking me sharply by calling to me from the corridor and other real events not fake as the Blavatsky type, or the 19th century combination of science and mediums recalling their dead as practiced by my distant relative—very very distant now however!—cousin Henry as grandmother called Mr. James—but that’s another story and now we’re here in our pleasure nest in the sky, in Rome, just Jamie and me—and thee, oh reader of mine—makes three. 

We were at the edge of the terrasse looking over the balcony.  Like—but probably more unlike—Tosca in her opera, looking over the dead body of her captor Baron Scarpia.  Devanti lui tremava tutta Roma says she.  Proleptic Bruce writing now and looking back to then puts the quotation that Bruce in fact did not have, into Bruce’s mind.  But there must be something buzzing in my mind right now or why would I have started with Mussolini addressing the Roman  crowds at Piazza Venetia.   And what does this have to do with the dead.  There’s an element of saddness that intrudes naturally because now my literal other half is gone and I am have a person—the other having flown off like a bird with the promise to, when I myself would die, find me there, somewhere in all that emptiness or nothingness, and this is no prolepsis but what Jamie in fact spoke during the time of his residency in the Palliative Care just before his dying.  And he repeated it.  Perhaps that is the returning factor—the revenant—when you repeat something.  I would like it to be that way—but then, after all I’m not French and haven’t the faintest idea why the returning figure struck them strongly enough to embody it in their language as a synonym for “ghost.”      

Though I was happy oh so happy to be with him with his arm wrapped around me protecting me on that terrasse overlooking Rome—what intruded?  A little bit of nothing—a phrase Jamie loved to use at the drop of a hat.  Meantime the two gay American boys in the facing penthouse had either finished showering or…for our benefit I like to think too—had begun walking across their own terrasse with the skimpiest of towels around all four of their buttocks.  “Hi!” we wave out.  We think they must know we’re Americans too.  Flirtatious because of not waving back—I think to increase our prurient interest by causing us to redouble our efforts to catch their attention.   (An observation I like to think of as the kind of thing Frank O’Hara might have have noticed himself think, then committed to a part or the whole of—one of his beautiful poems.  Here in beautiful  Rome.  Filled with beautiful art and the just plain beauty of being for us being together here just the two of us and our only purpose being enjoyment.   What about the half-naked American boys across from us: were they lovers for instance?  And think thoughts similar to and mirroring Jamie’s and mine?   They never reappeared.  A question the answer to which will be forever wrapped in mystery—no matter how long I live.    Or Jamie does.  

The intrusion of sadness.  That was because I sensed, but then immediately repressed, that something was wrong.  A little ship, of the flimsy Roman type utterly unable to handle big huge stormy oceans (as opposed to the calm Mediterrean), a little ship was now near floundering somewhere on its voyage across the Atlantic to Rome—that’s the only way I know how to put it.  Something dangerous, the thought I mean of some danger for somebody, Somebody, I guess—kept intruding its crow-like winged presence darkly into my mind and with all this happiness of Jamie and me in this wonderful place—why?   I”ll go back over these pages (for forward, when they’re done, finished) to try to find the first time I recognized the meaning of the turbulent knock at the door of my consciousness that of course I would always immediately stuff downstairs.  Into the Ucs as Freud says for his concept of the unconscious.  The little craft trying to cross the Atlantic utterly wrong-headedly having nothing like the strength and sheer bulk it must have to continue—but my Ucs knows.  It recognizes the situation and calls is by name.  Meantime my consciousness is left raising flags up the little boat’s mainmast to signal the international signal of distress (and by the way just exactly what is that, I mean is it really a flag or what now, these days, is it the S.O.S. of radios or in these days of twittering why could the two little birds named Jamie and Bruce just twitter away to stave off the coming…what?   I didn’t know yet.  But I know now, yes indeed I do.  And even Travis the physician had the good grace not to spoil Jamie’s last fling in the sun, this beautiful Roman holiday with what would of course surely have ended it—the news he’d get later at home in San Francisco when we returned—like two revenants—to the bleak family doctor’s blunt assessment to Jamie, which, looking forward a minute—would turn out to take no more than oh, five minutes at best: you have lung cancer and you have at most four or five months.   To live.  But I’m not going to go there now and spoil our happiness at our just being together and having nothing to do but love each other—and lark about Rome with absolutely no purpose (when Jamie could drag me from my dour prupose of including absoloutely every notable art treasure that there is in Rome—poor Jamie, poor Bruce—since how looking back anyway could Bruce have even dreamed of doing anything but be with Jamie, going on pizza hunts, piazza drunkenness, casual spur-of-the-moment purchases of this and that, postcards, knicknacks for the mantlepiece at home, just any excuse to roam about shouting and playing like kids—which after all we were. 

But me not now.  Omens.  Was it another of the many omens I had then that something took hold of me and when visiting St. Peter’s made me stay way longer than anyone possible could or should—at the dramatic mother holding her dead son in her lap in the shape of that youthful Michelangelo’s “Pieta”?    My vision is sharper now.  And I believe in such things even as Step on a crack/break your mother’s back—that this must mean something and not be some meaningless holdover from childhood when I encounter cracks these days.   Two years have gone by.  There’s a sharper vision in me now. 

In general now—and departing from the specific Roman stay—I’m thinking of how generally to characterize this twosome, the Jamie-Bruce one.  Are we Yves and Pierre I wonder?  When I saw the film clip of Yves Saint Laurent on my computer yesterday there I recognized myself as he flung hair I used to have all up and down again in that rush of words from this shy shy being as he was recounting something devoid of its words because there were only images at the site I saw him, watching him as a double of me—the shy one.   And to protect him?  The other, real tough one: Pierre (Berge—and do remember, if you please, to mentally supple the final accent aigue on Pierre’s last name for me, will you?).      One dreams.  The other runs interference with an approaching potentially defeating wall of reality.  Only in some ways it was the opposite—it was me protecting Jamie from the harshness of reality, not him me.  But to look at us: that’s all I mean.  And then don’t you see how much I needed that protective arm around me—the one who’d always think of something, no matter how threatening the danger?  But it got there anyway, despite my efforts—though that is going to be kind enough to wait on us, to wait till we return, revenants, ghosts going back to our home.  And where is that home anyway?  (Dogen: all form is emptiness, all emptiness form.  You are not safe and help is not on the way—the ((I think)) well-known zen stance on this.  But just because (though you don’t know it) help isn’t on the way, does that mean you should stop being terribly exicted about today’s excursion across the Tibur to the lovely Piazza Navona?   Heck, no.  Just the opposite.  And we’re off.  

Doubles, tied together in everything.  In all the fun and excitement of being in Rome, despite the presence like big crows, of some daimon like an omen.  Despite the (now) manifest warnings.   Like coming in by Alitalia to Fiumicino airport, the airport of Rome the captain for some reason decides to fly south a ways and make a big circle, then head back northward to Fiumicino while passing over the most lovely huge stand of woods I had ever seen from the air?  “What is that?” asking another passenger.  She says “the great stand of umbrella pines separating Ostia, its former port, from Rome, which has a new one these days. 

Thud thud thud—something battering away at my Ucs.  What?  Oh the passage in Tacitus taken verbatim from two letters from Pliny he had asked him to send him—for his history of Rome—an eyewitness account noting that the great column of smoke and fire and brimstone and whatever rising way way up from the cone of Vesuvius—he says it looks like…an umbrella pine.  Get the drift, oh readers of mine—even centuries from now, don’t you even at your distance still get my drift?   I think so.  I hope, no, no  know so. An omen is talking—but is Bruce listening, really listening?  In antiquity omens and dreams and oracles and all that were just as important as math advances or physics advances or the newst Alexandrian grammarian’s thoughtful book untangling the mysteries of the use of mise-en-scene in the great Nonnius’s Dionysus book.  They were equal.  Hypatia’s father, Mr. Hypatia, was of course a great rationalist, a philosopher, and the only one ever who added significantly to Ptolemy’s Almagest—so wouldn’t this rationalism obiously just x out any attention at all paid to what is called superstion?    The answer in their terms is yes.  In ours, no, because dreambooks could be and did scientifically dissert dreams: if you dream of violating your mother you are considering doing damage of some kind to the earth.

Now that’s what I call sensible.  So were the warnings of a great disaster that were sent to me: why exactly it was not just pine trees but umbrella pines seemed to brush out nuptial windows the first night in our penthouse, how Alitalia made it a point to go south so we could get a stunning view below of the great—guess what—UMBRELLA PINE stand just south of Rome.  It has taken me a long time, almost two years to grok the obvious: that reading Pliny being a favorite pastime of mine and of course it was the Vesuvius letters that remain one of the pinacles of these letters how could it have taken tilll now to realize the message that if disaster could overtake a proposperous and even a little smug Roman village like Pompeii, taking it down down down to darkness forever—what kept me from being aware that I myself was now receiving a message.  About a coming disaster—that would happen as it happens just not to me—but instead to Jamie.  What dumbness.  Because the umbrella pines grabbed me like the trees in Wizard of Oz when Judy sets out with her new friends the cowardly lion and tin man to bravely traverse the woods—where each normally benevolent tree becomes malevolent and tries to catch them probably to eat them and throw very hard apples at them if they are apple trees (though I think of them as pitchers throwing very hard things right at you in the baseball games whose teams I was compelled to join by school authorities of that past age…I was the sissy and Jamie was my protector from such things happening to me again—isn’t that the meaning of his putting his arm around me (instead of vice versa)?

Just about then, that is in the length of time represented by the last two paragraphs, say equal to two days?—we’re again at our balcony at the edge of the terrasse looking out across and what do you think we see?  Talk about doubles.  Those gay boys—so alike in the post-pubescent lack of body hair and so pink and naked with their towels on—AGAIN! appear cavorting and prancing for us across their penthouse court casting only the briefest of glances at us across from them.  And why?  Why to these young twinkies want to look at US.  I am so puzzled.  They naturally want their kind—what could they want with us?  Then it strikes me: oh maybe they want THESE two potential sugar daddies, namely Bruce and Jamie—to get them another penthouse in Rome, that is, when their current sugar daddies grow tired of them.    I collapse in laughter falling to the terrace floor, in just a fit of laughter and Jamie looks calmly on smiling, amuzed, at whatever strange idea must be flying like a bee around the brain that he often admired, indeed sometimes seemed to adore—to my dismay.   I would say, Jamie, everybody has the same brain, it’s just how you choose to use it.  I know about the letters of Pliny.  You know about corncob cactus or how creosote bushes can cure the common cold, when the leaves are made in a foul concoction.   Your brain is pulled by its nose to whatever its interested in, is all.   And then the gay boys were gone—even their towels were gone.  Had it all been a dream?   

I would like to be boyish,  not girlish, but not man-ish.  That is why I wanted Jamie, I needed Jamie at my side day and night and if not all the time then enough of the time so that after inhaling the exhaling would be calm and natural as in zazen, sitting crosslegged on a zafu, you join buddha-mind.  In my mind Jamie was just another kind of zazen.  In Korea they do zazen standing up.  Could I do zazen by having Jamie nearby?  I think so.  I thought so.     

Now evening falls on day one.  We’re alone in the huge penthouse.  And crazy.  It’s so quite.  We make noise making a little dinner, out of a minimum of supplies from a branch of the grocery chain that was up a block or two.  Still, alone.  And after?  After, retiring to the white white bedroom.  A white bed.  White rug.  The white walls soothe us enough to take up the big comforter, huge huge in Euro-style, and get comfy and cozy pulling it over us again.  And his arms around me.  Mine him.  His legs around me, mine him.   It is late and we are sleepy but still with enough energy to throw pillows at each other, white pillows for fun and giggling crawl under the covers again.  Sleep tight, Bruce and Jamie.  See that harvest moon up there?  It’s god who doesn’t exist but still is loving you.  And trying very hard to chase away the scratch scratch scratch which are the last thing I remember that night, of the umbrella pine branches.  The umbrella pines.   Look over us, god and moon, look over us—and so to sleep.   Nothing can ever hurt you again, they say.  

If the animals are acting funny, if the light turns that strange color that might mother described as being “earthquake weather” while she was still my mother instead of only the small portion I visit every couple of months in her retirement center though it’s always touch and go if she will still remember me, I still love her—even the little that’s left there.  So many warnings in life and who notices?   That is what I call an omen, an oracle, a dream-message sent by a god, even though such beings are thought not to exist any more.   But we can still dream.  And umbrella pines and still be the presages of events as cataclysmic maybe on the micro scale of just one person—the person you love—as they once were in the mind of the Roman writer Pliny the Younger as he penned on velum or papyrus six pages of the eye-witness accounting that Tacitus said in a reply-letter were so good that he was not going to change a letter of them, putting them in exactly as is, or was, into that great history of his, of Rome.  That’s all for tonight.  And in the next segment we will get to day two.   ‘Night.    

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To Go On About Rome—then Several Weeks, then Home

Wasn’t it when we were talking with the rental management team—the occasion of the last notation I made about our stay in Rome?   No later.  We were going to begin the account of day two of the stay in Rome, of Jamie and Bruce’s vacation in Rome. 

This doesn’t really apply but something says it does so I”ll do it.  Put in a dream I had last night.  I was in a foreign country and everybody around me was rich.  A rich lady who looked like Dodie was paying me back one of the payments on a loan I had made her, but instead of in the installments agreed on, in lesser and lesser sums.  100 denarii.  Then 95.  Then 82 denarii.  Once I caught sight of a golden aureus I would have given an arm and a leg for.  But she didn’t fork out.  And then the dream is less clear and turns into wisps, speaking to me but I can’t answer them.  Why?  And in this dream why Dodie and what does this mean?  A cryptographer.  No it’s a oneiro- something.  Oneirocritic?  Something like that but still not quite.  It will have to do for now. 

The weirdness of the dream, the references to signs, omens—that is proper.  You’’ll see. 

 

Readers,

                              Could you be so kind as to think about my dilemma which, in the Rome adventures I’m retailing will soon come to a head.  Like headwaters—you’ll see.   Our era is so unbelieving and I hope by telling my tale to make it just the least bit more believing.  And you can help.  Here’s the key: just keep thinking WHAT WOULD HORACE do as I continue to tell of our adventures in Rome, and this time on day two.  There are omens and signs I haven’t even told you yet and they call out for interpretation.  In 1900 more than a century ago Freud realized the interpretation of another kind of oracle, the dream with the publication of his TRAUMDEUTUNG.  (Easy to understand if you pull apart its component parts, Traum is a dream and the deutung is an inexpretation, so you just put ‘em together and you get your Interpretation of Dreams book that contrary to some more flashy and fashionable contemporary critics is his best book of all.  This indicates the necessity to take heed doesn’t it?   And if Bruce needs his answer just remember to write him: WHAT WOULD HORACE DO, the flag under which in those days in Rome I was marching—as I still do.  Where you have your Jesus I have my Horace thank you very much.  We will see which motto will be shown to have been of the greater benefit at least to yours truly the ignorant teller of these stories, your (thank you) Bruce.   

Day two in Rome for Jamie and Bruce begins with…

                                                                                              a big mistake.

After lunch Jamie discovers a malfunctioning light switch or something.  And to fix it requires a phillips screwdriver or a wrench or a seize 2ab coupler—or decoupler—or some other arcane device from the land of Maleness that always frightened me.  He wants me to go down to the hardware store near the piazza, whose name I never knew.  That one, you know, down at the bottom of your street via Farnaci?  OK will do. Ad I’m off.  Under the sottopassagiere we go, the underground tunnel to the other side, the north side, of the vast square.  I tail the bunch of nuns—from some place in Africa it looks like.  There are always so many gay (in the other sense of gay) nationalities all happy about seeing the pope, and St. Peter’s.  I’m betting on them, following them close around three or four corners when suddenly!—like a ray of sunshine slicing thru a low-lying blanket of dull clouds—from the dour say appears the glory of St. Peter’s—and the lovely Bernini arcades.  And soon I’ve made my way thru the columns and the forecourt to the giant cathedral (a little too giant and with a long nave that appears just stuck on at the front, because some pope wanted enough room for more people and told Michelangelo to chance his Greek Cross design to instead accoutre the church with length—length that spoils its architecture actually—but few seem to notice that. 

Inside I’m bored.  Been here.  Done this.  Twice before actually, once on a trip in my twenties then again in another in  my late twenties—why go again, I now think, to this boring bus station?   The pieta at your right as you go in—the younger Michelangel’s version of Virgin and her dead Son—a little too chaste and smoothe for me, the one he did when older been oh so much more genial, though you CAN legitimately like this.  Maybe I’m being perverse.  But I skip the rest and go for the gold—I want down to the sub sub level underneath the whole place.  The pagan cemetary with the wonderful mosaic portraying Christ exactly, and I mean exactly, in the way they portrayed Apollo, riding the clouds as the sun-god standing in the chariot holding the reins to his four horses. I wait on line for probably a half hour and then am told you need to prenotare, dude (preregister)!   Oh oh time must be passing huh?  Look at the cellphone.  Can’t believe it’s 3:20.  Better hurry back and the store will be opened and Jame, probably already worried at the length of my absence on a simple task—will get both me and his whachmacllit.  Great.  Then I look out from the grand staircase leading up to the great bronze doors of St. Peter’s which is where I’m at now—again. 

Mmmm I puzzle.  Spatially challenged again!  Was it—to the LEFT of the Bernini columns?  Or the right.  I can’t decide.  What to do?   Waaaal  I think contortedly, there’s no reason it’s not just as likely to be to my left is there—‘cause then I could take in Castelsantangelo, right?   So I start down a broad avenue that Mussollini made (how that portentious name reoccurs!   Then after a couple of blocks I realize: this isn’t the way.  I look at my cell: almost 4pm now—Jamie will be starting to worry and I’m getting tired.  And hungry.  And…a little scared.  I ask a cop—he can’t understand or I can’t understand him, I don’t know which.  Look, a priest, and reverting to the good Catholic boy within that’s never entirely died in me I think, priests know everything: he can help.  Priest no good either: non capisco.    Where to do.  Oh maybe it was across the bridge, the famous Prince of Savoy bridge connecting up Vatican with downtown business area—hey I guess I mistook which side of the river we’re on!

Then a long stroll making me ever more nervous.  But I”ve forgotten the number for the international cell Jamie has, the onely one, so I can’t call him and how could he help anyway.  Another priest.  Shrugs shoulders.  Should I take a bus?  Which way.  Wait here’s the famous Jesuit founder-church Il Jesu (with accent)) and shouldn’t this tell me something?  Another priest: this one speaks very good English.  So what street do you live on then?  Ohhhhh I’ve forgotten already and am getting tireder and tireder.  Priest says well is there a landmark?  I say a huge just huge piazza and with an underpass too.  Priest: you know that could describe about a hundred piazzas in Rome. You just will HAVE to remember the name of your street or you’ll never get to your apartment—that really is the long and short of it. 

He leaves.  Me: I’m lost somewhere in the business district of Rome totally completely lost.  What to do.  I walk aimlessly—then, wait a minute (now it’s six and getting toward evening): since we were on the Vatican side of the Tibur and since the business district (a bunch of expensive department stores and a few renaissances churches which I am NOT in the mood for looking into) is on the OTHER side I have to get back to the Vatican side?  Etc etc etc getting lost-er and more lost-er.  Then crying.  It’s 8pm, no closer to 9pm.  I’m walking the very high walled in shores of the Tibur and surprise: is this the Prince of Savoy again?  I’m dragging my feet, tired, hungry, confused, afraid—and this cute young Irish priest comes toward me—he must speak English.  I explain my predicament and thankfully not repeating that I have to know my street name he takes me kindly by the hand and points across the river.  See that sign “Ospedale”?  Go over there, they’ll help you.  I do.

Once there, same old same old.  What’s going to happen to me—since by now no one, not even the nurses and doctor on duty (ospedale means hospital I find out), seem to be able to help in the way I want (helping me get home), but obviously think: he’s  crazy. But I’m not, just tired, very very tired from walking and walking and walking, without eating, without drinking, scared and in a strange city and not being able to speak the language.  It’s no use.  They examine me, with no passport, no nothin’ but some small change and a receipt from last light’s jaunt up the street to the grocery store—no ID—but they still examine me and then take me to X-ray.  Where they look at my head and x ray it.  Meantime with me just jabbering, you don’t understand I just want to go home but I don’t know where home is.  

The doctor comes in.  She speaks English and I explain.  Then she does too.  She says :

“I know.  There’s been a call made to the American embassy and there’s someone waiting right now who might be able to help you.”   The lady on the other end, at the Embassy, says “Now this is important, what I’m going to do should be kept strictly on the QT—get it?  And I do.  Yes.  I promise silence.  “Well they emptied your trousers—didn’t you ever bother to think of doing that?  “No,” I say hanging my head like a misbehaving schoolboy.  “Well you should have, because in your pocket was a receipt, stamped with the name of your street, since you told somebody at the hospital apparently in fractured Italian that your street has a sottopassagiere at the bottom and a chain grocery a few blocks up from you, on the same street.   Didn’t you think to realize that this would identify your street and that you could find your way home that way?”     It’s 10:30pm and I’m really ashamed, I was so stupid.    “And you live, of course, on via Farnuci—and don’t forget that the Romans when they’re speaking Roman instead of standard, use the –ish ending instead of –ch ending of the word” she pronounced in a slightly schoolmistress choice.

“Now listen, this is against Embassy policy so don’t try to call me or thank me or anything or it’ll just get me in trouble, OK?”  OK.  “I have a friend, an ex-student of mine.  I’ll just called her and she’s agreed, with her husband, to pick you up at the hospital in just a few minutes.  Actually, do you know you’re only four blocks from home?  But I thought you must be exhausted and almost out of your wits from fatigue, so I called her: but don’t say anything to the embassy, right?”   Oh right.  Thank you so very very much.  Thank you.”  And we hang up.

Minutes later her friend arrives, with hubbie.  Great!  I’m starting to perk up already! well no, not really I’m still nearly out of my mind.   Once home, the key turns in the lock and ecco!  it’s Jamie—in a nano-second his face going from wreathed in darkness to light up like a Christmas tree.  Ohhhhhh we cry and fly into each other’s arms.  His happiness that I’m OK  and back again has no bounds.  We briefly thank the driver and her husband asking if we can take them to dinner sometime and would they write down their phone number for us to do that?  They do and leave.  We’re together, and falling falling and kissing kissing together and wrapping arms and falling on the bed with wrapping legs in joy we slowly fade out..  For the rest, remember it’s night now—and use your imagination.  Jamie and Bruce, both very tired but ecstatic to see each other and wrapped in each other’s arms on a bed.  Like I say, just think.  Use your imagination.  

                                                                            *

Talk about omens!

I could have told you this earlier but didn’t.  Didn’t even tell Jamie at the time.  Didn’t tell nobody but me—and even that, how definite am I about it, did it happen just this way.  Because here’s what I left out.

Just before meeting the cute Irish priest I had reached my lowest point ever.  And this is a shameful secret that I’ve told to few, including my closest.  Because it directly opposes my internalized sense of being rational.  As I’ve always said, you can’t get thru grad school all the way and not be rational to the core.  No one can do this and for instance believe in God, or afterlife or anything.  (Is it cheating to be a Buddhist and say this, I mean what happens when full realization of your buddha-nature hits you in attainting enlightenment—doesn’t experience, the experience of kensho or whatever you call it—involve a certain something, not this and not that, but not neither and certainly not both, concerning the lasting of your true being, which is buddha-mind?  I don’t know.  Nor care.  For all practical purposes I don’t believe in anything—do I have your leave to say I don’t believe in a damn thing?  Thank you.  I knew you’d let me say that!

Before the Irish guy I’m on the bridge, the Prince of Savoi, and I”ve thru hunger and thirst, thru many many hours of hunting and not finding, thru confusion involving a foreign land and, oh I don’t know, a bunch.  But because of it all, whatever it all is, I’m in the middle of the slighted roughed aforementioned bridge and it’s night.  I’m scared.  And looking down to the deep swirling and, to me at least immensely powerful black rushing water seeming even as I looked even to take me with them—or was that a wish—thru their sheer strength as they snarled and poured out with such power in them under and pas that bridge.  Then I heard them.  The voices from baby- or boyhood, when I was about four—did I tell you about them?  Well then I should.  Now this is a bit long but please hold onto your hats if you don’t mind.  It’s important.  An omen that has lasted my life will be rehearsed for you and by the time I get back from childhood to Jamie and my Roman visit you’ll be enthalled by it, I promise.  This omen had the power like many I think of totally destroying time.  (All omens have this power actually)

Well at the age when daddy was at the war, and that would be WWII naturally, both my  mom and my aunt,  each with their two little eaches, who were just like peaches, and of which I was one–decided to ride out things in grandmother’s..well what to call it?  But given its 18 acres of grounds with three gardeners, and swimming pool and rose garden and kitchen garden and flower garden and two-story study-as-outbuilding for my scholarly grandfather to be alone in, as well as big big garage for three or four cars and above which in the same building where a few of the eight or nine (depending) of my grandmother’s servants could live, I guess it should be called an estate.  Toto’s estate.  We called her Toto—but you don’t need to know more except for a little kid, almost any little kid, this (especially outdoor) space with its endless great swards of  green green grass going down from the main house almost to the country road except of course and especially for the absolutely god-like wonderful and dignified swaying very ancient huge big oak-trees that protected us from the however almost untraveled once you grasp that for us this would be a paradise, paradise itself “tout court”.  Just plain paradise.  After knowing that you don’t need to know any more about Toto or anything but the swimming pool.  Got that?

Am I just blathering or is there some point to this that links with me in despair on the Prince of Savoi in Rome?  There is.  Believe me.  And I’ll show you.

Back to the curiously, no strange blue of the coloring of the water of the swimming pool, which, the color I mean, probably came from the so-called sanitary pellets that regularly got dropped in by workmen.  Now at this point I have to tell you that I had a nanny, which in those days people called their little ones’ “governess”—a word that surprised me reading the Henry James story about the governess of the two little kids that see either a ghost or not a ghost, depending on how you read it—but that’s a byway and I’ll drop Henry, at least for now.

This governess was this horribly cruel Scottish (and I hope you don’t think I’m prejudiced, like Dr. Johnson was, against Scottish people or anything because I’m not), woman.  Because she saw thru me (no secret I guess even back then,  huh?) and recognized in this child a person who would grow up to be a sissy unless she put her foot down.  Isn’t that awful?  You bet it is.  To “cure” me, meaning toughen me up so I wouldn’t turn into a sissy after all she would bathe me by drawing a cold water bathe and adding to the coldness by putting in oh so many real ice cubes!  Damn!  What a bitch!  Oh sorry, I guess I should say “witch” or mean person maybe.  If ever there was a devil’s spawn it was Janet who had embarked on no more than three or four attempts at her cure-therapy on me while all the while I was of course screaming at the top of my lungs, wouldn’t you know it, my mother heard me—and came rushing in—and saw…Well you can bet your bottom dollar that then and there, at that very instant when mom saw Janet torturing me like this, she didn’t even leave Janet time for dumb attempts at explanation but fired here then and there—and out went Janet from the house—and from this story—never to be heard from again.  (Do you think it was all that Calvanism in her?  Maybe.  Or maybe not.)

So given that that was a bad omen, and in this way is kind of a proleptic repeat of the Natalie Wood story (and doubling the double is the fact that Natalie’s at least the Hollywood last name, is exactly, mind you, exactly—the same as my own would be!  if I hadn’t been adopted from my bio-father who was named Mr. Wood! So that today I am named Bruce Boone instead of whoever Wood).  Now the following is very germance so pay close attention please: Do you remember how poor Natalie Wood (who I adored in REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, and don’t you all too?), well  all her life she had this horrible fear of water and in fact specifically death by drowning.  Of course the poor thing took every precaution but what good did it do?  In the end, like Antinuous, drowned in the water, mysteriously.   (The end of Antinuous, the official consort of Emperor Hadrian, whose wife was a lesbian anyway so what difference did that make, anyway history will tell you that fate selected out the same path for Antinous as for Natalie: death under mysterious circumstances that nobody has ever discovered, I mean the reasons).   Poor Natalie, as I say trying all her life to stay off boats and such because of having heard that she was going to die by drowning in water and look what happened.  That is just what happened. 

But psychiatrists will tell you that with every fear—and after Janet I had a pretty strong fear of water too and still do even now after all the years that followed—there is buried under it a secret attraction.  And that accounts, maybe, for why Bruce was to be found, even if he was not found at that point, on the Prince of Savoi bridge in the middle of the night exhausted, perhaps out-of-his-head or what not.  Who knows.  Anyway did I tell you that along with Pliny the Younger the one I especially loved, maybe even more, more than Pliny even if that’s even possible, is Horace.  Quintus Horatius Flaccus, the great Roman poet.  I love him a lot, but mainly for two good reasons, the wildly improbably way he re-distributes Roman grammar entirely, more than any other poet, making the strangest connections by for instance giving you a noun in the accusative at the beginning and then he’ll let you just go hanging for a whole long clause or more—before he gives you the adjective that modifies this antecedant.  Cool.  Talk about cool.  Really awsome, dude.  But there is another reason too and that is that this poet is just the most rational person in a friendly way that you will ever meet, and by rational I don’t mean cold or anything but just I have never met anyone with more common sense.  Plus, naturally, he’s so beautiful.  OK?

So here we are, or I am, on the bridge.   And remember grandmother’s swimming pool?  Well one day when I had escaped the horrible Janet I ran all the way around to the swimming pool that was just in the process of being filled up though it was only about half-way when I got there—with  no Janice to stop me.  So I toddled down the steps at the dry shallow end and started toward the water, over my head, of the deep end. 

Which is when I heard—not in my ear but in my head but voices all the same.  And they said Brucie it’s so lovely down here with us I know you’d really love it.  It’s just so so lovely.  Well they chose their language well because I can’t resist lovely even now even just as a word.  So I moved toward them—to my fate in drowning.  Until they stopped me saying Brucie you must stop and not go any further right now because before you can join us you have a whole life to life.  But don’t worry because some day a long time from now we’ll come and get you, we promise, and you can be with us.

I’m on the middle on the bridge, remember, now looking down at those swirling chill black whirling waters just waiting to take me away with them and down the river Tibur with them if I’d just say the word when—can you guess what’s going to happen?  That’s right.  I heard, again in my head that is and not in my ears but it was still and even more so totally the real deal for me: I heard those childhood voices that I hadn’t heard in well over a half century—again!   And they invited me to join them.  They said, well you’ve done your life’s working, all your writing is done now and you have nothing more to write about (which was a lie, because what about this book, or blog that’ll become a book from me?) so you can join us in unspeakable paradise. 

There I was ragged, tired, humble, screwed up, mentally unstable and whatnot.  I was tempted, very temped.  I figured—oh there’s this and there’s that that’s physically wrong with me and causes pains and I’ve had this stroke which makes me gaga kind of and this pulmonary embolism which means the blood clots could muck up the entrance to my grain, or to my heart and duh!  I’d be a dead duck in no time.  So why don’t I jump?  Isn’t my life over?   

Here is where not exactly Horace but an idea of Horace, the idea of common sense, comes in.  I knew I loved Horace better than any poet in the olden days and it was as if there was a counter-voice whispering in my other ear, well you know this doesn’t make any sense.  Be rational, Bruce.  You really might write another book—though we don’t yet know what on.  Or think of Jamie: now how do you think he’d feel, and you’d be responsible, if you made it that he had to look at a horrible mangled bloody mess of a dead body and you it was you who he love so much—are you crazy or something? said Horace by way of a rhetorical question because I wasn’t really though anybody watching might be forgiven for thinking so the way I was acting, one foot up on the bridge railing and all.  Now, people—this REALLY DID HAPPEN and it REALLY WAS BECAUSE  OF THINKING OF HORACE that I stopped.  I backed off.  I got down from the railing and I regained my common sense.  So now from now on instead of saying WWJD, What Would Jesus Do, from then on whenever I’m in trouble of any kind I always say WWHD—can you guess that what’s my abbreviation of?  I sure bet you can!   ‘Cause I know you people who are my readers to be smart and not dumb readers and people both, if there’s a difference between.  Anyway that was it.  And right after I met the Irish priest who directed me to the ospedale, as I’ve told you.  Quite a night, huh?!  

But more than that.  What about oracles and omens and other contacts with the supernatural which being rational of course I don’t believe in but also do.  I mean, us humans we’re kind of schizo about believing and not believing and I guess being smart you must realize that already so it doesn’t have to be proved here on these pages.  Does it?  No.  It does not.  So I want you to think about omens and such in your own life.  If you leave them out and never bother to take note of them—aren’t you leaving out a real connection to the other world (I know, I’m a non-dualist and I don’t believe the other world is anything but a sort of different type view of this one, the same one I’m talking to you from right now—OK?), which in part I am writing this to convince you of making your peace with at least some elements of it—am I successful in doing this?  Time will tell.
But I hope after you finish this blog, or when it’s a book then book, that I’ll have made a significant difference for the better in your life by telling you about my own experiences here.

And another one is the umbrella tree: did I not realize that something or Something was trying to tell me by making me slack jawed with excitement at their beauty when flying over them, or wondrously stirred by their power to induce amatory states with Jamie when driving to Ostia or more importantly just noticing how it got, in Rome, to how I’d just see them everywhere.  There are tons of them in Rome.  And I would keep seeing and seeing them—but here’s the sad part—did I get the message that all this was sending me, and sending to me straight from the pages of Pliny’s letters where he tells about how the smoke column above Vesuvius looked just like an umbrella pine—well what was this all FOR if not to wise me up.  To get me ready, if there’s any such thing as being ready for catastrophe, for, up returning state-side, the convulsively disastrous event of first Jamie’s almost instant diagnosis of lung cancer and that he was going to die, and second, how this would upend my whole freakin life.  Right.  As it did all right.  And that was what the umbrella pines everywhere, here, there everywhere, were trying to tell me.  They were trying so hard it was practically like knocking their little heads against a totally hard cold stone wall—and then you have the dumbness to think you won’t bleed?  Come ON.  I could have listened  to the one omen just like I listened to the other.   The umbrella pines and Horace helping me to discern voices and tell, by his good sense, the good from the bad.  With one, a success.  With the other—I am still crawling around, a totally wounded thing, bent and broken by Jamie’s death and probably will continue to be acutely suffering from it until…

                 well will the good luck charm of finishing this blog and then turning it into a book and then publishing it make bad juju into good?  I think so.  Because despite everything, and I know that includes plenty, despite everything I am at my core an optimist.  And do you think you can be a buddhist, even a screwed up one, WITHOUT that?  No sir or m’am. 

Without being in your heart of hearts no matter how to the contrary you sometimes might seem to other people, without being a cockeyed optimist you have not yet got to your fate.  Remember St. Paul? Bonum certamen certavi, cursum consumavi, fidem servavi.  Fighting the good fight I’ve kept to the course and kept my faith, he says.

So now when it’s over two years  spent suffering’s Jamie’s lack of being with me any more this just might change when I publish this book.  And I hope it will. And when it does it will make me very very thankful.  Not for not having him now, just for having had him nearly two decades, that’s all.  And so can you.  An omen is a call, and it comes from the deepest part of you to attain joy and happiness now and afterward, no matter what afterward might or might not mean.  It means it’s possible in the middle of your suffering to stop suffering and to be happy again.   And oracles mean that.  And that part of it isn’t superstitious but is totally wise, isn’t it?       

So I hope for the shining grace of realizing this for you.  Now it’s up to you to be smart in a different way than using your cortex, it means for once why don’t you go out and get happy by learning to use your lymphic system too—like your hippocampus, which is wise and all the rest of it. 

Meantime–

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                           A Jamie assemblage

 

think of Jamie.  Think of me.  Don’t forget us.  We were important in this world, and you can be too if you follow the path that your omen shows you—‘cause at the end of the Yellow Brick road is happiness.  Thank you.  The end.  (for now)

 

 

for, though I will go on loving Jamie, I won’t any longer be so screwed up about this that I can’t do anything.  Even write.  Or be in a writer community.  Or go out of my house some days.  I KNOW deep down I know—that since the world shines with goodness and grace could we only, thru the second sight granted us in realizing this whenever we get enlightened, that this is so.  It is the case.  Really.  

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Veni ad Carthaginem

As I told you, it all begins with the Pliny and his umbrella pine volcanic eruption—his Vesuvius account and all that.  Bear this in mind, readers.  Augustine told you VENI AD CARTHAGINEM to conjure the worst turpitudes he could think of.  In a way it’s like that.

Only I say VENIA AD ROMAM. 

The Alitalia plane got us to Rome though all that omen stuff from Pliny about the pine trees began way earlier, passing over the umbrella pine forest south of Rome—before you get in spittin distance of the tarmac.    This year (two years after he dies) I go to not Rome again, but to Naples (to see mainly the frescos I love) when some weird stuff started I;n happening.  Remember the Pliny quote, about how the column of smoke form the volcano looked like an umbrella pine (which I don’t think we have in America).    When our Air Alitalia swooped south of Rome and came up from under to get to the airport we got a good look at the forest, the one I was telling you about?  All umbrella pines. A couple of weeks later on our way to Ostia (which I’m tell more of in a minute) we actually drive thru this lovely forest.    That should have set me thinking.  Or do you think omens and all that is just crap—irrationality that it takes a real dummy to put into his story?    Oh readers, readers.  And to think I started out with faith in you.  In your opened third eye that reveals more than four hundred years of Western science.  OPEN YOUR MINDS A LITTLE!!

You know maybe Italy has something to do with it, cause last month with Travis in Naples (I said something about “a Palestianian place, you know, like Nablus” and he said “Israeli.”   I was called an anti-Semite for my pains.  But I’m getting offtrack.  Travis wanted to take off a day and just sleep and read cheap novels and what was I to say but OK?  So I took the ferry from Naples to Capri by myself.  We disembarked at Capri village, a small town on the waterfront.  There were about three hundred supposed there to see Tiberias’s ruined VILLA JOVIS on the top of Capri (though some obviously were just going to the Blue Grotto—ugh, what a dumb tourist trap, you couldn’t PAY me to go there. 

So I walked thru the village and up.  And up.  And up.  And then just when thinking “I’m finally getting to the famous VILLA JOVI!”  guess what.  I looked up to see—not blue azure sky as I thought I’d see but instead these probably 1,000 foot sheer granite (limestone?) sheer-face cliff ahead of me—and instead of now actually being at Tiberias’s palace I had to circumvent the cliff by narrow but well-maintained paths to get there.  Oh, I was getting tireder and tireder.  Maybe like Goethe faced with the prospect of another kind of evil, chthonic evil, left the entrance to the catacombs and fled as night was falling.  Fled in TERROR!   Did I really want to get to this monster’s hellhole?  Weren’t its evil vibes still boilling up from under his ruined palace to enter, permeating totally with its horror, all so brash as to attempt to go up further?     I brushed that thought aside.   When I got to the top and the VILLA JOVIS Jamie was far from my mind. 

But then—by chance?  is there such a thing really as chance?—as I clambered to the tip-top of the palace—what’s that I see out there just this side of the grove of (non-umbrella) sweet smelling pines in utter quiet?   The green thing I saw with sharp long yellow-green succulent-type leaves was: A YUCCA.  A yucca plant—you know, just like a person might see in Jamie’s home town Carlsbad anywhere and everywhere.  It seemed to out of place.  I mean—a yucca?  Here in southern Italy?  How can that be. 

At this point I’d stopped my daily tears for Jamie—and even two days might go by without me thinking of him.  But yuccas MEANT Jamie—they meant where we had the most fun ever, where he came from—oh just everything you can name!  It was just one more reminded that no matter what I’ll be grieving him I guess till the end of my days.     Isn’t that strange!

 

                                                                           *

Back to Rome: looking out the aircraft portals what was it was tugging at my heart?    I looked at Jamie, flashing with excitement as always and a true multi-tasker—since with one eye he watches Sadie tug on her leash, the one he holds. The other one is making love to me, I know, and Shive-like, yet another looks out the window.  How I loved him and still do—my one and only I”ve ever have.  The only one I”ll have in this life.  (We complimented each other for one thing: can you really imagine yours truly multi-tasking ANYTHING?  I’m hopeless in this department just like I’m hopeless spatially and mechanically so it was always Jamie fixed the car, the phone, the cell phone, the computer and so on.  Not that I exactly loved him for this: it’s just as I said that he had this tremendous ability to make me feel protected  

Jamie’s ability to multi-task (of which I myself have none) reminds me of a segment I saw in this Frank O’Hara interview.  Simultaneously yet: Frank’s writing one of his fabulous poems as at the very same time  the phone rings and he picks up.  Meantime continuing the interview, on camera.  He’s postmodern before we’d ever heard of postmodernity.  Jamie and I are pre-modern, I feel, 19th century or Victorian.   Can’t you tell that just by reading this?

What a guy that Jamie, but readers, here might I interject something real important (because it’s playing on my boombox in the background on top of the fridge in the kitchen): namely that Buck Owens was his favorite in all of country music?  What do you think it does to ME,  and NOW, when from the other room I get that sound:

                       There goes her memory kickin in

                       It’s that same old hurt again

It blasts me to pieces.  And I thought the crying was all over with.  Oh I can’t begin to tell you even now the number of times a day that loss hits me—and hits me hard—always right in the gut.   I never get kleenex or anything.  That would dishonor his memory.  I just let if make a snail trail down my cheeks.  To the objective observer (is there such a thing? of course not) it will look like the snail trail of slime that slithers down our sheets during love-making.  In the dark all snail-trails are the same are they not?    Meantime: Italia again.  Or rather Alitalia, the airplane company.  

Our plane comes in from the south and on our left, the famous umbrella pine fragrant forest (now, as opposed to antiquity) between the main highway going south to Compania and its terminal, Rome.   Thud thud goes my heart for reasons still unknown to me.  Thud and tug but why this secret tug and who is it tugging and to where?    Je ne sais pas.  But it’s forboding isn’t it?     Say nothing, particularly nothing that might spoil Jamie’s pleasure and put a smile on your face, Bruce.  OK, Bruce.  And I do.   Huggie grabs all our baggage and out of the plane we go, with Sadie trailing behind.   We’ve hit tarmac.  Time to roll.    

Oh bella  Italia, bitch that you are?  Yes you attract me more than all other lands combined—but your little ragamuffin thieves steal from me.  You landlords cheat me.   Is this the famous doce far niente?  or the doce vita even?  Ask you congressman.  And going thru the gates outward there’s first the place for them to check Sadie out.  Ha!  This is the GOOD side of Italy again—forget that earlier badmouthing—it never came from this mouth.

In the US there would be cops, guns, patting downs, going thru special detectors and god knows what all.  Here there reposes on a plain ole wooden desk, beat-up from use, the worn soles of the shoes of a very attractive dog-checker for the Italian state, complete with much braided uniform and all.   He’s reading the sports page, looks up for about half a second, smiles and says “Oh go onnnn eeeen esss OK no worry” and goes back to his soccer scores.  The desk concurs.  It’s real (old-fashioned and battered around) wood.  How nice not to have plastic or metal.  For a change.  And around him we go, Jamie heaped with a husbandly heap of packages on top, at his sides, and trailling behind.  Me, a smile on my face and loving my husband for doing his husbandly job so well with no complaints.     Course, he’s tons stronger than me.  Still it’s so clear he really loves me, and that wipes the smile from my face and instead on my face you’d see a spirit of seriousness, true gratitude that Jamie does all the things in life for me that he does.  I will never now be able to sufficiently show appreciation.    Alas.

Outside there’s this line of taxis against the morning Italian sky (because we’re up high on the stilts that hold up one of the rings that surround Rome and so can see everything.  Roma, Roma, how beautiful you are..but I leave off that thought when a darker more ominous one intrudes with an opposing message telling me not to count on anything in this life.  And I know it’s coming from all those umbrella pines we flew over.  How do I know this?  Just do.  That’s all.  You don’t ask clairvoyants where their clairvoyant truths come.  Do you?   I don’t.   

There’s this sinking feeling in me.  That’s what I leave the terminal with.  “Terminal”: doesn’t that mean something like “the end”?  Could I have gotten a clue from remembering what Pliny said about umbrella pines? Can I recycle Raymond Chandler here?  “A black pool opened up at my feet.  I dived in.  It had no bottom. 

 

Flash forward to the present as I press my keyboard keys looking up at the moniter replicating what I type.  There are more tears.  No not tears, but whatever, saliva or something, something coming out my mouth in itty bitty streams.     Buck Owens repeating the chorus.  Here comes his memory kickin in/it’s that same old hurt again.  Note how I change the pronounds.  All prounouns….etc. in the night.   Funbigle, dummy.  When I think of how cheerful he was burdened down while getting us the taxi, doing EVERYTHING for me, gosh.  His heart was pure gold.  Give me just a moment, readers, and I”ll recover and continue typing.  But be nice and just give me, Buck and Jamie a break here for about ten or fifteen seconds.  You know I’m in the process of realizing he’ll never be here to cheer me and smile at me again.

Much less take care of Sadie on the leash and lift vast quantities of luggage.    What a guy!   I don’t know how many times he got his back broken taking spills from motorcycles, but a lot.  And then when I think

OK,  I’m back, reading to get us to our apartment in Rome.    A frown momentarily crosses Bruce’s—not Jamie’s—face. How much of the thievery and fast ones we got in Rome should I tell here?  Jamie?  He never held grudges, always had a sunny heart—he’d didn’t give a damn taking it all as it came, just part of life. 

There’s a taxi up there.  How much to blah blah street?  He says what I find out later is more than double the normal amount.  I had gotten this small not too expensive apartment next the Pantheon for us.  OK—I mean for me I guess—though Jamie didn’t’ care.  We get there and it takes the Agency a good hour to show up—then wind up telling us well you can’t occupy this apartment, on account of the terrible storm we had last week and we’ll need a couple more weeks to fix it up.  (Then I wonder to myself—well why didn’t you email me then and tell me this?).  It’s a narrow alley about half a block from Hadrian’s great shrine—one that I’d stared at in pictures for years literally.  This was really my own aim in getting to Rome: I”d get up early, get my New Yorker, order an espression and sit down at one of those little umbrelled (!! umbrella again!!) tables, where you can sit all morning and they’lll never ask you to move.  What I wanted: each morning to watch the huge bronze doors of the great shrine-now-church slowly open.  Each morning I’d see the ray of sun coming down through the giant (like what, 75 feet?) oculus at the top and mark the hours of the day by slowly drawling across the surface of the immense barrel that served as the body of the place.  I wanted to see the same time that used to flow across the walls two millenia ago flow again 2,000 years later.  That lovely golden glow on that lovely soft sandstone punctuated here and there with an altar, an alcove, a statue—all that.  That was my plan.  Later (since he slept in late, too late actually—and how grateful I was that when T came, who’s a doctor, that he never in any way alluded to what would spoil Jamie’s fun—the knowledge T could see in Jamie’s way too long sleeping habits, his by now really skinny body etc—of the sickness eating away inside Jamie’s lungs) Jamie would come down and join me.  He’d have a double espresso and pastry and I might join him with a second.  If this long-time wish of mine never came true, though, it’s not like there weren’t compensions.

The Agency people told us, to make good for inconviening us they’d take us to this ultra-luxurious penthouse, five blocks from the Vatican.  True, it was farther away from stuff I wanted to see: on the other hand since Jamie had come for the luxurious life, getting drunk in the piazzas, I was secretly glad.

The Agency guys wisked us off and in a few minutes here we were. The luxury penthouse was glassed in with plate glass, a huge amount of floor space, a big comfy bedroom for us and for Travis, later on when he came, he’d have his own bedroom down a long hall—filled with the strangest books.  Travel books and books on Rome mainly and then books, mainly old-fashioned novels in three or four large book-cases (who OWNED this polace and why did they have such a weird choice in books?).   And then the thirty feet of terrace stretching out on three sides of the penthouse. Fantastic.  I realized I’d been kind of selfish picking out the Pantheon place to begin with because mainly I wanted Jamie, a poor rural white from the desert, to have the luxury he wanted to laste at least once!  In a long life of privation at last, in his 50s, he was getting a taste of what the other side had.  Even losing the Pantheon didn’t detract from my happiness when I realized that this was exactly the kind of place Jamie would love the best, by far—and, as I then thought, would remember with joy for years to come.  (He once told me they were so poor growing up that his mother, not being able to afford pictures or frames, cut out the color photos from the sunday paper’s rotogravure section, scotch-taping them up on the walls.)

Basically, after espressos and pastries and New York Timeses. he’d go his way to get drunk, just walk through all the colorfull streets, each a little something in each of the food vendors’ stands—and then, on every other day or two, reconnoiter with me at someplace he wanted to be.  Meantime while Jamie was out eating and getting drunk and taking in the people sights what was Bruce doing?  Obviously:  going out to find the places, museums, Vatican, churches, ruins of pagan splendor (Trajan’s column, the Curia, etc)—doing the things HE love best.  It was a perfect match—a little of each of what each preferred, then meeting up later for time together at an early dinner or whatever. 

And we were a perfect match.  The bookworm and the cowboy.  People were always mistaking him for me and me for him on the phone—and, like a lot of old married couples, we finished our sentences for each other.  We were a match. 

                                                                    *

So anyway the morning after we arrived at our penthouse (you looked out and it was cloudy but for some reason clouds were very low in Rome—we could see that the clouds were at the level of the top of the dome of St. Peter’s, just under the lantern above the cathedral) Jamie, who always took care of any electrical problems had discovered some kind of problem. He was busy doing something to fix up the place, even though it was a palace—but would I go down to the corner piazza to the hardware store and pick him up a blah-blah—something having to do with tools?  Sure thing, I”ll be back in half an hour I said—the last thing I said to him for the better part of the day. 

I did go down Via Fornazzi (though in Rome they pronounce it Via Fornashi—and in fact all the ts sounds seem to turn into sh’s all the time—though the linguistically minded Bruce) but had forgotten something: it was about 2pm and so siesta time.  Oh oh.  The sign said they’d be open again at 4pm.  What to do? 

Maybe—though it’s really a big train station and because the pope changed Michelangelo’s plan from a foursquare to a regular rectangle trailing a long nave (why did they thing that all covering the inside of the church with blue tiles would make it beautiful—while I’m on the subject of bitching…)—but just maybe…I could fill up the time till 4pm when the hardware store opened up again by getting St. Peter’s over with—since though not by a long shot my favorite, it was a church you should see—like for the Pieta near the entrance. So I headed out. 

 

Which is how it happens in fact.   I shrub my shoulders and give an Italic broad expansive “what can you do” extension of my arms outward.  Bruce, you’re in Italy and you’ve been cheated.  So what.  Accept your fact and give him the ten extra bucks he wants.   So I do.   And out we pile, all of us including Sadie, out of the cab.     

What’s this?  No waiting functionaries from the Agency to whom I emailed the whole of the rent?  We wait and wait and wait.  Then an idea.  Look at that little woman in here couturiere shop, with her high-style three assistants—she’s a seamstress for the rich, must be.  I can count on her!  

Oh she says please: sit down and make yourself comfortable.  I think I can clear this up in about two minutes (she speaks English) and with only one phone call!    Please! she says directing us to a very Italian red-plush 18th century chair waiting for me, with another for Jamie, as we wait.  She’s good friends with the owner of the building I need to get into, across the street.     Lost of hand gestures, gesticulating and emotional.  Well what the hell, isn’t this why I came to Italy—to be with another type of people, not just our own mostly emotionless countrymen, ourselves?    I settle into the chair, an armchair—how charming, how Louis Quatorz.  

So near yet so far.  I can freaking SEE the freaking Pantheon and it’s just right there—a half block away—almost swaying in its majestic beauty.   How I”ll enjoy getting up early before the bronze doors open, getting my espresso and sitting under one of the umbrelled tables, just for us patrons intent on taking in, in deeper and deeper doses, the sheer what can I say?  “anatomical”? beauty of this great building built by Hadrian and his architect, not, as is inscribed on the proch, built by Agrippa—this is just Hadrian’s Roman piety kicking in.  ‘Cause there was another building, puny in comparison, already on the sight and it was constructed by the eminentently common-sense Agrippa, right-hand of the divine Augustus himself.    This is going to be so wonderful I think, longingly, every morning getting up, getting my espresso and seeing the beautiful beam of light zooming down from the huge occulus/hole in the ceiling and as its ray passes along the wall of this round building—also marking the time of day.  Marking time, period.  Marking the changes time brings—in color on the wall, in decay in my human, all-too-human body if I trouble myself to consider all not just some of the implications of this beam.  It’s a Darth Vader death beam.   Why?  Because all change, all time, results in the disengagement of the particules currently hooked up with each other that make up your body—and soul—because the body is the soul and the sould is the body.   Nothing more than that Pantheon beam registers the inevitability of our transciency in this world, our inevitably end.  

Here’s another sidetrack for you.  Hadrian’s architect—can’t recall his name—was a hellanized Syrian given to joshing.  Well you don’t josh with ingFiumicino airport retreats on the skyline as we suddenly zoom down to the street with the apartment I paid for just ONE HALF BLOOK from the Pantheon: mon beau ideal.  No ancient structure anywhere, not just Italian buildings, can move me like the Pantheon does.  How I love it.  It’s perfect.  Hats off to Hadrian who probably helped on being an architect along side that Syrian he didn’t trust.  (This Syrian, let me remind you, is the same guy that later when Hadrian was constructing his famed Villa, sort of just across from Tivoli—had the gall to actually make fun of the emperor by telling him that his ribbed domes looked like pumpkins.  An emperor is like a camel, readers: he never forgets.  Hadrian said nothing in reply but waited 12 years, 12 whole years—then had him executed. 

Those Italians!   So melodramatic, so scaenographic!     

But the guys from the Agency I paid money to for this apartment so I could get up each morning, grab an espresso and NY Harold Tribune and sit at a table until they opened the great bronze doors of the Pantheon, then watch the light move across the walls of the buildling and mark the time of day: well the Agency guys I was talking about didn’t show—until nearly an hour had gone buy.  Then came the flurry of explanations.  Oh signor, you know we had this terrible storm.  (No, I didn’t, I didn’t read about it in any paper).  And the storm, she ruin the flooring.  No no no! It would not be right for you to live there.  But since we only want to make you happy get your baggage and we will go to a far lovelier place in fact, for the same price—for you and you only—and I guarantee you will be happier there than you have ever been.  A penthouse!  atop an 11 story stuilding.  Just five blocks from the Vatican!  What could be better?    

They’re fucking lying, I know it.  They had a higher offer for the Pantheon from some rich guy, for the apartment I had paid all the money required for.  What else?  That’s Italy for you.   The only consolation was these two guys were really cute.  One a sweet and dark soulful one—the one Jamie made eyes at (that’s the good thing about Italy, you CAN make eyes at straight guys and get away with it—here in the US you’d get a punch in the face.    Another one’s this big butch worked-out fair-haired northern Italian that just makes me swoon and want to lick his boots (alas, he has the finest Florestine shoeware on, not boots). 

  effectively marks of the day as it follows the barrel walls.  In effect follows TIME.  (I’m sorry for all the words all in caps but really I’m so so excited even now, recounting it and not even being there…and it being two years about and more…and…and…you get it don’t you?)

So I start anew on this account of Jamie and me in Rome, on our Roman visit, leaving off where I think I just got us to the tarmac—plop! 

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paranormal

 

So, Jamie, you might wonder why it’s taken this long to get up another post about you?  I needed time to think—that’s the answer.  All the earlier distractions have stopped and to make sense of my new life come it’s taken me so long to put up another post?

I’m at a new stage.  How to reflect that in this piece of writing?   Like Philip Marlow  in MURDER MY SWEET expressing how he felt the first time after getting “sapped”: “A black pool opened at my feet.  I dived in.  It never stopped.”   

Kind of. 

But you’re another kind of spaceman.  More like the one whose umbilical connecting him to the ship gets cut by the evil HAL the computer and we watch, in 2001 A SPACE ODDESSY,  as he goes tumbling in utter black emptiness.   Forever and ever.  While I’m the one that stays—that the computer doesn’t—or hasn’t yet anyway—disconnected.

You said you’d find me if you had to sniff me out.

You also by your love of the desert and the consequences of this are an example still—for me when my own time comes.  What do I mean by this?

Oh there’s the nature mysticism you always quoted about how it was for you growing up.  How in times of trouble you’d get of your horse and just ride out until you got far away enough from everything, every little sounds even, and it was total silence and you’d think: the hills crumble, those pine trees will fall.  Just as they are born so all the animals too will do the same—come to an end.  It’s just how things are.  Things emerge—then go back.  To what?  you never asked—philosophy didn’t impress you much.  But all that nature, and the blankness of just desert between things there, like the cactus and scrub—that blankness—maybe that was where things went? 

You accepted your sickness and death just like that.  You were no different from any pine or hill or mountain lion—everything comes from somewhere, wherever it is, stays a little or even a long time, and then—there it goes, back to where it came from: are we any different?  you’d ask me.   And that’s what gave you that sense of peace—right in the middle of pain—and acceptance, I saw.  When it’s time, it’ll be your example I”ll be trying to follow.  Just accept—acceptance. 

Not that you don’t do what you can to avoid what you can.  Like the pain.  Like that story of your daddy who you loved—that’s engraved in my mind.  When Jamie’s dad was dying—also, like his mom later, of lung cancer, he was in terrible pain.  He’d ask his son, little Jamie at, what?  maybe in his early teens? to bring him some of that  Ole Jack.

So Jamie’d sneak in a pint of Jack Daniels to alleviate his dad’s pain.  It really helped.  Only there’s always a spoiler out there just waiting—to make good things bad, and bad worse.  And in this case it was his daddy’s nurse:  “Get that outta here we don’t allow that kinda stuff here now you go ahead and git it OUT and I MEAN IT.”  Nurse Ratched.  But once in a while fate is good to you—and passing by in the corridor outside this particular day was Jamie’s dad’s doctor.  Who overhears this tirade—and lickity split roars into the room and snatches the bottle out of Ratched’s hands, to the sighs of relief from father and son, and he tells the nurse: Look, if I EVER…EVER…see you trying to keep a dying man from one of the few satisfactions he as once more, you’ll be outta here on your ass.  And don’t think I’m kidding!    

I like that story.  Go figure.  Justice isn’t always picky about being polite and genteel—like I guess the medical profession is supposed to be.  And this is a town that’s so close to being still part of the American fronteer that you can smell it, taste it.  One thing they did have going for them, despite all the bad parts I could tell you about—is rough-hewn or not—it’s not exactly law that counts the most but instead they invoke tradition.  If a man is dying give him whisky goddamn you—GIVE it to him, he’s in PAIN.

I saw that—not about his dad dying—but the acceptance that shows through those leathery faces down there.   At some point or other HAL the computer is going to get the other astronaut isn’t he? if you stop to think?   It’s inevitable.  And inevitable is next to accept. 

So what about me then—the other spaceman awaiting HAL to get ME?  At this point it can’t be that long can it?  Can a person prepare?   

This is where the next stage I mentioned comes in.  When I made my trip to go see your family, Gaetha and Monty especially.

And I don’t know—it was something like a revelation I guess, like the one, the koan I mean, about the monk who does his zazen daily every time you’re supposed to, sees his master at dokusan for advice, reads the sutras—and everything.  The years go by and he doesn’t achieve enlightenment.  And I guess I’m kind of like that monk—going down to the desert to look for something not even knowing what.  But I did.  It happened.  And like the monk—who having given up ever getting to be enlighted and having become an old man contents himself with just gardening—for the monastery.  He’s given up all hope.  He’ll never be enlightened but at least he can do good works to make better karma for himself for the next lifetime maybe.  And then it happens.  A tile falls off the roof—and suddenly: he’s enlightened.  

She—your sister Monty-Jean—wanted to take me out and show me some desert I hadn’t seen yet, the altaplano, a huge mesa.  We winded up and had a little lunch at one of those little hidden spaces in the cliff where there’s some trees and maybe a gas station and restaurant.  After we climbed higher and reached the mesa—being now about, oh, maybe three or four hours into our day-long trip.  We go along the flat land with every once in a while something green, then at this place, this certain place, she says why don’t we stop here?

We do.  It’s the edge of the mesa and you can see along the stream in the canyon below itty-bitty dots that turn out to be pine trees.  We’re higher up than I’d thought.  She doesn’t say anything but just lets me do whatever it is I want to.  I approach the edge—of the mesa—looking down.  I smell the sharp smell of the pines to my right, and there’s a little bit of wind, not hardly any at all, but a little, that’s all, beginning top spring up.  No planes or their sonic waste clutter this scene or the sky above—and all is just quiet.  Total silence.  I stand there and I stand—in total silence—and no one bothers me.  I can take my time.  I just let it sink it standing as still as I can just like you like to sit as still as you can on your zafu at meditation.  Just silence.  Emptiness—that’s incredibly beautiful.  And it kicks me up a notch to this new stage.  Where being there on the silent mesa all alone by myself and just letting it take over me, I can feel something happen.  It’s not cognition.  It’s not perception.  It’s like the Ancestors say—mind and body fall away.

And that’s my stage, the stage I’m at now.  It lasted—that time in the high desert—and it’s with me now still.  And it’s changed someone about our relation—going from you being one person and me another to something that blurs or neglects that—so it just falls away.  Have we merged molecular structures so we’re the same or what?   Once you start to merge, it doesn’t end.  Might start with nature.  But it’s  people too—us—you and me, darlin’, you and me now too.  

                                                                             *

The names  Bruce and Jamie swinging on a porch.  Dropping down on the desert like raindrops right before spring flowers come up.  And in the evil little critters too, the tarantulas our car ran over, sunning themselves, the rattlers out there sometimes not two steps from you and you don’t even realize.  All that. 

 

                                                                                        *

I’m mixing this all up purposefully, I don’t want there to be any order that can make someone make a narrative out of it.  Fuck narrative.  These are just bits and snatches of something that the politics of time just would want to ruin, and I don’t want that.

So I”ll start doing a lot of backtracking now.

His death.  Bruce asleep with his ear plugs as usual—what a dummy—doesn’t hear the hospital call.  But getting up about eight  real fast shakes off the sleep, realizes he has to check the phone for messages.  “He died this morning at about 4:30am, we tried to get to you but nobody picked up—call when you get this.”    I don’t think he’d miss my missing his death because of during that time when I was being a chaplain full-time up at UC Med Center?  I noticed that really a lot of people wait for their family to go out—to get dinner or whatever.  In other words they don’t die on our schedule but theirs—and mostly that means alone.

So…what then?

I grab little Sadie up under one arm—a position she doesn’t like (and lets me know this very clearly) but it’s easier for me when  in a hurry.  I throw on some clothes and then I’m off,twenty minutes later in the hospital, near his room.  Someone wants to go with me.  How come?  Like I don’t ALREADY know where the room is, with the body of my beloved still in it, though now, I hear, all washed and “nice.”  What an ugly word, nice.  And anyway I prefer being in private when I want an emotional breakdown.

He’s all marble.  This really beautiful wrinkle free and beautifully off-white color (all white is too deathly, called the “color of atheism” in MOBY DICK, which could be worse I guess).  I mean he just radiates.  I kiss him.  On his forehead.  Then that beautiful hand that drove me places, fixed the carpentry and electricity that went wrong—I was almost going to say his manhood.  But no, that was limp.  It implied to me when I saw it something almost contemptible—he wasn’t a man any more, a human I mean, a human being any more.  It wasn’t about balls but about the change: from human being to just meat.  Dead meat.  (Heraklitus said, about any corpse that you would find in the city, throw it out, fast!  it’s just garbage and doesn’t mean a thing.

She—the dog—was whining so I put her up on the sheet covering him and she started toward him then stopped.  Kind of like turning up her nose.  It was an act of disavowal: this isn’t my daddy, I don’t know what it is.   Did she get these vibes from me?   I think it’s the natural response.  I like the Eastern response, starting with the Vedics, and the Iranians after, and then Buddhists in general, us zens like to do that—it’s like it’s pure.  Or maybe better put—purifying.  Flame purifes.  I wanted him put into the cremation oven but they said that will take a couple of days and the thought of him lying all alone down there in some morgue drawer for a whole two days just floored me.  Turn on the gass now.  This isn’t him—wherever he is—it’s NOT Jamie.    She and I got out of Dodge fast at that point.  Left the body, returned to the apartment. 

Services?  He was so alone up here, said I was his whole world and didn’t want to know anybody else.  And his sister wanted half the ashes to put, as he wanted, with his mother in her grave in Carlsbad.  So be it.

We had our ceremony presided over by David my gardiner friend who’s an ordained zen priest—so he knew all the things to do.  People seemed to aggree: impressive.  And David chose his ceremonial things well.  They ate afterwards and went home, and that was that.

But not for me.

Not for me.

I already know the room, god knows I was there plenty of times I swear (do they think I need “emotional support”?   Ick.)   And then I’m off.  By the time Because I might need “emotional help”?  Wrong—I cry on my own time.  didn’t hear the phone ring because it accidentally fell off the hook.  Too bad.  Or maybe not—what do you think?   I get their urgent messages and stowing Sadie under my arm decide to walk the eight or so short blocks—to the hospital where you are.   Then enter the room.    

You all marble now—really!  all laid out and bathed, naked under your sheet,dazzling white like one of your community’s babtist congregants.  It’s like heaven.  Your wrinkles all gone because the pain causing them gone.   More beautiful than life.  And that’s maybe what should have put me on notice.   Not that you stinked yet.  But it wasn’t you.  I kissed that lovely forehead.  Touched your lips.  It wasn’t you—I hated it.   And the limp cock, your tool of majesty I so often kissed, worshipped.  Limp means your manhood’s gone—despite that they’ll say this is politically incorrect, do I give a damn? 

But now you’re meat.  Or what was you is.  Throw a dead body over the wall as fast as you can said Heraklitus.  It pollutes the purity of the city.

I turned away, disgusted.  This is not you.  How can they say it’s you.  It’s dirty dead meat that’s all.  Throw it out.  I have no use for it, I think.  And putting Sadie up on the bed for one last look, she takes a step and stops.  Yeah she’s looking all right but more than that she’s smelling.  And it’s just a corpse she smells.  Turns up her nose, turns away from you—just as I do.

And out the door.    

    

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        (note to readers: friends please bear with me, I’m new to the technology of this and the following material needs to more editing, so actually it got published “by mistake”—so if you can please hold off reading until you see this parenthetical paragraph disappear and the rest of the material below will then be ready for you to read)

 

 

I don’t know where to put this one—it’s not really related.  So I”ll stick it here.

It’s about mischeviousness, Jamie’s and his community’s.   Where to start.

First time at Grannie’s Jamie showed me my tiny room—he would take the floor—everything there was poor and so small, small.  He came in to tell me something.  About the critters.

He said in the morning, because you never know, shake out your shoes.  Cause an animal, a little scorpion, or a rattler, it might have got in.  So you got to shake em before putting em on.   Is this a joke?   No, he said solemnly, we’re sitting on top of the Sonoran desert.  You got to shake them out in the morning.   Ugh, I go—you never told me about this—how will I ever dare?

Come morning though I did, I shook em all out—and nothing came out.  I was met at breakfast by Jamie and Grannie breaking into laughter when I told them about this.  Since it turns out really there’s only a scorpion or black widow or rattler or something that gets in about once every three years, so you really don’t have to worry.  It was a practical joke of theirs.

I vowed revenge.  I got it.  From Jamie—but I’m not going to tell you about this one because it’s boring.  But I”ll tell you about the way I “got” Grannie because it tells about the whole culture of them down there, him included, not just Grannie, but all of them.  (She’s typical in never in her long life ever having been more further than to El Paso—and believe you me, that’s not saying too damn much!)

I said, you know us Catholics (I should have said ex Catholics now Buddhists but figured that was too complex of an explanation) have this ritual that you have to do, oh about when you’re a teen, or you can’t be a Catholic.  “What?”  she asked, curious.  Well, I said, first you got to find yourself a Protestant baby (and mind you—everybody white at least down there is babtist), then you all gather in a circle way away from anybody.  Granny’s eyes got real big here on the verge of the saucers they would become)—well, I said, pausing—and then you got to sacrifice it.  Or you can’t become a Catholic.  “No!!!!” to her great horror, goes Grannie.  Jamie, he’s just trying real real hard to suppress laughing.  I tell Granny YES!  and she is so shocked she practically yelps.    “Ohhhhhhhhh my goodness.”

Course I didn’t leave her ignorant for long, that woulda been cruel and she was one of the kindest ladies I have ever met and I loved her.  So I disabused her—after just a moment.  I had “got” her.   She smiled.  “Well you got me good with that one but you watch, I’ll get you good too.”

And she did.  In a little innocent non-harmful way that was the closest she ever got to naughty, I guess—which wasn’t too close.   he was astounded, as he had just assumed only Mexicans were that.)   I said well we had some interesting rituals, as all Catholics throughout the world did.  For instance I said—noting her eyes beginning to grow larger—there’s the ceremony we do with Protestant badies.  She had the beginnings of fear on her face now.  “What?” Well to become a Catholic you don’t just have to be baptized but around the age of 12 there’s this ceremony where we all gather (and here her eyes were becoming saucers) and sacrifice a Protestant baby.

There was a long silence.  I could see Jamie was having trouble trying to keep a straight face but his mother was absolutely stricken.  Then Jamie let out with this great yowl.  Which let Grannie know it was just a joke, a practical joke.  And I told her—“Grannie, I got you good on that one didn’t I?”  I did.  And this innocent humor was typically “country”—it’s not so far from the innocent sentimentality about sex and romance you hear on country records.

And like I said, I do have my Buck Owens.

Innocent Jamie, too. Guileless, easy to cheat.  And he GOT cheated.   For all his country stuff which many mistook for being dumb (his twang at the bank meant to the tellers that he was stupid) he was a very smart man.  I know that.  I had more education, he had less—so what?   Plenty of dumb academics of there and lots of real intelligent country—but you wouldn’t know it for the image they’re represented by.   Oh well.

Innocence.  Jamie was as good a fighter in Carlsbad as they came.  Only when learning he made the mistake of giving the other guy a chance.  He knocked down this one guy giving him trouble and the guy just lay there.  Later he’d learn in jail and other places that when you fight you got to go for blood.  But now he just let the guy slowly get to his feet—then give Jamie a punch that could have been spared if Jamie after getting him down just pounded the shit out of him.  That was Jamie’s guilelessness, innocence.  And some lessons in mistrusting human nature he never learned.  Even when he was with me.

He’d got out for marijuana and come back with straw.  I”d say let me smell that and see it.  He gives it over.  I smell and just from the smell right away you can tell it IS straw—and he’s cheated again.  Over-trusting.

He was smart all right.  But never got too far in this world.

I loved that in him and always will.  Innocence.  Oh yeah he should have been more aware, but I liked him just the way he was.  Loved in fact.   I guess that’s what I wanted to say—before we leave this horrible hospital room that doesn’t have him in it anymore but just a dead body.

Throw it out.       

 

 

 

Of course I was terrified and you never saw anything shake anything like I rattled those shoes of mine—holding them as far from me as possible.  Nothing came out.  But I noticed nobody else shook their shoes getting up that morning.  Why?  First I thought it was a joke—oh, how could rattlers get in, in here?  ThenShoes.  I’ll close this interlude before more Rome with this.  It shows Jame’s mischeviousness I guess.   First visit to Grannie, bed-time arrives, I’m shown my room and after lights out Jamie sneaks in to snuggle a little. )Bishop Pike the controversial Episcopal bishop of Grace cathedral in the 60shim through year was testing myself.  What I found was that Jamie was floating further and further into outer space away from me: I seemed to be losing memories, he seemed less present to me when the thought occurred, there was less intensity of love for him and yearning.  And yet what could be more important for me in this last part of life than to keep his presence with me in mutual love.  What had gone wrong?

In the meantime there were changes in what can I call it?  a “pyschic” or “paranormal” self?   This became clear one night when again I was awakened by a swirling vortex of whispers of whispering—which gradually became clearer.  They were as if fractured HIS voice.  As if you could shatter a voice like glass and then what would you have?  This was a development from my audible (not mental) hearing of him in the hallway earlier calling my name loudly, twice.  What did it indicate about Jamie—or about my relationship with him?  If now there could be a Jamie splintered in many different places what sort of Jamie would that be.  I decided it would be a Jamie scattered to the world, being at once both Jamie and all that is—call it Buddhacitta if the realization is present.  The non-discriminating mind doesn’t just think this and that and neither does it think just “one” or “oneness.”  It is unaware of the difference between those two statements.  That is how I took that tissue-paper-thin sound of the simultaneous whispering voices of a dispersed Jamie.

When Seth the brother that sets bad things in motion appears, he seeks out his brother Osiris to cut him into pieces.  In the end, as we know from the story, the sister-wife of Osiris, Isis, who has spent an undetermined but extremely lengthy period of time looking for and finding part after part of the unjustly tossed-away parts of her husband, when she succeeds, she succeeds by magic.  You cannot rule out something as “dumb” as that.  Nothing can be ruled out.  I can see and hear Jamie.  Now.  After death.  Dogen: delusion and reality, the same.  Just as if the lesson Jamie was trying to impart were exactly that there’s no  longer a discrimination between Jamie and all else but neither does that discrimination fail to be present, either.

For a sensitive young boy like Jamie, growing up at the northern end of the Sonoran desert such a mysticism—unconsciously even—would have developed from the circumstances of a time and a place where what Zen master Dogen calls “the great matter” and—“the great matter of life and death.   The desert’s nature is always the cutting edge.  The green pines in their maturity today that tomorrow, in the spring, you’ll find picked bare as a bone—as if taken by a raptor.  The continuous awareness that develops when a misstep, a miscalculation—forgetting enough water in a day-treck out into the sands around you, or the lack of enough blankets, clothing, means of fire, at night.  Daily animals in the wild that kill with barely a thought—scorpion to mountain lion.

I remember on a two lane “highway” riding with him to a neighboring town—it was midday and shortly after, when hottest—how the pickup truck passed over what in the distance looked like a dark pool of oil but hearing the squishing sound as we passed over them and looking out I saw what Jamie told me was not an unusual phenomenon, the roads being near-deserted most times—the early afternoon gathering of vast numbers of tarantulas in one spot, sunning themselves, soaking up as much of the heat they needed for a continuation of their lives.  

Mountains as he surely saw here and there collapsed in landslides.  The wild animals of which the desert was full would be found in spring as skeletons.  And beneath your feet would be the vast square miles of tunnels of which the Carlsbad Caverns, a few miles away, was only a larger space, one of the calm places where the rush of whatever made the underground everywere around here porous with infinite holos, caves, tunnels, a whole network of empty areas of dark and silence.

With his dad on day-long or longer trapping expeditions, little Jamie was made away that upon an awareness of  this life-turning-into-death hung the family income: and the father made the son dwell on the natural perceptions he already would have been having—so the net effect would have been a very highly developed awareness of time passing, which is after all only change, or its measuring, and its end: an equation through time of mountain pine, rattler, cactus, scorpion—with his own life as a progress to an ending.

We talked and talked at the end—in his hospital room.  He’d want to be wheeled out in his wheelchair, plastic tubes flying, machines still ticking where he’d delight in turning his chair around and around  to push him to a state of vertigo.  He’s known all his life that all of life is always leaving.  But why should that stop you from squeezing as much enjoyment as you can down to the last minute?  

Of death there was nothing to discuss.  You come into existence and you go out of existence.  There’s nothing to think about, speculate on, worse.  When I asked him how he could be so accepting in the face of his own death—as a genuine question, not a covert rebuke or even congratulation—he’d say what I more or less just said—that growing up he’d always been away that to always be in nature is to be made aware, if you’re not already, of the equation between nature and time, the measure of change, and in this case, the inexorable arc from birth, as things chip away at you little by little, to death.  He said he was always aware of nature.  And stress that he had always been contemptuous of the multiple Jesus-saves signs in town that suggested you  could avoid your fate.   How could you not be aware that you’re part of the nature all around too?  he’d always said.  What was happening as he lay dying on his hospital bed was that he was only continuing to put into practice an attitude that was familiar to him, and his own, as far back as he could recall.      Though he probably didn’t think of it this way, Jamie was my teacher now—the last of the three teachers that have given me whatever’s important in my life.

My teacher Jamie.  I didn’t or don’t just love him, you know—I respected him as my teacher.  I honored him that way.  This book is a tribute to him for what he taught me. How many teachers are you given during your lifetime?   Jamie probably didn’t think of what he was doing as teaching—but it was, just the same.   This teaching was a freely given gift.  

He became a prey to death and perished–just as I will.  I can really say that I still love him.  And if what you fall to after death has nothing to do with selves, because you are now, the both of you, nondiscriminating mind—what I said about love remains, only not discriminated from this or that—but just what it is.

 

this remains just the same, what I just said.  And now that I’m the prey lifted by the raptor flying overhead to be torn apart and myself become what Jamie did—do you think whatever ability—if any—I might have developed to come to terms with the death that won’t be long in coming to be—don’t you think whatever strengths I might have in this way owe far more to Jamie than whatever I taught him did for him during our life together and at his own end?       and time is disappearance, loss of existence—for any being—including.  Was it the same imprint of nature that only a sense of things that had been with him throughout life.  His acceptance of death was the result of the same imprint that brought him an almost zen-like acceptance now as it had earlier: being part of the swaying pines, that one day will tumble, the toxic and slithery desert creatures as much as the more florid but innocuous desert beings—the birds and spring flowers of exquisite coloring that, like us ourselves, would themselves exist only a moment in time before pitching downward to their black end.  There in the desert life and death always seemed so intertwined, twins, two sides of the same coin for him—and why in the hospital now, dying of lung cancer, he thought—should it be different for me?  The boundary that at least affectively and probably intellectually seems to separate us humans from the rest of life—that boundry-line was eroded, worn away with constant experience, and in the end had, to take him at his word then as we walked in the hospital, formed his vision of his own death, his ending, into something less than—or maybe I should say more than—something either strange or unrelated to the rest of the world of frightening.   It would turn out to be what carried him through at the end as it had in all the other demanding or excruciating experiences of his life.    ones who’d seem bewildered at his acceptance, calm, lack of any apparent fear.   When he was in his dying, people used to ask how he could be so accepting of this– death—and that was the answer he gave. Will I be like Jamie when it comes my time to go—and I hope be with him…?    An open question..                   

f, I think nature mysticism’s just love. In its many forms.  Is that why it’s been an important metaphor for most all religions, spiritualties and such? Well if so, there’s a question I have to ask—this time to me alone, not to me and him together, a couple, though we still are all the same aren’t we?    We had this 100% love, committed, totally there and for all time and looking to have it somehow go on beyond that—beyond time I mean.   And of course love has been the main metaphor for spiritual life in who knows but maybe all religions and spiritualties.  Powerful stuff.  Could Jamie’s love for me and mine for him—truly, honestly 100 per cent—have been as much the mainstay of his ability to accept his own death completely cheerfully, as much as, say, nature mysticism—and are the two different?  If you sit someplace in nature—take the desert for instance—long enough my hunch is it’ll get to be throbbing with love, searing love, but love, beautiful love.  Then it’s mysticism.  Mysticism isn’t just people in their monk and nun clothes sitting, like in Zen, on a pillow all day.  A tree with many branches.

Nature’s such a large category, literally, you have to learn to stop saying this and that, or here and there and—lucky you!—me and not-me.  Freudians think mysticism is just “primary narcissism” meaning it replicates and returns you to that state—the state of the womb.  Maybe—but not literally.  It’s hard to keep poetry out of mysticism, it just naturally belongs when everything is always turning into something else, or everything else in fact.  Han Solo into Princess Leia and back again.  How do we know a superstition (so-called) isn’t mysticism too, I mean like: just another branch of it?  Even though people for some reason always consider the famous mysticisms (St. John of the Cross, my teacher Nissan, his teacher Suzuki-Rosh, Rumi, Hacking) to somehow be “above” plain old insights that come and go in people that when their power goes, or is lost, people dismiss then as just superstition.  And finally how do we know my mysticism is the same as yours.  How many times does someone have to yell that in your ear before you listen: there is no ranking, no hierarchies, nothing’s better than something else.   Is nature mysticism ever different, in terms of some map-making you might want to do, a taxonomy—from love?  Just love?

Think about it. Two examples were given to me recently.  Ms. X is one.  Flying from here (San Francisco) to there (San Diego) to see the family she looks out the window—only to see the most beautiful veil of mist and gold, the gold shining thru all the little drops to unify you would think but no, with a message: to tell her her father is dying, right now.  She’s startled.  Next about to land the plane descends more more—all this green—without limits she wonders?   The plane lands and she sees her family.  Her father has just died.  When?  The time she was looking out the window at the shining light mist.

One other one, and that’ll be it for now.  My friend Y is in Paris and wants to see cemeteries.  Either he doesn’t want to do Pere Lachaise or he’s already done it: I forget which.  By the way, what exactly is the name of that other, not-Pere-Lachaise Paris cemetery?  Who cares.  I’m going to move on in the story. He comes to Baudelaire’s grave in this other non-Pere-Lachaise cemetery.   What chagrin boils up inside my friend.  Because guess what.   They buried France’s greatest poet between his mother-in-law Mrs. Aupic and her proto-fascist asshole husband General Aupic (As in “Mon General” to you) on the otherside—and there he is Baudelaire, sandwiched inbetween the two.  My friend’s sense of outrage is almost matched by my own as I watch his face go pale with anger and I start getting all  discombobulated too: THIS is how you treat France’s greatest poet of all (maybe I mean just maybe: excluding Rimbaud)?    But all this is only the preliminaries for the illustration of mysticism or superstition, whatever you want to call it, which is to come.

What happens next is this.  Looking up at this hideous wedding cake made of three stacked dead people—two non-entities or worse,  sandwiching our own Charles Baudelaire between them in the set-piece grave monument, lo,  raising his eyes what’s this? thinks my friend.  How come?  Well because right at that moment this ominous looking black bird of some kind or other, a big crow or something, waddles over right in front of him and looks at him directly in the eyes and—drops dead.  Yup.  On the spot.  Coincidence?  Or message from heaven?  An O-M-E-N! A genuine omen of something unknown yet to come,  ladies and gentlemen.    And to come to my friend.  He’s freaked.  Wouldn’t you be?   My friend says he knows this is an omen or prognostication.   And as my friend, with a friend of his own in two beside him, starts to walk out of the cemetery guess what.   A very evil-looking black cat watches them feet planted on the ground and standing stark still—but with its EYES, yes its EYES follow carefully each step as our friend begins to wend his way to the cemetery exit.  Wouldn’t you freak too?

Omen?  Prognostication?  Who could possibly think that vulgar superstition, much less the higher forms of spirituality like enlightenment, could literally be understood as world-connecting events.  Affect kickstarts thinking: there’s no reason to think, or reason, or even rationale if no interest, such as an affect, compels it.   My friend is highly intelligent—a bright intellectual.  Is it possible to rule out his “intuition” that these two events occurring in quick succession were intended as messages from another or other worlds, or from the future or past to our era.  Why would he take this seriously?   Not reason but affect will start of chain of mental argumentation that later will seem quite reasonable.  Or—not seem—but actually be—reflections of a reality that ordinarily doesn’t reach us. Unlike other eras, like the Roman, as represented by the brightest such as Cicero or much earlier Heraklitus, the educated and intelligent of our era deny what they believe are really messages and continue to distance themselves from lines of thinking that are stamped as superstitious.

What moves me to write this blog?  I like to tell myself that it will be seen as something like a new genre blurring the diaristic with the philosophic, and soteriological as well.  In fact the writing of my blog provides me with something like solace, helps comfort me in the face of the event that has, since April 8, 1008, appeared to me as by far the most important event of my life—and that event, as I’m sure you’ll have guessed, is the death of my long-time lover and mate.    Though as I say I like to THINK I’m writing this blog primarily as a contribution to—what?  writing?   the understanding of the role of affect or emotion as compelling what we, disingenuously, continue to think of as Cartesian or dualistic though, considered as if it were autonomous.

Put it another way.  It’s not the cortex that gets the amygdala and hippocampus going but the converse: the two glands, part of the lymph system, generate neural transactions that, through  exchange of chemicals at the end of the finger-ish extensions are the sparks that set off message transmission from one neuron to another—throughout billions of billions of them—the neurons.

Back to my friend.  He still seems, in our conversation at the Modern Museum here in San Francisco, to be both fearful somehow in discussing all this, as well as a bit confused, or distracted.  I would be the same, I’m sure.

And Julius Caesar?  What about him?   And why are superstition in latin, “superstition,” and ecstasy, exstatio, so closely connected in their etymology.   Would the affect content of “superstition” pushed far enough, or somehow made important enough—as for instance is was for me in my novitiate days when receiving communion—somehow act as a transponder sending “back” to some other place, or to the same place considered from other viewpoints, be a primary way of the micro-systems or macrosystems “talking” to each other.  In superstition and in the much “higher” non-rationalities that emotion or affect don as a mask in order to accomplish certain tasks, like communication—does the universe, as Philip K. Dick (or Heraklitus) thought, become simply a set of sentences, a vast conversation?  

Going to bed a few nights ago I once again looked at one of my favorite pictures of Jamie and, inevitably, broke into tears.  Here is a response that instead of being celebrated as one of the most important, as a key intensity in emotion, of all human means of communication to human or non-human—is instead downplayed as the weakness of a man who, after the death one and a half years earlier, of a partner—has not yet learned to “control” his emotions about this event.  In fact of all the ways of trying to summon a sense of the presence of my friend and mate, of all these, crying or weeping hysterically, seems to be the most effective of all in being able to make him much more present than a hologram could do.  So I cry for Jamie.  And, not literally but just as really in terms of how my mind “perceives” his presence.

Something happens very early in the west.  Despite warnings of three different kinds according to the historian Suetonius—including the dream-warning of his wife Calpurnia—Caesar dismisses these as superstitions instead of as sources of information and goes to his fate in the Senate.

Today we listen to our superstitions—when we do—clandestinely, shamefully, secretively.  A change has occurred.  Before modernism who wouldn’t believe in the touch of the king as a means of curing a disease?  Earlier still, even Cicero and Octavian, seeing some ominous bird like a large crow grew fearful—that is, in effect recognized the reality quotient accessed by this prodigy—and so took steps to avoid whatever presumable disaster awaited them.  We repress out superstitions far deeper into the unconscious.  We eat meet and yet are ashamed to deny that this horrifies us.  Hence the import of a new coinage in the last century: the slaughter-house, rich in purple tones of murder, is effaced and in its place we construct new—not buildings or techniques—but vocables: what formerly was called by the name slaughterhouse has become the bland, sanitary thing called a meat-packing plant. 

Odd, isn’t it?   Hulot, author of La mystique sauvage (I’d like to translate the word sauvage as natural or original or primary, in terms of the mysticism of which M. Hulot sees a subset of the general notion called mysticism (la mystique).    The book shows essentially the primacy of affective over “rational.”    Rational, rationalize. You can think of the varieties of mystical experience—in which I include without distinction the high mysticism of Meister Eckhart and throwing salt over your shoulder, a “superstition”—as simply intensifications of a cosmic conversation going on all along, but with greater or lesser acknowledgement of this by the single human cerebellum.  Or at other orders—communications of the future universe with the past (note the new theory that there are circle-like traces of a universe or universes before the Big Bang in our own universe of a previous universe, singular, or singular universes, plural.  Not to speak of many other possibilities—the possibility of many universes far outside ours  and so on.   And if there is any connection it is certainly not on a rational plane.   Just as the continuity in a single being still in the womb experiences no distinction that would separate it from a hypothetical non-it, we can say the same of other universes—beyond the reach of science.

Leading us elsewhere.

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Omens were a core experience for Romans–so is it so strange  my vacation with Jamie to Rome should have some remnants of this too?   Hint: first there’s a bridge experience I’m going to tell you about, then there’s  the umbrella trees stuff you have yet to know about.

 

Example.  Recalcitrant Caesar who’s been given warning omens, about the dangers of the next day in the Senate, if he decided to go despite the warning.  What this illustrates as you’ll soon see: that their sense of what superstitious means is a bit or even a whole lot different from ours.  Theirs was a message from the beyond and the trick with the beyond was—it was dicey, and the square pegs (messages to us) they were trying to fit into round holes in the integument separating out two worlds, theirs and ours, was so dicey as to be probably deforming or at least, as in the Delphi oracle, ambiguous in the extreme.   Round holes should match square pegs, no?.

When the integument separating our two worlds, like at solstice time, thins,  your omen’s going to be more, not less likely to make sense, be legible, have a real bearing on your life: the forces of beyond have obviously found certain ways to FORCE square pegs into round holes, huh?   But—and here I almost throw up my hands in frustration if not capitulation—aren’t mistakes, yes you heard that right, I said mistakes—aren’t they just..what’s the right word—RIFE in the realm of spiritology (that’s not a word but I’m making it one because it just makes sense to me).    But spirit messages are always and by definition affect messages, not rational ones, and as such liable to a great deal of screwy-ness, getting things a bit “off” you might say.  But hey!  the following is important: the more important the information, the more likely too it is to be a little “off,” or screwed up or deformed—you name it.  Hey hey hey: the heart has its reasons doesn’t it not that reason knows not.  (OK I can’t help but show off a little here, though 3/4 of normally educated people also can quote this: le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connait pas.  I used to think that instead of the word pas, not, he, Pascal I mean, should have written the word plus.  So the so-called original Pascal sentence would read, The heart has its reasons that reason knows not where as the UR or primal sentence there originally but changed by puzzled editors probably meant that originally reason used to be able to make use of some of the paranormal and mystical and intuitive powers that now only the heart knows.  Would that have been a much more acceptable state of affairs?  In other words in the beginning the lymphic system and the cerebellum were one thing, leaning one way at one end (brain stem and glands) and the other way at the other (the brain core—but alas readers that’s only speculative and I’m the first to acknowledge this).

Well-bred and educated (=rich) Romans thought they were way way above  any superstitions.  Period.  But as I would have said to them: define superstition.   And I would ask them this: you think the discovery of a three-headed calf signals clearly some great but still coming event.   And, Romans, I will give you this.  Third millennium people (us) believe ourselves to be superstition-free but this clearly is rationalization.   Mother says “Oh honey I’m calling to tell you NOT to take that flight out of Logan, or JFK or whatever, because I have this really strong sense you’ll regret it: it’ll crash.”   So in respect to mom’s intuitions (and your own by the way) you don’t get on that plane.  But guess what.  The plane, in 99 times out of 100 DOESN’T crash.  This doesn’t mean her intuition was worthless but just that, as at Delphi, you have to know how to interpret—the oracle, mom’s intuitions, your own.  Whatever.    And all of the above paragraph is only about the BAD sense of superstition but clearly I’m trying to make a case that there’s a GOOD one that’s at least as important if not more.

If there is why don’t we recognize this?  Intellectuals used to after all.  Cicero for instance.  Read the letters.  Or all the Roman people.  There was an eagle over the Capitolium that they saw first proudly sited at the top of the roof and then begin to wobble—and most horrible of all—then fell.  Obviously “eagle” = fate of Roman republic.  And if it falls, you are in deep dodo, as Pres. Bush the first used to say.  But if you are a normal intellectual today and therefore if not a Buddhist at least someone who just assumes, hardly even thinking about it, that all things are connected.  If this is true, it also was true.  Hence the crowd that gasped as the eagle above the capitolium started to fall down dead were right after all weren’t they?  Maybe not if they thought if meant the Roman res publica was in trouble but in some yet-to-be-determined way, right?

Right.  Superstition, as concept, is rich in its spectra of meanings.  That we can now agree on.  Can’t  we?  Because I’m taking it for granted you’re fucked up if you don’t agree with that.  And you don’t understand the underlying interconnection of the world.  And lest that sound too sectarianly Buddhist, think about it: China’s industrial waste in wind-form drifts slowly over to the US of A and dumps its load.  Oh but you know all this already, almost all of you I’m sure.  We “co-produce” each other.  As sentient beings.  Or as anything that exists in the universe even just once of those tiny micro-particles that they produce only in labs and come into existence from nothing and then are gone in a nano-nano-nano-second.  Do you call THAT superstition?   You should or you won’t understand anything.

Now if someone if you’re offended, I say talk turkey.  If you put it nicely and with reasonable clarity to readers and they don’t want to make the effort to understand, then kick their frickin asses!  That’s a thing of last resort of course.  But nothing can be 100% ruled out can’t it?  Even kicking readerly asses?  Why do you think in the zen tradition for hundreds of years the master would walk around with a big stick and whack! you painfully hard, on your shoulders, if for instance you were dozing off instead of making the effort to concentrate yourself in single-pointed attention.   So, if you think there’s danger of readers getting even a LEETLE bit lazy during important teaching, kick their freakin asses.  I say this as a writer of course.  Since in real life as you know I”d never dream of attempting such violent action.   But in writing—YES!    . 

Superstition.Can we just look at the word, the word itself I mean this time, just for a minute or two?

Superstition, in latin, “superstitio”, or “I stand above.” (related to Greek “sto” I stand).  OK. But—amazing!—there’s also a latin word for trance, exstatis, meaning “I am outside myself” or   “I am beside myself.”  In other words crazy or mystical.  They didn’t always distinguish.  (You know those babes the Pythias?  According to our world-traveler Pausanias they were chosen in part because of not being very bright bulbs….Think about it.)   So both words have “I stand” in them.  But one has “above myself” while the other has outside or beside myself.   Is there only chance?   Or does etymology provide a clue?   Can even the superstition (such as just above everything in non-Roman or foreign religions) that Romans put down, as opposed to the kind they actually practiced (that eagle falling off the capitolium would have appalled even, no especially, intellectuals like Cicero, or Seneca, or whoever)—no, wait.  Change that.  Not “Can even…” but “Did even” not just the people but the high intellectuals see a relation existing between bad superstition, like say the religion of stupid Scythians—boy oh boy are they stupid barbarians and SO unlike us cultivated Greek-like Romans!—and the kind of possession (being out of your mind, beside yourself, alongside yourself, in other words in a mystical trance, like Socrates was when he stopped along the road back to Athens and stayed standing stock-still all night while his students went back to their comfy upper-class beds—while Socrates was undoubtedly doing some very high class thought-non/thought that was WAY beyond his students.  What’s the point?  Let me repeat it, students.  The Dao te Ching says it best: The way that can be said is not the way.  You cannot reach any high level of truth or better, you cannot reach truth, period, through concepts.  Hence the apparent etymological praise of crazy people and superstition even in the bad sense I’ve just cited.   

Superstition is just possession, as is all mysticism. Let me unfold that for you. There exists a membrane line-of-demarcation between the two worlds, our world of discontinuities and the other one which is continuous—and so might appear as emptiness or even nothingness, though looking at the word carefully you can see that this is not so.  At certain times like solstice the membrane thins and permits easier penetration from one side to the other.  But I call it possession because it always starts from the gods or daemons, in other words, from the other and continuous world, which is actually just the flip side of our discontinuous world—though what is in question in both cases is the same, the same simply looked at from two differing points of view.  Got that?    But remember square pegs, round holes?  Also distance or non-distance.  Things can get mucked up, that is deformed on their way from the divine world to the human one, from the other world to our world.  (Just strike divine if you don’t like the word, call it the invisible world, the spirit world, the world of emptiness, or world of nothingness and you’ll still be on track and we can continue to walk together on this, ok?). 

A man’s stupid wife (Calpurnia is stupid for the Romans only because following the thought of the Greeks all women are stupid) gives you this hysterical warning, Caesar, honey, oh please don’t go to the Senate house today or you’ll be murdered!   You smile condescendingly: women! can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em! and throw up your hands).  This obviously lower-class (and hence also stupid) human being by the side of the road to the Senate hands you a message, according to Suetonius at least, that gives you the same warning.  Ignore it.  The common people are ignorant and stupid.  So he ignores it.  We know what happened.  “You too, my child?!” bleats Caesar to Brutus (that’s Suetonius, I don’t know where in the world Shakespeare got it wrong so it now says Et tu, Brute, and you as well Brutus?    Mistakes happen.  

Omens counted back then—why not now?

I mean if at least you live in a big city or along one of the two coasts you’ll probably understand at least that throughout most of history omens have counted.  (Mrs. Reagan in the White House consulted that astrologer, what’s her name—and Mrs. Reason isn’t much more of an intellectual than her husband, Doofus).  If you can take omens seriously though not vulgarly, not the way they might first appear to you, knowing you will have to work on an omen with at least the energy it takes to work on a koan, then you’re half-way home.  You recognize a) there is another world and b) it can and does communicate with us under certain conditions (the separation layer thinning at the solstices).  And c) in terms of communication, the other world does communicate without, only not necessarily, as the example of Caesar shows, in the ways that you expect.  There is a reasonable expectation that Jacob will have to wrestle with angles.  That enigmas like oracles and such will have to be figured out and transcribed.  Etc.

As I already told you when Jamie first read the Dao te Ching that I”d given him, he exclaimed with joy—why don’t they teach this in the schools, this is real!

I personally happen to think that the meaning itself, of omens, can change.  They might mean one thing at one time or place and another at another and so on.  Why not?  Especially given transiency or impermanence.  Things are always changing.  Jamie’s dad had taught him that when the scat in the path lies in this configuration it meant the mountain lion went that-a-way.  But once Jamie delayed too long.  No, his daddy told him, it means it went THAT-a-way, meaning 180 degrees opposite.  How could that little amount of time have made that difference?  Things are always changing.  The Romans recognized that.  Two very important books are called Metamorphoses.  One is the tale of a man turned into a donkey but saved at the end by Isis—and in gratitude becomes her monk.  That’s the later one.  The earlier one is Ovid, interesting connections being made that were never made before between and among the various mythic stories that his poetry tells us about.  Does the word metamorphosis, change of form, literally, mean the same in both books?  In one it means a man becomes a donkey who becomes a man again.  Kind of simple of a meaning.  In the other it means there are some very sophisticated connections being made between and, as I say, among, myths that never were made before.  All this presupposes things are changing in language and writing too.  I have one meaning that I think people will get from this blog or book and yet when it gets out there published people I will be appalled at what reviewers say this means.   And if I could look through the window like Tom Sawyer at my dead self, when I’m dead, and the book this dead self wrote—I will go berserk.     Change.  Transiency.  This world is always changing.  The other one remains the same void it has never begun being and will never end being but still is, all the same.

Heraklitus! you who said that a person does not step into the same river twice.  That’s change or impermanence.  But who also said at what most scholars figure is the beginning of this book put together from fragments of it found (“apud”) from among a whole bunch of other books—who also began his book in praise of the logos which is define as conversation.  The world is structured as a set of conversations, as language going back and forth among a group of people (all the people that were or are or will be)—and that is interconnection.  This can get you off-base because at first glance but first glance only, you might be disturbed by the passing thought that—aren’t impermanence and interconnection necessarily self-contradictory phenomena?   Think a little.  They are not.  For what goes out of existence or is not yet in existence also helps co-produce what happens now to be in existence.  Just think….Think.  This is true, but hard and you will have to squint your eyes and frown a lot trying to get why.   Look hard and you will see that Heraklitus was a Buddhist. For sure.  Hella buddhist.  No shit.

 

Now I’m not saying I understood this at Rome—but in the bridge experience I came close anyway—but from a) impermanence and b) interconnection you will see that you can’t cling to things.  You can’t flee them either—but that’s another story.  The main thing is you can’t cling, obsess, let them rule you instead of the other way around.

So the other part of the reasons Jamie’s dad took Jamie out with him on those encampments in the desert was to firm him up (first, it’s scary there especially at night when big cats can come right past your sleeping bad, second there are often demands of heat of cold to overcome etc.: in other words get used to handling anything, boy).  No more than Socrates, faced with the imminent arrival of the man carrying the cup of hemlock, could try to make progress on his musical education yet stay ever calm, tranquil and even funny, of mind.  Part of going to Rome for me was to try to accustom myself to sudden changes of difference.  And when the old intrudes upon the new, not to be frightened.  This succeeded partly insofar for instance as after the rest of the group had gone from the bottom-most church to one of the two piled on two of it (I think this is the S. Francesco church if I recall rightly), I was having a lovely conversation with a woman who died two millennia ago but whose beautifully polished black hard stone (of some kind or other) tomb with its epigraphical inscription remained exactly, or so it seemed, as it had been, as if patiently waiting out the 2,000 years just for me.  And given interconnection again—why shouldn’t that be the case?  Unbeknownst to her family and to the authorities they were, without realizing it, only following the Other World’s instructions, so that finally after 20 or so centuries she and I could converse together in sometimes funny ways, sometimes serious and so on.  Why not?   Could the situation not be as just now described to you?  Think.  And thanks for thinking.  It means a lot to me.  To think you really are thinking about what I am saying. 

 

                                                                                 *

In the desert Jamie notices things: maybe like Heraklitus and Hesiod did.  They are the three models of my life.  After that, only Socrates.  After that, shit.    I feel my life drifting up in smoke just like the zen found did when he found his vocation.  Dogen’s mother had died when he was young, something like seven or eight maybe.  At the ceremony with the cremated ashes in the wrapped vase on the altar he noticed that the smoke from the two incense sticks arose in a column (the opposite way from Vesuvius, which was going up at first, true, but then coming down—and so less spiritually) that like the top of the umbrella pine that Pliny compared the Vesuvius column to, it began to spread out but instead of inflicting devastation the twin incense columns that were guarding and honoring his mother’s ashes—they just went up and spread out and dispersed more and more until they were the nothing that they, and she, had come from.  That all of us come from.  Then and there, Dogen decided to become a monk.  This is the only thing worth doing—confronting birth and death and how things appear out of nothing and go back to the same nothing.   What else is there worth doing, he thought?

Until you are enlightened your mind will always be fragmented, just as mine is.  And that too dictates this form—the form of fragmentation I am using to write this writing.  It is because I am less than enlightened and cannot do otherwise.  You must put up with me and bear with this or if there is anything worthwhile in this writing, it will never reach you.  You must not cling to fragmentation but as it overtakes you from time to time you must not fearfully try to flee from it either.  Between the two is the tranquility of mind that is or should be our aim.   IF we have any sense.

So should you be frightened or scandalized if I tell you again and again  I really believed Jamie and still believe him when he said (still says): Bruce when you are dead too, I will come and find you, even if I have to sniff you out.   I really loved that way of putting it.  His closeness to animals and mountains and desert all came out in that figure, the olfactory one—if….then I will sniff you out.   It was as if he was so close to nature that just as the sense of smell is comparatively dominant there but no longer with us people, he had sensibly enough somewhere along the line thrown off his humanity for something much bigger, much larger, which the desert represents.   The hugeness of that void where shadowy wet figures, dark and abandoned, seem to come to and fro to represent just the fact of the reality of the non-visible even among humans.

Jamie loved my smell.  He’d say, I could smell you out anywhere, darlin’, even in a huge crowd of hundreds of thousands of people.  Just like mountain lions and snakes do: all their movies are conditioned by their most perfect sense which is smell.    This equates to the fact that anything mental begins in the body, that the intellectual is built upon the emotional, that the cerebrum is grounded on and hippocampus and other more far-sighted glands without which—or without an INTEREST of some kind—the process of thinking could never, never get going.  Thinking can never arise by itself.  The smell of the ugly-smelling greasewood bush in the desert must set it off.  Or the incredibly unbelievable freshness of the desert after a spring rain.  Oh!   if you had been there when Jamie and his mom standing beside me on the front porch after the rain the previous night we first inhaled—and always feel in dizziness, in ecstasy, in trace from the single-pointed concentration of this childlike and innocent freshness.  We gasped—almost in pain—from this. 

Omens are important and necessary because of this.  All omens are physical.  And that is where we always start—and finish.  Do not rely on the other—though use it.  Dogen: the enlightenment IS the bodily position (the correct position you take to do zazen).  You cannot be more physical than that.  That is why the pope condemned zazen.  He realized its truth.   Omens share in this.  If you reject omens and prodigies you are rejecting the beginning of the truth in the physical.  You would be in delusion because you would be postulating a dualism, that there is on one hand mind, the other body.   That is so dumb.  It is so incredibly dumb.

An omen is a theophany.  Yahweh appears in a burning bush.  If you are frightened of black cats you are closer to the truth than philosophers are.  Don’t say truth.  It’s reality.   Truth is a representation of reality.  If it is. 

when even before he knew he was dying he would tell me that when I That is where Jamie is now, dispersed into just emptiness and I will never see or reach him again.  that everything changes.  Mountains crumble.  Sheep die of mange of something or else just get old and die or are killed for their meat: and what a change THAT is!   Plants—the same.  I could go on.  But I assume you’re not stupid and have gotten the point.  To really get the point is to get it affectively though, not intellectually.  So being out in the desert, for Jamie, and doing zazen, for me, turn out to create this kind of identity bond where he both realize in the marrow of our bones that we’re (always) slipping away and turning into something else that at some point you have to say ISN’T ME any more.    We had that in common.  Ooops, almost said HAVE, present tense.  But as I”ve said—I’m still grieving, you dopes.  (Hey you’re not really dopes but I’m joking to try to put across an important point and maybe it’s even the most important of all.  So don’t get offended please.  Thank you.)

Superstition is a kind of knowledge that is a subset of affect, not knowledge.  For all intents and purposes as far as I can see knowledge is useless for any of the wonderful things about human life.  Example.  Yesterday (it’s fall now) walking down 18th St.  I came upon two –what can I call them but theophanies?  Well whatever.  The first was this sycamore (or plane try if you prefer) the beauty of whose reds russets golds browns and so on stopped me, with real tears, right in my tracks.  If I was an animal being hunted by Jamie’s dad in the desert, I would have been a goner: because I just stood there for literally a couple of minutes looking, amazed at the wonder of this world’s particular phenomenon I was encountering.  Is that epistemological knowledge or affect—or you might say esthetic knowledge, instead?   You decide.

Does this apply to omens?  You bet.     Omens convey “knowledge” thru affect and not thru intellection.  Things start at the brain stem, then go to the hippocampus and/or amygdala and besides constructing space and time also produce emotion, feeling, affect, whatever you call it.

And it doesn’t use logic, emotion I mean.

For instance it makes plenty of sense just not logical sense that during that hailstorm?  the one with me and Jamie sitting and swinging together on the porch swing and watching it in the desert?—that we should feel incredibly close to each other—and that linked to this affect-knowledge should be a sensuality that in the mere holding of each other’s hands we got a little hard, I noticed.  You know—we got woodies.  See?  Doesn’t that all make sense now?

Also please to remember my swimming pool experience, at my grandmother’s.  Me being only three or four and the nympth-like voices of the deep end inviting me to walk down over my head and drown myself because I’d then be in such a groovy world.  But that first I”d have to live my life and then toward the end they’d come to call to me again.

All this is theory, about omens, to prepare you for Rome.

And Rome will  involve oceanic feelings as Freud called them, mysticism  through even superstition, I guess.  To illustrate this mysticism, I’ve placed, below, a picture                           

A Jamie assemblage

from his (soi-disant) “White Trash Series.”   I, maybe, by proxy get a pass to use the first two words, just as Jamie certainly did.  But you—no. 

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