Let me tell you a story.
This is one of two things I say of recent.
The second one is: “I have a plan.”
I don’t know ASL, so I make the same sign for both statements. I raise an index finger and circle it front of my face. I stop, with my index finger pointed up, my thumb and middle finger in an ok sign, the whole hand gesture paused just in front of my mouth.
“Lemme tell you a story,” I say. “I have a plan.”
I have this friend, Janet. She’s Irish; she tells me I’m seanchai. I’m being lazy by not adding the appropriate accents where they need to go, but I figure Americans are naturally ignoring of these things and don’t care about accent marks. I also figure content is more important than form, so let me keep writing.
Janet—she’s my Mamo´. I’m not replacing my mom, certainly,–I love my Mom– but you pick up surrogates along the way who can help you in different ways. People gain in importance as you grow.
As any mom would do—these OTHER moms–they’ll grant you wisdom in their own graces.
Janet: see calls me ‘seanchai´’, which means ‘storyteller.’ She also calls me ‘Dutch Baby’, ‘Armadillo’, ‘Tin Man.’ We have lots of words for each other, and special names are the inheritance.
“Mamo´,” I tell Janet, while enjoying a coffee at my regular place, “I’m pretty happy right now.”
Janet used to live in Aspen. She was in a writing group with Leon Uris and Hunter S. Thompson. I say this perhaps loosely and braggardly. Janet—she just sees this as a fact of her existence. She sees this as fact of her life, and –yeah—any story involving the Dr. Thompson is a fun one. (I’m excited being runged one generation below her, that I’m one Kevin Bacon degree away from Thompson).
But Janet tells me she like facts. She was a journalist for thirty years. She has a way of erasing celebrity and talking about people as they are: just people.
She told Dr. Thompson to quit shooting his fecking rifle errantly, and out the window. Janet’s kid was going to school down the hill.
“Eh, I’ve never hit any one,” was his defense.
“What happens when you feckin’ do? When you do hurt someone?” Janet responded.
It was their last conversation, but Dr. Hunter S. Thompson stopped shooting his guns.
Janet will forgive me for sharing this fact.
“I have a plan.”
Again, this is where we tell each other stories, and sit opposite each other, the see-saw stalled. Mom, celebrity, starry-eyed-kid. Doesn’t matter who you are in this dizzy life.
Don’t shoot out the window. Keep telling stories. Seanchai´ like a guy that doesn’t eventually shoot himself in the chin.
Dr. Thompson wrote exactly one great thing, among all those things he wrote about being completely fucked out of his head and being in bat country. Clarity among the bats. I know Johnny Depp is the barometer of cool; he lived in Thompson’s attic, adopting Thompson’s accent when prepping for Gilliam’s version of ‘Fear and Loathing’. Depp is cool and all, but he beat his wife. And Thompson shot himself. Putting that aside for a second:
“Strange memories on this nervous night in Las Vegas. Five years later? Six? It seems like a lifetime, or at least a Main Era—the kind of peak that never comes again. San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run . . . but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant. . . .
History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of “history” it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time—and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened.
My central memory of that time seems to hang on one or five or maybe forty nights—or very early mornings—when I left the Fillmore half-crazy and, instead of going home, aimed the big 650 Lightning across the Bay Bridge at a hundred miles an hour wearing L. L. Bean shorts and a Butte sheepherder’s jacket . . . booming through the Treasure Island tunnel at the lights of Oakland and Berkeley and Richmond, not quite sure which turn-off to take when I got to the other end (always stalling at the toll-gate, too twisted to find neutral while I fumbled for change) . . . but being absolutely certain that no matter which way I went I would come to a place where people were just as high and wild as I was: No doubt at all about that. . . .
There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda. . . . You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning. . . .
What is winning?
And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. . . .
So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”
Isn’t that beautiful? Isn’t it? And what is ‘winning?’
Mr. Dr. Thompson, I ask this everyday.
“Let me tell you a story.”
“I have a plan.”
I went to group therapy today. I’ve learned that I need a multiplicity of voices to make me feel better. And I thrive in a group setting where before the fact of any voice outside of my own would scare the shit outta me.
Last August I was hospitalized for my depression and anxiety. THERE. I said it. My big confession.
I told Jenn, “I don’t want my boys to see me like this.” ‘I went on a PR trip’ was the cover story. But really I laid in a hospital bed for six days thinking the worst while I reset my numbers to zero and with great intent at building them back to 100. I was inexplicably, without comment, disappeared. But better than a gun to the chin.
Dr. Hunter S. Thompson—I fucking beat you with an ace of spades.
You did your breakdown in LV; I bet against the house and got better.
Now, I meet and make new friends on the daily.
In therapy, in group there’s this white-board that has a list of questions. Rate your depression. Are you anxious? Etc.
I tell Billy, the counselor—“I’m excited to be here.”
I haven’t been able to go for a few months because my schedule has precluded it. I’ve been stuck working nights, raising penguin chicks. Which is a great imprisonment of schedule.
“Billy,” I say, “I love your board, but I’m passing tonight.”
Why quantify things, things 1-10 when you can better qualify it? I say:
“Let me tell you a story.”
And I read from my writings. I read https://daddymediumwell.wordpress.com/2017/01/25/when-gulls-stop-flying-and-its-ok/. (I’m not adding the link as self-advertisement. I don’t FUCKING care about traffic. It’s simply what I read, and it’s important).
And I read and talk with a voice that commands the room for a second, one I absolutely didn’t know I had. I point to everyone that has already spoken and I repeat their story and bring them into the story I am myself telling.
My friends Bill and Randall tell me, afterwards, “Dude—it’s not what you said, but how you said it. Form and content are THE rules of rhetoric.
Jenn is proud of this new voice of mine. We have a new habit. I’ll tuck her in, lay at the footboard while she gets tired on the pillows and I’ll talk and talk and talk while her eyes do their heavy thing.
I’ve always got a lot of writing to do.
Jenny says: “You know what Cayde said tonight?”
I smile, knowing it’ll be great before I know what it is he’s said.
“He said he was mad at you.”
Not new. Raising Cayde is playing chess with myself, and often no one earns check-mate.
“Go on,” I smile.
“He said,”Jenn yawns, “That he was mad at you for not being here tonight. He said that you’re the best daddy in the world and that he had no one to play Jeopardy with.”
“We were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave…”
Janet was an editor. Were she to still wield the red pen, and on my behalf; were she to still be telling Hunter S. Thompson to behave himself, she would change the ‘were’ to ‘are.’
“We ARE riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave.”
I see my friend Jen today and she says, “Hello, you Brat.”
She’s inexplicably wearing sunglasses indoors because she’s pregnant and her body does funny things, and we all have to adjust to what it is, the funny things our bodies tell us to do to be normal. She is sitting on a chair and grips me around the waist while I give her a hug and kiss her on the head.
“Quit making me cry, Brat. Quit writing.”
“I’m never gonna stop making you cry, Lady.”
Don’t MAKE me put down that pen.
She’s my friend and, Man, do I have good friends. She’s gonna be a Momma and I’m SO happy for her.
I write on the keyboard, I write in my head. I write while I talk to Jenny as I put her to sleep. Weaving words always, and always happy.
Seanchai´, Dutch Baby,Tin Man.
‘Lemme tell you a story.”
Also: “I have a plan.”