Friday, August 1, 2014

Saying Goodbye (After the Fact)

Would that I could shut it all out somehow: I feel as though I am the victim of a process of shunning, one that has left me alone to experience the sensory awareness of impending danger even as the rest of the accepted group of humanity remains unaware. Hillary Clinton has a book out; a new photograph of her shows those wide and invading eyes, with that smile that's just a little too affected. As I gazed, a comparison came to mind: I recognized it as the same sort of headshot as the one taken of Jared Loughner, the shooter of Representative Gabrielle Giffords; by way of definition, a psycho on Krank. The categories of psychopathology and sociopathology find representation in their shared traits when the patterns of behavior for politicians and the worst sort of serial criminals are compared. Somehow Barry Soetoro dropped out of the sky and became Barak Obama. Now he's saying that he had to issue so very many presidential directives due to the blockage of congressional gridlock. ("I'm sorry," says Caesar, but I had to take charge because of that do-nothing Senate.) Every dictator has used this sort of excuse.

In this paper I am starting with things afield. You see, I had to be away for a few days and, as such, I became vulnerable to the rottenness and filth of television ("Don't touch that dial"), courtesy of my own curiosity and due to my having to be near  a few elderly TV-watching relatives. And referring to hard drugs again, on the way back I awoke in a motel room in Tucumcari and saw the "people" of the early morning shows. My thought was, "Behind every smile lurks a potential lie." (What's new? Just about everything here IS lying.) Okay, that's peripheral information. It could be a tad relevant; some future historian may want to know, but it's not the principal reason why I'm putting fingertips to keyboard.

Two photographs: the first came by way of a professional. It showed Anna and a man at a table, having a daytime beer in a bar. Back in the forties and fifties sometimes a pro would snap a pic of you and you'd give him a little dough. The thing came out like a work of art and it made my eldest sister look like a lovely Italian movie star. But the second picture was not of beauty. It was a bit stark (I don't remember where I saw it), and the circumstances around it were not nice. She was standing on a sidewalk in Sioux City with the woman who had married my dad's brother, Uncle Lowell. He had worked on the first transcontinental highway of Canada and had sent most of his money home, to his young wife. She spent it all and demanded a divorce when he returned. Later, he hanged himself.

Anna Marie married but did not have any children of her own. Her husband had three from a previous marriage but his first wife had been declared insane. After he died in a strange motorcycle accident she became like the deteriorated character played by Goldie Hawn in Death Becomes Her.

There's a part of me to talk about here as well; first I have to return to The Beacon Theater that used to be at 29th and Ames, in Omaha: the year was 1961 and our little gang was walking past the front. Some older guys were there and Lyle gave off a very aggressive "Fuck You" to them. We took off running. I ducked down an alleyway and successfully hid in the middle of three or four trash cans but the next day Lyle gave me hell for breaking away from the group. I remembered this as I sat in – but did not participate in – the Catholic funeral for my eldest sister. The word mass is taken literally: people form a single body as they respond to the liturgical promptings of the priest. The all-together unity of it made me think of huddling for protection as against a too-wild and unpredictable, a too-cold and unforgiving world. Sometimes it's good to have the memory refreshed; some of it came back but in my youth I was performing as a kid, obeying my parents. In contrast, during and after my conversion I can recall synagogues that sounded like a cacophony of auctioneers, each man trying to get his own prayer in (and to heck with mass). Even though it didn't stick with me, I found myself more attuned to the "Currahee" aspect of the Jews. (This is an American Indian word, maybe Cherokee, that means, "We stand alone together.")

The church was a small one off of the old downtown area of Omaha. When I was a twelve-year-old kid I had hawked Sunday morning newspapers on its steps (for a quarter each) some fifty-five years earlier. It was beautiful inside, albeit somewhat cluttered and busy with its too many statues, too much stained glass, and in its symbolism overload. (I pity the one doing the dusting.)

I think it was 1954: she visited us when I was seven. I remember that Anna Marie made a big spaghetti dinner but there was something about that, and the grape juice she had bought, that didn't sit well with me. Later, outside, I threw it all up.

The day before the funeral was the viewing. I cried, not so much for or about her death but the sight of those paltry, pitiful and cheap clothes disturbed me greatly. (From what others told me, our mother had treated her terribly.) Years after her husband died another brother and sister went to visit and ended up taking out about fifteen huge plastic bags filled with trash, junk, and garbage from her neglected home. Her first words to them were, "Welcome to the house of death." In later years she lived with another sister and her family in Omaha. Every time I saw her I would ask if there was anything I could do (and I meant it – if she would have asked I would have tried), but she would always reply that she was okay and didn't need anything. In the last ten years or so even talking sounded like hard work for her (I found myself wondering if she had had a lobotomy); her verbal skills were almost gone, and now (goddamn it) she wasn't even going to be buried in a nice dress.

My private prayer was for her to have something better, no matter where she may go. She paid dearly while she was here.

I sat in the pew with the pallbearers and giggled to myself when I remembered that Jack Kerouac had his first sex in a confessional. Of course with my views and considering what I have experienced I qualify as an apostate and a heretic. I looked up at those wonderful stained glass windows and imagined them imploding inward in a contrived vision of something akin to what may have happened in The Omen. One reason why I broke away is because I feel that if there really is a judgment, then I will have to stand alone for it. When Brian said, "You're all individuals," the ovine gathering below intoned, "Yes, we're all individuals," collectively, but that's not me. I actually try to live as one, and besides that, there's all that mystical stuff about me that my family doesn't want to go near. A feeling of superiority is not where I'm at; I don't see myself as anything but normal while the majority of others want to remain at a lower state where they may feel more secure (plus, couple that with the absence of the pain required as a necessary part of learning and changing). It might be more correct to say that I have to remain a free agent, ready to go wherever I am called (if I get a call). I could not and cannot attach myself to someone or something, at best equal to me or at worst of a lesser makeup. Sorry, Lyle, and I apologize to the Jewish people as well, but I had to be on my own and I could not stop seeking, learning, and changing to fit whatever I found.

Dad and Mom were Aries and Capricorn, two leader houses; their first four surviving children were male-Libra, female-Capricorn, male-Aries, and female-Cancer, covering all four of the leader signs.

Anna was the second one. She was eighty-two-and-a-half when she passed away, the same age as her older brother when he died.

The funeral was followed by my brother-in-law, Tom, taking me to the zoo on my birthday, the day after the services. It was a great time: the Omaha zoo is (for a city of that size) quite exemplary, and an all-day project to take in. My childhood was not pleasant; I cannot bring up a truly good memory. So I find myself thinking of other kids in this town, the ones who will not know of anything good or positive in their youth and it doesn't matter if all the children at the zoo were happy. Even in the middle of my good time I couldn't help but think of the children sitting on a run-down apartment stoop with nothing to do and no money to do it with.

So, after an (almost) heart attack–inducing trip back, I am once again back on Route 66. I wear a wet T-shirt in my repo trailer, with an indoor temperature above 92 as shown on the thermometer. It has been windy (as per usual) but has since died down; tonight I walk and look up at the cloud cover, hoping that it will rain…praying for the rain of John Fogerty and Bob Dylan, a biblical cleansing.

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