Letter to David
So here I am at 46, 4 extra inches around my waist (where most of my extra 25 pounds also are), a bad back that is constant pain (an accident 12 years ago -- interesting story I must tell you sometime), both elbows out of whack ('tennis elbow', the doc calls it; I don't play tennis), a leg muscle that keeps failing me, lots of foods I love don't agree with my stomach and give me incredibly nasty farts, a job that is more and more shit than I want to handle, uncountable gray hairs now (tho my hair is still thick, thank god). I still collect things, 99% of which I will never use, but I don't know which 99%, so I keep it all. A huge list of things I want to look into or try or visit, and I rarely get around to it (think about it -- we have one chance to do what we want, and we end up pissing all our opportunities away; we have to be invented, don't we? by some cosmic clown). Yet all this doesn't bother me like it did 10 years ago. Why? Because I'm older, more mature, and can handle my own shortcomings and accept them?
I doubt it. More like ennui, I think, the nectar of philosophers. In any case, I went over that hump about 5 years ago.
Incidentally, I'm not on the farm any more. Left 5 years ago. `Everything died. Chickens (by my ax-wielding hand), calves (by my rifled hand), cats (by my knife-wielding hand to put them out of the misery of broken backs inflicted by the dogs), puppies ( by bullet and fire -- didn't know what to do with them), pigeons (neighbor farmer said get rid of them; they shit all over your hay; cows don't like that), cows (they wouldn't eat shitty hay -- it's all I had), opossum (dangerous in the barn -- tasted good, if a bit over-peppered by a squeamish wife), cherry trees ( the first of the trees to go), plum trees, apple trees (used to give barrels of cider), poplars ( which I planted as a natural fence), rats and mice (of course -- don't want those in the house or barn), a filthy job in a machine shop (it would've got me if I hadn't), about 98% of my enthusiasm, almost all the machinery (fucking machines were out kill me anyway), even my beloved van (150,000 miles, few problems -- did you like the tires?), about 99% of my enthusiasm for life, and my marriage. They all died. Now, do I feel guilty about the deaths that I caused? When some sucker looking down on me from on high was toying with everything all along, squashing little things here and there, watching me squirm? Do I feel guilty????? You bet I do!!!!! There is nothing like guilt to keep a man in chains. Why do we do it? Why do we ask the jailer to put another link in our chain? Why not accept it, that we have failed here and there, learn from it, and go on? `Why beat our breasts till they bleed? There are too many things to learn yet, too many things to see, to try, too many goddam beautiful things -- and too many goddam inhibitions.
I like being married again. I really do. My wife is lovely, intelligent, good sense of humor, and I like being with her. Her daughters are hard to handle, but they're young yet. We rent a house (not an apartment, thank somebody -- I couldn't stand another one of those) with a nice yard and a huge willow tree that everybody except me hates because it sheds branches like confetti. I have a computer -- nice little toy which I feel I can justify by entering my budget on a spreadsheet and writing a program that keeps track of the multitudinous lists that a household generates (but why do I have to justify having a toy?). I have a good-paying job doing something that I basically like doing (I just wish I could just do it, without having to deal with so much crap). We live in a nice neighborhood. I have a nice dependable (until the clutch failed after only 2 years) Cavalier station wagon. And Madison is a pretty city, lots of lakes, woods, shaped by the glaciers, and maddening traffic intersections designed by Fritz the Plumber.
So when am I going to do all those things I want to do? Have you ever tried to coordinate these things with someone else who is using his own patterns to determine when to do the same things? Impossible, almost. So my teeth hurt, my head hurts, I need stronger glasses all the time, and some days I have to drag myself out of bed (not reluctance -- just a bad back). `And I have 74 years to go! I just hope it isn't as an invalid.
David, I'm not trying to cheer you up by throwing my own failures at you. I just want to tell you that I made it over the hump you seem to be at now. I didn't do things any better than what you seem to be chiding yourself for now. I'm just glad I'm done with it. It was hell. I wanted to chuck it all many times. Fortunately, my van had enough sense to not go plunging into `Cascade Lake or down the left side of the highway, even tho I wouldn't have cared. My relationships with people leave a lot to be desired (witness these letters to you, maybe once or twice a year). I never did learn to overcome my shyness and my reluctance to let other people show me something once in a while. Mostly, it doesn't bother me anymore because I am too old to learn it all over. But it does bother me in my job because I have to deal with it there, and pretty often I faw donn go boom (sorry -- step-grandchild influence).
Child trapped inside the wall.
Authorities cruelly cut out all feelings. 'Crazy'. The Trial. Leaf falling metamorphoses into child.
Swallowed by mother.
Child is sentenced to be exposed.
'Tear down the wall!'
Wall explodes. People clean up the mess. 'Outside the wall'. Boy finds bottle with gasoline and wick, empties it.
Summary: 'Mother's gonna make all of your nightmares come true.' 'If you want to see what's behind these cold eyes/You'll just have to claw your way thru this disguise.'
I once bore the sorrows of the world. I am tired. I find it hard to bear even the sorrows of those I love, now. I'm numb -- comfortably numb. If you're going to be a Christ, you'd better die before 33. 46 is hell for Christs.
Now, they take him and they teach him and they groom him for life. Then they set him on a path where he's bound to get ill. Then they bury him with stars, sell his body like they do used cars. Now, there's a woman on my block. She just sits there as the night grows chill, saying 'Who's gonna take away his license to kill?' -- B. Dylan
When I left MaryAnn, she quit her long-term job as a psychologist , sold the farm, ran off to Oregon to be with an invalid who couldn't set a 'bad example' for his young son, and came back to an impossible-to-get-another-job situation. Now, 5 years later, she has finally worked her way back up to where she was professionally. It's hard for me to believe that it's so difficult for someone with years of experience to get a job. `But I guess it is so. (My difficulty was in getting a job for the first time in a new field. It took me 6 months, and then I had to move to Madison to get it.) So I feel impotent but garnering rage that meaningful work should be so difficult to come by for a person with your obvious talents, experience, and incredible charm.
Madison, a famous university town (guess which one -- you know, Students for a Democratic Society, the bombing of the Math Research building, Miflin Street block parties/riots, the hippie mayor -- got it now?), has some nice features. It is physically attractive, has more than its share (for its size) of plays, musical events, zoo, etc), nice countryside not far away, lots of little festivals in the summer, hundreds of Indian effigy mounds, and a pack of students that are as boringly straight as they were in the 50's when I was there. Yes, I would love to have you come. we have an extra bedroom. If you're lucky, you can catch an auction next door at the Knights of Columbus (or a wedding -- pretty much one a week in the summer).
I would like to come to New York, but only because yoy're there. `My vacation is coming up on June 9 (one week), and Kirsten (step-daughter) thinks going to New York would be great. Ze bright lights, ze cabaret. Nona (wife) isn't hot on the notion (exceot that she would like to meet you). Also we don't have much money right now, and NY is over 1000 miles away. This year was supposed to be our cheap-vacation year (saving for next year). So we're thinking of the northern Minnesoata wilderness or short drives in the nearer states. `Of course, that notion bores Kirsten to tears (she still remembers last year in Arizona -- 'not more Indian ruins!', but Nona and I loved it). I don't know, David. I'm of a split mind here. `Can we get in and out of NY cheaply and without being mugged or losing a daughter?
Then, there is Ohio. How about the Serpent Mound?
I'm on this ancient history kick `(been on it for 25 years now). I want to know what it was like, when the sky was filled with snakes, when `Zeus's bolts crashed between Venus and the Earth, when hordes of humanity wandered across the face of the earth cut off from the gods that failed, when the Assyrians butchered their way across the Middle East with unspeakable tortures, when people changed into what we are now -- suviving by deceipt, treachery, personal power, `defensive maneuverings, fear of the dark. But then, maybe Serpent Mound won't tell me a thing. Ah, well, there's always the Indiana Dunes along the way. Not to mention Gary,
I think I have enough words, now. I will shove this into the mailbox so that you get it before Christmas. best wishes.
- Lone Coyote Calls