“Well I just came up on the midnight special how about that?
My car broke down in Texas she stopped dead in her tracks.
Just called to tell you that I need you,
Just called to tell you how I feel.
I feel like some old engine lost my drivin’ wheel,
Feel like some old engine lost my drivin’ wheel.”
– Roger McGuinn –
Sometimes I figure it got made out so I just can’t find the right way up. There is never a solid spot to stand for too long. Like standing in the middle of a rushing river, you may be in one place but all that goes around you changes and moves. No matter what you do. I mean this not to be too melodramatic. Just saying that these old ghosts and the new ones that tie themselves to them never stay quiet too long.
Okay man, I’ll stay back from the metaphor truck. Homespun wisdom is pretty easy to do when it’s done at arms length…Shit! That one slipped out.
So I got a punch or two in the gut the past couple weeks. Maybe it’s just life letting me know I ain’t made to win. Just made to be out there in the ring for the fight. I’m going to be out there for all the rounds and when it comes down to win or lose, well it will up to the judges to decide. I feel tired, I feel used up and I feel skinned raw. Goodbyes are far more common than hellos and betrayal, hurt and the politics of love and distance are just a way of living.
You know yesterday was the 30th anniversary of Ian Curtis’ death. I know this because I got a massive influx of visits to this blog, I have written about him before and for some reason Google indexes my blog by Ian Curtis’s name. And I spent some time meditating on his choice, his decision to leave. And I just can’t fault him. You know I can’t fault anyone for making that big step. I once read some thinker write about suicide as the only one true liberty anyone can take. I guess he had his reasons. I have mine too….I just sort of linger. Maybe someday I won’t. In fact if I were a betting man I’d say I won’t. It’s just a door. And opening it makes sense sometimes. Like laying down when it’s time to sleep. Running on empty can only go on so long. Then it’s time to rest.
Fuck ain’t that a dark thing. Well it’s honest and you know what man? I am sick of people who ain’t honest. I am sick of niceties and being polite. It seems a man can’t talk to no one no more in life. Lest you offend their sensibilities and beliefs. Or you say the wrong thing and hurt their feelings. That making it all better ain’t about some fucked up poem printed on a picture of a beach. And there is always someone trying to tell you they know just how you feel. When it is quite clear from the empty looks and tainted smells they haven’t a clue. You want to know who knows how I feel? Hank Williams knows, when he laid down in the back of that Cadillac and never got up. He knew just what I feel. Henry Rollins knows what I feel. When he writes about the agony of trying to reach out only to break the wrist that reaches back and the bug spray smelling rooms. He knows. Charles Bukowski knew, when he wrote about the losers, the bums and the dying beauty. He knew. And the guy you cast your sideways glance at as you roll by in your hermetically sealed, air-conditioned rolling iron. He knows…He’s me. I ain’t even the kind you’d think twice about as you pass by onto something more important.
I’ve seen enough of the world. More than most. I’ve seen things could make you sore with grief and things that could take your breath away. I have known secrets that mean more than anything you’ll ever find in your little world. I am the animal/machine, the last of the hardcore troubadours. And maybe I just don’t want to know any more…Maybe I am at the point in the trip where I can say that there is no port in the storm and the storm never really calms, it just rolls back a little and gives you time to bail the boat.
What the fuck am I trying to say??? Maybe I am just sad, maybe I am lonely, maybe I am tired of playing this game.
Here’s a story, it’ll maybe make you see…
When I was 10 my family drove across Canada to visit my Grandparents out on the west coast from our home in Toronto. We had a camper van and were making a real road trip of it. My dad spent weeks planning and was just as excited as my brother and I. We were going to stop at all kinds of places along the way and he planned time to take little break and picnic or sight-see. Well we reached the shores of Lake Superior. And there was this pretty park with rivers going through it and waterfalls too. It was a hot day and so my brother and I set into the river above a waterfalls that was about 25 feet high and then off the water rushed into the great lake. We soon found that there were rocks worn smooth and the rushing waters would sweep you down these little chutes, it was like an ancient old water slide.
Being the kid who never knew how to be careful or scared I kept searching for a longer and faster ride. Until I finally found one that gor hold of me and blew me through like a wave. I went down it once and then got to the shore and made my way over to some stones above it and went down again. Only this time I missed my jump off point. And suddenly I saw I was headed for the falls. And there was no handhold or place to pull out of. I was so quickly filled with dread I couldn’t react. And it was then I heard from about 100 feet away “Jeffery, relax! stay upright!” it was my father and in some act of bravery and strength I have never seen before or since he was walking into the river against the current toward me as I rushed to the edge. “Take it easy boy, I’ll get you. It’s okay.” he said in a clear and calm voice. And I believed it like it was the voice of God himself. And almost like walking on a downtown sidewalk he was there behind me. He reached down and wrapped an arm under my arms and across my chest and in my ear he said “C’mon boy, get to your feet, I’ll lead you out of here.”
And he held me up and then braced me until I walked to the river’s edge. When we got there I turned to him in shock and he looked at me and said “Geez kid, I thought we were going to lose you. Are you okay?” all I could muster was a nod and just like nothing ever happened he said “Okay get up the river and get your towel, we got to go.”
Years later he told me he shook like a leaf for hours afterward, but I have no memory of that. Not at all. I just remember that my dad was there in time and strong enough to pull me to safety.
And I think maybe I feel like that kid again and I am in this river and I have lost my footing, the current is pulling me and the edge gets closer all the time. And all I want is to feel my dad’s arm slip beneath mine and hear that voice “C’mon boy…I’ll lead you out of here.”
But just like everything else, he’s gone. And I am here on my own…Barely keeping my head above the water. Almost at the falls.
And into far wide great fields
Upon wings of freedom
My soul released
And eyes no longer blind
I shall fly away
A great horse in stride
The sun beneath me
I shall fly.
It was two years ago today I last saw my father alive. It’s a strange anniversary to remember. But I do. I cling to the memory like an amulet or a totem. Because as it was my last memory of my father is perfect. It was exactly as it should be.
We were standing at the door of my downstairs apartment him in front of me. I was cradling my 11 week old daughter against my chest and he leaned over gently and kissed her forehead and said “Goodbye baby, I love you and I’ll see you again real soon.” He then looked at me and said “I’ll talk to you soon” and he said as a goodbye “I’m proud of you son.” And then I watched him slowly go up the stairs and out the door. Slow and struggling a life of abuse and hurt being carried all over him. But for a few seconds there the veil of time and the hurt and the past were all lifted away and he was a strong and clear man again. And he was my father and my child’s grandfather.
Two weeks later I’d be standing in his bedroom looking at his now lifeless body laying on the floor. I can’t say what I thought just then. Aside from some strange pain, foreign and new. And I watched them carry him away a little later and spoke to the police and the coroner. And it was done. A life over. I went back into the room after my mother and brother finally slept and opened the windows to air out the smell of death. And then I noticed almost everywhere I looked there were pictures of my little girl. Ruby was all over his room, it was room he spent most of his time in. As men like him do he’d retreated and denned himself in there. And his whole world was there in this room which had at one time been my childhood bedroom. And it became clear that Ruby had in less than three short months become the star in his world. The sun and moon. He loved her so much. He was in love with her. She looked like us and she sounded like us and she was us. My brother had a son 3 weeks before I had her and my dad would quietly call Ruby “A real Romanovitch baby.” and my mother would chide him because he had two grandkids. But I knew what he meant. And she was, she was his legacy, the legacy of a family that goes back to Eastern Europe. But more than that she was everything he ever wanted in a grandchild, from the pretty blonde hair and blue eyes to the attitude and temperament. He’d have been so delighted in the little person she is becoming.
So it is such a tragedy and loss he’s gone and my family fell apart. But even in the midst of my hurt and tears (I cried a bit while just writing this) there are blessings. God gifted me with two great and powerful moments to hold onto. He gave me the gift of the father I always wanted for just those final moments. And it’s what I think about when I think of my Dad. He wasn’t perfect, but somehow perfect.
The thing at the beginning of this post is an unfinished thing I found recently, I don’t really remember writing it. But I like it.