R Rated (language)
Street of Rogues, Intro and Reverie
Everything is true, on some level.—Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
Cinco de Mayo, 2005
So there I was, minding my own business, wondering just what my business was, anyway? I was smoking another butt, blowing what might have been my millionth smoke ring of all time and watching it get sucked through the fan in the window with nary a thought for such a one-time and propitious occasion. Unrecognized, it drifts toward the computer screen, veers to port, turns egg-shaped and exit stage left in a wimpy puff of no-glory—taking with it all my yesterdays and tomorrows—until all I was left with was the hole.
Your youth. Remember?
I remember all right. At the time it was a damned pain in the ass. The further it slid away, the more I wanted it back. That’s what a will to live is, as I see it; it’s all about preserving our happy, carefree youth—our potential (which most of us hardly realize). I’m not here, after all, to protect my mediocrity. Eventually, after decades of ‘normalcy,’ one wonders if their glass is half full or almost done. It took me forty-nine years and eleven months to answer that question.
I’m going to be 50 next month. Being one month away vaults the idea into a new stratosphere. I hadn’t thought about it very much until now. Fifty. Am I a glass that is half full or half empty? So what? I check my body parts… Okay so maybe they suck compared to thirty some-odd years ago when I was running along rooftops, but they’re better than should be expected after what I’ve done to this poor, reliable, plod-along piece of Fine Art I call my body. Suddenly someone pulls the proverbial rug from under you and you are barred from the Pain-Free Club of Youth. My body went south two months, three days and some-odd hours after I got out of high school and showed up for a company picnic/flag-football game that I’m sure I never fully recovered from. There is no ceremony—you don’t even know you’re getting the bum’s rush while it’s happening. All you know is one day there’s another knock-knock at the door:
Would I still run the bulls in Pamplona today? No fucking way, probably. But the mental/emotional/spiritual/sexual/sensual parts (you know, the most important parts) are all present and accounted for in full regalia. I am comfortable with my spirituality, stable with my emotions, and sexually speaking, peeping in titty bar windows still turns me on. So I think that qualifies me as a reasonably young, stable, happy forty-niner with relatively few hang-ups who may even be slightly ahead of the curve in those respects should you put them all in a blender and call it Me.
Mentally, well, I admit I may not be as big a sponge in the ocean as I once was, but I would not trade that for the life wisdom that has taken its place. At nineteen I believe I could have memorized the Bhagavatam. At 49, I’m trying to remember if I’m looking for my glasses, or what? And of course they are in my pocket or I’m already wearing them.
Daydream: I am drifting through my past 49 years (and 11 months) like a smoke ring heading toward the fan… as if my whole life is flashing in front of me and it’s taking forever. I watch myself as a toddler try to flush Kitty down the toilet. Kitty want a swirly? (She didn’t.) In my mental hot-flashes, my first girlfriend (after Betty Boop) is already impressed with my red cape and matching, big red ‘S’—and the fact that I can fly! Yes, back then I could fly! (I didn’t care for smashing through windows though, preferring them to be open already.) Child years where I cling to my mother and cry when she sends me to kindergarten for the first time, the second time, and the third. I see myself being taught by a neighborhood kid how to throw a rock the correct way and hitting the target, a stop sign, on the first try. I remember cutting school, in freakin’ Kindergarten, for twenty-six straight days—hiding in the closet when my mother came home from her secretary job for lunch.
It is the beginning of The Fear, fear even in the dream state. In my personal, mental swirly, I graduate from Raw Fear and move to a new neighborhood: More Complicated Paranoia, Queens, NY. My new school is four stories tall, made of brick, and surrounded by fences.
Visions of prisons with dank, green walls,
In them we’re led, like horses to stalls.
The pretzels are stale, the playballs flat,
Your dreams of glory are crushed like that.
A kid we made fun of for stuttering floats by in my mind. Flashes of guilt. I want to apologize; he flipped me the bird and floated on, replaced with visions of old girlfriends—like girls on trampolines! Kathy, Margaret, Ruthie, Judy, Sarah…. I am poignant for a moment with each name, then chuckle and wonder when The Man Show will be on again.
I see a teen with addictions and stupidly long hair. Oh wait, it’s me! I hardly recognize myself. I am performing all the old crimes in my past. First I am stealing from candy stores—black licorice and Bazooka Joe bubble gum. Then from department stores, clothes and record albums mostly. The clothes will never leave the store. We take them to Gift Wrapping, put a freshly stolen cashmere sweater in a box they give us for free, bring it over to the return window and trade it for cash by saying it was a gift and too small, or big, or didn’t match our eyes.
What a sweet racket that was. I smile with a little bit of shame stuck in my teeth.
Now I am breaking into drug stores at night, stealing them blind and walking away with grocery bags full of pills. I’m trading those pills for hash, pot, acid, heroin, morphan and anything else someone says will get me high. I’m stealing from friends and they are stealing from me. We are stealing anything that’s not locked down and rushing to the pawn shops with the stuff. I’m eating lobster every night and pissing away my 100-percent profit drug money on food, booze, record albums, concert tickets and more drugs. I am living the Paranoia balls-out. Cops are picking me up, frisking me, then driving away with the contents of my pockets still on their trunk. Neighborhood junkies are looking for me with no good intentions. My two-year-old brother is finding phenobarbitals on my bedroom floor, holding them up and exclaiming: Candy!
I’m busted and I don’t care. That is, it is nothing I didn’t expect to happen sooner or later. I’m floating face down in a sea of confusion, paranoia, drugs, sex, crime… and I know it will be the death of me. Try as I may, I cannot change this model of behavior. There are too many people in my life on this pattern for me to stop. I despair that I will never shed this skin until I lose the body that lies within it. Demolition sounds so peaceful by comparison. My soul wants to move ahead and my body is raising a death knell I ignore.
Friends are murdered. People are dying young. I learn to keep overdosed junkies alive by smacking the shit out of them and packing their balls in ice so they don’t fall asleep and never wake up. I see Valachi, who, as I did so with him one day, slamming him against the bathroom wall and slapping, slapping, slapping his face to keep him awake, when he rolled his eyes over, tongue lolly-gagging around in there, and said: You’re enjoying this. His image wafts by in my mind and I say: No, it scared the shit out of me, and wonder if he’s still alive. Friends are leaving for Nam and coming back junkies, or not coming back at all. I’m next. I want out and don’t know how to leave.
At sixteen I am strung out, with no hope of climbing out of the pickle barrel of Temptation I’m in and I know it. It is Death or Begone for me. I know that to be all too true. I am weak and undisciplined in my home, I need to move out. I need the fresh air of a place I have never been before to distract me from what I should leave behind in the mud I call my life. The meditating is my only peace and it is elusive and fleeting.
I lapse back into the old ways and look for heroin or The Blues every night. I am a ‘second story’ guy, breaking and entering drug stores, doctor’s offices, and all my friends’ medicine cabinets. I mainline drugs when I don’t even know what they are, hoping they will get me high. I sell stolen pills without knowing what they are, telling people what they want to hear and raking in the cash to spend on other, better, more reliable drugs.
I tell my parents I hate them for all they haven’t done. I’m on the quick path to the Ultimate Burnout of no return and can’t look back, can’t slow down… I am literally lost in the street, so much so that cops are giving me rides home. I am a limp towel between two honor guards when they knock on my parent’s door and shove me inside. Cops are taking me to my bed. I’m waking up with scabs on my head and wondering How did that get there? There are burn holes in my fingers where I have fallen asleep holding a lit Marlboro. Pills litter my floor, my bed, my drawers. Like Kitty in the toilet, I am going down in a swirly of excrement. All that’s left are the sucking, gurgling sounds.
Enter Peter Max, stage right, drifting like a cloud in the sky. Suddenly all is silent. There is a head floating above the cumulus, well into the sunshine above. It is smiling and peaceful. Better, it is inspired. I stare at the poster for a long time.
Time waits for me, standing in front of that poster. Why am I transfixed so intently on that serene smile floating blissfully above the clouds? It is because I want and need that state of mind for myself. An inspiration begins to unfold the lotus petals of my mind. It is an inspiration corroborated by the feelings of my heart. Suddenly there is hope in those clouds. I see… wait, it is becoming clearer… I see… my potential. I see the potential of all humans in that beaming, placid smile. I realize that not only can I be happy, but that it should be my natural state. I resolve that I, too, shall be a head above the clouds of this difficult, relative life of temptations. I see hope where there once was the beginning of despair. I smile the smile of relief. It is true, I know now. I know that I can, somehow, separate from all that is maya and illusion and elevate myself to a unification of serenity, inspiration, love, peace…. It is at once our potential and our destiny, our purpose. Stop the mandala, I want to get off.
I realize that perfection is possible, after all, for the human condition. Would the notion be quantifiable if it were not inherently attainable? Isn’t heaven perfection? Is it really as easy to achieve as the simple act of losing one’s body? Perfection is manifested for our viewing pleasure every waking day as Mother Nature herself—Life, the Universe and Everything, as Douglas Adams so eloquently said. I further realize that everything I think of, can conceive of, is possible to attain. Why else would it be conceivable? Truth is there for the taking—“for those with the vision to see it,” a wise man once said. I may not see the Truth yet, but I see its light through a crack in the door. And I know, finally, that there is a light and for the moment I believe it is ‘out there’ somewhere for the taking—not yet realizing it’s within me, obscured by my own shadow. If I brush away the fallen leaves, I know I will find a path within to peace. I continue to meditate.
Suddenly I am reading voraciously. I am the whale, devouring millions of printed words like they were so many Ishmael’s. I am ingesting, digesting, then sticking my finger down my throat to make room for more. My friends are now Hermann Hesse (and I am Siddhartha), Richard Brautigan (we go trout fishing together), Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Heller (who know my morbidly funny side so well), Baba Ram Dass (whose legendary mantra Pee Here Now can be read as urinal graffiti around the world, in English!), Leon Uris (the master biographer of the modern Jew), Tolkien (for all the fairies, elves, dwarves, wizards, demons and balrogs in my life), Tom Robbins (skinny legs and all), William Burroughs (whose Naked Lunch is the only book I couldn’t finish, out of disgust), Albert Camus (such a sweet voice!), Max Shulman! Bukowski (and his beer shits at the racetrack), Kerouac (The Over-rated), Jim Carroll’s Basketball Diaries, James Clavell (Tai-Pan!), Douglas Adams (a tea time for my soul), Roger Zelazny (whom I have sign my copy of Jack of Shadows), and the other giants of Science Fiction: Asimov, Bradbury, Heinlein, Frank Herbert and Piers Anthony. I read Huxley’s Boring New World and Orwell way before his prophecy is laid to rest in 1984, Alexander Solzhenitsyn (because I felt literally, or literarily, obligated to read him), Seven Arrows (to capture my dreams), Steinbeck, as a sleeping pill, Shakespeare (so that I may speaketh in a manner of archaic romance and intrigue, shouldeth occasion requireth), Milton (never getting past Paradise Lost out of sheer depression), Dante (who’s Inferno made mine look like a bachelor party), Chaucer (we canter together and tell stories), Homer (to whom I just listen, enthralled, on the edge of my seat), The Upanishads, The Gita, The Bhagavatam, The Urantia Book (where verbiage, imagery and sound itself requires expert and enlightened interpretation), John Irving (praying for Owen Meany), Michener (a human camera into the past), Hemingway (yawn)—even King James’s version of the Bible! The only author I have literally thrown down in disgust is Herman Wouk. Through T.H. White I am The Once and Future King for a while. Van Gogh writes me letters.
And Henry Miller… especially Henry Miller. He has provided me with a new paradigm of behavior—one of many freedoms, both social and internal. He has told me I can paste cunt hairs on Boris’s chin. He has shown me a new voice and it liberates my first written words from their silent, mute source. He is also the fountainhead of my burgeoning vocabulary and reading list. I read everything he reads. I devour Dostoevsky with a fat dictionary at my side. Pasternak (and his wonderful poetry, and reading Dr. Zhivago after having already sat through the movie in utter awe, reveling in the author’s details), Celine, Rabelais (Some drink! Some drink!), Rimbaud, Tolstoy, Anais Nin, Knut Hamsun (Is it permitted to touch your muff today?) Chekov (yawns again), Nabokov… I am scouring Balzac for any references to my Street of Rogues. They are my playmates, cronies and mentors now (well, maybe not Nabokov). I have taken the Kool Aid Acid Test and emerged a Zen Motorcycle Master. My head is a sponge, my aching heart no longer a doormat. I am filling the vat of my mental attic and processing it into a heady liquor of thought, getting drunk. I am going places while sitting still…
…sitting still. That phrase lingers in my mental swirly. Like a reluctant turd it will not flush all the way. The thought hangs there like the eye of a hurricane; all at once unmoving, mute, and omnipotent. When it passes you are no longer the same person you were when it found you. The stillness changes you. You pick up your eyes and are more in awe of Life. You walk around looking like those paintings of the kids with the huge, hallowed eyes and scared expressions. If you linger long enough in the I of the hurricane and return to its center regularly you will eventually achieve a state of Perfect Awe-ness, which seeks to quantify nothing. Make it your home. Make it so that when you leave the house that day you are coming from a place of perfect calmness where there are no clocks and never have been, never will be. Be the hole in your smoke ring of life and spell it: Whole. You will find yourself laughing for no apparent reason. The sounds of life, the very vibrations of such, will play over your deepest sense of Self like the primal ooze of pure Bliss. You will float like a feather when you are Here Now, in the Eye. You will no longer be anonymous. Words like Loneliness, Fear, Despair, Shame, will be meaningless babble to you. You will hear the words: Unity, Universal Love, Inspiration, and God in their place—and the best part is you will always know where to find those things. They are in the ‘I’ of the hurrIcane, in the very middle of the word where they have always been, hidden and protected. They are in the center of the universe and the you-niverse is You.
Copyright © 2013 Mitchell Geller