The greatest American author, Henry Miller, reached a point in his life when he proclaimed that he was “The happiest man alive!” He is dead and gone now, six feet under, so I hereby and unofficially declare myself to be the happiest man alive! This statement is all at once mantra, affirmation and state of mind.
Cinco de Mayo, 2005
When I turn on the music, It’s a Most Unusual Day will play, as if iTunes were now sentient—followed by: ’S Wonderful, Love Dance and At Last. Poetry and prose recites itself in my head, flowing through my mind like a jazz ensemble that shucks and jives at my slightest whim. I am missing turns on the road while the music plays up there, as if the Sirens of Odysseus’ time were straight ahead, singing full-tilt. A forum has materialized and the play is on. Curtains up! And I am naked in my own light—the light I shed when I created myself. I feel so fucking good that the next person who asks me how I am will receive an earful starting with: I AM THE HAPPIEST FUCKING MAN ALIVE!!! And should they ask: What are you, nuts?! I shall reply: I LOVE YOU! I love you as if you were myself.
Dare I say it, say it today, that Rue du Rogues is here to stay?
Strike up the orchestra, my regiment leaves at dawn! What has caused this tipping of the happiness scale to the Inspired side of the fulcrum? I am hoping this sticks permanently and is not just an emotional sparrow fart in the El Niño of my heart and mind.
What may come as a surprise,
Can open the eyes,
And galvanize the soul to do a selfless act.
When the act itself matters not to the giver,
The reaction of the action will last forever in their favor.
Somehow Love will be made new again, and I mean that Big Love,
The one that encompasses everything.
Yesterday I had a past—a medley of art, meditation, communication, sex, drugs, crime and rock-n-roll. Today I am living in the linear moment described as now, with no expectations for tomorrow. This triptych of perspectives is somewhat surreal. I’ve never had an acid flashback (though I was essentially promised I would some day). Having reached forty-nine years and eleven months old without one, could this finally be it? Will God rip the chair out from under my ass?
I am rewinding: A Master flies by on a Magic Carpet Ride, winks, and asks: “Any little birdies today?” He taps a rose with one hand onto the other and is sucked into the fan wearing the Smile of the Knowing. A first marriage rises like a phoenix, makes its course, crashes and burns in flames of redemption in California. A child is born. She lingers the longest so far—I have much mental-video footage of her. Her birth is the end of my immortality, not the next in a long line of Me. I watched it again in my mind, so perfect, and with her came The Fear. Fear comes with the placenta, and is never to be chatted about socially. It plops there and it just IS. Fear for her happiness. I could not bear thinking of this wholly harmless child of mine not being happy. Just happy, that’s all I want. And health. And good looks and etc. ad nauseum until you go crazy thinking about it and learn to let them have their own karma gracefully. Que sera sera and all that bullshit… Chronic crying dashes this reverie. The Sticky Lips graphic screams by in orange flames.
I get that feeling in my heart and I know what is coming next. I want to slow it down to just the right moment, the right second, the split-second that I fell in love again over a strong cappuccino where Babe and I often ate lunch together. Giant pink hearts bubble up, each with a different image of her stuck on them like schmaltzy little frames floating in one of those hi-tech aquariums with the permanent fish. All the impressed images I have of her are rising in front of me: in Kuaui standing in front of the eucalyptus tree… in her red flannel shirt, in the wrecking yard at night… reading a book by the lake and looking up to smile for me… buying a Xmas tree and holding it out for my opinion…. in her bathrobe, having a sleepy face… when she lifted up her shirt and flashed me her perfect, perky, champagne-glass-filling boobies… and the laughter that followed.
I am here to catch her tears should they fall and use them to water the seeds of Happiness that lie buried only a few inches below the surface of her thoughts. I am here to see that she keeps rising like those little bubble-heart picture frames that have captured her various likenesses. I am the force under her, trying to uplift her spirits at all times and, like Atlas, even though my neck hurts and with arms shaking under the strain, I am forever trying to hold her up. But I am not Atlas after all, and I waver and start to weaken. I feel like Charles Bronson in Once Upon a Time in the West, forced to hold the weight of his brother on his shoulders while he dangled tautly above in a noose. Collapsing with fatigue finally, he watched his brother swing in the breeze until there was no breath of life in him and there was no way to withstand the horror of it all but to close his eyes and only listen.
That is the micro-statement of my life—the Reader’s Digest, if you must—up to just before this point of writing. I am staring at my computer, thinking of the trip to NYC we have been planning for a year. This visit was to be a second, 2005 reunion of the nucleus group we were in ’02, to celebrate the years we all turn 50. I am the last to do so, the baby of the group.
It is then that the bubble mentioned earlier has reached the surface of my mind. Something occurs to me and I feel stupid when the light goes on: the Hot Fist syndrome is using me for a punching bag, again. My Babe has not had a good year—a year in which she has seen three siblings pass away. She is the baby of nine from her long deceased real father and the oldest of her mother’s four kids by her adopted father. She is all at once the baby, the oldest, in the middle, and an only child; since her real parents only made one Babe when they were together. One half-sister and her husband even offered to adopt her, they were so much older than she and even her mother. Her siblings are all step-siblings. She is the love child who has buried two fathers, one natural (‘Uncle Daddy’) and the other who adopted her. As a consequence, she has always felt a little on the ‘outside’ of her two families. Oftentimes it seems she is an afterthought in their plans, reunions and such. Some siblings have even come to town for one reason or another and not even called her while they were here.
She could never bear a child, probably as a result of suffering a burst appendix when she was fourteen… scarring some tube or another, making it impassable. She raised a step-son in her first marriage for fifteen years and he never calls her. He married and didn’t invite her to the wedding, or even tell her until it was already done. Some time after that, Babe was informed that she was going to be a step-grandma, which is all well and dandy until you find out they have been pregnant for eight months already. (Oh, by the fucking way….) I cannot begin to explain how this makes me feel; it is so sad it fills my eyes with tears and anger. This week her nineteen-year-old cat, Murphy, with whom she has lived with in dear friendship through times good and bad for 18 years, had to be put to sleep.
My Hawaiian Love,
Peaceful as a dove,
I long for your Joy,
And pray for your Peace.
You deserve much better than that.
When she thinks of Home, Hawaii is that place. In the meantime, Hawaiians are dropping like flies. The culture is diminishing along with the few hundred native Hawaiians still alive. Only a few hundred left! They are going the way of the dodo bird—flying off into another perfect sunset except they are not flying back in the morning. Soon there will be no sunrise the next day, not for her family there or for the Hawaiians who are disappearing. They will find themselves already absorbed into the Anglo/Japanese mix pervading the islands and Babe will be even more alone. No family, no roots, none of the old Hawaii she remembers as a happy child digging her toes in the warm sand. She will have no Youth to go Home to, visit, and refresh with. There will be only gravesites left, the tombstones telling the story of a culture that once supported an inspired, peaceful Utopia in paradise for 700 years.
I start to type out the following letter to my friends in NYC:
To the greatest friends a person could have in this world:
I have been stalling in my mind over our trip back east, couldn’t commit to a date, deposit and such and I don’t think I really knew why… weird huh? The fact was, and is, I feel incredibly guilty about buying a trip east when we really need to be going west. My poor lover, Babe, has seen three sisters pass away in the last year and we have not been to Hawaii since the spreading of her step-dad’s ashes in the sea some 2-3 years ago. She is my Island girl whose heart is there and never her body. Lately it’s all been, for lack of a better term, kinda morbid when we think of Hawaii. Babe thinks: how long before the rest of her siblings on that side are all gone? Hawaii has become a sad thought. I swear to you right now I am crying as I write this, and I think about how wrong that is for my Hawaiian Babe, my Tahini, as I like to call her, to feel that way about her Home. I haven’t cried in a long time, maybe it’s all come to a point and that’s why I can now write this to you. Perhaps there is Relief in those tears. I am going to take our meager monies for vacation and head west instead. I plan to have the best, most fun time I have ever had in that paradise. We are going to call this the ‘Create New Memories Trip.’ We are going to visit the living. I know this is the right decision. I am sorry my friends that I will not be with you this summer. And I apologize for jumping the gun and telling you all that we would be coming.
Fuckit, I guess there’s always next summer…
Babe, if you’re reading this at work on Monday pm, I love you. I’m sorry I didn’t realize this long ago…
A simple enough letter, I think. By the end of its writing, tears were rolling down both cheeks. I am not a man who cries. I absolutely REFUSE to let a movie, for instance, reduce me to tears. Real life is Karma and, as such, we all get what we deserve, good and bad. Even tragedy is a destiny. For me, personal tragedy is a living-out of someone’s karma and in that respect it is not only good and correct, it is evolution toward the greater goal of Enlightenment and, that being said, it’s all good. This is a concept that is easier to peruse than to live.
Why didn’t I think of this before? It is such an obvious idea. Where was that Hot Fist when I needed it to slap some insight into me? This might actually do the trick, this time—at least for two weeks and to introduce some current, better memories of Hawaii. Throw out the Jester, the Philosopher and the Guru and bring in the travel agent! I address the letter and CC a copy to Babe at work, hit Send. I lean back and smile, the tears still streaming. She will get it at the end of her hard day at work and hopefully smile for a split-second before succumbing to tears of joy.
Do good works without hesitation.
— Swami Brahmananda Saraswati Ji (‘Guru Dev’), Shankaracharya of Jyotirmath [1941-53]
The bubble of the Great Love pops just then and spills its juices all over me. I am awash in a feeling of Bliss. My heart feels so huge it is crowding out my stomach so that I couldn’t eat even were I to be served a broiled lobster, baked potato with sour cream and chives, with fresh asparagus on the side and a banana fosters dessert at the Stratton. Followed by a cappuccino, a Cuban cigar and a digestif. That reminds me, I have one last Cuban cigar a friend gave me. In a kind of celebration, I light it up, blow the fattest smoke ring on the planet at that second in time and watch it go through the fan into oblivion. Relishing its aftertaste, I check again for the Feeling, wondering, is it still there or will it, too, be only an aftertaste soon? At this writing it is still here. It is Here Now, that feeling. It’s not ‘in love’ but rather it is Love, surrounding and protecting us both as if our deflector shields were in place and James Tiberius Kirk was at the helm. It persists, pervades, permeates, and perfectly punctuates our love affair. It is the crowning glory of a short story and the beginning of another. It reminds me of a feeling I had in Geneva once.
Too bad Babe had already left work for home.
Lover of Love,
Lover of Life,
Lover of Nature,
Nurture and Sound,
Lover of Sight that knows no bounds.
Lover of flowers,
Lover of trees,
Lover of Everything,
All that she sees.
Lover that breathes,
Giving Sustenance and Life,
Lover that protects, guards you,
And diverts your strife.
Lover who does all that and more,
Lover, when you need Her, is at the door.
The car door slams in the carport. She gathers her stuff and heads for the door. “Babe!” I always say when she comes in and I’m getting ready to say it again as she heads up the driveway toward the door. I’m at the computer as usual, our daughter behind me. Incidentally, the step-child relationship is not an easy one. It takes two special people to make it work and the guy in the middle, me in this case, has ultimately no control over either participant. Damage control maybe, but that’s about it. Put one of them in full puberty/adolescence and make the other menopausal and sometimes the guy in the middle just wants to head for the fucking hills and die in peace. They have their challenges with each other, to be sure, but to their credit they have persisted, compromised and acquiesced themselves into what I might call a civil, accepting, even loving relationship. They are not the friends I had envisioned they might someday be, but they are at least sisters who, while arguing, are at least communicating.
I have told Katy that we are (finally) going to Hawaii. She’s never been there but has heard all the stories about this paradise of sun, beach, warm water and tanned surfer studs. I told her of my experience while writing the letter to my friends. I can’t remember if she has ever seen me with tears running down my face and I think not. When I tell her my feelings, and how disproportionally deep they were considering the whole picture (Christ, all I did was change travel plans!) and that I even gushed tears in the process, she did a double-take—flashing a look of surprise and an open, uncommonly mute mouth.
“Awwww…” was all that came out, and she seemed to mean it. Katy is already on the fast track to Love.
“Don’t say anything to Babe,” I told her, allowing myself the luxury of getting teary-eyed again but not looking at her. In her real life (that is, her exigent social life wherein all else is superfluous) she is a love-meddler and feeds on this kind of energy the way piranhas down a cow. She will even meddle electronically, in chat rooms across the country, when she can’t be physically present to perform this critical, self-imposed task. She is Cupid with a computer, armed with all the slings and arrows that go with the position. Now she is pushing from behind for me to get a move-on and show Babe The Letter already, before she has even made it to the door.
“Babe!” I call as the door shuts behind her. A tired but pleasant “Hi…” in return as she enters. She always ends her Hi on the up-side of the note, making it sound almost like a question. She starts unloading her shit—the purse, the bag of books she is reading all the time, the coffee cup, the CD player with all its motivational/inspirational cds, the empty container that was once her lunch… I watch, while coming up from behind, and slip my hands under the crescent moons of her wonderful breasts. (I’m not sure why, but a thin slice of moon in the night sky always reminds me of Babe’s breasts.) I squeeze, move some of her thick hair out of the way, kiss her neck and offer the traditional greeting:
“Hi Lover, how was your day today?”
“Oh,” (again ending on the up-side of the note), “the usual…” (down-side of the note), she offers tiredly, and accommodates another kiss to the neck. “How about you?” she asks as usual, reaching for perk and optimism.
I don’t really have to think about that, as my heart starts to feel even bigger than before. The sensation in my chest reminds me of Alien and I’ve never seen the movie. I force back a hiccup of laughter, pause, take a deep breath, collect myself and do a quick internal check. Yep, the feeling is still there—I am drenched from this Fountain of Love, can’t she see that I am soaking wet? I cannot hold back a smile; I know it’s coming soon and I’m going to watch it unfold. It’s not redundant to think I’m going to enjoy this smile. When it comes, it will be unforgettable.
Once I saw a woman walking along Lexington Ave who was so beautiful I stopped and stared at her. Then an even more incredible thing happened, she looked my way and I could see her full face. She wasn’t looking at me, she was just going her own way, but for some reason at that particular frozen moment of time she chose to SMILE. I don’t think she was even looking at anybody when she did, she just did so of her own free volition at what must have been a thought that overwhelmed her to the point where she simply had to SMILE. Her expression is stuck in my brain—an image file on my hard drive I couldn’t delete if I wanted to.
I say this because I have been on the other end of a smile like that, a TRUE HAPPINESS smile—one that is for no apparent reason. The SMILE that surfaces and you’re not sure exactly why and wonder: Did I miss something? Were every single person to have a GENUINE SMILE experience, just once, how much would this earth (as we give it the bums rush to an early demise) change? If that were to happen and someone then gave a War, no one would show up to fight, finally!
I have had two such SMILES in my lucky life heretofore the one I felt with a certified prescience was about to emerge. Once in L.A., after meditating for half an hour on the beach leaning next to a garbage can. I opened my eyes and my mouth, well, it just SMILED, and I remember thinking, Hello! What the hell is this? My old friend come to visit me? I hope to hell it lasts! Woo-hoo!
It didn’t matter who you were or what you looked like or what you were doing, if I looked your way you were going to get the SMILE and there was nothing I could do about it. People jogging by lost their pace when they saw me. Cafe patrons looked up from their Variety and trade mags as I passed by—for I was on the move now, trying it out like a new luxury car.
I surprised a beautiful blond waitress with my darshan gaze and was rewarded with a SMILE of her own in return! Of course I fumbled the ball, all I could do was SMILE. I couldn’t SPEAK. Mostly I sat there and just SMILED at her until she must have finally thought I was a lobotomy patient, or perhaps might benefit from such an operation. I had to be physically dragged away from the table. I remember someone saying as they did so, my heels scraping along the floor behind me, Man you’re BEAMING! Less than an hour later, I was back to ‘normal,’ but with the addition of the new and improved question in my head: When am I going to be that way again?
There was always Geneva in the back of my mind also, where I had the first such SMILE rammed from me by a cute girl wearing a red fez. I looked around in the street for it afterward but it must have melted back into its source.
I let it come, surface, whatever, from that place in my gut—my old friend, whom I had not seen in nearly (checks calendar to see what year it is) 34 years! My long lost SMILE… When it brushed past my heart it tickled and I nearly chuckled, thinking: This better not be a fart.
I had to say something pretty quick after all this reverie, so in response to Babe’s seemingly mundane, perfunctory question I let the lotus open up, SMILED, and said: “Oh, not bad…”
She had just been introduced to the SMILE, and noticed it. “Oh really?” She scanned me suspiciously.
I just SMILED, ear to slapstick, moronic ear, unable to help it and not wishing to. “How about a drink?” I offered, knowing the answer. I saw Katy in the near-distance roll her eyes. C’mon! she said telepathically, show her the letter! I decided to revel in the anticipation a while longer first. “Why don’t you slip into something more accessible and I’ll make you one, ok?”
“Oka-a-a-a-y…” she replied slowly, catching my sly innuendo. Katy had her arms crossed and tapped her foot like an impatient mother hen, wearing a SCOWL.
I bring the gin and tonic with a slice of lemon into the bedroom for The Babe. I am whistling and singing a little bit while trying not to be too obnoxious. We chat for a few minutes while I watch her undress, something I have always loved to do. I tell her to slow down, to peel it off, and she can’t help but pass a tiny smile my way while she unbuttons her shirt, knowing that’s my favorite part. Mmmmm… I purr. She still gets me going. As usual, by the time she’s bare-breasted I’m heading her way with both hands outstretched. I have to get there before the t-shirt goes on and I lose my window of opportunity. I probably look a little like Frankenstein’s monster on my approach, without the neck plugs.
She allows me to perform my ritual of kissing each breast, once on the top part and once on the nipple—each. She waits dutifully to put on her shirt until I am satisfied that they (both) have had enough (or not) attention. To her relief, I let her pull the shirt over her head so she is that much further away from work and closer to being really home now in her sweats and t- shirt, but I don’t give her much room to do so. I am literally breathing down her neck. She emerges from her shirt and I’m there, ready to take her face in my hands, look in her sea-green eyes and plant sweet kisses on her lips, cheeks, neck….
“I sent you a letter today,” I say, our faces so close together you couldn’t slide a slice of processed cheese between us. “You must have left work before reading it.” A questioning look ensues. “Come read it when you’re ready.” I give her a soft, loving kiss because I can’t resist. I want to be inside the same body as her instead of standing on the outside. I can’t seem to get close enough and our eyes are inches apart. Were it not for our noses getting in the way, we would be standing there trading eyelash kisses and I would be wearing her shirt, backwards. I didn’t want the bubble we were in to break. I take my leave, backing away, and the effort required to do so feels like the pulling apart of two magnets.
Katy is still sitting by the computer, arms crossed and tapping, tapping, tapping…. She sees me coming and the SCOWL changes to a look of query. “Is she coming?” she asks impatiently.
“Of course, she’s just changing… and bathroom, you know….” I trail off, preferring to wallow in the soft clouds of Love and not speak.
HUFFING SIGH…….. Those are her words for: “I’m patient!” But I think she notices, or ‘groks’ something through me she may not have been too sure about before. I think she sees in me what the definition of Love is and how it actually looks, the physical manifestation of it all. She can see it in my eyes and perhaps even empathetically feels some sensation in her chest— the Expanding that goes on there. More importantly, I believe it causes her to take a second look at the woman who has overtaken her father from her mother and with whom she has sometimes had trouble understanding and communicating with in the past. I am hoping she sees the difference between loving someone and being dependent. I am hoping there will be a small but important brain-file stashed in that craw, an image of authentic love that she can use to compare with her own experience in that venue.
“…Dad? Here she comes!” Katy stage-whispers a little too loudly. I open the letter and put it on-screen, and turn the swivel chair, my throne, to await Babe’s butt—fussily picking off a few cat hairs. She stops to read the newspaper! Katy almost panics (that could take fifteen minutes!), but I put my hand up before she can say anything. It’s time.
Going to Babe, I take her shoulders and start to guide her over to the computer. “Come read this letter first,” I implore politely.
Katy holds out the chair. She loves this shit. She is in ‘love’ every few weeks and when she is between loves she is helping someone else find some of their own. She is already a love-junkie and I’m hoping that’ll turn out to be a good thing, as it has for me. Babe has that questioning, almost concerned look as she sits down, finally. She swivels the chair and it is in S-L-O-W-W-W-W-W…….. M-O-O-O-T-T-T-I-I-I-I-O-O-O-N-N-N-N………
Slowly she turns… and Katy and I are The Christmas Story on that morning, getting crushed by the BIG present. Babe spins P-A-A-A-A-A-S-T the letter and grabs a smoke. Katy and I lock eyes, screaming silently: WILL SHE EVER READ THAT FUCKING LETTER? I grab the nearest lighter and light it for her, holding it out, because sometimes she’ll sit there and hold it for ten minutes before lighting up.
She takes her hit and is now ready. “What’s this all about, anyway?” “JUST READ IT!” Katy and I say in unison. So Babe turns, starts to read, and Katy and I share the wide-eyed and smiley anticipation of it all. I am watching Babe’s face as she begins the letter she had just missed at work. She reads….
I have been stalling in my mind over our trip back east….
(Her brows furrow just a bit, taking it in, concentrating.)
My poor lover, Babe, has seen 3 sisters pass away…
(Now I can see the definite lip-quiver, the saddening of the eyes, the downward turn of the mouth as she fights back tears.)
…I am going to take our meager monies for vacation and head west instead… We are going to call this the ‘Create New Memories Trip.’
(Her mouth is an upside-down U, eyes blinking through the welling tears as she tries to speak. “I… can’t… do… this!” She starts to sob.)
Fuckit, I guess there’s always next summer…
“It’s… your… birth…day… present…” sniff, sob…
“I changed my mind,” I said, the tears starting to well up in me now. I am afraid they’ll fall out and smear my SMILE. I don’t look at Katy; I only see those crying eyes, that down-turned mouth and hear the sobs and sniffing. “It’s what I want now,” I say. “I just feel foolish for not having thought of it before.” Taking her face in my hands and peering in her eyes, I sincerely do feel that I was slow to discover this notion.
Babe lets the full impact of it all settle in. She is sobbing fully now, her head in her hands and her shoulders heaving. I bend down and hug her, lifting her face and tell her I love her and that I am so sorry again for not having thought of this before today and we are going to have the BEST FUCKING TIME IN HAWAII WE HAVE EVER HAD! Ten days minimum. And lo, as I uttered the words, it was the dawning of her new SMILE. We were both smiling the SMILE of the BIG LOVE just then, wet though they were, and it was GOOD. Tears of relief…. tears of joy…. tears of Love….
Brushing a few aside, I shot a thumbs-up at Katy, who was visibly near tears herself as she watched our display. We were, all three of us and for a moment, sharing the same SMILE as it enlarged itself to accommodate us all.
Soon the two of them were pouring over the timeshare book looking at places to go, possible places to stay—heads close together staring at photographs and pointing at this and that. I step back to watch and listen and I feel HUGE. My chest is full, my vision still a little blurry through the tears, but I am living in this moment and the moment is Perfect. It is at once the Greatest Moment of All-time and the quintessential Moment that Stopped Time. It has both Yin and Yang, Light and Dark, Blissful Ignorance; and like chocolate and vanilla that has been blended into an ice-cream swirl, I am licking from a cone of frozen time and letting it drip down my hands like a grateful child.
Hug your loved ones as if your lives depended upon it.
Hug like you have never hugged before and will never hug again.
Hug until the cows come home and it rains flying pigs.
Hug until there is no more war or vengeance of wars passed.
Hug the Ignorance and Darkness away.
Hug your fuckin’ brains out before it’s too late…
One thought on “Pretty-please Days With Sugar on Top (excerpt)”
Henry Miller would have been pleased….Arthur, too.