I could feel myself slipping into a funk at the thought of leaving the Europe I now thought of as home. Tito’s super highway was no help in lifting my spirits. It was a place where you needed to bring your own happy thoughts with you, for you wouldn’t find any traveling through the ass-crack of Yugoslavia. I tried to get into the Great Expectations of it all and ended up with a slide show in my head—a mental, Warhol-like display of things I missed about the States— with cross-fading pictures of cream-filled Devil Dogs, and Oreos (a plain, simple Oreo for a change over the exotic European choices), Mallomars, seltzer water, graham crackers, Ma’s box brownies and chocolate cake, and signs in English for which I didn’t have to deduce the meaning. For some reason a Hasidic Jew floated by in the mental castle I quietly built—one who didn’t know me and who wouldn’t even know I had been gone.
Even with all that, I only succeeded in attaining an anxious state of trepidation about getting the acid test back ‘home.’ My earlier confidence was quickly eroding the closer the reality of leaving Europe came. I tried to console myself by deciding that a little anxiousness was natural for someone with addictive tendencies toward mind-altering dependencies and the lifestyle that would certainly kill me sooner rather than later, rendering me useless along the way. I wasn’t afraid the all-inclusive them would corrupt me. I was afraid of me. Knowing that didn’t help deflect the apprehension I had about returning home.
As a last resort, I revived The Rue du Rogues I had cast aside as a trivial pursuit the last time I was in Paris. It was a game I invented to remind me there were great things in store for the romantic—those who were expectant of life’s inherent promises. There was always a place to remember for inspiration, the Rue du Rogues, where I’d someday receive my promised fulfillment—the sublime bliss I’d been given a taste of after meditating on a shaded bench in Geneva.
If the friendly confines of Europe taught me anything, it was that life, like art, is a process of deduction—a removal of the non-essential components of a composition, like Michelangelo freeing the Pieta from the quarry. If a painting or a sculpture or music can do that, I reasoned, then why shouldn’t we be able to remove the non-essential and retarding aspects from our own lives to create a better picture for ourselves? That was The Art of Living.
I tried to recapture the feelings I had while looking at the great paintings I had seen. All those monuments to innocent, everyday life that left me with a new sense of the moment. Rather than the moving picture of life I was used to, I was introduced to it frame by frame as I went slowly from one canvas to the next, tearing myself away from every one after wanting to jump into the scene. I came to know that what I was looking for was right in front of me—in the photographer’s eye, the painter’s moment in time, and on the poet’s lips. It was life’s everyday list of sequences taken moment by moment. Each scene when introduced individually was perfect within itself, needing no explanation or story, history or ending, but still connected to all life previous and forthcoming—which was already gone or not here yet and, as such, irrelevant. Those canvases represented the 3-foot sections of cement on the sidewalk of my life.
I knew the attainment of my dream was, after all, my destination—but when? And more importantly, how? When within all those connected moments would time stop, like Einstein had proved it could? When would I become a happy detail of the larger mosaic? Creation had painted all the answers pertaining to the Art of Living onto the canvas of life. As part of that canvas, the ability to decipher the bigger picture was inherent in all of us. The problem has always been that we’re left to our own devices when it comes to learning how to read, and at that point I felt like I was still discovering the alphabet. What I didn’t realize at the time was that Europe was chipping away my peers in order to reveal the David within myself. After two years, I had given up drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes, and hardly noticed.