Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Wild Child

Waking up in Amsterdam, I was still exhausted. I had less than an hour to jump on my flight to Portland, so I hustled to the passport check. Even in the rush line for connecting flights, we were waiting for what felt like 20-25 minutes per person.



When I approached the desk, the attendant checked my passport, smiled and then said I could continue. I must be the least threatening person in Amsterdam.

There was another security interview at the gate. People were being taken to each station and interviewed in various languages, sometimes together, sometimes they were separated. I waited and watched as some people passed on, others were taken to a room.

I was asked to meet my interviewer at a station. He said, “Where did you come from?”

My eyes lit up, “Paris!”

He said, “You know your right eye is red?”

I said, “Oh, still? I don’t know what happened, my contact lens was bothering me at the airport so I took it out.”

He chuckled like a father and said, “Ah well, have a nice trip.” Then he handed me back my passport.

That’s it? I am almost disappointed.

I boarded the flight, and tried to go back to sleep between meals. They served me bread soaked in butter, pasta drowning in cheese, dying lettuce with one, pathetic slice of tomato. I was starving, I hadn’t enjoyed a real meal since Cannes, and even then, it was usually one functional  item to fill my stomach.



So I tried my best to eat around the dairy, but found myself feeling nauseous. It was like being forced to eat greased cardboard.

When I arrived in Portland, my stomach was in knots. We all filed through security. The line moved at a glacial pace, and when I arrived at the desk, the attendant asked, “Why were you in France?” I said, “The Cannes Film Festival . . .” He said, “Oh” smiled and handed me my passport back.

There was one more security exit interview before we could walk the American streets without suspicion. The guard only asked, “Did you have a good time?”

Again, as my eyes grew large, I said, “Yes. It was the best trip of my life.”

He moved to let me pass and said, “That’s nice.”

Stopping, I said, “I guess we will talk about it some other time.”

Seriously, am I the least threatening person in the Western hemisphere?

I walked out to the waiting families, boyfriends, husbands and children, holding flowers and balloons. No one was there for me.

Turning on my phone, I realized (shocker!) it was turned off due to lack of funds. I only had $5 Euroes on me and my checking account was empty.

So I turned the Wi-Fi on for my phone and tried emailing my parents and sister. The fatigue and the hunger put me in a foul mood, and I almost felt like crying, wandering back and forth, in and out, of the airport halls.

I realized I could pull a 1990, and call my Dad collect from a pay phone.

The operator prompt, “At the tone, please state your name.”

After the buzz, I quickly said, ‘Dad, it’s me. I am waiting for you outside baggage. Please come pick me up-”

Operator, “Thank you.” “One moment” “The person you have dialed refused your collect call.”

In about four minutes, my father pulled up and unlocked the door. “Got your message!”

On the way home, I asked him to pull over so I could dry heave into the bushes outside of a strip mall. It was gray out. Driving down the Gorge, I could smell fumes from the freeway and the paper mill in Camus. I never hated Washington before. That drive up was miserable, and I felt my head rattle from the onset of a migraine.



Forty minutes later, we pulled up to my parents small house in the middle of fucking nowhere, and I dragged my luggage in and was greeted by my three dogs. I looked at them, and felt just the slightest pinch of resentment. They were the only reason I came back.

They were excited to see me but not overjoyed, it was a little disappointing. They looked comfortable and content without me.

Esther looked different somehow, like her cropped ears were smaller than usual. Maggie was moving slow, the moisture from the mountains was wearing on her joints and she seemed to have even more white on her face and snout now.  My dog from childhood, a small, black cockapoo named Chelsea, quickly deteriorated shortly after my parents moved to this house. I wondered if my Mother sucked their souls out.

My sister called and already informed me that Mom was still working at her part-time job in town, so I could enjoy the weekend. All I could do was collapse on the bed, the only dog to follow was Brad.

Twelve grueling days kept me from Los Angeles. I thought I could sleep, eat, lose the cough and catch up on all the reading I had to do for the 10-Day residency at Antioch.

The tension with my parents started when I locked myself into my computer for most of the day. My Mother felt it was her duty to herd me out of my room, and put me to work in the yard. I tried to be patient with her, I know she is growingly feeble, but my work for Antioch was more important than her feelings.

Her skin is withering like crumpled paper. Her fingers constantly twitch, scratching her arms and legs, like she has serpents for hands. I try not to look at her or listen to her, since those ticks grate my nerves. I drowned out the sound of slurping, scratching, loud television, and the clack of the spoon against porcelain over and over and over again with white noise. I found a clip on YouTube emulating the Star Trek Enterprise on idle. Thank you, Wil Wheaton Twitter feed!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPoqNeR3_UA

My mother would get impatient, pacing from the kitchen to the other short end of the one-story house, where I was reading and catching up on my blogs. My Father was doing whatever he does in the study one room over, on his computer. She would open my door, declaring a list of all I needed to do, truly believing that she was helping me. She was a distraction, and one I didn’t enjoy.

The first blow-up happened when I was standing in the living room and describing how the men in Cannes made me feel, the erotic dinner at the Italian restaurant, the way they looked at me, their words dripping in accent and I curled up like the Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, pressing my hair against my cheek and smiling. My Father laughed, but my Mother said, “You know, if they said those things to you, they say them to all the girls.”



I said, “Oh, let me enjoy it. It is mine. I am happy, let it be.”

She stormed off and said, “Don’t talk to me like that! You know, why don’t you stop thinking about yourself and think about other people’s feelings for a change?” Pop goes the weasel!

I was waiting for something like this, and I pounced, “That is exactly the type of attitude that kept me low all those years!”

It was one or two days into my stay there, and I knew something like that would happen. My parents are too comfortable with tension. They recreate it out of nothing.

The other toxic element being they are uncomfortable with my confidence. As a kid, I was self-conscious beyond reason and it made for a very stressful childhood. Los Angeles and, now, France, had my head high. It creates this rubber band effect, where it seems like I have been released after 20 years of stretching apart, and holding back. Flying in midair, people around me sometimes hold their breath, wondering where I will land. I am still flying.

Oddly, with my sister it had the opposite effect. Social and lively as a child, she is now withdrawn, anti-social and reclusive.

I knew my ever-growing confidence would bother them. I am uncertain of the psychology, maybe they want to tame my spirit. My Mother claims she calls me her “Flower Child” though I have never heard her say that. Being parents, maybe they want to curb my behavior and keep me under control as much as possible.



I don’t do well with control.

So, for a week or so, my Mother didn’t talk to me. She just stormed around the house, noisily washing dishes, talking to the dogs and complaining that I needed to get a real job. They had waited for my return before buying more dog food, but I was completely broke until my financial aid check came in, so I had to rely on them for everything. They thought my poverty was indicative of laziness.

They often express that pursuing the life of an artist was a pipe dream for someone who wanted a way around “real life”. If I didn’t have money, it was because I was reluctant to pull my share. They thought of me as a social drop-out and I heard them not-so-quietly discuss me from the living room, I needed to grow up and get a job, “After all, she is 34 for God’s sake.”

In this house, I constantly have to reorient myself to their perception and reality. They have no idea who I am. They also have no idea how hard I worked the last couple years to pay off my debts, stay in the arts and keep my animals. To them, and their generation, one person gets one job and is rewarded a stable life. We don’t live in that world anymore, and even if we did, it would make a person like me miserable.

Against my better judgement, I told my Father that Jeph had to pay for my plane ticket to LA for school, since I was totally broke in France. “Don’t tell your mother that,” he said.

He sighed, and turned in his chair like something was sticking in his rib and said, “You know, when are you going to grow up?”

I asked, “What do you mean? I needed a ticket and a friend loaned me the money, that’s all. I problem solved, that is grown up.”

“Shit, you know, you can’t go around borrowing money all the time,” he said.

I was getting furious, and when I am angry, I talk fast, “I don’t borrow money all the time. Its the first time I borrowed money from Jeph and he offered.  What was I supposed to do? Drop out of school and not borrow $200 from a friend?”

He leaned back and said, “Yeah.”

I repeated, “Drop out? I should have dropped out of school?”

He nodded again, “Yeah.”

I looked up and spun my hand next to my head, “That’s insane. That’s just crazy talk. You realize, that makes no sense what so ever. That’s just . . . off.”

I trudged off to my room and blasted my Star Trek idle. Its not the end of the world when your parents can’t support your dreams, but it drains the color out of them, just a little bit.



***

Around this time, I was pinged by Kent:

“Hey. I just tried calling you but your phone is deactivated. Can you please please please call Trent and talk to him? He is just doing the same thing. Drinking, speed and risky sex with complete strangers. His attitude right now is that he is going to die anyway so why care. If you can call me from your parents that would be great.”

Me: “Ok, I will call tonight.”

One day later . . .

Kent: “Did you ever get a hold of Trent?”

Me: “His phone was shut off, so I left a voicemail and asked him to get on-line. He pinged me last night while I was sleeping. I responded and haven't heard back. Is he gone? I mean- still just floating out there in speed and anonymous sex?”

Kent: “Yup. And drowning in alcohol and despair, despite his hate for such a lifestyle he has no motivation to change it.”

Me: “I am heading down there Tuesday night but I will be without a car. Maybe being closer I can figure out a way to see him.”

Then I got the email:

Kent: “Trent tried to hang himself around 4:00 am this morning. I have no way to contact you but on fb which sucks. Riely (his dog) was barking like crazy and woke up his mom and Rick and they went down there and had to break the door down and get him down. He ran. The cops found him and he is on 5150 lock down. I'm a mess. Sorry to have to tell you this way but you didn't give me a phone number. Fuck I tried to tell everyone this was coming and no one would listen to me.”

My dear twin flame. My precious gay boyfriend. My very, very dear friend.



I stood there, reading it over, in my pajamas, my hair in a mop on my head, and I just stared at my screen. My eyes burned.

Kent and I furiously exchanged information. I called and we spoke, apparently after the police swept him up, Trent tried to hang himself in his jail cell by his pajama pants. The veins in his eyes flooded with blood from asphyxiation.

Kent: “Okay. Thank you and sorry for dragging you into this. I just know that you each have such deep love for each other.”

Me: “He is my other fucking half. DRAG ME IN! Please. I was upset all morning over it. I am mad that I can't be down there. I am mad that I can't drag him somewhere and beat sense into him. I thought about what if we lost him. What if we lost him, Kent? And then I thought, maybe it's inevitable. I love him so fucking much.”

Kent: “He is lost, but I've been mentally preparing to lose him physically for a while. If he were to have been successful I would be destroyed and feel like I failed him.”

Me: “Suicide fucking ruins everyone who loves you. If I lose him, I don't know that I could keep going. I would have to shut down for a while. Stop school. I think it is inevitable that we will lose him. I wasn't even shocked when I got your message this morning. I stood there like I was expecting it. How sick is that?”

Kent: “That's what he says. But why? Why must it be inevitable. Why can't I save him?”

Me: “One person can't save another person from himself, it’s the one thing we can't go between. You are closer to him than I am so you feel more responsibility, but from where I stand, there is nowhere to fit between Trent and his darker side. I mean this has been going on for so long now since before either of us knew him. When does it stop?”

*

I got the number for the institution holding Trent, and called.

He got on the phone, his throat scratchy and strained from the noose.

Trent, “Hello?”

Me, “Trent? What the hell, man? What are you doing?”

Trent, “I don’t know.”

Me, “You tried to hang yourself? Why would you do that?”

Trent, “ . . . I don’t know.”

Me, “What were the two things I told you not to do before I left? Don’t kill yourself and don’t lose your job. Now you’ve gone and done both.”

Silence.

Me, “And hanging yourself with your pajama bottoms? That’s not a very glamourous way to go. I thought you were more the chardonnay and pills type, or is that just me?”

He laughed, “I know. It’s all I had.” He choked up some more laughter and said, “It feels so good to laugh.”

Me, “You don’t want to be remembered for that. Is this about the 27 legacy? You want to die at 27?”



Trent said, “I am going to be 28 soon, and I haven’t done anything.”

Me, “You know, you can’t be in the 27 legacy just for dying at 27, you have to do something beforehand.”

He laughed a little more.

Me, "Give yourself more time. Be easy on yourself. 27 is young, man."

I walked around my parents front yard, trying to keep cell phone reception and pulling my friend back in a little out of the darkness. I can kick him a ray of light, but I knew I couldn’t save him and if he really wanted to kill himself this badly, he would.

Having been there ten years before, I knew at least he would be safe in lockdown. They won’t let you kill yourself, even though being in a public mental institution makes you want to do it even more than before.  I didn’t have to worry about him, at least for a little while.

***

The next day, I found out my rescue dog, Cupcake, died. Before I left for France, they were trying to find her another home just because she hadn’t warmed up to the husband for the year they had her. Then, they saw sudden progress and decided to give her another try.

Six weeks later, I was scouring their Facebook looking for pictures of her, but they were all gone. So I emailed them and got this in return:

I am sorry to tell you, but Cupcake has passed. Justin, Rosie (the other dog) and I have been coping with her loss over the past few weeks. She started acting strangely, not wanting to eat, coughing and was more agitated. We took her to the vet and found out that she had a stage four heart murmur. Our vet told us she would only have a short time (a few weeks) before her heart would fail and leading up to that would be pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs) so she wouldn't be able to run and play with Rosie like she always loved to. We saw this happen with Norman and knew that we couldn't let Cupcake go through that. We decided that Cupcake wouldn't want to stick around if she couldn't enjoy her time with Rosie, going for walks, playing and eating (she loved her treat rope!). She said goodbye to Rosie and we made her a chicken breast which she enjoyed on the grass in front of the vet's office. She was very peaceful and calm. I think it was the calmest I had ever seen her with multiple people around. I think that she knew it was her time. She will always have a special place in our hearts and we have peace of mind knowing that we did all we could for her by providing her a second chance in a loving home. We are so happy that we decided to keep her even when times were tough. She taught us more about ourselves than we could have imagined. Thank you for bringing her into our lives.

As I read this now, I just feel my heart bottom out. I never responded to that email.

Even when you save them, they still go off and die.


(http://soibecameanactress.blogspot.com/2011/02/this-one-is-for-mommies.html)

***

So the storm circled overhead, and it was difficult talking to my parents about any of it. They hate it when I cry.  Often, I see on commercials and TV shows where Mothers and Fathers offer an arm or even a hug to their child when they cry. My parents complain and leave the room.

I was still on France time, so I would wake up at midnight or 1am and write a blog completely undisturbed. I poured myself a glass of wine or two, and before I knew it, the sun would be shining, and the house astir. I cherished those hours alone, where I could revisit France, the sunshine and the food, and forget that I was stuck in my parents’ sterile house, rocking back and forth on the creaking tight ropes of silence and unpredictable tempers, stranded with a broken car in the backwoods of Washington.

One morning, I thought I would save myself the 20 second trip to the kitchen and take the whole bottle of wine into my bedroom with me. When I write, I don’t feel time, hunger, or fatigue . . . I am in a trance. Once, I munched on double my allotted portion of edibles and didn’t feel a thing until I finished writing four hours later, and in that moment, the THC hit me like an ice truck.

I had my last splash of wine around 3am, thinking nothing of it. At 6am, my father opened my door without knocking, as they always do, and he stared at me, then the bottle and said, “Do you have a drinking problem?”

I said, “No, I hardly ever drink.” That was true in Los Angeles. I really can’t afford to and I certainly don’t enjoy drinking that much when I have other goodies available.

He grabbed the bottle off my desk and said, “Ok, new rule. No drinking in the morning.” Then, he slammed my door.

I rolled my eyes and turned on music, maybe a little loud. He threw open my door again and said, “You are living like a kid!”

“Whatever,” I muttered.

He stiffened and then said, “Ok, let’s go for a walk.”

Still writing, I said, “No.”

His head popped back in mine, surprised, “No?”

I repeated, “No. I am writing.”

He said, “Ok, this isn’t working out. A week after you get back from LA you need to be out of here.”

My father’s blue eyes were wide, and he put his finger in my face. My first thought was, “Go ahead and hit me, Asshole. I will call the cops before you can even blink.” (if cell phone reception would allow)

He hadn’t hit me in the face since I was 13-years-old, sitting at the dinner table refusing to eat the steak my mother prepared. They refused to acknowledge my push for vegetarianism and I smacked my lips in disgust, when the back of my father’s hand smashed my nose against my face. Blood pumped out, all over the sweater I was wearing. The blood never washed out and it had to be thrown away.

Though that was the last time he hit me in the face, there were still moments of bizarre violence. One afternoon, coming home late from school in the 9th grade, he dragged me to the bathroom by my hair and demanded my Mother check me to see if I was still a virgin. Up until the age of 17, he loved dragging me by the hair.

Now here we were, I was in my thirties, healthy and strong. My father was in his late 60s, thin and weak. He stood frozen and I realized, he knew he couldn’t hit me anymore.

Nonchalantly, I said, “That’s fine, but my car is broken.”

He said, “I don’t care about your car.”

I said, “I know you don’t.”

He stopped and stared at me, he was studying me more, but I don’t know what for.

I stared back at him, so he could see that I wasn’t a scared adolescent anymore. He was an old man full of empty threats who just wanted to see me shake. I don’t shake for bullies anymore.

He left the room and I cried. I stormed to the bathroom and saw the red wine had stained my lips and teeth. I smiled at myself, “Oops.” (New rule: brush your teeth after drinking red wine)

I would disappear again soon. In the meantime, I wouldn’t let him pull focus off my school work. So I kept writing. I kept reading. And I grew to hate him all over again.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

"With Hunger at Her Heels, Freedom In Her Eyes" . . . She Made Her Paris Goodbyes

My mother emailed me, “Take care and enjoy Paris.  It's a big city with lots of diversity.  Try to get to Notre Dame.  It isn't as beautiful as the churches in Italy but still worth seeing.

She can be such a snob. My parents never have much good to say about France. The more I grow up, the more I see how little of them I find in myself.

Someone else had crunched their nose up at my mention of Versailles and said “It’s a bit dry for my taste.” When you repeat these little snarky remarks to a Parisian, they burst into laughter. To turn your nose up to France is absolutely moronic. There is a reason the French are snotty, because they earned it!

From Père Lachaise, I took the Metro to Notre Dame. I had 10Euroes left, which didn’t leave me enough to eat and pay for the transit to the airport. I still had a $20 American dollar tucked away in my wallet from my Mom.  So, I took the Metro back to the heart of Paris and grabbed myself some kind of delightful blueberry cheesecake bar for a couple Euroes that filled my stomach before I could finish it.



There was a long line into the Notre Dame Cathedral, so I rushed underground to use the toilet beforehand. There was a line and a few older women managing the toilets. That’s right, they were managing the toilets.  Both looked like they had grown up, there, underground with the moldy tile and dripping plumbing- one obese, the other tiny. Neither smiled. They directed men to one end and women to the other, guess who had the wait line? One woman after another had trouble locking the stall, wandered around for the ideal porcelain toilet, while the rest of us had to wait behind a bar, with full bladders and money in hand. It cost 50Cents or so to use the facilities.

After clenching my abdomen and wasting time in a basement under Paris, I finally had my turn to use the toilet, it was surprisingly clean (cleaner than LA toilets), I locked the unlockable stall, finished and tipped the two women. That made me the hero, all of a sudden, their faces brightened to reveal missing teeth, they clucked goodbyes and nodded in thanks.

Above ground, I got in line for Notre Dame, mass was about to start. Admission was free and the line moved fast as I shuffled in through the teardrop opening into the cathedral. It was dark and smelled of incense. The organ music was shaking the walls and the line of tourists was pushed around the center, away from the pews and churchgoers.





The day filtered through stained glass windows. The sculptures of saints stood still as everyone walked by to gawk at them. The place was heavy with history, and you could feel it pulling you into the floorboards.





I stopped at Joan d’Arc’s statue, she was surrounded by candles and I read the plaque:


St. Joan of Arc (1412-1431)
Born in Lorraine, burned alive in Rouen as a heretic and a witch. The decision to rehabilitate her reputation was made in this Cathedral.

Good old Joan, at 16 years-old she was granted leadership of the French army under Divine instruction. The King only allowed it after all other attempts to protect France against the English and Burgundians failed. Joan was tested on all accounts of morality in her life and background (I take that to mean that she was not allowed to lead the army until they made sure she was a physical virgin).  When they verified her “purity”, she took back one French fortress after another, suffered injury to her neck by arrow, ignored the War councils orders- since she wasn’t invited to their meetings anyway and continued to recapture many parts of France despite a head injury from a cannon ball and a leg injury by cross bow.

The English came to a truce, but shortly thereafter it ended, Joan was on horse again, leading the troops to defend her country against the Burgundians and English armies. When she was captured, pulled off her horse, refusing to surrender, the French Royal family did not offer money for her ransom.

She tried to escape, jumping 70 feet out of a tower onto dry ground, but, in the end, it was the English who paid for her, not the French. They initiated a trial, accusing her of heresy; the typical bullshit with no legal aid, no French partisans at court for trial and then forced her to sign away her rights in the face of immediate execution. While imprisoned, they tried to molest her, rape her- maybe they did. I can only assume they did.

They forced her to wear a dress, later stripped off of her during an “attempted” assault. They finally allowed her to wear men’s clothing to deter further sexual abuse in the hopes she wouldn’t be found in her cell completely naked . . . again. That must of been a ray of sunshine before finding out you had to be burned to death at the stake.

After the first burning, they made sure everyone saw her remains before burning her two more times, this way everyone present could verify that she did not escape and no one could collect anything left of her. Then, her ashes were dumped in the Seine. So she has no grave, but she still runs through France.

What is it about man? They find something truly spectacular, truly marvelous and inexplicably phenomenal, and all they can do is capture it and kill it. They refuse to learn from it. And they refuse to love it. Maybe that is how they love, by stealing its physical body and collecting its soul. They conquer and destroy. Bravo.

***

I sat down next to Joan, and said hello. The church wanted $5Euroes to light a candle for a prayer. Growing up Catholic, we were accustomed to that small section in the church,  lighting a candle and praying in distress or worry. I slid in a 50Cents piece, just so it looked like I was dropping something in before grabbing a candle and lighting it. I prayed to Joan to protect my dogs and cat, all the animals I loved, all the ones I lost, and to ask that there be as little less suffering in my future, because I am not sure my heart can take it.





I walked around the tourists with video cameras, documenting every step in front of me, as if they would ever watch it again. Can you imagine them, on their couches in their living room,“Hey Mom, forget ‘American Idol’, let’s relive our walking tour through Notre Dame.”

The saddest part is they were never present to feel the place; the small blades of light finding their way through the windows and roof, the sound of the priest during mass, first the words low from his mouth then again, as they echoed off the back walls, the idea that people throughout all of history, the wars and the disease, fled to this little church for protection. Napoleon crowned himself Emperor right there, right where I was looking.

Sitting down, Mass continued. I wanted to step out of the constant stream of videotaping tourists. Families from all around the world kept crowding around, trying to get the best angle with their camera. They always tried to push as close to the actual Mass as possible, but people in uniform were stationed there to protect the real churchgoers and keep the tourists back.



I got tired of hearing the volunteers shuffle through languages until one was found that both parties could understand, just to explain common sense and decency- so I left.

I walked down the Seine, the opposite way of the Eiffel tower, to see what was down there. Texting with our liaison from the Cannes Film Festival, a resident of Paris, he invited me to a party later that night and offered to help me get on the right train to the right airport.

All I wanted to do was get lost, and I did. I walked off the cream and blueberries and cheese, stopping to look at random art along the way. Sculptures were left along the Seine for no other reason than existing. I loved that.
I crossed a restaurant where a Chef was arguing with a patron. As they pulled her away, she spit at him and he charged her, in furious French. People pulled both of them away and I thought, “God, I love this place.”

Then, I saw a sign: “Bastille” and an arrow pointing to the other side of the Seine.

That was the landmark I was offered at Père Lachaise to help lead me to Jim Morrison’s final flat in Paris. Out loud, I said, “Are you kidding me?”

I shrugged my shoulders and said, “Alright. There is the sign, let’s do this.”

Walking back over the Seine, the street vendors thinned out. The carts with French pastries, the magazine stands, the tourists all slowly disappeared and were replaced with fruit markets and school children. I wasn’t sure where I was going, occasionally there would be a sign and I would follow it, cross through an alley and feel lost just before finding another sign.



Eventually, I ended up at Rue Beautreillis, which was a very short street, just enough for the restaurant on one side and the residential building on the other. I stopped, looked up and said, “Ok, Jim, I saw it.” He wasn’t there either.



Plugging in my ear buds in, I turned on “The Doors” and picked up the pace to walk back towards the hostel to retrieve my luggage.

There was no rush, the day was set aside for me to wander. I felt happy, skipping along the bridges, listening to the music I remembered word for word, feeling the breeze pick up off the water and tickle the sweat down the back of my neck, and under the wire of my bra.



I stopped to rest my feet at the Jardin des Plantes, the botanical garden. I wanted to smoke a cigarette, but I was completely broke.



Getting back on my feet, I wandered some more and stumbled upon a small garden dedicated to Louis Armstrong.

It was small, just a little park you could see all the way through while passing by. It still felt like it was for me.



I walked through and down, trying to find the maps to make my way back to the hostel. My phone would ping with texts from my Paris contact, who wanted to know when I would be in his part of Paris (I didn’t know), Aldrich, who wanted to know when I would be able to call him that day (I didn’t know) and Gade, my French stranger who kept pressing me to cancel my flight and stay with him in a flat in Paris for a few weeks. Damn it. Just not possible.

As I turned back around, trying to reorient myself to this part of town, I got a little frustrated. I had to keep deleting texts to get more since my phone memory was quickly used up with questions I couldn’t answer.

A large drunk tourist crept up behind me, and just as I felt his hand reach for me, a few of his buddies swept up between us saying, “Whoa whoa whoa, no!” leading him off.

***

When I made it back to the hostel, I opened the luggage closet to see a pile of bags just thrown on top of the each other, taller than all of me. Complaining to myself, I opened the door and threw out one piece of luggage at a time, to dig out my one bag, on the floor and under a shelf. Baby powder spilled all over everyone’s bags.

A tall, handsome Australian approached me, “Need some help?”

I said, “Yes, they just made a garbage pile out of everyone’s luggage. Unbelievable! There are empty spots on these shelves, I mean, look at this bag, for instance, THIS could fit right HERE!”

He lifted the heavier bags over me and said, “Well, just so you know, mine is on the shelf in there.”

I said, “Well, of course, you seem like a nice, young man. Of course yours in on the shelf.”

He smiled at me. Covered in baby powder and sweat, I looked down to blush, everything was too God damn tempting for me here. How the hell was I going to leave? I knew back in the States, men wouldn’t look at me that way anymore.

I knew all the freedom I felt to drift, and consume, and adore would be shadowed with obligations, parents and money. I get it, that’s life. The difference was, in France I was standing inside of myself. Back in the States, I would have to keep one foot outside of my mind, just so I could navigate back into a life of some kind.

Grabbing my bag, the Australian released me back on the streets of Paris so I could get on a Metro to the Arts et Métiers. My bag was enormous, and there were a lot of stairs up and down the Metro. At first, I had trouble, but as I dragged my luggage, I always felt the end lift in the air like it had wings, just before turning around and finding a strange man walking up the stairs with me, my bag in hand. That happened about four times before I got to my destination.



I was to go to a woman’s flat who was throwing the party tonight, drop off my bag and meet my Paris Liaison for dinner. I walked around in a broad circle, maybe twice, before finding the right Rue to cross down. Then I had to climb 7 flights of stairs with my enormous bag. That . . . sucked.

The girl opened the door for me, she was a cross-eyed Romanian, shorter than me and very curt. She took my bag into her bedroom and said she was getting ready for the party. I thanked her profusely and then asked if I could sit down, she gave a quick nod and then hid in her bedroom from me.

It was only a two bedroom apartment, so that was awkward. I texted the liaison, who said that the Romanian was texting him from her bedroom and needed me to leave so she could prepare for the party. Nice.

So I left my bag there, and flew on foot down the road to find his apartment. Let’s call him Jacques. I wanted to try and find it with as little instruction as possible, and Jacques played the game with me, only answering “hot” and “cold” to landmarks I stumbled upon.

The neighborhood I walked into was suddenly black, as in the people were black. All this time, I hadn’t really seen many black French folk, but here, all of a sudden, I was glaringly white. It also seemed like a poorer neighborhood. There was garbage on the ground and the buildings were falling apart. Bed sheets as curtains. Crowded. Loud. I wondered why blacks were poor here too. Were they rich anywhere?



Turning around through the music and trampling of people on the street, I was stopped by three, tall, handsome black men. They asked me a question, and I said, “Parle vu Anglais? Je suis American.”

One of them was smiling and pushed his friends back, “Yes, yes, yes. I speak English. You are lost?”

I showed them the map and where I needed to be, and repeated the words the Romanian repeated to me before closing her door on me. The three men argued about the best way to go, and then all decided, together, that I needed to backtrack a bit and turn right, then left. I lifted my eyes to remember that as I nodded.

The young man who was the most eager to speak among them said, “You are in luck. I specialize in teaching American women French. I can teach you.”

I smiled and said, “I understand.” And chuckled a little. “Compris.”

He said, “Give a kiss, please. As payment.”

I didn’t have time for my “Cultural Differences” speech so I said, “OK, on the cheek though.”
Leaning in, I made that noise, “MMMMMMMWAH!” and quickly made my exit. They all cheered goodbye and I thought, “Well, this is a friendly neighborhood.”



Between two tall buildings, I wandered and realized I was there but was never given a building number or apartment number. A woman stopped to ask if I needed help, and all I said was, “Do you know Jacques?”

She shrugged her shoulders and I said, “Its ok. He will find me.”

And he did, I stepped inside a door and climbed a narrow staircase to Jacques apartment. He is short, maybe 5’5, small in all his features but his prominent nose. In a utilitarian brown vest, he has black hair and skinny legs. I always thought if you were to draw a Frenchman as a cartoon, Jacques would be the perfect model.

In his forties, there is something attractive about him. A childlike spirit, an unapologetic artist and an odd genius. Sometimes, you are attracted to someone because you think you have uncovered a secret. They are sexy because they are different- then you realize they are in on the secret and so are most other people around you. And sometimes, only sometimes, that obliterates the attraction. That was the case with Jacques, and I also think, at times, that is the case with me. You aren’t so offbeat anymore, when people realize you are the only one on-beat.

In his apartment, there were stacks of books, videotapes, DVDs and computer parts practically falling off the shelves, and continued in piles on the floor. Thank you notes were taped to the wall. Little stuffed animals were pushed into an odd corner here or there. He was in a one room studio, and on his futon sat one of our students from Cannes; a pretty Chinese girl who was studying film in Los Angeles.

I knew she was staying with him, but it seemed awkward in this one room, filled with stuff and only one futon to share.

I made jokes about wanting to hold his hand in Cannes, but he was not the vulnerable artist-nerd everyone assumed. He knew what he was doing, and I wondered if it was entirely appropriate to be with such a young, female student in such a small living space.

Who am I to talk about what’s appropriate or not? In France, everyone has permission to do whatever the hell they wanted to do. That’s why I loved it.

After greeting both of them, I asked if it was cramped. He said, “Oh, I have a room across the hall, too.”

A beautiful French woman stopped in to say hello.

Jacques, “Are you going to the party tonight?”

Gorgeous French woman, “I don’t know yet.”

Jacques, “Do you want to join us for dinner?”

French woman, “I don’t know, I might stay in and cook something.”

Jacques, “What are you going to cook?”

French woman, “I don’t really know yet.”

Jacques, “Ok, well text me when you know.”

She unleashed some kind of magical smile that stopped time before disappearing across the hall again.

Jacques said, “She doesn’t like to make up her mind.”

Me, “Oh that’s alright.” And I sat on the floor and stretched out my legs. “She lives across the hall.” I meant to say, “With you?”

He nodded slightly and said, “Would you like some tea?”

Me, “I would love some. I really love this place it reminds me of my place . . . before . . .”

He said, “Before what?”

I said, “Before I lost all my money and had to move out.”

Taking out my camera phone, I tried to grab a few pictures. I thought about asking and then remembered him filming me on the bus in Cannes without permission. I turned and caught him with a camera in my face, then smiled. He stole my smile.

Putting down my camera phone I said, “Eugh, there isn’t enough light. I guess I will just have to remember it.”

He said, “Yes, its like me, small and full of surprises.”

I asked, “Where do I buy the ticket for the train to the airport?”

He said, “I already bought one for you.” He slid it over his desk with my cup of tea. That was kind.



The three of us walked to a nearby soup kitchen, and we each ordered a bowl. It was a small restaurant with seats at a counter that bordered the mirrored walls like a bar, and a few small tables in the center of the room. You couldn’t push your chair out without hitting another one. My soup was lentil, handed to me in a wood bowl with pieces of pita and silverware on the shelf by my knees, below the bar. I could see through the mirrors on the wall, the handsome, Middle-Eastern soup chef watching me. We made eye contact through the wall and I smiled. He was around my age, large but in a way that suited him.

I like it when men enjoy watching me eat. I like men who cook food and then watch me eat it. MMMMM!

Jacques asked about my life, so I took him backward, and ended my story 6 months before, when my roommate hung himself in our bathroom.

I always like to tell that story with a little comedy, just because I can’t stand the heavy concern everyone offers me, with the hand on the shoulder, the gazing into my eyes followed by, “If you ever need to talk about it . . .”

Jacques took the hook and laughed along, occasionally nursing the Chinese student who couldn’t finish her soup because of a stomach ache.

I asked if it was my story that bothered her, she said, “No, its Paris. It doesn’t agree with me.”

Me, “Impossible. Paris agrees with everybody.”

She said, “Not me.”

Jacques doted over her as I moaned in delight over my lentils. I took pieces of bread to mop up anything remaining of the soup before dumping it in the bussing station at the bar. They both looked up at me, and I said, “Frankly, that was delicious.” They smiled.

We got up to leave. The chef smiled and walked us out of the restaurant. I allowed one last sultry stare before stepping into the cool night street.

The Student went back to Jacques’ apartment, too ill to attend the party. I wasn’t really looking forward to going to a party where the hostess hated me, but there I was. Unfortunately for her, I had to defecate in her toilet and do something about my body odor since the hot Paris day worked out every drop of water I had. So I shuffled through her perfumes and tried to disguise as much of myself as possible. She was waiting for me outside the bathroom door, cold and concerned.

I smiled and walked back into the party. There were a number of Romanians all sharing a drink called Țuică, which was a clear alcoholic beverage they made and stored in used glass bottles. Almost everyone who wasn’t Romanian passed on drinking it, but Jacques said I should try it.

The hostess said, “Its very strong. Very strong and very bitter.”



One Romanian said, “You should drink it. Its very cheap. Our mothers and fathers say it cures all things, cold, fever, flu, if you need to sleep, if you need to wake up, this fix everything.”

I said, “Ok.” Who am I to pass up on Țuică? So as everyone in the room stared at me, I took a drink. No one said a word. I swallowed and then said, “Not bad.”

Jacques laughed. “She liked it.”

I said, “I just thought it would taste like gasoline but its not bad at all.” I sucked it off my lips, “Not bitter at all.”

As the night went on, another mysterious bottle would be passed my way, and I was prodded into drinking it. I took a shot or two, buzzing ever so slightly from it. I knew I had to sleep in the airport tonight, so maybe it would help.

A beautiful Romanian girl chatted with me, she said she moved to Paris to pursue art, but the town was too expensive, and she wasn’t sure it was worth it. She preferred the cinema community in Transylvania, where everything is smaller, the films were more charming, and there was a greater sense of community.

I said, “I wish I could move to Paris, but I have three dogs.”

She said, “You should try it, bring them.”

Me, “I will look in to it when I go back home. I am starting writing school.”

She said, “And you are actress, too?”

I smiled and nodded, “Yes.”

She said, “I can see it in you. You have the stars in your eyes. Very special.”

That was one of the best things anyone has ever said to me.

The last metro was leaving at midnight, so when I realized how late it was, I bustled to get out of there. When the hostess realized I was leaving, she was suddenly warm and kissed me goodbye.

Jacques asked which airline I was leaving for. I told him I forgot. I didn’t even think about checking in on-line when I was at his place near a computer. I hadn’t bothered to prepare to leave at all, partly because the idea was so unpleasant.

He laughed.

I said, “It always works out. I wing everything.”

We got to the right metro stop for the airport and he said, “Call me or text me if you need help. I will be up.”

I hugged him a big thank you and rushed down to the train. I went the wrong way, and in four minutes, missed my train.

I texted him, “Fuck, I think I just missed it.”

That was the last train for the night.

He told me where to catch a bus, so I ran over, with my huge luggage and waited for the bus. I already used my metro ticket for the train that I missed, so I wasn’t sure if they would take it after the machine punched it. If they didn’t, I was fucked. I had only $5Euroes left and that wouldn’t be enough for a new ticket.

I was stressed out, it was midnight, and my right eye was infected. I don’t know why, it was burning red.  Aldrich kept texting, “I am tired, when can I say goodbye to you.”

I said, “Almost to the airport. Please wait for me.”

On the bus, I acted like I didn’t know how to use the ticket machine, so an attendant accepted my validated ticket.

Collapsing on a dark seat on a nearly empty bus, two young American couples crashed near me. They were young and loud.

Girl, “That wasn’t so bad. We missed the show but getting drunk under the Eiffel Tower was pretty good, too.”

Boy, “Well, it was so awesome seeing Kanye up there on stage. He totally killed that show. I think he even made eye contact with me once.”

Girl, “COOL!”

I rolled my eyes and popped in my ear buds for more Doors to flood out my reality:

Wild Child,
Full of grace.
Savior of the human race, your cool face . . .
Natural child, terrible child,
Not your mother’s or your father’s child,
You’re our child. Screamin’ wild.

It was over a half an hour before the bus sadly dropped us at the first terminal. The airport was dark and nearly abandoned. I saw KLM, and remembered that was my airline.

I texted Jacques to tell him I made it safe, and thank him again.

A few of us drifted around the glass doors, tugging on one or two that were locked. The two young American boys started getting restless, “Whoa, this is NOT cool.”

I walked further down a little, making eye contact with the Egyptian janitor. I smiled. He quietly indicated the open door, and it easily opened for me. Everyone followed me in, and we all dispersed in an empty airport.



Everything was closed until morning, so it was kind of like camping. You had to find a spot that looked hidden away but exposed enough that you wouldn’t be raped or killed quietly, and get as comfortable as possible.

My eye was really infected now, so I took out my contact lens, used the bathroom and called Aldrich.



He was very groggy. I said, “How far away is this airport from Paris? It took forever to get here.’

Yawning, he said, “Very far.”

I said, “Oh look! A flight to Toulouse! Tomorrow at 7am.”

He laughed, lightly.

Me, “I don’t see my flight up here. Can you look up my flight number?”

I gave him my gmail account details, and through labored English he said, “13,267 unread . . . emails.”

Me, “Yeah, I hold on to things.”

Aldrich, “13,267?”

Me, “Yes, yes, yes, look under my folder, Paris Cannes Trip? What is my flight number?”

He found it for me, as I settled into a seat across from the metal detector. I tried to lay everything out so my legs, waist and head could all line up comfortably, but gave up and crunched my body to fit in the seat.

We chatted on the phone until he stopped answering my questions, and all I could hear was the even breathing of a sleeping boy.

I listened for a little longer, knowing I would never hear him again, and I hung up.

My head grew heavy too, I took out Abe’s ipod and popped on “Fight Club” until I drifted off to sleep.



In a few hours, I woke up to say goodbye. I was cold, grouchy, my feet were throbbing, and there was no free coffee in sight. I avoided everyone until I was in my seat and asleep again.


I woke up in Amsterdam . . .

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Père Lachaise: Finding my Dead, Rock Star Boyfriend

My last morning in Paris.

I took the metro down to Père Lachaise. It was late in the morning, but my flight didn't leave until early the next morning. I planned on spending the night in the airport, not only to save a hostel fee but also because the metro wasn't up and going until early in the morning, and it would be bad to miss my flight- though I thought about it.

I threw my luggage into the storage closet at the hostel, and took off on foot with the iPod Abe gave me and a few Euroes, enough for a bite to eat and a handful of metro trips.



When I arrived to the Cemetery, I used a map my sister printed out for me with circled people, or resting places, of interest. There really was only one person I was there to see. Jim.

It is a morbid pursuit to visit the graves of those among the dead who inspire you. There were three graves I put on my short list when I was 20: Ella Fitzgerald, Jim Morrison and James Baldwin. It hasn’t really changed in almost 15 years.



In 2002, I visited the grave of Ella Fitzgerald with my fiance at the time. It was a little anti-climatic. She was in a the Sunset Memorial Garden Mausoleum in Inglewood. Surrounded by marble walls and a few drifting strangers, I found her in a drawer on a wall. I brought a flower for her and took a moment to tell her how her music carried me. In my big move from home, Washington state to Orange County, she was all I played.

Somewhere behind that wall, whatever was left of the greatest voice on the planet, was rotting, legless, inside a tomb.

"Man, woman, or child, Ella is the greatest." -Bing Crosby

The deeper question is, if we have spirits, would she hear my prayer to her, and if she did, would it matter? Does it need to matter to her? I never knew her. I never felt her, embraced her, spoke to her. She was just a voice I found on a soundtrack once, and it led to one CD then another, then three more, then everything I could find.

I want to say there was a great satisfaction in finding her and speaking to her flesh, suspended three feet off the ground. I can't say there was. We are always looking to connect to greatness, whether it be to acknowledge it changed us for the better or to become a part of it ourselves.

Whoever Ella Fitzgerald was on this planet, during that time, she is gone now.

In "Midnight to Paris", Woody Allen creates the ultimate fantasy scenario of a writer going back in time to meet artists he loved in Paris. He brushes elbows with greatness, but the most influential person he meets is his muse, a beautiful woman who mingled with artists, was the lover to many, but is otherwise anonymous in the folds of history. She herself doesn't exist in his time, and he has to let her go in the shadowed corridors of time.



When you commune with the dead, you have to rely on faith and mysticism.

As much as I love Ella, my love affair with her is only half in time as the one I carry with Jim.

The moment I saw him on television at 12, he ignited a kind of fascination. When I was 14, I listened to a whole album of "The Doors" for the first time while laying on my parents living room floor, wasting time to avoid a block party. When I listened to “The End” for the first time, my eyes were closed and my head was spinning on our off-white carpet in a sterile, manufactured home in Vancouver, Washington.

When the last chord erupted and the tape popped off the play button with a plastic 'clack', I opened my eyes and knew the music got inside of me in a way nothing had before. Few things reach you on a holy plane, some people might describe their relationship with Jesus or the birth of a child. When I fall in love, and a boy buzzes around my mind, violently fluttering in memories despite any reason or restraint, I say to myself, "The boy got inside of me."

When I was 14, there on my parents' floor, Jim got inside of me. And unlike the boys I have fallen in and out of love with over the years, there he remains.



(I always love finding images of him smiling, it is a beautiful smile, isn't it?)

I give myself breaks from the music, to keep sane. I force myself to go on fasts and sometimes fall in love with other music, like the Rolling Stones, Guns N' Roses, Janis Joplin, Nirvana, Bob Dylan or Fiona Apple. Like a jealous lover, in a bar or on the radio, Jim will find me again to remind me of our commitment. And I fall all over again.

In the last 20 years, for a girl who drifted from her family and can't hold on to a lover, his voice has grown to become the most familiar, over any anyone else in the flesh.

"Music is your only friend, until the end."

So I pranced into the cemetery with a map in hand. My family warned me that his grave was difficult to find, so when I walked in, I said aloud, "Ok, Jim, guide me."

Père Lachaise is a very old cemetery, and has walls built around it, enclosing all the stones and bodies in a sacred circle. Tall stones, flat stones, grandiose tombs, spectacular sculptures, names worn down by time and weather with fresh and dying flowers, they all reach above the ground like a hand grasping for life.




In a matter of minutes, I knew I was close to him. Searching for people, I saw a few heads gathered together over a few tombs to my right- so I headed over and immediately saw him. The bust was stolen, I am told. Now, the poor dead guy in the small tomb next to him has to take the brunt of it, advertising handwritten love notes to Jim and Doors song lyrics.



People crowded around a waist high fence that blocked him from us. They took pictures, smiling at the camera, holding a lighter or posing like they are on the face of a postcard. I found that to be somewhat nauseating. That is a dead person, not a landmark.

His grave had a few flowers, a porcelain angel on top, laying on its belly, with its face in its hands. It seemed bare compared to the photos on the internet.

Jim’s dad engraved a stone that reads: “ΚΑΤΑ ΤΟΝ ΔΑΙΜΟΝΑ ΕΑΥΤΟY or "true to his own spirit".



People stood around, chatted in various languages, drifted in and out. I waited. I was going to climb that fence and give him my present; a brief love note folded over two flowers I plucked from the heart of Paris.

A guy stood off to the side, we spoke a little.

I said, "This is a little disappointing. I was hoping to have a personal moment."

He said, "I know . . . I came from his apartment in Paris. It's not far from here, you know where Beautreillis is?"

I said, "I think so, its a stop on the metro, right?"

He said, "Yeah, just get off there. Its on Rue Beautreillis (he took out his iPhone and showed me a photo)"



"Here is his window where he died. And (scrolling) here is the pub across the street. Once you see that, you know you are there."



I thought about it, but was not sure I needed to go there.

He said goodbye, and I moved around the front of the gate to sit down on a swollen tree root reaching under the foot of the fence. The tree was proudly bound in more notes for Jim, pictures glued on of his face, more song lyrics. I pulled out the iPod and played "The Severed Garden". Then I just sat there.



I wondered where Pam Courson was. Turns out, she is still buried in Santa Ana because no one worked hard enough on getting the right paperwork filed to transport her body back to her lover. Assholes.

As people left, more people came. There was never a moment alone, and I grew irritated.

An American guy with carob skin and a baseball hat stood in front of me, looked down and smiled, "Are you listening to Jim?"

I forced a smile and nodded.

He pulled out a beer and popped it open. He took two swigs and then offered it down to me. I nodded and took two swigs myself.

"The End" came on.

I handed the beer back to him and said, "This is a bummer, man. I can't be alone with my dead boyfriend. I have a note to give him."

He said, "Yeah, lots of people. You are going to have to hop the fence."

I said, "I know, I was waiting, but there is always someone here."

He shrugged his shoulders. His girlfriend was standing behind us, obviously not a fan.

After a few minutes, he shook my hand and left.

"LA Woman" came on.

I sat there and waited longer.

My heart was beating. A little golf cart with the groundskeepers whizzed by. Could they arrest me for jumping the fence? People must do it all the time. I wished I had woken up earlier so I could have been there and talked to him.

Several people drifted away, and all that was left was a young Russian couple. So I slowly hoisted my foot up and stepped over the fence with ease. My legs are so long, it was no obstacle. I felt the couple staring at me as I dropped my note on the bed in front of his tombstone, I kissed my hand and laid it on the cold stone, then stepped back over and walked away.

I won't say that I felt Jim. I wish I could say I did. He wasn't there.

"L'America" came on.

The song starts with Jim hissing like a lizard and then has a great chord progression that sweeps up your heart and brings it to a march. I know it well, and started dancing . . . in a cemetery.

I skipped over the cobble stone and winding curbs, singing.

♫♪ C'mon people, don't ya look so down
You know the rain man's comin' ta town
Change the weather, change your luck
And then he'll teach ya how ta...find yourself
L'America ♫♪

A few people looked at me strangely, but I couldn't stop my feet from hopping and jumping up and down the narrow walkways. Whatever life stirred among the empty bodies of all those artists shook from the ground, through my tattered feet and up my legs. I spun towards the end of the song, losing my breath, "♫♪ L'America L'America L'America L'America L'America L'America ♫♪".

I let the playlist Abe created for me play on, and kept my headphones in, only taking them out for the occasional tourist looking for Jim's grave. I directed them, and danced on.

The sky was overcast, but it was warm. Everyone there fought through English to help each other find someone they were looking for, or act as a guide. We were all there for the same reason, and over us a blanket of respect, all the mourners and fans, one in the same really.

The next grave on my list was Chopin. It was hard finding him, since he was on the cusp of a complicated round-about. When I was near, I saw more people crowded around, and a stone filled with fresh flowers. A woman sat next to him, holding her head in her hands. My father told me he receives fresh flowers on his grave everyday.



I walked up to the stone and whispered, "Thank you."

Then, I danced on.

I skipped around the edge of the cemetery, and after someone volunteered to help me, I found Oscar Wilde. His tomb was elaborate, white with a winged, Egyptian creature overhead. Around it was a tall glass wall with lipstick kisses and cute, witty messages all over it. You see all those kisses, and smile. How wonderful to be a writer, a gay male writer, and have millions of kisses from women all over the world and time pressed forever on your final pillow.

]



A few people had a band-aid stuck to the wall with a message drawn on the fleshy plastic. My mother packed a handful of band-aids in my bag, so I pulled out one, wrote a profession of love, put on a thick coat of lipstick and kissed it.  (I wasn't compelled to kiss a dirty glass wall in the middle of Paris) I stuck the band-aid on the wall, leaned back and smiled.
(not featured below for anonymity)





A Russian looked at my purple socks in leopard skin converse and said, in broken English, "Nice shoes."

I said, "Thanks!"

"Crawling King" came on.

Looking for a few other writers, I grew exhausted. Walking on the cobble stone, you constantly correct your footing, so my ankles ached. I tried to stay on the smooth upside of the curbs, railing the pathway. It was getting to be the middle of the day, and the free bread roll I was given for breakfast was burning into ash. I gave up looking for Proust and Moliere.

On my way backward, I found Gertrude Stein. No one was there.

I sat down next to her to rest my feet. Little notes, some dusty and deteriorating, others fresh from someone's notebook, were folded around her headstone and weighted down by pebbles. I took out my notebook and stared at a blank page.





Looking up at her I said, "If I were to write something, it would feel a bit forced. Maybe its better that I just sit here for a while."

And with Gertrude Stein, I felt something. There was a warmth, comfort, encouragement. I put my hand on the stone, and through the cool, polished stone, I felt her say, "Keep writing." I smiled and felt my eyes fill with saltwater, the saltwater saved for Jim.

The artist I was most unfamiliar with, was the one who offered an appearance.

A couple saw me and walked towards me. The woman said, “Oh, Gertrude Stein.” I got up to leave, but felt grateful, and I hope she felt it, too.

"Roadhouse Blues" came on.

I danced back to Jim's grave to say goodbye. People were crowded around, someone teetering atop someone else's gravestone to get a better look. Another person was climbing back over the fence after dropping off a small bottle of whiskey. It is truly amazing that these artists always had someone visiting them at every minute of the day. What influence to reach all these people, many, if not all, were born after their death.

I checked to see if my note was still there. It was. No stone was weighing it down, and the wind was picking up, so it could blow away at any moment. Maybe a stranger would find it and read it, wondering where or to whom it belongs. What if it rained and destroyed it? Does someone come by and pick up all the notes, and if so, what do they do with them? Do they read them?

I knew Robby and Ray (of the Doors) were coming by in July to visit him on the anniversary of his death. Maybe they collect the notes and read them.

Jim wasn't there. So did it matter if he got my handwritten note, made on milled wood and carved on with ink? Probably not. Deep down inside, I want him to know how much he means to me. That is a mortal impediment, to need to communicate the self to the universe for acknowledgement. We are only ourselves, as one entity, for this one fleeting moment. Then we are absorbed into the unknown, marrying other energies or fragmenting into many more.

"WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat)" came on.

"Out here in the perimeter, there are no stars. Out here, we is stoned ... immaculate."

There are many of you out there who feel his poetry and lyricism are pedestrian,  because he is a rock star.

I can tell you as someone who learned all of his lyrics before college, there is profound reference to history and symbolism I realized only in my higher education, sitting in class, reading or hearing what he is actually singing about.

I know there are some who will say he is a self-destructive alcoholic, drug addict, and a womanizer. It took me a bottle of wine to write this blog, just so I could quiet voices.  Some from the animals being slaughtered for food, or in animal shelters, their pictures posted on my Facebook feed. Or to dampen the screams of those killed in a movie theater during the Batman shootings of Aurora, Colorado. Or to hide the images of the boy I love, now, halfway across the country, who is on a camping trip and undeniably having intercourse with any woman who tempts him. So I ask you, reader, how do you do anything while opening your mind without silencing those voices using a substance? I would love to know.

I don't consider myself an addict because when I wake up, I might be able to forget about the world long enough to walk my dogs or serve plates of bland, expensive food to the wealthy, but not when I lift the window in my mind to write, the same window that lets the Muse whirl in with the world clutching on her coattails, I can’t screen any of it out. So maybe I relate to Jim.

I left him sleeping.

Once I wrote my little prayer, I had to let it go. That is the very nature of prayers anyway, you say it, lift it to the skies, and hope it's heard.

My prayer, you may wonder, said:

"Jim, thank you for showing me the magic. Love . . ."