I spent the next two days doing as little as possible and that fine Tuesday morning i called Pops to have a good chuckle about just how much my relative worth was viewed around this place by a certain someone. There wasn't much to chuckle about though as my dad broke the news to me that he had cancer and most likely not something that could be treated. In fact he not only had one form he had two and as he stared down the end he was as calm and rational as he had always been. For my part i did my best to hold it together, telling him "i'll pretend to be tougher than i am but we'll get through this one way or the other." He said, "it's alright son, it'll be okay." We both knew what he meant and from there we had a philosophical discussion on life and death. When we hung up, i hobbled to the stereo and put on the Soft Bulletin by the Flaming Lips, sat on my couch, and cried.
One might say the last two years have been a transfomative period. I was already reading more philosophy but the steady diet of Alan Watts, Robert Anton Wilson and Terence McKenna increased and expanded. In came Sagan and Hitchens, a re-reading of the Upanishads and the Tao Te Ching, some Galeano, barely any fiction for a guy who spent the last 20 some odd years devouring it, some music biographies and a study of dub and reggae to balance out the heavy stuff. I spent the next nine months rehabbing a back and then a few months after saying goodbye to my father i got back in the pool.
The water has become my temple. It's where i think, it's where i feel the most relaxed, the most at home. Those first few weeks i struggled to swim 500 yards. It would take over half an hour with 30 second breaks between each 25 yard length. Today i breezed through 1500 yards in roughly the same time. Last week i swam 2100 yards in 40 and change. The breaks are few and far between now. Back then i used to go home and pass out. Now i go home and get on with all the things i have to do. Even on the days i drag myself to the pool by the time i'm 500 yards in i'm relaxed as i'll be all day. (Last Sunday morning the lifeguard couldn't figure out how to turn on the lights. It was overcast but some light was coming through the windows. It was gorgeous, the half light playing in the dusk of the water, when the lights finally came on i was almost finished but sad, i'd swim like that every day if i could, there was something there i can't put into words so we'll just call it beautiful.)
Between the water and the reading, between the weed and the shrooms, between the realization that there is only now and i should do my best to enjoy it as it comes, to not worry about what i can't control, not to worry about the things i have failed at or the things that i haven't or to put it more simply, in the words of Zen master Gendau, "If you understand, things are such as they are... if you don't understand, things are such as they are." And that is where i find myself today. There is happiness and sadness and joy and pain and without one there cannot be the other. To embrace it all is the only thing we can do and to let it flow like water not attempting to catch the good or toss away the bad, there is no point, it's impossible, all we can do is just what we do and attempt to do it with a modicum of grace and love even though sometimes we will fail wonderfully in the process.
I have this silly ritual in the pool, mainly because i'm a silly human who is prone to do silly human things. Somewhere near the end of my swim i ascribe a length or lap to certain things. It starts with a couple of goats and a dog (that the boyos were fond of in St. Lucia), then next comes my cats, living and dead, then some for Disaster, then Stretch, then Pops (which always starts with me telling him i love him and my first breath always looking to the window and the sky and clouds and trees outside) then one for the boyos and Pops together, then one more each for the boyos. These last two trips around the sun i've worked to practice patience and love and letting the anger go. I'm by no means perfect at it but i try. One could say that i've come to a better place but that wouldn't be exactly correct either. I'm just here, where i should be, doing what i do... which is really all i can do, dig?
Good on you with the swimming. And also The Soft Bulletin. I remember working at a record store when it came out and a guy from another record store said The Flaming Lips had the best album of the year. I remember thinking "The she don't use jelly guys?" But something about his conviction made me check it out, and holy shit. It's still one of my favorites. I went to see them on tour when they played the whole thing around 5 to 6 years ago or so. All killer no filler.
So I'm reading The Night of the Gun by David Carr, and it made me think of my friend Kono, and I'm wondering if you ever read it? When he writes about his past it reminds me a bit of the Lounge. His fondness for dope, obviously, but also his self-education by reading everything he could get his hands on, the elegance of his prose, his love of his kids, his introspection. If you haven't read it, it's a good one.
I love bieng in the sea (not pools so much). I find it almost spiritual, especially at dusk or night. I hope the lights in your pool fail more often!
there is a zen to swimming. the water takes us back to the womb. i'm so out of shape that it'd take awhile before i found that again, but i might just have to go try a few laps with the geriatric set at the nearby aquatic center. maybe that's what i need...
I'm quite shit at answering comments...
Dr. Noisewater - did you work at Championship Vinyl?
DofW- Thanks for the recommendation, i checked into that book and seems like something i should check out, i appreciate the fact that it wasn't only his love for dope that reminded you of the lounge ;)
looby- the ocean is my favorite place to be on the planet, the sound, the smell, the feel, every aspect of it is beautiful.
Daisy- to see where i am now from where i started is amazing, my typical morning now is cranking out 1500 yards with relative ease, on 1/21 i did 76 lengths, 1900 yards, my father would have been 76 on that day.
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