And now for a slight detour... I'm incredibly skilled at navel gazing, in fact i can sit around and ruminate and ponder for hours on the state of any number of things, granted it doesn't make me money or get the gutters cleaned but it does help me understand the endless now that's been sliding by for the last almost five decades. I understand that the place i live is a place fixated on "success", the size of the house, the make of the car, the amount of ice sported and clout wielded (the last terms taken courtesy of the boyos and the new wave of hip-hop, fuck i'm old) but as we all know i'm not one for the conventional norms around these parts, i think my country is fucking ass-backwards when it comes to most things and that we are not nearly as advanced, civilized or cultured as we pretend to be. So now, though the pandemic and such keeps me from having to talk to that many people, when i'm asked what i do, a question i loathe, i reply i'm a philosopher. Honestly that should be a tip off that what i really do is smoke copious amounts of ganja, that i'm quite fond of magic mushrooms and a few other hallucinogens, and that i like to read books and scribble in notebooks. Simple really but i understand that most almost 50yr old men or supposed to be interested in other more productive things, like golf and the accruing of wealth, though i tend to see it as i am the productive one and not the consumptive (as in consumption of goods) one who spends his days giving away his most valuable asset (time) to the masters of the corporate oligarchy and the plutocrats. So what the fuck am i on about this time?
It was right before my 40th birthday, when i was living in a different house, in a different neighborhood, i had a job at the Big World Bank Machine, i had two small boyos, a mild pill habit, and was experiencing what might be called the Golden Age of the lounge. It was around that time when i decided to use the power of the internet to try and locate one of the more influential women in my life. Yes looking up old flames is often a dangerous game, one that could lead to any number of things, but this girl had such an impact on me i was curious to find out what had happened to her. It dawned on me that of the most important and influential relationships i'd had tended to be very short and very intense. Hence the impact and mark they left and yet also seeming to fit in with my diagnosis of my own personality. An addictive personality will always enjoy things that are intense and things that border on dangerous and dare we say unhealthy. While the unhealthy part might, and often does not, apply in certain respects to certain women, there is that rush one gets in any addiction that triggers those chemicals in the brain which makes us keep coming back to whatever the trigger is even knowing that it's a bad thing to do. Which brings us back to my search.
So how can something so brief leave such a lasting impression? When something burns that bright and hot it will undoubtedly explode but when caught in the middle of the storm one tends not to think about anything other than the now, and maybe that is where the beauty lies. The fact that it teaches one to live, not for tomorrow or yesterday but for the present, for the three inches in front of the face and for the five senses and beyond. It is a perfect storm and for a time, when situated squarely in the eye of that storm it is sweetness and light and all the rest of the universe is roundly ignored because at that point you realize you are the universe replete with all the pleasure and pain the universe provides. And so using my investigative powers and the lovely information superhighway i began my quest. I didn't take long really and then once in possession of how to get a hold of her i thus began the debate, should i contact her? maybe the last person she ever wanted to talk to again was me, the last time we'd seen each other i'd been such a raging shitbag i'm not sure i'd want to talk to me. I got ridiculously drunk and hit on her roommate and in general acted like a complete ass. It was now close to 15 years later and i'm sure i was the last guy to cross her mind and maybe the impression i left was one of a self-centered child. Of course there was only one way to find out so after carefully and thoughtfully composing an email i hit send.
And so began the wait... i wondered if i'd even hear back from her and a few days went by before i got the reply. She was thrilled, she said it had taken a few days to reply because she had needed to gather her thoughts, compose herself, she said she often wondered what happened to me and had resigned herself to the fact she'd never know. It turned out that for a few months we didn't live very far from each other as she had moved to the city to live with her boyfriend. She said she was always on the lookout for a tall and scruffy lunatic but our paths never crossed. She was firmly ensconced in the student section while i was just down the hill in the hood. She was married with two kids and true to form was just extricating herself from an affair. The truth was she was a bit of a mess at the time but was working on righting the ship, these days she has finally settled in and started her own business and is doing well.
As with most things in my life there is a soundtrack to this time period. We spent most of the summer partying at the whorehouse where i lived, getting stoned and screwing and living. Where Ya Been by Dinosaur Jr. was in heavy rotation as well as the Velvet Underground (hence the title of the post). The last time i saw her that year she spent the night at my apartment, The White Trash Pleasuredome, and it was there where i played her Gentleman by the Afghan Whigs, a record that so perfectly summed up our time together that she will be forever tied to it. But during the initial rush of writing back and forth she gave me what i call a most beautiful gift. It was an excerpt from a letter she had written to an ex-lover, not me mind you but someone she was attempting to free herself from. We all have an impression of our self but it's interesting when we get one from someone else, particularly when it was written with no intention of the person who it was about ever seeing it. And so when she sent it to me it was interesting to read it, to see exactly how she felt, about me and us and the time we had spent together, about what our protagonist projected into the world at that time. She described our young hero better than even he could have described himself. And so here it is...
"So i mentioned to you about a guy, Kono, from my past. We met in OC, i was 19, he was 22. I worked in this boardwalk t-shirt shop and he would walk by everyday (Note: i lived behind the place) and gaze. Fireworks from the start, holy shit. The rush for us both was intense. We spent the whole summer fucking, smoking pot, talking, fucking some more and writing letters about our desires for the other. I still have those letters and they mean so much to me. All i was and felt for him was poured onto paper, bared and exhibited for his eyes only. He was type of person that lived for passion, reckless, tortured, over indulgent, he wiped his ass with everything good in the world just to make his life seem more real. I loved him and he loved me. Even our arguments were filled with desire. I remember it all so well, sweet and dirty bliss. At the end i went back to school, leaving him broke my heart into tiny pieces. His presence captivated me so that i literally felt banished from reality when we parted. In the 15 years since knowing Kono i've never felt the way i did back then. Kono and i weren't meant to be and the whole summer we pushed and pulled until all the links that connected us were stretched and shattered like a string of pearls cut loose. As painful as it was to part he rocked my world and always will..."
Even now i laugh at how spot on she was in her description. She summed it up much better than i could have ever hoped to do. We saw each other a couple times after the summer. I made a quick visit to her university during my month of being homeless and couch surfing. A meeting that did not go well. I then saw her briefly at a concert she attended, it was at a club at the end of my street and i snuck in towards the end, we talked and exchanged numbers (in a time before cell phones) and she came up to visit one night a few weeks later. We did what he did best, we got stoned and screwed the night away, i played her Gentleman, we talked, slept a few hours and had another session in the morning before she caught her ride back to school. Two years would pass before we would see each other again... but that is a story for another time. It's funny, that kid in the paragraph above hasn't changed much, a little older and dare i say a little wiser, maybe he's a bit more mellow, but for the most part he's still here.
(The song that summed it all up... a blistering live version.)