“Fun” & Loathing

15-July-2011 00:05~00:55. Fifteen days prior was 18, so this must be 16, as it follows every year, as it has since 18 was two and 16 was the Elevens and the clock struck midnight, then 12:05, and then I finally fell unconscious, dozed off after several hours—was it really almost 6 hours, or has remembering rewritten that into a much larger number?—6 hours hitting the button every 15 minutes on the home pump to deliver that extra bolus of morphine.

Schedule 3 Narcotics are a Very Important Thing in the eyes of the law, puritanical tight asses that who want us to Just Say No to anything that might bring pleasure or even relief (which really, is just an edge-case form of pleasure, if you consider it when measured against Hell Fire), unless you get off on violence. Violence is great. Violence is purifying. Ask the Crusades. Just don’t ask any non-Christians. Their violence might as well be pleasure.

Or a Schedule 3 Narcotic.

Because way back, all the way back in 1995, there existed the technology to codify and thus enforce the prescriptions of an MD into the electronics of the home pump mechanism itself: it was Allen’s home pump carrying morphine to the already-non-responsive corpus that had used to be the seat and center of the soul of the man I’d loved, but he was no longer in it, and by a day at least: that would be 24 hours on the devices which measured such things dutifully even after I had already long since lost the knack for quotidian anythings.

Death makes everything mundane, and It makes nothing else unimportant. It makes everything besides the upcoming End quaint, and does nothing but lay bare Its Own Essence: that Death Itself deserves no capitalization after all for its own event, because death is nothing.

And by that I do not mean to walk you down a primrose path only to push you off a cliff where the path abruptly ends: the Void.

Unlike so many self important (and yet shockingly simultaneously self loathing) men I have known, I am never cruel.

I have let others see my frustration in the repeated aloneness I feel when I invite potential mates up to the curtain of mystery/knowledge/intimacy/thing-requiring-attention-span-longer-than-required-for-what-passes-for-“fun”, but that’s my trip, not a full spread of transitive verbs intended for the ones who disappointed me.

This is not to say that there aren’t those who come gunning for me, the ones who may find this very marking of the 16 year interval between now and the death of Allen Howland to be morbid or obsessive or any of those words that people bandy about when they’re actually out of their depth so they just throw sheets of meaning down over a concept and hope they get full coverage and prevent daylight from getting through. No-daylight is tantamount to Rightness.

Yeah, right.

Fun is a good thing, but only when it spoils nothing better.
—The Sense of Beauty, MIT Press, 1988, p. 155

All this is also not to say that those who have heard this quote from Santayana (and apologies to the memory of the man for the long shadow that bumper sticker aphorism has cast over his far more nuanced, involved works) and scoff at it don’t stop at the scoffing, but expend energy in order to justify “fun” as the storied Better Thing. And then go ahead and resent me for tacitly having required that expenditure.

This is how voluntary ghettoes are formed and maintained: Shut out dissent first, then watch as your ability to cope with conflict atrophies considerably—and swiftly. But then you then have to also shut out heterogeneity of thought and opinion, not because they cause conflict (they don’t), but rather because heterogeneity/variety is a potential, indirect source of conflict.

Eventually you have to pare vocabulary, too, because words require judgment even in speaking them, and having already judged, you put something out there subject to interpretation of meaning, because words are blunt, barely-aimable objects after all. So in paring vocabulary, but still needing to communicate, you go for proto-linguistic vocalizations and dress them up as “fun” or “identifying traits”.

A “woof” here, and a “grrr” there and you’re off to the races, meeting someone new, taking him home or back to your tent, “funning” the “fun” out out of him. Or letting him “fun” the living “fun” out of you. Consequence-, meaning- and chance-of-conflict- free.

Chock full of “fun” and absolutely no opportunity for a shot at anything better.

And so, while deaths themselves truly are nothing, their effects on those who remain to mourn and to remember and to continue are truly profound, and what people forget is that those ripples caused by a given event are not restricted to surface phenomena: the waves radiate in all directions, and travel to depths unseen even more swiftly than they disrupt calm surfaces in that beautiful concentric imagery we all know so well.

Here I am 16 years later, and of course it’s not to say that there haven’t been my own something-wonderfuls. And it’s not to say, again, of course that there haven’t been horrors in my life as well. But the horrors were nearly all a result of the wonderfuls having been suborned by “fun” at the near total expense of all of the Somethings Better that we had going on.

And in the worst times, unsurprisingly, there were plenty of people gunning for me, plenty of less-than-people avoiding conflicts by explaining things away, paring vocabularies, reducing conflict by avoiding conflict by avoiding confrontation by avoiding truths by avoiding conversation by avoiding one of us, all on the descent vector towards woofs and grrs, and all along the way, “fun” was on the ascent towards the top of the priorities list.

For everyone else.

As for my priorities, in health and then in sickness, priorities remained intact: love, intimacy, care, sharing, fun, respect. All in proper order, all withstood it all.

Before and, even for a short while after, the non-event of his death 16 years ago today.

The Pineapple Fields

30-June-1993. To prepare the day, She walked out into the evening through Her Pineapple Fields, a large bowl under Her arm and, reaching in and casting out, She threw the stars by handfuls into the violet dome of twilight sky.

Her labors were for me: She had sown in Her skies a greeting only for me, I imagined, and I had been late for it, not arriving until well after dark almost past the witching time.

Being late for your own beginning is not the best first impression to make, but then again when you’re on your way Home, you’re in time-running-backwards and you set your own double-naughts on that clock and the last grains to run out of the sandglass will fall onto Ocean Beach only when you are there at the surf’s lip to release them yourself.

Having arrived far too near to the double-naughts on the Pacific Daylight’s clock to my liking—sixteen and a half hours after I put my hands on ten-and-two-o’clock and started my third and final day of driving with no AC and only Wyoming’s, Nevada’s and California’s Central Valley radio stations for company—even the calendar was nigh on hitting its own witching time to roll itself into July.

I did arrive, of course.

3986655147 b57b48e3ff (click on the photo for much larger size)

And the Sky! And Stars! Our Dome of Sky, a cosmic bowl turned upside down and lit from everywhere and nowhere. The Stars freshly sown that still seem to tempt us all to climb the hills, some tiny part of each of us fancying that once at the top, if we just reeeeeeach up high enough….


And that perfect gem would be ours to—to what? I still believe that no one of us would ever keep a Star thus captured. It would be enough (enough! Was there ever a more inadequate concept?) to have touched the Star! the Sky! for even that Moment. We wouldn’t even tell the story to anyone, but not for lack of believability: You San Franciscans out there would never dismiss such a story entirely, if at all.

MoonPhaseIn eighteen years, I still see the look in my fellow denizens’ eyes that they have stories, too. Stories, and Stories. Like this. And like nothing you’ve ever heard before. And all of them are true.

Because they happened Here. And Here is nowhere else on Earth.

So yes, back up that Star would go, arm casting out, throwing it into that impossible violet, impossible dome of sky, to let it find its own place among its Sisters.

As we all have done in our twinkling, shining City.

So many nights since then I’ve looked up, and out, and within, and seen the same twinkling, shining magic. So many perfect nights, too, like that long ago perfect night—well, almost perfect: The Moon, ever willful, would end up requiring a few more days for perfect fullness. So San Francisco, earthbound, has her limits after all—just don’t tell her that.

Eighteen years now and I still haven’t told her. Who would believe a story like that?