Life in the Harsh Light of Day

The Stone Age...More truthfully, the late 60s. Casa Grande was a small town in the middle of nowhere, only had a few shops, lots of bars, a drive in theater and the main theater downtown,  and you could probably walk the entire place in an hour and virtually everyone you saw on that hike you'd know, by reputation if not personally.

Pretty much true of all small towns. Not a whole lot to do for entertainment, legal anyway. We had a library over at Peart Park, looked like a miniature fort built out of Adobe, small, only four main rooms of books and a swamp cooler that would cause the books to curl during those hot days of summer. I spent a lot of time at that place, reading almost everything it had to offer and that included a bunch of biographies and autobiographies...For most this was as close to the outside world they'd ever come and dreams were what kept most of us going back then. We knew nothing about the unrest throughout the world, this is Arizona, after all and almost always run by the GOP...Or Nazi's. 

Maybe both.

Anyway, I read about the artists of old and dreamed of becoming one of them...I just didn't know how, yet. Every once in a while I'd read an autobiography from some famous, or once famous, person...Take Errol Flynn. Before he was a movie star he was just an average person who worked a variety of jobs, one of which was castrating sheep and in a method I won't go into here, but I will say I have never been able to get that image out of my mind (It involved his teeth)...These autobiographies almost always centered around all the sexual conquest of their time. Flynn was a long time before my world and I really didn't know much about the people he mentioned. Truthfully, the whole sex thing kind of went over this pre-teen's  head. 

That and I couldn't get the image of him and the sheep out of my mind by the time he started writing about sex...Really ruins the mood.
Flash forward to recent days.

Watching my dad die, sitting in the chair next to his bed all night while he simply breathed, never opening his eyes got me thinking about my life, all of our lives. Pretty much everyone wants to be rich and popular because we think it'll bring us some kind of fulfillment. During the last couple of months we've seen a lot of famous people take their own lives, men and women we thought had it all and we can't wrap our heads around why they took their lives. The whole autobiography/biography hasn't changed much...If anything it's become more vivid. 

Pictures. 

Lots of 'em.

From the time I entered college (Actually, just before then) I'd make the occasional trip to the local cemetery and draw under the shade of one of the trees, enjoying the solitude of the dead. All those people, most of them lived what we'd probably call simple, maybe boring, lives. I didn't care about who they slept with, didn't care about how much fortune they had, they had what everyone gets: A lifetime. Short or long...It was their lifetime.  

My family has a lot of secrets I'd like the answers to...Both parents were big  on keeping their secrets...And it use to bother the hell out of me. With today's computers we can pretty much find out about any and everyone by spending some time at the keyboard and monitor, maybe making a few trips to the county register, using the Freedom of Information Act (Good luck with that one), or working with what you know about that person and start from there...Sometimes you get lucky.

Most times not so much.

 It took me most of my life to reach a place where I'm comfortable in the skin I wear, even more comfortable about the thought of death, and those I care about know my secrets, know about the blood on my soul, the really strange things I've been through and I can honestly say I've actually lived instead of merely existing. Even that lost decade of the 80s where I drank, smoked and popped pills to the point of looking death in the eye had its adventures. Waking up in a part of town without knowing how I got there and realizing, hey, so not alone and those are not my boots sitting next to the sneakers I vaguely remember putting on (I hoped) yesterday, my moment when Sheriff Joe Apairo demanded to know my name because I pissed him off (Not my fault)...Way too many moments to list and more than a few heartaches as I watched a lot of friends die horribly.

When I created the 'Grail' story line it was about several characters who all possessed one or more of my traits...True of all writers...And as I wrote and drew and created I realized something...Everything about me, my writing, my art, my memories in the books sitting on my shelves, all of it is in the hands of those I leave behind. For all I know they might make a big bonfire and continue the tradition of rewriting history...Personal history, anyway. 

Michelangelo, the great artist/sculpture, had written poems to a man he loved and after his death his family changed the male to the female so the future wouldn't know about the heretic artist...The 'Church', so quick and willing to condemn same sex anything, had used his secret to get him to paint the Sistine Chapel. Anne Frank had an uncle who was gay and the family pretty much made his life vanish from her diary and publishers refused to print sections from the life of Anis Nin because she'd sought out the father she never personally knew and had an affair with him (Which, yeah...Weird). All history is rewritten by the living and the dead really have no say about it.

Well, today there's the Internet and, in my case, a really large FBI file (Don't recommend getting one). 

The bottom line is I fulfilled my dream of being a published writer and artist from back in the day when you had to work your ass of for, I've done almost everything on my 'Bucket List' and those I didn't get around to accomplishing...It was all about the journey, anyway. I've been interview, had gallery showings, and it's only now that I think I've found that place where I kind of know what I'm doing...

...More than most, I suppose.

All that's left of my dad is a small bottle of his ashes (My sister kind of gave some of his ashes to everyone important in his life) and she and I kind of dug out a place next to Mom's tombstone and put the rest of him there.

In a cardboard box with duct tape...He use to say there was nothing you couldn't fix if you had duct tape. 

There's a generation of grandchildren who know about him, some more than others, and as their children get older the stories will become bigger and probably turned into a joke...It seems the next generation likes to make jokes about people from before the Tech Age. Again, the dead are always recreated at the whim of the living.

We die. It's the one thing humans still do equally. Rich or poor, race doesn't matter, fame or neglect, we all have to leave this place. There are some who think they know what's next, there are those, myself included, who have had experiences they can't explain and tend to use religion to try and deal with events that could, if left unattended, drive a person insane. Heaven or Hell, reincarnation, oblivion...We'll find out what's next soon enough and I don't really sweat over it any longer. 

One last adventure awaits us all. Whether it's at our own hands or the hands of others or through some disease or accident waiting for us to find it, we can't escape our final fate. The best we can do is to make this world a better place when we leave than when we came into it...We can try, anyway. 

It's never been about the destination. It's about the journey, the good memories we hope will erase the bad we've done. It's what I want to be thinking about when the body quits and death embraces me and takes me on that next journey. If there is life after life I'd like to take them with me, the memories...If not, hey, it was fun sometimes, painful other times, and incredibly stupid most of the time but I've been lucky.

Maybe blessed.

I've made it here. To now. And the future can pretty much make up their own stories about me...Which, if there are any stories about me, is their right. The future can also kiss my ass because every step I took, whether I stood tall and straight or fell on my ass, has led me here. Hopefully I'll have a tomorrow as well but that's always a crap shoot in this day and time. 

Looking at one's life, analyzing all our actions and decisions and mistakes, can be painful. It can also be incredibly wonderful. It's life and it's what we all get.

A lifetime.

Don't waste it.
Thank you all for sharing yours with me.

later    

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