I started to write a post in August with the heading “Slow Loss”. Of course I never finished it. I can’t remember now why I chose those words but I’m back in Los Angeles where I wrote them again. The sunny skies and perfumed hedges in Venice Beach were a pleasant sensory shock after the storm and mess I left behind in New York. Some of what I left behind is now unrecoverable.
I always associate Los Angeles with summer, The Endless Summer of the movie poster, the sunny California of pop songs and hippies. When it got dark at 5:30 or the rain came, or the night was unusually cold, I felt disoriented. It was as if the dark moldy atmosphere of New York lurked in the shadows at night. Before leaving I’d given up a relationship after almost two years and a week later the studio I started living when I gave up the relationship was flooded, driving me out. With my belongings back in storage the protective custody was over. I’d had enjoyed and railed against both for almost two years after three years of near constant travel since UG died.
She was a warm, good-hearted person but I knew it couldn’t last. It’s always that way. I know it won’t last and yet I plunge in one more time for reasons anyone could understand. The studio was the first one I’d had in nearly 7 years. I left my loft on the lower east side half way through my association with UG. Now the new Under Ground comfort zone was washed out of my life and the warmth of another in the bed at night was gone. When the water was rising around me that night of the flood, I half hoped I was going to be relieved of the remaining possessions, my paintings, my books, all the things that still held my personal dreams in place. Alas, my sense of self preservation prevailed even as I thought maybe Siva’s words would embrace me, “On whomsoever my grace falls, I will strip them naked and leave them in the streets.” UG loved to quote that line. So maybe it’s more honest to say the flood gave me an excuse to put things in storage and leave. It was a shove to get out of that comfort zone, save my treasured belongings as I suspected I should and escape. I couldn’t fool myself anymore that I was ‘giving up’, but the retreat into the world of domesticity that presumably distracted me from writing was over.
While I was hanging around UG he did what he could to shove me out of my comfort zones. Trying to establish another one after that felt like a fall backwards. Finally the sensation of false comfort was getting to be too much and I had to end the relationship. I knew I couldn’t love her the way I would have had to in order to continue. I am still not sure exactly what love means, but between the words I guess I know it as much as anyone else. I keep saying I don’t believe in it, but really I don’t know what I believe in. I really cared about her, but after UG it was impossible to convince myself that this sort of life was for me. Hell, that was the case long before I met him. People tell me I loved him, but I don’t know if that’s true either. I was attracted to him, and as he said, that was its own action. It was an action I could no more ignore or control than the much more foolish things I’ve done all my life. This whole idea of control is ridiculous anyway. Here we are living on a thin layer of primordial ooze pulled along on the cross currents of the elements, feeding from the energy of that sun shining so brilliantly, indifferently, light years away. We squiggle and squirm along in patterns, skimming across the surface of this planet whirling in the cosmos, imagining that we are in control. It’s astonishing that we can imagine, let alone imagine something as impossible as that. UG’s company evaporated the meaning of words like control, self will, ambition. They’ve become flimsy words and their reduction has meant what little freedom I feel now. I suppose these losses of the past few weeks are also imagined. Still, no sense fooling myself, the imagination of me as I live through it, is a pernicious survival tool creating chemical disturbances we call emotions, drives, ambitions, in order to maintain itself. That part of the machinery that drives and sustains me has been in the system of this organism for millenia, long before my parents or their parents or their parents were grunting along forest floors in search of food.
“What do you want?” He would ask that question all the time. I want to quit smoking and I also want to smoke. The nicotine patch I was wearing made me sick last night when I went to bed. I tore it off and spent a long night fighting nausea. I had to get up and read. I watched UG on youtube, then a new episode of Homeland, then finally fell asleep around 4 am. This morning I found a cigarette under some papers on the desk where I was writing and cursed it. I was hoping I wouldn’t smoke again but I couldn’t get it out of my head. It sat there until I finally stepped out under the pure blue California sun and smoked it. I stood looking up at the sky. I had to piss. I like this place because people can’t see into the yard. I pissed into the garden, knowing no one could see me, or hear, or care. Then I turned and looked up over the tiny palm trees swaying over the fence under the sky. A white wire cutting horizontally across the sky from the roof was slowly crossed by a thin white contrail of the same density, creating a drawing on the big blue paper. For some reason I remembered about how when they told me about God as a child the word felt like a limit. What I felt when I looked around at nature was always hemmed in by words I used to talk about it. Maybe that was the beginning of the so called artistic impulse to try and contain, express it, through pictures, drawings, paintings, but the endless frustration is that nothing can contain that. It’s an impossible, ridiculous idea. Words can only draw a line indicating it, thereby reducing it. These words contain me like a security blanket in the infinite unbearable state of being completely alive. When I met UG for the first time, I didn’t feel any containment coming from his words. I’d never experienced anything quite like it. By being how he was, he was pulling the rug of the familiar from under me, my whole world was under siege. I didn’t realize it at the time because it was not familiar, yet it was completely alive. He was not talking about enlightenment, meditation, so what the fuck was he talking about? It was nothing I could say or describe. He was like an unbounded sky and the words came as small contrails etched and erased in an atmosphere that remained untouched, pure, endless. Now I know my childish gut instincts were right. This started its own rebellion, but I didn’t see for a long time that this feeling of being contained was rebelling against itself. Around UG I learned that you can easily fool your self but you can’t fool your own life. You can’t fool your lungs, or talk your heart into beating. There is no path. A path is a word. There are no words for life. It’s always there and it’s always unknowable. No matter what we think, sooner or later everything we know will all be swept away from us. Sooner or later.