Soundtrack, “Fountain Of Sorrow” by Jackson Browne
I can still remember the day I met you some forty years ago…..although it doesn’t seem that long ago? I was walking in the quad area when I noticed this kid sitting on the lawn with his legs lazily stretched out. You were leaning back with your elbows keeping you propped up. You sat right there by the senior walk appearing not to give a shit about convention or conformity. I liked that right off the bat. Somehow I knew we were destine to be the best of friends.
You were wearing one of those T shirts with a single breast pocket. There was brown clay from ceramic’s class clinging to your well worn Levi’s. Later, your pants of choice would be a pair of tan Dickies. On your feet were a pair of white slip on tennis shoes. Your long brownish hair was pulled back into a scruffy ponytail and you sported a formative mustache—-not bad for a fifteen your old kid. You lounged calmly as the bells were ringing and kids hurriedly came and went——-you were you, just being you, no excuses or regrets. I was attracted to your nonchalant coolness. I told myself “I got to meet this dude”.
So, I walked up to you and mumbled “Hi”. You tilted your head back while squinting up into the autumn sun and replied “Hi”.
I don’t know how we went from a simple “Hi” to being best friends, but I believe somethings are meant to be—–and uncoincidentally I made your acquaintance just when I desperately needed a best friend. I remember going to your house in Terra Buena and you had a bunch of strange houseplants. You pointed out the different plants and told me their botanical names. I thought “Damn, this guy is pretty smart”. The only plant I could ID was weed. Your mom and dad were nice to me and always took the time to ask about my life and plans. I would mutterer something to them about wanting to start a rock band, or maybe the following week I was going to be a pro kickboxer. They made me feel comfortable, even though I was just a dumb teenage kid stumbling from one day to the next. In spite of my carrousel of aspirations they remained interested and encouraging.
I detected that at some level we were both undeterred outcasts chasing something neither one of us could articulate. It was hard to be that young, yet so lonely and scattered. We were both looking for our place in this big world. It was comforting to have someone like you to confide in and share my thoughts. I remember it all so well. I can’t go back in time and thank people who helped me in past, but I can send this simple letter of gratitude.
After all these years, I’m glad that we remain best of friends, although I’m still a bit scattered and lonely.
The world is overflowing with writers but it gives birth to few warrior poets. A writer will tell you the temperature of a room, the hues of a dying day, the silent movement of shadows on pavement, the changing phases of the moon or maybe describe the light cast during a particular time of day in autumn. A poet bypasses all this obvious crap, but instead shines a blinding light on the darkest corners of your soul—–cause deep down we’re all the same, we share a common misery, we suffer a shared sadness—–and once a poem takes you there, you’ll never come back the same.
You can fall out of love with someone and still get it back. But, once you fall “Out of like” with a person it’s gone forever———irretrievable——irreversible. We fall in love for crazy reasons. You may love someone for their hair, for the shape of their ass, or maybe its the car they drive. It may be the clothes they wear, or what they look like naked. Sometimes it’s the title attached to their name, their possessions, or the size of their bank account. Love’s a superficial and primal emotion that can lead to murder——-to madness—–to jealousy and pandemonium—–not to mention unintended pregnancies and failed marriages. Love makes fools of us all. The fruits of love is bedlam—–it decays ones ability to reason. You stumble around love drunk, saying and doing things you’ll regret in the morning.
Its possible to live with someone you no longer love, but living with someone you no longer like can drive you to homicidal fantasies. If you no longer love someone, you can still exist as roommates. You can divvy up expenses and household chores—–you can even share a pizza and a movie. But once you no longer like someone it becomes extremely painful to be in the same room, breathing the same air.
To be “In like” with someone is to be enamored with the way they carry themselves. It’s who they reveal themselves to be in a dark musty hotel room at 3:12 am on a rainy Tuesday—-after the buzz has worn off——- and the loud music is replaced by dark confessions——modesty and clothes lay tangled on the floor———all the piddly ass small talk gives way to restive honesty. There’s no place to hide once we’re stripped of our vanities.
Love is the illusion of what you hoped another person to be——a fleeting mirage composed of phony pleasantries, a facade concealing an alien beneath the mask. Authenticity is the rarest of human commodities.
Liking someone is how the other person makes you feel about yourself. I like how Maya Angelou put it “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” A friend helps you untangle who you thought you were from who you no longer want to be.
You’ll know a true friend cause they give you energy when you feel like giving up. Their presence makes you smile. They make you laugh at yourself——at the world——-at the futility and absurdity of it all. They’ll open your eyes and mind to unforseen possibilities? Their sadness makes you sad. They’ll turn an ordinary day into something extraordinary. If stranded on a desert island this is the person you’d choose to have by your side. They’re the one you want to share your time with, because time is all life really is. They make you feel alive? When you’re “In like” with someone, you want nothing to be different then the way they are.
We’re living in sandcastles waiting and watching as high tide slowly creeps ever closer. The waves are unrepentant, they crumble the walls you’ve built brick by brick over a lifetime.
(This piece is intended to be read while listening to the attached song “Long May You Run).
All those late nights driving in my truck, driving to your place and feeling everything—-, never questioning what the journey might bring, or for that matter, where it may lead. Strange but true, being young allowed me to make mistakes, cause there was plenty of time to make things right again. These days, I choose my mistakes more carefully. That old song kept playing on the tape deck, “I Believe In You”—Or maybe it was “Out On the Weekend” or “Long May You Run” I kinda forget, but it was something by Neil Young. I can still hear that sad harmonica of his wobbling in and out of tune. It rained that whole month of January, a cold dampness permeated my clothes, the cab of my truck and it eventually soaked the roof of my soul, causing it to cave in from the weight of it all. I needed a friend, but I hadn’t yet learned the subtleties of making a friend. I was awkward, odd and shy, skulking about my hometown—aimlessly—-in a state of waiting, not knowing what to make of this life I’d unexplainably been pushed into.
A world of strangers meandered by me, through me—and then back out the other-side—they kept moving somewhere beyond me—without me.
The pretty girls we’re a strange and confusing breed for me to grasp. I stood on the corner leering at them, fascinated yet unsure of what to do—or how to get with one of them? They drew me in with their sweet scent—-my eyes trailed after them as their bodies gracefully and rhythmically moved through space. They nonchalantly carried away little pieces of me—
Before this, my dog was my only friend. He took me just the way I was—like only homeless mongrels and fellow outcast can do—it’s an off-handed world when you’re walking through it alone.
I hurried through the school quad trying to keep a safe distance from the jocks, preppies, motor-heads and the brainy-acts. With my head held down, I glanced over to the senior walk and there you were stretched out on the lawn, tan Dickies, white T shirt with one pocket and your hair pulled pack in a pony tail. You were just sitting there with your head tilted back soaking up the sun on your face. You we’re totally out of place, a fucking dandelion on the fifty yard line at a Home Coming football game—-I somehow knew we were destined to be the best of friends.
I was drawn to your indifference to all the bullshit that coats high school with pretension and posturing. It was totally out of my character but I walked up to you and mumbled, “Hey”. You squinted and tilted your head in the other direction and nodded at me. I’d noticed that your pants had dirt or mud all over them. “How come you’ve got mud all over your pants?” “I’m a potter.” “Ya mean a stoner?” You shook your head and gave me a grin “No, I do ceramic’s, I make pots—-And well—-yeah, I get stoned too.” I grinned back at ya—, the Gods had sent me a friend.
We’d cruise the avenues, boulevards and backroads of our hometown in his 1962 Ford Falcon wagon. It was a faded olive green color with peeling paint that revealed an oxidized rusty orange color beneath—she was weathered and worn—she had character and suited us well. We drank beer in dark deserted parks, made campfires down at the river-bottoms and practiced the art of hanging-out. We carried on long involved conversations about Kerouac, Jesus and Star Trek—Oscar Peterson, Poe and Zap Comic’s—Chinese Food, Luis and Clark, and the yet uncharted territories of love. We were committed to our dreams—carrying on our discussions until late in the night, planning extravagant adventures to foreign lands—-the mountains we’d ski, the rivers we’d raft and the challenges we’d conquer. We we’re on fire for everything and for everybody, talking a million miles a minute—speaking with confidence as we bolstered one another’s courage, or maybe it was just youthful bravado —-no topics were off limits—-honesty and authenticity were the dues paid for membership in our exclusive club. Our talks always led back-around to that same enigmatic topic—Girls, those illusive creatures that mesmerized, mystified and mortified us—-some things never change.
We fancied ourselves Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty from “On The Road” but by the reactions of the girls we tried to impress, we were perceived more as Beavis and Butt Head—-, to be mocked as Thelma and Louise would have been an improvement.
We had our deep philosophical talks but it was our humor that sustained us, we laughed at ourselves and the state of the world, we were immortal, all things were fixable—-time was on our side (A Rolling Stones reference)…
Some things change and some things stay the same. In many ways I am still that awkward, odd and shy dude from years past—-a pariah to the mainstream. But these days I’m comfortable in my own skin,—beneath my chipped paint and fading color beats a youthful heart–an idealist to some, a fool to most—-but I like it that way—Juck-em—if they can’t take a foke—hahaha!
How are you my old friend, my potter and fellow romantic? I remember it all fondly, as if it were just yesterday—and for a moment I’m ridding shotgun as you drive us down some dirt-road out in the boondocks, we’ve got a six pack of beer and much to discuss—-Neil’s voice sings his high pitched lonesome song in the background—-and once again, you bring a grin to my face.