from the mind of critic: 2019 and beyond

 

“If stories seem more real than the present tense, how do we learn their lessons and move forward, instead of living within them? Do we take events as they come in, staying so present in the moment, our sadness grows that it’ll end, instead our happiness growing because it’s gracing us with its presence? Do we analyze, strategize and visualize the best possible outcomes to equal the best possible future, causing our sadness to grow so monumentally when any authentic emotion flashes before us, that we white knuckle it with all our might? Do we lack experience, or have forgotten what experiencing real experiences was like? Do we only relate to the heartbreak and struggle of others, while failing to see the love and success integral to their survival? Is there a way we can live in the present, feeling its realness from the bottom of our feet, to the top of our head, to the core of our soul, specifically because we exert the personal effort to pick through all the shit which streams by on a 24/7/365 basis? Do we build on what serves us, deepening our connection to something so universal, that putting words to it produces a translation only understandable by us, excreting the knowledge others are seeking their translation, which all describe the same basic thing? Sometimes we use massive personal effort to reach long sought after dreams, only to see life throw us such a fucking curveball, that we don’t forget our dreams, but see them as so far out of reach, we don’t see any conceivable way they can be achieved, causing us to glom onto others, vicariously living through their failures, while realizing the curveball’s physical nature, which can be forgotten during the short time we live within its fiction, but whose 2×4 reality strikes us with such force, it constructs a sadness not previously known. We once again go searching for short term fleeting happiness, solidifying the exact cycle we must break out of, if we want to progress in the explicit direction we contemplate every waking moment. There have been few instances in my mind of critic musings, which feature me absconding from using the very natural “we” and “us”, in place of the “I” and “me” to make a point, but here “I” go. I’ve always found it vitally important to not simply take vacations, but spend time with old friends, who might as well be family due to the time I’ve known them, and experiences we’ve shared. This never fails to fill my soul, recharging my batteries so I get through not only the challenges life constantly hurls at me the moment I think I have it pegged, but the loneliness that erects one of the biggest roadblocks to my forward progress, I know from the bottom of my soul I can best. I try to take these excursions once a year, but would take them much more often if time and money allowed. I was planning on being gone for 5-6 weeks for my current trip, allowing me the quality visits I craved, so I could mentally and emotionally handle moving out of my 14-year home. Making matters worse was the fact this move wasn’t through choice, but force due to state disability running out December 31st 2019, deleting the only income I was able to gain because of a pinched nerve, herniated disc, stenosis, muscle pain and nerve pain, only made livable through using heavy meds; which thank god aren’t opiates.

I wouldn’t be in such hardship were it not for state disability lasting only one year, instead of the three I’d need it for, or SSDI not seeing, understanding or even wanting me to receive long term help, or not becoming more successful earlier in life, so I wouldn’t have to work a barely over minimum wage job for 10 and a half years, to afford a way underpriced apartment. But I digress, in the interest of moving forward, I must get back to my trip. I was planning on leaving for 5-6 weeks, returning to move from my apartment, to a new apartment my mom built over her garage, with new carpets, floors, kitchen appliances, washer and dryer, the works. A place anybody would be proud to call home, but more on that later. The trip started with the expected 14-hour drive, turning into 17 hours. Tired and extremely sore, I limped to my old friend’s place, which started alleviating my pain immediately. I spent time with them, then another friend, and then another and another. Each time spending at least a week, allowing myself time to enjoy what I’ve always thought of as a “real visit”. After the much-craved visits, I returned to my old friend’s place, to pack in as much energy as I could, before I trekked back north, and back to the forced reorganization of my life. A couple weeks before this scheduled departure, I ran into some car trouble. My clutch went out, and like any car problem, it can be traced to symptoms which may or may not have been ignored. Several weeks before my clutch took a shit and wouldn’t go into gear, let alone start. It all began with a noise that got louder and louder, until I couldn’t put off its repair any longer. Having AAA and using it many times, procuring a tow wasn’t a problem; neither was paying the expected heavy tab it would undoubtedly incur, because of a credit card my mom allowed me to use during authentic emergencies. This certainly being one of them, the normal pause I’d incur because I didn’t have the funds, wasn’t there. AAA easily towed the car as expected, to a shop 40 minutes from my old friends’ location. Once inspected by the recommended shops’ designated mechanic, I discovered that yes, the clutch was indeed shot. The flywheel was also burnt, and needed to be replaced. I was told my expected price of $700-$800 was way, way undershot, the actual price being $1700 and change. This included a new clutch kit, flywheel, and all other parts and labor. I had no other choice. I needed my car not only due to the 800 miles away from home I found myself, but the continued freedom of movement, which was another big reason I took this trip in the first place. Having dropped off my car on a Wednesday, and receiving a call two days later to pick it up, was extremely exciting considering my planned exit was the following Wednesday. Gone was the negativity of the day before, replaced enjoyment of my time away, and the strong, loving energy from spending time with people I care about, and who care about me. While these reestablished, Grand Canyon deep connections filled me up, I felt immense dread because I didn’t want this visit to end. I didn’t want these loving scenes to stop, and expressed it so in the starkest, most black and white way an old soul like mine could conjure. Even though it seemed like the end, it really was the first day of the rest of my life. Humans are provided a test but a few times in their life, to prove how authentic they, and their personality are.

This was one of those times. A Friday started like any other, birds chirping, oranges and pinks gleamed their magnificence on the horizon, and fresh coffee brewed on the stove We made, and enjoyed coffee faithfully cultivated in a French press, which expelled secrets of the universe with each sip. After we imbibed, we loaded up in the car for a day of errands, and gathering my chariot. After we got a miniscule 10 minutes from our starting point, we received a phone call that made us immediately turn around. This singular, and extremely short event, changed not only the course of my life, but the very control of my priorities, I spent countless hours bettering; which is why I must start over. It started so innocently that Friday morning, as so many “hope for a better future” mornings had before it. Woke up much earlier than I truly wanted, but that’s what happens when the nights’ cold over powers the coals in the wood stove. After the morning fire was built, and the icicles which formed had begun to melt away, it was time to make the coffee; which was how many of my mornings at home started; but this one was different, not better or worse, just different. I was surrounded by friends that were family, but became more so over the coming days. Anyway, we ground up a nice chunk of weed with some whole beans. When the product was placed in a French press with boiling water, it created a magical concoction, made even more perfect when combined with a fair helping of Salted Caramel Baileys. This truly was, and continues to be the elixir of the gods. Combine that with some dabs, a store-bought joint, and a beautifully prepared, hand rolled doobie of expertly manicured homegrown, whose cultivation techniques were bettered over decades. Enjoying all three with the delicious coffee, put us in a head space that we could handle whatever the fuck the day threw at us. Which on this particular Friday, was extremely needed. I was going home four days later, ending what had been one of the most recharging trips I’ve ever had. Combine that with the fact I was picking up my car with a hefty, $1700 repair bill. Needless to say, I was a little stressed, but happy I would at least have my car to drive; even if it cost me an arm, a leg, and some fingers just to re-instill a freedom that never should have left me in the first place. Sometimes we’re willing to pay a price for our freedom, the free will to go and come as we please. Paying a price we thought would fill an empty hole, and didn’t, but can become so if the courage to put work in is utilized. But I digress, after being sufficiently caffiened and baked with a world class hippie speedball, we loaded up in the car for what would be a day of errands, a good lunch, and then to get my car. We rumbled along during the five-minute drive to the highway, and start heading toward our first destination. Which I was excited about, because it put me one step closer toward reclaiming my chariot. After a few miles, a rock slide created a delay, which wasn’t huge, but delayed us long enough, that any sober person would’ve been mighty annoyed. We were fine, we’d have no problem waiting for the other lanes’ car to pass, allowing the pilot car to guide us forward during this unanticipated waiting period. This is when we received the phone call that changed everything. My friends’ husband broke his leg from a fall, and needed assistance.

The short blurt session didn’t provide many details, other than an extremely urgent need to turn the fuck around. The collective worry of the car, which counted four people including me wasn’t worried, because at least it wasn’t life threatening, but would be lots of work in the very near future. My friends husband had a stroke when he was 24, which cut off the use of his left side. Now 71, he not only made the best of things, he did things with one good arm and one good leg, most people couldn’t do with all their appendages in working order. Anyway, he had to use his right side, which considering it was his right leg that broke, the simplest of tasks might be extremely difficult. We turned around in a line of cars by way of an eight-point turn, and safely, but speedily headed back. As we turned back down the road, a sense of dread for this person we loved came over us, but wasn’t allowed freedom of movement because we were all immediately enveloped in the knowledge, that everything was going to be alright. We didn’t have any physical evidence to support this perception, but knew from the bottom of our souls, everything really was going to be okay. We meandered down the road, our collective brains worked as one cohesive unit, while singularly speeding through our individual perceptions, looking through the rose-colored glasses we’ve been constructing since we discovered a whole big world out there. The winding journey which seemed like hours, was only minutes. We didn’t get all the way back to the house before we saw in full, unimpeded glory, the target of our quick return.

There my friend’s husband lay in the road, with an umbrella held by a daughter to keep the scorching sun from blinding, and overheating him. We all gathered around, and as we intuited before, we knew he’d be okay. But he indeed would need assistance, and more than the regular human needed to appropriately move forward. Apparently, he had been walking up to start a generator, which allowed a pump to fill their water tanks, via a very well drilled well. This was a daily walk, as my friend’s husband like to have it run a few hours a day, enough to top off the tank. That way he knew how much water they indeed had, as well as have the pace of mind that we wouldn’t run out when using it for routine activities, making coffee, washing dishes, etc. My friends live on their own property off the grid, with a well for their water, solar panels hooked to storage batteries for their electricity, and of course propane for their stove; and even the fridge, which allowed them to use less power. This lifestyle was not always easy, and could always be better, just like anything in life, but it allowed a certain freedom that could never be had in a city; or even the residential, or scattered rural neighborhood. It’s something intangible that can fill a soul like nothing else on earth, but more on that later. By the time we unloaded out of the car, I realized other friends and family members helped my friends’ husband be comfortable, and provided the vitally important concept of moral support. We’d have to wait for yet one more family member to arrive, so we could load up my friends’ husband in a family members van, and get him to the hospital.

During this 30-minute wait, there were beers drank, joints smoked, and snacks munchied on. It was a veritable party in the road, complete with lawn chairs and blaring music. After lots of crazy running around, I discovered that while my friend’s husband had been walking to the water pump generator, like he had done countless times before, his three dogs of 70, 80 and 90 pounds respectively and very sweet, were running around playing and biting at each other; also like they had done countless times before. Except this time, they didn’t see him walking, and bowled him right over, causing him to feel and hear his right lower leg snap. This being the weight bearing bone, and the same one he had broken several times before, most people would’ve called an ambulance immediately. Some people are stubborn yes, but sometimes they want to hold onto some control in their life, when it seems like some of it has slipped away. This was not only understood, but becoming glaringly more apparent as the days cruised by. Also, more on that later. Once the awaited family member finally showed up, empty beer cans, food wrappers and other miscellaneous party remnants, embossed the landscape with an undeniable aura of love, light and fun. Something whose importance was also becoming more apparent. We loaded up my friend’s husband in another family members van, for the 40-minute ride to the emergency room. As four vehicles followed, we formed a nervous, anxious and scared, but loving, hopeful and peaceful caravan. The concept that when one of us in pain, we all are. I knew of this idea, but forming in front of my eyeballs was yet one more example of perception coloring a life changing event; whose silver lining fades in and out, the clarity of which depends on the love we emit. We made the mad dash to the hospital, and arrived in faster than expected time. It was a chaotic scene unloading my friend’s husband onto the hospital wheelchair, while others anxiously craved parking spots, so they could return to the side of one of their own. Once he was safely on the wheelchair, and wheeled in to have the doctors check out his dog’s handiwork, I was finally given the ride to pick up my car, and the oh so fun task of paying the $1700 bill. Which was barely bothering me by the time we got there, because my concern was massively elsewhere. It’s funny how the importance of events can shift, and I’d argue for the better when the understanding of our priorities become 2020, definitely more on that later. After paying the bill, receiving a two-year warranty and picking up my car, I decided the biggest thing we needed was food. It had been and was such a stressful morning, all of us were in desperate need of nourishment. I stopped at an In-and-out and grabbed all of us lunch, and was fairly proud of myself that for $45, I got enough to feed eight people. Anyway, I returned with the much-needed sustenance, all of our group was eternally grateful for. As we inhaled our double doubles, and sucked down our shakes, I found out my friend’s husband had seen the doctor, who found a diagonal break in his right lower leg, and a hairline fracture in the upper leg that wasn’t nearly as bad, but still needed care. Hour after hour after hour went by, countless fresh air breaks, safety meetings, and doctors’ opinions being expressed while my friends’ husband sat in a wheelchair he received from his insurance.

All of a sudden, we were told to come back Monday for a consultation, and wheeled back to the parking lot for the ride home. Well, not his home, but to another family member’s house, because their couch was available, and could be accessed from a ground level path. This predicated a need for a ramp to be built, so he could wheel into his own house. As we smoked our final joint before the journey back, and undoubtedly more doobies on said trip home, we wheeled over to the van, to put my friends’ husband in the front seat. After much grabbing, holding and lifting, we discovered there was no way of getting him in the van’s front seat, the back of which we brought him down in. All other family and friends there, and not there for that matter, all had trucks and SUVs, which carried with them an equally high passenger seat. The only other option, which became immediately apparent, was my car. I was the only one with a sedan, which had a lower passenger seat, and therefore much easier to get into. Once we all realized he could get into my car with much less effort, we saw we had a guaranteed way of getting our beloved family member home. That moment was yet another turning point, in fact the main turning point guiding the next good chunk of my life. Something that would make me once again question what was really important, which always had and always would present itself whenever it felt like it was most needed, no matter how chaotic or inconvenient it might be. Anyway, the couple doobies we smoked on the way back calmed us to no end. He had to stay the first couple nights at a friend’s place, because of level entry to the couch he’d be sleeping on.

The only reason for this delay was a ramp which needed to be built to accommodate his wheelchair, in place of the 3 steps that existed. This was but yet one more example of the close family bonds I hadn’t felt in a long time, which produced an 18-year-old not only producing materials and building said ramp, but also designing an exquisitely accurate blueprint that anybody with even a measure of building experience could’ve built. A call wasn’t made to a contractor they couldn’t afford, family members came together, and just got it done. This was the beginning of the positive energy I should’ve taken advantage of, had I known what would transpire over the next few months. We rolled my friends husband through his door two days after the accident, which carried with it a doctor appointment the next day to get it casted up. A bed made up in the living room would hold the family patriarch, which full of love, joints and painkillers, he’d be just fine. This was a continuation of the feeling I had earlier, I didn’t know how or when, but something was screaming from the bottom of my soul, that everything would be fine. Some might describe this as having faith in the unknown. Feeling something so strongly that something changes in the brain, convincing the rest of us something is undoubtedly and authentically real, when it’s actually a figment of our imagination. This wasn’t that, this wasn’t faith, this was something I wasn’t just picturing because I wanted it to happen, this was something I was only beginning to understand, let alone apply. For if I did have the experience of this not quite describable feeling, and 110% confident in its existence, I would’ve been much more prepared for what the doctors said the next day.

We discovered the cast would have to be on for six to eight weeks, which is completely understandable for a diagonal break. Thank god surgery wasn’t needed, so long as the break healed the way it was supposed to. What was starting to sink in, and what we discovered repeatedly getting my friends husband in and out of my car, was my vehicle was literally the only one he could get in and out of. Everybody else had the trucks and SUVs, and my car’s front seat was height with his wheelchair. This entailed me extending my trip for that six to eight weeks, so I could help when these family members really needed me, including my long-time friend, and keeping her sane by smiling and laughing. That’s what you do when somebody you really love needs you, you just act, period. You don’t pause, you don’t question, you just do. While under normal circumstances this wouldn’t have been completely fine, but something much easier to handle. I only bring this up, because I was firmly planted in the knowledge that I was going to have to leave my apartment at the end of January. This would allow me some time to pack up the beloved space I called home for 14 years. However, my mom had told the owner of my building I’d be leaving at the end of December, so I’d crowded time to pack, but still time. This made sense on a logical level, save a month rent, considering my state disability was ending the end of December, leaving me with absolutely no income come January 1st. but from a physical and emotional standpoint, this tore me up. I wouldn’t even be present for the moving of my home, which guaranteed upon my return to Humboldt, I’d never see again if I didn’t want to.

Nor would I get to spend my mom’s birthday, Thanksgiving, or Hanukkah with her; which for others who have lots of family members around all the time, it might not be a big deal to not spend it with one of them. But for me, as somebody whose mom is their only close family, it started making me really sad. For 15 years in a row we had done all of life’s important events together, and now because of unforeseen circumstances, we couldn’t. I didn’t know what to do or what to think, because here I was, losing my place, feeling disconnected from my mom, and away from what had been my life, feeling like I didn’t have control over anything. It would be one thing if I was trying to control everything, but I’ve always been somebody who tries to balance controlling what he can, with accepting what he can’t. I know that sounds like the serenity prayer, but fuck it, I don’t care. Considering this balance took years of toiling struggle to achieve, and was far from perfect, as well as the knowledge it never would be, it hit me like a million tons of bricks, because all semblance of any inkling of control was ripped from me. What compounded this further, was once my mom started realizing she and a few of her friends, would basically have to move my entire place, followed by the physical task of pulling it off, which brought forth the physical and emotional pain that goes along with a disabled person, pushing it to the very limits of what their mind and body could handle. This made the rest of the year mighty stressful on me, compounding and exacerbating the already building emotional and physical pain I felt when my back shot started wearing off. The initial feeling of how this was one of the few times in a person’s life, when they get tested to see what kind of person they actually are, not simply the one they portray to outsiders, or to themselves; that feeling was and is still there, but was itself getting tested through constant antagonization by mom, for simply being the person she raised me to be. As 2019 ends and 2020 begins, may the symbolic and realistic nature of the year that it is, provide a clearer picture of what this is all leading to. I know looking for what it’s really all leading to is a fool’s errand, because we’ll never truly know. But getting some picture, clue or idea of what this may or may not be leading to, would be immensely helpful. There are many things I want, and would like to see happen in the new year. Success with my books, finding my “Christina”, and loving myself have been goals of mine since I wanted to positively change the world, but felt a loneliness that only seemed to get worse with time. Those feelings are still there, but added now to the list is the deepening of connections I’ve been only too lucky to have been graced with. My time was even extended past the original six weeks I thought I’d be needed for. Now it’s kind of open ended when I won’t be needed by family anymore, and when I’ll be emotionally stable enough to start this next stage of life; which is stressing me out to the point it’s scaring me shitless. In this new year, may 2020 not just be the year on the calendar, but the vision with which I view everything going on in front of my eyeballs, not just behind them. This moment is the scariest fucking thing I’ve ever been through, may I have the courage to make it through to the as of yet unrealized “other side”; which may not only be more beautiful than I could imagine, but may be exactly what I’m looking for, which I won’t even know exists unless I continuously and lovingly keep moving forward. May we all have courage to keep moving forward with increased clarity, through the increasingly beautiful understanding of who we truly are.”

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