A good friend of mine gave me a small gift in 2011. It was an audio book of short stories from the artist Miranda July titled, “No One Belongs Here More Than You”. I was unfamiliar with Miranda’s work and researched her before reading - discovering that she was either fawned over by the uber-hip crowd or despised by the hipper-than-the-uber-hip-crowd. I was somewhat impartial to her work - a bit irritated but still impressed by the effort, the drive, and the volume of it. Maybe I was a little jealous too.
That was with her visual work though. The book was another story. I was hooked from the first line and listened without a pause through the end. I was overwhelmed with the desolation and the heartache. I was amazed with her ability to create such amplified fictional characters that somehow blurred the line between the heroic and the mundane. The stories were so exaggerated but so real and so believable. At the time, I couldn’t relate to these haunted tales. I certainly can now.
A wonderful excerpt from the sixth story in the book, “This Person”, can be read here.
Order your own personal copy here.
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“If you are sad, ask yourself why you are sad. Then pick up the phone and call someone and tell him the answer to the question. If you don't know anyone, call the operator and tell him. Most people don't know that the operator has to listen, it is a law. Also, the postman is not allowed to go inside your house, but you can talk to him on public property for up to four minutes or until he wants to go, whichever comes first.”
“Are you angry? Punch a pillow. Was it satisfying? Not hardly. These days people are too angry for punching. What you might try is stabbing. Take an old pillow and lay it on the front lawn. Stab it with a big pointy knife. Again and again and again. Stab hard enough for the point of the knife to go into the ground. Stab until the pillow is gone and you are just stabbing the earth again and again, as if you want to kill it for continuing to spin, as if you are getting revenge for having to live on this planet day after day, alone.”
“This person mourns the fact that she has ruined her one chance to be loved by everyone; as this person climbs into bed, the weight of this tragedy seems to bear down upon this person’s chest. And it is a comforting weight, almost human in heft. This person sighs. This person’s eyes begin to close, this person sleeps.”
“I don’t believe in psychology, which says everything you do is because of yourself. That is so untrue. We are social animals, and everything we do is because of other people, because we love them, or because we don’t.”
“We had loved people we really shouldn't have loved and then married other people in order to forget our impossible loves, or we had called out hello into the cauldron of the world and then run away before anyone could respond.”
“In the recurring dream everything has already fallen down, and I’m underneath. I’m crawling, sometimes for days, under the rubble. And as I crawl I realize that this one was the Big One. It was the earthquake that shook the whole world, and every single thing was destroyed. But this isn’t the scary part. That part always comes right before I wake up. I am crawling and then suddenly I remember: the earthquake happened years ago. This pain, this dying, this is just normal. This is how life is. In fact, I realize, there never was an earthquake. Life is just this way, broken, and I am crazy for dreaming something else.”
-Miranda July, No One Belongs Here More Than You
“God, but life is loneliness, despite all the opiates, despite the shrill tinsel gaiety of "parties" with no purpose, despite the false grinning faces we all wear. And when at last you find someone to whom you feel you can pour out your soul, you stop in shock at the words you utter - they are so rusty, so ugly, so meaningless and feeble from being kept in the small cramped dark inside you so long. Yes, there is joy, fulfillment and companionship - but the loneliness of the soul in its appalling self-consciousness is horrible and overpowering.”
-Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath
"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds."
I went to visit a friend at an AirBNB last night. After that, I had dinner with him and four other friends. When dinner was complete, I stopped by the home of two other friends to pick up some belongings I had forgotten the last time I visited. When I returned to my house, I received a text from another person inviting me to a formal dinner for eight at his elegant home next weekend. Then, I picked up my amazing daughter from a late shift at work. We went home and had a pleasant hour together before retiring to bed.
It sounds like a pretty good night, huh? A night full of loving people who are quite delightful to be around and who sincerely care about me. But all the while, I have this cloud in my soul that just looms and prevents me from experiencing joy.
In the darkness of heartbreak, I've had no happiness and I don't expect to ever truly be completely happy. I'm not "speaking" that into my life. It is just a fact. I don't think anyone can be completely happy. You've probably seen skits involving actors where someone off camera will be directing the subject to show emotion and say something like, "Think of the saddest thing that's ever happened to you." All of us can think of the saddest thing that's ever happened to us and it will prove to take you to an unhappy place. Understanding the difference between happiness and joy is something I have to work through. Right now, I don't think I have either. My perception is that happiness is something that is beyond my control but joy is a choice made through some type of connection.
I laughed last night. Those moments were glimpses of joy. My problem is that I am so hyper-aware of it that I immediately analyze that occasion and dislodge it by choice with my looming heartbreak. It is extremely important for me to nurture connections with my children, my family, my friends, my passions, and most of all - my God who (if I allow it) will, through joy, heal this broken heart.
My personality has always been one of resistance. It is evident in every aspect of my life. Maybe I'll surrender one day and be able say, like the great Percy Bysshe Shelley:
“I have drunken deep of joy,
And I will taste no other wine tonight.”
But for now, after the lights are out and my whimper to God must translate as angelic tongue - I remain Mr. Lonesome.
"I may be a lost cause, but I thought if you loved me, it needn't matter."
-John Osborne, Look Back in Anger
I had a great vinyl stash that I regrettably sold off durning the CD revolution. My greatest loss from that poor decision was the collection of singles from The Smiths that are kind of hard to come by these days. You can find them but you're gonna pay to re-incorporate them into your life. I held on to a few of those records and picked some up here and there over the years. When I was sent away from home, I had about a dozen that left with me. I wanted to listen to them and contacted a friend of mine who had recently opened up a vinyl shop in town. He got me set up with a pretty fabulous sound system and an addiction had begun. It became an extremely important part of my daily routine. I discovered that the act of listening to music that demanded attention and commitment was very therapeutic for me. As far as addictions go, it isn't a bad one to have.
On one of my record hunting excursions, I came across the album "Sea Change" by Beck. I had purchased this on CD when it was released in 2002 but it didn't do anything for me. After one listen I traded it in for credit. It was a quite a departure in style for Beck that didn't settle well with me at that time in my life. I was still pretty rigid with my musical tastes and did not give it a chance at all. Knowing that my tastes had changed I thought I would give it another try.
It was definitely due to my condition - the moment the needle resonated the first note on the record, my heart sank. I related to every single song on this album. Beck wrote this album after the end of a nine-year relationship. It is full of heartbreak and desolation and executed beautifully.
Of all the songs on the album, "Lost Cause" is the one that I keep coming back to for more, simply because I am absolutely tired of fighting for a lost cause. Heartbreak sucks and begging makes it worse.
"More Love Hours Than Can Ever Be Repaid" and "The Wages Of Sin" (1987); photo from Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts
I've been a visual artist since I was old enough to understand that a magic marker could leave an indelible mark on the carpet of my parents rental home. I knew that mark-making and creating visuals was important, but I did not know why. I don't think my journey to understanding art started until 2010.
I was in a frustrating place in life. I hated my job and I hated the routine that I had allowed to creep into existence. This was, in fact, the period in my beloved's life that, according to her, she ceased to love me. I made a decision to leave the comfort of a life I didn't really want to be living and applied to graduate school. At the time, I was fanatical about a group of Los Angeles artists who had made a huge impact on the art world in the late 1980s and early 90s. But, among this group of rebels who would, by the nature of pop-culture become the establishment (that included Jim Shaw, John Miller, and Paul McCarthy) was the great Mike Kelley. Mike was my favorite artist ever. I'd never come across work that was so intellectual, so well crafted, and so cool - all at the same time. I knew it was smart work, but I didn't understand it. I applied to Art Center College of Design and was eventually accepted into their Graduate Fine Art program where Mike Kelley was a professor. My beloved wanted me to leave the family behind and get through graduate school alone. I had no interest in leaving the family behind. My daughter was 9 at the time and my son was 15. So, the family went with me. I would guess again that this was perceived as some form of control by my former wife.
The first day of class I was walking around everywhere desperately trying to find Mike Kelley and hoping that he was going to be a key figure in my education. I couldn't find his office. I was unable to locate him in the directory. I finally asked another professor about Mike (who could see my embarrassingly star-stricken posture) and he informed me that Mike had recently left Art Center. Needless to say, I was pretty bummed about it. It turned out to be a wonderful experience though. I was privileged to be studying under some of the greatest minds in the art world at that time. These film makers, critics, curators, philosophers, and artists were the best of the best and helped to shape and form a new direction in my life. And, there was icing on the cake when Mike came to talk to my class one Tuesday evening. Just one year later, Mr. Kelley committed suicide. So heartbreaking.
Concerning "More Love Hours Than Can Ever Be Repaid", Mr. Kelley said:
[It] wasn’t even about stuffed animals, it was about gifts…There were these Utopian ideas being bandied about [in the art world]: “Well, we can make an art object that can’t be commodified.” What’s that? That’s a gift… It’s going to escape the evils of capitalism. Well, of course that’s ridiculous, because if you give this thing to junior, he owes you something. The most terrible thing is that he doesn’t know what he owes you because there’s no price on the thing. Basically, gift-giving is like indentured slavery or something. There’s no price, so you don’t know how much you owe. The commodity is the emotion… I said if each one of these toys took 600 hours to make then that’s 600 hours of love; and if I gave this to you, you owe me 600 hours of love; and that’s a lot. And if you can’t pay it back right away, [the interest] keeps accumulating… That’s more love than you could ever pay back. So what? You’re just fucked then.
This piece has haunted me since August of last year. The "beloved" decided to move out of town. Today's post is already way too long so I won't get into all the strange details of that situation. But, the short of it is that I helped her pack and vacate her house. She had divorced me a year earlier and we still had not rummaged through or discussed our life's accumulation. She was in a strange hurry to leave town and I was pretty much left alone with the task of packing up every item in her house and taking it to storage. I took a week off from work and hurriedly made about a dozen trips between house and storage space.
I've made weekly visits to this storage facility since August to sort through things. I've made many trips to donation centers, filled up countless bags of recyclables and pure junk. I've mailed packages to my son in Los Angeles and boxed up sentimental items my daughter plans to take with her when she leaves home. There was not a single thing in there I wanted and it is all waiting my former wife to claim. Since she no longer has any contact with me, I struggle with knowing what to do. I still make a visit about every other week to see if there's anything else I can discard or give to the kids. But I don't want any of it and I'll feel guilty if I just quit paying for the space.
Every time I open the doors, Kelley's piece pops into my mind. I know it's all temporary - material junk. I know it's all "moth and rust". But it is a lifetime of memories. How many hours of "love" are in that unit? I honestly think that my former love is void of any sentimental attachment related to anything in that space. But, I could be wrong. Maybe she just leaves it in my hands because if she were to open that door then she too would be faced with the question of how does one repay 26 years of love. I certainly realize it is just stuff. When it comes down to it, it means absolutely nothing. But visually it remains a haunted testimony of our life together and the tragedy of love lost.
“I believe in everything until it's disproved. So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons. It all exists, even if it's in your mind. Who's to say that dreams and nightmares aren't as real as the here and now?”
“Which is the true nightmare, the horrific dream that you have in your sleep or the dissatisfied reality that awaits you when you awake?”
“Your nightmares follow you like a shadow, forever. ”
-Aleksandar Hemon, The Lazarus Project
“This pain, this dying, this is just normal. This is how life is. In fact, I realize, there never was an earthquake. Life is just this way, broken, and I am crazy for dreaming of something else.”
-Miranda July, No One Belongs Here More Than You
After I realized that divorce was actually happening, I went into panic mode. I don’t think I ever completely abandoned that condition. Another nightmare about a broken marriage last night is evidence of that. I often wonder what she dreams of. She was quite a dreamer when we first met but as the years went on, I don’t remember her retelling dreams often. She would sometimes tell me what she thought I was dreaming about based on my movements or ramblings. I guess I was an uncomfortable person to sleep with.
Something stirred memories last night. I can usually pinpoint the source but I was caught up in a project and don’t remember what it could’ve been that sent my dream production company in the direction they took it.
This episode involved an argument concerning notes I had made for our two children as they were growing up. This was a real practice that I’d do each morning as part of the ritual of getting ready for the day. And, I still do have that very large collection of usually very strange illustrations paired with equally bizarre dialogue. The whole family loved it. I loved drawing and writing them, my former adored these little pictures and would excitingly tuck them away in her perfectly designed and packed lunches eager to hear the kids reaction to them on their return home from school. But in the dream, I was collecting those notes in a scrapbook out of a pile of ephemera. They were haphazardly placed in this jumble with no concern for preservation - some were torn or bent, some had objects stuck to them…it was a laborious dream with me organizing these notes with the intent of cataloguing them for the kids.
It wasn’t a completely unpleasant dream. I did wake sad because it elicited the same response I would have had if I were to sort through the real lunchbox notes - something I have done and cried over in the recent past.
I remember so many of those little notes, but what burns in my mind is my beloved’s beautiful smile as she would stand there, reading them in her robe, on our always cold kitchen floor - probably tucking her flax hair behind her ear. I miss those days. I miss her. I don’t think I’m wrong in assuming that as much as I wanted, more than anything, for us to make it better and become husband and wife again, she wanted, more than anything, for us to make it better and become best friends - retaining the divorce status. Being friends only was something I just couldn’t do. That type of a relationship is beyond my ability to comprehend. It’s something that happens in a script or a commune. I don’t want to hang out with her and her new lover. I want her as my best friend but I want her to be my wife. For me, that is one in the same. She would see that as me wanting to control her life or dictate who she should be. Maybe she isn’t wrong, I don’t know. I do know that I love her and that she was my life’s focus. I don’t think she believes this.
So, alone I shall remain. I’ll keep rummaging through piles of memories knowing that we once loved, we laughed, we cried, and suddenly love died.
Once your broken heart has had a good cry, follow this link to hear Butch (from the Little Rascals) give a hysterical delivery of this song.
“A silence so intense that it sounds like Niagara Falls in my ears. Alone, with a tremendous empty longing and dread. The whole room for my thoughts. Nothing but myself and what I think, what I fear. Could think the most fantastic thoughts, could dance, could spit, grimace, curse, wail – nobody would ever know, nobody would ever hear. The thought of such absolute privacy is enough to drive me mad. It’s like a clean birth. Everything cut away. Separate, naked, alone. Bliss and agony simultaneously. Time on your hands. Each second weighing on you like a mountain. You drown in it. Deserts, seas, lakes, oceans. Time beating away like a meat ax. Nothingness. The world. The me and the not-me. Oomaharumooma. Everything has to have a name. Everything has to be learned, tested, experienced. Faites comme chez vouz, cheri.”
- Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer
It's been too long since The Smiths have graced my site. One can never have enough of The Smiths. Today I offer "I Know It's Over". This is the song that ended up reeling me in at age 14 when I was home from school one rainy day with a cold. I had a clock radio with a cassette player by my bed and I rewound this tune over and over contemplating the mystery of a broken heart. 33 years later, that mystery has been revealed to me.
Fresh out of the ER from my choking episode, I ended up there again last night. About a year ago, I was in the worst shape of my life. I was overweight. I did not exercise - ever. My diet was horrible. The depression in my life was too much to handle. My blood pressure was through the roof. This ticking bomb was about to explode. My doctor wanted to put me on blood pressure medication but I decided that I wanted to avoid that if at all possible. I talked about fixing the problem for about 3 months and then finally jumped in to it. 6 months later, I was almost 30 pounds lighter, I was eating great, exercising, and my spirits were up. It was also that season I've spoken of when it had smoothed out with my former beloved and I had high hopes for reconciliation. She moved out of town in August and by the end of September I had returned to my old ways. Perhaps it caught up with me yesterday. My blood pressure skyrocketed and I had several unpleasant hours in the ER.
I can't help but wonder if dwelling on being alone - knowing it's over yet still clinging - contributes to my deleterious situation. I feel like it's helping me take a hard look at my life and has opened up doors for healing like I've never seen. But, my belly alone is evidence that depression still weighs heavy (pun intended) in my soul.
Here is just one of many songs that she and I would've sung together with exaggerated Morrissey voices and dramatic video-worthy body language - running to and from each other to mock the anguish bundled up in this fantastic song.
At least I can chuckle at my own misery and even imagine the beloved behind a camera as she records my pantomime - putting on a hospital gown; getting hooked up with an IV, heart monitor, EKG machine, and blood pressure cuff; lying back on the hospital bed and widely opening my mouth to lip-synch the opening lines: "Oh Mother, I can feel the soil falling over my head...and as I climb into an empty bed - Oh well. Enough said."
Sadly, she is only a character in that fantasy. But, I don't know where else I can go.
“Music has always been a matter of Energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel. I have always needed Fuel. I am a serious consumer. On some nights I still believe that a car with the gas needle on empty can run about fifty more miles if you have the right music very loud on the radio.”
-Hunter S. Thompson
“Music is the moonlight in the gloomy night of life.”
-Jean Paul Friedrich Richter
“My heart, which is so full to overflowing, has often been solaced and refreshed by music when sick and weary.”
“I like beautiful melodies telling me terrible things.”
Today marks my 50th post - my golden anniversary! And, it's time to release mix disc volume iii.
Remember to click Free Stuff to receive any of the discs in the collection at no cost to you! Let the music be your energy. May it be your moonlight. Be refreshed if you are sick and weary. Let the beautiful melodies tell you terrible things. Give in to your tears - let a good cry commence. Then, feel some of that heartache drift away.
Volume III playlist:
1. Jacques Brel . Ne me quitte pas
2. Sam Cooke . I Lost Everything
3. W.H. Auden . The More Loving One
4. Paul Anka . It's Time To Cry
5. Sharon Olds . Sex Without Love
6. The Skyliners . Since I Don't Have You
7. Johnny Ray . Cry
8. Sibylle Baier . The End
9. Caroline Elizabeth Sarah Norton . I Do Not Love Thee
10. Tom Waits . Take Me Home
11. Bob Dylan . I Threw It All Away
12. Mark Kozelek . I'll Be There
13. Anne Sexton . Wanting To Die
14. Bright Eyes . First Day of My Life
“...the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”
-Jack Kerouac, On the Road
This is one of my favorite quotes ever. Perhaps I've used it already in a post. I'll likely use it again. There are very few people you run across that are this special to you in life. People who stop the rain; people who make the blind see; people who will drive all night just to see you in the morning.
If you don't know it already, I'm a sensitive one. Back when my daily existence was determined by a family, we would often have today's offering in the mix while driving around. I would cry over Bright Eyes, "First Day of My Life" because I wanted my beloved to feel the same way I did - as if I was the first day in her life. She certainly was mine even though I'm guessing I didn't convey that. It's another regret and hard for me to understand why I was so difficult when I had so many great examples of people who made everybody go "Awww!"
I traveled out of town yesterday to attend the receiving of friends for an amazing woman. She and her husband are two of my parents dearest friends. I grew up around them in a situation that is extremely rare. Their family's friendship with my family - and a slew of other folks - was full of those "Awww!" moments. As a kid, I was an observer of much laughter...not just laughter but guffaws and buckled on the floor in tears laughter. And concerning tears, there was much of that too. Just so many wonderful moments and emotions surrounding this (what my mother would call) "tribe" of individuals. She was such a giving person. She was a servant. I don't think I ever saw her without a smile on her face.
My emotions are all over the place. I know she's alright and I know the family will make it through this because she was such an amazing human. They are left with wonderful memories. I hope that my children might be able to say that it was fun to be with me when I pass. I fear that they'll be left with memories of arguments and a broken home. I fear that will outweigh all of the good.
The line was long and it was going to be that way until the doors closed. When I finally made it to her children, I could see more pride than sadness in their eyes. They knew what a joy she had been to so many. After I had spoken for a bit to her husband I said, "Thanks so much for letting me be a part of your lives!" He replied, "Thank you for being a part of our lives!" He then grabbed my hands and looked me in the eyes and said, "Man! It sure was fun, wasn't it?!"
What a statement. What a testament. What a wonderful woman.