The trouble with maintaining a blog is that you think of all sorts of things to write about when you’re doing something else, like working, or driving, but when you finally sit down in front of the computer, all those great ideas go right out the window. So you end up, or at least I end up, spewing a bunch of “blah, blah, blah, I’m not feeling so good right now” twaddle that comes nowhere near the brilliant, elusive, dreamy posts that fly in through one ear and out the other before they make it into typed words. Oh, if you could have seen the posts I composed in my head.
I’m sitting here in a cafe typing into my laptop right now. The impermanence of life is weighing heavily on my mind, and has been for a while. The holidays are over. One person I knew, a man who helped me out a lot, simply by living an example and by exuding serenity when I got to a crisis point over 19 years ago and had to abandon one way of life for another, died over the holidays. Another person I’ve known just about as long, who was around when I was wrestled by life into surrender, is reportedly on her deathbed as I write this. My daughter, 23 and beautifully independent, left for Thailand right after Christmas on a one-way ticket. I sincerely hope there’s a god, or maybe some benevolent spirits, who will watch over her and keep her safe.
Me? I’m not a loser. I make a lot of mistakes. Lately, the task of making amends has been coming up, partially because of where I am in a certain spiritual-growth process, and partially because, well, I’m sick and tired of making the same mistakes over and over, and I’m tired of doing stupid things that hurt people I care about, and I want to stop and I want to set things right. I’ve got one in particular that’s at the top of the stack, an old friend I badmouthed on Facebook, and maybe somewhere else I can’t remember because I was in a fugue state of being a butthole. I’ve tried to make amends several times, with no response any time. Please don’t laugh.
Many of my resentments seem to grow out of my frustration to be heard as a songwriter and musician. I get frustrated, then bitterly resentful, and then that negative state I’m in, along with the damage I’ve caused, turns people against me. What I really need to do is let go of any desire to play music — not give up, but just let go. I did that for my nonexistent love life, which is still nonexistent, but at least I’m not torturing myself anymore whenever a beautiful woman crosses my path, or worse, a beautiful woman who at one time professed love for me. It doesn’t mean I have to stop playing music or singing or writing songs; it just means I have no expectations that anyone other than me will give much of a hoot.
This morning I woke up to a pretty cool dream. It was long and byzantine, probably fueled by the anodyne Tom Ka Gai soup I ate the night before to ward off this horrible fluey-coldy thing that hit me on New Year’s Eve, and all I remember was the end. I descended with a small group of people, familiar to me but I can’t recall their names, into a cave that led to another world inside the Earth, kind of like Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth, which I’d enjoyed in comic-book form (Classics Illustrated) until I stupidly took it with me on a Boy Scout 50-mile hike and the Scoutmaster caught me reading it behind a tree and he made me burn it and a couple of other childhood comic favorites, me weeping like a pussyboy at losing some things I loved dearly, in front of all the other Boy Scouts.
Anyway, this group and I descended into this other world, which was verdant and primitive, like the plants were at an earlier stage of evolution. There were these younger boys, like my sons, and at one point one of them told me how cool it might be if we could fly. “What’s holding you back?” I answered him. “It’s easy. Watch.” Then I got a running start, but my arms out like plane wings and took off. I was zooming around this inner dome world, rising and diving and doing barrel rolls, and I saw that they followed. The sky was pink and orange with clouds, and the landscape was lush and green, like hilly jungles that went on for miles. At one point, I flew over what looked like some kind of modern defense installation, or maybe a nuclear power plant or a UFO, all gleaming chrome in the bright light. My mind couldn’t make sense of what it was doing in the corner of this domed jungle world of my dreams.
And then, we all landed, and it was time to leave. There was a woman sitting in a lounge chair on a deck, and she was a composite of my first girlfriend Jo and my daughter’s mom Lynne and a couple other women I’ve loved. She looked up from the newspaper she was reading, and as I walked by she rose up and planted a big kiss on my lips. “It’s so good to have you back, Bri,” she said, calling me by a shortened version of the middle name I’d gone by in my younger years. “It’s so nice to see you acting like your old self again.” I’m not sure what she meant. I mean, I kinda have an inkling, but I’m really not so sure.
Then again, there is a lot I do not know, and probably never will. —Jackson Griffith
I’ve been sitting in this cafe for an hour. Came here after parking the car, attempting a little James Taylor transcription on the guitar, walking over to visit Nich at Phono Select, stopping by Body Tribe to visit Allyson Seconds’ dogs Lulu, who likes me, and Hank, who’s still too bashful to move into my zone, and then I left there and walked a block up 21st to the Weatherstone. Ordered a salad and and a mocha, sat down, pinched my flab and decided more exercise might be a good thing, and why not walk to McKinley Park for a couple laps around, then home. What the hey. No. I need to write something.
Because a writer needs to write, like a guitarist needs to practice his chops and a ballet dancer needs to dance. So here I go. The last few years have been years of subtraction: First my marriage, then work, then a bunch of material things, then some core ideas about myself, like someday I will record an album of my songs or someday I will find someone who is really compatible with me or, most importantly, someday my now-grown-up daughter will want to have even a half-hearted relationship with me. Life is short, I’m not sure what matters and what doesn’t matter anymore. I know what I want to matter, but sometimes the world at large has other ideas, and one must flow with the current.
This life I lead isn’t so lonely, really. I mean, I must have gained some kind of oneness with the Great Whatever from four years of daily Buddhist meditation, because I don’t feel acute pangs of neediness; it’s more like what the Brazilians and Portuguese call saudade, which I’ve heard described as the longing or yearning for the loving bliss of the past. But Buddhist practice, in part, enables a person to move beyond that hankering for a state in the past by repeatedly bringing the attention to the present. So that’s life for me: a seesaw ride that alternates between the present moment and recurring waves of saudade. I don’t live much in the future anymore; I’ve kind of let that go. I’ve even stopped dreaming. Well, almost.
I had the coolest dream last night. The first part of it I remember (there may have been a preceding part I can’t recall now), I was in a big auditorium with a bunch of people. I think it was an recovery-type meeting or something. I got tapped by someone to share my thoughts, and I began going on about how people in AA talk about how they “don’t do relationships well” and stuff, but that I question that position as kind of a self-imposed limitation. There were people around me who were ignoring me, and I was upset that they were not validating me. I may have had my guitar with me, and I was asking them to be quiet so I could speak my piece and maybe play something, but they engaged in loud conversation which drowned me out. So at some point, I went to a corner of the room, and there was a woman sitting on kind of some steps, and I grabbed my guitar case and, I dunno if I asked her to accompany me, but we left together. She was this very pretty dark-eyed woman who I know from this place I visit some mornings on my way to work. So then we were riding in a vehicle like the one I drive, but it was hers, or her family’s, and she was letting me drive; it had like a Hemi V8, and I remarked something about how it had a lot of power and I was really digging it. I found myself driving on kind of a limited-access highway out of town, and she asked me if that was the way I wanted to go, and I said no, it didn’t have to be, and soon there was a place where I could drive up a berm and get back onto a city street to head back toward town, and I did. At some point, I reached over and touched her hand, kind of ran my fingertips across her palm and fingers, and she reciprocated and looked at me affectionately, and it felt very nice (that was the extent of any physical contact in the dream). We pulled up at this 1920s bungalow where an old roommate was living, and we walked toward the narrow driveway between this house on the left and the house next door, and we were greeted by a big calico cat. Actually, two cats, one a female and one a more dog-like male (which I understand male calicos are rare) and I think they followed me back, with my lady friend following, too; she was quite amused by the cats. There were one or two kinda sketchy hippie or druggie guys I didn’t know in the back, by a garage, and it was a mid-morning spring-like sky just after a light rain, so there were like old hibachis and microwave ovens and other things stacked up all around, and they were dewy or damp from the fresh spring rain. One old hippie told me that someone — the government? aliens? — had changed the lock and that my key wouldn’t work, but when I looked at the back door into the house, it had one of those long-loop padlocks, and the padlock was open, just looped through the hasp on the door. And that’s where I woke up.
It was a pretty nice dream, really. Anyway, maybe I ought to post this and go walk to the park? —Jackson Griffith
Postscript: The music clips here are by my good friend Sport Murphy, who in my humble estimation is a brilliant songwriter whose music I wish I could gift to everyone I know, that some of thos friends might grow and throb with ardor for his music’s many charms, like I have.
Used to be I’d have drunk dreams, or dreams where I was in some kind of situation where I was presented with a choice to drink, or not to drink. And, given the book I was reading before bedtime last night, Adventures Among Ants: A Global Safari With a Cast of Trillions by Mark W. Moffett, you might think I’d be having some kind of hallucinatory epiphany involving our earthbound hymenopteran sisters. I can’t say I’ve ever had a dream where I’ve 12-stepped someone. As of early this morning, I no longer can say that.
I was in a large company restroom — not the place where I work now, which has more deluxe lavatories, but a generic corporate loo — and as I was washing my hands, I noticed this kid, or young adult, with glasses, long and stringy hair and a tie that was slightly askew. He was standing next to me, and he pulled out a flask that smelled like scotch. “Uh, don’t mind me,” he said, tipping the contents of the flask into his mouth, which he then wiped with the outside of his lower left forearm. He had that sheepish look that we get when we’ve lost control of our drinking, and we’re doing what we usually do, which is bring our blood alcohol level back to normal, and we realize somebody is on to us.
What happened next was that I started talking to the guy. He knew that I was observing his behavior surrounding his alcohol intake rather intently, and when he apologized for polishing off the flask before he could offer me some, I shrugged off his mumbled “sorry” by saying, “You don’t need to apologize, pal. I used to drink in bathrooms, too.” He looked at me with vague surprise, and I continued: “Yeah. I quit drinking 18 years ago, because I completely lost control of my drinking, or my ability to stop. I got really scared, and I kept trying to quit, but then I’d keep starting back up. So I started going to meetings. …”
I could sense that I was losing him, and he looked at me with that kind of “ah, shit” look that people get, and then he went into a stall and sat down. Not wanting to belabor my point, I just said, “Hey, man. Take it easy. If you ever want to talk to somebody who understands how you feel, my name’s Jackson, I’m in the company directory, and I’m not too hard to find around here.” Then I pushed through the door into the hallway and the dream ended.
I’ve always been kind of uncomfortable 12-stepping people. I watched my dad, who was in the program, and his buddies go 12-step drunks in coffee shops back in the 1960s, and they’d just walk up to some random drunk and bellow, “Hey, you: You wanna get sober?” My dad used to go out on 12-step calls where he’d spend all night helping some guy sweat through a bad case of delirium tremens, and I don’t think my mom suspected him of hanky panky, because he weighed well over 300 pounds and most likely wasn’t out chasing tail. He did spend a lot of time helping my cousin Judy, who got sober, then died in a house fire years later in Virginia.
Anyway, my attitude about other people’s drinking has been pretty laissez faire. Many of my still-cocktailing friends know I’ve been sober for a while now, and some of them were unlucky to have known me when I was a slobbering drunk. I figure if they hit a point where they want to talk about losing control of their ability to drink like so-called normal people, they know I’m available to talk without passing judgment. But maybe this dream is telling me to be more pro-active? Or, maybe, a dream is just a dream.
Speaking of dreams, lots of sober alkies have what are called drunk dreams. Perhaps the dreams provide a route for the brain to work out this whole not drinking one day at a time thing. I had one drunk dream, early on, that still sticks with me: I was in Greenwich Village in New York City, but it was like a ghost town at high noon in a old Gary Cooper Western: no one was around but me. I was standing in an intersection, and there was a bar at one corner, and it was really hot and somewhat humid, with the sun bearing down overhead. There were two open doorways, one on each intersecting street, on either side of the corner, beckoning.
I walked to the doorway on the right and in. The L-shaped bar was empty, not even with a bartender on duty. At the elbow, there was a shotglass filled with something. I hoped it was whiskey. I thought, hey, who’s gonna know? I walked directly over to the shotglass, and in one motion grabbed it, swept it up in a curl with my arm to my mouth as I kept walking, felt the whiskey burn down my esophagus, slammed the empty shotglass on the bar counter and walked toward the other door.
Who’s gonna know, I thought? Well, I know. I felt horrible, having just blown my continuous sobriety for the momentary satisfaction of a furtive shot of whiskey. And then I woke up, shaking, scared, wondering if the dream meant I was in some kind of jeopardy. I think I called my AA sponsor, who assured me that lots of people have drunk dreams, and as long as you don’t wake up and make a beeline for the liquor store, it’s probably not to worry.
So what does it all mean? Jeez, I dunno. Your guess is as good as mine. —Jackson Griffith