Get your shit together.


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Another one of those stories.

The monsoon rains are pouring down on the metal roof of my pole building art studio, deep in the woods of the Pacific Northwest Rain Forest. It is the middle of the night, or more accurately an early hour of the morning. All is dark as I listen to the raindrops pelting onto the roof and the sound of the runoff gurgling in the gutters and running down the downspouts.

I am laying on my back in my hammock, wrapped in a comforter. It is warmer now than those first couple of years when I was trying to survive the Winter in what is really nothing more than a barn. Now I have a heat pump in addition to the wood stoves and that is sometimes whirring and clanking noisily as it wrings a few more warm degrees out of the cold outside, and transfers it in to me via some fluids and gases in pipes using some kind of pumping system.

This is one of those quality times. My big black panther cat is sprawled across my chest. We swing together back and forth in the hammock. There is no other activity that has priority over spending quality time with your cat when he wants it. With this cat, such times are rare. He has not yet learned the dangers of the Ego, so our lovemaking is always on his terms.

I can’t move. I can’t get up to relieve my bladder. Instead I’m just laying here, stroking his belly and in return he pushes his head hard into my hand, demanding that I give some more attention to his ears.

There is no activity more important than Intimacy between sentient beings. After all, that is what we are here for. When he wants to be intimate with me, I must respond. There is no choice in the matter. This is what it means to Be Here Now.

I have learned this lesson hard.

I am pondering the theme of the last few days. Someone posted a photo of an old girl friend. I had not seen this one before. When I saw it, it took me aback. It was a shock to my system. Catherine will never be my “old” girl friend. She died of an overdose in 1987. Catherine will be forever young.

Up until recently I only had a few faded color snapshots of her — all dressed in black, black tights under that black cheerleader skirt, playing that oversized black electric bass, up on that stage in an obscure and now-forgotten punk rock band. And yet there is also that one publicity picture of her, in front of her band, that was published in that book — Banned in D.C.

This new one is a close up — a head shot. Her head is laying down on what looks like the floor and her eyes are closed. Her hair is dyed a Manic Panic red, with a black scarf tying it up. Her neck is exposed above the collar of the black leather motorcycle jacket she is wearing, as if offering it up to a vampire, who is about to “turn” her. That is my favorite part of a woman – the neck below the ear and above the shoulder. I can remember smelling the leather of that jacket and tasting that flesh there.


She is wearing a stud earring. I liked to chew on that and nibble on her ear.

She looks so young. And wickedly beautiful.

Over the years I have developed an idealized memory of her. I choose to remember the light, and the romantic drama. I choose to forget the darkness.

And so now, upon being confronted by this new picture, I obsess a bit on those idealized memories. I wonder again if there had been anything I could have done differently… Anything that could have saved her. Over the years I have tried to comfort myself by telling myself there was nothing I could have done.

At the time, I was under the impression that “Once a heroin junky, always a junky.” I had been told by those much more worldly-wise in these matters than me, that it was a slippery slope down into an endless abyss. Something you could not ever recover from.

I didn’t know about her problem right away. I was too smitten by that pearly skin and the high cheekbones and the witty repartee. Others warned me that she was trouble. I laughed that off, uneasily. I didn’t want to know. But then one day she got busted for buying on 14th Street. Tearfully, she asked me to come to court with her.

Her attorney owned the art gallery next door to the club where she worked as the day-time waitress. He was taking the case pro bono.

She was acquitted of drug possession due to a technicality. She was convicted of possession of paraphernalia and so she was sentenced to monthly drug testing and counseling. But I had decided to let her go. I stopped calling her. I stopped going with her to the clinic.

I didn’t do it well. How do we do such a thing well? I didn’t have much experience in these matters. Unlike others, I had only had a couple of loves before that. One I hadn’t yet divorced.

All these years since I have been consumed by guilt. I pushed the guilt down into the subconscious and suppressed it.

I know now that one CAN go on and live a happy and fruitful life after a heroin addiction. I’ve seen it happen. I also know now that addiction is closely related to childhood abuse and trauma. And so, on top of everything else she had to deal with, she had to deal with the pain of me leaving.

This explains some of the crazy over-the-top drama that followed, over several years and several more of her lovers.

On balance though, I realize now that there was a darkness there. There was a rebellious, self-destructive undercurrent to who she was. Her talent wasn’t recognized and the world was unfair and blind to her brilliance. Finally she had enough of this life. She was through.

Fugazi wrote a song about her called “Shut the Door.”

Where does that leave me? I have all of this lingering guilt. This is one of my demons. I have tried to contact her. When I am alone, I have cried out her name in the darkness to say I’m sorry.

I know how to talk to angels and how to summon up demons and submit them to my will. I do not know how to find and talk to a spirit that has passed. I have never mastered that art.

If you know how, please share it with me.