Sunday, June 11, 2017

Dear Dead Diary

January 7, 1977 - First time I got high was with Kenya and Buick at the house next to mine in the Canyon. We blazed out of a converted Bubble-Up bottle a friend of Laura's had made with a glass-cutting kit. We ordered Chinese food and bounced around the room listening to Houses of the Holy. You can cope with depression in dozens of ways, but they all need a soundtrack. I could pretend that music offered some supernatural combination of serotonin and melancholy, or triggered some shaky enlightenment, but that’s a lie. Sometimes love is immediate, and I was in love with Jay; had it no meaning beyond beautiful songs and temporary psychic ballast? I was 17, who knows? I love "The Rain Song." It's the most beautiful song I've ever heard.

February 11, 1977 - Then we moved away.

March 1, 1977 - I met Alwen soon after we moved. She was named after a Lord of the Rings character, the books that her parents bonded over during their courtship. Frodo Lives. She was 17 and she’d taken acid eleven days in a row. I was afraid, but I let the little paper dissolve under my tongue and slowly floated down Shakedown Street. The song said that this used to be the heart of town, a traveling drug bazaar, Samsara for the stoned, a Mobius strip where even infants could score high-octane Owsley LSD, and she put on American Beauty and she called it American Reality, and she held my hand to her breast and it was soft and I let her and Phil Lesh sang about a box of rain. She introduced me to her brother and we hit it off and days later we saw the dead in San Berdoo, the sky ballerina pink. It was February 26th. "Look out of any window, any morning, any evening, any day…Walk out of any doorway…feel your way like the day before…This is all a dream we dreamed one afternoon long ago….It's just a box of rain or a ribbon for your hair, such a long time to be gone and a short time to be there." Lesh sings these words, purposefully and universally and open to interpretation at any crossroads. Read as plain verse, you can dismiss them as fortune cookie aphorisms; buoyed by the melody, abraded by the years, they sound like half-remembered hymns, pencil-drawn eulogies or a rough outline of Groundhog's Day.

I've never really understood the meaning of happiness.  I am appreciative and fortunate, sure, but happiness always feels like a phantom idea only accessible to the religious, the rich, or the naturally serene (Alwen is like that). Achievement has always mattered more to me because it's measurable, but then, right there, with Arbor holding my hand and it's just a box of rain. Who put it there? "Happy?" he said.


"What do you mean mostly?"

"I mean, yes." I didn’t say it, but I thought it and I smiled: that the only thing that matters is happiness. I'm here, and I'm having fun because none of it matters. We might not wake up tomorrow. I squeezed his hand.

Another jam so long that you could learn Ancient Greek. On the ride home we played Houses of the Holy. I said, "Can you play "The Rain Song." He said that part of the tape was messed up, but he played it and it played real slow and every chord was elongated and it was still beautiful and he took my hand and I said, "Yes, I'm happy."

When I write I get into a groove. I'm able to live the story; it's both a luxury and a curse. When writing Jay and the Americans, I toyed with other characters and scenarios from the same era to hone what I was doing in the novel. Michelle and the Dead was one of those exercises, and effective lesson in writing from the female perspective. I abandoned the project, but resurrected this piece for AM after coming across it the other day. Enjoy.

Oh, and read Jay and the Americans! Please.

Jay and the Americans is available all over the world!

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