Dive into an Empty Swimming Pool

I woke up Sunday morning thinking about the book Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski. At that point I was almost finished. I had tried reading it the previous night after I came back from the bar, but when I woke up it was sharing my pillow, still incomplete. I don’t remember much about what I read prior to passing out, but what I do know is that the pages were full of the narrator’s intoxication, cheap red wine with a dash of whiskey. Somehow it was perfect. I don’t plan on re-reading those pages. I went about the book all wrong, but somehow those pages were read right. Some things are better done intoxicated, because you can always forget the next morning. Any fucked up feeling can be attributed to the fact that you are fucked up. Stupidity stems from the fact that you’ll never learn. Ignorance doesn’t know the truth. Those who are born with everything never have to earn anything. Those who have to fight never knew peace. So goes the Bukowski logic. I’m no scholar, but I’ve bought it before. I don’t buy it anymore, especially now that it’s too easy of an excuse.

I’ve got a close friend who’s like a hybrid of Bukowski and Elliot Smith. After an upbringing that would turn anyone into a total asshole for the rest of his life, he instead became a well-intentioned social deviant, drug addict, pseudo-intellectual mystic, and brilliant musician, all while trying to fit into a mold of acceptance that would turn on him before he could get there. Last night he really took a proverbial dive into an empty swimming pool. When I called innocently enough to see how things were going, I found him peaking on the eighth day of an ecstasy and heroin drug binge. He said he had died and come back to life, and he wasn’t going to make it this time. Not knowing how much he took, I tried to keep him awake, but he passed out. I called him back a few times before he mumbled hello, unable to recognize my voice. I kept asking him, "you still with me?" reminding him who I was. Never having been much of a resuscitator, I talked and talked until my voice started to feel like a sedative and I wondered if I was doing more harm than good. Still, I talked, evoking shared memories, asking questions, mining for topics that would be interesting to discuss on heroin, anything to keep his mind active and coax it through the chemical reconfiguration of every nerve in his skull.

Then something remarkable happened. Instead of mom-judging him (“You take that shit again, I will kill you before it does.”) the way I always used to do when he'd fallen off the wagon, for a moment I saw things his fucked up way. Maybe it was the Bukowksi, or my strange connection to Elliot Smith’s lyrics, but I could relate. We all try to get high after having been fucked. Although I don’t recommend drug binges, my friend’s near-fatal downward spiral was a direct reaction to being laid off from a job that had temporarily given him hope in the sober straight and narrow. With that gone, everything he had reluctantly went into his bloodstream. I spoke with him at rock bottom, but somehow his brain radiated with hope, and I knew it wasn’t just the chemicals talking. I felt brilliance that is better left alive. When he posed his (still unproven) postulate that nobody will ever understand us because we can’t be understood, I felt it. When we debated drugs’ impact on music and other works of art, I felt it. When he strongly dissented my economics of addiction theory, I felt it. When he likened Hunter S. Thompson’s suicide to a DJ being so disappointed in a broken record, a beautiful record that’s been beyond fucked, so scratched that it’s no longer worth playing and no longer worth an audience, I felt it, especially since it was chillingly similar to the sentiment I found in the pre-suicide Elliot Smith song, “A Distorted Reality is Now a Necessity to be Free.” Before saying goodnight, I asked my dear friend if he was going to go to sleep and he told me no, he was just going to sit and “vibrate for awhile.” I hung up, stared at my phone, and hoped that he would be okay, not out of condescending concern, but rather, out of respect for everything that he has the potential to be. I’ve often wondered why so many musicians and artists submit themselves to drugs, any yet-to-be-created masterpieces lost to us forever. I may be biased, but my friend is one of the most brilliant unknown musicians I’ve ever seen play live. I understand why he went where he went eight days ago, and why he felt he had no other choice but to go there. Drugs make you feel euphoric at a time when everything wants to bring you down. But when they wear off, you’re still broke and in debt. You still don’t have a job. You still had a shitty childhood. You’re still a drug addict. If Bukowski’s logic proves correct, that any fucked up feeling can be attributed to the fact that you are fucked up, then the sober reality is always much worse than your drunk or high perception. But this excuse only lasts as long as your next fix, and you may be the only one who believes it anymore. I know I don't believe it. My logic: I don’t care how fucked up my friend is. His brain is too brilliant to waste and his life is too loved to die.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home