Posts Tagged ‘Death’

There has been no song I have listened to more consistently in 2011 than the cover of the Pixies’ “Where is my Mind?” from the Sucker Punch original soundtrack by Yoav featuring Emily Browning. For those of you who have seen Sucker Punch that haven’t made this connection, Emily is Baby Doll in the movie, thus she is in the video–this Australian siren has a pretty set of pipes and is featured all over the OST. I saw Yoav live in San Diego about eight years ago–opening up for Tori Amos of all people–and he is abominably talented as well. This phenomenal version of a spectacular song is just hauntingly beautiful. There really are not words. Check out this (apparently) German fan-made, wonderfully reconstructed version below; turn it up and full-screen this shit.

If you are just reading past the video and have not yet seen it, STOP. Go back and watch it. Context is very important in this world of too much information, and you will not get a true understanding of the rest of this blog post without watching the above. I don’t care if you have seen Sucker Punch or not; if you saw it and hated it: fine–I am talking to you Beth Accomando (and trust me, I love Zombie Beth). The availability of soundtracks and footage across the Internet allows for the basement creation of a six minute version of Sucker Punch that does a great job of substituting for the whole movie. The real question that I have for myself is this: why do I keep coming back to this song over and over again all year long? It is because the title is really, really thought-provoking: WHERE IS MY MIND?

This is how my parents still see me.

This is how my parents still see me.

This question seriously resonates with me because I am 40 years old now. I used to be smart–really smart, as proven by years of crushing K-12 curriculum and standardized tests at the top of my classes without any effort. Then I realized that I was more black sheep than white and got into the bad habits that I continue until this day: drinking like a fish, smoking like a chimney, eating as an afterthought maybe once a day, never seeing medical professionals, prescribing myself my own medicine, depriving myself of sleep to the point of just passing out on my couch each night, working until my fingers bleed, giving everything I have to the world right now. It is being present tense rather than living in the past or praying for the future, and it’s the only way that I know how to conduct myself to maximize my value to humankind. The problem is that this head-down approach causes me to lose my mind, and as I get older, sometimes I just stop what I am doing and I ask myself…

Where is my mind? It is–and always has been–fascinated with death. I “flunked” my first IQ test in my early years because I was grappling with the fact that I would never talk to my great-grandmother Massie ever again. When the score came back that I was a moron, my Mom–bless her heart–stormed into the school and demanded a do-over. IQ: 143 as opposed to 80-something. My teenage years of writing depressing poetry document this preoccupation well; I still believe that that the close presence of death smells like Pez candy. Over the years, I lost the rest of my grandparents as they moved on to the next level; these deaths are expected, but they are still sad and thought-provoking. Yet you see and hear about death all of the time: from horror movies to the nightly news; from video games where you can earn “extra lives” or “resurrect” or “respawn” to Steve Jobs‘ apparent sainthood, the Seal Team raid that killed Osama bin Laden, the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, and the execution of Troy Davis. Death and taxes: we are all just inured to it. As you get older and live more years, gaining more experience, you encounter instances of death that are more shocking than the normal background noise of life happening until it doesn’t anymore. Then it’s all you can do to not think about what dying means to you.

Ansel Adams: Moon and Half-Dome

Ansel Adams: Moon and Half-Dome

For me, personally, the untimely but beautiful death of my close friend Bela Chris Feher is strikingly haunting because he died doing what he loved to do: that is his legacy. That is setting the bar pretty damn high, and I don’t forgive him for leaving me behind. Bela was my friend, and I miss him every day; I would have loved to see what he would have thought of Occupy Wall Street. Remember, BC Feher is the guy who would send long diatribe e-mails to the Federal Government calling them out on complex conspiracy theories. I still find myself thinking “oh shit–you know who would love this? Bela!” and then I have to chiggity-check myself. I refuse to take his contact info out of my phone. I can’t watch Aliens or listen to The The or mention D&D without reminiscing about Chris. Because he is dead. And he left behind some truly epic stories, and that is precisely what I aim to do.

Let me be clear: I am not depressed, nor do I consider keeping an eye on He Who Rides a Pale Horse unhealthy in the least. Death is the second bookend, and our entire existence is spent putting this fact off until tomorrow. This inescapable event supersedes other important life measures and milestones: your spouse, your career, your family, your children, your accomplishments. Terence McKenna informed me that my responsibility as a Shaman are to view the “wiring under the boards” and return with critical information for the rest of my tribe; that is why I am exploring “Where is My Mind” in writing. Carlos Castaneda taught me that if you look fast enough with an empty mind over your left shoulder that you will see Death waiting. That is an incentive, my fellow human beings. I guess I’ve been at a Mexican standoff with the Grim Reaper long enough now that I just shrug. 40 years and you still can’t kill me! Come at me, bro.

Come At Me Bro

Come At Me Bro

I blog because my mind (aha! there it is!) wanders through the drudgery of everyday existence, past the wasteland of mortality, and suddenly stumbles on to a garden of legacy: what can I say I have truly accomplished so far in my life? What am I leaving behind when I level up? Can I die today–hoka hey–and be content that I was net-positive to the bank balance of humanity? I am certain that everyone at one time or another has had the distinct feeling that they are being watched, or on hidden camera: did I just hear laughter, an audience, a echo of soundtrack? There is a distinct deja-vu-esque prickle of awareness like some sort of prehistoric monster surfacing from your subconscious and thrilling up your spine: a frisson of “da fuq?” Maybe it’s a twitch of your Kundalini. A repeating black cat in The Matrix. Perhaps it is God watching your particular sitcom on His omniscient media center. Too many thoughts like this will drive a person insane; as A-Pope said:

Great wits are to madness near allied / And thin partitions do their bounds divide.

Seriously, ask yourself this question: where is your mind? What has that powerful, agile, sexy beast been doing the last five minutes? Do you remember what it feels like when you learn something earth-shakingly new and a big lightbulb goes on? Admire, acknowledge, and respect yourself for a minute; your body is a temple; verily, an Oracle of Delphi, where your brain, and your heart, and your soul, supposedly reside. Admit it to yourself: you are unique and totally, 100% perfect as is. You exist; that fact is relevant enough to take a deep breath and continue on and forward: there is only one You. Until you die. Then the bookends–and everything in between–go to the thrift store, and you have your legacy. Speaking of legacy; TIL from Reddit that The Pixies – Where Is My Mind? was transmitted to team behind the Mars Rover in order to “wake it up”. Wake up!

"Da Fuq is this?"

“Da Fuq is this?”

I write things down because I have always wanted to leave an important and cohesive body of work behind me for someone else to discover, enjoy, and maybe get lost in. Shit–my Dad even wrote a book; talk about setting the bar high, /grumble. Perhaps the Virtual Lilypad is an easily-accessible site for anthropology studies of privileged white males in San Diego from 1971 to 2011 and beyond. Maybe someone else will stumble across my original work and it will move them in a positive direction. At least I have generated a record that I existed once upon a time, and I have provided poems and DJ mixes and art to the international community. The world–especially the online, electronic world that we all increasingly participate in–suffers drastically from a lack of original content that can endure the test of time. For every single person that presses record and captures something, I guarantee that there are at least 1000 other people currently on this rock we agree to call Earth that will point to your effort and express “that is how I feel!” You just need to be brave enough to give yourself full credit. For me it is surviving 40 years of being on this damn planet. It’s a fucking accomplishment. And I am not dead yet.

Death in the Vehicular Family

Posted: January 25, 2011 in Writing
Tags: , , , , ,

“THUD! Thud thud thunk!” … with this noise, I knew it was all over: my baby of 18 years, the now legendary Nissan 2×4 “hardbody” truck the Murdochs rolled off of the Pacific Nissan lot in 1993 for $9600 cash, has bit the dust. I cannot express how sad I am that I have reached my breaking point: I will not put another $1000+ into this vehicle; it is barely worth $500. Love ya, and every one of your 177,546 miles, but it is time to put you out to pasture. Or perhaps donate you to KPBS.

Nissan Truck Front End

Nissan Truck Front End

Thinking back over the lifetime of this truck is pretty magical; there are almost too many stories to tell about where it has been, who has ridden in it, and what shenanigans have occurred in and around it. A good example is the damage to the front end; I constantly had to explain what happened and why I refused to get it fixed. When I was living in the Evil Dead 2 cabin in Roswell, GA back in the early oughts, the mailbox was at the foot of the driveway — a 300 yard long crumbling asphalt road — so I would always hop out and grab the mail before driving up to the crib. This one fateful day, I was counting $300 cash that I owed my ex-wife (#1) and forgot to set the parking brake. While getting the mail I heard a loud bang and looked up and down Roswell Road to see if someone had fender-bendered or backfired. There were no cars on the road. Strange, I thought; then I turned around and my truck was gone! After a moment of panic, I saw that it had rolled about 30 yards down the side of the driveway with the driver’s side door open and smacked into a young pine tree.

The Evil Dead 2 Cabin on the Acres

The Evil Dead 2 Cabin on the Acres

Without that pine tree, it would have gone another 50 yards into the creek. The engine was still running. I hopped inside and drove it up to the cabin, then wrenched the hood open and inspected the damage. I had assumed that I had cracked the radiator, but after slipping a piece of cardboard under the front overnight and noting no leakage, I realized that — once again — the luck of the Froggacuda held. The damage was cosmetic only, and after getting a number of estimates to fix it, I decided that it just wasn’t worth it. It is a proud battle scar, and it has helped avoid tickets for not having the front license plate on in California.

One time when I happened to be picking someone up from the San Diego airport, a Harbor Patrol cop motioned me over to the side. He commented on me not having a front license plate, and proceeded to write me a fix-it ticket with no expiration date that he said to present to anyone else who wanted to ticket me for that infraction. He had a friend or a family member perish in the events of 9-11-2001 and thought that it was pretty badass that the truck was sporting that alternative license plate. I am pretty certain that piece of paper is still in the glove box, along with the original window sticker listing the $13,600 price tag. I am certain I will find a treasure trove of garbage that only has meaning to me when I get around to cleaning it out this weekend.

Chart House - Lo Mejor

Chart House - Lo Mejor

This truck has been everywhere. I first got ahold of it when I was a junior at UCSB, and it made many trips to and from The Playgrounds, camping and inner tubing at Red Rock River over the San Marcos mountains, and reliably got me to and from my dishwashing job at the Chart House — which is now the Fish House. Back then I didn’t have the camper shell on it, and it was easy to throw a bunch of gear in the back and just take off for the mountains. It didn’t take a long time owning the truck for me to festoon it with stickers. The Ministry one got me an approving comment from a septuagenarian, who said “It’s so nice to see young people who are involved in the Church”. The other side of the bumper sports Fishbone and The Beastie Boys from the Check Your Head era. The back windows — now underappreciated because they are inside the camper shell — sport stickers of Calvin and Hobbes, several stickers given to me by my T.A. Amanda Ireton at West Hills High School (Fly Girls and a stylized girl kitty), and one from Blanket Party, Erik Rogers‘ band pre-Stereomud. Once I got the camper shell on the truck, I went out and bought a bunch more stickers to apply, and kept adding to the collection on the back window as late as last month, when I applied the Surface Furniture one, apparently sideways according to the owner, Jamie Huffman and, slightly earlier, the Who Is John Galt? slogan. The truck was broken in really well over the summer of 1994, when I would spend a week in San Diego working, and then drive back up to Santa Barbara to go out to Santa Cruz Island and work with LJ Moore and Adrian Wenner on removing feral European honeybee hives from the environment.

Rear Window Stickers

Rear Window Stickers

On moving back to San Diego, the truck was a landmark at the foot of Abbot Street in Ocean Beach. After moving up to Sutter Street in Mission Hills, the truck was notably involved in the incident of the gigantic rat in the engine block. My cat Hobbes decided to capture a sewer rat out of the canyon — seriously, this monster’s body was a foot long — and on letting it go, it scurried up the left front tire and into the engine compartment of the vehicle. My neighbor must have called the cops, because they skidded up to me in the middle of the street as I had the hood open, wielding a flashlight and a straightened coat hanger, wearing a black sock cap and a black turtleneck at 2AM, and trained their guns on me. San Diego’s Finest didn’t believe my story of the rat, even with three cats circling the truck and peering inside, until the beast decided to make a break for it, erupting out of the engine and running around in the middle of the street. Pandemonium ensued. The lady cop was shrieking and pointing her sidearm wildly around at the ground, and the guy cop — who was playing the tough guy — was immobilized in shock, and then in laughter. Needless to say, they let me collect my felines and go home with no further interrogation.

Mermaid Thursdays

Mermaid Thursdays

It was when we moved to Las Vegas, NV that I regretted not springing for the air conditioning. I remember it getting as hot at 117 degrees F once out there, and I used to prepare for the drive home from Nevada Power Company by stripping my shirt off and burning my fingers on the sun shade. The truck reliably got me to and from the Mermaid Cafe every Thursday night for my weekly four+ hours of DJing and drinking 22oz Sapporos. This was also the start of putting a lot of miles on the truck, as trips to and from San Diego would start to take their toll on the odometer.

On moving from Las Vegas to Atlanta, GA, the logistics company was good enough to put the truck on a flatbed for the trip, saving wear and tear on the vehicle. The Woodweaver and I got out there by driving the valuables — including four cats and a tarantula — in a U-Haul, making it to a snow-covered city in less than 48 hours, including an unscheduled stop in Jackson, MI. I had to flatbed the truck myself on the way back, driving the 17′ U-Haul plus the truck on the trailer all the way back to San Diego when I finally moved from the Acres back to my hometown of OB. I hadn’t seen my homeboy Tyrone since I had moved out to Vegas — something like 5 or 6 years — until I moved back in 2003, and he could not believe that I was still driving the same Nissan truck. Although the front end had been busted up, the rest of the vehicle was in pretty good condition; that is, until it was sideswiped no less than five separate times because it was parked on Sunset Cliffs Boulevard when I was living at The Porch on Santa Monica Ave.

In the last 12 months, I have poured about $1200 into the truck to keep it running, including fixing the brakes that were squealing like stuck pigs, and new tires all the way around after an exciting blowout going 70mph on the 15 south in the fast lane coming back from visiting S.A.T. in Murrieta.

Cthulhu by Erol Otis

Cthulhu by Erol Otis

Kelly Blue Book for fair condition (and that’s a stretch) is $675. But there is no denying that I love this truck dearly, and it has never let me down. I was on my way to Target to obtain moar wet fud for the creature that is my cat Brother when the thunk of something critical in the drive train went kaput. The truck was nice enough to let me flip a bitch and limp her twelve blocks home so that I could abandon her outside of the Edgemont Compound. This vehicle has been such an integral, personality-defining part of my life for so long, I feel a little lost having to do new and interesting things like apply for a car loan and figure out what ride could possibly replace her.

Everything about the Nissan is rich with details, stories, and legends:

  • the amplifier under the driver’s side seat was purchased for $100 including install from Circuit City in 1995 and is still working
  • the speaker box with the 8″ MTXs in it behind the bench seat was given to me as a birthday present by Bob Nickel around the same time
  • I traded the dual 12″ speaker box that used to be in the truck bed for the Cthulhu tattoo I have on my left shoulder back in college
  • Every single compilation I have ever produced has been extensively tested on the stereo in the Nissan rolling around the city I happened to be living in, including Festivus, which I just released in 2011
  • Even though it was only a 2×4, I treated it like it was a 4×4, and that lightweight truck made it through some stuff that stuck Jeep Grand Cherokees, especially sand in the desert
  • I lost count of the number of people that “learned to drive stick” in the truck; the clutch was rebuilt three or four times and the transmission once
  • You get used to $100 / month insurance and $50 / year registration costs
  • The Nissan has the “chrome package” which includes rims, bumpers, mirrors, and other details, although you couldn’t tell; the last time I had it detailed was in Las Vegas, and the company cleaned the air vents, which promptly fell apart because they were so brittle

    Tire Blowout

    Tire Blowout

  • When I was out in Atlanta, I ran the truck for three years without any maintenance, not even an oil change
  • Fact: the most environmentally-friendly thing you can possibly do with your vehicle is drive it until — as the SoCal gangstas say — the wheels fall off; you are not encouraging the production of another vehicle just for you, thus this was the most energy-efficient vehicle at GreenHouse
  • Fact: the Nissan did not qualify for the Cash-for-Clunkers trade-in because its MPG was too high
  • It was astonishing, the breadth of things that could be found in the depths of the truck, either in the buckets bungie-corded into the back of the bed or behind / underneath the seats; spanners, socket wrenches, frisbees, road flares, Taco Bell sauce packets, lighters, money, wire, jumper cables, folding wheel chocks, LED disco lights that ran off of the cigarette lighter adapter, flashlights, rigging knives, packs of cigarettes, mung rags, screwdrivers, and other assorted random magic items

Research has proven a relationship between your vehicle and your personality (here, here, and here, for example). I could have a field day with all of the descriptors that would match me and my Nissan: messy, sideswiped, dependable, function-before-form, tough, rugged, beaten up, olde, etc. This is why I refer to this as a “death in the family”; there is an emptiness when I walk outside and look at the carcass of the vehicle that I have loved for so long and that has been my faithful companion for so many years sitting next to the curb and not going anywhere but to a junkyard to be parted out for other 1993 Nissan trucks that are still running.

A long time ago, I received $5000 from my Grandma Gelin as an inheritance. I spent $1000 of it on an engagement ring, and the other $4000 of it on this truck. My dear Aunt Peggy gave me a matching $4000 towards a vehicle and my parents made up the remaining dough so that I could buy this truck outright from Pacific Nissan (<–warning: irritating audio intro) on Mission Bay Drive. The truck panned out a lot better than the ring did. Everyone that worked on this truck over the years, from Fred at Muryani Auto Care to Ron at Pacific Automotive noted that this particular year, make, and model were incredibly dependable, sometimes seeing 300K miles on the original engine. Buying this truck was one of the best decisions I have ever made, and she has served me so well, I just don’t know what could possibly replace her. There are yet more stories about confining cats in the back of the camper shell to move them from one place to another rather than stuffing them in little boxes, and that’s why I am reminded of Kanji, who hated transport more than any other child of mine, and who has helped inure me to the inevitable death of those that you love.

Double Rainbow and Nissan Truck

Double Rainbow and Nissan Truck

It may seem weird that I am eulogizing my truck, but those that have ridden shotgun bumping tunes, or driven it to pick up (pun intended) something or other that wouldn’t fit in your own vehicle, or were just happy that I made it from point A (my home) to point B (your house, or work, or elsewhere), then you know my truck. She is the best investment I have ever made, and will be only the second vehicle to join the storied ranks of those things that I have driven like I have stolen them, right next to the 1973 Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Part of the drive (pun intended) to blog about this is that I have promised myself that I would blog at least once every week in 2011, and there is nothing better than reflecting on almost 20 years of history to inspire me to write. I seem to be pretty good at eulogies, and so I thought I would reminisce for a while about a faithful friend and companion of mine, that rarely complained, was a true workhorse, and who I relied on like family. Because, honestly, she always loved me more than I loved her.

I just finished burying my belovéd cat Kanji beneath one of the great eucalyptus trees in the garden at Edgemont Place. I had to do this once before with the Murdoch family cat, Frodo, in 1997, after I moved him in with my first wife and our four cats Kalvin, Anastasia, Hobbes, and Atari on Sutter Street. Frodo was over 16 years old, a canny outdoors cat with a penchant for rubbing so vigorously on the edge of roofs that he’d almost fall off. He had never been away from the fiefdom on Amiford, but the people who were leasing the house while my parents were in Canada were “allergic to cats” and didn’t want him around. It was only a couple of months later that he quit eating — even hand-shredded warm chicken — and I knew it was time for him to go.

 


Frodo

 

When I took Frodo to a highly impersonal 24 hour clinic to figure out what was wrong with him, the diagnosis was swift and sure: kidney failure. He wouldn’t miraculously heal and start eating and beating the shit out of the younger cats when they wouldn’t leave him alone like he was doing last week. It was clear that it was time, and when I looked into his eyes when I put him down, he was so much wiser and greater than I could ever be; he thanked me with a wink as he slipped over the edge and was no longer there in feline form.

I had no cat carrier at that time, so I took Frodo to the clinic in a paper ream box with a lid. As I took his body home in the same box, driving west on the I8, the clouds poured sunshine through a halo-like hole in the sky over the ocean, and I had to pull over to let the tears course down my face and to scream how unfair it is that I am left behind with all of this grief and a hole in my heart. I went home, got a shovel out of the shed, and drove to Monaco Street near the Amiford residence. I hiked up the drainage ditch I used to play in and around as a child, struck off into the depths of the old acacia bushes, and found a spot under a tree that I thought Frodo would like. And I buried his body there, in the wilderness behind the house where he would disappear for hours and sometimes days, hunting, napping, sunning, and doing whatever it is cats do when they go adventuring. Performing this ceremony made me whole over time: I knew I had done the right thing and done it with power and grace. It is not an easy thing to do.

 

Kan*Ji

the Japanese Kanji for Kanji

 

It doesn’t get any easier the second time around.

The week before this one, on Thursday, I woke up with Kanji curled up between my legs where I had fallen asleep on the couch. What puts this into perspective is that Kanji does not like to come inside the house. She’s always been like this; I am certain her previous owners didn’t allow her inside, and it was hilarious to watch her at Saratoga — where I inherited her — with an open door and a bowl of wet fud just inside enticing her to cross that threshold. When I moved and took her to Panorama, she stayed in my room for two weeks straight, terrified and freaking out that I had moved her from where she had always been. After she ventured outside, she found the spacious basement and spent her time sleeping in the rafters, only emerging to demand fresh kibble and occasionally sprint halfway up a tree when chased by the native cats Brother, Jedi, and Vader. She would continue to sleep at the foot of the bed every so often; a pleasant morning surprise keeping my feet warm and blinking her big blue eyes at me as I would be sleepily slapping the nightstand for the snooze button. At Edgemont, Kanji quickly took up residence under the house a

 

somebody is dreaming...

Kanji abed

 

gain when I let her outside and removed an anti-rodent mesh from the sub-basement. Over time, she found many hidey-holes, but spent most of her time curled up snoozing in the beat-up garage, sometimes on top of my carpeted DJ coffins or speakers. She did get used to coming in the house in order to feed and water, though, so I got used to her occasionally showing up inside, although she much preferred to enter via the window rather than crossing a doorjamb. So it was unusual to have Kanji curled up next to me, rubbing blood and pus all over my comforter from her ruined nose and ear because she just couldn’t quit being a kitten and, well, she wanted to communicate with me that she needed me.

I spent the last week with Kanji as an indoor cat. She had gotten skinny — skin and bones, really, so I plied her with wet fud and booted Brother out of the house so she could eat in peace. Lots of time was devoted to scratching her in all the right places, and gently, so when she would encourage me to rip the scabs off of her nose and ear to drain the grisly shit that was going on underneath, my fingers could dance around it. She peed on everything and I didn’t give a fuck; that Thursday she came in the house, I promised her that I would take care of this once and for all, and so we hung out hard-core: nerding it up while I solved Halo: Reach on Legendary mode with her next to me for good luck; watching Netflix Kung Fu movies until 4 in the morning on school nights; hand-feeding her American cheese slices and black forest ham on her Mexican blanket on the couch and hearing her little “om nom nom” noises; waking up in the middle of the night as she decided that she wanted to sleep closer to me, so she would carefully crawl on to my chest or between my calves and pretend like she had always been there. Kanji was fiercely independent, but she knew better than I what time it was.

 

Handsome Girl Modelling School pose #113

Kanji on the back of my couch

 

I took Kanji to Heather at Cabrillo Vet four or five months ago to find out what was wrong with the persistent scabs on her ear and nose. Heather and her whole staff, by the way, are the greatest lovers of animals on the planet. Referring to me as “Dad”, Heather told me several months ago that this was fast-moving, untreatable skin cancer, and as tears welled up in my eyes, she informed me that Kanji had 1-6 months to live. Today I took Kanji back to Cabrillo and Heather to put her down. Over the last week, I would come home from work at GreenHouse, drop my heavy backpack of tech, and go looking for her. I was worried that Kanji would try some disappearing bullshit on me. At first, I would find her laid out on the couch somewhere, but as this last week went by, I would have minor panic attacks and search the yard fruitlessly, thinking that Kanji either couldn’t get back in the window or that she was trying some dumb “I’m just going to disappear” ploy. She was always inside the house, but these last three days, she was so embarrassed with her incontinence and appearance, she found a secret spot in my back closet where she would hide until I coaxed her out of it and encouraged her back to the couch. Usually, this involved playing Lady Gaga tunes and putting fresh food in her bowl; she loves teh Gaga while she delicately ate while trying not to bang her scabby nose into the kibble.

So the second vet visit ever was to put her out of this misery. I am comforted that I spent good time with Kanji and have lots of pictures and even a little bit of video (where she got excited and tore the crap out of the back of my hand). Heather and Cabrillo are very efficient; I signed some paperwork and there was no wait. We went right back to the exam room, and they gave me a scant two minutes to let Kanji out of the carrier and let her freak out and run around a little. As I put her back on the table for the procedure, I got one good look in her big baby blue eyes, and saw them change from fear to resignation to trust. I trust you. I. Trust. You. And that is how Kanji went forth into the great beyond.

 

This is where I buried Kanji

This is where I buried Kanji

 

I’m an Eagle Scout; I pride myself on being prepared and being good in the “clutch” situation. As I drove home with Kanji’s still form in the cat carrier, I couldn’t help but look at her as if she was just sleeping. When I got home, I didn’t like her body in the carrier, so I carefully pulled her out and laid her on her circular cat-tower-throne that she liked when she was sunning and sleeping. She looked like she always did, sans an infrequent mini-bath and look around while squinting and licking her chops before resuming her nap. I found my shovel under the stairs and dug a deep hole next to two of the massive eucalyptus trees here at Edgemont place. Curling her up in that hole, and arranging her limbs to cover her eyes and give her the semblance of a nap reminded me of doing the same thing with Frodo. And that’s when I knew that it doesn’t get any easier the second time around.

As I updated Kanji’s Catbook profile to provide how long she had been loved, I realized that I have known her since 2008. It is 2010; that is two years. But when you love unconditionally — something I have a problem doing with humans, but rarely with animals — that is a lifetime. I have received many beautiful expressions of sorrow and understanding from my friends and family, and I appreciate them all; however, none of them goes as far as a simple meow from Brother: “Are you OK? I love you. BTW where’s Kanji? Can I have her fud?”

Kanji is physically gone, like so many other cherished pets and loved ones, but that does not relinquish the responsibility of playing it forward: lives are spent setting examples, and I remind myself constantly that this is why they were here in the first place: to move and inspire me now. Even after I have laid one of mine to rest in the cool earth. Kanji is not even a girl; Heather took one look at her and laughed, stating “that’s a boy-kitten, Dad.” Having known this for over four months, I still could not quit referring to her as a girl; Kanji didn’t care about the context — only the tone of voice and the love contained within and that there was Fancy Feest involved if he/she acted cute enough. This is unconditional love, and I can haz it with cats; human beings, though, I am not so sure about. Kanji was like that: suspicious of “hoomins” — this is, perhaps, one lesson that is worth remembering; and, that once alleviated, love is all I have to give to you.

I took my cat Kanji to the vet because her ear wasn’t getting any better. Ever since I have known her, she’s had problems with her ears being mangy. I’m a pretty live-and-let-live pet owner — no collars and indoor / outdoor freedom, occasional wet fud and cursing them for being filthy fleabag dirt-tracking loveable spoiled brats — but after neighbors and girlfriend insisted they would cat-nap Kanji to take her to the vet, I had to act. And I knew that Kanji would hate me for it.

I inherited Kanji from the legendary six-month residence at the OB Saratoga crib. When I was forced to move out by unforseen witchery, I sat down with this cat that came with the property and explained that there were two options:

  • Stay here and find a new owner after I have spoiled you rotten treated you like the princess you are, or…
  • Come along with me and my ride

It was pretty clear, if you were there, that she chose me.

Scrapbook Kanji

Scrapbook Kanji / photo credit; LdlN

Kanji is an OB alley cat. She doesn’t take shit from nobody; she expresses discontent with bared claws and a wicked repeated paw whipping to feline, canine, and human alike. Moxie is her middle name. At her home at Saratoga, there were raccoons, skunks, dogs, opossums — never mind other stray cats — and Kanji would just sit relaxed but warily on the top of the porch table and let these creatures do whatever they came to do, as long as it wasn’t bothering her.

So Kanji decided to throw her lot in with me. When I had to move, I hauled her down to the Panorama Compound in La Mesa kicking and screaming, where I kept her in my studio for about a week before letting her explore outside. She spent most of her time either curled up on my futon at my feet or in the Mithril mines under the hosue itself. There were three other cats already on the property — Brother, Jedi, and Vader — who she decided were irritating and unworthy, so she would pointedly ignore them as much as possible. She loved the 1.1 acres of land to explore, yet seemed happiest curled up in the dark spaces beneath the house or — when she got used to being inside — being inside my room.

When I moved to Edgemont Place, she was furious with me — again — and although I kept her inside for a couple of days, at the first opportunity, she absconded to the beat-up wreck of a garage on the property, eventually becoming master of the rafters. Kanji would emerge when she heard the sound of my 1993 Nissan Truck engine after I would come home from a day of work at GreenHouse to miao and follow me to the house where I would have to open the doors for her so that Her Highness wouldn’t have to jump through the open window to get in and get some fresh kibble. If there is anything Kanji loves more than me, its her “fud”.

I eats on duh tables; dose udder onez kin eats below decks

dose udder onez kin eats below decks

git mah wet fud, hooman!

git mah wet fud, hooman

Handsome Girl Modelling School

Handsome Girl Modelling School

Because I have no idea where Kanji came from, originally, I also have no idea how old she is. This is just a strange fact that you just learn to accept. Also, she probably likes it that way because she’s a girl. The hoodrats around the Saratoga Party Palace called her “Cloud”, “Ghost”, and other nicknames because nobody really knew what her real name was. I forget who it was, but one of the older neighbors speculated that she belonged to the original owner of the house I was renting who had moved to a facility; apparently I was renting the house from his or her daughter. I think it was this neighbor that seemed to remember that her name started with a K. Kanji came to mind when I was playing with her; after a couple of years, she knows her name when I call it. It has taken equally as long to work on our relationship; she is still skittish and very particular about everything, especially touching her (she likes her butt scratched and if you don’t scratch good enough or long enough, she will bat your hand and tell you to get back to work).

That is why I never took her to the vet before. Every time I have to stuff Kanji in my truck or in a carrier to go somewhere, I lose her for about a week as she sulks and spits and swears she hates me. It’s a lot like having another girlfriend. I knew she wouldn’t run away, but I could always feel her eyes glowering from the shadows of the shed or the garage or from under the house shooting laserbeams of control into my head like some sort of feline Onceler: “you will put three open cans of warmed Turkey and Giblets wet fud, a diamond tiara, and a QP of White Lightning catnip in the bucket or I will eat your eyeballs out while you sleep.” Kanji is the master of making you feel like an abusive husband, looking at you reproachfully and measuring out her trust to you again by the spoonful. She is very intelligent and unlike many cats who can be memory-wiped with a can of Fancy Feast after a traumatic trip, Kanji will not forget the embarrassing and totally inappropriate “you-don’t-put-your-hands-on-me, my-FATHER-doesn’t-put-his-hands-on-me” treatment that vehicular transport entails. It is totally against the way a graduate of the Handsome Girl Modelling School is supposed to be treated. I love this about her personality, and I will very rarely overstep these boundaries and devastate her pride by forcing her into a 1′ x 2′ box to be taken to a strange person who is going to stick a thermometer in your ass and feel you up in the harsh light of a vet office.

Kitty Love-Love

Kitty Love-Love Kanji

It is indescribably awesome and horrible that I can walk out my front door, which overlooks this beautiful canyon that my brother Kleptus is guerrilla landscaping with native plants and find Kanji curled up peacefully on one of these old wooden Adirondack chairs half in and half out of the sun. The cancer that is melting away her left ear and left nostril is due to SUNBURN. Melanoma, essentially the same thing that humans (and dogs and even horses) get when sunshine is dangerous. It can’t be helped, except by keeping Kanji inside 24-7, and I won’t do that. Is it her fault that she wants to sleep in the sunshine and the long-term result is that she is going to die. Relatively soon. Every time I can touch her while she is alive is facing the fact that I am going to watch her face get eaten off by cancer, and I am directly responsible for her quality of life QoL). That is, until I make the awful decision for her that enough is enough, and it is time to go.

Wear sunscreen, sheeple. And how about we fix that ozone layer. I don’t have children, but I do love my cats as my kids. I have godchildren I adore. If you cannot get on board the “save the planet” bandwagon, then I think you give up your right to be on this green Earth.

So when does it transition from Kanji enjoying the sunset of her life and me having to decide QoL for her? She is still audacious and strong, she eats like a pig and mugs for attention like a kitten. At the urging of my girlfriend, Lilith de la Nuit, and my neighbors, Dawn and Jenne, I took a half-day off and stuffed Ms Thang in the cat carrier. I took her to Heather at Cabrillo Vet Center for Kanji’s first visit ever to the vet to check out this ear and nose thing. Now we know what it is, and what we can do about it. Heather was extraordinarily kind and sensitive, even though she was in the office with walking pneumonia. She is that dedicated to animals and their “Moms and Dads”. If money was not an option, there is pretty much nothing that can be done to save Kanji’s life. It is a matter of QoL for one to six months from June 15th, 2010. And this decision is mine.

Kanji humbles me with her bravery. She knows she is dying, and yet manages to ham it up and act like a kitten

Kanji-licious

The Duchess / photo credit: LdlN

and squeeze all of the attention and specialness she can out of her situation. When she mugs for some love, and you give it to her, she gets so corny that she wants to rub up against everything — including with her torn-up ear, where she rips the scab off and then shakes her head, flinging blood everywhere. It is ghastly and somehow beautiful that she does not care but for the moment. And for love.

[later, August 10, 2010]

I have had this blog post in draft for over a month and a half now, and I have realized that I can’t finish it just yet. I can just post what I have and do a Part 2 later on. Kanji has almost a whole ear missing and her nose is halfway gone, but she does not seem in pain or too much discomfort. It pains me to hear her sneeze occasionally, and snuffle a bit, but her big blue eyes say that it is not time yet. I am comforted that she has already beaten the odds of the low end of her possible time frame on the planet, and frankly, she is keeping me company, maybe more than I am doing service to her.

Every day when I come home from work, I whistle for her, and she usually comes trotting from the garage where she sleeps, or out from under a piece of lawn furniture with a raspy miao. She’s been waiting for me to arrive because I am reliable like that, and Kanji wants to point out that her special on-the-table fud bowl is empty. And that she missed me.

I will miss her, now and soon.

I.
There was a woman
Who I loved with all my heart.
It’s the only way
I know how
to love.
The problem I have
With falling in love
Is that I just keep falling
And falling on through.
It’s a perpetual autumn;
Storming leaves of memories,
Possibilities,
Skeletal trees.
And turning my collar up
Against the cold of this world.
Holding my hands out
To the warmth of the fire
That we had kindled
To keep the darkness at bay.
Every time these things end
I look up from the glow
Of the smolder, the embers,
For the ignition of a smile,
That familiar, beloved synching
Eyes to eyes:
It’s just understood
We’ll revel in the work
To pile on more fuel
From our common woodpile.
But nobody is there
Across the coals from me;
I’ve fallen through
The bottleneck of the hourglass
Along with all these ashes.

II.
Songs get tied
Like complicated knots
Around my feelings;
They remind me of how
I used to think about forever.
Some are bright blossoms
Stolen from yards
On the way to your window
In the middle of the night
To kneel and present you
With a moonlit bouquet,
My Juliet.
Another is the crosshatching
Of spray painted poetry
Hanging in midair
Amongst the tree branches
Between the shadows
Of the stars that were ours;
Witchcraft and wizardry
For an unrelenting passion.
Tapestries of smoke
And of tie-dyed freedom;
Soft paws of haloed kittens,
The chocolate and the champagne
Of the once in a lifetime.
Threads on a magick loom
Synchronicity unparalleled,
Spiderwebs like a hammock,
An embrace as if I was coming home;
Touch burning like the fire of a faerie,
Or the resurrection of the phoenix,
Tracing sigils in the sky,
Re-ignition of belief
Like a firestarter
Or finding a soulmate.
I am haunted
By the breadth of my music
And the depth of my commitment.
The failure
of my eyesight.

III.
The carnage is absolute;
A battlefield strewn with my corpses,
Beer cans and shrieks and cigarette butts,
The best of intentions and
The stench of taking things for granted.
These raw wounds
I have sustained over my lifetime
Of loving how I should have been loved
Never seem to heal;
They just ooze and pulse
Making heartbeats painful;
A crazy accumulation of luggage
Like owning an airport carousel
Of baggage you can’t strip off.
It just grows with you,
Older and less attractive,
Smelling faintly of urine and gangrene
When you can’t bear
To perform the required surgery.
It hurts too much;
I’ll excise memories I want to keep
Along with the decaying flesh.
Retrospective or post-mortem;
It’s still the death of a relationship
That I thought would live forever
As if I had infinite chances,
Infinite quarters.

IV.
I was pinned to a mortarboard
Like a butterfly from a caterpillar,
When I had to eulogize my friend;
My brother, my partner-in-crime,
Someone who understood
By the merit of not being female
The depth of love and an enduring relationship.
I don’t ever want to do that again.
It is the same with love;
I know I can, and it will be better,
But the pain of losing someone to provoke that work
Is too much to accept;
Besides, who the fuck will do that for me?
The answer is as clear as hindsight:
20-20.
I listened to my voice echo hollow through a church
That he wouldn’t have appreciated
To the people who were left behind,
And became even more haunted.
I did my best to represent,
Tell tales, romanticize, believe
And I went home with ashes in my mouth
To cry, cry out, want to evaporate,
Disappear, erase myself from existing
Because I had lost something precious:
A true friend.
It’s a lot like losing your love
Because you have lost a friend.

V.
The light switch is off.
This is the eye of the storm for me.
Now I deal with the still shatter of leaves,
The cold of being alone,
And shoving my hands into the campfire.
There is no warmth.
This destroys the fabric of memories
That took deep commitment
And sweat equity;
Deeper resources than I had without you.
And I see them all retreat,
As if they never existed;
Vanish into the thin, thin air
That I breathe.
Flatlined.

VI.
To move along,
Because there is nothing to see here;
It’s a pretty penance,
My cross to bear;
One that gets weightier
The more years I carry forward,
This boulder I am pushing uphill.
It’s that lost luggage from the carousel;
It’s those old wounds from the battlefield;
It’s those lyrics of happier times
When I would write, compose, sing
Of how I loved being in love
And how I expected forever
But you only had right now to give.

VII.
Perspective is a function of wisdom,
Which is a byproduct of experience,
That is what happens when you live and die
Through these things.
Perhaps they build character;
Actually, they create defense mechanisms
To try to prevent this from happening again
And again.
Expectations collapse
And you lay bricks and mortar in the fortress
That you think will keep you safe
But not sound;
You all are quite persuasive.
Certainly isolated
In the aftermath
Of bequeathing your everything —
Heart, mind, soul —
To your everything
Around that campfire
And you look up and discover
That she is long gone.

Evolution Drives the Bus

Posted: December 21, 1994 in Poetry
Tags: , , , , ,

I
rebirth is the sign
I have seen in neon karma,
judging by my scenery.
II
not some paranormal awakening,
nor a Zen-like inner peace:
I am far from stopping.
III
evolution drives the bus;
I’m afraid to lose
what I don’t already have.
IV
potential energy = power,
a force to select the future
that the past dictates I want now.
V
molt like the mad spider
Mordenkainen;
commit yourself to the House of Bedlam.
VI
slough the skin
before it roughens into
the wrinkles you wear forever.
VII
youthfulness is vitality,
the vitality to withstand
change.
VIII
this death must be dyed
to match the colorful shirt
I wish to wear tomorrow to work.

I’ve hated myself for so long
for other people
other opinions, other lives:
here goes my hair —
look in the mirror,
watch your steely blue eyes wink:
lighthouses to steer ships by.
Bring them home.
Home is the sailor,
home from the sea,
and the hunter,
home from the hill.
home to your heart.
Quit renting the space from yourself:
laugh and languish
with the rest of the apes called human beings.
Life is a dualism;
you are understanding
dum-dum balancing act of whatever.
Equilibrium is so nice.
So is the shift of the teeter-totter but
gain control,
remain under control;
O Captain, my Captain,
you are not yet cold and dead.
Breathe in and out,
live until the end.
It comes not from your hand;
it is not believed in your heart:
the sides of life and death
are one shot kamikaze missions:
one, then the other.
Enlighten the lighthouse.
Strengthen the beams of your winks.
Find meaning in living
to bank hard against the 100% house of death.
The Love comes:
a white ship,
a black frigate,
the swarthy faces of dream-lands sailors
set foot on the dry land
of your once-fertile imagination,
bearing gifts of gems and spices,
flowers silks and brocaded tapestries
unique to your mind and your magic —
so you trade them to the rest of the world.
These gifts are your giftedness;
these waves are your talents,
and when your life is lost,
you will trade no more in this heady marketplace.
Learn to be a good merchant of your wares,
a good businessperson,
a good man;
everyone barters and sings praise and stabs.
Be better: be the best
that your will and imagination can conceive,
then focus your lighthouse lantern
to illuminate,
to enlighten,
and to greater things to believe in.