Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Howler breaks free, and screams into the wild

This is Part Two of "Going Down, Please"
It is being used as the "voiceover" for a British film.
Hiding in plain sight is a sexy art form indeed.  / by Salvador Dali
     I've been having all kinds of crazy, pointless fantasies about what I might do that would distract me from wanting to die, since I'm such a baby about suicide. ("Just say yes!" Nancy Reagan is shrieking.)
     It has occurred to me of late that if I were on the lam, I might regain my will to live. I haven't been pursued in a while. Maybe the titillation of being featured glamorously on "WANTED" posters would distract me from my morbidity. Interpol agents would be competing relentlessly to capture and subdue me. It would require all of my wits and dramatic talents to evade them. Wouldn't it be fun to leave behind taunting evidence -- a citrus-mint-scented handkerchief, an empty absinthe bottle, a note from Julian Assange offering financial support, a Deviant Art magazine -- which proved that they had just missed me? Ha, ha!

     Have you ever imagined the thrill of being a fugitive, complete with tons of fake IDs, sneaking from one international hotel (or Appalachian hideway, provided by anarchist friends) to the next, hiding behind huge sunglasses at a beachfront resort (leaving a $100 tip for the maid, with a big lipstick kiss on it), working as a humble domestic for a lovely black family (I guess I'd better not do that -- I'm terrible at housework, sorry), renting a room over the Main Street barber shop of some Middle American town (becoming an instant favorite with the regulars at the diner), bamboozling your way into a motivational-speaking gig and cynically expounding on life's fabulous opportunities, skipping town in the dark of night, all the while knowing that thousands of law-enforcement officers are ON YOUR TAIL!  OMG! I am loving this concept.

Where the fuck is that Evildoer? / by Salvador Dali
    The inventiveness you'd need, the alertness, the nimbleness, the savoir faire, the physical prowess (leaping from one roof to another, sloshing brashly through sewer systems, climbing up elevator shafts, shimmying along the tops of moving train cars, a la Jennifer Garner in "Alias") -- it would be a legend-in-the-making.  
    I would finally get to wear a padded bra, wigs and Lee's press-on nails. And all sorts of exotic disguises! I could employ my repertoire of accents, most of which I made up, but they do sound foreign. I have worked undercover before, in New York. The role-playing is such a high, it's hard to express. You LIE about everything. It's very creative. You can be any kind of person you choose, and the embellishments you devise on the spot are like doing serious theatrical improv. It makes you proud of yourself. When was the last time that happened? The whole thing would be excellent for preserving my declining cognitive functioning.  Adrenaline! Dopamine! Self-esteem!  

    Will someone please read my appallingly anti-American blog, and call Homeland Security, so they'll mobilize to "seek and destroy" me with their so-called "shock and awe"?  (Good luck doing either to me.)
I don't go this far. I love the Statue of Liberty.  But our liberty is in peril.
     My positions on domestic and foreign policy are transgressive and inflammatory! I am a clear and present danger! I don't support our troops! I do not pledge allegiance to the flag, and I was offended by the concept even in elementary school. I give moral and financial support to the kids who want to take The System down and start all over again, beginning with an across-the-board redistribution of wealth. Snowden, Manning, Assange: I love you. I thank you.  
   Of course, I love the Constitution, too, and the Bill of Rights. But when was the last time we lived up to them, or came close?
   I find myself agreeing with and cheering on our nation's most despised enemies. I concurred with much of what bin Laden said about our government's foreign policy. I was thrilled by the uppity screw-you attitude of Chavez. I have admired Castro, in many respects, from the start, and am ashamed of the pain our policies have inflicted on his people for 55 years. I even love the Taliban's sense of fashion (the men's loose, fluttery pants, the long tunics, the wide sashes, the vests, the headwraps, are so cozy and slimming. It's my style: pajamas!) (I know, I know: the women's situation is another story entirely:)
This would suit me fine, but only if it were voluntary.
     So wouldn't it be reasonable to regard me as a traitor, and release the hounds on me? How far does one have to go to become regarded as "a grave and gathering threat"? I guess it depends on your ethnicity and gender. 
   But if one were to succeed in becoming WANTED (what a morale-booster!), can you see how this lifestyle of clever, confounding gamesmanship would make you want to get out of bed in the morning, even if you haven't wanted to in many, many years? If all those testosteronous He Men (and "G" men) were after me, I'd leap up and keep moving, forgetting -- for the time being -- those existential issues that cause me such consternation. 
    What can I do today to really, really mess with their heads? What a hoot! I would become notorious. There would be widespread gnashing of teeth, which always cheers me up.

     I guess it's all moot, anyway. Homeland Security doesn't care what I say or do. They've checked me out. I'm crazy, they've concluded, but harmless. 
    That is so cruel, dudes. Cruel and stupidly careless: You will pay for your eye-rolling dismissal of a very pissed off old lady. Now we can add ageism to the list of your prejudices. Your half-assed training manuals (stupid defense contractors) never prepared you for me.
The women in my family have anomalous amygdalas.
     Have you super spooks looked into my eyes? Have you scanned my amygdala? Have you screened my cerebrospinal fluid for the hormones of acrimony, impertinence and revenge? The off-the-chart levels among the females in my family are a genetic anomaly, Mayo Clinic endocrinologists have concluded. Fundamentally, we are savages, swathed fraudulently in an ethereal beauty. Our pain has made us sociopathic. Apprehend me, to protect the security of our hopelessly cruel, corrupt Dictatorship of the One Percent -- or else.
    (None of this "Most Wanted" drama will ever happen. I'm still sane enough to know that. But a girl can dream, can't she? I've been lying back in one of my favorite robes, zonked on Xanax, drinking ginger ale in a champagne flute, and smoking one of those new e-cigarettes {delicious and euphoric}. 

    The scenario of sleuthing through the Heartland, changing personas and making daring getaways with lithe insouciance, has given me one of the nicest hours I've had in years. Or maybe it was the cigarette. They sneaked some vanilla into the menthol ones. I thought that was quite presumptuous at first, and silly. Then I said: "Yum.")

    Whatever --  I'm not going to waste any more time figuring out how to become "a person of interest" to law enforcement. If only I were black, I could just look askance at someone in uniform, and I'd be in solitary confinement, in a supermax prison, in about 15 minutes. 
    For the time being, the fantasy that keeps me going is that some day soon, I will quietly disappear from the civilized world, and retreat to a god-forsaken place that opens its arms to howler monkeys like me: a place of raggedy misfits and blitzed-out solitaries.
      I am slightly uncomfortable comparing myself to one of the most revered spiritual leaders of all time, but this is exactly what the Buddha did. Unlike me, he was protected from the three realities of life -- suffering, aging and death -- by his father, the king, who kept him confined to the castle, surrounded by food, music and naked girls. But when he ventured out, in his mid-30s, and bore witness to these realities (which I confronted as a little girl), he was shattered (as was I). He chopped off his hair, left his finery behind, and entered a life of homelessness and poverty. He became a "renunciant." He learned about life's pointlessness 30 years later than I did, but he walked away from civilization 30 years earlier. So we're practically twins.
    When it comes to being a renunciant, I can relate. I have renounced so many things that no one has listened to me for years -- they are plain sick of my negativity. Buddha had a more open mind as he begged for food and slept under the trees, wearing rags.
     My plan is that I am going to sleep under trees, wearing rags, among my fellow renunciants. Unlike Buddha, I have no hope of finding enlightenment using this methodology. To be honest, I'm too tired to be enlightened. It sounds like work to me, and I am through with every kind of work.

    I do dread the inevitable search of my house after I've vanished: all those cop cars screeching into the neighborhood, the yellow tape, the walkie-talkies, the fervently scrupulous lawmen swarming through my shrouded world, going through every inch of my life, accumulated over decades, confiscating my computer (no porn, you freaks -- just lots of brilliant research and some poetry) and all my confidential files (some of them probably involving corruption within your ranks). The dirt and disarray are shocking. It will all be quite messy, I'm afraid, when they're hauling all that stuff out of there wearing Hazmat suits. 
    Even after I excused myself from public life to become a recluse behind my 10-foot fence, I kept up my spotless and disinfected housekeeping routine for quite a while.
    Oh dear: That fell apart over time. Once I decided to die soon -- or something akin to it -- I lost the will to do the Martha Stewart thing, rosily beaming as I scrubbed, shined, organized and simplified. All hell didn't break loose -- it just piled up gradually, into a squalor that might be compared to Grey Gardens. I was the new "Little Edie" Bouvier, a deranged and unkempt former socialite. I maintained the Clorox-and-Lysol ambiance by putting out little bowls of them each day, to fill my disaster area with the scent of cleanliness.
"Little Edie" in front of the collapsing Bouvier mansion.
Things can succumb all around you before you even realize it, like at Grey Gardens.
     The reporters will have a blast with this story. Why would the media care? The journalini, the litterati, the glitterati, Big Pharma, Big Education, Big Military, Too-Big-to-Fail corporations and financial institutions, have all been mercilessly and relentlessly assailed in my reporting over the years. They hate me! 
    I didn't do it for the thrill of being hated, although endorphins are definitely released when one forces the Big Shots to squirm and disambiguate. I did it in spite of the endorphins and the notoriety. I was a Truth-monger. This is not to glorify myself. There was a sense of duty, but to be candid, it was more my "ah ha!" neurochemistry that propelled my investigative adventures. I knew there was dirt that needed to be dug up, and it seemed that my assigned role was to dig. I was quite helpless. I was driven to dig.
Everywhere you turn, there is filthy dirtiness that must be dug up.
     I have created great personal and institutional embarrassment doing this work. My articles have resulted in resignations and terminations, public hearings, policy changes and "image-transforming" ad campaigns. There was even one suicide, which I feel terrible about, but it wasn't my fault that he was doing chemical-biological warfare research on a university campus, in violation of both institutional and DOD regulations. He was a very nice man. In spite of the scandal, no one was mad at him personally. 

    Anyway, a lot of people will indulge in a bit of schadenfreude when they learn that I am a certifiable wacko. They will feel unjustifiably redeemed, which is a bummer for me. The conditions of my life will result in jubilation and probably a lot of celebratory drinking. My cat-lady, survivalist, muttering-hermit state will be misused to undermine the credibility of what I've written. I will be discredited. I regret that. It's unfair to the causes I believe in.
    Maybe the late-night guys will find some humor in it. I have high hopes that Jon Stewart will come to my defense.
    It won't be easy. How can someone who has black mold in the microwave, pink mildew in the bathroom and furry gray stuff in the drains go on tirades about America's military adventurism? There are tadpoles in my toilet, as well as a rather handsome vine, so how can I be in any condition to attack pay inequity? I haven't vacuumed or dusted, literally in years (It's really fine. It's like being outside, which seems pretty clean to me.). 
My life: Messy, twisted, baffling, incongruous. / by Salvador Dali
    I have stuff like canned coconut milk and bamboo shoots that expired in 1996. Only two lightbulbs in the entire house are working, and the furnace conked out years ago (my hot flashes and robes keep me plenty warm). My closets are filled with clothes (circa mid-1980s) that still have the 15 percent off the already 75 percent off tags on them. My floor-to-ceiling windows, which overlook a wonderland of trees, flowers and wildlife, are so dirty, I can't see a thing unless I step out on my little balcony. 
    When I do, nature hurts my feelings. The mountains, the trees, the coral-clouded sky, the whole majestic stage set that has been so thoughtfully provided to us, has been here practically forever. When I die, it will still be here: unmoved, unchanged. Not even a little sigh from a cave somewhere, not a tear-dewdrop forming in my honor on a leaf. It will go on as if I had never been born. It's disrespectful. It's demeaning.

    Once I close up this infested heap of a house and walk away, that will be it. I will be gone with the wind, gone with the sinned, gone in more ways than one. I held on as long as I could, amigo.
    I should have gone underground sooner -- that's obvious. I'm sliding, I’m vanishing, and there is euphoria involved. I have succumbed -- an unfairly discredited word. The netherworld is reaching up to yank me down's coming to take me away, ha ha. Don't feel bad -- it couldn't be any worse than this.   

      After an interminable period of being young, I am finally seeing the old lady in myself. The hag is coming out just in time for my descent -- or ascent -- into the life I guess I was born to live. If I were young, people might feel sad at where I’m headed, but there’s no need. It’s a good thing.
The fragmented self is in pain. / by Salvador Dali

    People used to tell me to "get a grip," but I never could. My fingernails have been screeching along the rough, cold foundation of life from the start, and I'm plain sick of the noise.

    I'm ready to proclaim defeat. Mr. Beast has won. I'm going off my rocker and collapsing  into his. Rock on, rock steady, let's rock, my man. Rock like a Hasidic prayer, rock like the polar bear (gone insane in the zoo), rock like James Brown, too. I feel good. I knew that I would. 

"I feel nice -- like sugar and spice."
     I'm basically just writing to say "bye." I only said bye to one person face-to-face: The girl next door, a delightful five-year-old.
   (That afternoon, when I sneaked outside my fence to retrieve my jogging bra, which had blown off the balcony, she came over and brought me a tube of spearmint Chapstick as a going-away present, with a sticker on it that said, "I love you."  No gift in my life has been more touching. I fell to my knees, embraced her, and burst into tears. Her body stiffened, with confusion, I guess, and probably claustrophia, and maybe revulsion at my red, dripping nose, and maybe -- please no, god -- a "stranger danger" pre-molestation panic. Her mom came out onto the porch and coldly said, "Get in here, Sierra." That's how things go for me. I ruin everything. It's why I've rarely stepped outside the walls of my yard in 30 years.) 

   Before long, I envision leaving everything behind to join my people, sprawled out in Pioneer Park, drinking Wild Irish Rose, sleeping under the viaduct, smelling so bad that they smell good. The pheromones of utter defeat. The uppity aroma of giving a shit no more!

     When I enter the mind-blown subculture, sidling into the notoriously derelict west-side hell hole, and collapsing under a tree (with a bag of carrot strips hidden in my pocket), nobody will mind.
    Homeless vets, dope fiends, alcoholics, schizophrenics: We will cleave together, recognizing our kindredness almost subliminally. The companionship, as we sleep, will be like a comforter to me.
We collapse together in a communion of untroubled defeat.
    Evolution has really screwed up -- was it a joke or an oversight? It has covered up the primal howl of existential despondency with a bunch of ruffled layers -- psychic petticoats -- but the howl is still in there, it just comes out in twisted ways, like anxiety disorders and eating disorders and substance abuse and irritable bowel syndrome, etc., the list goes on. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ernst Becker  posited eloquently that our War Machine helps relieve this repression. There's plenty of howling and hooting when "our finest" are out there, blowing entire countries "back to the Stone Age." Killing provides relief and a sense of control, he said. It gives us an illusion of immortality, if we can just keep KILLING OTHER PEOPLE. Those of us who are stuck in non-killing roles are at a real disadvantage. We repress so much:

(We try to, anyway.)
    How do people hold it all together? I can't do it -- I have to howl, like my shell-shocked comrades do (earning the label "mentally ill.")  So did Allen Ginsberg, arguably our greatest howler ever: 

    "angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
    who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness....
    with dreams, with drugs, with waking nightmares, alcohol and cock and endless balls, 

    a lost battalion of platonic conversationalists jumping down the stoops off fire escapes off windowsills off Empire State out of the moon,
    yacketayakking screaming vomiting whispering facts and memories and anecdotes and eyeball kicks and shocks of hospitals and jails and wars,
    whole intellects disgorged in total recall with brilliant eyes....
    who broke down crying in white gymnasiums naked and trembling before the machinery of other skeletons,

   who bit detectives in the neck and shrieked with delight in policecars for committing no crime but their own wild cooking pederasty and intoxication,

  who howled on their knees in the subway and were dragged off the roof waving genitals and manuscripts,...
  who cut their wrists three times successively unsuccessfully, gave up.....
who threw their watches off the roof to cast their ballot for Eternity outside of Time, & alarm clocks fell on their heads every day for the next decade.....

With or without clocks, what is "time"? / by Salvador Dali
     Oh darling Allen, I wish you were here with us. You'd be right at home -- it even smells like the '50s, when you were writing about the howling people. It was at that same time, when I was a little girl, that I was sticking up for the crazies, although I didn't have an ounce of guts otherwise. On some level I must have known that they were my soulmates in this world. 
    Years later, I took one look into The Unabomber’s face and thought, "That’s my future -- eyes like that -- eyes that see everything and nothing, eyes that are too bereft to even open all the way, eyes that somehow manage to convey both placidity and murderous disgust." 

   Why does everybody look away from the crazies on the street? Maybe you see yourself and it scares the shit out of you. Maybe you're jealous because they get to act any way they please.
   I never was jealous because I knew that if I relaxed for one second I'd be down there with them, clawing through garbage cans (although I really would have to bring along my rubber gloves and a carton of moist towelettes).
    At last, I will have a posse. After decades of trying to live up to my pedigree, I will -- in one sweeping gesture -- put myself where I need to be to avoid all those questions about why someone with so many "talents" and "opportunities" doesn't make use of them. My new comrades get it. 
He gets it.
     We can sit there on the curb and talk or not talk: We are simpatico. We know where it's at, brother. Our eyes are red and dead, but we are full of wisdom. I am surprised that I just said that, but I have given it a second thought, and it's true. These dudes are philosophers, honest to god, unlike investment bankers, and most of the rest of us. Going through hell -- whether in war or inside your head -- distances you from the everyday bustle, forces you to try and make sense of it all, and can give you the opportunity to develop Insights. These "lazy bums" get the concept that most human activity is neurotic. Their inactivity, in a sense, elevates them. They have risen above striving, above desire. To me, they have a spiritual quality, despite the unsavoriness of their visible circumstance.
    But that's not why I want to go there. I just can't stand being here anymore. I can afford an Assisted Living Facility, but I would freak out the minute I walked in.
The park is so neglected, it has reverted to its wild beauty. / by Salvador Dali

   If I ever get myself out the door and downtown to My Soulmates, I will resume my drinking career, of course. I quit 30 years ago, and I've been missing it ever since. The aching desire to be  unconscious may be the greatest constant of my life. 
   Regular people claim to be puzzled by this. Why would you want to be "out of it" in this Great Big Beautiful World? 
    But it's so damned obvious if you just look around that millions of people are seeking oblivion, escape, ecstasy, pretty much from the moment they get up in the morning. Half the people in America right now (or more) are probably stuffing themselves into a grease-and-sugar induced, torporific bliss, unless they’re lucky enough to have some blow or some Lortab. 
                                               by Veronique Meignaud
    Or they're chain smoking, and chewing one piece of gum after another, desperate for some kind of comfort. Or they're cutting their thighs with razor blades, like Princess Diana, to distract themselves from reality. Or they're risking everything for a distracting surge of endorphins, like Anthony Weiner and his compulsive sexting. It's epidemic. Everybody's doing something to "get off" or zone out or purge or surge. Just to cope! We're all medicating ourselves, one way or another, to tolerate this mortal realm. Doesn't that tell us something?
    In my earlier years, there was another allure to getting drunk besides oblivion: It gave me an excuse to respond to the world honestly. Sprawled out with my knees apart, laughing and crying at the same time. People would say, "She's just drunk." They were glad for the excuse, too. "She's not really like that."
    But really, I am like that. Don’t cry for me, Argentina. I know you’re not, but don’t anyway.
   Maybe I should have tried out another culture while I had the energy to travel. One of those places where they dance and stomp around and perform purgative rituals left and right. When I see them on the news, burying their dead, I'm thinking: They have the right idea. They shriek and beat their breasts. They tear out their hair and fling themselves onto the casket. 
No hilarious anecdotes permitted.
    That's what I call human. You there, all well-groomed and serene and dry-eyed, in that stinking mortuary, as if it were a lecture, not a funeral. That doesn't look like dignity to me -- it's plain cold-hearted. Why are you even here? When did grief go out of style? And you: Laughing at the adorable stories about your dearly departed. WTF?? When did that shit become appropriate behavior? Mama's dead -- it's party time! Get out the potato salad!

    The crazies aren’t out of it -- everybody else is. So-called normal people are unplugged, in my humble opinion. They're UNPLUGGED. They are not plugged in. They think they see things in a more refined light (than us howlers), but they're  looking at  things without a light: They are not plugged in. A funeral is an ongoing thing. Life's a funeral, man. The problem is that it lasts too long.  Once it's over, it seems reasonable to wonder: Why did we even bother with the Life phase? It was a bunch of chores and stresses and tragedies and then you're nada forever. Forever.
   And you think I'M a goner. Maybe I'm too plugged in. Maybe I'm being slowly electrocuted and that's why I'm shaking like this and when I try to talk all that comes out is choked-up caterwauling.

   That’s why I’m done with all that. I can’t do it, I can’t stand it.
   Before long, I'll be howling freely. Howl at the moon, even during the day. Or I guess not actually at the moon, that was a lapse into cliche. Not at the moon but maybe at the sky -- at the "up there" that hangs aloft and mocks us with its benign blueness. I'm so sure! Like our skin, that beautiful sky hides a secret that damns us all. We look away from it like it's  just one more maniac. We can't tolerate its infinity. We can't abide its apathy. You think you'll be headed "up there" eventually, right? Well, you try to think so. But if you really look up there, you start having doubts. You start visualizing maggots, like I've been doing for 50 years. And then you cram those thoughts way back down, so you won't turn into Me.


   Excuse me, I'm drowsy, I'm out of it, I'm tired. I've got to go -- I've stayed way too long already. I have flossed my teeth for the last time (Quoth the raven: Nevermore). I am so sick of flossing! And so many other things!
   One favor: If you see Jessica Lange, please give this to her. I thought she might want to turn it into one of those one-man shows, you know, like Hal Holbrook did with Mark Twain. I look almost exactly like her on my better days, sunglasses included, but keep it to yourself -- I don't want to be recognized. Let her know that I want my share of the proceeds to go the United Negro College Fund. I love black people so much, my Daddy said I was going overboard. I don't care, Daddy -- you're the one who inspired me! 
    And that’s all she wrote. Adieu.
Jessica Lange.
    How did I turn out so badly? It began the day I was born.