Last night I couldn't sleep for the third night in a row, thank God for Hulu. For the second time in many months, I watched the documentary on Hubert Selby Jr. It is a great documentary, with plenty of in depth interviews and insight. I love the very last sequence, which shows him near the end of his life, going into a pay laundry mat to do his laundry, the narrator says, "Hubert Selby Jr. did not die a rich man as a writer…" It's actually a beautiful tag on an extraordinary life.
A high school drop out, in a sanitarium for four years after contracting tuberculosis at a very young age where he almost dies several times from having his ribs removed, (that's how they treated tuberculosis then) a junkie for many years after spending much time in the hospital on morphine, Hubert Selby writes 'Last Exit to Brooklyn' and becomes a cult hero, but blows all the money from his novel on heroin. Somehow, he survives, moves to LA and finally gets clean and sober in his forties and writes 'Last Requiem For a Dream', a novel about addiction. A teacher, a gifted and determined writer, and a person with a deep moral compass, an inspiring story for a writer, or for anyone. I loved this documentary.
I'm feeling a little hopeless and depressed today, even though I'm excited about finally directing Chuck's play, 'The Man In The Black Pajamas', (which we are auditioning on Saturday and Monday) I suppose some depression will happen when everything you own burns up in a fire, including the little house that was all you really had. As the days go by, there are so many little things I realize I don't have anymore, and because I was actually 'in the fire', I'm probably having some post traumatic stress. For those of you who don't know what happened, the short version is a propane leak caused my trailer to explode, with me in it. I only got out by kicking out the back windows and falling onto the dog house, (now there's a great metaphor for all of this that I hadn't thought of before). I was in the hospital for a couple of days with cuts, bruises, and some smoke inhalation. To put it bluntly, I was acting pretty crazy in the days leading up to it, and I'm very lucky to get out with my life. You miss little things like 'your wallet', and your comfortable boots. Luckily, my computer and guitar were not in the trailer, still, everything else was. Afterwards, as I was raking through the remains I did find one piece of paper that was only burned on the edges, and I suppose it should be a sign to me—the only thing that survived the fire was my birth certificate and a photo of me when I was a little kid. I'm so appreciative of all the help, clothing, and kindness that the community showed me, but still, you are in someone else's clothes. There have been moments when I have thought that I might be on the brink of madness, but then remember that others' have gone through this, and we are a world with the dire rich and the dire poor, and its official, I have become the latter. I hope I can survive and move through this.
Right now, it’s the uncertainty and the anxiety that I fear the most, as these last five years have been the extremity of highs and lows, all indications that something isn't right, plunging disappointments mixed in with great expectations. It's usually during a catastrophe like this one that I get good news, but the good news is overwhelmed by the despair, and it seems that this time I have really lost some ground. And, it seems, I've lost a few of the key figures in my life I always counted on, who I think are disgusted with me and my continuing spiral.
Immediately after the fire, I seemed to have some sort of epiphany about my life, and of course there were many people who came to comfort me. My eighty-nine year old aunt, for example was amazing in this latest tragedy, and as always my ever vigilant mother, who knows me like know one else. But the last several days I've felt this huge separation from God. Last night, I was sitting out on the porch, and I was thinking about God, and a light went on in a house directly across the street, but I found no comfort in this seemingly very direct momentary message. It's like the signs are all around and I can see them but am having difficulty taking comfort in them. Usually, I would say that for a good part of my life I've been a 'glass half full' kind of a person, but today I'm having trouble even finding a glass. Thankfully, there is my very vigilant dog, Baby, who follows me around like a little nurse, peering deeply into my eyes and giving me the sweetest indications that she is here to comfort. And she has been a great comfort, snuggling up to me in the most needed moments, the pure and unconditional love of a dog, it is truly amazing. When I think back to the fire, I think she was one big reason I was able to get out of there, a momentary flash in my brain of, "Who will take care of Baby?"
I do feel like I have been here before, however, the pain and suffering I've experienced most recently are unlike the others, its as if there is a deep longing for the world to all just go away. As if the constant energy to 'reinvent' myself is waning, as if the constant struggle is getting to me. Don't panic. I'm not suicidal, just depressed. And although I'm willing to take responsibility for some of it, I suppose I'm like we all are at times, asking ourselves, "Why didn't that turn out like it was supposed too?" And then the ever present, "If only this had happened…" I'm honestly filled with regret at this moment, as though "If only I had made this happen!" If I had pushed more, if I had pushed just a little harder on the boulder." Several people now have finally reproached me on my choice to quit my job teaching, (ten years) and venture out to ply my trade as a writer and entertainer. I lost any inkling of security, and have been in a free fall ever since with short moments of grandiosity and success. But, I did not want to live the rest of my life with the regret of not making that decision. I was burned out teaching, people, okay? I couldn't do it like you would. My flame burns hard and fast, and it burned that way for the ten years I taught, and believe me, I love to teach, but it too was becoming tragic.
A week after the fire, I got an email from someone who says they will put up the money to do 'Blue Baby, A Memoir', in Los Angeles, which oddly, is about another series of tragic events in my life. For the last three years, however, I've heard all of this before, as if I'm destined to go through this period of glaring disappointment and pain. Will it happen? I don't know. I only know that I'm trying so hard that perhaps I just need to 'let it go' and not worry about it. I've become a pretty grand letter writer, (I get that from my mother who once wrote me a twenty-one page single spaced letter) I've learned that with out communicating that you have these things, plays, pieces of art, etc., that nothing at all will happen with any of it while you are alive if you don't communicate it to someone in a particular way. I keep working the channels, and probably always will until I drop. It is hard work. It's hard to hold the rhetoric of the letter down so it doesn't sound like a scream coming from a deep hole in the earth.
Oh, God, I've written a 'poor me' missive, and its probably not a good time to write publicly about any of this, however, I AM holding onto the words of Hubert Selby Jr. who made a decision he says to, "Say yes to life". I am saying 'yes' to life, but I'm bitching about it every step of the way. Hubert Selby was a writer who was able to honestly let out the scream that he had within him, a scream that we all have, and do it in stories and books. I know I'll recover from this, but its not going to be easy, and its not going to be fast. I've been through this before, it’s a repetitive cycle of behavior that I can only correct for periods of time. Sometimes, however, for long periods, I'll hope for that, on a daily basis and see where that gets me.
I think I've read far to many biographies on my heroes, but I think that they were my heroes because I identified with them. But, I admit, they were the mad ones, the ones who struggled all of their lives. I just keep hoping for that third act, the one of resolution that I keep talking about, the one where the conflicts in acts one and two finally get some real answers. In the meantime, the moments are passing very slowly, the paradox however, is the increasing anxiety that accompanies those moments, and all the while, my little dog keeps looking at me, deeply and lovingly, today I'll hang onto this, and keep writing.