The world goes into pause mode on the 26th of December and does not wake up again until the evening of the 31st. The weather outside is indeed frightful. Right now San Francisco is wetter and colder than I have ever known it to be. Rivers of rain are running down the steep hill that my sweet little apartment of a certain vintage in a not so good part of town lives on. It is streaming down the road and cleaning the sidewalks. San Francisco could do with a good scrubbing and I can only hope that this rain is doing some good for the whole drought situation, because it sure is a miserable situation. At least it is only rain, and rain that we desperately need at that. Looking out at the situation in Buffalo, NY, where people lost their lives and suffered extreme misery due to this messed up climate-change influenced weather, it was flat-out dangerous, not just unpleasant.
I joke that I only need to use my umbrella once a year in this town, and to be frank that is probably not funny. We have had a distinct lack of rain for years. I am looking outside now and wondering if I really do have to go out and do anything today. I might say I don’t enjoy the hot weather, but it is so cold, so wet and so dark that I am looking forwards to those heady spring days where I can walk San Francisco’s streets with a bounce in my step and the sun on the back of my neck. In these no man’s land days, these nothing days which sit between Christmas and New Years, where time goes on pause, the parts of the world where there is any kind of Christian influence, go on hiatus. I don’t celebrate Christmas, I don’t believe the nutter that inspired so much suffering and violence was in fact the son of any God, living or dead. I do, however need these nothing days in order to count time, to mark the passing of days and years.
This is why the so-called festive period is so painful for so many souls: we don’t get many of them, three-score and ten if we are lucky, more if we are hardy, and the people around us, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, friends and pets are engraved in our memories alongside the baubles and the streamers, the celebratory meals and the carefully chosen gifts. We pick out special things and make memories whether we like it or not. I remember you and you and you. I remember smiling faces and little things I picked out with such care. I remember pig tails and video games. I remember kisses and campfires and Christmas trees. These are indelible, forever, imprinted. These are our own personal mythologies. A little girl with a smile on her face reading 2004 Shinjuku Merry Christmas, in front of a shopping center tree, hugging her Cinderella chibi dolly that I had scrimped and saved for and that was the only thing I had managed to buy her. Her father didn’t care. Christmas lunches drunk on champagne that he had been given by work, not getting a single bite of lunch because he had eaten every single scrap, with me fighting to get the kids a mouthful. I made lunch in a toaster oven. I had been cooking in batches for over 6 hours. I passed out with the room spinning disturbingly. Christmases in motel rooms and campgrounds. Christmas kisses. Christmas cards. Christmas love. Christmas fears. And now these precious days. I pity the boy, because at some point he will remember all of it, and I will be gone and he will mark these passing of days alone. I just hope he finds a kind sweet soul to go through adult life with that loves him and will make bright and sparkly December memories with too.
It might be cold outside, baby, but it is not a party inside either. Too much weight of love holds me down and squeezes the tears out of me. Time passing, time gone, never will come again, hurts. I was young and pretty at one point. I am old and grizzled and wear a snarl on my face most of the time. I soften only for those I love. I spend my life wondering what else will be torn away from me. I can barely look the past in the face in these days which are the dying of the year just gone and the new year unknown and terrifying looming up ahead of me. I survived another one, boys and girls. If you are reading this, we all made it through a pandemic, inflation, a society that is increasingly judgmental and bent on authoritarianism, and a world that went to war in Europe, a war that looks like it could spread like wildfire. I’m holding onto the past, anchored by love and memories, and being cast upon the future like a little light, set out on a river, flickering while its flame is threatened by the wet waves. I cannot even see the other side. I fear I can’t cross over.
I’ve given up on romantic love. I’ve given up on safety, on being legal, long term happiness, being able to live a normal family life alongside my son into his adult years. I’ve given up on making it as a writer. I’ve given up on myself. Every day I look in the mirror and fear my face is more folded than the last time I looked. I am an origami soul, flattened out, unfolded and refolded into a different form, each time getting more crumpled and fragile and looking more ragged by the second. My joints are red and inflamed and gnarled like tree trunks. Ugly fingers with lumpy joints. I make myself play the guitar so my fingers don’t freeze up and stiffen forevermore. When I wake up it takes a good few hours for my face to settle into its final form for the day until I put it back on the pillow to crease up again. I am getting old. I might have got there. I suppose it depends on how long this body lasts out.
The year has got old, its dying days have built up to the climax and its yearly wake is being prepared. I will nap in the afternoon so I can stay awake with the kid, making memories and laughing and eating bites of pie. I will see the old year out, celebrating the heavenly days of living in my good apartment in the bad part of town with a son that I am more proud of than I could ever have hoped I could be. I will celebrate him and his steadfastness, and the fact that he has been my most solid compadre and companion. I salute his kindness, appreciate the fact he never causes me a moment of trouble or pain, I stand astounded at his hard work, at the fact he makes sure he is the best person, the best young man, the best son he can be. He works hard at everything he does. He never half-asses anything. He does this for himself, and I suspect he does it for me, because he has seen me lose so much and still not collapse. I stayed here for him. I can only hope that I did so well enough for him to say affectionate things about me forever more.
We are both being launched on 2023, along with all of you. All of us survivors of a world that tried to shake us all off. I salute all of us. I salute you. Hold on tight, smash the bottle on the sides of 2023 and let the booze drip down its sides. I name you The Good Ship ’23. Not all of us will make it to ’24. I salute all of us, the sacrificing, the strength in the face of loss and grief. I salute the cautious and the reckless. I salute the meek and the brave. I salute those that live in the Hundred Acre Woods, and those that dwell with me with the curtains open, looking out onto the mean streets of the City. I raise the flag for my beloved California, and my home, San Francisco – a place I can finally say I have no interest in ever leaving. We are a glorious fucked up family of humankind on rough waters. These are not easy years. This is a no man’s land time of humanity. We are neither here nor there, we are in between. The past is dying, those glory years of the 60s and 70s are making their way into ancient history. I can’t tell you where the last 20 years have gone, my friends. I blink and they have gone. It was 1999 last time I looked, and I was young and slender waisted and had a lifetime ahead of me, a lifetime I have mostly spent and wasted and thrown away like petals on the ocean. I skip like a stone on water, and will sink in the end, but not today, my friends, not today. Today I will toast the new year in with a cup of sacred nectar, tea leaves in hot water, and I will party like it is the end of days. I will remember those that have gone now, and those that remain. I will hope for kinder days and more happiness, more memories and more more more time. Time is the most precious thing of all. Spend it wisely if you have a lot of it to throw around. I am going to have to start guarding mine like a dragon with a treasure. I need to make what is left, last. I have accepted I am in some middle period, where there is no point in making anything new. I just hope as this new year is launched that I can steal more time before it all runs out on me; before it all runs out on us all.
Happy New Year, my fellow survivors. Onwards we go!
Detroit Richards Dec 31st 2022