I have to admit I am enjoying writing these little blog posts in between my rock journalism. My daily routine of getting up at 7am, reading the news, making a cup of darjeeling (soy milk, no sugar), chewing on an apple and a solitary rice cake and then looking blankly at my notebook and wondering ‘what next?’ is one I enjoy. Outside the sirens wail, the people are starting to get heated up, and the day looks sparkly and bright. The sky is that almost blue of the San Francisco winter morning, with a hint of fog but not a cloud to be seen. Hallelujah! The parade of storms that made the first two weeks of the year hellish, has finally moved on, dried up or done whatever storms do; at least they are not here and the day looks as clear and brilliant as any other January day on the Bay.
I am hoping that this return to normal programming, this lurch back towards standard San Francisco weather and the accompanying bright skies helps to lift my blues and ease the arthritis in my hands. My finger joints are swollen and reddened, I can’t bend my index finger and my pointer is alarmingly deformed with nodules at the joints. My hands are starting to look swollen and ugly and the joints are enlarged and recalcitrantly refusing to bend to my will. It hurts. My back hurts, my knee hurts, my hand hurts. It is all on the same side of my body and it is making me miserable. I am in pain. The cold weather and the rain cannot possibly help. I go run my hands under scolding hot and freezing cold water in turns, trying to numb the pain. It works until it doesn’t. Typing is pure masochism. I can’t spend my life stoned, so I spend it hurting instead.
I am an anxious creature, though I suppose I have reasons to be anxious. My continued plight, the immoral unfairness of the Hague Convention, my loneliness, my precarious position here, trying to hold onto the best little apartment in the bad part of town, my son. My lack of a future. My hopes for his future: all of it weighs me down. It is a heavy load to carry. There is an alternate reality somewhere, where I am writing for Rolling Stone, appearing in music documentaries waxing lyrical about charms of various classic albums, and living up on Russian Hill or in a cool loft in North Beach, safe in the knowledge of my own savings account. In this alternate reality I am married to a cool hippy chick who likes the Grateful Dead, and we have a couple of kids between us (the Boy has always been a non negotiable part of my happiness) and a hairless sphynx cat called Bing that sits next to me as I write offering encouragement and the occasional head bump. How I wish I could just jump to a kinder, sweeter life that was safer for me and the Boy. Living in San Francisco together has been bliss. This is both the happiest and the most nervous I have been in my life. My depression is wholly caused by loss and stress. I can separate the dark days from the gratitude of the happy times. Right now, sitting here, I am both utterly content and happy, and simultaneously fearful, distraught and hopeless.
The Rolling Stones are beaming through my bluetooth headphones singing Emotional Rescue. Jagger’s falsetto is perfect, as is his hair. The groove is so tight with the late great Charlie Watts looking unimpressed with the entire endeavor, yet keeping that louche and loose beat locked down. Perfect discipline holding together the thrust of the song. Jagger shifts down a key and lets rip, before he returns to that merck cocaine crawl and creep – a perfect jive-infused two-step. The song sounds better in the sunlight. In the darkness of the storm it sounds cheap n’ cheezy. What is lightness and brightness in the sun is tinny and empty in the winter. The weather changes everything.
It is hard to know what to do for the best, so instead I guess I’ll have to continue living until I work it out, or it gets decided for me. I feel like the character in the old Townes Van Zandt masterpiece, Pancho and Lefty. The refrain of the song references the surviving bandit, Lefty, and the aftermath of his survival. Pancho bit the dust somewhere ‘down in Mexico’. I never hurt a soul in my life, but I am a survivor of the law, however badly applied and cruelly formed. Townes sings:
The poets tell how Pancho fell And Lefty's living in cheap hotels The desert's quiet, Cleveland's cold And so the story ends we're told Pancho needs your prayers it's true But save a few for Lefty too He only did what he had to do And now he's growing old All the Federales say We could have had him any day We only let him go so long Out of kindness, I suppose (From 'Pancho and Lefty' by Townes Van Zandt)
I have gone on so long, not out of kindness but sheer force of will. I have run and hidden, and lived outside for years at a time. I have given up any chance stability or success in order to stay with the person I love the most – my son, but I should never have had to. I should have been granted a divorce, given a settlement and allowed to protect my child and move on (and away) from the man who tortured me. The man who tortured us both. Instead his abuse of me was enabled by The Law, by The Man who protects male interests, and I am left to ‘do what I had to do’ and now I am growing old.
Sometimes unfair thoughts creep into my head. The unfairness of it all makes me lash out. I did what I had to do. No one is better off without me around. I am a vital and loved part of my son’s life, and my Ruthie loves me too, as I love her like a sister. I failed in the face of overwhelming odds. I live only on the good graces and kindness of those who took pity on me, including the City that I live in, and I am overwhelmingly grateful. I am also sad. I am allowed to be sad. It is not lack of gratitude, it is the loss that overwhelms me. I lost my potential, I lost my future, I burned up my years in survival, and I would do it all again just to ensure my son was safe and with me. I would do anything for him and it be my privilege. I am a warrior, a bandit, an old school road-travelling escapee. I might not have wanted any of these things, but though it was not my choice, I like to think I embraced my fate with at least a little grace along the way.
The sun still shines. I think I will walk down to the docks and watch the boats come in. I wonder when my number will be called and it will be time for me to unload and be set off to drift, shipwrecked and without a crew, subject to the tides and tossed upon the storm once again. I am blinking at the sunlight. It is too bright for my eyes. I think I’ll close the curtains and hope no one wants to talk to me today.