Pilgrimage with Dr. Omed
[God] stirs up the sea by His power, and by His understanding He breaks up the storm. Job 26:12 (NKJV)Combed my hair in a foggy mirror. Wasn't thinking of the Celestial Clockmaker at all. Maybe I was considering the basset hound bags under my eyes. Maybe I had been dreaming of Jack Kerouac. Now that I have outlived him, maybe I can do him a Merton better.
L.C. and I went to Tulsa this past weekend to visit the Ven. Dr. Omed. We had a lovely vegetarian repast with his wife, Els, and his youngest step-spawn. Did I mention? Dr. Omed is a marvelous cook. As Els said, it was a multi-culti delight: curry, tofu, bosamati rice, soy.
It's good to visit Dr. O. Well, he knew me when, and rejoices that I managed to survive against the odds. It's good to visit him, I say, because it gives me an opportunity to see him as he is today. The person in my memory is not the person I see today. I mean, obviously there are similarities, and he carries some of his youthful habits with him still. But, he has also grown.
He's still a contrarian. But, he's also learned there's a time for contraries & a time to hold one's peace. Our master, Wm Blake, wrote: "In contraries is true friendship". Well, Dr. Omed has proven that truth for me.
I asked Dr. Omed why he hasn't posted anything on his blog lately. It seems the SADness of January has seized him, and Oklahoma's winter winds have whisked away his inspiration.
I want to put words in his mouth. I want him to say, "If you ain't got nothing to say, don't say it!"
I remember when Dr. O was living on the second-floor hovel on Klein Street. He was working for the Cinema Sex Palace, I was working for the Infernal Bookstore. It was probably this time of year when he went into hibernation. When he lost his job, and his utilities got cut off. He bundled himself in bed, in his cold hovel, and taught himself classic Greek by kerosene lantern light.
Well, that was before Dr. Omed went to Denver. Before he met Clarissa Who Runs With Wolves, who discerned he was bipolar (commonly called manic-depressive). Now, he takes his meds, singing in the lithium chorus, as he puts it. He's able to maintain regular employment, which is one standard our society has for sanity. Or, at least, functionality.
He's been with Els almost as long as I have been a recycled single person (~10 years). They clearly love each other, and Dr. Omed obviously has paternal feelings for the two young women he refers to as step-spawn.
So, there I was, talking to him about Kerouac, my renewed obsession. And I notice that I'm talking very loudly. In retrospect, I think I was excited to be visiting with him again. But, in my defense, there was also music playing in the background, and I may have been over-compensating for the distraction. As L.C. has noticed, I am extremely sensitive to sounds — especially music.
After a while, we settled into a comfortable silence. So naturally I pulled out my guitar. Els suspected I'd play music by Leonard Cohen, an artist Dr. Omed and I both admire. When L.C. mischievously asked who Leonard C was, I started singing "The Guests."
Then I sang a song I've been woodshedding this month, "Comes a Time" (title track from Neil Young album). Dr. Omed used his new digital camera/toy to film this performance. Who knows? It may one day appear in his on-line Tent Show.
Don't remember all the songs I played. Couple of things that are true: hard to get me to start; harder to get me to stop. I played from around 10 pm til almost midnight (way past my normal bedtime). Dr. Omed requested my song about Jonestown, which I performed fairly well right until the end, when I couldn't remember the changes. Well, at least I remembered all the words for that song.
Then Dr. Omed requested "Crash on the Highway", which I believe is one of my better songs. For some reason, playing this song necessitated telling the story of "The Conspiracy of Love."
A story which will not be told here.
Dr. Omed commented that I was like his own personal oldies station. That is, hearing me sing my regular repetoire creates a sort of anamnesis, where he recalls those halcyon days of the 1980's.
At one point, when I couldn't remember the words to one of my own songs, Dr. Omed brought out three folders filled with my writings. As I have mentioned before, Dr. O is my self-appointed archivist, and these folders represent a chunk of said archive.
I did not look through this collection in detail. However, a couple of things stood out:
- In my recent writings, I've called on long term images and obsessions. As I said the next morning, I should be taxed every time I use the word "fog". The world is no doubt grateful that "blood" and "crows" have fallen out of my poetic lexicon. And, while planets have made occasional appearances in my verse, at least I'm not ranting about the dread reign of Saturn, as I was during one extended period.
I believe I fall back on these "tried and true" images whenever I'm stuck, and have run out of ideas for that day. In other words, simple laziness.
- I stumbled upon a letter I wrote circa 1980, at the IBM Selectric typewriter in the receiving room of the Infernal Bookstore. In this letter, I make reference to the fact that I am choosing to watch a lot of tv — undisputed garbage like "The Love Boat" — as a way to anesthetize myself.
I still come home, most evenings, and turn on the tube, recognizing that I'm using it as a legal narcotic. On the bright side, I'm not watching something as gosh-awful as "The Love Boat". Well, unless you count re-runs of "Just Shoot Me," which may be close to the bottom of the desperation barrel.
So — have I grown at all? Here's what's different: this job pays better. My money is going toward home ownership rather than some slum-lord's pocket. My job does offer creative opportunities within its regular duties (part of my duties includes being a web-master). I spend more time today with flesh-n-blood people than I did back then. Most of these people, I consider at least casual friends.
I am romantically involved with L.C. I was not in any real relationship (unless tv & alcohol count) back then. I was profoundly alone, and felt socially inept in 1980.
So: I believe I have grown. As Dr. Omed has. Occasionally, old habits return, foggy reflections of child I once was.