Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Wise Thing in the Cave

One bright April day, I decided to do something about pressing too hard on the accelerator of my life.

The decision was not hard to make.

Too many freakouts on the road, too many instances of "At Grand Central Station, I Sat Down and Wept", too many parallel universes where you seem to see around corners, take imaginary buses into the next dimension, down escalators of time where again and again you see folks on a stairway to hell and you along with them.

I'd had a warning ten years beforehand, a freakout at Dallas International Airport, where it suddenly dawned on me that my drinking and fornicating had led me to here, to this point in time, where I was flat broke, going through extreme withdrawal in a foreign country and just sitting there being normal was the hardest thing in the world to do.

A security guard seemed to notice my condition, and when I proffered my last five dollars to buy a bottle of wine, he told me to put it back. "Don't want no trouble here." I went to the telephone booth instead and called a friend collect to send me some money. “Three hundred and fifty dollars? Steep, man. How the hell do I get it over to you?" I told him Baker Hotel, Dallas, Texas.

Ah, the good old Baker, where you could check in without paying in advance, the way Americans used to do business--on trust, on personal recognizance. I had to race to the hotel so I'd have somewhere to collect the money.

But the freakout had persisted.

Waiting for the money, the nights in front of the TV, where old soap opera DALLAS was indeed on and I was right there in town, quietly going mad in my hotel room, with the wrappings of hamburger all around, hamburgers that I'd ordered, and in the rush of the lineup, neglected to pay for. Deliberate? Sure.

"My son, do not be afraid of sudden fear," the old proverb goes.

Scared shitless in Dallas-Fort Worth.

Crazy in Dallas.

What the hell was going on?

I was setting off across half a continent to meet someone who no longer wanted me and Lord knows if I could ever make it back. Motion was life. Or was it? Who knew I'd go crazy along the way?

We are, most of us, no great shakes. We think are strong, noble, brilliant.

But, to echo a caption in a Mexican art museum, under a statue of a broken man being carried away "Solemente un Hombre." Only a man.

So one is facing some pretty heavy odds when he undertakes a 2,700 mile trip to Canada with fourteen dollars in his pocket, hoping to reconcile with a woman who had just written her last letter to him, to tell him it was all over and have a good time in Mexico. This was all part of some dialectic, a rogue elephant tramping huge expanses of Savannah to search for a family that may no longer be there.

How do you hold it all together when along with old Hippocrates you know that art is long, life is short, the future uncertain, healing difficult?

Peter's Pretty Pass Syndrome: My, things have come to a pretty pass! Damn antsy feeling to have.

There was no alcohol, so like a Calcutta Pavement Dweller, who has nothing but his head, I tried meditation.

The wise thing in the cave.

Trying an old est exercise, The Wise Thing in the Cave.

You close your eyes, you go down deep, deep into your subconscious, deep into a cave where a wise thing lives.

I had tried it before in other crises. Sometimes Walter Cronkite or Ted Koppel would show up, these trusted television commentators, and you would hear them talking and when you were finally "out of the cave", your eyes would open you would realize that what the TV man said down there was pretty well the solution to your problem.

In my Dallas episode, the weirdest thing happened.

The wise thing in the cave turned out to be almost a Snoopy type pilot, out of World War One, who seemed to be having trouble with his control column, the gauges going mad and oil spilling from the engine. The canvas on one wing was already fraying.

"So that's me, out of control, about to go down in flames. Thanks, wise thing in the cave."

I tried again.

A huge penis showed. I sure as hell didn't want to have any message from that, save that the answer might be masculinity. Kick the shit out of the problem? Throw a f*ck into it?

That, strangely seemed the answer.

I don't know how I covered the 2,700 miles. I don't know how I came "home."

All I know is that I somehow got there.

And ultimately, I not only survived, but prevailed. I had somehow overcome the problem.
Oh the diaries of us madmen.


Anonymous said...

Under the volcano?

DoubtingThomas (DT of another sort)

ivan said...

Well if it's like Under the Volcano, I wouldn't be Lowering myself.Thanks very much Doubting Thomas, Delerium Tremens or whoever you are.
I'm pretty sure it's old Doubting Thomas from out West, usual friend of this blog.
Malcolm Lowery did not think like you and I, neither did he write like you or I. The man was unique,
a genius, and we were lucky to have had him and his log cabin out there in British Columbia.
Thanks Tom.

Anonymous said...

That should be spelled Lowry (damn Kresge glasses; my excuse anyway).
Thanks Tom, for even a hint of comparing my experience to that of the great Malcolm.

Anonymous said...

Yep, it was me, playing on words...and you replied with a play on Malcolm's last name. It is all a matter of how the little gray cells are wired, how we put words together to convey a ideas and experiences to others. I think it is so, others may have other theories. That is mine, I'm sticking to it.

Lowry's experiences with altered states, while unsettling considering the outcome, were probably better than Hunter S. Thompson's states as portrayed in Fear and Loathing (there's that WORD again) in Las Vegas. I don't think he ever covered the desert race he went to Las Vegas for. Sort of like Rimmer's tale of covering the Canadian Open in Oakville. Rimstead arrived at Glen Abbey (I got married there, and I think that golf is a waste of a good walk!) too late, everyone had left, but met the winner as he was leaving and got an exclusive interview. Let's hear it for the common man!


ivan said...

Good theory, DT. You are in good company. Locke's Theory of associations. Forget the ancient dude's first name, but it was Locke who first observed we kinda thought that way.
I recall back at good old Ryerson Pyromaniacal Institute we took Locke at about the same time we took one Alexander Pope, who wrote all about The Rape of the Lock, which the brighter kids immediately
lampooned into Locke's Rape of the Pope.
That being what it may, yes, there were parts of Hunter S. that could not hold a candle to Malcolm Lowry, but there was something in the good doctor's prose that just seemed to fix you eyeballs to it.
Was it the grass? The chelm? Oh those high times! Yet you could pick up Fear and Loathing the next day and it was still good. Maybe because it was so rococo. So common? Yep. And with Hunter S., you could always count on the unexpected.
The hilarious references to "my attorney" and those detailed pharmacological description of what HST and his attorney were carrying in that trunk. All topped off with a bottle of vodka. if the the H-Bomb in the trunk wasn't enough!

Blogger going crazy lately, some correspondents to this page e-mailing me.
I especially liked one woman's comment that the Dino cartoon I have up should have gone in the blog before, where the author is treated to a display of "pear-shaped derierre." We lose ladies, we gain ladies. I certainly like the smart ones.
So you met the Rimmer? Waycool.

Anonymous said...

The only man I know who behaves sensibly is my tailor; he takes my measurements anew each time he sees me. The rest go on with their old measurements and expect me to fit them. ~George Bernard Shaw

Anonymous said...

Hey Ivan,

Stumbled upon your fine site recently while surfin'. Enjoyed your dumpster diving piece in Globe and Mail Nov. 99. To learn what I've been up to the last 10 years trying googling "Dana Cook encounters".

On my very occasional forays to Newmarket I hit Main Street, expecting to find a new generation of thieves, drunks and rednecks (you know, the type I housed at 99), but, alas, the street seems dead. I was worried that you might be, too.

What became of TracyT? What became of Froede?

I, too, a fan of Gerard Jones. Love his guide to publishing. Must track down his memoir.

Have you read Joe Gould's Secret, by Joseph Mitchell? If not, you should.

Do you read every wacko blog on the net?

If you're still at 540 Timothy, I'll stop by next time I'm in town.



ivan said...

Where do I start?
I am a non-meeting attendant alcoholic living in Newmarket.

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Erik Ivan James said...


Kate said, "Well, your blog is very interesting."

And out jumped..."A huge penis showed"...."And throw a f*ck into it?".....

"out of the cave", Ivan, Go Man Go!

HAHAHAHA!! "Appropriate", me thinks, is the appropriate word.


ivan said...

Yeah, they know a live one when they see one.


Maybe it was my bibilousness that has scared all the virtuous ladies off.
Whom are we going to get to write in next? Exotic dancers, probably.

And even more exotic women?

Dancing houris?


R.J. Baker said...


Oh how I can relate. I think I've been going through a ten year "freak-out".

It all started when I graduated from lawschool a place I was never suppose to be nor get through, then through passing the bar exam, and into practice.

I felt like a man walking through a Felini movie, it hasn't stopped. It's like a merry-go-round that you can't get off, unless it throws you off.

I too have met the wise thing in the cave. Meditation has helped though filtered through mass quantities of alcohol, as a learned pychologist once asked, "you self-medicate?"

"Yes, I like that, self-medication", I replied, that that has taken the best of them.

Where is the omnipotent, the shaman, the seuthsayer, when they are needed...we continue to wander and thirst.

R.J. Baker said...

PS. How appropriate you get spammed by a Maryland swingers group - you gotta love it. ;)

ivan said...

Think I'll keep my gorgeous spammer.
Like Lot, in the Bible (Lot being a practical man) I would echo Lot's apocryphal quote: "What the hell, a man can always use a bit of salt."
Faith and Gomorra!

ivan said...

Not smart enough to get into Meds, I had to settle for journalism.
I did spend a long time in Haiti, where I was a sorcerer's apprentice
to the local MD of the denuded rain forest.
Said I to the Doctor, Hey, you really do some weird shit man, and can I learn?
He offered me a bone, as in the Bob Dylan song.
Next was dancing on glass shards, but he showed me where the rocks were.
But the women, the women! They got right into it. Great fragments sticking out of green bottles. And not a mark on the girls.
Small wonder that I admire Bernita's foot in her picture.
These chicks should be held in awe.
That, or I am a foot feishist.

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