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.