Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Death Writes a Play

Summer has gone and Orlando and I are left with this feeling that we should’ve done something grand like gone away for a few days  to an exciting locale together- before the air temperature changed too drastically- or the sun moved too far from our patch of the planet called Northern California.
Eminent change is abundant these days.  We spend our days focusing on him to get a job here in the Bay Area. He has a decent paying job up North where he lives, but we both fully agree that his moving down here without something set up is a plan for disaster. I may have mentioned in other blogs, that he would prefer to live in San Francisco and I, on the other hand, would like to make a change. 
I don’t hate my Bagdad by the Bay, but lately it feels like a well used wash cloth to me that I have wrung dry.  My life ten years ago feels so far away and twenty years ago seems like ancient history. Being the Bay Area Cub has breathed new life into it, but there are memories all around me that I no longer want.
I want a new life with new exciting experiences. I want to begin my life somewhere ELSE as Mr. Cooley-De Jesus… (Or is it Mr. De Jesus-Cooley?) Not too long ago, I had set out to redefine my artistic interests. First artistic endeavors were spent in my childhood and high school years as an artist (watercolors)  and  later budding actor. I spent the first half of my adulthood as a semi pro actor, (with the odd legitimate professional experience), and now I needed a new creative expression. What began as a blog detailing my experiences as a The Bay Area Cub 2010 over a year ago has become an obsession.  I look back at previous blogs with chagrin  on my big plans of my Bearlesque troupe. – So much for that big dream

Disheartened with the enormous difficulty involved in producing Bearlesque, I have scaled down-considerably. Not only am I writing a daily diary for you all to read, I am also attempting to write the clichéd actor approaches-his-mid-life-so-he-needs-to-write-and-perform-a-one-man-show SHOW!  Barbra is right –Art aint easy.
What the fuck could I possibly talk about that would keep people in their chairs for 45 minutes to an hour? … Preferably not sleeping and listening with a rapt expression? Hell if I know.. Yet slowly the ideas are starting to trickle in. I think a lot about sex and death these days. Particularly Death. Currently I live in a house where a 79 year old man who lives above me is “completing his journey” as we say in the biz. It’s odd to not have his piss and vinegar personality stamping around upstairs. Instead I hear the soft tread of little Mexican and Filipino nurses. It’s a shame but you can never say a person DIED. I understand why but I never liked it.
During the daytime I work in an Eldercare facility and well…talking about death is part of my work. As you may have previously read in an earlier blog, my brother passed away when I was ten. That was my first acquaintance with losing someone I was close to but my thoughts about what death means and how affects all of us happened much later. I began thinking earnestly about the end of life a couple of years ago, when I lost someone who I cared about to cancer. He wasn’t too keen on dying. I am sure that most people aren’t either, but when there is no cure and you have been dealing with this ever-present feeling of helplessness about your fate …you go a little nuts with despair. He was getting fairly frantic and I wanted to alleviate his fears. To prevent my friend from sailing off the deep end, I felt he needed to have control over his life. I said he could die whenever he felt like it. He didn’t need to follow cancer’s time line. I had hoped that would mitigate his growing despair. You’re thinking, “Oh My GOD PA!!!”  well yes,  good reader,  many..Innocent people thought the same thing.  However- I knew my friend wasn’t ever going to kill himself. He didn’t have that kind of fearlessness. I just suggested it, so he could feel in control and grab back a little sanity. No one was going to kill anyone- but the cancer would surely have its day. The doctors were clear. 

My friend went back home that night and cogitated on this for a bit and re-translated it in his brain that somehow I was weary of him and thought that I had offered to hasten cancer’s task. So…my whole plan of helping him feel better went completely awry and my relationship with him blew up fantastically –taking down several relationships of our mutual friends with it. It turns out that a lot of other people got the heebie-jeebies from dealing with my friend’s mortality and they needed a witch to burn. Lucky Me!!! My brash-tell- it-like-it-is-nature earned me my own stake within our group with my poor friend waving the flames desperately. It wasn’t a pretty time for anyone-especially since he died without us resolving any of it.  Two grief counselors and some good psychotropics later, I got my shit together.  It took a while for me to realize that way before his diagnosis, he and I operated very differently.  I had mistakenly thought we had so much in common and our friendship was founded in love and respect for each other. It slowly revealed itself to be something I NEVER thought it was and well…it’s too late now and the only thing I can do now is take a deep breath and let it go…easier said than done…I assure you-but I take that breath often…Like once a day to be truthful. It’s been years. I think he would’ve turned 48 a few days ago had he lived.
After losing my brother to cancer over 33 years ago-AND on a recent visit home finding my family still grieving over the loss of him..I should’ve known that moving on past my friend’s death wasn’t going to be easy. A few months..Or was it a year ?...Drew (My best pal) and I had met with a woman at a bar who had become my friend’s Durable Power of Attorney during the course of his illness and wanted to give Drew and I our “inheritance”. We knew her well and we were so happy to see her. I was amazed to look down and see bag full of his treasured books. The bag had my name on it. It held some of Truman Capote’s works.  He was a huge fan of Truman and kind of fancied himself a modern day version.
She represented all these joyful times that we all spent together. I was remembering on the day of the funeral when she had clasped Drew to her and asked us back her house where we had all had such great times together. Tears that Drew had been holding back sprang to his eyes. She had that effect on people, of releasing the pain. I wasn’t entirely welcome at that service and Drew didn’t want to leave me alone-knowing I couldn’t go. Now he was battling his own demons when it came to his own grief for our friend. He rose bravely to my defense when a ringleader had formed to assist my friend in banishing me from his life.  I remember I was amazed at Drew's elegance and strength. Don’t trifle with this Diva! Drew had to be so strong for me that he neglected to tend to himself emotionally. When I made my way back to reality, he was allowing himself to experience the loss of our friend.  It was hard for him. The three of us spoke of him in soft reflection. I had many questions for her about what specifically caused his death and she gave a rundown of the coroner’s report. The report implied that his body had been too weak to go on. The last few days of it had been spent in alcohol fueled drama, so I naturally thought –suicide, but it was nowhere in the report.  He was found peacefully curled up in his bed like he was sleeping. She offered up the coroner’s report if I was interested. –There was a silent moment. Drew and I were focused on what she would say next yet not really looking at her. She said that she regretted he had died in despair. I took that in; the very thing I didn’t want him to feel.  How little control we have over everything. Despite my ease with the ugly and uncomfortable aspects of death, I squirmed in my seat. I didn’t get it right with him and there was nothing I could do now. I wanted him to be his irreverent self and laugh at death. I asked too much of him and listened too little. I tried in vain to remember all the wonderful times I had shared with him. I was so sure they were countless-but now they were tainted and felt falsely manufactured and not truly lived. It was if he was a dream and our friendship wasn’t real and now I have woken up. Rudely and Abruptly. That feeling has never left me.
When it gets bad I reach over to the Lando Bear and squeeze him … a little too hard…garnering a little laughing, “ouch!” but he knows why I am doing it because the expression on my face is always the same when I think about my friend. I wonder if leaving San Francisco will help. …I know better. 

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