Monday, December 7, 2009

Yet More Shame [May 10, 2007]]

Seventy-two hours after graduating from university, I began working at Warner Bros Records because they’d so liked what I’d written about The Kinks, whom they didn’t know quite how to market, in the campus newspaper. After a couple of months, they took my office away (for being the staff downer (my second major broken heart, you see)) but kept paying me a retainer, and in October asked if I’d be willing to go to New York to greet The Kinks on the corporate behalf at the beginning of their first American visit in four years.

I left my life of excruciating (self-!) isolation in dreary Venice (Beach), where I was surrounded in equal numbers by junkies and ancient Jewish women in convalescent hospitals, and tormented by memories of the most recent one-who’d-got-away, and flew across the country at their expense.

Ray Davies, one of my idols, was fantastically cordial and even solicitous, to the point at which, when I asked him to bring me on stage to play percussion for one song, he didn’t have their lone roadie push me out the dressing room window. Oh, the gall I had, and the yearning for the spotlight! On their last night at the Fillmore East, a girl in an easily seen-through black lace top tried to attach herself to Ray, but wound up, not entirely happily, in my hotel room bed instead. Oh, this was the life!

Mindful of what I was returning to, I got despondent on the long plane ride back to California, and was too depressed to speak by the time the plane touched down. After my dad picked me up in the VW minibus my parents had given me as a graduation present, I pointedly didn’t say a word to him the whole drive home. Having just mingled in Manhattan with the stars, having usurped their women and almost gone on stage with them, I was going to make small talk dad?

Asshole. Not a week goes by that I don’t remember that and feel that the only honourable thing would be to throw myself under a train.

Get out your calculator. If the memory of my not speaking to my dad over the course of a 35-minute drive home from the airport causes me inexpressible pain 38 years later, how is my daughter eventualy going to feel about not speaking to me for 62 months, as of this writing? Awful beyond imagining, I would guess — and even hope, since the other possibility is that she’ll remain the person she is now.

I’m not the only one shunned, not by a long shot. My girlfriend Nancy in San Francisco was an attentive, generous, devoted de facto stepmom to Brigitte for more than 11 years. Brigitte hasn’t deigned to speak to her since well before she stopped speaking to me. My sister Lori had always been a loving and generous aunt to her, but Brigitte won’t have anything to do with her either. Last September, when I was able to glean Brigitte’s whereabouts in order to send her a birthday gift, Lori injudiciously contacted her, only for Brigitte to drop the curtain on the possibility of ongoing correspondence when it occurred to her that Lori might relate to me that they’d been in touch.

My wife Claire, the kindest person I have ever known, helped me see Brigitte through six of the darkest months of her very dark teenage. Do you suppose that Brigitte has made any attempt to correspond with her, any more than she even acknowledged being invited to our wedding five years ago this month?

It’s a bit different in the case of my mom, her dying grandmother. I accept full responsibility for poisoning that relationship, for making no secret of my rage and for unleashing great torrents of vindictive contempt (how did she like being treated as she’d always treated my dad?) in front of Brigitte. I will go to my own grave feeling great shame about that – shame even greater than that borne of the realisation that, two days of every seven, I raised an unspeakable little brat.

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