Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Ticker-Tape Parade Down the Broadway of My Psyche

Decades ago, after I’d performed with my little rock group at the world-famous Whisky a-Go-Go, someone asked if I’d been a professional dancer, and my girlfriend related having heard a young woman in the audience observe to her friend, “All he’s got going for him is his looks.” On the last night of 2010, I was nearly that flattered again when my friend Janet asked me to make a lasagna for the intimate New Year’s Eve potluck dinner she and Nathan had resolved to host. It turned out that my lasagna was the main course, and two of my four fellow diners seemed to like it well enough to request a second portion. A glorious ending for an altogether glorious year!

In 2010, all I did was achieve sanity. After spending most of my adult life either nearly immobilized by despair or bracing myself for the next visit of what Winston Churchill called the Black Dog, I suddenly found a way to keep depression at bay. As I write this, it’s been about nine months since I was seriously despondent. I’ve never gone that long before. When my daughter got married a few weeks ago, I wasn’t even told about it, much less invited. I rebounded from the news — and from the realization that I probably won’t get to meet my grandchildren — in hours. You can’t keep a good man down, or me.

Or maybe I’m giving myself too much credit saying that I found a way. Maybe it’s the citalopram that deserves a ticker-tape parade down the Broadway of my psyche, or the kindness and wisdom of Ms. Rita Ovens, whom I consulted during the first half of the year at the local mental health center. Anyone and anything who feels entitled may take as much credit as she or he can carry! There’s plenty to go around.

I’d long imagined that being in emotional agony a lot of the time at least helped make me who I am as an artist. That turned out not to be the case. My sunny new disposition has made me no less brilliant, and no less driven. I achieved my goal of writing 300 little essays over the course of the year, over 200,000 words. My efforts didn’t make me the toast of multiple continents, or even of my neighborhood, but I’m fine nowadays thinking that my genius may be recognized only after my death, or not at all. A world in which, for instance, Mark Ruffalo keeps getting hired to act in movies and John Grisham keeps getting paid fortunes to write fiction obviously makes no sense whatever, and one can only drive himself crazy imagining otherwise. Hey now, hey now, Crowded House sang, don’t let them win, presumably referring to the forces that try to demoralize all of us. Words to live by!You do your damnedest, take pride in having done so, and let the rest take care of itself, or fail to take care of itself.

My gal moved back to her own country in the spring, but my love for her only grew, and when we spent a couple of weeks together in the autumn, ‘twas blissful. It doesn't get better than being loved so much by one you love so much. I made a good new friend in 2010, and give myself a rowboat full of credit for having done so, as she, a fellow Census trainee, didn’t give me much encouragement in the early going. My friendship with Nathan and Janet got deeper and stronger. After 20 years and an excruciating false start, my best male friend of my adulthood and I managed finally to get back on track after 20 years’ dormancy.

I went to the gym 320 times over the year’s course. The unrelenting pain in the knee that was mangled when an inattentive teen driver ran me down in the middle of Beacon’s Main Street and my failing hearing and vision aside, I remained the picture of what Tom Wolfe has called rude animal health. Nathan thinks I look buff, Janet that I look lanky.

Everything’s coming up roses, my friends. May your 2011 be as happy as my 2010 has been, and all your Xmases white.


  1. No comments? Criminal. I keep reading through "I, Caramba" and it's a testament to your writing ability (or to my own bizarre sense of involvement) that I audibly gasped when I read that Brigitte had married and you weren't invited.

    Your depressive swings (and newfound lack thereof) remind me of Leonard Cohen, another world-class writer. His emotional pendulum is legendary: swinging between jubilation and agony much the same way I imagine yours does. And like yourself, in every recent interview I've seen, he seems more at peace with himself than he ever has. He doesn't need to talk about appetites and orgasms anymore. Similarly, it's a pleasure to read your insights without having to see them filtered through the painful sieve that so often accompanies alot of your writing (I mean that in the best way possible, believe it or not). Plus, you've achieved total enlightment (right?) something like 12 years sooner than Cohen has! That's definitely one to keep under your pillow.

    Thanks for being a great writer, and keep on steppin', brother.

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  3. Man, I just read your Led Zeppelin I review for Rolling Stone upon its release.

    You were a real idiot back then, and a racist.

    Sorry, you short-sighted smuck. I don't know you now as a person, just angry with the attitude of that person from the past.

    On another note, hope all is well and you've learned a bit or two :D

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