Americaphiles

The Story Of My Fucking Life

Thirty-four

Posted by ilbebe on December 28, 2008

As with many things associated with so-called hippie lifestyle and culture, I had to leave Arcata before I could appreciate anything about the Grateful Dead. My mother had their album American Beauty, and I had listened to it a few times in high school and liked it, but when you see one too many SUV’s with those multi-colored dancing bear stickers adorning it cutting you off in traffic, you’re forced to re-evaluate how you feel about certain things, amongst them, Truckin’.

But in the summer of 2005, a radio host whose taste I greatly respected played Attics Of My Life as I was laying in bed in my basement sublet, and it really took hold of me. He followed that up with Up On Cripple Creek, and at the mike break explained that he was playing his mother’s favorite songs in tribute to her, as she had died earlier in the week. By December 30, 2005, I had a copy of American Beauty of my own, and I was en route to Lake Tahoe for the evening with my friend Shawn and my girlfriend. We were going to be spending the night in a cabin that my friend Mike’s then-girlfriend now-wife had rented with several friends, and I was pretty excited. Casey’s mother was in a hospital in Vallejo, and I planned to be back in Oakland for New Year’s Eve so I could invite Casey out for a night away from his vigil.

The night was a blast, and I woke up the morning of New Year’s Eve as dawn broke to reveal beautiful flurries of snow spiraling down. I started drinking can after can of High Life, and around eight we turned on the TV to confirm the fact that all the highways out of town were closed. At ten the power in the cabin went out, and I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to drink myself into a stupor. When we got word that the road into town had been plowed around sunset, we went out to the parking lot to find that Shawn’s car had a flat tire. It was while we were fixing the flat that I got a call from Casey, and over a lousy connection I broke the news that we wouldn’t be home until the following day. He took a long pause and then asked me to call him when I got back. As the new year approached, I was freezing and wishing I had never come up to the mountains.

On January 2, 2006, I was at the hospital in Vallejo as we all tried to wrap our minds around the fact that Casey’s mom had become brain dead thanks to a trachea tube that had slipped loose and caused her lungs to fill up with blood. A group of us stayed up until the late hours of the night drinking in the hospital’s parking structure and throwing bottles on to the pavement a few stories below. I passed out in a friend’s truck, got a ride home around six in the morning, and went to work at eight-thirty with an awful black feeling around my eyes. A few weeks later, my roommate Claire found me passed out on my bedroom floor in a pool of spit and woke me up. I explained that I’d been having a hard time reconciling filing papers in a law office and thinking that was a hard row while my best friend was waiting for his unconscious mother to die in a hospital. After a while of venting and crying, I asked Claire if she’d listen to a song with me, and I put on Attics Of My Life. Patricia Rose Gallagher died on February 1, 2006.

On Christmas Day, 2008, I invited some friends over to my mother’s house in the evening, and as we lay around joking and talking, I played her old vinyl copy of American Beauty. The next morning I drank coffee and smoked a cigarette on the back patio, considered the frost on the ground, and thought about Patty. When someone is gone from this physical realm, we can do as we wish with their memory, and in mine, Patty’s spirit achieves the unknowable and the impossible. When there are no dreams, I dream of her.

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One Response to “Thirty-four”

  1. bizzy said

    dear sir,
    i am wasted out of my mind… and you keep me breathing…

    thank you

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