Americaphiles

The Story Of My Fucking Life

Forty-two

Posted by ilbebe on January 18, 2009

Stephanie visited me in Oakland at the end of September, 2005, just as I was finally climbing out of the shell I’d put myself in over the past nine months. I was still living in the basement room I was subletting, but I had been working for a few months and my vocabulary, which had noticeably shrunken from months of disuse, was returning. Steph and I went to The Alley and listened to people sing old songs around the piano, and she bought a round of drinks with seven bucks in half-dollars her mom’s boyfriend had given her. The bartender seemed strangely indifferent, but maybe it pissed her off because I remember that particular greyhound was pretty weak. We stumbled back to my place, split a bottle of champagne, and had a two-person dance party in the basement at three in the morning. When she suggested I visit Seattle soon, I took her advice. It was good to be able to have fun with friends again, it had been a while.

I flew up for Columbus Day weekend, cashing in a flight voucher that took me to Seattle via Phoenix, which unfortunately gave me seven hours to drink from the handle of vodka I’d brought. I always used to bring liquor with me when visiting Oregon or Washington in protest of their arcane laws, and also because it’s always fun to violate interstate commerce laws. Anyhow, my arrival was good excuse for all of my old friends who lived in Seattle to get together for a party, and it was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had showing up to a party that was more or less in my honor. Sadly, though, within twenty minutes I was projectile vomiting off of the front porch of Kaydee and Cesar’s house, and that segued ungracefully into an hour-long nap on the porch couch. I awoke briefly to puke some more and call Garrett an asshole for reasons I can’t remember. Sixty to zero in the span of an evening.

The next day I roamed around town with various assemblages of friends having the time of my life. It was a glorious Indian summer day, I was back in a city that I had blamed for a disproportionate amount of the unraveling of my mind less than a year earlier, and I was using the first paid vacation time I’d ever earned. I was on top of the world, and also well on my way to puking for the second night in a row. That particular vomit would come in the alley behind the Blue Moon in the U-District, and did I let it stop me from drinking more? The careful reader knows the answer to that.

I continued my streak on Monday when I put a punctuation mark on the end of a great evening out at Stephanie and Phil’s place in Ballard by puking into a strategically (i.e. hurriedly) placed metal pot while rolling around on the kitchen floor and singing It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding). My suspicion is that the people who witnessed this spectacle were unnerved, because without the context, lying on the ground with your eyes closed and mumbling “It’s alright, Ma, I’m only dying” could be seen as a cry for help. Far from it, though, and I wish I’d been able to bounce back and explain myself that night- I was just excited about heading down to the Experience Music Project the following morning to check their Dylan exhibit. As it was, I awoke in the morning well rested and caught a bus towards Seattle Center.

The exhibit went so far beyond my expectations I found myself crying several times. There were listening stations dedicated to each of the first seven albums, and each had alternate takes of album tracks and unreleased songs to get lost in. I had heard Talkin’ John Birch Society Blues once before, but standing alone in a booth with headphones on, looking at a huge photo of a clear-eyed, twenty-two year-old Dylan made it something much more. The most unique thing in the exhibit was an absurd three-page letter he’d written to Joan Baez’s mother which he’d asked Joan Baez to say was from her. She did in fact send the letter, but with a cover of her own explaining the circumstance. She mentions in her letter that she wants her mother to meet Dylan, she says “you’d love him.” It was a funny thing to make me recall my friend Joe’s comment “The only thing Joan Baez was good at was sucking Bob Dylan’s dick.”

A comment as prescient as that could have been the most quotable thing to come out of the day, but later that day I was walking across Teletubby park in Capitol Hill with my friend Kaydee and her asking “What’s that Journey song that goes like ‘Don’t stop believing’?”

I didn’t puke that night, and flew home the following day just in time to get out to Antioch for Yom Kippur services with my mother. Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the culmination of the High Holy Days, the first ten days of the Jewish year. It’s a day you’re supposed to reflect on transgressions you’ve committed against others and yourself and the Lord in the past year, apologize and ask forgiveness for them, and think about how you’ll prevent yourself from letting similar mistakes come to pass in the year ahead. I’m glad I saw that day, considering all the nights I’d spent in February, and March, and April, and May, drinking malt liquor and trying to work up the courage to walk into the bay off of the south edge of Alameda. I realized the greatest transgression I’d made that year was getting fixated on the past instead of looking forward. I had great friends, my mother loved me, I was alive and I was young, and there was a lot of life left to live.

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