Last May (after being dapperly drunk for the previous 8 years) novelist David Von Behren endeavored to go 40 days sans sipping an alcoholic beverage...he made it 38.5 days before gloriously capitulating in craft beer defeat...this January he's giving up a lot more...
With just under a poetic pinch of 100 hours left in
his fast of enlightenment Lil’ David (once again) lovingly capitulated in his
quest to adhere to healthy male living by giving up the vices he oh-so loves so
much. The jejune details in his dietary surrender involve being snowed in at
his menial place of employment, working a 24 hour shift, feeling physically encumbered
and knee-tattering weak since he had intrinsically just been living off of water
for the past seven days and finally, in a maddening Nietzschean Hyperborean fit
of hunger, sifted through the dregs of a garbage can and consumed a half-slice
of Avant’s pizza his co-workers had left overnight for him, and which he had initially
This two weeks ago on Feb 17th and
needless to posit that Lil’ Davey has been drinking beer and feasting on red eat
meat incessantly since (although he got sick as an anal leper the first time he
ingest dairy into his anatomy)…
Thanx for all who read and (in some cases) even participated
in the fast with me. SS2
will be finished over the next six weeks (much in the same fashion of its illegitimate
sister) with longer entries concerning love, failure, addictions and what it
means to be a viable human being in an decimated dot com purlieu where cryptic
180 character tweets have been
superseded the narrative texts of our time…
Thanx for reading again, In the immortal maxim of
Augustine,..”quia plus loquitur inquisition quam invention…” which translates
as sometimes the search proves more than the discovery…
It has been thirty-five days since I chugged my last
beer. Thirty-five days since I last held the aluminum silo of a connoted adult
beverage in my left hand, abruptly cracking it open with the curved trigger of
my pointer finger, a gushing crackle echoing in guttural splurges as the
beverage kicks open, flips backwards in tandem with tilting chin in an initial
rush as it erupts past your lips, shotguns into your anatomy in an explosion of
hop-riddled fizz and malty flavored froth.
Thirty-five days. A whisked month of calendar
squares plus a coda. Three more days and
I will have gone longer than my failed campaign at the initial Succulent
Sobriety where I capitulated my quest at day 38.
December I was imbibing a case and a half (plus) a day. I would come home from
work, trudge through the dirty banks of snow abutting the salty avenues of West
Peoria, finding myself at Walgreens on Western pick up a case of PBR and come home
and write for a couple of hours, cracking open pilsner after pilsner before
heading, usually around 11, to the liquor for a case of Sam Adams.When my roommate fed me rent the accumulated
sum would be routinely marched across the street aptly deposited at one at the
glossy counter of one of our favorite West Peoria watering holes, where, forty-five
minutes later, the rent in its totality would be exchanged for a bevy of empty
That was Thirty-five days ago. I have not had a beer
in 35 days.
I wanted to make my last beer a memorable
faretheewell beer. An envoy drop. I wanted to send my last beer out like Noah and
a dove, patiently waiting on the floating planks of an Old Testament Zoo before
the beer arrives at the sill of my window forty-days later, a freshly plucked
olive leaf placed next to the six-pack anticipating the prepatory slurp.
I wanted to say goodbye to my last beer at a 1940’s
era train station, the jerky writer attired in a military uniform swallowed in a
plume of exhaust as the beer waved a handkerchief goodbye at him, promising that
the beer will faithfully wait for him, sitting next to the static of a
mid-century radio, crocheting, waiting for the devout palate of the beers beloved to
return from the self-inflicted trenches of sobriety.
More than anything else I wanted to have my last
beer with my literary-goading roommate and fellow alcoholic enabler local poet
Kyle Devalk, only it happen that way.
It didn’t happen that way at all.
KD at Citylights compliments of ravishing Brianne...
The night before Succulent Sobriety Two was set to
convene Kyle was in the hospital, coming down hard after a three month drinking
binge. We had been drinking assiduously (by that meaning daily, hours of craft
beer capitulation lost in tandem with the synchronous crack of an opening beer)
since at least last September when I arrived home from driving down to MO. to buy
cigarettes with a friend and somehow (thanks to not wanting to abandon the tortuous
slope and lavender sunset abutting rt 6) ended up in South Dakota 18 hours
later, camping out in Chris Mccandleless fashion next to the craggily visages
of Mt Rushmore, lost in a scatter of mountain goats, the towering evergreens
and feral bison the black hills avail. Two days later I arrived home to find every light in my
apartment turned on like illuminated calendar squares. Kyle (recently exiled by
his girlfriend) had been living in the West Peoria bars for the last two days
and sleeping on my back porch at night. The third night of crashing on my back
porch he decided he needed to pee somewhere other than the trough at the Owl’s
Nest and broke into my apartment.
It was a literary fete.
Two years ago Kyle crashed with me for four months
and we were drunk all the time but we were also fucking writing our asses off. I have a big oak writing desk in my library
that looks like something the Lorax loving salvaged from a money-grubbing
Thneeds and at the time Kyle wrote in my Picasso blue room, the intermittent
purr of his Smith-Corona humming like a duet with the crunch of his keyboard.
Kyle was a poet and I was novelist and we both wrote ten hours a day, stopping
for three hours to tramp into a West Peoria bar or purchase a cube of PBR’s
before biting into the narrative cream of the page once again.
Where I have some literary friends who when we go to
a bar lose themselves in the weak iridescent glower of legalized video gaming,
Kyle and I, when we get hammered, we talk about books and art and the human
condition. Kyle gesticulates more and can be more stringent in his polemics. I’m
pretty much always seeking an opportunity to crack open a flaccid witticism(i.e, Faulkner wrote GO DOWN, MOSES after
reading that pamphlet about the old testament prophet whose wife was sexually
frustrated). Together we make for an affable outing, and (of course) after
reading my dear friend Jeanette Kendall’s splendiferous piece on Rick Baker,
when writers’ get together to drink there is simply no greater conversation ricocheting
on the pulse of the planet.
So I wanted to have my last beer with my closest literary
brother even though I realized that we were overdoing it again, adorning the
globular vessels of our respective livers with tassel, mortarboard and gown.
Even though I got into the habit sometime in November where I couldn’t take a
shower much less chisel out a sentence without drowning a six pack first. Even though
when Kyle fed me rent every two weeks we immediately
absconded our literary abode and I fed the funds into the wooden lip of one of
the bars within’ back porch urinating distance of our apartment. Even
though we had some incendiary kick ass poetry readings at the Tartan Inn where,
for some reason we started drinking at
the Get-a-way at noon and then passed out in my apartment at six, only to be roused
by my friend Valena fifteen minutes before we were scheduled to rock the mic.
Even though everything was crazy and a week before Christmas I realized that I had to go on an alcoholic furlough and the only way I know how to do that is to start a blog and make a big deal and write about it via every day.
Whereas, due to an inexplicable Johnny Tremain
accelerated reader fetish when I was in third grade I drink a shit-ton of Sam Adams.
I was hoping I could split a Sampler of Sam Adams Spring thaw, alighting my final beer above my head
. About a week
before Succulent Sobriety started I had a dream where my I end up drinking with Elvis and it turns out he is my grandfather and all he wants to drink is Schlitz
Tall Boys all the time.
After that dream I knew that my final beer would be
a Schlitz tall boy.
And I wanted to have my last beer with Kyle, only it
didn’t happen that way.
It didn’t happen that was at all.
Kyle had been drinking every day for more or less
the past two years. He upped his ante and bellied-up to the bar hardcore this past
autumn. He surreptitiously drank at work, nursing a 40 in the back room between
shifts. He could be charming and
accumulate a bar tab at the most ravaged watering holes where such a request
would you get one a forehead tattoo stating that they were exiled for life. If
head to choose between beer and food he would eat beer, as both would. Around Halloween
he began purloining pumpkins from the neighborhood porches, not to smash them,
but to eat them, claiming that when god gave you manna from all-hallows-eve heaven
don’t bitch about being hungry.
In his beat chicanery he taught me how to go into a
bar, slide them a debit card (note: it helps if the debit card is a VISA that
doesn’t have your own name on it) that doesn’t have much left in terms of
funds, drink off the vicarious tab, get a god meal and then inexplicably
vanish, leaving the employees of the establishment to chip in on the bill.
A few weeks before Halloween we drove up to
Wisconsin to attend my dear friend Roxy Reno’s wedding. Kyle went crazy and drank
for almost three days Kerouacian-laced Benzedrine speed-fueled romp. He knocked
over chairs while poetically pow-wowing at a bar. He hired a prostitute (when
you hire a prostitute they request that you whip out your cock and flash them
so they know you are not a cop). Something happen and the prostitute took the
money and high-tailed without Kyle getting laid. We came back to P-town and
continued to party and, along with Hollye, Daz and Tyler Sutherland give
kick-ass readings at the Tartan. The last reading in December Kyle fucking
nailed, it, reading his poems, his
breath harnessing and mounting each vowel as if wearing spurs on the orchestral
tip of his tongue. He bit into each syllable of his poems, he gnawed and
salivated, snorted each line as if it freshly cut capillaries of cocaine. At
the finale of each poem he slapped each individual sheath of paper he had typed
into the air and began reciting a different piece. The stationary paper from
the previously read poemhovered in the air
like a shot dove or a kicked-off pair of panties before slowly gravitationally
shuffling into the floor of the bar.
Kyle cascaded north to Wisconsin for the holiday. What
was tentatively scheduled to be a week long drinking fete was multiplied by
three. When he came back from Milwaukee tattered and emotionally bruised. On
New Years Eve he was robbed while going to a bar. There was a lavender welt slit atop his
forehead from where the assailant hit him with a gun. When the greyhound in back to Peoria the
bus driver wouldn’t allow him access because he reeked of booze.
He came back to P-town a week later
He continued to drink. Continued to write. Continued
to brachiate from barstool to barstool. One night while I was at work the cops
were called to my apartment (ahem, this means war Christina, every time you
verbally abuse and thrash your progeny DCFS will receive a phone call). The next
night he beat up a wanna-be poet who another lifetime ago I considered a
brother who after I achieved a modicum success in my craft, completely went out
of his way to lambaste my career. Kyle was still drinking every blinking hour
but his loyalty was never in doubt. The next night he got into another
altercation at a bar. Somehow via his innate poetic charm he continued to get
into bars while not having much funds dapperly drinking off the aegis of others (that’s
what happens when you are a famous writer…everyone goes out of their way to buy you drinks....ha ha ha).
Two Saturdays before the second Succulent Sobriety
was set to convene I had beer in the house only it was hidden because I was
anxiety-riddled that had I kept it in the fridge my roommate would indubitably
imbibe the bulk of my faretheewell beverage. Three days before I forget and
left the beer idling in the fridge. When I came home from work I noticed that
Kyle was crashing more than usual. I noticed even more that the cube of Sam
Adams Winter favorites had gone unscathed in the fridge. The next day I woke
his ass up and asked him to join me for a beer since I had 16 hours left til I
voluntarily sprinted into my 40 day moratorium. There was still beer in the
fridge which astounded me. When I asked him if he would like to join me for a toast
celebrating the secondary introit to me sobriety Kyle declined.
I’d never seem him forgo a beer gratis in my life.
He told me that he was in the hospital last night. I
didn’t believe him. I then noticed the plastic band wreathed around the birch
of his right wrist like a manacle. I asked him what happen. Kyle informed me in
all candor that he didn’t exactly know. He said he was at work and the next
thing he knew his entire body crunched up.That he couldn’t move. That he was paralyzed. That he thought he was
having a stroke. That his heart felt like a pregnant timpani about ready to
thud into a percussion of exploding thumps. He left his work, traipsed across
the street to the liquor store, picked up a 40 and chugged it in twin
draughts.He then went back to work. An
hour later his body started pining for more beer. When it was denied it locked.
He again felt heart palpitations. He again couldn’t move part of his face. He
had a patron dial 9-1-1 and hold the phone up to his ear as he perfunctory explained
to the paramedics what was going on. He
then found himself strapped down like a corpse with a pulse in the back of an
ambulance that would later charge him 1250 dollars per hour for the 1300 meter
scoot from where he works to the emergency doors of Methodist Medical center. They would sedate him in a room and noodle
plastic tubes throughout his slender anatomy and print something out claiming
that it was alcohol related and charge him and additional 1000 dollars for his
three hours convalesce, insisting that someone pick him up less the hospital be
I wish I would have been there more for Kyle in his time
of emotional tumult, only I was wasn’t. I was more concerned with getting
fucked up myself. I was more concerned with having one final beer, quaffing one
final sudsy soliloquy before disembarking from the drunken port into the swan song of my own sobriety. I
wish I could have been more of a soulful solace, a brother, a best friend.I wish I wouldnhave told him that the last
time I was in the hospital via drinking when everything was perspicuous I was
the same exact age he is now, and refrained from telling him that the first
thing I did when I arrived back home was take a shower and drown a forty before
heading back to work.
I wish I would have told him all this, showed more
solicitous concern when he alluded that, after an intense three month binge,
after two years of drinking all the time since he was wearing the bracelet,
after moving in and one-uping each other beer for beer on an hourly caliber.
Instead I nursed my final beer, a Schlitz tallboy,
in my perennial reflective solitude out of a nondescript Styrofoam chalice in
Jumer’s parking lot, the palatial penumbra’s of the once majestic castle
forming Paleolithic drapes, sails of jigsaw tint splattered on the frozen
leftover wedding cake winter of the earth below. I thought about Kyle (who it
turns out, went the entire 35 days sans alcoholic beverages with me) and about
Elvis and about the great Rick Baker,i.e., ‘Uncle Rick,’ wondering what his
genius would chisel out in no-non shit working class hewed journalistic paragraphs ofblue-collar bliss featuring the still-life
status quo of the city I love so much. I can see him writing an opus about Aldi’s
closing down the hill, and how a solid fifteen mile radius of lower-income
P-town now has to straddle a germ-riddled bus and be escorted across a chilly
river just to purchase produce. Or how he would attack the recent soap opera
concerning the Stalinesque Super Intendant of District 150 ( whom he would
moniker Elphaba a la Wicked, the green-w-envy Witch who Transmogrified the Tin
Man so he could live w/out a heart) and my friend educator extradonaire John Wetterhauer, who was unjustly targeted in
a school district that has always been a few French fires short of an academic
happy meal (note: as an alum and proud protect of the South Side institution
whose avg high school ACT score is a cumulative 13don’t get me started) Mr. Wetterhauer who
after producing an award winning school almost unparalleled in the last thirty
years, Elphaba felt the untoward need to brandish her broomstick and go out of
her way to make a man who has worn his heart on the tin of his Charter Oak
sleeve before it was plucked by a whiny wanna-be academician (who chose to send
her progeny to John’s award winning school) because the spotlight wasn’t on
I thought about a lot of things as I took
intermittent swigs from the slurpy draught of what would be my final beer for a
over month but I mostly thought about the vicissitudes of the body, the
fluctuation and digestive tracks, the dated-Christmas bulbs of my kidneys. I
wanted to find out what my body would endure. I wanted to delve into indented
tufts of non-chemically inducedalmost
mundane Buddhaesque auras and find out what it felt like to, once again, simply
Crack the sarcophagus of gender notarized flesh I
find myself blinking and burrowed for the past 35 years.
Find out what the feels like to feel stranded on the
continental cusp of the planet again and find out if I had anything simply left
I was in Jumer's parking lot sifting the final
nautical swirls from what was to be my last beer on what all central
Illinoisians would concurs hasduly been
the most acerbic and unforgiving winter in memory. I wanted to slough the
thermal-cocoon of my winter coat. I wand to criss-cross my arms and form an X
near my waist line and reel up my shirt. I wanted to unhinge the copper zipper
of my jeans, step out of my jeans and undergarments like I was uncoiling a
microcosmic fabric of DNA.
I wanted to stroke the fleshy baton, the anatomical
cylindrical scroll of my anatomy, a needle to a compass leading nowhere.
I wanted to aim into the forgotten girth of the
South end and release myself in the direction of the shoe-box flavored high
school where I was sexually molested. Where when I went for help it wasn’t
given. I wanted to exonerate the plank of my gender into the steeple (visible
from the far south side of Jumer’s parking lot) where I went to church and
which served as the social hub of my families existence for the first twenty
years and (thinking on tournament weekend about those basketball fucks who
tookshit-stained jock strap, pummeled
me down in a corner and crowned my head with it in coronation purported
I saw all this as I looked into the Styrofoam
chalice, tilted my head back and empty the last suds from of the Schlitz tall
I punched a hole in the Styrofoam receptacle.
I littered in Jumer’s parking lot.
Sometimes you have to get naked and lose everything
to find out what the fuck is left inside of you.
To find out if you have anything left to say.
I went home. I had bound stalks of vegetables to
I had forty days to figure all this shit out once
In another lifetime he could be John Henry, thick
bones, six-foot six, eyes that look like caricatured cue-balls ferrying heavy
sadness and loss. He arrives an hour early to do stairs. Quoting bible verses
with decimals about shepherds and lights and a Kingdom that somehow is to come
as he vertically clambers the chamber of slants at the stairwell where he
works, launching the pedals of his anatomical girth into the layered rungs
He arrives an hour early to do stairs.
He can tell
you all about Cabrini Green in the late 80’s, how he played center for Chicago
King in the public league and how it was his ticket out and how he blew up
because all he was was a gummy bear trapped inside this large body. How he
couldn’t get to class on time. How the Vice Lords hooked him up with his first
hit of crack, chalky, like grade school calcium, taking intermittent red-eyed hits
before hitting the corner, drinking malt liquor out of a brown paper bag.
“Man, I could’ve been an NBA center or at least gone
to college for free.” He extolls his own body, before talking about crack,
which he calls rocks, speaking about it as if he minored in geology, talking
about how it was ubiquitous, how it was more readily available then solid
plumbing in the Chicago public housing in the early ‘80’s.
He’s had years of abuse. Years of financial
straggling. Years of failure. The caps of his knees are the size of twin softballs
and one night, after a binge, he capitulated, he down on his knees, tears
bleeding from wither his brow or his socket, acknowledging to something
inscrutable that he felt was in the room with him at that moment that he just
can’t do it on his own anymore.
And he arrives to work an hour early to do stairs.
One night after coming back from doing stairs his A
chip fell out of his pocket, like he was making a wish in an empty well of
promises called life. The chip had a pyramid and the first letter of the
alphabet repeated twice in capital letters adorning one side. The chip had the
mantra ‘One day a time,’ and a quote by Shakespeare on the converse about to
thy own self being true.
His co-workers are twenty years younger. After work
they go out and get hammered and fall down and buy alchemical shots of alcohol
mingled with energy drinks and sleep with women they have naked pictures of in
their phones, holding their phones out like highlighted passages in a Gideon
bible, telling each other that they hit that shit last night. They laugh at the
side of the coin. One makes a joke about tossing the coin up in the air and
calling heads, tails or drunk.
When the coin falls out he is carrying a bag of
spinach and a bag of baby carrots because he has made a new year’s resolution
to eat right. He smiles at his
co-workers’ banter. He ignores their taunts. On Saturday night he goes down to
a building with a neon cross down on Adams with the Words JESUS SAVES forming
an acrostic in the center of the plus sign He speaks with people are homeless.
He tells them his story. He prays with them, closing his eyes, looking up at
the ceiling with his eyes closed, looking up at the ceiling with his eyes
crunched closed, his think fingers splayed atop stranger’s heads like a yamaka
made out of thumbs, blessing the person, asking the inscrutable force he calls
God to avails his bountiful grace.
He’ll be fifty next year and he will tell you
himself that it took him half a century to feel this young and have this much
promise in his life.
And he arrives to work an hour early to do stairs.
She worked in the library getting her master’s in
education while her husband was off fighting a war no one they knew believed in.
He never sent e-mails. He never wrote letters. When he did contact her it was
usually about money. They both got married when they 25. She was bubbly. A big
girl. She had big boobs. She always had a smile tattooed above her chin. She
had blonde hair and dimples and a husband who proposed to her then went off to
fight a war no one understands.
When her husband came back they were strangers. You
would see them at the Chinese buffet shoveling heaps of bartered lard on their tray.
He was always aloof. You could tell that he didn’t like when she talked to
people of the opposite sex. He looked like them the way he was oriented to look
at other species sharing this planet who wore a turban instead of a football
He looked at them
as the enemy.
They moved to California. She taught English in
inner city schools. They went to marriage counseling. He didn’t like working in that vector of town.
Callled all her students niggers. Said he didn’t like her teaching them
niggers. They were already on public aid. They were already sopping up enough
of his taxes.
Finally after two years she left him. She left her
body. Stepped out of her old self like stepping out of a Babushka doll or a sarcophagus.
She started running. She started lifting pink weights while listening to
motivational videos. She became a vegan. In two months she lost fifty pounds.
She became a different person. When the writer whom she was friends with when she worked at the library saw a picture of her
on facebook he hardly recognized her. She kept her boobs. She blossomed into the
body that was somehow always there.
When the writer sends her a message, tells her that
being involved in literary fiction we are always looking to invest in a protagonist whom you
can register a palpable change on a neurological level and boy, does she fit
the caliber of a person vaulting over tumult enacting positive change in one’s
life. She sends me back a poem by Jimmy Santiago Baca:
continually find myself in the ruins
of new beginnings,
uncoiling the rope of my life
to descend ever deeper into unknown abysses,
tying my heart into a knot
round a tree or boulder,
to insure I have something that will hold me,
that will not let me fall."..
A year later she gets married again to a stud. Her
wedding is at Yosemite park.
She asks me if I could send her a poem on love they
could read in the ceremony.
I address her as sister.
I tell her sister, it would be an honor.
After the inopportune death of her husband she found
herself all alone in the world with two kids and a house full of Disney movie
toys, she’ll joke later, that the reason she never thought her son was gay because
he chose, ‘Buzzlight year over Woody.’ She worked menial jobs. She babysat the
kids across the street. She volunteered as a girl scout leader. The house was
always full of kids bearing summer Kool-aid moustaches.
When the kids are at school she unwinds by going on
long aimless drives, chain-smoking across the dun-flavored chess board of the Midwest
after harvest through a stubble of corn husks, a ploughed field enveloping into
the tingling peach of the eastern horizon.
When her writer friend resuscitated the blog where
he writes about going without she decided to join him even though he never
asked her to. The first time since she was 13 she goes a month without a
cigarette. She goes cold-turkey on caffeine. She sacrifices up dairy, no more
spicy bricks of habanero cheese or farm fresh eggs for six weeks. She starts cooking vegan. She’s never
purchased a pack of Tofu in her life. It turns out she can do things with Tofu
that should be illicit. When the writer decides to delve into Indian philosophy,
chatting about chakras and water-fasts she discreetly joins him, going five
days as well. She lost weight, notably. She looks good. Her parents who are in
their 70’s and lost everything they own to the Tornado tells her that they are
proud of her.
Later she will tell her writer friend that she is
down to pre-pregnancy weight. That the last time her body registered these
digits on the bathroom scale was 23 years ago.
The writer smiles. He misses coffee. He misses cold
beer. He thinks about his co-worker pushing his body up the slats of stairs
ushering a sweat. He thinks about his friend in California who became a completely
different person after she left her husband, He thinks about going on a long
drive this country road and cracking open a beer in the passenger seat, chasing
the sunset, never knowing when to stop, wanting to fall into the overhead
ribbons of a winter sunset, the winter that never seems to end, snow melting in
charcoal gobs like lead from melted pencils forming gravy puddles on the side
of the road.
It spring, baby, we still have so much more yet to
a millennium or two, a seeming paradox of our civilization will be best understood
by those men versed in the methods of counter-archaeology. They will study us
not by digging into the earthbut by
climbing vast dunes of industrial rubble and mutilated steel, seeking to reach
the tops of our buildings. Here they’ll chirp lovingly at our spires, mansards,
turrets, parapets, belfries, water tanks, flower pots, pigeons lofts and
Don Dellio, Great Jones Street
On day six I failed. The drape of reality
completely disintegratingaround me, my
like an arid dried-out chamois. I entered a state
where I was tranced out all the time. I entered a very fuckable, falling on the
caps of my knees as if proposing to the void of equilibrium on Valentine ’s Day state.
I grew to loathe the liquid form of oxygen with a double-shot of hydrogen. I
grew to detest water. I grew to abhor the substance that my skin is concealing
like a Russian Babushka doll; the substance the bulk of my planet is composed of—the
substance I’ve been meditating over, astutely focusing on ameliorating higher
calibers of consciousness, sloughing myself of the emotional fetters that have
pinned me to a grade school cheaply cut Valentine’s Day bulletin board of
paralysis the last ten years, hoping to channel kindness and giving and love
into the plastic silo of liquid before chugging, monopolizing he majority of the day pacing around my apartment feeling like a perambulating water cooler, finding myself splayed leg in
the bathroom, a yellow beam shooting out
from the faucet below my torso every fifteen minutes as if all I am is a
windmill, a corporeal sieve.
It was six days of Paryushana, of intense mediating,
of digesting nothing but water, of feeling like I gorged out in glutton-pining
fashion at the local Chinese buffet only the buffet looked just like free swim
and the community pool and I still decided to open my lips and seemingly gnaw
In 2003 street magician David Blaine ensconced
himself in a diminutive Plexiglas cage above the River Thames in London and,
reenacting the rudiments of Franz Kafka’s THE HUNGER ARTIST, fasting for 44
days, living off of 4.5 liters of water per day. Blaine completed the fast
successfully shedding 54 pounds, 25 percent of his body weight. During the time
he spent the days meditating, looking out the carnivalesque atmosphere stirring
b’low, being relentlessly taunted by passerby’s who hurled food, beer cans,
laughed, ridiculed, females hoisting up their tops and flashing him, all the
while David Blaine maintained his focus, maintained his linearity, continued to
go without vital nourishments needed to maintain continuity on the life of this planet while the outside world engulfed him like pebbles to a sea.
The sixth chakra notched on our lotus ladder to
enlightenment in known as Ajna. It is located at the third eye, the frontal,
lobe, the area of the brain where choices are mediated and actuated. The
awakening of the frontal lobe has mystified the scope of our species for centuries.
Something happens when our thinking is shifted towards the periphery of
neurological consciousness. It altars our ability to intuit the world in a
different perspective—it heightens are awareness to ontologically capture the
scope of this planet in a new way.
Whether it’s the heralding a chunk of middle-eastern
stone pelting the forehead of David’ Goliath, ushering an era of Old testament
Kings,the sight of Indian maiden
adorning the center of her eyebrows with an unblinking bindi or even Harry
Potter coming to the realization that he’s some sort of unbidden wizard via the
serrated lightening slash located in the center of his brow, astute concentration on
the frontal lobe significantly connotes theharbinger of change often presaging epiphanic waves of enlightenment.
When the frontal lobe starts to jism, something monumental is about ready to come.
It was Valentines day 1997. I was a freshman at ICC,
monopolizing the interim between classes
wading in the circuitous parabolic russetmandala of the campus (those of you familiar with the architectural
semblance of ICC are well familiar that the main East Peoria campus is
configured like the shaved bulb of a brick question mark—all the classes are
arrayed on an arched slant). Four months earlier (decades when you are all of
nineteen) I was poet and I left, spent the thousand dollars I had accumulated
from a lifetime of working menial jobs plus a 500 dollar literary scholarship
and flew to be with the woman of dreams. This was October 96 and it didn’t workout. I returned home, and, like David Blaine, locked myself in a room for two
weeks and wrote, slicing up sheaths of pages I had scribed poems of longing,
welding them via staccato taps into the pregnant monitor of my father’s 94
apple computer, saving the literary manna on a floppy that looked like a
flattened tampon, printing out the poems (40 or so) as if watching my new born
enter the planet through the fumbling slit of the printer before taking the
manuscript and stowing it in a Doc Marten shoebox in the back of my post-teenage
Four months later, close to Valentines Day, I
thought about the creature I had given it all up for months before and the
poems she had given me. I was 19, I wouldn’t be able to drink legally for
another year and half. Somehow I had gotten ahold of two 24 oz. bottles of
beer. One was the emerald esophageal neck of Rolling Rock, the other was Dundee
Honey Brown. I have no recollection I procured these two relics, only I go then
sometime in early December and that sat, burrowed in the back of my closet,
next to my manuscript for almost two months, when I drank then while watching
the original Before Sunrise thinking about her.
I was 19 and much in the similar manner in which I
have been fumbling around my house because of lack of food, fumbled around the
house of my childhood. I never would have fathomed that ten years later I would
have been drinking the equivalent of ten (plus) times the amount of beer per
day than I imbibed that night while watching Before Sunrise, trying somehow to
heal the welts of loss that still stung with hurt inside my chest using alcohol
as my gauze to sop up all the pain.
I thought about that Valentine’s Day 19 years ago as I stumbled around the kitchen and, after
almost six days, bartered my Bodhi quest for enlightenment for a 50 calorie
bowl of soup and a scoop of peanut. At first my body didn’t seem to know what
to do with the nutrients. I remember when David Blaine finished his fast it was
stated that the ‘re-feeding’ process was just as lethal as the fasting process
since his body might not know what to do with the food and have to learn how to
break down and digest nutrients all over again.
While slurping the sound and then dishing out peanut
butter like barreled ice cream I was astounded that I didn’t feel any blood
branch and stream across the lower whittled paunch of my stomach. The moment I
sipped the 50 calorie bowl of Vegan friendly tomato and squash soup all the
blood seemed to sprint, up into the pyramidal bowling-pin pinnacle of my body,
up to my frontal lobe, up to the area of chakra consciousness I was too busy to
straggling around the house to meditate over today. It seemed like my third eye
was serving as a sort of lighthouse, informing the rest of my body what to do
with the tithe it had received after being forsaken for so long.
Early Valentine’s day morning my mom was taking me
back to my apartment in West Peoria. There is always Christian radio blaring in
my mom’s house and in her vehicle. A pastor was talking about ‘idolatry’ and
mom asked me if I thought alcohol might be mine, the thing in this life I chose
to venerate and worship.
I thought about idolatry. Thought about the quote
from Don Delillo’s Great Jones Street ( a novel the writer has disowned but
which deserves to be read more) about how in a ten thousand years after sifting
through the dregs of a nuclear detritus what passes for our homo-sapien ancestors
will discover our civilization and be nonplussed by the items they find once
they scale our abodes.
“They’ll go into every house and think that
television is our God.” I tell my mom and propounded my theory, “And that we
had Gods with names like Sony and Zenith and that we communicated with them via
a flat rectangular plate adorning the center of our domicile. They will think
we worshiped that God as an idol. That we spent all day fasting in front of it,
praying, hoping it will ass meaning to our short period we find ourselves abiding
in this time and place called now.”
artist now submitted completely; his head lolled on his breast as if it had
landed there by chance; his body was hollowed out; his legs in a spasm of self
preservation clung close to each other at the knees, yet scraped on the ground,
as if it were not really solid ground, as if they were only trying to find
solid ground; as if the whole weight of his body, a featherweight after all,
--Franz Kafka, Hunger
Day five I feel clean. It’s like a quantum custodial
staff kicked a sudsy janitorial bucket and mopped the interior terminal of my
forearms. I’m not tingling. I’m not pooping anything that resembles soup
kitchen dregs. I’m still dizzy, the recalcitrant marrow has abandoned the caps
of my knees supplanting them with globular gobs of licorice. The room is
tilting. It’s as if I’m crucified to the flimsy petal of a pinwheel leftover
from childhood, still, the concourse and avenues of my arteries feel clean—as
if sprayed with streaks of windex before being doused with a bucket of bleach.
I don’t feel like I’m ambling around the overturned ice-cube tray that is West
Peoria in the meanest winter we have had in three years. I feel clean, and the
catharsis is this: with the exception of a gaveling pulse and a Pandora
chastity box fraught with thudding literary dreams there is nothing inside of
me at all.
We don’t realize the machinery of our bodies isoperating, anatomical molecules adorned in
hardhats marshaling the assurance of our bodily organs, the drapey fungus of
the liver, filtering out unwarranted debris, the bulbous kidney beakers
distilling nutrients, the serpentine Hot wheels kiddie race track of my large
and small intestines ushering white-trash cooler NASCAR events below the
serrated lid of my umbilicus, all happening, 24-7 as if operated by scaffolded
Doozers a la Fraggle Rock, my body, an infinite orgy of activity I ferry around
with me at all times, oblivious to the to the blue-collar operating every
egg-timing quantum pinch of both my waking and sleeping existence, finally
after 36.5 years (shit) getting a long overdue smoke break.
How can the anatomical cigar-chomping boss one
consciousness be so fucking pernicious to the employees operating the machinery
inside of him…
Still tilting. Still seeing blooming Fraggles and
winking dots everywhere I look…
Mediation: the fifth chakra is located the level of the
larynx and is called Vishuddha. It means purified, or purging out the
animalistic system, so, in the immortal maxim of Ramakrishna, “When the
Kundalini reaches this plane the devotee longs to talk and to hear only of God.”
The lotus has sixteen petals, each bearing the engraftment
of one of sixteen Sanskrit vowels. The lotus petals are of the same pending lavender
thunder-cloud hue of Chakra 3, manipura, as Joseph Campbell orchestrates in his
exquisite lecture, “ The energy formally projected out into conquering others
is project in into conquering self.”
Meditation has been arduous since my attention span
is zippo I can feel my stomach beginning to roar only a muted ripple avails
This being valentine’s day eve, I meditated on
chakra five on the most beautiful poem I know. There’s a lot of love poems I
recite in my poetry readings (ie, the 4th stanza of Whitman’s I SING
THE BODY ELECTRIC, Shakespeare’s sonnet 116, Sharon Old’s Topography) but if I
had to choose one lotus-chakra opening poem to recite to the human beings whose
limbs and lips correlate with every metaphysical pulse of my being, it would be this one by Rumi b’low:
This Valentine’s Day may the hunger for spiritual growth, universal
kindness and streams of joy unbutton the charka of love inside of us all.
It was exactly 12 years ago earlier this month when
the pulsating physical attire of my father left us. He died suddenly. He had
just turned 54. He was teaching fourth graders at Hollis Grade school and
performed as the protagonist in THE LIVING CHRISTMAS TREE at first Baptist
church in Pekin just six weeks earlier. At the time none of us, in the wildest
scattering hopscotch of our imagination could possibly fathom that he would be
diagnosed with cancer before inexplicably being taken from us six weeks later.
In their performance dad played (well) the dad, and
the daughter (whose real name was Destiny) found out a secret pertaining to
After the performance I went to find dad. He was all
alone, in the back room, holding a cup of coffee looking distinguished, wearing
a derby cap, he was standing all by himself, in his solitude. After Christmas
he started subtly complaining about stomach. I don’t know if Dad realized
something was internally wrong, if cancer was adorning the organs like bulbs of
the ubiquitous holiday trees. I don’t know if he realized it would be his last Christmas.
If he did, in that moment, standing all alone in the
basement room at a Baptist church in Pekin, Illinois, he looked dapper, he
looked humble and quiet, his kindness and benevolence exuding from the glisten
of his forehead like a halo.
In that moment when he was standing all by himself,
I saw my father’s grace.
The man I was privileged to have known as my father.
Day four of the Paryushana water fast is completely
nerve-enervating. I’ve been flopping. My gait is rattled. The room keeps
tilting sideways like I’m back in third grade and it is recess and I’ve just
surmounted the center of the teeter-totter trying to gain a pinch of
equilibrium only the level plane I’ve victoriously surmounted keeps vacillating
in its wooden linearity.
I can drink beer and party for three days straight
and still not crash, still recite Shakespearean sonnets backwards, still be,
(well, as we all know) perspicuous and yet feasting on nothing but oxygen and a
double shot of hydrogen and air is neurologically disconcerting. I don’t feel
acute when it comes to language. I lack the same incendiary snap at the
keyboard. I long for a cup of coffee to keep the floor from oscillating.
I’m more petulant than pedantic
I nod off
when meditating. Even crazier I haven’t taken a dump in four days (liquid comes
out at both ends, when it trickles out of my ass it looks like a bowl of lipton
soup, which I know is way too much information but hey if you want a writer who
is all frilly in her narrative faux pas’ read something by that bitch who wrote
EAT PRAY LOVE and failed to scribe an original sentence in her life ).
yesterday my entire skin was a tad blue, as if I’d been sipping codfish oil out
of a cannery row tin. My forearms and inner thighs looked like damp cigarette
paper. I had been living off of water for three days and my whole entire
anatomy felt like the glass contours to an aquarium, my stomach still
intermittently purring,I swear, there was something sloshing around my lower
intestines bearing fins.
The vagaries of the body.
In 28 days I
have lost 21 pounds. Still nine pounds from the rockstar weight (means I could
wear my tattered rock star jeans) that I was at the punctuation of the initial
Succulent Sobriety, day 38.1, when I foundered, when I just couldn’t deal with
the duress of paying student loans without having a beer in paw.
I’m also Aye-dee-deeing out of control. It’s hard to
sew together a few sentences without focus dithering, spinning like a classroom
Reset your watch after reading Emille Rosseau cause
I Kant concentrate worth shit, Immanuel.
all three of these lower chakras are of the modes of man’s living in the world
in his naïve state, outward turned: the modes of the lovers, the fighters, the
builders, the accomplishers. Joys and sorrows on these levels are functions of achievements
of the world, ‘out there’ what people think of one, what has been gained, what
lost. And throughout the history of our species, people functioning only on
these levels, (who of course have been in the majority) have had to be tamed
and brought to heel through the inculcation of a controlling sense of social
duty and shared social values, enforced not only by secular authority but also
by all those grandiose myths of an unchallengeable divine authority to which
every social order—each in its own way—has had to lay claim….and now so we
ascend to chakra four, at the level of the heart, what Dante called La Vita
Nuova, ‘The New Life,’ begins. And the name of this center is Anahata ‘Not
Struck’ for it is a place where the sound is heard, “that is not made by any
two things striking together.”
--Joseph Campbell, the Mythic Image
The fourth Charka is Anahata and as Campbell writes
so eloquently, “is the sound Aum not made
by any two things striking together and floating as if it were in a setting of
silence, is the seed sound of creation, heard when the rising Kundalini reaches
the level of the heart. For there, as they say, the Great Self abides and
portals open to the void.” It is an opening of the heart, a realization
that you and the other are one, or, as my boy Dante avows the moment he first
espied the aria (sic)-espial scent of his eternal Beatrice:
“At that moment I say truly, the spirit of life,
which dwells in the most secret chamber of the heart began to tremble with such
violence that it appeared fearfully in the least pulses, and, trembling, said
these words, ‘Behold a god stronger than I, who coming shall rule over me.”
At that instant the spirits of the soul, which
dwells in the high chamber to which all the spirits of the senses carry their
perceptions began to marvel greatly and speaking especially to the spirit of
the sight, said these words: ‘Now has appeared your bless.”
The chakra can be seen as a transcendent wound, the
welt inflicted by the arrowhead of Eros inadvertently plucking himself, falling
dastardly, uncontrollably, in love."
Yesterday the sexy red-headed mermaid and I went for
drive. We left at about 5:30 and she took an epic snapshot of the balring winter sunrise outside the small rural hamlet of Fiatt, Il. We have christened Mason County as our own. We’ll stop at Willet’s
winery in Manito can pick up a few bottles of Cranberry Frost before camping
out at Sand Ridge, drinking wine, holding each other lost under the yawping
penumbra of the stars.When the
sexy-red-headed girl was in sixth grade she ironically had my father as her
teacher. She would stay after and help him out. She went outside and clapped
the erasers together, an applause of chalk rise in bulbs outside the sixth
grade classroom at Beverly Manor school. Sometimes they would play chess. When
I met her she stated that he was her favorite teacher and that she always felt
special when he paid attention to her and that she was emotionally distraught
when she heard of his untimely passing.
Since I (literally) can’t walk in straight line I ha
the sexy red head drop me off to my mom’s house to dry out, even though the
only thing I’m abstaining from is chewing.
At my mom’s house I wrote the Anahata on my water
bottle for the day. Instead of meditating I found myself standing in front of a
picture of my father. In almost a traditional linear narrative ‘sun-shining-through-the
clouds-ricocheting-into the café-window-protagonist
life’ catharsis I realized that I had now lived one/third of my life without
the demure presence the overhead shadow I have referred to as my daddy.
I was looking at my father’s picture chanting the
greatest Holy name sipping the Anahata H20 when I could feel his presence, a
golden cloak seem to caped over me, and I could palpably feel his presence next
to me, could feel his gruff whiskers and his peppermint breath, subtle
finger-tip callous of his Sunday school guitar strumming fingernails holding me
close, lifting me up, dandling my shoulders as if I were a new born once again.
Eternity is much closer than we think.
When I was eight years old I used go jogging with my
father around Moss Avnue. We had a Pirate house on the corner where Moss and
barker form a penissula and we would turn at the pirate house and head home. Dad
always wore socks on his head instead of gloves. We would sprint down Moss
avenue near the finish line at Jumers before walking home to our resident on
One thing father would tell me over and over again
after we had turned at the half-way mark Pirate’s house is that, “every step
you take now takes you closer to home.”
I think like Holden Caulfied if you really want to
hear about it when I’ve been eating water for four days that perhaps our bodies our only avatars finger
puppets with genital door knobs being simultaneously oriented by our eternal
self, watching yourself as if from a snow globe or video game screen, laughing
at our peccadillos trying to walk horizontal due to our propensity of our innate foibles.
I think about what my father once told me about
every step taking you closer to home and how, even during a self-imposed
water-fast,horizonatlly flapping from one imprisoned calendar square to the
next it feels like we are scratching in poetic pecks of longing dutifully
awaiting the moment we will finally hatch free and fly….