by Cindy Hasz
American Reporter Correspondent
San Diego, Calif.
THE POWER IN REMEMBERING OLD FRIENDS
SAN DIEGO -- An angel named Greg who fixed sprinklers and liked Grand Funk Railroad in high school. An angel named Bob who did tai chi and became a legend in experimental theater. Angels and Bushmen, stragglers from "Montgomery." My Montgomery. Code word for the past.
John Prine, Felix the Cat, old friends. Special constellations in the planetarium of my life.
They both found me this week. First Greg, then Bob. "First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is." First there are friends for life, then they're gone, then they're back. My paraphrase of some Zen master and Donovan.
My God, how is it we forget the magic of youth? It must be the only mortal sin, this strange forgetting. We swore we'd never do it. Yet we did.
Bits and pieces of parts of the past washing up on the shore of my mind like shells. Abalone. Sand dollars. Mussels. Kelp.
Remembering magic times, I forget where I parked the car in the parking lot. Remembering music that changed our lives, I lose my glasses, my keys. Remembering: that past is present and always has been and ever more shall be. "Be Here Now." Turns out that silly blue book was right. Much as I hate to admit it, Ram Dass nailed it. All here, all now.
Our youth, our old age. Our coming, our going. Ain't nothin' ordinary 'bout this life. Nothing ordinary 'bout livin' it. Even once.
"There's flies in the kitchen, I can hear em all buzzin', and I ain't done nothin since I woke up today." A John Prine song. That's how it all started this morning.
Fancy that, my favorite men all sleepin' under one roof. My brother, his son. My son. It's late, they're finally awake. Big animals. I feed 'em. They are grateful. "Bet your life, your sweet wife, gonna catch more fish 'n you." Greg the plumber comes over. We remember together; he an' brother and I humming a Taj Mahal song like we never grew up and lost each other. Giant steps forward and back, through the years. Illusion of time. That old magic bag of tricks. Friends vanish, then re-appear. Gone for thirty years, then they show up. "Taa-daa." Now you see me now you don't.
As the old black man in church said, "Well, well, well."
Come to think of it, best sermon I ever heard in my whole life.
Same week, 'nother angel fell through some blue hole in the sky and back into my life.
Bobbie Ernst, my first tai chi teacher. Thirty years ago. Berkeley days with the Blake Street Hawkeyes. That man was as close to a shaman as I've ever known. I was an apprentice, sleeping next to a primal scream room, learning abdominal breathing and John Cage.
He'd be singin', "Muddy water, sleep in a hollow log." Incantations. Rosemary on my pillow. "Clear-eyed crazy," they called me. But they didn't know me. Damn playwrights, thought they knew everything. God, I didn't even know me, all of 21 years old. I was shattered; post-traumatic stress syndrome kicked off by violence in southern Mexico. A refugee to my own version of Irish kabuki in the Blake Street warehouse.
A mostly male environment. Most of us women were too young and lost to do anything but orbit and get pregnant. Where were the women shamans when you needed em?
Lordy, Bob man, I didn't think you were that important to me but you were. And are. As usual, I am not sure I understand why. But I am so glad I found you. A definite valence, a gravity of the heart. You taught me ... songs I've remembered. What greater gift?
So, you're still doing one-man shows. Never-ending myocardial infarctions in the john, between the acts of King Lear. Figures I'd find you on the Internet. Experimental theater, still. After all these years. You are still ... alive. I am alive.
Egg shop. Fraser and DeBolt. Montreal. Iowa. Marin. City Lights.
We talked on the phone. You are in the Bay Area. I am in San Diego. We are middle-aged. You are still performing. Become a legend have you? Still poor, still teaching - abdominal breathing, tai chi, voice. You're with a woman, a long time now. I am glad for you. You found a safe port-of-call. You didn't know all these years that I've loved you. Sort of.
You understand death. Always did. When you were 30 you were fascinated with your own mortality. You had a dream in which an image was born. You said old age followed even then like a forklift in flight. By now, there must be a fleet of them. What a picture, but then, maybe you graduated to tractors.
I think we made love once. But then, we all did that with each other then, didn't we? Early '70s. Didn't mean much then. Don't mean nothin' now. But something between us was aboriginal. Song lines etched on sandstone; hieroglyphics of the heart. This "walk-about" that never ends. Yes, the gods must be crazy. Clear-eyed crazy.
Old age has now become more a melancholic dragon than a catapult of steel. Lover's arms twist, twine and wither. Children leave to find their own song-lines. It always comes back to a one-man, one-woman show out here somewhere in the dark of night of the soul. Cricket love under a blazing sky. Up on stage, breathing, the energy of primal sound and rattling bones.
"She roams these hills in an old black veil ... nobody sees an nobody knows," ... like an old friend. No sir, ain't no comfort on this earth like old friends.
Old friends and a bag of tricks.
Well, well, well.