“The cemeteries are full of indispensable people.”
A few years ago, I had an experience that resulted into the beginning of a memoir of sorts entitled Tink: An Epic. It started when I took a road trip to Los Angeles to visit my brother. I stayed in a hotel adjacent to the back of my brother’s apartment complex. One morning, I experienced an incident that prompted me to write the following:
Imagine a fish out of water. Now, imagine you are that fish. Panning out, you as fish are flopped on a king-size bed in a Comfort Inn on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood California. Less than ten feet away is a closed door. Less than 10 feet from that door is the locked hatchback of a 2007 Tangerine Pearl PT Cruiser Touring Edition with indestructible seats and a beige interior. It just barely registers on the LA auto cool scale. Behind the locked hatchback is an ocean of air consisting of an LV30 tank of liquid oxygen and four or five standard E-cylinders. You delude yourself that you have options. You can (a) flop off the bed, somehow open the door, flop to the back of the car, somehow unlock it, thrust a cannula up your nose and turn the liquid tank dial to 4. If that were really an option, you’d’ve already done it and not found yourself in this predicament. So, you move onto (b). You have enough consciousness left to know you still hold onto your cell phone, try John again? He said he kept his phone on vibrate, but maybe not at night. He hadn’t answered a minute ago. Option (c), then. 911. Option (b) one more time before consigning your fate to the municipality of LA. Send. Send. He answers! “Come!” . . . “Now.” And then the wait. Can you wait? Breathe. Breathe. But this atmosphere is only 7% oxygen. Not nearly enough for lungs reduced to 15% function, with airwaves full of mucous obstructions, inflamed by LA pollution, narrowed with panic. Breathe. The Calvary arrives. “Get [housekeeping] to open the door.” Success! No, unbelievably, inevitably, stupidly I’d flipped the hinged-lock over. I would have to move, after all. Lunge and the door opens. Somehow the car key gets handed off. Get a tank. Take off the paper wrapper covering the fittings. Regulator off the empty tank. Onto the new tank. Set it in. Turn it on. No! Precious molecules gushing out the sides. Unscrew, reset, screw. Turn. On. Click around to 4. Grab a cannula. Put in nose. Breathe. Breathe. 4 liters of 100 percent oxygen each minute. Yes. Gasp. “We did it!” Gasp. “You did it!” Praise. Praise for the brother, so often incapable of performing the most basic technical or mechanical task. “Never tell Darcy. You, we must never tell Darcy.”
And how, you may be wondering, did little fish find herself in such dire straits at the Comfort Inn that morning?
At that point, I realized I had the start of an epic. It began in medias res, and presented a question that would take some spacetime to explore and eventually answer.
On the drive out to L.A., I listened to Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. I realize most of you probably know the process Kerouac went through to write his road trip experiences. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the story, in brief, he loaded a blank 120-foot roll of tracing paper into a typewriter set up in his Manhattan kitchen. Dubbed “The Scroll,” he sat and typed virtually nonstop for three weeks. The finished product was a single-spaced document without margins or paragraph breaks. [A tour of The Scroll in 2007 included a stop at the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe. I have no idea how I missed that.] Over the next few years, with a lot of help from his friends, the scroll became the novel On the Road.
I decided I would create a virtual scroll on my computer where I would record in no particular order the life experiences that had forged the bond among we few, we happy siblings, Big Brother John, Middle Me, and Baby Sister Mary Beth. I managed to write a few thousand words over the course of perhaps a month, and then an insidious event occurred that would sabotage almost everything in my life. I subscribed to World of Warcraft and became mired in the realms of Azeroth, et.al for years, yes, years. It has only been in the last few weeks that I have managed to abandon my beloved avatars. In large part, I credit George R.R. Martin’s saga The Song of Ice and Fire. I read all five volumes seriatim, only taking time to sleep and maintain my Facebook pages.
During those lost years, I had also forsaken my novel The First Voice. Sporadic attempts to make progress ended badly. I didn’t suffer from writer’s block. Instead, I realized I was a writer who hated to write. Moreover, I had so much other “stuff” floating around in my brain that I couldn’t stay focused on Voice. I returned to the notion of the virtual scroll. I decided to put the original project on hold and start a new scroll where I would empty my brain and make room for Voice. And so I purchased a “typewriter” in the form of an 11.6 inch MacBook Air that is dedicated almost exclusively to creating this new scroll. I loaded Word, opened a new document, chose – what else – the “American Typewriter” font, and here I am.
I envision this scroll to be a record of what has brought me to this point in the present in one multiverse, as opposed to what brought my brother and I to the earlier point described in the first scroll. [As an aside: recall that all points in a circle are equidistant from its center.]
For those of you who don’t know, my brother was brutally murdered in a road rage incident in L.A. in the early morning hours of November 23, 2008. I still haven’t reached a point where I can write about him. Shortly after his death, I did compose a Walking Raven post entitled Two Flutes and One to Wail for those of you who would like to know more.
At this juncture, I intend to focus on “stuff” that I will publish intermittently in the form of Walking Raven entries.
Long ago, I asked my buddy mjh to set up www.walkingraven.com. In part to jump-start a sustained effort to write Voice. I am hoping that writing this scroll will help me return to it, even though if I’ve learned anything from my Facebook experience, it is that attempts at “social-networking” serve more as reminders, we are all pretty much isolated voices crying in the wilderness.
previous post: Testimonial
Decades after Mother’s death her father told Tink, well, mentioned to her, almost in passing, that the first Christmas after Mother’s death he had walked out to the cemetery. It was that comment, more than anything else, which finally endeared him to her. Since the telling she has taken the journey with him more than once in her mind’s eye. She watches as the darkened figure of her father slips out the door of Grandma’s house in the earliest hours of Christmas morning, makes his way down the two blocks back to Zion Lutheran where the candlelight service had been held a few hours before. He hangs a left, walks through the small downtown, continues past the water tower, over the railroad tracks. Just out of town, he turns right, for perhaps another half mile, no more, to what Tink described in a poem she wrote shortly after the death as the “evergreen land with only eleven trees.” She sees Mother’s gravestone, with its single granite rose and the Lutheran seal, and the names, Osnes writ large, and then John, 1925 — , and Betty, 1927 — 1970. It sits at the southwestern end. (If, indeed, all graves point east toward the rising sun, ambiguity intended.) Tink listens as her Father, in a tear-filled voice, speaks aloud to his “Beck.” Tells her he misses her. Loved her. Then she watches as her father slowly turns and makes his solitary way back to life and living people and things understood. But part of Tink, perhaps the best part, dwells there still.next post: Virtual Scroll: Take 2