Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Near Miss

I’m in avoidance mode. The economy eruption blankets us in a sludge of fast-hardening lava-mud. Despite the bright words and eye-twinkling of Obamaman, our spirits cannot move with the weight of the debris. We are slimed everywhere. Hard to walk. Hard to keep up with the laundry.

The quality of the garbage on the streets has changed. Fewer wrappers. I have been noticing condoms. Free goods, for most of us these days who frequent thrift shops. But what is the message here? Used, unused? The aborted abortions? Paid sex once again in cars on curbs? I’m sure someone is tackling the fate of the sex industry in a recession. Is Kristin or whatever her name was receiving maximum unemployment? Is she giving discounts? Has Wall Street cut back? How much of our economic surplus cash went to such perks?

There was a suicide at Dalton last week. One wonders how the climate affects these teenagers whose brains, an automobile insurer claims in an ad, are not normally configured.

I ran into a Psych who once treated my struggling boy. He was on the subway. Another sign of a recession. These guys always make me a bit sheepish, because no matter how decent one has tried to be, the parents always get the roofed eyebrow. Especially black-clad mothers who were known to play suicide-laced music in punk-rock bars. He asked for my son. It is of course much easier to have sympathy for a raging teen in retrospect. Anyway, it was the day after the Chimp incident. I made some off-hand parallel. The Psych moved perceptibly away from me…re-evaluating his diagnosis, no doubt.

What I meant was… sometimes we just ‘crack’…some of us onstage, some of us on the grocery line, some of us from our offices on Wall Street. Some of us have horns and amplifiers and guitars and we can wail to some audience and feel relief. Others can lift weights in a gym until they are exhausted, run laps around city reservoirs, drink until the anger is diluted. But some of us begin to lose control. Cars do it... dogs do it, kids do it. The economy is doing it. And something I noticed with my son…if he picked up the scent of fear, all hell broke loose. Like any dog or horse gone wild, he needed a bit of reassurance. Very hard to do this when the falls of Niagara are inches away, or the unbridled temper of a loose boy with a fantastic pitching arm.

No one will comfort a murderous raging chimp. What we need we do not always get when we are passionate and angry. We get fear, and fear is like dry wind to a fire. And after the tantrum, like a gigantic raging storm or a psychic orgasm, there is calm…if we can wait it out.

But we are all frightened now. There seems to be no bottom. For a few weeks after the election, people seemed kind and friendly. Generous. Considerate. Now, it is turning. Patience is short as we watch our financial futures telescoping. And what are our choices? Rage? Suicide? Drink? Murder the 8 babies which helped fund the collagen lip injections of that woman in California who rivals the Merrill Lynch office drapes bill and the Citicorp jet in rage-fuel? Teenagers everywhere are cutting and refusing to eat, binging and purging, using, drinking, hurting, fearing. Just for a moment of calm. For sequential seconds without fear.

There will be more fires. More plane crashes. When our prayers do not seem to be answered, we will try to find comfort in the fact that our lives were spared. But this fuels the fear. What next? Be positive, our president tells us, his beaming wife in reasonably-priced designer clothes, the shining student from North Carolina beside her. Do not fear in the face of a raging chimpanzee? When another gig gets cancelled, another letter arrives from my building management threatening and assessing… and I am on my way to the grocery store assessing the pathetic buying capacity of my pocket change, wondering if a trip to Queens is worth saving $1 on a jar of mayonnaise…wondering if I can remember how to make my own, which requires eggs which are out-of-budget at the moment… a passing bicycle messenger near-misses as I step off the curb…avoiding a massive injury, a trip to the ER, the loss of my bass-picking fingers, the source of my secret pleasure. Oh God, I mutter out loud—a reflex of some sort.

And I invoke the temporary comfort and heavenly blessing of the Near-Miss. All I can find at the moment. The fire was NOT in my building, my apartment was not robbed, I am walking, I do not have a current cancer diagnosis, my son is alive and has not been thrown out of school. I will try not to repeat, at the end of every Near-Miss prayer of thank you, the looming adverb ‘Yet’.

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