Friday, April 01, 2005

As Lucinda sings, a swansong, of sorts


"Baby, sweet baby, I wanna feel your breath
Even though you like to flirt with death..."

-- Lucinda Williams, from "Essence"

Well, that is the question, isn't it, "to be or not to be?" And while we're at it, Albert Camus said that the most important question is whether or not to kill yourself.

Seems as a good a time as any. I've done my homework - seen some of the really good 'offing oneself' scenes in movies (the first that comes to mind is in "The Royal Tenenbaums"), and I've even read up on the subject (the first reading that comes to mind is "Night Falls Fast, an elaborate consideration of the S word - good elegies, if not good omens, for today, this ill-fated Friday.

For years, I've had this running joke with friends about doing it. I say something like, "OK, that's it, I'm going to the Wal-Mart parking lot." Yes, the Wal-Mart parking lot, that's my place of choice. Nothing so mundane as the house or the garage or a cheap motel in some tawdry burg. No, and certainly not a lovely or romantic setting like the Empire State Building or that Number One spot for committing the dastardly deed in this great and trauma-stricken country of ours - the Golden Gate Bridge. How could somebody jump off the Golden Gate Bridge? Gosh, the view alone would keep me alive and in love with being alive. I'd want to get out of the chilly breeze and back to a great dinner in Chinatown or along Columbus Ave, followed by a few hours purusing the books (and the clientele) at City Lights Books.

And yes, that "Wal-Mart parking lot" line has been good for a lot of laughs, though I guess (?) I'm serious now, that is serious enough. Yes, we can be earnest and sentimental and scared shitless and still go bonkers silly about the specter of that S thing, "ending it all." Gotta laugh, too, since DEATH - either others' or visions of our own - is that most potent of all elixirs, reminding us that life is finite and valuable and that we own it and do not innately or even morally owe it to someone else. If it weren't so valuable, we wouldn't be so miserable - or sentimental about losing it. So no wonder some can come to feel that mere survival is not necessarily winning - that staying alive or being kept alive is not necessarily the same thing as being "saved." So for surprisingly many (especially young and middle-aged and old), there comes a day...

Oh yes, it's the Wal-Mart parking lot for me, not a pretty place (with that great big ull blue and gray, gray, gray cinder block fortress of cheap goods looming in the background with sundry traffic and weary looking shoppers milling about pushing carts of said goods), but a place to which I might like to ascribe some negative vibes - and national news headlines - yes, dammit, slam it to Wal-Mart, and make their public relations department scramble. (All this, you understand, without hurting anybody else, of course - LET ME BE CLEAR. I am NOT talking about any sort of indiscriminant shooting spree here, American style. No, no, committing the Big S is VERY discriminant, perhaps crazy, perhaps insane or at least psychotic - and some would say very selfish - but I would have to say it seems, for all of its drama and profundity and mystique, the most discriminant of all major crimes, discriminate with extreme prejudice.

But then is it a "crime" at all? If we feel it is really so "selfish," then aren't we implicitly laying claim, at least in part, to another person's life? There is a lot of talk about that, always, and this week, there is even talk about the laws of this nation being a crime themselves, regarding our rights to our own lives and how we end them. Sometimes we can't do it for ourselves, but does that mean we should not have some say (before we're stricken)? And who should have the second greatest say? I'd say the spouse, for sure, no matter what.

What finer day for all this than today? I think today's the day, and for some, it is and will be (there are some considering and commiting suicide right now). Let's learn their stories too and absorb the necessary power of this act. Can I say it? Yes. Suicide is one of the greatest tools for reminding ourselves and others that we own our own lives. Our lives are ours. They belong to us, for better or worse, and sometimes, no one else can say what is "better" and what is "worse." The power to have utter despair or sickness and agony is within all of us, though some more than others. Some of us are oh SO sensitive to the pain and the anguish and the suffering, whether near or far, whether our own or not. Let's not sentimentalize it too much, but it's there. And it often seems our dread of such an end keeps us from seeing clearly the trials and travails, travesties and tragedies of others as they themselves might have seen them. Suicide seems to remind of our mortal conundrum - that we are in control and not in control, that we might strive so mightily or messily to gain control only to lose control. And then let's remember that suicide (and choosing our deaths to any extent we do) is not about losing control but, at last, taking control unto ourselves.

So today. But I don't just want to do it in the parking lot of my local Wal-Mart. Even that seems a little too mundane. No, better the hometown of Wal-Mart or maybe even corporate headquarters, and then there are those other corporate headquarters that might conjure just the right spin on poetic justice - the headquarters of the bombs and weapons makers, the warrior planes and ships makers, maybe Exxon/Mobil or Halliburton or Dow - or even near the offices of those who lobby for lots of industrial emissions and the clear cutting of forests, the ruin of a people, a populace or a planet. Oh my, now the choices are many. Freedom reigns. Guess I'd better start driving - and make this drive and my destination (my ultimate destination) count and count for good.

And so, as Lucinda sings and as Wal-Mart weeps and expresses its carefully worded corporate sorrow, waiting for Godot and not, I go, with my bittersweet swansong, of sorts, feeling it's time to get beyond merely flirting.

It's time to go.

Postscript, RIP: Alas, bittersweet as things may be, as torrid and tragic, life persists and is so much sweeter than this, and it is the first of April. And so, dear readers who have come this far with me (thanks to YOU!!!), I'm not heading to Wal-Mart for ANYTHING any time soon. So long as I can type and have such fun with the light and dark of words, and especially if I can figure out how to make love last. (Tom Robbins said the most important question is: "Who knows how to make love stay?" And I'd agree. Pursue that, and life is yours.)

And so, cheers today... and tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow...


At 4/02/2005 4:05 AM, Anonymous RQ said...

That's not funny.

At 4/04/2005 10:39 PM, Anonymous fran s. said...

Who said it was supposed to be "funny"? It got me to read it all at least and consider a thing or two.


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