Gorrindo- ESSAYS

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    By John Michael Gorrindo

    Tuesday, 29 June 2010


    Vanishing point on the event horizon:

    In the virtual age there is no surer sign of death than someone’s email address coming up as invalid.  Thus Spake the Mailer Daemon Death Notice: fatal errors in delivery; user unknown; not an authorized email address. Death of the contact; death of the friendship; death by electrons pouring into a black hole; a silicon shunt.  “How in hell?”, the interrogative, quickly becomes “Lost to hell,” the declarative statement.

    Yes, shunt. The shunt of ages now reduced to making passage for a juiceless flow.  At least once the shunt was tangible and coated with the human stain gone dry.  SHUNT- create a channel in order to divert bodily fluids away from a particular body part (Medicine).  A new, clean, sanitized way of death- virtual atomization.  Just a touchless, tasteless, invisibile, inaudible rush of negative quanta racing into oblivion.

    The medical shunt as originally designed was at once sentimental and visceral; in this context nothing but a notion from a bygone biological age .  In life it jerked tears from their sacs and flooded the ducts that were made for briny wetness. In death it drew blood from the skin and coagulated it into cakey gel into bodily recesses. So far removed from the technological now- an oblivion that is absolute zero lifeless cold and  terminal like the idea of death being a biological term limit and not the passing of a spirit to another plane of existence.  The thought of it cues auto-imagery: such as the inevitble limits that pop-up like unwanted cards dealt from a deck and don’t ever bob and weave and dance so to taunt and tease but only demand that loss be unimaginatively realized as final.  No glue is needed to make them stick to the green felt of the playing surface. They stick forever and their number is never forgotten, just not remembered for a short reprieve if the next card feigns some promised luck at hand. They simply appear and burnish an image in a mind that is being sucked into some black hole in an opaque vastness beyond. 

    This sea is not the void the buddha meant to mean.  And for buddha’s role here we have to call on Cambodia. 

    The Cambodians are buddhists and their fate as a people faithfully portray the unqualified truth that is the first of the four noble truths, Life is Suffering.  Life is suffering. Life is Suffering.  How many times does it need repetition?  As long as there is one soul stuck with shoulder to the wheel. At least once for every man, woman, and child killed in Nixon’s secret carpet bombings as swiftly followed by the most improbable of genocides that targeted anyone who had ever learned how to read and write, think, teach, or treat the sick. Maybe this is why Bill, whose invalidated email prompted this all, was fatally drawn to the fourth world, that perpetual Wheel of Samsara called Cambodia.

    Bill had died a few thousand deaths himself.  Maybe that was why he dreamed of Camboj.  It had defied death, and so had he. They were kindred spirits and naturally so. By the end of its frenzied killing spree the Killing Fields had reduced the population from eight to six million, yet a generation later life’s urge to multiply has brought resurgence with the figure now at fourteen million.  Most of those fourteen million have no living memories of what happened; weren’t present at the worst mass killing since the holocaust; and most likely have lost many of those relatives who really knew what the heart of darkness was all about anyway.  Not that anyone would dare ask because who could bear answer.  The Cambodian young today are children mostly of those illiterate farmers of the countryside who were spared because they did the only thing noble in the eyes of the Khmer Rouge- to till the land and put food in people’s stomaches.

    How many deaths had Bill experienced?  What killed Bill everyday for fifteen years was junk.  With every fix comes the opportunity for overdose but short of that a corner of the soul dies along with each cell of the liver that expends itself in vain, attempting to clean the poisoned blood coursing through. Junk and prostituting out his girl friend whom he got strung out on junk to begin with- in order to buy more junk.  And alcohol and crack and other late 20th century chemicals sprinkled on America’s desolate city tenderloins like errant angel dust which had been swept out the door into a wind distributing the unsuitable horse tranquilizer in random that hadn’t cut the commercial grade.  Let’s not forget the whole unholy host.

    Bill attacked life’s corners like a bike competitor on the motorcross, banking the turns at a fifteen degree angle with a balancing knee pointed dead on center to earth’s molten core.  At seventeen he was first system savvy, second street smart, breaking into addiction not through peer connection but courtesy of his grandfather the doctor.  The old man died and Bill seized the opportunity, carpe diem.  The small town doc left behind a lone office and a locked cabinet full of perscription drugs.  Bill beat the DEA to the punch, breaking in and pilfering what narcotics were to be had, but proved resourceful enough to clean-out out the Rx pads as well.  This was his grandfather’s unintended legacy.

    How it is the DEA didn’t catch wind of Bill’s house cleaning efforts isn’t clear.  Academic, as Bill wasn’t ever caught.  He consumed whatever narcotics he found and then began issuing himself perscriptions for synthetic opiates such as demerol.  Syringes, too. He method was risky, but proved successful.  Never visiting the same drug store twice was his modus operandi.  Bill soon discovered that a teenager could coax a perscription out of the average New York pharmacist with a stolen RX and false signature serving as thinnest of covers.  It must have been a revelation and great confidence builder for a cocky youngster.

    Feeling smart and sassy doesn’t help with funding such ventures, though there is always the possibility of selling the perscriptions.  Transportation factored in, too, as Bill had to find new pharmacies in an ever-growing radius around his home.  But at some point the proportion between drugs used to drugs sold must have tipped a balance, and traveling greater distances every week became a cul de sac of liability. 

    All system’s have default limits, and Bill’s collapsed like a junkie’s veins in due course.  The details are lost in time but he found himself hopelessly addicted and forced to move out of his family home and out onto the streets. 

    Family- just what family was there?  A clueless mom and dad straight out of Levitt Town Americana who had adopted a boy and Christened him junior, in fact Bill + surname, the third.  An only child?- no, not exactly.  An only child and orphan child.  Did Bill, the orphan, see it that way?  That “I am an orphan, and I am in pain.  Life is suffering……..”

    There are no potential excuses due to non-existent records.  None here are available. No recourse to substantiation of the patentedly humanistic- of suggesting psychological predispositions or proclivities according to the orphan syndrome, for instance.  No self-pitying testimonials, too, about a void of self-identity that Bill left behind.  From this sketchy vantage these things become subject to the wagging tongue of imagination and its propensity for covering reality with slobber.  Speculation is left standing stupid, and begging some fool’s indulgent misadventure of mind.   

    But what is known is that Bill ditched his life before he owned any of it.  Vanished from the sight of his parents and his home town he began a shiftless odyssey on the road. 

    The odyssey spun his head into a wild eyed, “Holy Cow, What if?” as if he had been bred in San Francisco. No strange coincidence that is where he eventually ended up. His physical life spanning ground covered between New York and California was an aimless ambling weighed down by junk gravity, but his soul was more like jetsam abandoned at sea. His natural self was buoyant and bobbed like a Styrofoam life preserver atop a roiling ocean, inundated over and over with walls of crashing brine only to shoot up to the top undaunted.  No amount of vodka or white powder seemed capable of quashing the upward thrust. But he spent as much time spiraling down, submerged, as he did springing free to gasp for air.

    He was resilient as a lot of junkies can be, but held captive to the surface tension of the grand tide as junkies always are.  The only skyward voyage he could experience was illusory, courtesy of the manufactured and temporary conjurings of fragmentary, explosive imagery after ingesting LSD-25.  But he was reckless enough to sell perforated squares as neatly torn from pages of a book soaked in the hallucinogen, only to be busted hard in Texas for doing so.  It all happened at a rock festival he said, and one can only reason he thought he’d somehow be buffered from the law by the nature of the event.  It was straight to Federal penitentiary lock-down after the jams had been kicked out.

    Once free of jail time and that tribe of monkeys that rode his back like a hysterical mob of chattering zombies, Bill may have emerged the upright soul his final aquaintances took him to be. For twenty years he let junk destroy his moral compass and it was time for redemption.  Redemption, at least, for having eventually sold his girlfriend into prostitution as it is rumored.  Oh! and the collective we feel the obligation to condemn it. Condemn it an pin it to Bill’s legacy that will forever taint his memory.  It wasn’t as if the girl didn’t do it unwillingly, but that according to her own insatiable cravings for drugs. But it was Billy-boy who gave her that first fix.  He taught her how to cook powder in a spoon with a kitchen match; to pump the forearm vigorously before strapping-off with a rubber turnicate; to have blood vessels pop into view by slaps and teasings; to draw the blood back into the needle first before plunging the liquid gold down the syringe, out the needle and into the blood stream. He taught her the process; the mind set; the lifestyle; and not least of all the tactics for survival once addicted.  What she learned most of all was that she was Bill’s grand strategy for survival.

    Are we to forgive him?  Maybe forgive but not forget which means ever to remind ourselves?  And remind him, too, after our own patronizing brand of moral fashion? He’s dead now and the reminders only lay feckless in the memory of a few.

    The mood is tense, and faces are taut.  Bill’s more than anyone.  Imagine the nightmares once he had cleaned up and the girlfriend was history; just another wastrel and grim statistic whose fate would probably never be revealed. The roads had diverged after Bill had sweat out the chicken soup from his blood. Bill had surfaced as a successful kicker.  But what happened to her?  If he knew, Bill probably shunned the thought, or if he didn’t, couldn’t bear to track down the truth. He was bound to reclaim his soul in the name of not only his own but also for the soul he had brought down with his own. He was determined to do by becoming a teacher; that hero without badges whose selfless duty goes woefully uncompensated and too often ends unceremoniously as found decomposing, mixed in with the seaweed that washes ashore in anyone’s seaside community.  That in the eyes of an ungenerous, dismissive society- but Bill knew what it would be worth for his own remaining time on the planet. The feasibility of it in the end- the beauty of this planned redemption- was that teachers are needed everywhere and by almost everybody.

    And then there are the strange alliances Bill found necessary to make with those fated and cast to play the role of widwifes would help him through the dark confines of the birth canal to a second act.  What was it about the central player, for instance, who claimed to be an “independent counselor and therapist” while making his daily bread as a real estate agent in San Francisco?  What was it about his recounting the tale that made one want to vomit? For purposes of cover, the therapist will assume the pseudonym, Brando.  Brando said he had never helped cure a single junkie until Bill came along. That made Bill a hero- a sweet, sweet hero.  That made Bill a professional success for Brando.

    Brando not only found it convenient to “go out” with Bill’s girlfriend during said therapy, but to casually share as much with those real friends of Bill who sought Brando out for information on Bill’s death.  It was not enough to just lay bear the immediate facts. One was forced to become privey to the two-tone glory-cum-underbelly of Brando’s involvement in the triangular affair of trading girl friend with therapy. Brando just had to paint himself into Bill’s version of Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” square in the triptych’s center panel as a prominent Satyr in full-blooded play.

    Once Bill had shown promising progress on the road to recovery, Brando did rent out a tiny subterranean space to Bill for $250 a month in a building in San Francisco’s South of Market district.  It was a small piece of a much bigger piece of city real estate Brando owned.  Brando, the landlord, lived there too, at least one or maybe two stories above Bill’s cramped quarters.  His black sedan was parked in the alley way below and just in front of Bill’s access into the building.

    The good St. Bernard of Clairvaux, that righteous twelfth century soul, probably couldn’t have imagined his proverb would so survive- but good intentions do come at a price and do sometimes lead to hell. Bill’s girlfriend was the price and her body the causeway giving Bill clear passage across the nearby Tenderloin’s swampy bog to a dry enclosure South of Market with a bed, bathroom, and coin-operated washing machine in an adjacent utility room.

    Brando has a parallel existence as do many modern day, unencumbered, middle aged, well-to-do men of the Western climes.  His second life existed in Cambodia, and had been in full swing for several years before Bill had ever pondered a life in South East Asia. His Cambodian history was not all that unlikely, and predictably unimaginative. Perfunctory, too.  First, take your money, and buy a penthouse in a fourth world slum ward in Phnom Penh under forced eviction and planned gentrification. Then, go on a fuck spress that reams everything on two legs and female.  Once sucked dry and left wanting of love- which is soon after- shack up with the one whore who takes your fancy and washes your shirt collars real clean. For punctuation until next time, finally leave the penthouse under the young woman’s housekeeping and board the first 737 back home to Baghdad by the Bay in order to resume an unassuming life in real estate and California-style therapeutics. Save your money over the next several months, and start the cycle all over again, though things have changed upon return now that there is a Cambodian woman there to meet you.

    Brando’s stories of Phnom Penh planted visions of where Bill could create a new life true to his deepest persuasions.  Brando helped fuel the fire and paid for Bill’s way to to Phnom Penh for a visit. After his return, Bill had taken on the zeal of a man on a mission from God. It was Camboj or bust.

    He was able to get a job as an instructional assistant at San Francisco City College.  Now that he was clean and living alone his low rent made it possible to save money.