Tis better to have loved and lost than to have had your head run over and crushed by a cement truck

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Falling “in love” in quotes.

When I was young I used to constantly be “falling in love.” It was like a sickness with me. And I could usually tell from the first time I saw the person that she was “the one.” Ya know? “Love at first sight.” That bit. There was just something about her that immediately attracted me to this person. The way she looked, the way she moved, the way she dressed, the way she talked, the way she acted. As soon as I saw the person I’d think: “Uh oh here we go again.” I would just immediately feel an incredible attraction towards this person. I’d be driven towards them by this force that just came out of nowhere. And it was such an over-powering drive, I could only just barely control it. And only some of the time. I was like a mindless dog in heat.

And it wreaked havoc on my social life. I would do things like travel 3,000 miles on a whim merely in the hopes of being in the same room with my beloved other. I’d do stupidities like that on a regular basis.

I always put it in quotes, “love.” Because there were some sordid aspects to it that differentiated from the purity that we associate with real love. The underlying impulse was a sexual obsession, basically. But it wasn’t JUST sex. I was attracted to EVERYTHING about the person. Even her faults and short-comings were endearing to me (“Why she is so special!!”). And I wanted to be around her ALL the time. Not just for sex. Whatever she was interested in, I was also interested in too. Whatever she wanted from her life, I was there to help her any way I could. It wasn’t exactly like the corny pop ballads where they proclaim “I would die for you.” But there were elements of that. If she was hurting, it would hurt me. And I cared about her as much as I cared about myself. Sometimes even more. So there were elements of real love in there. Mixed in with a lot of other stuff.

But in a weird way I wasn’t even “in love” with the actual person. I was “in love” with this idealized image of her that I had created in my own head and projected onto her. She was everything I ever wanted in another person and the answer to all my dreams, because I had basically dreamed her up myself. Conjured her up out of my own fantasies. “The girl of my dreams.”

Of course my relationships with these dream girls rarely worked out. And when they did work, it wasn’t for very long. What usually doomed it from the start was that we were hopelessly mis-matched. The overwhelming attraction I felt for her had little to do with the kind of person she actually was. I was just mindlessly driven to her, and then I would just sort of try to somehow shoe-horn my way into her life. It wasn’t like how normal friendships organically and gradually develop. Where you find you have things in common with the other person, and similar temperaments, and you find you’re comfortable and relaxed around the person. So the friendship naturally develops and grows. But this “in love” thing was just an instantaneous attraction. And then you somehow desperately try to make it work on the fly.

And I would do this other thing where I would try to turn myself into the kind of person that I thought she wanted (as opposed to being who I actually was). And I tried to turn HER into the person I wanted her to be. Of course all real and mature relationships are grounded on the exact opposite principal: Accepting the other person exactly as they ARE.

The weirdest and most disturbing aspect of it was the “Tales of Brave Ulysses” Sirens of Titan aspect. “His naked ears were tortured by the Siren sweetly singing.” The beloved other was so beautiful, so angelic, so heavenly, she literally had the power to drive me to my doom. She was like the best drug, the best high in the world. But with the worst payback..She would inspire the most heavenly and celestial feelings in me. Even as she was driving me towards the rocks.

The last time I “fell in love” was 1999. And it went on for a couple of years. And it was even a bigger disaster than all my other attempts at “being in love.” Which were bad enough. The whole debacle was so painful, so stupid and so completely hopeless that I think it finally cured me of that nonsense. I realized it just wasn’t in the cards for me. That I was hopelessly mis-wired in that regard. And doomed to failure if I even tried. So I just gave up on “love.” And instead now I mostly just follow sports and post stuff on Facebook.

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My 22nd birthday party

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Since its my birthday I was thinking back on some of my more memorable birthdays. One I’ll never forget is my 22nd birthday back in 1978, 40 years ago.

I was staying at a friend of mine’s studio apartment at the time. And his little sister happened to be in town for a visit. So she was there too. And she happened to be one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen. Then or now. She was 19, naturally blonde — short hair, sort of a modified Beatles moptop though more styled and sexy — big blue eyes and long, long legs. She told me she was making a good living putting herself through college by working as a “go-go dancer.”

Anyways we were all hanging out at my friend’s apartment that night celebrating my birthday. So I was getting a little more attention than usual. She bought me a big jug of California burgundy — which was my drink of choice back then — for a birthday present. And we were all just kicking back and loosening up. When my friend and his girlfriend said they were going out to see a movie for the evening. So suddenly it was just me and her alone in the apartment.

After a couple of tall glasses of wine (I was drinking fast, believe me) she said: “Would you like to see my go-go dancing routine?”

“Well sure,” I said.

“OK,” she said. “Put some music on that I can dance to while I put on my dancing clothes.”
She grabbed a little bundle of clothes and hustled off to the bathroom to change. I went into my friend’s bedroom where he had his stereo — and a great collection of rock albums — and sorted through the records for something suitable to play. For some reason I picked the second side of David Bowie’s “Low” album. 25 minutes of this moody avant-garde synthesizer space-out mood music.

She came out of the bathroom wearing this frilly white negligee that barely covered her butt, fishnet stockings, and shiny black spiked high-heels that made her wobble when she walked. She spent about two seconds trying to dance to Bowie’s space-out music and said: “I can’t dance to THAT!”

She went back into the bedroom and picked out a rock album that actually had a beat and a drummer to it. And as the music filled the room, she lowered the lights to this electric glow. And then she looked at me with a sly smile on her face and said — and I’ll never forget this because she really did — “I am going to blow your mind.”

She shuffled around the room for awhile on her high-heels dancing to the music. While I sat there rigid in my chair, clenching my glass of burgundy in my hand for dear life. And pretty soon she was out of her negligee and wearing nothing but a white half-bra and a tiny white g-string that left very little to the imagination. And then pretty soon there was nothing left to the imagination. As she swayed around the room dancing, she’d stop now and then to strike these very dramatic and erotic poses. All the while looking back at me with an amused and intense smile on her face (I probably had a look on my face like one of those stunned cartoon characters where their eyes are bulging out and their slobbering tongues are going straight down to the floor).

But the picture that is permanently imprinted in the mind’s-eye of my memory: At one point she sauntered over to me, turned around, bent over, and stuck her big round ass just inches away from my face, that tiny white g-string clinging up her crack. I can still see that image to this day clear as a bell. I’ll probably take that image with me to my grave. Ha ha.

After awhile the album side of music finally came to an end. And she stood there in front of me with her hands on her hips, looking straight at me like: “It’s your move now, boy!”

But I just sat there in my chair frozen stiff. I was stunned really. I think it was the first time a woman had ever aggressively sexually propositioned me. Let alone one of the most beautiful and sexy women on the planet. So I was at a complete loss as to how to proceed next. Actually, I always had the worst instincts when it came to navigating through the mating ritual between men and women. I would spend most of my adult life “making my move” at the exact wrong time when I shouldn’t make my move. And NOT “making my move” at the exact time when I should make my move. What can I say? I was hopelessly dim-witted, hopelessly mis-wired, in that regard. And would pay a bitter price for it over the years.

Finally when she realized I wasn’t going to jump on her bones she picked up her negligee from the floor, rolled it into a ball and playfully tossed it at my head. I think she was exasperated and confused that things hadn’t moved to the next logical step. I’m sure it didn’t happen to her very often.

She laughed and went back into the bathroom to change back into her street clothes. And we spent the rest of my birthday drinking burgundy and listening to rock music.

Later I typed up an account of the evening. And sent it off to this local porn paper that published reader’s sex fantasy. And to my surprise they printed it. I think it was the first piece of writing I ever got published. And I mailed her a copy. And ya know what? I wouldn’t be surprised if that blew HER mind a little bit. Because I had captured in words — just like a photographer — all the strange and magical moments of that evening.

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“Falling in love”

 

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That moment when you realize quite clearly that you are completely fucked and there’s simply nothing you can do about it

Of all the weird experiences I’ve had in this life, one of the weirdest was “falling in love.” After all these years, I still don’t really understand what that one was all about. . .

I remember this one sunny summer day back in 1994, 24 years ago. I was hanging out at my vending table in front of Codys Books. Just another mundane day in a seemingly endless expanse of mundane days. When this young woman stopped by to say hi to me.

She was fairly new to the scene. She had just started hanging out on the Telegraph street scene. This young hippie chick in her late teens. She had been following the Grateful Dead tour. And now she was chilling in Berkeley for a couple months in between hitting the Rainbow Gathering in July (there was a whole circuit back then). And we had met a couple times previous and we were just at that stage where we were starting to “know” each other. So she stopped by to chat for a spell.

She was tall and willowy. And her body seemed to sway and dance all the time, even when she was just hanging around talking. And she was wearing this skimpy little halter top — this piece of cloth, basically, that she had wrapped around her chest. And this long flowing hippie skirt that she probably pulled out of the Free Box. But her most significant trait was this big beaming smile. This almost brainless, not-a-care-in-the-world smile. Like she was beaming with ecstasy and bliss and waves of pleasure, and that all was right with the world forever and ever (part of it was probably the good speed that was going around back then). And these beautiful translucent eyes that seemed to always reflect the sunshine. She was kind of cute, OK?

So we shot the shit for awhile. She had sort of a goofy, playful sense of humor, like life was an amusing lark basically. So she was fun to hang out with. And she also had a “spiritual” side — she would occasionally make portentous statements about “Mother Earth and the moon and the sky” and “good vibes” and “Babylon, man.” And that was amusing to a bitter old cynic like me.

So we chatted for awhile. And then she bid me farewell. And went bopping down Telegraph Avenue. And I didn’t think any more about our casual exchange. Until a couple minutes later. When I noticed she had stopped at this other vending table down the street. And she was chatting happily with this big, handsome, dashing hippie dude that ran that table.

And now I’m straining to see what they’re doing. I can only catch partial glimpses of them through all the crowds of people hanging out on the Ave. But they seem to be having a great time together, talking to each other.

And then I noticed he was giving her a back rub. She was standing with her back to him and he was massaging the back of her neck. And for some unknown reason this got me really upset. I even started to tremble a little. Which was a weird reaction. Because I barely knew this person.

So I kept staring off down the Avenue. Until I thought my eyes were going to pop out of my head. In this very agitated state. Until she finally frolicked on down the Ave and disappeared from sight.

And just like that, I was obsessed with this person. And would be obsessed with her every day for the next two years.

Like I said. Its weird..

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Falling in love

 

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It was January of 1980, the beginning of a new decade.  And I was 23. So I decided to try to be normal (I’ll try anything once).  So I bought a new set of clothes, cut my hair, shaved my beard, and applied for a job as phone salesman at the Oakland Tribune.

The phone sales department was in a big, sterile room on the 9th floor of the Oakland Tribune building. There were about 30 of us working there. We sat at these long counters under fluorescent lights, with a chair and a phone at each station, and an endless series of phone numbers to dial (“Buy the first month and get the second month ABSOLUTELY FREE!!”). The foreman and her assistant sat at their desks at the front of the room, so the whole set-up felt sort of like you were in a classroom with the teacher at the desk up front.  Anyways, one of my fellow workers was this young woman who sat at the counter across from me.  She had thick, frizzed out black hair, saucy cat eyes, and curves in all the right places. I fell in love with her the first time I saw her.  And would remain so for the next 13 years.

She sat with her back to me. So I would often study her out of the corner of my eyes. Looking for clues. She was cute in a girlish way. But with her tight jeans and blue denim jacket and the Camel filters she smoked during breaktime, she also emitted the unmistakable aura of the classic high school Bad Girl (think Joan Jett only sexier).  And she had two small, but colorful, tattoos on her forearm, which was somewhat unusual for a woman in 1980.  There was a definite wildness in her eyes, and a sense of adventure and even danger about her. But the thing that really intrigued me was the way she would stare out the window of the 9th floor in between making her phone calls, staring out at the blue sky and the clouds with this dreamy, faraway look in her eyes.  Like she was dreaming of worlds far beyond the Oakland Tribune phone sales room . . .

We had these placemats at our stations that we could doodle on while we were making our phone calls. And at the end of the day, after she had left the room, I would sneak peaks at her doodles to see what — if anything — they revealed about this mysterious creature. I remember she would jot down bits of poetry and rock song lyrics. I particularly remember one: “Oh I used to be disgusted and now I try to be amused” — Elvis Costello. And I used to draw all these wild and off-beat Kliban-type cartoons on my placemat. In the hopes that she would notice them and realize how talented and wonderful I allegedly was.

It turned out she lived in Berkeley nearby where I lived. So we’d often be riding on the same bus together in the morning, commuting to downtown Oakland. She was usually on the bus before I got on, always sitting in the back of the bus where the action was, in typical Bad Girl repose. Anyways, one morning she spotted me sitting there by myself, recognized me as a fellow phone salesman, and — probably more out of boredom than anything — she walked down the aisle and introduced herself, sat down next to me, and we chatted away as we rode the bus together. We were immediately in sync on the level of conversational rapport. You know? Where the conversation flows naturally back and forth between the two of us (it often doesn’t with two people). And she laughed at all my jokes.  Which I took as a sign that maybe we were on the same weird wavelength. And I remember — ironically enough — that it was the day after Valentine’s Day.  Because she was carrying a big bouquet of flowers  that this nut who lived on her block and who was madly obsessed with her, had given her for the holiday.  She was bringing them to work to give to the foreman to brighten up our dreary workroom. The whole ride was incredibly exciting to me.  I was a very lonely person.  And I had been pretty much a complete failure with the women up to this point. So to suddenly be sitting next to one of the most beautiful women in town was a completely unexpected turn of events. I’m not the type to indulge in braggadocio. But you had better believe I was doing everything I could to convey the impression that I was a very witty and entertaining and interesting person who she would surely want to get to know better, and possibly have sex with at some future juncture.

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Later, when I had gotten to know her a little better, I sneaked a peak at her diary to find out what — if anything — her first impression of me had been that day on the bus.  She had written something like: “I met yet another artist today.  I seem to be collecting artists lately.  Like all the useless postcards that I collect and tie up with a ribbon and put them in a box and stash them in my attic never to look at again.”

Anyways, one Friday afternoon, after we had gotten our paychecks and were getting ready to head out the door to our weekends, she approached me and said:  “Hey there’s this rock band that does Jimi Hendrix covers that’s playing at this club on Telegraph tonight.  You feel like going out for a couple beers?”

So we rode on the elevator together down to the first floor. And went out the front door of the Oakland Tribune building to the sidewalk to catch the bus together.  And from there on in it would be a weird and winding road for the next 13 years.

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“Love.” In quotation marks

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When I was younger I was constantly “falling in love.” I put it in quotes. Because I’m not sure if it was really love. It was more a longing to BE loved. This “unrequited love” thing. As Swami Muktananda once put it: “What many people think of as human love is often just histrionics.” It was mostly like that.

I was constantly “falling in love” with these beautiful young women. I would put them up on a pedastool, project all sorts of virtuous traits onto them, and convince myself that they were the answer to all my prayers.  Basically, I “fell in love” with the projection that I created in my own head.  But still, there was this unmistakable magic in the air whenever they showed up.  A feeling more powerful than the most powerful drug.  So there was something real about the whole deal.  Mixed in with a lot of serious bullshit and confusion.

Sometimes, with some women, the “in love” feeling could last for a decade. Or for a couple of years.  Other times it lasted for 6 months. Sometimes it just lasted for an afternoon. I’d meet some beautiful stranger, and all the promise she seemed to hold. And I’d think: “Is she the ONE??” But by the end of the afternoon I’d realize: “Nope.”

Like I lot of people, I was looking for a Soul Mate. That one person I was meant to be with. Who would complete me. The prize we were all chasing after was “unconditional love.” Someone who would just love us for who we were. Of course the ones I sought out always had the condition of being young and beautiful. So my thinking was obviously bogus.

Forty years later when I surveyed the wreckage of my relationships with women I realized. My attitude about women had basically been formed by two things: Pornography. And romantic pop songs on the radio. So I was fucked.

Eventually I realized. My basic personality was that of a loner. So its no surprise that I ended up alone.

Nowadays I just hang out with a bunch of cats. The End.

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Unrequited Love

I remember the first time I “fell in love.”   Beth Shea; 3rd grade.

Beth Shea sat a couple desks across from me.  And every time I looked over at her I would get this funny feeling.  Like the air around her was sprinkled with magic pixie dust or something.  I don’t remember much about Beth Shea except she had light brown Buster Brown bangs, and she wore little white schoolgirl dresses.  And one time during class she raised her hand and said: “Teacher, I think I smell a fire.”  Sure enough, the dumpsters behind the school had caught fire.  And the teacher alerted the custodian who put out the fire before it burned the entire school  to the ground and we all died a horrible death (so she saved my life!).  That’s just how I liked my women:  cute and smart.

Everything about Beth Shea seemed magical.  It was like there were all the other billions of people on the planet.  And then, Beth Shea.  Like she existed as a special species of one.  Even her name seemed magical.  “Beth Shea. ” Years later I would become a big New York Mets fan, and I always wondered if it had something to do with them playing at Shea Stadium.  Such is the mysterious power of love.

The second girl I fell in love with was Darlene Damilton; 5th and 6th grade.  Darlene was a skinny little thing, with big, saucy cat-eyes and a look of pure mischief on her face.  I was constantly mocking her and making fun of her.  I guess to hide the fact that I liked her, or maybe just as a gambit to get her attention.  One time, the teacher even reprimanded me in front of the whole class and told me to never say that Darlene had cooties ever again.  So it dawned on me that the making-fun-of-her gambit wasn’t working.

After school I’d watch as Darlene Damilton walked off in the direction of her house.  I was intensely curious about where she lived and who she played with.  I was convinced it was some kind of magical realm where she lived.

The first boy-girl “party” I ever went to was in 6th grade, and I knew Darlene would be there so I really wanted to look sharp.  I wore my favorite shirt — this purple and green paisley shirt (this was the Swingin’ Sixties after all) along with an orange dickie (this fake turtle-neck thing).  My fashion sense hasn’t improved much over the years.  I remember we all stood around in the cafeteria listening to records (singles) on this cheap record player, and drinking Coca Colas out of the bottle.  I remember “Penny Lane” by the Beatles, so it must have been around 1967.  I mostly just stood around in my orange turtle-neck trying to look cool, and nothing much happened.  Which is pretty much how it would go with me and parties for the next 45 years.

The other thing I remember is finding a love note on my desk one day.  I came back to my desk and there it was, hidden under one of my books.  It had been folded many times, and my name was written in pencil on the top.  When I opened it up I was bitterly disappointed to find out it wasn’t from Darlene, but from Ann Castanzeretti — this quiet little Catholic girl who sat two desks behind me.  And that would be a fore-runner of my star-crossed destiny in the game of love, for pretty much the rest of my life.

Every now and then, I’ll still do a Google search on “Darlene Damilton” to see if she’s still out there.  But so far nothing has come up.  Typical.

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