digging my way out

I try to step away from the constant gnawing distraction, the thoughts that tell me what I should be doing instead of being here, now, writing – but they are insistent, demanding. 

“You need to be working. You’ve saturated the circle of friends, they’ve bought what they wanted, and if you don’t figure out how to let the world know it will all end. You’re broke, hungry, borrowing money from friends just to survive. Your business is falling apart, failing. The fight is going out of you. YOU are failing…”

But I need to be here. This is my medicine, my solace. This is where I come to make sense of the things I need to – to make sense of me. Somewhere long the line I’ve lost who I was and I need to find that person again – that person who shined…

But that’s not correct, is it? I haven’t lost that person anymore than when you bury a body in the ground you’ve lost the body. I’m still here, buried alive, and I need to dig myself out. 

I saw someone I’ve known for a while at a party this last Sunday. I felt a lightness, a peace to her that hadn’t been there before, and I commented on it. Her father had died the month before, but he had been sick, hanging on, a shell of who he had been for the six years prior. When he passed on, she was released from his pain as well. For the first time since I’ve known her, I saw her.

I saw the lesson for me in that. There is something that I am letting corrupt who I am, and I need to find it. Bring it out, name it, and let this weight go. Shake off the dirt.

The other day I happened upon things people had said about me in the past – testimonials I had asked for to liven up a resume or project, and some things written simply because they had a desire to express their love to me. In reading them, I cried for the person I had forgotten – and vowed to bring him back:

“I keep a little picture of you I stole from the interwebs in a frame, and recently she asked about it. 
I said, “this is the man who taught me how important it is to write, and use beautiful words, even for ugly things. He is one of the most amazing, most special people in the world, so that’s why I gave you his name.”
“kSea walks the walk, talks the talk, and is more amazing in ten
seconds than most people are in a lifetime.”
“kSea is what happens when you decide to live your dreams. His unstoppable passion to live is breathtaking.”

For years I’ve been looking at the shape of my life from before I went into hospice. Even before I created the magazine. (culturefluxmagazine.com) I remember the adventure, living in a van & on couches yet still, nearly every day, going to perform on The Wharf. I remember working with The Dresden Dolls & being a mentor & friend to so many beautiful young artists & performers who were just starting out; living on the road, going wherever I was needed then moving on – and I remember how pure my happiness was, how much joy I always felt.

I’ve made the mistake of thinking that my happiness depended on getting back on the road, that it was the mirage outside of me that created the pureness and the shine inside. We all seem to fool ourselves of that – that we need something besides ourselves, whether it be a great job, a house with a fenced yard, a fancy car – or in my case, the adventure of not knowing what would happen, where I would be from day to day. I longed to somehow recreate those times. Then I would be happy again, then I would be me again…

But happiness does not exist in the illusions outside of us – or at least, it’s not found there. The joy we feel or have felt only can come from inside, and if we depend on the world outside of us for it we are sure to forever be disappointed. All over the world there are people who exist on nearly nothing but the barest of essentials, and the honesty in their smiles, the depth of their joy, is something that could never come from possessions or circumstance.

It is now time to look deep into the mirror, scrape the mud mask off of my face, and see the truth – the truth in me. Turn up the lights, look down at the person on the operating table and see that it is myself – and that writing is my scalpel, my medicine, and my bandages.

I’ve had a taste of how beautiful life can be. That is what kept me alive in hospice, and that is what I will again use to heal my soul.

I’ve had a taste, and I want more.

(And now back to work. 😉 ) By the way, if anyone is looking for some beautiful & unique jewelry, come on by my web-store – and please, spread the word! http://chainstore.kseaflux.com

 

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The River (NOLA ’06)

There was no sleeping on those nights. I knew this, but still I tried. Laying on my unfolded futon in my tiny room, I could see the faint glow of the full moon through the wooden slats covered by the blue-tarp roof.

The air thick and hot, it wrapped around me like a fever sheet as I finally got out of bed. I stepped the few feet to the kitchen, careful not to bang my toe on anything in the dark, and looked out my favorite window onto the street one floor below. The willow tree that on a breezy day would reach inside was as still as death, as was everything else I could see. The porchlights on the small homes across the street looked like they were shining through a light gauze, and leaning on my kitchen counter, gently pulling the branches of the willow through my hands & loving the feeling of its life, I knew that it was far too hot for me to sleep. I could either fold up my futon, sit down & write, or…

I looked at the clock. Still around 8 hours until I needed to be out at Jackson Square. I liked being there earlier, but definitely no later than 11am for the lunch crowd walking up & down Decatur. I would stand until the storms came through, nearly every day like clockwork around 2:30 or 3, and use that time to either grab a café au lait and beignet’s at Du Monde, or just sit on my milk crate and rest underneath the balcony of the nearest building, reading, writing, and waiting the hour or so it took for the thunder, lightning & rain to move on.

So much, I love the storms. Many times I would just sit there watching the rain splash into puddles of itself, and feel a charge roll through my body & mind as the lightning flashed & thunder rumbled across the sky, through my body. It felt like I was a part of it, and if I wanted to, if only I knew how, I could simply disappear into its magic & become a part of the storm’s passion, leaving everything behind & off to another new adventure…

Still naked, I put on some clothes & my boots, poured some ice-water into my thermos to bring with me, and stepped outside, locking my door behind me. At the top of the stairs I breathed in, and smelled the fragrant still air of the Southern night. Completely relaxed but eager to feel the wind on my face, I quietly walked down the stairs, unlocked my bike, then walked out the front gate on to Esplanade. I thought a few seconds, then realized – I knew exactly where I was going.

It felt beautiful to be riding through the streets. Everyone was inside & the city was still quiet from everyone leaving because of Katrina, so the streets were mine, & mine alone. In no rush to get where I was going, I swerved back & forth from side to side, sometimes riding up on to the sidewalk for a bit then back into the middle of the street, or randomly riding in extended figure 8’ts, at the top of each “8” moving just a little bit more in the direction I was going. The warm wind on my face felt glorious, and feeling so wonderfully light-hearted, knowing these moments were as perfect as they could possibly be, I wanted this one to last as long as it could.

Crossing through Jackson Square Park then Decatur, I smiled & circled around the spot where I would be standing again in just a few hours, visualizing hundreds of people putting 5’s, 10’s & 20’s into my busking box. I was still saving up for a van to get Raven & I to Burning Man, as I’d promised her a ride a month or so before without having a ticket or any way to get us there at the time, but knowing things would work out. In those days, they always did. In those days, I was magic.

There was no one around, so I didn’t bother locking my bike – just laid it down off the sidewalk on the rocks. There was a soft glow from the moon, but still I was proud of myself that I had thought to bring a flashlight as I stepped from rock to rock, down to the river. Finding a good rock to sit on right on the edge of the Mississippi, I saw the cargo ships downriver, silent, still, & peaceful. I couldn’t help but think of what it was like a hundred years ago, remembering all I could of “Huck Finn”. I guess if I ever had a hero, someone I wanted to emulate, it would, without question, be him – with a good helping of Samuel Clemens thrown in for writing & the Gentleman.
Feeling on my face the slightest whisper of a cool breeze coming off the river the full moon giving just enough to see the ripples in the water moving with the current… and as I sat there savoring this perfect solitude, I felt my heart beating and strong, full with the beauty of this life.

Eternal Love

 

9.28.2017

I wear the necklace that I made out of her teeth much less these days, the smile she always wore that now, on occasion, I do. But both of our smiles are fragile.

Twelve years. It doesn’t get easier, only different – but that’s perhaps my fault, my choice. I never want to forget. – there are still triggers; but it has found  a different place in my heart, one of warmth and fondness instead of pain. Now, a subtle smile crosses my face as I recall her beauty, and we again smile together.

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Her ashes still rest by me, and the memories of those glorious days on the road from San Francisco, the long & accidental way to Austin. Austin wasn’t the plan, but as always, plans change – and we were needed there in the days following Hurricane Katrina to help. Every day an adventure. I had purpose. I was needed. The months living in The Enchanted Forest, both extraordinarily beautiful and full of sorrow, will remain in my heart, along with Bean, forever.

More than anything, she loved the car. I took her with me everywhere I could with me… but on that day – September 28th, 2005, she couldn’t come. Going to help a friend build a rain structure for a wedding reception, I was only gone for a couple hours. This time, however, she wasn’t waiting where we parked at the end of the driveway as she had always done before…

I learned moments later that her body had been found on the train tracks by friends at the Forest. Head crushed, but a stuffed toy, somehow, still in her mouth. I think that’s what they said. After the first words I wasn’t listening anymore.

Nearly always in these days of the year there’s a melancholy or need that comes over me – a longing. (Or, more appropriately said, it’s amplified.) A need to travel, to just go and watch cities & past disappear in the rearview mirror.

The way the Universe smiles on me sometimes, even when I don’t see it until later… A friend of mine, David, loaned me his car to do things I needed for four days, and on the last, after everything had mostly been done, I decided to give it all to Ruby – the only dog I’ve known who loves the car even more than Bean did. Starting at 5:30am, our drive began – sunrise at her favorite local park, then down to the Wharf where I took her for the first time as a pup of only four months old. Top down, loving every second of the wind & sunshine, we drove like beasts crunching bones & sucking the marrow out of the roads & the day, until the uncharacteristic San Francisco heat drove us back inside my apartment to rest in front of the fan.

Only a day later, when I realized the date, did the deep-seeded need become clear – it was my tribute to Bean, and all the miles we had driven together.

I look at the photo I took of her moments before we began our adventure, looking out the window of my van with a beautiful smile on her face – waiting for me to get in the car so we could go…

Bean

I’m sorry Bean, I thought I would see you sooner than this – but I had other things to do. I know you understand.

I miss you.
And one day, we’ll all drive again – you, Ruby, & me.

Until again, my sweet girl.

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Somehow, 50

I felt the blood drain from my face, my mind. It’s a strange feeling, like submersing your head in a pool of nearly frozen water, but not as cold.

“What?”

Now I was finding it difficult to stand. There wasn’t anything to sit on so I leaned against the racks of VHS videos behind the counter.
The voice on the other end of the line repeated what it said, a little slower, each point a sentence like he was trying to teach a five year old quantum physics.

“This is Dr. Thomas. Your test results have come back. You have tested positive. For the HIV antibody. The virus that causes AIDS.

  1. I was 19 years old, and a single two minute call was all it took rip away everything I thought I knew.

I had run away from home at 17 for the third and final time, and after living with my meth dealer for a while, *not* sleeping in his unfurnished living room on the floor, I decided to leave, go somewhere besides San Diego. I didn’t know a single person in the Bay Area. It seemed like good a place as any to try and figure out who I was.

When I was finally able to think, I realized that I must have been tested on a recent trip to visit my adopted parents. They asked if I wanted a physical while I was there, and I agreed. I wanted to show them I was fine, healthy. That there was no reason to worry about me. That I didn’t need them. I figured out that they had also requested an HIV test from the doctor, and getting my approval wasn’t important. The call on that day was kind of a shock.

I had never used needles, had slept with maybe five men. I was exempt from AIDS, I was mostly straight and I was safe. I guess all it took was one of those men being positive, and everything working just right to infect me. Talk about rotten luck.

But that didn’t matter now. Nothing mattered. Across the Bay the City was dying, the plague was killing people and no one had any answers. I’d heard the treatments they had weren’t that much better than the disease.
That’s all I knew. That’s all I chose to know.

I figured I had about 18 months, maybe two years left to live if I was lucky, but much of that time would be spent in horrible pain, my body shutting down, my own shit and blood and fluids pouring out of me. All the sudden my self-imposed rule of never using needles for recreational drugs and never using heroin went to shit. When I started to get sick, I would handle it my own way. I wasn’t going to be a burden on anyone – just slide away and disappear.

Time passed. A year, two, five, and the sickness never came. Still, bordering the line between conscious and subconscious, I kept waiting for the day everything turned around. I knew it was coming.

As much as I wanted to go back to school, to learn something I could use, I couldn’t commit to the time. I didn’t have a future.

 

 

I destroyed the best relationships & deepest loves I have ever known, selfishly afraid to ever force anyone to feel like they needed to be loyal, faithful, as they stood by, helpless, watching me die. For the same reason I never allowed myself to have what I perhaps wanted more than anything in life – a child.

I took each day as it came, tried to make the best out of it. I studied myself and my beliefs, did all I could to learn about me and what life was. I taught myself to see the beauty in everything, every day. I tried to help, I learned from others, I read & continue to read feverishly, so at least I might have some wisdom, some inspiration, something to offer another. Maybe something clever & profound to say in my final breath. Only up until the past 15 or so years, every moment of my life has been spent expecting to die. It’s the only thing I’ve known.

It sure did fuck up my credit score.

Now, somehow, I’m only a few weeks away from 50 years old, and wondering how it is that I got here. I’ve spent years looking for an answer as to why. Why, of all people, me?

I’ve only been able to come up with one answer that makes any sense at all.
 

 

Life, Death, Dogs. A Rooftop Contemplation

The occasional whisper of tires as a car drives by below, an unintelligible shout, the scattered songs of birds. The only sounds at this hour. Only the crackheads & I seem to be awake. Even the sirens are quiet, sleeping.

It’s 4am & I’m up on the roof of my apartment building with a fresh cup of coffee, a cigarette, & Ruby. The clouds above reflect the city lights giving a faint glow, just enough to see by. A cool breeze plays with my hair, blowing it in my face then away. I wrap my robe a little tighter around me.

I sit on the short wall of my building, look down at the weeds growing in our forbidden & neglected back yard. Near the far right corner calla lily’s bloom, defying the otherwise abandoned and unloved desolation. With their beauty inevitably comes a warm sorrow as I’m reminded of when Striggy brought a gift of bone-white lily’s to my tent in Austin. With love & reverence I placed them on top of the pale blonde box I had picked up earlier that day, already made into an altar surrounded with candles, a picture of Bean propped up against the box that now held the ashes of the most amazing dog & companion I’ve ever known. She was killed by a freight train a few days before, found by friends lying between the tracks, her favorite stuffed toy a few inches from her head. Nearly 13 years later & the tears still fall for her.

I turn back facing the roof top, close my eyes, take in a few deep breaths as I find a strange comfort in this sadness. Now, it’s filled with love and warm memories instead of the anguish I carried inside for years, holding it tight, afraid that if the pain wasn’t there I would somehow be betraying her memory.

I know better now. I understand death better now.

I think of how exquisite this life is, how fortunate I am. Occasionally I still let the weight of it all get to me and forget these things, but not now. Not today.

I open my eyes and catch Ruby briefly chasing her tail. I chuckle silently to myself and somehow love her even more.

I think of the time I spent in Hospice. Months on end so close to giving up, so desperately wanting to stop being strong, and each morning having to somehow find just one reason to keep fighting. One reason to stay alive.

As impossible it seemed to be able to imagine at times, I needed to believe that I would somehow get better.

I had to know, with as little doubt as possible, that there would be mornings like this one to look forward to.

Do you know what it means…

As I weave the rings together, I half-watch various TV series that I remember enjoying, and this time, it’s Treme – a show based in New Orleans, centered around the music of the city – and the pain & frustration that Katrina left in her aftermath.
The first show of the series begins three months after The Storm – one month before I moved there, and the first time I ever stepped foot on the magick of its soil.
I find tears coming to my eyes frequently, as I remember the amazing people, the fun & friends I met that remain in my heart to this day, and the spirit of the city.
I had never experienced a city stronger, with more resolve, nor people with more love for their home.
Until I moved there, I had never truly understood what that word meant – only that I had never had one. I chose to call it mine shortly after I moved there, and in a strange and not so subtle way, I could *feel* that it accepted me into its arms. It loved me back.

I performed on the street as a living statue while living there, and my most common pitch – one of the best ones in the Quarter – was on Decatur Street in Jackson Square Park, directly across from Cafe’ du Monde.
I have many funny, sad, & beautiful stories from those months, one being a NOPD officer who had grown kind-of friendly with me in passing, and one day, as a group of about 15 tourists stood around me gawking & ignoring my tip box, I hear, seemingly over a PA system: “Put. Some Money. In The Box!” – and turned just enough to see him sitting in his car, smiling at me. I almost laughed at how quickly they reached deep into their wallets & pocketbooks, but couldn’t break character.
Another day there was the child being dragged along by his mother like a piece of old luggage, on her way to the next tourist shopping destination. She had him by the wrist, his arm stretched as far as it would go as he tried to look around at the people, the horses & carriages, and all the things that a young boy should be able to take the time to explore, to wonder about & ask endless questions to an annoyed parent.
As they were walking by me, the mother didn’t look twice in her one-person shopping stampede – she had the blinders of a well-oiled consumer, but the *boy*… the boy, he noticed that maybe something just wasn’t entirely right with that statue, with it’s white skirt gently luffing in the breeze, scuffed shoes… there was something that caught his eye, and as he looked up at my face, I caught his with mine – and I winked at him. It was something small – I just wanted him to know that *I* saw him. That he had a friend.

His jaw dropped and eyes popped open to near the point of being nothing but a caricature of a lazily carved pumpkin, and as he realized his feet needed to keep moving due to the ignorant machine of the relentless force dragging him along, he jogged to catch up & ran a little ahead so she might see him, remember he was there and listen as he said with the hope of her hearing him – “Mom – there’s someone *IN* there!”

A couple people in the series are street musicians, and as the camera switched to the other person, I saw that they were standing exactly where I did, and according to the show, exactly where I would be just a little over a month later.

This time, my eyes weren’t deep enough to keep the tears from falling.

Gods, I miss New Orleans.

NOLA.Statue

The Complications of a Kiss

For hours we talked. We talked of the Sun & the Stars, of everything around & under them. We talked of writing and authors, of our pasts and present. Of herbs and addiction, of friends and difficult relationships. We talked of romance. She said she was a hopeless romantic, I told her I was a hopeful one which made her smile. She talked about lovers, of past boy & girlfriends, but not having anything current to say from my side, I mostly kept quiet.

I looked into her ice-blue eyes and I could only think of clichés to describe them, and worried about a piece of the glitter surrounding her eyes falling into one. I found it kind of dorky and cute the way sometimes she stifled her laughter by pressing her tongue against her upper lip. We talked outside of time, the world moving on around us.

Although we could have sat there enjoying each other’s company for much longer, the growing soreness in our asses had something else to say about it. It was time to stand, to go. It had been a lovely time together, getting to know each other, finally meeting a decade after she had first heard my name from a mutual friend.

Instead of parting ways outside the café, we sauntered down Market Street, side by side weaving around the people & construction, enjoying the continued conversation & moving slowly, more as if we were strolling through a park on a warm spring day than in the rush of San Francisco as it left work & headed home. As far as I could tell, we were the only ones there.

“This is where I turn. I’ve had a wonderful time.”
A warm hug. I answer, we go our separate ways. On the way home I walk faster, at my normal pace, the hint of a smile playing on my lips as I hope that it actually will be soon, and, newly inspired, think about what I’ll write.

At least that’s what I expected to happen, but we kept walking, taking now about hidden treasures in Golden Gate Park. She says she’ll take me to the “Faerie Door”. I imagine her being able to take me through it to her true home. Now walking through Civic Center Park, I begin to wonder where she’s going. My mind starts spinning. Maybe she has an errand to run that just happens to be in the direction of my apartment. Yeah, that must be it. If it were ten, fifteen years ago, if we were walking away from a bar a little tipsy, if pretty much everything were different, then I could accept that she might be coming home with me – but these days? A lovely woman I just met coming home with me? What a silly thought. That just doesn’t happen to me anymore. She must have someone else she wants to visit close to me. Maybe she wants to get some Vietnamese food to take home. Quit having such foolish thoughts, kSea. You know better.

We wander up Hyde Street together, each step getting closer to my home and she is sill by my side. I start to get nervous, confused, trying to remember how to do this… this boy/girl thing. The game, the ritual. I can’t. Hell, the last lover I had was three years ago, and I don’t have the slightest idea of how to read all but the most blatant & obvious hints anymore – and those I’d likely even have trouble with, looking around the room for someone else and wondering if they were actually directed at me.

I need to calm down. This could be, and most likely is, entirely innocent. I don’t know what I’m thinking. Really. I have no idea.

We turn the corner to my apartment, which is now about 20 yards away. A friend of hers once looked at an apartment in the building next to mine I find out, and then I’m opening my gate. I apologize beforehand about the mess & dog hair everywhere. I refrain from saying that I wasn’t expecting company, thinking it might come across poorly and accidentally give her the idea that she isn’t welcome & make her uncomfortable.

I quickly grab the clothes off of my couch & toss them in the walk-in. “That’s your closet?”
“Yeah! I have another one right there.” That’s it, kSea. Suave as ever. Christ.

She sits on the couch without asking or waiting for me to say anything, and I like that. It makes me feel like she’s comfortable here. I offer her anything, and thankfully she’s happy with water. I can do that. I have water! I pull my finest ex pickle jar out of the cupboard for her & make sure it’s company clean, not just “me” clean. It passes. Must have been a good day when I washed it.

When I come back into the room I notice that she’s taken her hair down and nearly drop her water. It’s beautiful. She’s even more beautiful. I sit down beside her, leaving a good foot & a half between us. It’s a small couch. I mentally take the word “loveseat” out of my head.

The talking continues, she likes my knives (are you fucking KIDDING me?) and says she used to have one exactly like this one. We talk about knife throwing. (I can’t even make this shit up. Dear gods.) I tell her stories o fme as a child, crashing my mom’s car into our house at 11, setting my mattress on fire at 8. We laugh. Compare notes of families, talk about adoption & blood.

I’m terrified. This is what I’ve been doing my best to avoid every time I went out, and doing it very successfully for over three years. With clothes on, I look okay, but I’m reminded at the times I have to look in the mirror what I look like without them. Scarred & discolored legs, the umbilical hernia looking like a fetal twin sticking out of my abdomen, the inguinal hernia less horrible, but at the top right of my pelvic bone. Even if you know what to expect it’s hideous. I try not to look at it unless I have to. I don’t want anyone else to have to.

Even as rusty as I am, I know I could have swayed our conversation with a couple questions to a place where I could have found out if it was alright to kiss her, if she would allow me to, if she wanted me to… and I would have loved to. But everything inside of me wouldn’t let it happen for fear of the possibility of it going further. After some time she puts her hair back up. I feel like an idiot, just wishing I could get past all that’s inside of me. A warm hug, and we take the elevator downstairs. I bring Ruby so I have a reason to walk with her just a little more.

My Dr. had called me that morning, telling me that the surgeon still won’t agree to do the surgery on my hernia’s, now two instead of one. He says that there’s a 30% chance of complications due to the ascites (fluid retention) in my abdomen, but I can’t help but call bullshit. Though there may be some fluid, I work hard keeping it as minimal as possible with teas & herbs, and if he did do the surgery I’d work even harder, agreeing to even take the prescription diuretics they want me to. But still, he won’t. He’s afraid, he’s concerned, and he doesn’t have any idea how strong my will can be to live – when there’s something to live for.

It’s been nearly three years since I’ve even kissed a woman romantically, hoping that one day, with all the fighting to get the surgery done, he might give in – but still, there’s that 30% chance that I could die hanging over everything, hanging over a life that I now don’t even have the morphine to mask the oppressive loneliness.

What he doesn’t seem to understand is that, as my will to live fades, the chance of dying without the surgery keeps growing – with each memory of a kiss that never happened.