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    Run For Your Life, Black Hockey Jesus!
    Main | "And When Someone Asks Me 'John, Are You Okay?' / I Don't Know What To Say" »

    Ghosts In My Mailbox

    I got an email from his brother yesterday. He asked for my address, said he had something that might interest me.

    A letter! I hoped. Probably not, though. Maybe a painting or a drawing or a poem. The only picture of us ever taken, his hand blocking his irritated face. Or a book, with notes scrawled in the margins, little signs that point the way.

    I can’t beat it. I imagine the letter saying. Remember. Go see the Atlantic Ocean during a winter storm. Learn another language. Consult the I Ching. Take it slow.

    I smiled.

    Speak calmly with your demons. Don’t provoke them. The most radical act you can perform in terms of being contrary to the destructive processes of this decadent culture is to sit still on a cushion. Give money to bums. Talk to animals. Listen to children. Keep only a few intimate friends.

    Be Otherwise.

    Say “Or” to everything, to all your absolutes. Never believe yourself. Ask good questions. Go outside every single morning. Read. Write. Drink good tea. If you get lonely, read Edward Abbey.

    I couldn’t beat it. But you can. So, damn it, leave it alone. Hey, you, take it slow.


    What does it mean to say “I” imagined that letter? Like my dead buddy Skip advises, we should take it slow. When I tell you that I wrote something, what I mean to say is that a bunch of words came to me. It’s a huge distinction. Think about it. Are you thinking? Are you thinking thoughts or are thoughts occurring to you? Are thoughts thinking you? Slow down. Let’s not leap to conclusions. Conclusions are a yawn.


    My buddy Skip killed himself 5 years ago but he just won’t die. And I like it that way. He comes to me in dreams, thoughts, fantasies, ideas, reflections, reveries, memories—all these psychic presences have their own autonomous reality. They just happen. As real as the fantasy of me.

    He’s smiling this very moment. I can see him. He fancies himself clever, being dead and yet still able to make even you wonder what messages lurk in the future of my mail.

    Reader Comments (8)

    When you write about Skip I think about my friend Cindy, who did not kill herself but was killed. I'm glad he's never left you. I know she'll never leave me.

    Slowing down is usually the most essential idea.

    May 3, 2011 at 8:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterLaurie

    "Speak calmly to your demons. Don't provoke them."

    Such perfect, if not impossibly frustrating, advice. Damn.

    May 3, 2011 at 9:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterNaz

    My friend Rick died 9 years ago. He thinks he's clever too.

    May 4, 2011 at 3:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterMisty

    Be Otherwise. - so simple, yet so hard....I'm trying my friend, I'm really trying.
    Thanks for this reminder, your words speak to me about finding my own truth....who is the clever one now?

    May 4, 2011 at 4:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterNatalie

    I give money to bums. I talk to animals. I do need to listen to my children more...I can always listen more. I only have a few intimate friends. I'm constantly doubting myself (but sometimes that's not so good...) Always saying "or"....I read, or lately, paint, when I'm "supposed" to be taking care of the "shoulds', I've learned and am learning new languages. I've always taken things slow, much to the consternation of others. Ha! What do ya know? I'm doing okay! (thank you and Skip for helping me see that) Just wish I could ask the good questions at the moment they need to be asked and not later.

    I'm glad that Skip is still around. I hope he never leaves.

    May 4, 2011 at 7:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterC.

    I have someone who died 18 years ago this summer. She will never leave me; I have her with me all the time. I hear her sarcasm when I am screwing up, and I hear her laugh when I take myself too seriously. When I feel down about something, I swear I can smell her perfume. I've relented-- she is clever, and I don't care what others think of that.

    May 4, 2011 at 8:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterSarah

    Wow. What a wonderful gift his brother gave you. A reminder to remember.

    Have a brilliant day BHJ.

    May 5, 2011 at 11:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterSue

    the inside of your head is pretty amazing.

    May 5, 2011 at 5:42 PM | Unregistered Commenteranon

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