Unlike Ian and Guy, I've done a fair amount of thinking on dying before. There were days of being wild, when I held death in my mouth, when I licked the dying. I've been incredibly lucky, to have survived my youth, and not to have lost anybody close. To have not yet lost anybody close, that is. I suck on the dying, and the taste of it steels my nerves for the inevitable.

I think about what people might say at my funeral. There's a certain pleasure that comes with considering that people may be hurt to see you go. All my best friends and lovers, I've thought about them dying, and what I would say, how I would memorialize them. I don't think this is conceited, or morbid. I believe it brings into stark relief just what is exceptional about that person, what separates them, and attracts you. You have to be close to a person before you can begin to imagine their eulogy.

The dead live on in the memories of those they've touched. But we strive for immortality, to live on when memories have faded, when no witnesses remain to tell stories of our exploits. We live for the glory of a fitting epitaph. We live so that graduate students on holiday will take snapshots of our headstones.

When we are young we expect we will live forever. Or rather, when we are young, we expect to die young. The young have no concept of aging, and so live as if death is imminent, as if there will be no interval between their youth and their end. If death doesn't soon come, they are left to age with the unshakable feeling that they didn't live enough. Did we not suck enough out of life to be left with death in our mouth? Is this not the tragic realization of Dmitri Karamazov? His failure was a failure of his youth, and having unexpectedly survived years of tempting death, he would now have to learn how to live.

We live for the tribute. The young die good, and they will be remembered as good. But if we've survived our youth we realize that a proper tribute can only be made on the accumulated wealth of a life's achievements. The young are good, but that is all they are: young and good. That is all they will be remembered for. Those who are lucky enough to make it through their youth, to have gotten old, know deeds mark a man for immortality. The young die full of vigor, possibility, and that is tragic. Dying young may mean you get a punk rock anthem written for you, but it almost guarantees you will soon enough be forgotten.


I've never been hunting. I've shot guns, and I've shot at and possibly killed some frogs, but I've never gone hunting the way my grandfather did. He lived in Flagstaff, Arizona, on some land up in the mountains, from where he used to set out for days hunting elk, antelope, bear. Bear hunting will make a man.

I didn't know my grandfather very well, but I knew him well enough to know he was a hard man. Once, while in the mountains cutting down trees for the winter, only two months away, grandpa got caught by a portion of tree that had split from the trunk while falling. He was pinned, unconscious, his back broken from the impact, the trunk lying across his broken legs. He was alone, and he hadn't told anybody where he would be.

By the time night fell he was hallucinating. He told us of looking up into the branches and seeing birds looking down at him, crows, talking to him, and among themselves. He could hear the coyotes. It was quite cold, so he did his best to bury himself, digging his own grave and covering himself with leaves.

I imagine his wife, Joy, began to worry by sunset. By the next morning they were looking for him, on land and by helicopter. Apparently, he had parked his truck in a way such to make it invisible from the air, and had gone where nobody thought to look. It was clear by nightfall that Grandpa Bill was in some serious fucking trouble.

He had slipped into a coma by the time rescuers found him, sometime on the third day. Everything that could be bruised was bruised; the rest was lacerated, contused, concussed, ruptured, or collapsed. He was kept in a coma for I don't know how long, but he survived, and he walked again. Not a miracle, but a helluva recovery by one tough sonofabitch.

He was 76 years old when he went up into those mountains to cut down trees. Clearly not the most brilliant man, but possessive of an impossibly hardened individuality, tempered through a youth in want, war, and work. He was a boss in the Heavy Machinery Operators union, and he wore a gold union ring and had a huge wardrobe for union duties. He was a hunter, but he also drove a Cadillac. If he was not strictly monagomous, he was, from all I've heard, a decent husband, maybe as good as a hard man can be. The cruelties I remember I dismiss as anachronisms. I knew him as kind, but I know very little, almost nothing more about him.

My mother really didn't have a relationship with the man, and she made sure her two youngest children never got too close their grandfather. She had her reasons, but I believe she regrets not having given me the chance to be closer to Grandpa Bill. She regrets even though she loathed the hardness, the meanness, the masculine irrationality. He was the only grandpa I had. My father's father had died when I was still and infant, and she regrets not giving me anybody but my father to really know as a man. While she loves my father, she knows he has never hunted bear.


It's been really fucking hot lately. The apartment has no air conditioner, and it's sweltering. The other night, as I lay sweating in heavy air, I had a vision of my midlife crisis.

Suddenly I could see that the personality I have developed will be the same at 40, 50, 60, and that that will entail a crisis. For the first time I could clearly perceive that the range of possibilities I have to choose is pruned with each passing year. And it seemed completely natural that as this realization developed I may be driven to seize upon one of those ever dwindling possibilities and drop off, drop out, disappear.

I think I'm well positioned to have an epic midlife crisis. I'm childless, terminally single, and diabetes-free. I'm not gonna be the sort of guy who buys a sports car, or gets a motorcycle for weekend runs. I'm gonna move to the Pacific Northwest and plant trees. Just dig little holes for saplings. Or maybe Indonesia, where I can probably find work cutting 'em down.

A kernel of messianism has begun to take root in my thinking. Not really having accomplished all that I believe I'm capable of, not having developing any binding relationships, I have to have faith that if I continue with my eyes wide open, and take pains to be ready, an opportunity will show itself. I think about redemption, about the possibility of redeeming myself through performing a penance. Guilt arises in the space between actuality and potentiality, and there are often times I long for punishment. There are times when I am envious of the prisoners. Perhaps this is what Eric sees in the men he teaches: men taking hold of the possibility for redemption.

So I prepare for my midlife as though I am preparing for prison, preparing to be a prisoner. I do pull-ups, and push-ups. I don't overly spice the foods I prepare at home. I go without sex for periods of time. And regardless of whether that's a matter of choice or not, I'm gonna be ready to take hold of my redemption with an iron grip. When the day comes that I take a left turn, when until then I've always taken a right, I'm not gonna look back. Hell, maybe that'll even mean getting laid.

The Boss, indeed. Incidentally, I ran into Little Stevie Van Zandt at the newspaper stand this morning.


She's terrifying. She looks at the camera, or perhaps the cameraman, with, what is it? Contempt? Is it curiosity? Something predatory, unnerving. Something masculine. She is a beautiful woman.

She's the novelist Christina Stead.


When I'm home alone and just want to relax, I like to instant watch old episodes of Law and Order. Netflix streams right to the TV, so even though they only offer the 'Criminal Intent' and 'Special Victims Unit' versions of the program, it's nice to just press play and instantly have something to ignore. It is precisely because these series are retarded, truly retarded iterations of the original series, yet the same, insofar as they ape the form of the original Law and Order, that they are so goddamn easy to ignore. I play a couple of episodes and pretty soon I've answered emails, done the dishes, watered the plants...It's brilliant!

The head of the Philosophy department at Stanislaus was a Deadhead like few others. While this may seem laughable to some, he is a truly original thinker of the Grateful Dead phenomenon, and one hell of an administrator, having brought together a serious group of Continental thinkers in a fucking cowtown in Central California. Well, anyways, we were talking about the Dead, and I said something about the richness of the lyrics, and the rewards of focusing on the lyrical element in the music. Jim agreed with the point, but pointed out, with a smile, that he often found himself ignoring the music altogether. It was what he put on when he needed to work, which is to say that he had reached a level of familiarity with the music to the point where he no longer needed to pay attention to it. He could just be with it, without that being a thing. Is that what love is, the blissful ignorance of the beloved's existence, objectless and indifferent? Am I in love with Law and Order, SVU?


Every year on my birthday I get a card from my Grandmother, each holding a check written for however old I'm turning, and the inscription, the same every year, "Eat light, drink light, and have a happy, healthy birthday." Good advice from a woman who displays the vigorous stamina in old age that only accompanies the temperate, a trait clearly lacking in my nature, in my generation, but intimate with the children of the Depression.


The first day of Summer is the longest day of the year. Tomorrow will be shorter. There will be less time for cold drinks on hot days, less chance for hours wasted prone under the sun on Saturdays at the beach, less of the early Summer moonlight perfect for finding a Summer love.

I once began trekking to a remote wilderness in the Mojave desert to celebrate the summer solstice with some friends. We made it as far as Leucadia, about 50 miles north of San Diego on the PCH, where my sister had a place within smelling distance of the beach. Having driven through the night we rolled in to town about 4:30 in the morning. and headed straight down the cliffs to the beach, where we stumbled upon a record low tide, the water breaking 50 yards from where it would normally reach. The shore was littered with shells, beautiful shells, large and intact. Shells everywhere, exotic in their wholeness. Gleaming white Conch shells. Large, elaborately colored scallops. I found a sharks tooth. We ran and ran, laughing, jubilant with our discovery. It was an hour before sunrise on the first day of Summer, the longest day of the year, and the fucking earth had given us a gift.


Hey Stoli, you were the meanest sonofabitch in town, but I loved you for it. I'm gonna miss you, buddy.


The J train was awfully crowded this morning. No matter. Got to hear this:

“…well, you know, I lost three, had three miscarriages before my son was born.”

“Oh, Lord.”

“But God is good, and I got pregnant with my son, and it stuck.”


“And I was real careful during the pregnancy, got all kinds of tests, and sonograms and such, and when the doctor wanted to give me a shot of ___ I said no, I will take what the good Lord gives me, retarded, or missing something, it doesn’t matter. Because, you know, that shot leads to miscarriages in some women, and I wasn’t going to risk that, to risk what the Lord had given me. If that boy’d come out retarded or handicapped, well, we’d just have to work through that, as well.”


“And then, a couple of weeks before I was due, I started feeling real bad. And the baby, he wasn’t kicking around, or moving much at all.”

“Did you drink some cold water? They say that helps.”

“I drank some orange juice, all that, trying to wake him up, but he wasn’t moving, and I was feeling real bad, so my husband and I got to the hospital, and praise the Lord, it’s a good thing we did, because the doctor said we was about to lose that child.”

“Oh, no.”

“Mmmm-Hmmm. So they cut me wide open – oooh, that pain! – and pulled my baby boy out two weeks early, and he was sickly, and this was up in Hartford, where we was staying at the time, and the doctors say that they’re goin’ to have to keep him for a while.”


“So my husband and I, we stayed in a Ronald McDonald house for the time that boy was in the hospital, for about 2 months, and this was about 14 months ago, and we just got back and settled in the city, got a place right across from Highland Park, sure did, and this weekend we’re goin’ to do it up large, to celebrate a year outta the hospital and a year back in New York, and Father’s Day is comin’ up soon,”

“The 20th, I believe.”

“Mmmm-Hmmm. So we’ll celebrate Father’s Day as well. Imma goin’ to get out there early, and get a bench, and get the barbeque out there, and we going to do it up large, have a real celebration, praise the Lord.”

“Oh, that’s nice.”

“Mmmm-Hmmm. But my husband, well, you know he’s got diabetes, and the other night he comes home all swollen. His legs is swollen. His arms is swollen. His face is all swollen. So before he even has a chance to say otherwise I say we goin’ to hospital, and we get there, and the doctor runs tests, and he says that there ain’t nothing wrong, that everything is negative. And I say No, nah-uh, I know my man, I can tell when something ain’t right, you know what I’m sayin.”

“Mmmm-Hmmm. I sure do. We can tell.”

“That’s right. So the doctor, he run some more tests, and it turn out that my husband got something wrong with his kidneys. They ain’t working right.”

“Oh. I’m sorry.”

“God is good, and we’ll work our way through it, but for now we just gonna have a celebration, and celebrate what the Lord has given us, my baby boy.”

“Yes. That’s right.”

“But the Lord, well, you know, He giveth and he taketh away. Just last month, my man’s sister was hit by a car as she was crossing the street.”

“Oh. Mercy.”

“Well, I’m at home with my girlfriends, and we get the call, so we rush to the hospital, Jamaica Hospital.”

“That’s a good hospital.”

“Mmmm-Hmmm, well, it wasn’t good enough to save this girl.”

“Oh, dear.”

“Every bone in that girl’s body was broken, she was crushed, all swollen, couldn’t even recognize her. But she held on, she fought, but in the end, she was just too damaged.”

“She’s gone to her Lord.”

“Yes. Yes. She was a good woman, a good child. She will be missed, but we will celebrate her memory. We gonna celebrate her, and we gonna celebrate my baby boy, and we gonna celebrate a year back with our people.”

“And Father’s Day, too.”

“Yes, that’s right. Praise the Lord, Father’s Day, too.”