After The Death of A Funny Man

A break in the two weeks of rain, but the clouds remain. If the grass dries out I will cut it. A few yellow dandelions have spouted in the meadow our yard has become and the fireweed blossoms are retreating back down their stems, by next week they will have started to go to seed. 

Our son,who  is a stand up comedian in Los Angeles called several times this week and we talked about the death of the funny man.  Most of his friends were shaken up as was he.  He has inherited the unipolar depression from me and he is aware of its effects and outriders.  About the suicide of the comedian he said, "It came home to everyone that no amount of fame can keep the darkness at bay.  I mean, just imagine, everywhere he went almost everyone must have smiled,"  

We talked about his depression, he exercises and he takes great comfort in his friends and performing.  He knows, that when the darkness comes the smiles of others, and the laughter and compliments cannot reach you, or worse, they can feel like fuel for a self loathing flame.  "How do you suppose it happened for him, Pop?" he asked me,  "I don't know, they said he had addiction problems, maybe he had been drinking and got far away from his sensible self, his wise and protective self."  This is what we do when we gossip about others, we talk about ourselves.  This is what the tabloids are all about.  I asked about Finn's drinking, and he asked about mine.  "I'm good," I told him which was true,  I'm at my usual two ounces a week.  "but I'm lucky, you know, I ruined by guts when I was young I can't drink like I used to without getting sick.  You young guys have more stamina, and more options."  He knows what I'm talking about: L.A.  drugs.  When he was child I was always telling him not to smoke crack.  Mostly as a joke.  Now... he's a comedian in LA. But I don't say anything. 

"I'm good, Dad,"  he says, and I believe him. He's much smarter than I was at his age. Much more wise.

One of my favorite William Stafford Poems is: A Ritual To Read To Each Other

If you don't know the kind of person I am

and I don't know the kind of person you are

a pattern that others made may prevail in the world

and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant's tail,
but if one wanders the circus won't find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider--
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give--yes or no, or maybe--
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep. 


I've always been glad that Stafford included "maybe" in his list of declarative statements at the end of the poem, for that is right where I most often live. My son and I also live in the shade often times, the shade of that great darkness, and although I don't know for sure, I bet the funny man did too, that is what drew people to him, his ability to break both ways and go to his extremes.  It was his occupational hazard.  

Today the occupation of making people read your thoughts, or laugh seems worth it, the darkness and the light are in balance as the sun shines and the dandelions  bloom on the long green grass.  A friend sent me a cd of a fantastic band from Portland called Richmond Fontaine,  their singer song writer is Willy Vlautin who has written some novels and I'm half way through one called Lean On Pete .  I love the songs  and I love the novel about a boy and a broke down race horse on  the small time circuit.  I wrote a friend down south that this was the band and the writer I had been waiting for all my life and to check him out.  He did and he wrote me back,  he said,  "yeah... they are good, they make me feel like I've been sitting in the rain for a couple of weeks.  I think you should get out of town."  

Yes... the darkness around us is deep.  But... I have not let go of the tail of the elephant in front of me: My son, my buddy, Willy Valutin, William Stafford, Robbin Williams are all still, part of the parade of our mutual life... while we still get to have it. 


A murder of crows

on the morning low tide beach

laughing, right out loud. 


jhs--- Sitka, Ak