Perfect Day, Infinite Gist, part 3: Bus, Desert, DFWallace, Suicide…

Ghost rider

Ghost rider

(continued from previous)

My ghost bus proceeds from Tucson, avoiding Tucumcari, likewise Tehachapi, straight past Tonopah, on the outskirts of Phoenix, known for its wide skirts. The Pepsi soothes my parched throat sputtering and fizzing noisily, much more than a breakfast drink, as we say down south, it almost like elixir… medicine… some kind of magical liquid that lures you into its parlor and creates the future need for itself—it crackling with life when everything around it is dead, it calling out your name when all your friends tend to ignore you…

No one on a bus wears a suit; that’s what I like about it. We pre-millennial Americans are defined by our suits: collar and tie, cuff and link, symbolized by our chains and the willingness of our submission, as it has been for the last hundred years, gentlemen and their ladies defined by that yoke, everyone else defined by its lack as lackeys…

Midnight in America

Midnight in America

I sleep in fits and starts, in loose sync with the bus, lucky to have an empty seat next to me, others not so lucky, forced to sit ramrod straight and wide-awake lucid, lucky to dream of sugar plums or candy canes, as I once dreamed of Burmese or Cambodians, I hiding in the grass of my crumpled sheet, unable to move until daybreak, all the while my foot tied up in traction, results producing causes only later to be explained by events.

I have only a vague recollection of the washed-out bridge past Quartzsite, product of a recent monsoon, aka ‘gulley-washer’, the likes of which make the desert tolerable in summer, and without which, we would simply turn hot and sour, like Chinese soup, our skin dried up into riverless wrinkles, through which we would stare out at the often-barren landscape with half-hidden eyes…

I try to read David Foster Wallace on my laptop, but it’s not possible on a dark moving bus, so I reminisce instead. For some reason, I now enjoy reading Joyce’s Ulysses, whose charm always eluded me before. Wallace must have bridged that gap for me. But the main fact about David Foster Wallace is not his significant body of work, but the fact that he killed himself. That changes everything, a whole lifetime largely negated by the fact that he couldn’t carry it to full term. Wait! Now I know why he wore that bandana that makes him look like a mental patient (but I’m not telling)…

But I don’t knowImage result for d f wallace that he ever talked about it.  People who commit to it rarely do, it seems, except maybe Camus.  Suicidals are unlike junkies in that way.  Junkies LOVE talking about drugs, heroin especially, as though by engaging you verbally, you are now part of the conspiracy. For me suicide is just the opposite, infinitely worth talking about, maybe even worth tempting fate, but actually doing it not so good, something about Kant’s categorical imperative and that universalist principle previously mentioned, the need to universalize your actions. 

But you can’t talk about suicide much, even for the sake of argument, for fear of being branded. It’s taboo, especially in shiny happy America, not so much Europe. To me it seems normal. Life implies death.  I remember a prominent Buddhist monk once commenting that ‘contemplating the moment of your own death’ was one of the more sublime things one could do in one’s life, part of the daily routine—sounds about right…

If that’s the case, then I figure that I’ve ‘contemplated’ it roughly 18,250 times, or every day for fifty years, not counting holidays—not that holidays are any easier, ’cause they’re not; they’re worse. I’m just too lazy to care about making my rough sums any more precise. Many people think that depression is the cause of suicide, but I’m not so sure. I don’t much believe in depression anyway, unless you actually have a chemical imbalance…

Sadness and dissatisfaction are something different. And ‘bipolar’ almost sounds like fun, at least in moderate quantities. No, the best reason to contemplate suicide is not even that the world can be such a messed-up place, full of such cruel people. The best reason is the fact that it’s simply there, like a kill-switch on an old-fashioned motorcycle. To NOT consider it would be the travesty. And now the courts have to decide. What is the penalty for killing yourself? Now there’s a Zen koan

0300 Hours: Somewhere around Desert Hot Springs, maybe 2-3 hours from LA, the driver’s voice comes over the loudspeakers, “We’ll be stopping here and waiting for another bus. This one won’t make it to LA.”  I hate when that happens…

(to be continued)…

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