Old flames can burn

Losing your life’s companion is a hell of a thing. Particularly for ‘people of a certain age,’ as the euphemism goes. Some widows and widowers go out and find someone new and start another relationship, while others are way too disinclined to go down that road again. How tiresome it could be, getting to know someone else all over again and them getting to know you. Seeing if you fit together, working that damn jigsaw puzzle again. Most old folks don’t have the time or the patience for jigsaw puzzles.

If you can’t hack it alone, it seems to me the best bet would be to try and re-ignite with an old flame. A lover from the seventies who is in a similar situation as yourself. Someone who knows you already. So you can skip the introductory bull. I doubt if it would work for me though. Some of my former flames would sooner burn my ass than dance with it. I came with too much emotional and psychological baggage, a manic-depressive, one day I would be a novelty item who jumped out of a Cracker Jack box, and the next, a Sturm und Drang maniac.

Relationships in the seventies were like rugby scrimmages. We were all players and many players got muddied and some got bloodied. I got lucky. One tough lady emerged from combat and for good or ill walked off the field with Buffalo Bill. And stayed with me for thirty-four years. For which I am forever thankful. And without her, I am forever saddened.

Which is why she cannot be replaced. I have my cat and my booze and my books and my movies and a cozy hovel to live in, and when I want to step out and find some action, me and my 1860 genuine replica Henry repeating rifle mosey on down to the gun range, just a mile from the house and squeeze off a few. Ah, the pop-pop-pop culture of America. 

If I’m going to get burned it’ll be from a misfire, not from an old flame.

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Flying lightly through life

In lieu of family, all of whom having been killed off by that most sadistic of life writers, Almighty Whatever, and in lieu of friends, who have been written out of the script by that fickle collaborator, River of Time, I have found new family and friends in the neighborhood birds.

For any Brits reading this I do not refer to young women of the comely variety, but to the actual offspring of Mother Nature, bona fide birds, the real McCoy.

In the backyard, outside the kitchen window, I have created a holy place for birds by placing seven small stones in a circle — seven representing completeness, wholeness, perfection — about three feet in diameter, in the center of which I scatter bird seed of a most beneficial variety.

The birds come flying in, if not from Chicago and L.A., then certainly from the branches of the many tall trees that surround my lowly bungalow.

I look out the window as I make my morning coffee and watch their comings and goings. Birds of many kinds and wonderful colors, with individual personalities. Blue jays are bullies, morning doves affable, grackles cheeky. They all travel light, no baggage, my kind of flyers.

In all my trips flying to Australia over the years, crossing that dark ocean two dozen times, usually going for a month or longer, I never took anything more than a carry-on.

I traveled light, like the birds that fly into my backyard these many years later, me an old man now, not the cavalier fellow flying Down Under, putting the make on pretty women sitting near me in the 747, sweet romance under a Qantas blanket at 30,000 feet, all behind me now as I hear the kettle boiling and make my coffee and watch the birds in a solitary place of completeness.

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Hermit life, an introduction

A reclusive life is not generally a matter of choice. Maybe it is for monks and deep thinkers and social stinkers. But certainly not for you.

Most of your life you had companionship. A mother all through your fatherless teenage years and a first wife you married too young, the inevitable divorce and then a string of young ladies during the ten years between marriages, and finally and marvelously, a second wife, a soulmate you thought of as your only wife and with whom you shared a life for thirty years until she left the planet two years ago for another dimension, or so you imagine when sufficiently stoned.

Drawing by Franz Kafka

Since that day you have lived alone. The first requisite of the hermit life is to have an animal in the house, a pet. You prefer the word companion, generally four-legged, unless your companion is a bird. You’ve always wanted a parrot but couldn’t bear the idea of having a caged creature.

It doesn’t matter what kind of animal. Most people have a dog or a cat, but a white rabbit would be fine, especially if it takes you down the rabbit hole, or even a fish, but again, a creature confined is not for you.

The point is you need another living creature in the house, someone to look after, someone to talk to even though they don’t know what the hell you’re saying, they hear your voice and you hear theirs.

You have a cat, which you got for your wife when she fell ill and was unsteady on her feet and couldn’t handle a dog rushing about. You inherited the cat, a laid-back, entertaining, mystical companion, someone you care about and are a company for, as she is for you.

The days and nights become a timeless dreamlike sequence. You eat and you drink and you watch movies and you smoke and you read and go to bed and get up the next day not knowing why and do it all over again.

That’s the exterior observable life. Inside your head, you’re screaming with loneliness.

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