Five years sober and
I’m loving every minute of it and
I’m hating every minute of it and
I’m indifferent to every minute of it.
Humans are complex, you know?
I mean, it’s not an excuse,
but it is a reason.
When I decided to stop,
to decline my animal vice,
I started building a new type of animal.
An animal that’s neurotic,
and happy to be dying at a slower rate.
These things were always there,
but are now enhanced, intensified,
because there’s no monkey-time booze
within my grimacing veins to suppress them.
The depression is so intensified it could drive you to drink,
which is an irony I hold close
so it can warm my aging heart.
I’m more dependable than I used to be,
I can come pick you up at
the Kaiser ER or the police station
at three o’clock in the morning.
I won’t be passed out
under beer sweat-soaked sheets
next to a box of old family photos on my cold basement floor.
So keep that in mind,
I might come in handy.
I mean, someone’s got to have a use for me, right?
Because some days
I find it hard
to even find a use for myself.
There’s so much shit
swimming around in my head
even though the beer filters are five years gone.
Five years gone and still no love for Jesus.
I’m actually rather proud of that.
I’d rather spend the rest of my life
Struggling like Sisyphus
to find solace in myself
than to look to some spook in the sky
and try to give his ass all the credit.
I’m the one doing the fucking work, for chrissakes.
If I’m to suffer or sparkle, I’ll take all the blame.
I’ll get more of the royalties that way.
There’s no shame in suffering,
and no suffering in shame.
And when I get to that place,
if I get to that place,
where I never think about booze at all,
how much of my life I wasted with it,
it will be, I think it will be,
a notable, happy day.
I could use a notably happy day, let me tell ya.
And I will give you a call, and
offer to take you out for a drink.
You can pick the bar.
I’m pretty sure they’ll have club soda.
Tuesday I was in this pre-apocalyptic part of San Francisco right next to the 101 freeway that’s a mixture of big box retailers, warehouses, fast food joints, and a few liquor stores. Homelessness abounds in that part of town, so I wasn’t oblivious when this frail, gentle old man wheeled his shopping cart up to me and asked for spare change.
I gave him a few $1 bills and took a few photos of him, with his permission, during our transaction. And although he didn’t say “What would Jesus do?” while we briefly spoke, I keep looking at my photograph of him and thinking that the question and his image would fit together perfectly.
And for me the answer is I don’t know what Jesus would have done, but I know what I would’ve done if I wasn’t too broke myself to do it…
Remember: people and the world are more beautiful, odd, and interesting than you think, you just have to stop and look long enough to notice.
This Mormon boy
(I didn’t get his name and it doesn’t matter)
was on his mission at Nakano Station
handing out tickets to god and scattering seeds of fertilized Jesus.
The Japanese soil won’t take those seeds.
The Japanese never needed a long-haired hippie foreigner to tell them
how to fear death and ghosts.
Besides, Japan’s gods are legion,
tend to be more entertaining,
and bring darker blood and better humor to dinner parties.
And they’re good for a short loan and fast drink on payday.
What this Mormon boy didn’t understand,
will never understand,
is Jesus will never get more from the Japanese than a 90-day visitor’s visa.
The Japanese love their ancient gods so much
they’ve made them characters in video games.
And how is Jesus going to bring devout people
closer to heaven than that?
(Nakano Station, Tokyo, September 2013)
Kozukappara is one of Tokyo’s most notorious Edo-era execution grounds. This beautiful jizō overlooks and guards the place. The grounds are a very short walk from the south end of Minami-senju Station, and so trains are constantly coming and going on elevated tracks on either side of Kozukappara. But despite its unquiet location, the jizō, in its wisdom and patience, keeps calm, unwavering watch, guarding the living from the dead and the dead from the living…
(Near Minami-senju Station, Tokyo 2015)