Sunday, November 06, 2005

The Underworld Rivers

A wonderful life
Last December 19, 2003 while at work I received a call that would cause me to redefine, reconstruct who I had been for the last 8 years or so. Imagine living a deception and “awakening” to realize much of what you thought was or could be, is not, and barring a miracle from God will never be and there is no “do over.”
My body traveled a road from literal nausea down the path of the living dead who have experienced being pierced through with a dull, jagged, stake just nicking the heart. My soul was gagged, bound and abandoned to die floating face down in the suffocating, thick black vacuum of river Acheron. Five rivers to cross back to the land of the living. Five rivers. Swim Styx as fast as you can boy! Hold your breath and walk the bottom if need be. But don’t make an oath you won’t keep with its waters in your lungs! Get out! River Lethe sucked the oxygen from my brain, the blood from my heart. Its water confounded and soothed at the same time. I feared for my sanity and yet every accidental gulp while flailing and gasping for the sweet savor of anything beside the stench of my own vulnerability preserved me. Its effects linger. I can still taste it on the pallet of my mind. Anger plunged me into the Phlegethon and subsided, but still its waves and eddies burned me to the core. Why am I not consumed?
I languished in the icy Cocytus and I prefer that to these flames.
Along this journey there has been no solace but tears, no reprieve but uneasy sleep and the river Lethe still in my lungs. Between rivers the world’s gravity had multiplied seven-fold and it was all I could do to get out of bed, drive, meet someone’s eyes or fake a smile. I thought I’d work on a self- assignment for the Cleveland Museum of Art where I’m employed. I would’ve gone to Columbus, but heard tell there was shooting at the I-270 corral. Gravity loosened its grip the further removed from Cleveland I became. Moments later I was in Pittsburgh visiting the Warhol and the Mattress Factory. In that timeless moment between Cleveland and Pittsburgh I talked to God and tried to listen and knew I had to face this event. I was responsible for decisions I would make and I would father a ripple affect that would spread beyond my comprehension and already beyond my control.
Warhol’s gallery of death was chilling. One canvas hosted multiple images of a young, beautiful woman who had committed suicide by jumping. She landed, dress gloves in hand atop an automobile positioned as if peacefully sleeping a chase lounge. The contrast between the evidence of the horrendous impact with the car top and her elegant, peaceful, demeanor was eerie. There was a mangled body rag-doll hanging from a wrecked automobile and other images. In another space there was playful cow wallpaper, in another huge matter of fact black handguns silk-screened on colorful canvases, in another huge raurchac tests. Warhol memorabilia was particularly captivating. There is something about pet magazines, letters, shirts and such especial when they outlive their masters. All these images combined to speak of the height and depth of humanity. Combined to speak of the power we wield, unleash and like Pandora’s box opened, can’t control. It said that no matter how abused we are, no matter how much we embrace the dark side, it is hard to kill the child within. Two floors were dedicated to the Kennedy assassination. In an instant I understood once more, I was not suffering anything uncommon to man. People endure much worse. At the Mattress Factory minutes away there were several installations that caused me to think about the reality of perception. Colorful 3-D cubes hovering in the corners of dark rooms turned out to be “just” light speaking volumes about light as particle and wave and ruler. It was apparent that my life was not what it seemed to be and that this 8 years was neither its total definition nor its conclusion. Let God be my Author and Finisher.
For 5 or 6 weeks I tried to work and to write and to still be involved in Issue 31 and other arts endeavors but to no avail. Not long ago I realized I was at the bottom of Maslov’s pyramid just trying to endure its weight and nothing else mattered. Thank God for the arts. Who would’ve thought Warhol could be an anchor in a turbulent emotional ocean, that the Mattress Factory would slow and cushion my fall? That afternoon as I returned to Cleveland, and I was so inspired by the Agnes Gund show at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Later, with my West Side passport in hand and I stopped at Touch Supper Club. I had pizza and a healthy dose of Spanish from the “locals”. Yes, I’m an East Sider. Nice canned funk began to tug and pull my Working class, Blue collar Cleveland attitude from the depths to the shore and onto dry land and sizzling live salsa downstairs filled my heart with joy making me buoyant and feather light. Well it’s 2:00AM and where do ya go in Cleveland? The Mardi Gras of course or Lancer’s Steak House. I sat on one side at the Mardi Gras and had some seafood and great music and ran into some friends who would show me empathy.

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