Guy’s Cavalier Approach to Life
Not least because I've every right to do so, I have carefully weeded out of my pic stash almost every photo taken of me during several of my life's porky periods. The one remaining horror (as I had come to think of it) is the pic you see on the top right of the first quartet of images. It was taken in 2011 in Amityville where I was born & - is 'raised' the right word? I was standing next to my lifelong buddy Don Thomson, in on one of his rare trips east from Wisconsin. That swatch of floral print shirt shoulder is all that remains of him in this cropped photo. On the day the photo was taken, I probably would have clocked in (had I dared to stand on a scale, which I hadn't for who knows how long) somewhere around 215. When later that year, after my 60th birthday, I went for a full medical checkup, my doctor pronounced me amazingly healthy although suggested it wouldn't be the worst idea if I took off, say, 20 pounds. Somehow (I'm guessing) the requisite complex synaptic shifts for 'hearing' this news zapped into a configuration sufficient to get me on a low calorie diet for the rest of that year and the rest, really, of every year since then. I now average about 155. I don't know why I did it.
That is, I like having done it. But any of the obvious reasons one might have expected me to give, had one asked me, didn't obtain. They just weren't true. It wasn't because I 'wanted to be healthy' or "wanted to look good.' I don't know why I did it, other than to say that "it was time" (which is up there with "it is what it is" as the most idiotically unhelpful observation human beings make) or equally WTF: "I don't know, I just did it." The benefits were tabulatable: mostly related to vanity, by the way, not health -- & while after the fact I enjoyed that something in or about me was evidently at work to keep this new regime going, I couldn't saddle it with any of the self-help premises or strategies (however Jungian or otherwise palatably non-cliché) it had once been my job as literary agent, editor and writer to know the value of and wield in appealing ways. (I used to write those kinds of books - books that purported to be 'self-help' as that category is usually understood). I didn't feel I'd finally learned 'discipline,' or began to value life in a more complete and open way. I loved existing! But I pretty much always had, fat or not.
I don't feel I'd reached some exalted state of awareness in any of this. I simply no longer was able to link cause and effect in any of even the most obvious ways. True, the blunt force of if you're hungry you'll want to eat or if you spend all your money you'll be broke or if you jump off the top of the Empire State building you'll die by splatting on the sidewalk still held credence. But what did that explain about motive? Nothing, really. The more I 'looked' at motive, the more the only interesting way to start seeing it was playfully. I'd been writing long dense poems every day for a number of years. On April Fool's day 2009 I started added drawings. And the poems quickly became less dense. They had drawings to play with! They didn't have to be so all-out serious. But as to "Why did you start drawing then?" as I was & am sometimes still asked, I had no idea. It's gotten to a point now - I'm not proud of this - where I'm annoyed not at myself anymore for being unable to come up with even the simplest explanations for why things are what they are, but at other people for thinking that such a thing is possible. Again, this doesn't make me 'better' or more evolved. Just frustrated, like a baby must be when she sees a purple dragon in the sky and everybody else sees flotsam & jetsam.
Thankfully, the annoyance doesn't last. Because what drawing, and its attendant consequences, as I'm almost able to call them, offer -- sex, laughter, playing Mozart, walking out of the Lafayette Avenue subway at Fort Greene up into the glories of 1870 Brooklyn brownstones and their regal canopies of Sycamore trees, etc. -- are constant distraction & activity. Everything is distraction, by the way, because it isn't something else. You were brushing your teeth and then, distracted by the sight of your razor, you shave your face until distracted by the pressure in your bowels which will shortly get you to sit down... and on and on through the day. There's no underlying 'thing' to know. Anything worth knowing is completely in front of your nose. The whole bounty of the feast is always, always before you.
There's more to say - oh there's an infinity to say! - but I think that's enough now. Except perhaps to add that one of the prods for coming up with my breezy & rather arch title - "Guy's Cavalier Approach to Life" -- was (on the face it) its appalling contrast to the tone & the accomplishment of an extraordinary thread on Facebook initiated by one of my dearest friends with a plea for information about whatever means of keeping themselves healthy her friends and acquaintances could name - from diet to exercise to whatever else they'd learned from experience. This unleashed responses from many other of my dearest friends (many from childhood) - all of them gorgeously clear and articulate about what had worked for them - across the board from the emotional to the medical to the dietary - and in such great specificity! They were doing what I find myself incapable of doing: giving advice. And it was good advice. And I know much of it helped both my friend who'd begun the thread and who had been battling long disheartening stretches of ill health - as well as helped each of the advisors to give that advice, or maybe better put - the results of their own experience. It was beautiful and human and completely true for the participants.
But I could think of only one thing to add: Get your crayons out.
There are three quartets of images here. I think they can sort of tell you what they're about directly. I hope so. God knows I can't.