When things get rough, I relive Wren’s First Hour, which is a cd-r that I hastily burned one Monday morning in San Diego before turning in the convertible mustang and flying back to oaktownbootyville.
Today, relive means to stand in the spot where the sun comes in while it plays really really loud. I finally realized I was in a posture of beatific gratitude. That’s alright, in general, more of that, as long as we have to be standing around…
It may not be as rough today as it was the day I burned the cd. That day started the prior Saturday afternoon as I started to assemble the mix for Wren’s art opening slated for that night in a very wierd house-cum-community center on the edge of a firing range rather slightly sprawly east of San Diego proper. We make jokes about San Diego and this is the reason why.
This marriage of the music I brought for Wren and Wren’s music she had stacked up for me, harkened back to our time in mocha’s studios where we would have about a half hour before everyone else arrived and requested that we turn it down, or off, with the slightly desperate after-look that nonmusical people wear around musical fanatics. I might have been offended but for the fact my savage breast had already been soothed.
And Wren is one of the world’s Ancients: those people that walk around doing what we’re all doing but with a Message From The Universe fluffing off of them onto everything they touch. I respond to Wren as a fellow human being, am glad and sad with her as appropriate, taste food and sweep floors and chat about nothing and read newspapers, and then in her absence I realize she was providing something in addition to, or in radical support of, life, and that I look forward to her return real soon now.
The phone rang and she knelt by me to pick up and said Hello. I was cutting and pasting and dragging and cross-fading and realized that she hadn’t spoken even though minutes had passed in the phone conversation. Then she started to wail: a hoarse, wordless rope of sadness being pulled out her mouth by some terrible, terrible circumstance on the other end. I froze, naturally, and looked about for instructions on what to do, as if there was some seat pocket in front of me with a laminated card that would pictorially guide me from the interior of the bad situation down the now-lighted aisle to a door with explosive bolts and inflatable slide.
I knelt beside her gingerly as she rocked back and forth in complete agony. She concluded the phone call and announced that her partner S’s parents had just been found dead in their Colorado home, and we had to find S immediately and tell him.
So we climbed into the mustang convertible the rental car people had forced upon us (did we not want to have fun? did we find something wrong with having fun?) and drove to La Jolla, seat of many of my conflicted feelings, and stood outside a completely pointless and embarrasing art n tchotchkes n stuff gallery where S was esconced in the back out of sight making minimum wage by wrapping pointless and embarrassing art n tchotchkes n stuff up for UPS delivery. Naturally, it was a gorgeous day.
Wren led a crumpled S to us and he asked me to drive him and his grandfather’s ’66 westphalian camper van home while J drove the mustang convertible. He pleaded not to be forced to ride in the mustang convertible now that his parents were dead. We all agreed it had been a bad idea to cave into the rental car clerk’s patriotic fervor.
Yet we had to cram into the mustang convertible in order to drive to the camper van, which included long, but inconclusive looks from a member of La Jolla’s private security force, and impersonating a member of the exclusive La Jolla health club to gain access to their underground parking. We spiralled down and down and down, half-expecting to see little canaries with X’s for eyes lying in their cages. No one knew La Jolla was this deep. The camper van was immaculate, a gift from S’s grandfather, with original miles, arranged, I thought, to completely rattle my nerves. I inched it out of its 6-volt slumber and tiny slip, idling upward toward daylight, and into the stream of traffic, all of us ants around a popsicle.
S lay in Wren’s arms on the back bench, a dying Gaul. They attempted to be brave and quiet, but would erupt every few minutes in wracking sobs. I realized I was absorbing their grief and turning it, without any dilution, into nausea. I hadn’t the heart to ask a question, yet I had hundreds: equal parts innocent, desparate, and utterly inappropriate. J and I had immediately surmised that S’s terminally ill father may have initiated a murder-suicide, a fact the papers would confirm as soon as we returned to our homes and typed the keywords into the search engine (one of my darkest autonomic responses).
The show went on.
My mix was never burned in time for the opening, which was inaugurated with rain and hundreds of guests. J and I repeatedly
dialed my nephew to attempt to roust him from his tract home in what used to be perfectly good coyote territory to the East. Rescue us, we shouted into his answering machine. He never showed. We chopped and pitted and arranged and carried and fetched, moving tents, cracking propane heaters, stopping individually, then collectively at Wren’s interior room installation that featured a bowl of human teeth. Wren’s family showered us with gratitude for being present, invoking the notion that, yes, we are where we are when we’re supposed to be otherwise we’d be somewhere else kind of psychophysicbabblefoo that you just… can’t… argue with because they just… mean… so… well.
For example, I said to J as we hid in the buckety leather of the mustang convertible (top up): was S’s mother where she was supposed to be today?
The DJ arrived for Wren’s Second Hour and when I passed through the crowded room to get a piece of cheese, I found myself dancing to Fela, which magnetically attracted what had been mere Head Bobbers into a swirling mass of Jumping JuJu People. I tried to commune with them but (a) my heart was too heavy and / or (b) they were *not* Ancients, able to regenerate small humans in the wake of enormous tragedy.
J and I drove to the twinkling cluster of motels that house San Diego’s visitors, wordlessly ate from their diner, let ourselves into the room we mechanically hired, and silently laid down to instant sleep.
The next day we escorted Wren and S as they quickly gathered themselves to fly to the crime scene, punctuated by the arrival of hideous details via the land line and brand new cell phone they purchased in order to instantaneously accessible to S’s brother, and, increasingly, the Boulder police. By the end of the day, J and I were slumped in seats in some multiplex in the GasLight, grateful we had been too late arriving to see Gosford Park and had resorted to the Royal Tanenbaums. MZ was irritated we saw it without him, and when it was released for home consumption we watched and I sat with my eyes closed asking myself just how difficult life would be if I continued to imprint this movie with the murder-suicide of an elderly Colorado couple.
J and I closed up Wren and S’s house that Monday and turned over the keys to a neighbor. It took me a month or so, but I finally made copies of Wren’s First Hour and sent them to Wren and J with brief, and slightly confessional, cover notes. Word got out and people asked for additional burns. I played it one morning at mocha before people arrived, standing in the studio making a motion, but never moving, a table that Wren and I had often moved together. A new wave of staff there had a completely different view of what morning bells sound like. I burned a dozen more copies. Apparently it’s an excellent way to start a party.
If I cannot cry, I use Wren’s First Hour to get there. If I cannot tolerate another second, I use 3,600 of them in its stead. If I’m at a loss, I use Wren’s First Hour to garner absolute perspective on what loss is really about. And sometimes I put it on just as people are gathering, and watch them warm up: to eachother, to the groove, to life itself