gone and back
a birdfishdog song
Michael Reid Rubenstein
Be on your guard. Always have an escape plan. The evil in men can make you puke for a lifetime. This existence is not a joke. Act and choose wisely. Stay simple. Close your eyes and listen to your heart. Fate and magic and the possibility of anything are alive. Seek it. Go slow. Be mindful. Read the signs. Live like your life depended on self-truth. Before you were ever born, you chose this existence. Learn and stumble and grow to be the dream you conceive. Imagine love and harmony. Fly, bird, fly.
“The smell of dirt. The smell of dirt is good enough to eat. There is purity in dirt, the feel of its rich clumpy texture in one’s hands or smudge of dirt on jeans. It proclaims, ‘I’m not afraid to get dirty. I expect a little pain.’ It’s not for spoiled rich kids in trendy clothes who are reluctant to jump in and wrestle around, get soiled and battered.
“Dirt symbolizes hard honest work and a harvest well deserved. Dirt is soul, plain and simple: dirt roads, dirt floors, dirty faces, and dirt graves. Dirt is the essence of mother earth, the fragrance of her fertile plains, the lining of her womb, life source of a seed.” — O.S. 1969
“Call me Odys. Years ago, flat broke with no plans, I began scribbling an odyssey of sorts. Entries are inconsistent. I’ve lived wild. Luck counts. Life is funny, and the world is a strange place. Looking back, I have regrets. Sometimes I get depressed or hostile. Painting teaches me to see more thoughtfully. Maybe everyone needs to paint about their visions, feelings and experiences. If they did, then maybe the world might be different.”
Those remarks belong to Odysseus Schwartzpilgrim also known as birdfishdog. He is a fiction of my imagination, though distant. The present is absurd and hopeless. Permit me to dig up a scene where he thoroughly blew my mind away.
It is the crazy 1980s. We are coming down from psilocybin mushrooms, snorting coke, drinking and smoking weed and cigarettes for what may have been days, I don’t know. Odysseus’s current girlfriend, Sophia, ate mushrooms with us, then modeled her lovely nakedness. She left hours ago.
We are now totally wasted and on the verge of nodding out. Suddenly Odys glimpses up at me with a stone-cold sober look in his eyes. His hands open as he speaks.
“Let me tell you about paint. It’s the wonder drug. You can paint over anything, and it’s a new beginning. Paint hides the past. If you know how to paint, well then, let the past show through in places, which is what the Old Masters called underpainting. Paint mixes well and embraces all kinds of stuff. Paint is forgiving and allows you to make mistakes. Depending on how fast the paint dries, you can push and change the painting and launch into something entirely different. Nothing is precious. Intrinsically, paint is a lie. It’s always hiding something while revealing something else.”
He picks up a paintbrush and begins painting. I am sitting in a chair. My eyelids grow heavy. I think I say, “I’m too fucked up. I can hardly see. If you don’t mind I’m going to pass out.”
When I awake hours later, there is this startling blood red painting hanging on the wall. It looks both feral and austere. The scent of paint pigment or linseed oil lingers in the air. Odysseus lies curled asleep on the floor with the paintbrush still in his hand. In a way he looks pathetic.
I am the designated narrator, and what you are about to read is the journey of birdfishdog.
The wine dark sea, tell of it and of the man, both infant and ancient, who is thrust to the edge of the world and through him reveal everymanwoman.
In the movie version, the music is huge and dramatic, even tragic, gray and overcast, guitar and violin and bass, solemn mounting drumbeats, maybe distant bagpipes. Then a profound silence followed by more grieving bagpipes.
An explosion of lightning and thunder slams. The hysteria of shattering glass resounds in a nearby building, setting off an alarm. Odysseus suffers nausea and rattled nerves. He peers out through the windows at fierce rain and menacing sky.
His boots and clothing lie scattered. He came home late, stripped and passed out. He was partying with Cal at Marley’s and lost his wallet. Morning is wasted on the telephone with several American Express operators, then the DMV.
He tries to remember the last time he handled the wallet. He recalls splitting a Quaalude with Cal. No one at Marley’s answers the phone. He feels hung over and upset by his negligence. He worries the credit card is in some crook’s hands. Dad will point the finger at him. His stomach knots. He tells himself it does not matter anymore. The wallet is gone.
Another thunderclap bursts. He looks up around the room, noticing a torn piece of paper near the phone on the floor. He reaches and reads. Eileen 682-5885. Eileen? He tries to remember: long dark brown hair, sexy blue eyes, and her hand touched his thigh in a thrilling way. He recalls the flowery scent of her hair. Why is the paper opened and not still buried in his pocket? Did he call her? It was late when he got home. He was lonely and hurting and under the influence. Did he make a drunken fool of himself?