The past few weeks have been incredibly busy for me; busy in my personal and professional life. While I could bore you with the professional aspects of my life, tonight I want to talk about something deeply personal. This post starts with the death of Chris Cornell and ends with me desperately trying to get in touch with a friend of mine from childhood. I read on billboard.com that you can’t eulogize Cornell without referencing the song “Say Hello to Heaven” (my obligatory mention). It seems like every time a musician like Prince or Chris Cornell dies, journalists, bloggers, tweeters, etc, feel compelled to eulogize in a way that connects the artist to the writer’s lives in a personal manner. I love to read these because they make me feel human and allied to others. These artists made the soundtracks to our lives and may have helped us through a difficult time or two. That’s hugely important. In concerts, they unite us in many common causes, for better or worse, and for brief moments we can tune out life’s many stressors, and enter a sort of trance. When a person with this kind of impact on our life dies – whether they were an artist, a friend, a teacher, or a member of the family – the loss has the power to transfer you back and if you have unfinished business to attend to…well…be prepared.
For me, the time is the Summer of 1995 in Gainesville, FL. I was 12 years old and two years removed from being taken from my mother after she was committed to a psych ward in the Fall of 1993. It was the first time I visited her since then, and I was excited but also dealing with a competing demand from my father who was not happy I was going. It was a difficult time for me in general, and not just because I was seeing my mother for the first time, but also because I hadn’t fully adjusted to life in the Boston, MA, area. Every part of my life that was actually going well in Gainesville before I left, was now suffering; my grades were low for lack of effort, I struggled making friends, and I sucked at football…in Massachusetts! I was a perennial All Star in Florida playing with kids who ultimately played for Division One schools, but in my new home, I was often the last kid chosen for pickup games. Looking back, that is one of the most telling examples of the pain I was in.
I remember talking to my mother before taking the flight down to Florida, and she talked about how much fun we would have, mentioning a kid named Dan who lived one floor above in the apartment complex she lived in with my step-father, sister, and brother. It’s funny because looking back, I don’t even remember the time spent with my family, because I spent all of my time with Dan. Dan was cool, and not in any one obvious way, but in many ways that I’ve come to appreciate as I’ve grown older. He was free spirited. A year older than I, Dan seemed to have a way with people. There wasn’t anyone he couldn’t talk to; he was mature beyond his years. That summer he introduced me to many people including a legless man who rode a motorcycle, a regionally famous drag queen named Lady Pearl (who recently passed away), and lots of older girls, all of whom spoke with him like he was a peer rather than a 13-year-old pubescent red-head. He lived with his single mother who worked late nights. I remember this fact because she was always gone when I spent the night. I think she was a nurse. His older sister (Julie? Julia?), was often there with one of her pretty friends, a girl named Kathy. I still remember when Dan told me that they both thought I was cute; it was like I had forgotten all of the attention I received from girls up until that point, and that fact came rushing back along with a strong current of blood to my face.
Dan had one of those old computers with an Intel 80186 processor, and he had floppies of all of those old quest games (King’s Quest, Police Quest, Time Quest). These games occupied many of our nights together, along with epic floor games like Warhammer (he was in the process of developing one himself and I was truly impressed with how much he had already designed) and the music of Soundgarden’s Superunknown album, which he (of course) introduced me to. And we listened to the shit out of that album. I fell in love with it like I never have any album ever before. I would always put on the popular songs heard on the radio, while Dan got me hooked on the deeper tracks like Limo Wreck.
Looking back at that summer in Gainesville, I was happy and carefree. Everything just seemed right. I am feeling nostalgia. Years ago, “experts” claimed that nostalgia was mental illness. Now it’s looked upon as something positive or at least normal. For me, there has been a theme in my Practice where I feel as if I’m being led to reconnect with certain aspects of my childhood. And with the death of Chris Cornell, I am transferred back to a time directly preceding when I said goodbye to “Joey” and fully embraced a new persona I named Joe. And it hurts to remember because I yearn for “Joey” and that summer again. Hanging out with a free spirit is infectious, and it was easy for me to get swept away in the free flowing current of “play.” As an adult, it’s hard for me to do now even with three playful little sprites at home. But I remember my time with Dan, living care free and happily for a number of weeks, before I said goodbye to “Joey”, and created the Giant named Joe. The death of Chris Cornell helped lead me back to the trail of emotional bread crumbs that subsequently directed me to the happy and carefree child I was that summer. And I can’t for the life of me remember Dan’s last name though I desperately want to get back in touch with him. There is unfinished business there, and even in my dreams, I either wake up just before I remember Dan’s last name, or it’s the wrong last name or a symbol (Garnet being the most recent). I am a Finder and Joseph says I will find Dan when I (basically) put all I’ve learned together, but for now I am grateful for the opportunity to heal and remember a time where I lived free.