February 13, 2013

All This Useless Beauty/Lost in Space

In my capacity as a counselor to fictional characters, I have heard some pretty crazy stories. I wish I could share all of them with you, but confidentiality is a cruel mistress, and I don’t want to lose my license. Sometimes I will try to create metaphorical interpretations, twist the details into a narrative that approximates the gravity of the experiences of these individuals, and sometimes these stories are even more compelling than the true (fictional) stories that inspired them, but a lot of the time they end up sounding like they are actually made up, which can be bad because I don’t want to be accused of plagiarism. It’s an almost impossible situation, and I have come to doubt my own sanity most of the time.

For example, I ran into a friend of mine at a party recently, and we started talking about that movie “Lincoln.” He was quite satisfied with his assessment that it was a meaningless exercise in excellence. I hope I got his phrasing right, but I won’t quote him because I didn’t write it down when he said it. As unreliable as my memory has become, I suppose it would be a good idea to start recording everything that is said in my vicinity, but, then again, I can’t be on the clock all the time.

Having seen the film, I got his point immediately; we are of some accord in our appreciation of narrative film, you see, and I understood that he was impressed by the production, the elegant script and the excellent performances, but it didn’t move him. It certainly didn’t change him in any way, as we would hope that great art would do. We look for transformative experiences in film, those movies that shock our sensibilities, confuse us, stick in our minds and leave us with unresolving loops of philosophy, questions about purpose, movies that defy dismissal as simple fictions designed to give us a sense that all is well, that the good guy won, where the credits roll with all of the elements tied together neatly. “Lincoln” is none of my concern, therefore, but he did have something to say to me, perhaps we will get back to that later.

Last Friday morning I got a call from another friend asking if I had heard the news. One of my clients was in the hospital; he was dead or brain dead or in a coma or on life support after being found unconscious and unresponsive, and he wasn’t expected to wake up. That day the electronic community was all fired up with concern for propriety under the circumstances, and gravity had its way with a million meaningless details.

As I understand it, the life support system was disconnected the next day. There was a gathering of his closest friends that night, but I wasn’t aware of it; I went to see some bands play at a house. The Teeth debuted some compelling new material. It was the kind of event that my friend would have attended; his presence would have been taken for granted, and he may have made people uncomfortable with his forceful exuberance, his erratic charm. It was the eve of the Chinese new year, the last day of the Dragon.

He had been a central facilitator to a million memorable moments in the minds of countless lovers of the local music scene, whether his presence was recognized or not. He was extraordinarily talented, a largely uncredited architect of the Louisville music ethos, but having been diagnosed as bipolar or whatever they call it, the machine he was driving started falling apart almost as soon as he got behind the wheel, and over the last few years, he had alienated all but his most dangerous friends. He became all tragic misfortune, an unresolving loop that leads to the persistent sense of guilt that comes from leaving a toddler alone with a loaded handgun.

I got a message from him. He’s hurling through outer space, the captain of an out-of-date flying saucer. He’s spending his days arguing with the robot that’s supposed to navigate the ship’s course; the damn thing has reprogrammed the stereo, and it won’t play anything but Supertramp.

Bon voyage, Jon Cook. Keep in touch.

Next time: Ask me about the invisible Sugar Giant I met in Germantown.