Saturday, November 24, 2018

Loosing My Religion (Part Four)

If you're new here, this is a weekly column consisting of letters written to my grandchildren (who exist) and my great-grandchildren (who aren't here yet) — the Stickies — to haunt them after they become grups and/or I'm dead.

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Who The Hell Is This Guy?

Irregularly Appearing Imaginary Guest Stars 
Marie-Louise -- My beautiful muse  
Iggy -- My designated Sticky
Dana -- My designated gentlereader

"There is a kind of mysticism to writing." -Irvine Welsh

Dear (eventual) Grandstickies & Great-Grandstickies,

Next up: My Philadelphia period. I managed to get through my freshman and sophomore years in a public high school with minimal damage. In the summer of '69, less than a month before I was due to start my junior year, my dad died.

This was not as horrible as it sounds, at least for me. And no, I'm not a cold-blooded sociopath, nor was he some sort of wild-eyed psychopath. I cried a bit, of course, but...

See, he married late and had a bunch of kids. I was the fifth of seven. He was 58 when he died and I was 16. Frankly, he was more like a benignly indifferent grandfather to me than a dad at that point. I bear him no ill will; he was more dad like till I was nine or ten. He took me to several Pittsburgh (with an h) Pirate games during the half minute or so that I was a baseball fan (roughly from five to seven years of age).

My favorite thing about going to (now long gone) Forbes field was riding a streetcar to and from the game and eating frozen custard. Mine is not an athletic sensibility. I...

Marie-Louise spits out a Sacre bleu!
Dana launches a snort of derision.
Iggy giggles.

Fine then. I did one more year of high school in my rich Burb -- in a brand new school that was more like a college campus than a high school -- and then me, my mom, and my two younger brothers moved in with my older brother who lived in suburban/almost rural Philadelphia.

That's a very complicated story; what follows is the condensed version. 

Senior year. Not a rich Burb. Working 25 hours a week in a small supermarket (my big brother the butcher got me the job). Mont Clare Market was a short story, perhaps a novella, unto itself.

In the course of five years, I went from a rich and sophisticated eighth grade in a Catholic grade school to a rich, somewhat less sophisticated public high school to a middle class and decidedly unsophisticated senior year.

The good news was that my final year of high school was easy as I was a bit ahead of my fellow classmates. I'm not bragging, it was dumb luck. I confess that with the possible exception of eighth grade, I never worked hard in school.

[Well, I did work hard obtaining my sporadically accumulated 39 college credits, but that was by choice, not compulsion.]

There were vague discussions about college but none of the grups in my life lobbied for that path, some were almost hostile. Vague notions of communes or NYC were replaced by a desire to get my diploma, work full time in the small supermarket, and get my own place. And so I did.

[What happened to religion? asks Dana.]

Iggy has left for school. Marie-Louise sweeps out of my subconscious in a huff (she loves dramatic exits/entrances).

As far as religion goes...

[Finally!] vague, ill-defined notions of God were replaced, at some point, by an interest in Eastern mysticism. It was a significant part of Boomer culture, various rock stars were involved, and the bookstores were full of ancient Eastern texts. LSD was credited with sometimes bestowing immediate, if temporary, enlightenment.

It was a RBFD in certain Boomer circles for a few minutes. The circles are much smaller nowadays. While I was, and remain, spiritually/mystically/whateverly minded, my efforts at "seeking enlightenment" were half-assed, at best.

As my teens became my twenties I slowly but steadily became what I now call a hippie with a job. I smoked too much weed but always had a job, a car, and my own apartment. Eastern religion/mysticism/etcetersicism became a sort of hobby. I never stopped reading about it but didn't pursue it with any real vigor.

I eventually tried LSD hoping for a shortcut to Nirvana but apparently never stumbled on the real deal as I only had one brief hallucination, one time. Uphoria, giggling, vibrant music and colors. It was rather like taking an intense, long-lasting version of weed, combined with speed, that suppressed your appetite rather than giving you the munchies.

[Preview: Now that weed is becoming legal there will soon be a letter about weed specifically, recreational drugs in general.]

In my early thirties, I met and married Nana. I all but gave up recreational pharmaceuticals. Nana came pre-equipped with a kid and kids and drugs don't mix. The next 30+ years were spent keeping Nana (a.k.a. Ronbo) alive as long as I could, avoiding career success, and then helping your mom and dad/grandmother and grandfather to launch a life.

As this is being written that project continues but at the moment they're doing most of the work and providing most of the financing. I'd be fu screwed without 'em as I'm struggling with some health problems and an inadequate retirement income at the moment.

The good news is that on the God/religion/enlightenment front I've made a bit of progress and I think I've finally got a clue or two. Poppa loves you.

To be continued...

Have an OK day. 
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©2018 Mark Mehlmauer

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