Disruptive Juxtaposition

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Dear Jon,

The family's back from its trip. And here I am on my last night in town before leaving (again) for the West.

You left for Colorado a year and a week ago. You packed up your black truck with your girlfriend and your bunny Rocky Balboa and struck out for the mountains. At the time, I was in New York City looking for work and bumming apartment space; I may have started working at the bookshop, but I can't remember. In fact, I don't remember when I saw you that summer; once I'd left for New York City at the beginning of the summer, our opportunities for seeing each other were scarce.

Right now I'm listening to the mix album I made for you back in December. This is the White Stripes' "I'm Lonely (But I Ain't That Lonely Yet)".

I was running errands today that included getting some Master locks for the pod that will carry all of my worldly possessions (and some of yours) to Vegas. It occurred to me that your departure, one year ago, was a sort of forging forward into oblivion. That's a viewpoint that's heavily informed by what's happened in the interim, but nevertheless the fact that I can't pinpoint when I saw you last furthers the notion that your rolling out of town was tantamount to rolling down a very long ski slope that would eventually launch you off the planet. This was a very afflicting thought to have while driving.

Now it's "Two-Headed Boy" by Neutral Milk Hotel.

By the way, I'm taking your steel bracelet and two of your CDs: DJ Mea's "Shaken Not Stirred" and Rammstein's "Sehnsucht".

Do you remember sitting in the car twelve or thirteen years ago at the Dunk & Bright furniture store after Dad & Mom wrapped up a purchase, and Dad was playing the Beatles' "Live at the BBC" on tape to purposely torture us, but Melissa and I and yourself all elected to turn the torture back on its bearer by singing along, mangling the versions of "(Too Much) Monkey Business" and "Kansas City / Hey Hey Hey Hey!"

Sigur Ros's "Glosoli".

I also have a pair of your New Balance cross-training shoes, a DeLonghi coffee bar / espresso machine that was meant for you but was never used, and a picture of you in your Navy blues. It's a Christmas photo, taken when we brought Christmas to you in Chicago from Syracuse; in a hotel suite (with a kitchen and a minibar, of course, which fact pleased you), you had to stand against the mauve drape and stare into the middle distance as the flash flashed. On the back of this photo, I wrote with a cheap black Bic a poem of Sir Thomas Wyatt's, the fifth of his "Ten Sonnets". This photo went through the wash, or perhaps I had it in my wallet when I, drunk, jumped into the jacuzzi at Jayne's birthday party with my clothes on (long story, but you would enjoy it). The point is that the rear part of the photo has been bleached a rabbit-eye red, and your silhouette is a distinct, stronger pink. The front of you, however, is of course holding up well.

In Aruba, where all five of us were supposed to go, I will have you know that you missed many such photo shoots: up against those sideways-growing divi divi trees, against the cool cauldronish effects of Rodgers Beach, at the dinner table every night - photo ops abounded, and you are not in any of them. You were, however, given the honor of having a dinner dedicated to you. Perhaps you know about it. It was the dinner we had on the beach behind the resort. There were shrimp you would have loved; Mom compared them to being the size of snowballs, and she is right.

Aimee Mann's "Just Like Anyone". "If there was something else I should have done." The question this clause implies remains an unresolved one, for me.

There's a lot of reconstruction that I don't do. Reconstruction of the flavor of your life from August 1st to December 17th, mainly, and of the days and months prior to that. I don't really do the work of imagining how things felt for you during these periods. I reached out to you inadequately, however, and I am very sorry for that. Please forgive me.

You are not reading this. Other people are. I justify this fact with the notion that the best and most accurate way of addressing you, these days, seems to be through the weird astral simultaneous space the Internet has become for us, with all of its manifold connections and disconnections happening at indeterminate but ongoing intervals.

Today, the idea of leaving felt like a fearful and portentous obstacle. You left and never came back. Some people never saw you again. I never saw you again. Friends and relatives and grandparents and significant others will tell you that I place an inordinate and sometimes unreasonable premium on the expectation of another meeting soon. But I feel that we're all doing this all the time. But today, this optimism flagged. All departures now seem to echo, or have their fractal root, in your departure last August, and your greater departure last December.

Luckily, the Arcade Fire's "Wake Up" helps place these uncertainties in a brighter light. The song reduces them to minor and passing thoughts that can't occupy the same mindspace the song does. The song is too big in the brain to brook these doubts. It has been, and it will be, important to try and live like the way the song feels to me.

I am also taking with me to Las Vegas a slip of paper on which I wrote down what a heavyset, foul-mouthed, and hilarious trucker said to me at the bookshop one night. He was just passing through. Earlier in the night, he'd picked up some pulp smut and some Playboys. Now he was getting ready to hit the road again for who knew where. Someone passing him said, "Hi, how are you tonight?" He said, and this struck everyone in earshot as uproarious, "I'm gon' live through it." Uproarious and true.

So, Jon, my brother, as I Keroauc again across the better parts of this country, the Plains and the Rockies and the Grand Canyon, as I gnaw on chicken bones and swig burned joe from gas stops, as I McGrath and Hummer above the asphalt again, as I Whitmanize the women and men I meet (these are my poets, my guides), I will be thinking about you. I will add to the differences between us. We had always had so little in common. You were violent and coarse and brash and a better shot than me, more practically minded, you worked in your youth with chemicals and balance sheets, you used the old briefcase Dad gave you, and there has been unearthed from the piles of stuff in the house a business card you made yourself, "Jonathan Ryan Lobko / Loan Specialist / Maximum 10$ / Unless you give me a good reason / why I should give you more", while I read books, built models, sketched, walked, ran as you lifted your weights. We were practically nothing alike except in that we liked the taste of travel, once we'd gotten a taste. The best thing I can do for you right now, Jon, is to not let what you did, what happened to you, prevent me from following you out there, Westering again (there's so much to the West) and in this way to be like you, and to then be different than you again, to be myself again, to speed and snapshoot canyons and steer and scribble down poems and nap on the side of the road, make for the towns with the strangest names, roll at last into town, and be there, and be well.

Wilco and Billy Bragg, "Airline to Heaven". This song storms barns and closes your album out.

This is a road trip I want you to take with me. It's something we've never done. Just let's go.