• Vol. 04
  • Chapter 07

Vapid or Blurred

This occurred to me last June when I was dancing with Farrell at the Acropolis, a disco in New Jersey - Jersey City I think. Anyway Farrell is a man who spends seven months of the year in meditation retreats, four of those months in Nepal. He left home when he was sixteen and joined the navy two years later. Now his arms are blue with tattoos, cheesy and lurid tattoos of women and hearts and snakes and ribbons with words on them. A blurred woman in a one piece bathing suit stands in high heels on his whole left forearm. At one time she was pouting as though she wanted something she wasn't getting. Now her mouth is smeared like a sad, drunken woman's. Looking at her and then at all the women around us, much younger, with crisp color-shined lips, I had a minor kenshō: it occurred to me that most people in America would either die young and vapid or die old and blurred. Farrell and I both had children who had died young, but neither of them had died vapid: his daughter committed suicide, which sometimes seems like the most rational thing to do if you have wisdom that you can't share with anyone; my son was hit by a car in the middle of the day, looking the wrong way on a one-way street. Seventeen years after his death, I just buried his ashes at a Zen monastery in northern New Mexico. Farrell dug the hole. I wanted the earth to hold my boy in his womb-like urn for me. He dropped out of high school because he was smarter than the teachers, and much kinder.

This was Farrell's last night before his four months in Nepal. I yelled over the music, "Do you think all these beautiful women feel as lonely as I do?" He yelled, "What?"