A long time ago now, I liked this girl who lived in Austin, Texas. Back then I lived alone in Baltimore and had nothing much to do there, so I would use the money I made doing clinical trials to fly around and see people. I went to a lot of places that summer . . . but every two weeks or so I’d fly to Austin to see her. I would stay for a week and we would hang out every night in her room in this big house she lived in close to downtown. And at the end of one of those trips, just as summer was ending too, I took a midnight bus from Austin to New Orleans, which takes about nine hours. I went to New Orleans to see Leila, whom I had helped move there a few months before. I always think about this though: that during that whole ride there, in the dark nothing between Austin and New Orleans, across the Texas and Louisiana border, she and I texted each other for hours until she finally fell asleep. This was a pre-smartphone world . . . so it’s easy to romanticize it now, how I would sit there and key in letters one at a time with the number pad, and read over what I had written three times to make sure I had got it right. And then I’d stare out the window at the refinery towers in the distance, which blew fire into the night sky and lit the undersides of clouds, and wait for her to respond. Sometimes she’d write back immediately, and other times there would be long lapses since she was painting. It was so exciting. When I think about it now I feel a sadness because I don’t think such a thing is possible anymore in that way. It was a unique period of my life when I was totally free. Pretty much all I thought about was this girl and I missed her like hell when I was away from her. That long bus ride, with the cabin dark and everyone around me asleep, is a sort of emblematic memory to me, like a beacon for that whole era. In my mind it sums up what my life was then, which was exciting and strange in a way that I’ll just never know again.
since i’ve gotten back to oakland, it is clear that the homeless problem here has grown worse by orders of magnitude, almost certainly because of the pandemic. people walk right by abject poverty and needless human suffering every day like it’s totally normal. it is not normal. this is a massive humanitarian crisis right on our doorstep. i don’t blame people for not knowing what to do. people are just trying to live. this is a systemic problem that everyday people have very little power over. i just can’t believe nothing is being done about it is all. there are literally shantytowns and massive encampments of homeless people all along international boulevard, in these weird and forgotten corners of east oakland that the city has effectively given up on. it really does make me sick to think about. what is the end goal here? to just have tens of thousands of people permanently living in squalor on the streets?
we are alive and have to live somewhere. we live in countries. a country is a collection of people with commonalities who are trying to live. so what does it mean when we have an existential crisis collectively? what sort of society do we want to live in? one day we will die. have we decided that the happiness of strangers isn’t important? do we not care that our brothers and sisters are sick and poor? are we comfortable living this way? it sure seems that way!
i always get home and think: “did i do any permanent damage today?”
thomas theodor heine
this has been me for basically the entire last year
well: i am officially more convinced than not that i’m dead and whatever i think is my life is actually the afterlife . . . or else some sort of dream, and maybe a permanent one. there are a lot of reasons i have reached this conclusion, however tenuous it may be, though i am reluctant to spell it all out or else i’ll be committed. hah!
PUT SUCCINCTLY: i have experienced way too many spooky overlapping threads in my life for it to all be pure coincidence. i could chalk a few things up to chance, and initially i did. but now i’m at the point where it really does feel like something is dreaming me. the pieces fit too cleanly. hain’t natural is what i’m saying!
i am reminded of the PLATE OF SHRIMP scene from REPO MAN:
man, yeah. the real question is: am i alone here? or are we dreaming together?
ok fine: i’ll expound on this tomorrow. i just have to figure out a way to go about it without sounding absolutely bonkers. all i’m saying is that something weird is going on. it’s something cosmic. this has been a fear of mine forever, though maybe i ought to embrace it, assuming i ever know what it is. and let’s face it: i almost certainly never will.
welp . . . time for bed!!! ☆彡
There is an albino raccoon who lives by Lake Merritt in Oakland. I first saw him many years ago now . . . it was cold and nighttime, and I think in late November. And I was walking a lap around the perimeter of the lake when I saw him and his three siblings run in a single file across the sidewalk to some trash beneath a tree there. This was on the Lakeshore Avenue side. Somehow I was able to take a few pictures:
Sometime later, I remember my friend Alayna mentioned she had seen an albino raccoon by the lake, and I knew it had to have been the same one. And as time went on, other people mentioned that had seen him too. This dude seemed omnipresent.
Usually I end up at Lake Merritt when I feel rotten as hell and just want to be alone and near water. I have been doing this several times a month for probably a decade. Every now and then I would get lucky and see the albino raccoon and his three siblings. They’re always charging around like a single organism, with the albino in the middle. Seeing them felt like gazing into some secret world. I came to think of the albino raccoon as an elemental spirit or minor deity of the lake. Seeing him and his brothers felt like a little blessing.
And then I just sort of stopped going to Lake Merritt for a while on account of the pandemic, and being away from Oakland . . . so I stopped seeing the albino raccoon as well.
The other night I was walking home from the BART station on 19th Street. It was cold and felt kind of bad about some things for whatever reason. I turned onto Harrison and saw the fountain lit up and the birds sleeping on the wooden dock there. The homeless dude who usually sleeps on the stone bench was missing and I wondered at it. As I turned onto Grand Avenue, I saw three raccoons scamper across the street in a single file from the lake towards the Episcopal church nearby. The raccoon in the middle was the albino. I couldn’t believe it! It had been two years since I’d see him. I decided it was a good omen and felt a little better just then.
Well: I’m glad he’s still alive and running around out there with his brothers. He is the protector of lake . . . we need him! Albino raccoon, hallowed be thy name.