McArtichoke: Dispatch From the Front (Oct., 2012)
I am a lucky and lonely writer-novelist in New York City who, due to circumstances beyond my control and expectations, found myself in middle age suddenly residing in a public nursing home. …A rude awakening, I admit. But I am loving life without luxury, too busy to notice, pulling myself up by bootstraps that along with my laptop are pretty much all I have at the moment; my flat-screen HDTV was cursorily sequestrated recently by neighborhood looters in the post-Hurricane Sandy anarchy, from which we were evacuated to a refuge in Brooklyn, farther from the ocean, for the entire month of November. (I’ll soon get to the “lucky” bit.) With those bootstraps, though, I have managed to finish a 350-plus-page novel three years in the writing (I have not managed to find a publisher yet, but expect it may take longer than the writing if my luck remains abundant and I do find one), manage four blogs and all kinds of other skulduggery that will be fodder for a next novel while also managing to keep my spirit soaring — I have a non-alcoholic, non-denominational (not Jesus) reliable source of positive inner strength: myself, despite circumstances which I’ll also further describe shortly that preclude the singles bar scene and most other means of interpersonal connection. Please understand, I ask not for sympathy — there are plenty that actually need, want, or deserve that, including many of my fellow nursing home residents. I prefer an open ear to sympathy any day.
My decision to post on the internet this dispatch from the front was not easy for me. I am a private person disinclined to self-promotion and public displays of vulnerability, but know that nothing worthwhile ever comes without considerable struggle. I enjoy my own company often preferring it to others’ and relish time alone, but being lonely in New York City is a predicament as unpleasant as it is ironic. So, to find a female friend — one I would like to eventually meet in person and the friendship evolve — I decided to try the old website routine and plead my case online. I’m not in jail, it just feels like it.
I am looking for a girlfriend, to put it plainly, (and, a JOB… but first things first*). A female to correspond with, agree with, disagree with, to exchange ideas. Within my present confines there’s no scarcity of pulsing bodies — only of ones with a greater claim to life than a heartbeat, or with whom I share a communication frequency. I love caviar but it’s not often on my mind; I live happily without it. The lack of female companionship is not as easily endured.
Samuel Beckett: spare words
*This generally and accurately points out my (lifelong) priorities: putting people and principles before profit. I have tried to lead my life that way, and is no small reason for my current predic, which is due entirely to a financial situation I’m confident can only improve. (In a Newtonian universe, up is my only alternative direction; my last trip to the john reassured we were in one — science has plethoric practical advantages.) That said, I never meant for profit to be completely AWOL, as has been the case lately. Though I’ve often lived in the penumbra of wealth and am personally rich in many respects, financial is not at the moment among them.
I also hope to draw some publishing attention to my book, that aside from providing a provocative, entertaining, fast-paced read, can be of enormous help to people struggling, offering a rarely-, if ever-, seen account of Nirvana: the enlightenment vision and experience; that alone is worth the price of admission.
A little background: I’m a thoughtful alpha male problem-solver prone more to mischief than self-aggrandizement. I try with occasional success to take seriously anything but myself. I know when and how to make myself scarce. I love to laugh, in general, often at myself, and especially in church; it is my propensity for laughter in them that keeps me largely out of them. I’m a skeptical free thinking foodie, independent secular-humanist mystic, and hopeless romantic. I’m also a modern anomaly of sorts: a sensitive heterosexual.
Often a step ahead of the crowd, I got the jump on The Great Recession and hammered by disasters, personal and financial, in 2006-7. They left me alone, and gave me three years in a wheelchair and time to write a book, a psych-spy-thriller and bestseller if it ever gets published, The Nefta Complexity/Nirvana Chronicles. They also took my family and possessions; all but memories from which I’m rebuilding. Hard work freed me from that wheelchair, and I can now walk just fine with a cane, that I expect not to hinder my golf game, and of which defensive manipulation I’ve nearly perfected, literary critics. At times of my life, I’ve worked with Samuel Beckett, Frank Sinatra and Carroll O’Connor. Paul Newman, Mick Jagger, Robert Redford, Claudette Colbert, Anthony Quinn, Jackie Onassis, Mike Nichols, and Gene Wilder are also among that group.
I mentioned I have been lucky. All my life, I have been privileged with extraordinary access. I spent three ’70s years traveling the world working with the late Irish actor Jack MacGowran, and his wife, that included close association with my hero, Nobel literature laureate Samuel Beckett, and many other of the world’s brightest creative lights. I have experienced astonishing wealth of many kinds; seen things that, and as, few ever can, and know the value of them all; things the wealthy who envied me could not afford. I don’t often speak of the ineffable, nor will I further here. In my book I point toward some. I try in deeds to tell the untellable.
Jack MacGowran and Samuel Beckett at work
I love travel, and have done extensively throughout Europe and the Balkans, North Africa, Central America, Japan, and 37 States of the United 50. I once, at 19, blew the engine in my car with a pinhole leak in the radiator hose three miles from the safe end of a 200-mile stretch of sand dunes of biblical immensity in the Sahara Desert of eastern Algeria… at 6:00 on a Friday night… in an Islamic country… alone… with no spare water and none left in the radiator. (I was 19.) Some favorite places: Venice, Italy; Kyoto, Japan; Boiling Springs, Pa.; Guanaja, Honduras; the Florida Keys; NYC; Zermatt, Switzerland, and France.
I was raised loosely Roman Catholic, until high school in my birthplace, Washington, D.C., when I learned critical thinking, but I remain spiritual. I had an experience, in 2007, of what I call spontaneous awareness — a vision, that resulted in my enlightenment (as in, Nirvana) and inspired a novel. Because of my circumstances — I now live in a nursing/rehab home in the Rockaways, two blocks from the Atlantic Ocean, with no car and little physical freedom — I am not the knight in shining armor that will literally sweep you off your feet (though I’m good on horseback), but I have a wealth of other riches to offer a willing accomplice, and who knows, if my book does well….
Roman coliseum at El Djem, Tunisia: central in my book.
Writing, humor, golf, gardening (I have 10 green thumbs), fly fishing, good food and care-fully preparing it; travel; Mountains; the Ocean and everything in, on, and about it; history; the American Civil War; classical music; non-classical music; understatement; all things Japanese, and intelligence, are all turn-ons, as are witty women. Born on a cusp in July, I’m more a Leo than a Cancer, but as a native Marylander I do have a fondness for crabs (Callinectes sapidus, not P. pubis), and Old Bay. Softshells, especially…. And, Shad roe…. And Chincoteague oysters…. And artichokes…. And, since I seem to be revealing long-locked secrets… Sevruga caviar served from an erect raspberry-shaped nipple. (female)
The following is a brief excerpt from my book, The Nefta Complexity/Nirvana Chronicles, that describes the facility I reside in and presents an accurate glimpse of my current confines and living conditions — that might be endured more easily if they were not imposed by bolted doors, barred windows, and barbed wire, there to deter not break-ins, but break-outs:
“Many adults suffer sporadic bouts of introspection, some even including flashes of hurtful self-doubt. These years of rehab saw those moments visit him on occasion. …Hourly. Minutely. In spite of those odd inner trysts, he maintained the upper hand in the end as he knew he must and managed to present a positive if not chipper façade to all. …Or, was it all a front he put on for the audience of trained observers?
These were the professionals who staffed the facility, who had to wonder with each glance cast toward him, how the hell did he do it? …Remain an active – if glued for years to a laptop and wheelchair – alert adult, among that motley lot, and still remain driven and smiling. He did it without fail. Kept beaming that knowing smirk, that hinted there was more to it than met the missing tooth – the smile of one at home in his own withering skin.
He enjoyed life in that hellhole more than he would dare admit, especially to himself. He found freedom in the shadow of the infirm, the psychotic, and the grotesquely debile; a perverse anonymous glee where he could flee his self-imposed enslavement to work and pass for normal with flying colors comparatively unseen; an ordinary man who found unwanted distinction among the extraordinarily unexceptional.
And, did not mind …much.”
I am not complaining: it’s part of the bargain; a price one pays for living as I have: happily, and with my soul intact. Personal integrity has always meant more to me than money; both come at a cost — occasionally, of the other. That said, I’m still not satisfied (I never want to see that day), and hope to restore companionship to a life lately depleted of it, and to brighten another in return. Nearing 63, there’s too much life ahead to hang it up now in a nursing home. …In any event, please leave a comment below. Thanks for your time. My E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
All the Better,
Daniel J. McCarthy, aka, mcartichoke