MY GRIEF UPON THE DEATH OF REGIS PHILBIN
|HOW AND WHY
Like the lost days I was involved with Dexedrine, crushed. I remember I dropped down to 131 pounds and all this blue dye crusted in my nose and the entire Sunday morning, Sunday afternoon (binge would begin Thursday evening—this during graduate school: weekends begin on Thursday) I would recall things, no conjure things (never happened) that I did, said this to him, implied that to her, but none of it exists, out there, all in here, this strobe light skull,these neurotransmitters, acetylcholine loops, roller coasters, gristly orbits of remorse, synapses scraped clean, gnawed dry—empty.
Sit all Sunday in the slowness of dust motes, of light. Watch TV.
My head a tiny hammer...ringing.
riiiiii (inner ear, or) iiing
Did you hear about Regis Philbin?
Over some rooftop dish, a crow tumbling arthritic in the wind.
All the busy signals of my life forming a wound. A laceration in my heart, alongside rib bone, possibly leaking blue. Possibly arterial, thrusting. One less sparkling studio of gloom and doom. One less coruscating necktie. One less opportunity to become, with relatively little effort, a millionaire.
Seize onto a crow. Or telephone crackle. Seize onto light arriving, some duct-taped (to the floor) cord, some coil of honest electricity. Collect all the applause of the earth. Laughing teeth, all the winged antennae, hollow aluminum bones of a microwave tower—and fly. The moment you say something incorrect, frozen still, some stirring intestines, some clutch of tongue, this sudden thought: I am saying something wrong now. It is out there. I am out there now, in the hiss before.
I finally realize: This is not dress rehearsal. None of this. Not one fucking moment.
Death like a conductor.
Death like a face, fleshy and pink. Smiling all wide angle, all lizard. Face holds a megaphone. Points it at my forehead. Says into it, loud: "How-you-doing?"
"Fine, I guess. You?"
Face tilts its megaphone off that way, those rustling black trees. Then lowers it to the lips. "I'm-right-as-rain. Just-directing-here. Just-herding-you-along."
Swoon. Open your mouth. Unhinge, and eat a clapperboard. A C-Clamp, dimmer pack light. Eat a pancake makeup. Eat a flame, or a contract. Eat a cave of gnawed microphones. Now brush, and whiten. Whiten and brush.
(I have a one in 121 statistical chance of suicide, so the best thing to do now is avoid myself)
Wind and a gas station beer.
MY WASTED LIFE
I may select a bottle opener from my keychain. From those secreted away in my tan Camry: ashtray, within folds of sun visor, scattered with winking white teeth of bottle caps, open, splayed, nostrils flaring, inhaling the face mats of the floor.
(He doesn't drink, even after the disabled child. The divorce. Losing TV job one. TV job two. TV job three. He buys a treadmill. Was one of the first to Smoothie, to mega-dose vitamin C. He wrestles baby lions on his new talk show. With kindness, he teaches us to make homemade dog food.)
dripping the same music
beer bottles like bones in the grass of the rug
in the shower: her leftover shampoo, half cup of wine, hair.
At you, and you. And you! (My finger prisms out everywhere, every dimension, every shard of sky and/or beyond.) A fine linen, collar, and button of emotions. You're going to sit there and tell me a man who changed his shirt, on average, seven times a day—seven times! Every day!—is no longer with us? No longer strolling the emerald sidewalk? No longer aglow, the LED bulb of my remote control?
I check my voicemails.
...slow, steady, rhythmic.
Like a dangling electrical cord. This in the unfinished basement of my pelvis. I clench now. I shudder. Because I cannot believe you do not own, or know how to operate a computer. Luddite! Sand to you, Ostrich, mealy, mealy sand. Buried bent nails. Honestly, now, in this blue light of morning, I respect that you do not own, or know how to operate a computer. Very, very Zen. Very Gary Snyder, though your books (two autobiographies) sell substantially more copies than his own spare titles of poetry. I hold absolutely no opinion on your computer use. My mind is an unprovoked glass. A mirror, face-down. I am typing. I am operating a computer now.
Eventually three million an episode. Or whatever he asked. He could film a week's worth in one long day, after shooting the talk show in the a.m.
ABC executive, and I quote: "Millionaire? More popular than Jesus fucking Christ."
Akin to a highway. I am driving along the highway, drunk, really rather drunk; and later tonight I will fulfill my duties as a contract faculty: to teach a sociology 101 class at the junior college. I will drink coffee. I will drink a sample bottle of Scope (several secreted away in my tan Camry). I will brush my teeth three times, in the sink of the building. I will stroll into class and proclaim, a bit too loudly, with headache already roiling behind my eyes:
Game shows! Don't game shows seem appropriate tonight, after this week, after we've lost one of the great ones?
Four groups, class. Simply count one-to-four, then circle up, find your groups (always interesting this—who are the leaders [group three, over here people!], and which students walk in stumbly circles, bewildered, mumbling, "I think I'm five...five," seeking out their huddled kin?)
Group One: In Russia, the audience purposely misleads the contestant, giving a correct answer only 11% of the time. Discuss.
Group Two: Do you feel this game show—or all game shows— give the average middling American a feeling, a little taste, a vague nibbling, at the "Dream." An opportunity that doesn't actually exist? A trick, a tricked one?
Group Three: Black contestants? Where are they?
Group Four: Group four? Group four? Hello...
Back home, I sit with self, a phony. So high-minded, while I slurp from a quart of Budweiser and surf through Youtube videos of helicopter crashes. From what crevice of a spongy folding chair do my impulses spring? Eventually, I'll watch TV, the many reruns.
I know this man, I am this man. Ridicule to hide this feeling knotted about my throat like a metallic tie:
whooping and flapping liver
Mediocrity. That I might not matter, not really. Terrifying. I want to tell you, this film of dust inside my lungs, this decay, the absolute terror. To expunge, all of this...dry threads of speech.
Here I go.
(They kept asking Alex Trebek. Needling him, his personal assistant, his Empire of Answers. He wouldn't come on the show. He always told them he had a family vacation—that exact term every time: "family vacation, sorry." Not bad, as far as excuses go.)
As if being somewhere (far from now), on that stage, any stage, will alter the medicine chest of your life, your crackle and snap and blur.
How will I know?
What if my ring tone is silence?
Urinating in the sink.
They went and changed the top prize money awards into annuities.
She said, "I cannot hold you, cannot let you go."
Then she let me go.
Carefully scripted dramatic pause.
One contestant, April 2003, a British Army Major; and, in the audience, his college lecturer wife. She guided his way to the correct answer, to the one million pounds. Through an elaborate system of coughing.
Would you do that for me?
I for you?
(infestation of thoughts)
Note: An effective curative for internal pain is to keep incredibly busy. For example, several long days of locating, collecting, and stacking driftwood. But I don't live near a beach, and I'm lazy.
A mouse can fit itself through any hole the size of, or larger than, its femur.
A CRISIS OF VALUES
This death has gripped me by the kidneys (hands inside, clutching), by the spleen, by each individual vertebrae—and I am shaken. I know a false person when I taste their lips. When I wake with their breath on my tongue. Nightmares in here, crouching, skulking to form into questions, multiple choice questions (the answer is there, right there! Choose!), right as I tumble asleep.
Every letter I need for this is on my keyboard. Right there, staring at me. Now...how to arrange them?
I feel blame from others.
I will not clarify. My intentions.
Will not phone a friend.
Never enjoyed the telephone. The telephone is hollow (source of ringing). Does not ease the mind, the lamp-lit thoughts. Laminated telephone, beige—much too atrophied. Every fifteen to twenty seconds I have to tap my legs, or go for a long run. I went on a rampage once, a drywall/hurtful words/vodka thing: shape of Manhattan, shape of clavicle, shape of size 11 shoes horizontal. Telephone speeds past with flashing blue light. Telephone smoldering like big marijuana. Telephone cradled forever. I'd like to pray you, fling you, Regis Philbin. Now you going to call up and tell me this man is dead?
Could you come into the main office?
Credit card? How did they get this number?
Could you meet me at Chili's, the bar area? We need to talk.
Telephone words curdling like glue.
Dear Reege, wherever you are now. I do not feel you are hearing me. Carrying me. Even cursing me. I kneel here like an abandoned clock. I am feeling isolation. I think you were created so I do not feel isolation. I have a loss of trust, like years ago, with Santa Claus. It's a long time for a sustained lie. Especially to children, who have not learned to consume and excrete betrayal. My fingers are larger than normal, with fever. My liver groans an unfair shade of yellow. Doesn't everyone deserve a legacy? A catch phrase? Why would you create perfect cheekbones and then remove them? I want to show you my sense of loss now. I think I am speaking in archetypes. Possibly too abstract. I want to visit you, to join the audience, their laughter and sighs. I thought you knew everything, had all the answers on cue cards, but that is ridiculous. I want you to be more like popular film star Amitabh Bachchan, who hosts the Millionaire show in India, and, if you wait, and just wait and wait, will coach you to the correct answer. My knees are inflamed. A cyst in my spine, and this cannot be helpful. Why do you want me in this position? I have this weight on my shoulders, this medical thing they call cloaking. Listen now. Shut up everyone and listen, to me. What if I used the term: self harm? Nothing. A prime time of silence. The way the TV static oscillates about me. The various waves. They will flow whether I kneel here, do not kneel here—never have knelt. Is that your final answer?
DAILY TASK OF WAKING
(just try to live a life without spending. without costs.)
DAILY TASK OF ROTATING THE BLUE MOON AWAY FROM THE WALL
This is a large moment. Turning its face back to the room, to the circled furniture. All the furniture kneeling in submission. Matted arms. Elongated legs. Facing you, on the floor. Lots of uncomfortable breathing, close, interactions on cellular levels. Unlocking the remote from the box below the futon. Pointing the remote at the blue moon. Oh boy.
Reege, I am trying to quest for the positives.
DAILY TASK OF FORGETTING
Reege mentioning his colon exam. Middle aged white men phoning their doctors, soon as the show ends. Lives saved.
A Tuesday. The exact day I woke and my breath wasn't fresh anymore.
Reege, a chrysalis. Tucked there. Light through the most delicate veins, the morphing wings. Yellow light of circuit board, of chirr.
Rats don't sit around analyzing themselves. Does my fur look good today? Did I eat that dog food correctly, quickly and with verve? Am I happy? No. None of that curse. The rat is the rat is the rat.
Reege writing a reasonable check to Notre Dame.
Please don't cash that until Sunday.
Reege fording a sizeable waterfall.
I fell into a hole below a rapid and all of Time pushing me down, suffocating me down, and I thought: this is it, I'm dead. Right now. I can just remember anger. Not sure at who, at what, not exactly. Just a boiling anger, a pulse within the roaring water. When they rescued me I was naked. Hat, glasses, all my clothing—ripped from my body by the river.
Reege in the Green Room, shaking everyone's sweaty hand.
A dry cough and a wet cough simultaneously; I once considered that impossible.
Reege walking the big-walk, legs all golden-geared, all flow, ducks landing, taking off from a pond.
Broke the calcaneous (heel bone) leaping off a roof during a season of drought (ground exhausted, hard)
Reege letting Kathie Lee talk now.
Are you even listening?
Reege peeling off, reeling toward the window.
Another lost to-do list.
Reege telling the audience, "I always knew when TV came along it was my ticket. You don't have to be good at anything to do TV."
DAILY TASK OF TAMBOURINE, A SHOT GLASS, WOUNDED GLASS, AN ODOR OF CARPET, A RED SHOE (UNDER THE COUCH)
Sleep on the floor and you will notice things. A new perspective. Bits of debris in the individual fibers. Flecks of red glitter. A sewing needle. A smell not unlike rubber. Every angle contains a cobweb. Shadows grow exponential from this understanding. Everything is larger, taller, more permanent. Somewhere I lay in a pile of ashes. A plume of smoke. Somewhere, nine months after my death, the TV is sold for five dollars to a man with a head shaped like a sweet potato. He cracks open the set, for the copper coiling.
For the musty dollars.
(to flip, spend, rub, toss, collect)
DAILY TASK OF YOUTUBE
I thank thee, logic of honed pixel.
This age will be defined by our urge to record everything.
Soft, hot, blue, misty...
DAILY TASK OF SEARCHING MY TRAVEL BAG, THE BIG RED ONE, CRAMMED FOR MONTHS BELOW A HEAP OF SHOES IN THE CLOSET
Deep, in the wrinkles of the side pocket: red foil condom, three coins, a ruptured toothpaste tube, grainy toothpaste, an Ativan, a Motrin, a Xanax, an ad for an exercise bicycle, folded into a tiny paper square—inside oregano grains of marijuana. I swallow the pills with a Sprite Zero and smoke the grass.
My skin all funny balloon.
Every drug involves pausing something.
Skin all milk. Gold and other metals.
DAILY TASK OF NAMING
In remote control, the word control.
Holds the Guinness world record for most moments of a single human life televised (16,000 hours and counting).
The word life.
Seinfeld, 1994. Regis Philbin plays "Himself."
Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, The, 1996. Regis Philbin plays "Himself."
Simpsons, The, 1998. Regis Philbin plays "Himself."
Spin City, 1999. Regis Philbin plays "Himself."
(and so on)
The word self.
Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy: name of his wife.
DAILY TASK OF MENTAL FATIGUE
Try not to think about Regis Philbin. Right now. Try not to think about Regis Philbin. Right now. Try not to think about...
MEANING FROM LOSS
I mowed the lawn last night, late, about eleven.
Ate breakfast on the roof.
A V of geese came over, and I watched them, that moment when the fourth one broke away, sped up, alongside the leader, and took his place. The leader drifting back, tucking into the quivering V.
You have to respect something that doesn't know. It just does.
clouds in the shape of _______________
CREATING A NEW LIFE
Drinking, and Ebaying. Loss of impulse control. Of currency.
A new relationship with the deceased.
(the phrase abstract, meaningless, a lie)
Real to me: the milk gallon jug. Half the contents two liter Sprite Zero. Half the contents white wine. World's largest lilting charm. Reborn. Umbilical cord of computer mouse. Of clicking gristle.
Tooth whitener arrives from China. Red dice on green felt necktie, China. Box of miniature pillows, Kansas. Various action figures, England. Various dolls. Yellow bean bag, Alabama. Two folding metal chairs, Alabama. Caffeine pills (200 milligram), Utah. Halogen bulbs, Alaska. Mr. Microphone, California. 8mm camera (vari-focal lens), Germany. 8mm film, Germany. 8mm projector, Germany. Tripod, Pennsylvania.
Inside this burrow of possessions. Hunched, in the glow. A sheet hung on the wall, a shade of anesthesia, off brown. On some screen. On some wandering. Expanding again and again. The obvious misplaced image. The obvious elapsation. The obvious... (rather hungry, or some metaphor). Feed me. Take notice. Ask questions. Drop by. Let me talk with you, and you with me. We're going to do something now, together. Please, I'm asking. We're live now. Here we go. Watch.
Regis Philbin is like the sound of river water over stones to me, like cloud blades, the closest thing I have to religion. Years ago, Michael Martone said I should write about Reege. And so I did.