Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Mike's Story Part 46 - Paradigms

By Jenna Orkin

   February 14, 2007
   I wished Mike a Happy Valentine’s Day and he returned the wish sincerely, without bitterness at his situation. But we didn’t go out to dinner as planned because Ray was supposed to call in the evening with news of "Ernest," the guy at his house who had signed for the package.
   While Ray was busy tracking down the missing $10,000, his landlady asked him, “Where’s last month’s rent?”
   “That was it!” he exclaimed, which galvanized her into becoming a diligent aide de camp.
Fortunately X, the guy who sent the package, has given a green light to pursue the money via the postal inspector. Also, the subscriber lists have arrived so our new webmaster can send out a "blast" of Mike's article, “From Me to You” and attract more donations.
   Yet this good news doesn't counterbalance the bad. Depression looks for reasons to feed on; it spits out positive signs as irrelevant.
   Mike scrolled through the subscriber list with its inventive passwords and sighed, “The members of Congress...” The long-awaited treasure only revived memories of what he’d lost.
   As he went out for his afternoon cigarette, he looked across the street at the old Board of Ed building now being converted to condos, an especially bleak sight on a sleet-driven mid-February day.
   He scanned the window, taking its measure, and said to himself, “Don’t let them know when or how.” It had the ominous ring of Vreeland’s pre-9/11 warning: “Let the first one through; stop the rest.”
  Later, I found an occasion to talk about the reasons people have to be depressed, yet how few of them throw themselves out the window.
  “It occurred to me,” Mike said, “that ‘From Me to You’ may have been what killed the [newspaper] piece. The tone didn’t conform with the tone of whatever they had. Wouldn’t that just be the final fuckup?”
   “There are more things in Heaven and earth...” I answered. “People have all kinds of reasons for doing things that we know nothing about.”
   “Every day, all day, the thought in the back of my mind is, ‘I want to die.’ That’s the background music. It’s a miracle to me I’m still alive.”
   “Because a part of you wants to be. That’s the part that acts.”
   “What act?” he said bitterly.
   “The acts of living, going out for a cigarette, going out for milk, whatever you do instead of killing yourself.”
   “With a gun it would be so easy. In Ashland I had guns, beautiful guns. I never misused one.
   'I don’t see how things can ever be right again.”
   “That’s what the trust is for. You earned it.”
  That evening, CNN did a report about the border patrol controversy, for which chunks of information were missing.
  “CIA,” Mike remarked.
   This was followed by the Paula Zahn hour which Mike took as his cue to leave for another cigarette, explaining, “Infotainment.”
  Indeed, Soledad O’Brien spoke of Obama’s candidacy only in terms of his being black with zero mention of his stand on a single issue.
   “This borders on insulting,” Congressman Charlie Rangel accurately pronounced.
    A minute after Mike went to bed, a call came from Nick Levis. We’d given up on hearing from him weeks before.
    When Mike got off the phone, I used the call as a "teachable moment:"
   “People have other stuff going on; it doesn’t mean they don’t care about you.” Code to his subconscious not to get depressed about the promised calls from other friends that remained as yet unmade.

February 15 2007
   Ray says there’s an 80% chance the package is gone.
  “I’m going to shower and shop," Mike said after the call. "Then I don’t know what I’ll do.”
   “But suppose you don’t get back in the game, maybe they’ll leave you alone,” I argued.
  “You’re missing the point. Did I take any overt action to get back in the game?”
I thought about his response to the journalist assigned to write the now obsolete article: “Let me talk to my lawyer and my agent.” “The fact that you wanted to talk to your lawyer shows you had misgivings,” I had said at the time.
  “This is punishment. They won’t let up. I must have hurt someone real bad for them to keep at it like this.”
  Mike's right-hand man didn’t want to give X the books. No money, no books. But X had been such a great friend, Mike argued.
  “This drives a wedge between friends," he continued now. "People will say, ‘Don’t get involved with Mike Ruppert; look what happened to Kenny and Ray...
   'Well, I won’t kill myself for at least a few days, til I see how this turns out.”
   “I wish I was Scheherazade.”
   “Every night I’d start a story and you’d have to live to the next day to see how it ended.”
   Then Mike went to Keyfood and I went to the gym, knowing he’d come back.

  “The thing is, has anyone besides me noticed that these things keep happening?”
   “You never know when. You think things are going OK, the enemy’s gone away and then... Ten thousand dollars.”
   “Your enemies will retire and die or get put on other assignments,” I said.
   “Nice try,” Mike said thoughtfully, without sarcasm. “Good argument."

   "Would someone please stop talking about me as though I got ‘depression’ like a cold and acknowledge that I’ve had some real trauma in the last year?”
   “Yes. It sounds to you like minimizing; we’re just trying to say that traumatic as it is, you shouldn’t kill yourself over it.”
   “Gary Webb did.”
   “And there are plenty of people who have good reason to kill themselves but don’t do it.”
   “That’s true... You can write some piece for the New Yorker that somebody’ll read while they’re taking a dump and the world goes to shit, no pun intended.”
   “Charles Simmons [author of Wrinkles, which I’d given Mike to read] knew what a great book he’d written. Yet he once said it was no compensation for the prospect of dying.” I'd discussed this with Simmons. A literary, as opposed to a commercial, writer doesn't go into the field for the money; it's a vocation. Simmons remarked, "You know what they say about academia: The reason the fighting is so fierce is that the stakes are so low." Materially speaking, of course, that's true. But artists and many academics, like investigative journalists, believe in what they're doing; it engages the soul. So it wasn't far-fetched to think it might be worth dying for.
  “It isn’t. That’s why I won’t finish that book.”
   “Because I know how it’ll end: With how he’ll be remembered.”
   “I don’t remember how it ends but it's definitely not that.”
   “When I think of all the things I had in Ashland, the couch, the silver, the beautiful glassware... And the hole in my heart that you’re now filling. It more than compensates.”
Over dinner he talked about the people he could trust.
   “I have to trust you,” he said.
   “The main reason I could never be an agent,” I mused, “is that they have to keep things under wraps all the time. Since I was very small, my goal has been self-expression; it’s the opposite of what an agent does.”
   “Don’t make excuses,” he said angrily. “It just raises suspicion.”
Raises suspicion? He of all people should have known that I had none of the attributes required of an agent. Forget about my primary purpose in life which is to write. Agents are savvy about technology whereas any twelve-year-old is more adept with a smartphone than I am; I can't even see the screen.
  “I’m not making excuses; I was using that conversation as a jumping off point to tell you something about myself.”
   “You were making excuses.”
   “No, I wasn’t. You’re operating from a different paradigm. Your life would become easier if you understood that other people operated from other paradigms.”
  He didn’t get it but dropped the argument.

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