Mike Golby – New Morning
“Love is the morning and the evening star…” Burt Lancaster said that in a movie long ago and far away. Or love may be a journey, or whatever. Pop culture gives us thousands of starting points for a discussion of love. What does love mean to Mike Golby? Have you loved and lost before? Are you coming up winners these days? Take the love bug out for a spin in your magic prolix machine please.
Ah, jeez, Frank, why you do this to me, huh? It ain’t easy going under the knife when you’re the surgeon. What’s love got to do with it, anyway? Should I speak of how I lost my virginity aboard a freighter in Cape Town harbor? How a girlfriend and I [unknowingly or obliviously] ended up making love in sight of our friends? Strange places? [I can never look at a picture of Cape Town without a chuckle and a women’s residence isn’t exactly the mile-high club but it’s as dangerous. A doorway counts for something too, I reckon. What’s my score so far?]
Hmm… this has been done before, hasn’t it?
Let’s stick with pop culture and the bubblegum stuck to my shoe. While I’ve had stray Dylan love lyrics popping into my head all day, I’ve consciously tried pushed them away. I’ve no books and ‘how tos’ and glib answers and degrees and intelligent quotations to give anybody on this one so I guess I’ll put my money on it being George Harrison who wrote “All You Need Is Love”. Yeah, love is all you need.
Let’s start with love as a journey. I woke up late this morning and joined the early morning traffic heading for the city. I cut back through our suburb and realized that most people leave for work at around 08:00. Lemming-like, they were all pulling out the side streets and joining the swarm headed towards the mountain and the big, stinking, crashing, banging, clanging, traffic mad city. There was something comforting in joining that early morning stream of metal pouring itself into a cubicled day. The sky was lightening and the mountain stood large and hard against the royal-blue stillness of a sky smudged black by the giant shadows of darkling cloud. It was beautiful being late for work today. Love has something to do with other people and their lemming-like behavior.
I’m usually at the office at 07:00, preferring to work longer and avoid the traffic. Being alone on the road also gives me a chance to unwind, open up the engine, and sail the winding curves and bends of the highway skirting the mountain’s slopes, heading up over Devil’s Peak, taking in the long blue sweep of Table Bay, the warm blaze of white, yellow and orange lights below, the sheltered comfort of the harbor, and the endless mystery of that deep, dark sea. Love has a great deal to do with me.
The sea is a perpetual mystery to me. Wendy and I visit it every week now, watching its moods, pondering its unceasing flow. Sitting on the rocks at Bantry Bay this past weekend, we were at the edge of the shore, watching the incoming swells explode in great curtains of lace against the rocks to which they’re wedded by the washing of the ages. We waited until a wave came roiling in to smash in all its crazed splendor against our rock, the white diamonds of its brokenness shooting skywards before drenching us in its cooling salt-sea spray. I felt as though we’d just been baptized and we moved away. There’s that marriage of one to the other, one to more, the sea to shore. Love is big, and wide, and free.
What is it to me? Hmm… I’ll have to go Hallmark on you, Frank. Love is like the South African sun, cycling our ancient earth, giving us life, sustaining us through times good and bad and, at night, radiating [like the wave breaking skywards] to the unknown sky. Love is all we have and, contrary to my good parents’ advice, all we need. Like the sun’s light, love is all around us, twenty-four hours a day. The darkness, which we so often take as “something”, is always an absence of light and evil, to me, is always an absence of love.
“God is Love” the mad prophet of the streets with the long hair and the burning coalstone eyes shouts at me. “Yeah, I know, broer”, I nod and move on. No arguments there. Of course God is love. Like the sun, He is omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent. No sun, no life. No God, no me. Why does the street preacher and his paid cousins who stress the importance of tithing from the pulpits of their dollar-and-dime, one-size-fits-all churches built on the blood money of others’ labors have such a need to explain this to me?
I am Constantine, locked in negotiation with St. Paul. Paul’s come in from the east on a marketing trip and he’s a pain. He has an old religion locked in a new idea and he’s been trying to flog it to me for years. I’m a religious man, a card-carrying member of Sol Invictus, the sun god, and know how these things work. “God is love,” says Paul, staring at me intently. “Ah, Sol, here we go again,” I think and get down to putting the guy in his place. A marketing man to the core, Paul wants his religion punted to the masses and I’m in the business of dealing with the masses. He sends out these horrible, grimy little tracts he calls The Letters of St. Paul and is hammering markets all over the place – the Corinthians, Thessalonians, Ephesians [I’m taking a three week break there in summer], Colossians, Romans… you name it, he has them covered. He hopes to find a publisher for these things too.
We hammer out a deal. Paul can set up offices in Rome and I’ll tout his religion for him. We’ll have an expo or something at Nicaea. What do I get out of it? Not much, but what the hell, we’re dealing with the same thing here. Sun. God. Sun God. Son God, etc. Too much sun gives me a headache. So does too much God.
“Listen, Paul, I know your kind. I’ve been dealing with you people for years and, quite frankly, it’s starting to give me a headache. You can have your bloody offices in Rome and I’ll set up the holding company. But we have to phase this thing in. First, you change this Saturday crap. It’s Sunday or nothing. We owe it to Sol. Next, this Jesus guy. His birthday’s on December 25. That’s the day Sol starts staying up longer and it’ll give everybody a bit of a lift to have a holiday around then. He, Jesus not Sol, can die in autumn. We’ll make it fit in with those people on that rock in the North Sea. They have a fertility festival dedicated to Esther around then and I’m sure they’ll appreciate the gesture.”
You know what it’s like. Another day at the office. I made the bugger work for his living although I knew he’d had it quite rough of late. Some of my colleagues in the “whipping the masses into shape” business are rough on traveling salesmen. “And we’ll call the weekly celebration the Mass, by the way,” I added, chuckling. He went for it and gave me his mailing list.
As for Christ, I don’t know. I don’t know whether He has any basis in historical fact; whether He was a militant zealot [the Essenes falling into that category]; whether He was an identical twin born of the House of David at the time they needed a king; whether He had a brother named James who looked to people’s spiritual needs while He was out kicking Roman ass. I don’t know these things and I’m pretty sure Paul’s not all that clued up on it either. You know what it’s like. Production never talks to marketing. But hey, reconciling worldly and spiritual realities is a doddle for people like us. We are, after all, professionals.
So Paul got his church and succeeded in the west where many like him failed in the east. His religion came to be known as Christianity or Gonzo Marketing, whichever you prefer. And I made it happen. They tend to forget that, all those little shits that downed tools during the Reformation.
Hmm… but, yes, in a way, that’s how it all came about; the love industry. Born and confirmed a Catholic, I kicked over the traces for twenty-seven years. I retained my belief in a God reminiscent of that instilled in me, but only insofar as that belief did not mess with my appreciation of other philosophies. I looked at every conceivable alternative but, ultimately, it was my reading of a couple of volumes of Jung’s collected works about twenty years ago that would see me to where I am today. I rock up at Mass on a Saturday evening [it being the true Sabbath, of course, as well as being more convenient than a Sunday] and slip into its essence like a hand into a glove.
For non-Catholics, this involves an acceptance of the Sacraments and the notion of transubstantiation. In short, the Eucharist does not symbolize the body of Christ; it is the body of Christ. It’s a very special moment for me and one I find centers my being in a way nothing else can equal. I appreciate, more with a fond familiarity than a deep reverence, the trappings of my religion. I dig it. The Catholic Church has a history. It’s the history of Western civilization, warts and all [hehe].
God and love. The only reason I appreciate the dawning day and the drowning sea is because I have them in me. So it is with God and love.
It’s not what I believe that matters; it’s how I believe it. I cannot be loved unless, like the earth radiating its given warmth at night, I love others. And so it’s worked for as long as I’ve enjoyed a bit of sunshine in my life. If I appreciate the sun how can I not appreciate all that to which it gives life? How can I not love other people? Dunno. It can’t be done.
Have you loved and lost before? Are you coming up winners these days?
Heh… oh, dear, all those promises of revelations of nights with what’s her name and group sex with other bloggers? Nah, can’t be. That’s sleaze. We’ll have to leave that for another day. Boy, have I loved and lost before. I guess I’m a glutton for punishment. ‘Being in love’ started hitting me when I was about 7 and I met Jane Tyler [she was about 6] and it hasn’t let up yet. I wasn’t a bad-looking kid. I had it all going for me but I was reticent [a curious mixture of gregarious and shy] and failed to exploit what was a bull market in virginal fields of feminine delight. A girl had to hit me on the head with a mallet before I got the message that “she wanted me and she wanted me bad”.
Through most of high school I dealt slowly with the hormonal thing and had several obsessions and crushes on girls. Hormones are evil and vile and corrupt the mind most foully. Yet there were girls I really ‘liked’ and did so for a long time. I’m a great aesthete in the male-female love game. I’d watch them and drink in their beauty and movement and breath and soul and sound and smell and float on the scent of heaven. I went out with several girls but didn’t really enjoy the experience [my time with friends was curtailed] until, in my final high-school year, BAM! Love hit me like a high-velocity bullet. It blew me away, so far above and beyond myself I’ve never recovered. I’ve told the story on my blog.
Here’s a snatch:
I had a wonderful, almost dreamlike childhood. I could look after myself, was sensitive to others, wasn’t molested or bullied, and I was a star on the dojo floor. I grew up in a manner befitting a kitsch Hollywood movie. I lived in a quiet suburb clothed in green-leafed splendor. In my final high-school year, I debated, represented the school in general knowledge competitions, and played the romantic lead of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town”. I played street cricket, soccer, and every game going, smoked and drank and hung about in the quiet streets with my friends, raced bicycles around the block, surfed like a brick but skateboarded like a star. And, of course, my first love, the epitome of the brilliant yet beautiful and wholesome blonde girl next door, filled my brimful galaxy to bursting.
Her name was Kathleen and I was seventeen. I’m still seventeen for that matter, even though the clock says forty-four. But then, aren’t we all?
Whether two, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, or older, we are still who we were whenever it was we woke up to whatever it is that makes us whoever we are. But we forget so much and slip in and out of time and space and meaning so frequently we lose our bearings.
There was the time I was two but that is not for now. At seventeen, I saw and knew a great deal. It was a time of great dreaming. And beyond the universe to which we’re bound, she remains an inescapable part of me. Her surname was O’Reilly and, no matter how far you travel, you cannot escape your roots. Layers upon layers upon layers. Cut through them all; live like a knife and go straight for the heart. She cut to the heart of me and set my life on fire.
She was a young, blonde, Methodist girl with an acute intellect and looks you don’t find too often [not even in South Africa, and we’ve cornered the market on beautiful blondes]. I didn’t do anything, I swear. She came at me. My friends and I skateboarded a hill running outside the local Methodist Church hall and, on Fridays, their youth groups would gather. We’d get bored, wander in, and take over games of volleyball or badminton. The church had a coffee shop and I enjoyed arguing with the counselors. It was argument of the “Prove it” kind, what the hell, I enjoyed it because I couldn’t lose.
One evening, we landed slap-bang in the middle of some lecture. Don’t ask what it was about but we slung our boards against the wall and slouched into some chairs, looking about as dumb and cool any kid does today. I was sitting there thinking of Kafka when I became aware that I was being watched. I looked at her looking at me.
We looked at each other a long time.
Frank, I tell you, it was a truly religious experience. I was knocked every which way and then some. I had this extremely beautiful young girl staring straight into the center of my being and it hit me like the fist of God. I fell in love and didn’t set foot in a Church for twenty-seven years [unless on official business, of course, like getting married, baptisms, etc.]. Loving this girl-woman turned me inside out. I was irrevocably, unequivocally changed, lost, crazed, and more myself than I’d ever been. She was what I’d been carrying about in me for seventeen years and all the millennia before that. Goddess, muse, harlot, lover, friend, equal, saint and, yes, everything else under the sun.
She lived in my every waking moment and in my dreams. I was demented, lovesick and zonked. I was higher than a trip on the very best acid and I did not want it to end. I don’t think she knows the effect she had on me but it was profound. For the first time in my life, I’d met somebody I’d quite happily die for. We were inseparable and I guess I was a mite insufferable. Too much of a good thing had not yet entered my mind [that came later] but, being a woman, she understood these things.
Yep, we had a volatile relationship. I was too passionate, too intense, and demanded too much. The light was being measured and matched by the dark. Her friends envied her. Can you fucking imagine that? In my eyes, my stocks have never again reached such highs. Pride, they say, goes before a fall. I was conscripted into the navy at 17. We wrote each other every day. I was selected to do a permanent force midshipman’s course, my basic training was cut short, and I was shipped off to the Naval Academy at Gordon’s Bay outside of Cape Town.
I was home every weekend, swimming in the magic of her eyes, dancing on the sparkle of her smile, gliding on the shine of her long, blonde hair. But I was in the military and Kathy knew what that meant. She found somebody else. It cut more deeply than any pain I’d known. I was bereft, devastated, lost. A friend and I went out running one night. I reckon we ran for about six or seven hours. That kind of straightened me out. I felt, “Fuck it, I’m too good to be dumped” so I hunted her down and got rid of the competition. Our relationship continued for three years and included as many ups as it did downs.
Kathy excelled in everything and, after winning all the school prizes, she was selected as an exchange student and went to the States for a year. I was still of the belief that life owed me more than being unfair. I wrote up a storm and so did she. But another separation was too much. While I loved that girl, I went out with others and did the normal in-the-world things one does when you’re a middle class kid growing up in apartheid South Africa and life owes you a living.
I remember that summer. Love is too much for some people to bear. Others can’t live without it. I’m both allergic and addicted to it. I opened myself completely and let her in. You know what it’s like. Exposing yourself to everything. You live and die in every second and, when it’s over, death is a sweet memory. Hell is infinitely worse. Yet, do you know? Do you remember? Are your experiences so close to heart and mind that you live in each and every time? Is it normal to see and feel and know and love so much; drink in and appreciate every moment of your life; grab knowledge and feeling and being and soul and every infinitesimal moment; dive in so deep that your senses explode?
I checked out. Got drunk. Got stoned. I learnt to play the game.
We had an on-off relationship for three to four years before I met my wife. There were girlfriends between but no-one compared. I lived at the bottom of the world most of the time and it was dark. There was too much dope and too many heavy books. I opted for winter days, greatcoats, walks on the beach, scrunched packets of smokes and a bottle in the pocket. What the hell is romantic about a bench facing the steel-gray sea? No longer gnawing, I could feel something grinding my soul. The weight was immense.
She had great parents. They divorced. I remember meeting her old man. He was a loser. In the best sense. Too bright and fucked up for his own good. I didn’t know it when I met him. He loved his daughter and gave me a hard time. Saw himself as some kind of intellectual but I was onto him fast. We got on well. He shot himself about ten years ago. In a way I understood something when I heard that.
“So what was it about that summer?” she asks.
“Everything. You, mostly. But also the feeling that everything was possible, open, and known. Seeing between the spaces, knowing life knowing me.”
“So why’d you leave?”
“I don’t know. Just me, I guess. At least we had it for a time. But forever wasn’t possible, was it? That’s been one of my great regrets. One of my unlived realities, lost destinies. But I reflect. And you come to me. Sometimes.
Why does she sometimes come to me? I dunno. Unfinished business, I guess. I never slept with that girl. She stuck to her principles even though it made me crawl across the ceiling and I spent far too much time trying to change her mind. Big mistake. But I equated sex with male-female love. I still do and express my self fully loving my wife.
A Catholic background fucks you up and I never really enjoyed sleeping around. In my estimation, I was a lousy lover at best, partly because I believed I had to feel something more than sexual for the person with whom I was enjoying the more intimate aspects of a human relationship. Things have greatly improved over the years and I’m pleased to report I now consider myself something of an athlete. But, being married, the women out there will just have to take my word for it.
But it is true then, about the trapeze in your bedroom?
After picking up a degree and working as a journalist a while, Kathy married and moved to the States, where I believe she still lives. She came back to visit a couple of times and I met her on occasion. I would still know and feel that, if I let go, something would happen. The last time, she was going back to the States and we had coffee at a cafe in Claremont. We kissed goodbye and I knew I’d done it. It was during the instant of that kiss that I could have opened a new world, closed the old, and probably broken the lives of those I love most, my wife and family. I chose not to. I said goodbye and got on with my life. She taught me what it is to love somebody and, for that, I owe her more than she will ever know.
In April of the year she went over as an exchange student [’79], I met a girl who made me realize that everything that had come before was merely preparation for the real thing. I didn’t want it and I didn’t need it but, from the moment I met Wendy, I knew that this was the person with whom I was going to spend the rest of my life. I’d just turned twenty-one and she was eighteen. But Frank, when I look back on my adolescence I realize the truth of Dylan’s words, “I was so much older then | I’m younger than that now.” I lived at a hell of a speed and with such intensity I sometimes wonder why I didn’t explode in a pink mist of blood and bone shards. Wendy and I blew the sky wide open. We did not live in each others’ pockets – we lived as though one on a mad rush through all that life has to offer. C’mon, share another blog reminiscence with me.
My wife was eighteen and I was twenty-one when I met her. That was twenty-three years ago. We knew something was up within days of meeting each other. A gang of us had gone camping for a few days up a river running through a long ravine outside of Ceres, about eighty miles from Cape Town. Our camping gear consisted of several flagons of cheap wine, cartons of smokes, a lot of dope, and some books. We knew all there was to know about camping and, if you’ve yet to experience the pleasures of outdoor life, remember to take these things with you. We forgot matches but discovered the omission shortly after leaving so were able to rectify the situation. We spent the first night at the foot of the ravine, fortifying our spirits next to a huge blaze before setting out on the mile-long hike that would take us deep into the wilderness the following day. I remember little of that night. I do recall fighting with a friend after a failed attempt to make mulled wine by leaving a bottle in the fire.
My wife, new to Cape Town from Zimbabwe and Malawi, was also new to our ways and found our behavior somewhat perplexing. She was used to water-skiing on Lake Malawi and fishing on the Shire River, where one has to keep one eye open for crocodiles and the other open for hippos.
As different in upbringing as she was to the love of my life at the time, I couldn’t help but notice that there was a lot more to this new girl breaking into my heart than her blonde hair, deep tan, stunning good looks, and obvious intelligence. That she was as left-handed and blue-eyed as my soon-to-be former girlfriend, was not the point. She was an original, as natural and wild as the untamed land in which she had spent the first eighteen years of her life.
We were mere children. The following day, we rose early and had breakfast. It was about eleven o’clock and a few glasses of dry red at that time of day seemed appropriate. Once we had negotiated the difficult entrance to the ravine and slogged fully a mile into its yawning interior, we set up camp. That night, I shared my pillow with this dream girl from central Africa and taught her what I knew of the stars above us. I was in love. Being so afflicted, I spent the following two days hunkered around the fire, moping, smoking dope, and reading the last of the Kerouacs I’d brought with me. It was late on the second day that she came and spoke to me. I was getting to the end of ‘The Dharma Bums’ but I didn’t mind. We talked about this and that and, within a couple of hours, she knew that I knew that she knew, etc. Within a week, we were inseparable. And, yes, if I might say it, we were fucking crazy.
Nothing’s changed. She read Kahlil Gibran, drew the most amazing pictures, could play the guitar and remember the lyrics to every decent song written since rock got real. She also liked Dylan. I knew she was mad but, when you find a girl like that, you don’t let her get away. During our first year together, I bought her incense and cheese-cloth shirts and she broke my heart whenever she left to visit her parents in Malawi. It’s said that no matter how close you are when you are young, you never really get to know each other as well as you think you have. We were different.
Shortly before the first year of our meeting was over, she gave me a birthday present. It was a copy of ‘The Great Shark Hunt’ by Hunter S. Thompson. I knew then that she understood me and would be my wife.
I turned twenty-three the day before we married and Sean was born the same year, Sarah in ’85, and Cathryn in ’91.
Love is a two-way street. I’m an alcoholic who stumbled into AA in 1984 aged 26 to learn the tough love of people who’ve seen it all. Wendy’s an alcoholic and has a Disulfiram implant embedded beneath her skin. The horror and terror and fear and loathing and lost-ness and gloaming that comes with a disease such as alcoholism cannot be described. On my blog, I’ve tried in my long-winded way to give you something of our immediate story as it unfolded over the past couple of months. Reality is always far worse and infinitely more painful that that which is recorded.
The flip-side of love is the long, dark night-time of the soul, a time when you crawl the sewers of hell looking for a way, any way, out. And, yet, love [like the heat from the sun escaping the earth at night] binds, sustains, and grows. One gets through to the other side. I continue to do it with the love of friends, strangers, professionals, and family backing me all the way. Yep, all things considered, I guess I love because I am loved. I’ve never been ‘out of love’ with my wife. We have been through some violently ugly and hatefully hurtful times together. But Wendy is it. As sexy as ever and as beautiful as the day I met her. We have a kind of Jeneane / George thing going, I think. Tough times do not phase me. I am, after all, a professional. And the past month or so has been a rebirth for me. There are different types of alcoholism but that is of little consequence to those enduring it, be they affected or afflicted. Where it does matter is on the other side of the bottle. Wendy does not crave the stuff and her dramatic personality changes meant that once she was dry, she reverted to the girl I knew and love with a passion that still bemuses me [what the hell is it?]. Yeah, okay, there’s a hell of a lot of work to be done – it’s always the case, but the first step was perhaps the most important. And she took it.
How can I not love her for that?
Ah, this is way too big a subject. How about ‘voice’ and ‘authenticity’ and ‘blogging’? Love encompasses everything and although I’m prone to writing screeds, it’s way to big and important – even for me. To cut to the chase, it’s sort of like my potted history of Christianity – time warps and all. Everybody’s reality is different yet it’s the same for all of us. And so it is with love. I come out a winner all the way.
There’s a reason I started out on a religious note. The Bible has been abused for centuries and it can certainly withstand me. What’s love to me?
“8 Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing. 9 For we know partially and we prophesy partially, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things. 12 At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.” [I Corinthians 13.]
Yeah, forget what I’ve said and stick with that. It about says it and much, much more. Like the sun and the sea to mere mortals with nine-to-five lives, love is infinite and everlasting. It brings everyone and everything together in an indefinable way. It’s hard work at times and it’s a lifelong trip, but it sure as hell makes the morning traffic bearable.