Friday, October 21, 2016

What 31 Years Did

I just found out that last June, a man I used to know and profoundly annoy personally was named the first-ever Poet Laureate of Knoxville, Tennessee.

I... Don't know how to feel about this.

The first time I ever heard him, or heard about him, for that matter, was in 1985, when he suddenly showed up at a small private party in Knoxville, playing guitar and harmonica and also a tambourine he'd attached to one foot somehow and singing Bob Marley's "Redemption Song." It was also the first time I'd ever heard that song.

The song and the man have never sounded better to me than they did at that moment back in 1985. Yeah, all downhill from there. Kidding. The beer and the weed and party and the newness of him and of the song all had a lot to do with how he sounded to me at that moment.

And now he's Poet Laureate of Knoxville. I guess it goes to show you... something.

For 31 years I've wondered whether he was singing at that party because, living nearby, he heard a party going on and just decided to drop in and jam, or if they paid him to play. It wasn't his fault, not in the slightest, but I happened to be homeless and starving at the time. In large part because I was profoundly clueless about economics. Economic things such as whether that was him dropping in on friends or a paid gig. Like whether the people who'd invited me to the party were rich enough to summon musicians whenever they felt like it, as if they were Medieval monarchs, or whether they seemed rich to me because I was homeless and missing meals... and clueless about economics... and it has occurred to me just very lately that I'm still profoundly clueless about economics, and very lucky to no longer be going hungry, and profoundly clueless about who knows what all else... I constantly wonder about things which I assume are not all that mysterious to some others.

Such as about how a guy goes from hanging around (not a lot. Like I say, I annoyed him. Sorry. Really, I am) with the likes of me to becoming Poet Laureate of the Great Bermuda Triangle of the Appalachians, la-dee-freakin-da, while I became... well -- while I became The Wrong Monkey, whatever that is.

So give me my freakin Nobel Prize already because I used to hang out with and annoy the very first Poet Laureate of Knoxville, Tennessee.

The last time I talked with him, or the last time I remember, was in 1992, and although usually he had been very nice to me, very patient, this time, for the first time, he completely lost his patience (Or -- another example of the sort of thing I wonder about all the time -- had he completely lost his patience with me quite often before this, and this was just the first time I'd noticed?) and exclaimed, "What's wrong with you?!" and I told him I didn't know. I guess I know now that it was autism, and that is was being undiagnosed and not knowing that it was autism, not knowing that I could learn about my condition and thus mitigate it at least to a certain extent, knowing that there are certain things the vast majority of people tend not to like.

I don't blame him for exploding at me like that, really I don't. But since then I haven't wanted to be his friend either. I don't blame him for hurting me, but all the same, it hurt. And I wondered, and I've wondered since then, if we ever were friends before that or if it only occasionally seemed that way to me. I wonder whether that moment was at all memorable to him. And if so, what was it like? Like nothing much at all? Or did it make him feel bad that he lost his temper? Or did he feel good because it seemed I'd finally, finally gotten the message: "Fuck off!" ? Or was that not the message, not then and never? Have I greatly overstimated (or underestimated) the annoyance I caused him?

And I wonder how to wind up a weird blog post like this one. I wonder about so many things. All the time.

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